Sunday, July 5, 2015

Independance Day Eats!

Gosh, I wish the Fourth of July would always fall on a Saturday! Our office closed Friday, so I got a three-day weekend, and I got to stay out as late as I wanted on the night of the Fourth. We had lots of fun! And of course, it all started with food.

We pulled out our cheap-o grill and fired it up. And then I loaded it with veggie burgers and fresh veggies. Here's Paul and I (and Datsun) waiting for the food to finish cooking. Paul set the timer on his phone.

We grilled Beyond Meat Beast Burgers, Corn on the Cob with Miso Butter, Zucchini and Summer Squash.

Paul also grilled some non-vegan brats. But he had a Beyond Meat burger too. Have y'all had these yet? THEY. ARE. SO. GOOD. They're meaty and juicy and have a great char-grilled flavor. My only complaint is that they're way too pricey. My Whole Foods charges about $6.50 a box, and a box only contains two burgers. I'd been wanting to try these for awhile, but I couldn't bring myself to pay that much. And then Whole Foods ran them on sell for $4.50, which is still too much for two burgers. But I figured I'd never get to try them if I didn't grab them on-sale.

Here's a close-up of the burger. I topped mine with tomato, red onion, lettuce, sriracha mustard, garlic pickles, and garlic aioli.

After dinner, we went downtown to Butler Park to watch the Mud Island fireworks show from the river bluffs. We do that every year because they put on such a great show! And then we went back home for dessert! I bought this Daiya Strawberry Cheezecake about a month ago, but I was waiting for the right time to open it. Fourth of July seemed as good a time as any!

I topped my slice with So Delicious CocoWhip and a fresh strawberry!

I was so impressed with this cheezecake! It tasted just like I remember from my pre-vegan days. The graham cracker crust was just perfect.

After dessert, we headed to an empty parking lot by our house to light off our own fireworks. I don't like to spend much on fireworks because it seems like such a waste of money, but we had some semi-decent fireworks. Mostly roman candles and sparklers though. And bottle rockets. Paul love bottle rockets.

Then we headed back downtown for DJ party at The Five Spot in the South Main Arts District. DJ Stacy Kidd was spinning some good old-fashioned house music. After the show, we went to the after-party at Dave Silver's (the party's promoter) loft, and I met Stacy Kidd!

We were supposed to hit up another party too, but we just didn't make it. Too many parties, so little time!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Stuff I Ate

Hey friends! Happy Fourth of July! We have a lot of reasons to be proud to be an American right now — marriage equality, the Affordable Care Act being upheld, the South finally giving up its stupid, racist symbols. So I hope you have a blast whatever you're doing. I'm not even sure what I'm doing for the 4th. I'm sure there will be fireworks involved. Anyway, here's a rundown of some stuff I've been eating.

The old vegan standard — Avocado Toast — has been a regular at my breakfast table lately. My new fave way to eat it is with Earth Balance Avocado Oil Spread, mashed avocado, black salt, pepper, and Yellowbird Habanero Sauce (it's the new sriracha, if you haven't heard).

But also Cinnamon Toast — baked in the oven with Earth Balance Cinnamon Culinary Spread and cinnamon sugar. I'm loving all the varieties of EB spreads right now. I picked up several free product coupons for Earth Balance at Vida Vegan Con, and I'm stocking up.

Speaking of Vida Vegan Con, I picked up a new habit at the con back in Austin. You see, the coffee bar they set up for us had all manner of vegan creamers and sweeteners, and at the end of the table, there was a big ole bowl of Dandies vegan marshmallows. I wasn't aware that Dandies belong in coffee, but they do. Oh yes, they do.

I'm on the board of directors for a nonprofit that helps people with HIV/AIDS access wellness programming, housing, a food pantry, and other services. It's called Friends for Life, and we had our annual board retreat a couple weeks ago. Every year, they make sure the catered meal from Stone Soup includes a vegan dish for me. This year, I got a Greek Salad (minus the feta) with black olives, pickled peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, and pickles. I love pickles in a salad! And they even included vegan Snickerdoodles from the local bakery, Guilt Free Pastries.

Mmmmm ... Meatball Sub from Imagine Vegan Cafe. Love this sandwich! Four vegan meatballs, marinara, Imagine's house-made white cheese, and lettuce, on a toasted hoagie bun.

I picked up some Mister Sister Smores Fudge at Rabbit Food Grocery in Austin. Because vegan fudge! I've been saying for years that somebody needed to sell vegan fudge. And it's happening. (By the way, I've had this Hello Kitty cup since I was a tiny 80s baby. There's almond-coconut milk in it.).

It's so good! Just like the way-too-sweet-so-you-can-only-eat-a-nibble-at-a-time fudge that I remember from my childhood. Those white chunks are vegan marshmallows, by the way.

Hey, look at this crazy carrot!

Last Sunday, I joined the Memphis Vegan Dine-outs and Potlucks Meetup group for brunch at Irie Vegan Kitchen inside The African Place. Local vegan chefs Nigel and Andrea do a weekly pop-up vegan brunch from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And the food is soooo goood! This week, I got Blueberry Pancakes and Seitan Sausage and Peppers. 

I had a cooking demo at the Cordova Library last week. I made the Vegan Pimiento Cheese and the Tofu Eggless Salad from Cookin' Crunk. And I made a LOT! Three big ole batches of each recipe. So I had a little eggless salad leftover. I used some in this Eggless Salad Wrap with Carrots, Romaine, and Cherry Tomatoes. On the side, I had some Way Better brand chips and leftover guacamole from Sunday's Babalu dinner.

On Tuesday, we had Vegan Drinks! Our group gets together once a month for happy hour cocktails and vegan food. This month, the meetup was at Mellow Mushroom. I got the Vegan Thai Dye Pizza with curry tofu, Daiya, cucumbers, onions, and Thai chile sauce. I LOVE THIS PIZZA.

Finally, I'll leave you with this sweet treat. It's an Eli's Earth Bars Treasure Bar that I got in a Vegan Cuts box in December. Yes, December. Have I told y'all that I'm a snack hoarder? I don't mean to be. I just like to look at things for awhile before I eat them. Anyway, this was totally still good. And it was awesome. Vegan milk chocolate with crunchy peanut butter and caramel. Mmmmmmm. Definitely worth the wait.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Chocolate Coconut Chips!

It wasn't long ago that I discovered coconut chips. My dad had ordered me a surprise care package from Vegan Essentials — each item hand-selected by him —and, in it, he included a bag of Dang Coconut Chips. One bite and I was hooked. My dad ordered some for himself too, and he was hooked.

Coconut chips are crunchy and coconutty and buttery. Yum! Soon after discovering Dang, I came across a package of Bare Sweet 'n' Heat Coconut Chips at Whole Foods. I bought bags for me and my dad. They were sort of sriracha-flavored, kind of a sweet and hot peppery flavor. Those quickly became my favorite.

And then about a month ago, Bare emailed me about sampling and reviewing their new Chocolate Bliss Coconut Chips. Well, of course I would! On their own, these are only slightly sweet with notes of dark chocolate. They're not chocolate-dipped but rather the chocolate is baked into them. My favorite way to eat any coconut chips is over yogurt. So that's how I tried these.

This is So Delicious Chocolate Coconut Yogurt with Bare Chocolate Bliss Coconut Chips, Meet Your Maca Superseeds, and Blueberries.

Admittedly, they look more like coconut bacon than chocolate coconut, but they definitely tasted like cocoa. These coconut chips added a nice crunch and rich buttery flavor to my parfait. Since I had chocolate yogurt too, the chocolate flavor of the chips was a little lost. But I tried them the next day on vanilla coconut yogurt, and the cocoa flavor in the chips really popped.

These would be awesome mixed into a homemade trail mix or maybe sprinkled over ice cream. But they're also just delicious straight out of the bag.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Gluten Free Bars & Bites!

As you can probably glean from reading from my posts, I'm not gluten-free. Or anything-free, except of course, animal product-free. Thankfully, I was blessed to not have any food allergies or intolerances. And that's a good thing because I love to eat all the things.

But I have to admit that there are some gluten-free products that are just as good (or in many cases better) than their gluten-containing counterparts. For example, I'll take rice, corn, or quinoa pasta over seminola any day, and I prefer gluten-free rice crackers to wheat crackers.

And when it comes to energy bars and protein powders, who needs gluten? The GFB sent me some of their bars and bites to review, and if you hadn't told me these were gluten-free, I'd have never guessed. They sent over a box of assorted flavors of their The GFB Gluten Free Bars. There is Cranberry Toasted Almond, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Oatmeal Raisin, Peanut Butter, and Coconut Cashew Crunch.

And three bags of their The GFB Gluten Free Bites — Dark Chocolate Coconut, Chocolate Cherry Almond, and Coconut Cashew Crunch.

I like protein bars after a tough workout or for a mid-day snack when I'm too busy to eat lunch on time. These bars are perfect for both situations, and I know because I tested them out both ways. I had a couple of flavors after my Wednesday morning Butts & Guts class, and they kept me full until morning snack time. And one of these bars kept me full from the morning I awoke on my last day in Austin (back in May, for Vida Vegan Con) throughout the taping of Vegan Mash-Up. 

Each bar has around 11 to 12 grams of protein, and they're made with brown rice syrup, a rice and pea protein blend, crisped rice, flax, and individual ingredients depending on the flavor. Of course, my favorite was Peanut Butter. But Coconut Cashew Crunch was a close second. The bars have a chewy texture thanks to the protein powder blend, and they taste like a healthy cookie. Very impressed.

As for the bites, well, I had a hard time keeping Paul out of them. I finally had to write notes on the bags telling him to stay out (I'm not a fan of sharing, especially since Paul can eat an entire bag of these in one sitting).

They're like little date balls covered in coconut or almonds. They're chewy like the bars. But since they're smaller, they have less protein per serving (about 4 grams) and less calories. I've been enjoying these for pre-workout snacks on easy days, like when I do yoga or other low-impact stuff. I'd actually tried the Dark Chocolate Coconut before because my mom picked me some up at TJ Maxx. But surprisingly, the Chocolate Cherry Almond were both my and Paul's favorites. I rarely pick fruity for a fave. But these were amazing.

I'll definitely be buying more of these! 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen

Here lately, my favorite cookbooks are those dedicated to cuisines of other countries — especially Ethiopian and Indian food. Those are cuisines that I didn't grow up eating, and so when I was learning cook, they were completely off my radar. And though each cuisine is very different (and their native countries are nowhere near one another), they both were mystifying to me. So many new spices and flavors to work with.

Kittee Berns' Teff Love is educating me on Ethiopian, but up until now, I didn't really own a cookbook dedicated to vegan Indian food. I'd dabbled here and there with dals and curries and even a few Indian flatbreads. But they were from recipes I'd found online or from cookbooks that contained a wide range of global fare. But finally, I own a great totally vegan, totally Indian cookbook! It's Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen, and it's filled with recipes for all of my favorite dishes to order from Indian restaurants, plus lots of stuff I've never heard of.

If you're not familiar, Richa Mingle blogs over at Vegan Richa, and she's always posting recipes for really delicious things with gorgeous accompanying photos. Her blog recipes aren't always for Indian food, but many are. But this book, which is loaded with full-color pics, focuses on Richa's native cuisine and family recipes.

There are chapters for vegetable curries (the Roasted Cauliflower and Radish Curry sounds amazing!), dals (Sprouted Mung Bean Curry with Dinner Rolls or Misal Pav is my kind of street food), flatbreads (Avocado Naan!), and of course, desserts (vegan Besan Ladoo or Sweet Chickpea Flour Balls!). She even has a chapter filled with homemade spice mixes and chutneys.

There are so many things that I want to make from this book. But I narrowed it down to three recipes for this review. I had everything in my pantry to make Mom's Chickpea Flour Pancakes (Pudla), so I whipped up a batch for breakfast every day last week.

Richa suggests stuffing these omelet-like crepes with chopped veggies or vegan feta. I went a little crazy and stuffed mine with sauteed zucchini and squash and Heido Ho Smoky Chia Cheeze. I served these with some Onion-Jalapeno Chutney that had been lurking in my pantry, unopened, for over a year. These tasted a little like tofu omelets but not quite as eggy. More bready or pancakey. And I loved the strong flavor of red onion and cilantro in the batter.

For dinner tonight, I made a couple more recipes — Kofta Balls in Nut-Free Cream Sauce and Mom's Okra & Onion Stir-fry.

The Kofta Balls were so much fun. They're are made with grated potato, chickpeas, and a bunch of spices, and then they're baked (thankfully, my oven worked this time). I considered making my own garam masala using Richa's recipe, but I got lazy and bought a jar from Whole Foods instead.

The sauce looks creamy, like it'd contain silken tofu or cashews. But it's made creamy with cauliflower! Fresh, chopped tomato, cauliflower, hemp seeds, and spices are sauteed until tender, and then you cream the sauce in the blender. Since it's nut-free, the sauce is really low-cal, so I can eat more of it! I added fresh tabasco peppers from our garden, so this was really spicy. But that's how I like it.

The Okra & Onion Stir-fry is simple and delicious. Okra's in season now, but I had some home-canned, sliced okra that my Granny gave me from last season. So I put that to use here instead of fresh. And it worked great! I just didn't cook it as long because home-canned okra gets pretty soft in the mason jar. I added some fresh jalapeno and yellow cayenne from our garden.

This is such a fabulous cookbook! I can't wait to get into the kitchen and try more things!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

11 Years!

Paul and I have been together for 11 years. 11 years! That's a long damn time. But the years have flown by. It definitely doesn't seem like it was 11 years ago that we met at Newby's, a little college bar, over a game of pool.

Some years, we do fancy things. But most years, we just go out to dinner. We don't go out to dinner together very often, so anywhere we go seems special. This year, we had $100 in gift cards for Babalu Tacos & Tapas in Overton Square, so we figured why not use them and get free dinner.

Babalu is a casual taco joint with a big patio, and the weather has been so nice lately. So of course we sat on the patio.

I started with a TC Tea cocktail — sweet tea vodka, mint, lemon, powdered sugar, and Sprite.

And we ordered some Tableside Guacamole to share. They make it fresh right in front of you, and they add sundried tomatoes, which really adds a yummy kick. I ordered a side of crudite for dipping, so I wouldn't be tempted to eat so many chips before my food arrived.

I won't show you what Paul ordered because it wasn't vegan. But I had the Black Bean Torta with red chimichurri, grilled red onions, arugala, and avocado. They typically use eggs as a binder in their homemade veggie burger, but since they make them to order, they can make the patties without eggs. Also, while I'm not a fan of arugala, it actually worked well here.

Paul told one of the hosts that it was our anniversary, unbeknownst to me. So I was super surprised when the server brought a sparkler to the table! I love sparklers!

We usually go to Newby's, the bar where we met, for drinks at the end of our anniversary night. But Newby's closed down last year. It's reopening soon, but it's still closed for now. So we just went home. Now we're stuffed and watching a movie. And then we'll call it a night. But it was a lovely, laidback anniversary.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Vegan Hobo Burgers!

UPDATE: OMG, OMG, OMG marriage equality!!!!!! I wish this was a post about ALL THE RAINBOW CAKE. But I wrote the following on Thursday night before the awesome news that same-sex marriage is legal everywhere. So I wanted to post this update to say Happy Marriage Equality Day!!!

Okay, so I'm sure the word "hobo" isn't PC. But since we're talking about food and not people, I'm gonna go with it. When I was growing up, my mama would often make something she called "hobo burger packets" — burger patties baked in tinfoil with potatoes and carrots.

It was a popular recipe at the time, and the idea for it was some romantic notion that travelin' folks could cook this simple meal over a campfire without any special utensils. Of course, when we ate this for dinner at home, my mama didn't bake it in a campfire but rather in the oven. Well, it's been years since I've had a hobo burger packet, but I finally made some Vegan Hobo Burgers this week!

I wish I'd photographed this in the tinfoil, but you get the idea. You take a veggie burger, some raw potatoes,  carrot, and seasonings and wrap 'em in a little pouch folded from foil. Then you bake, and if desired, top with gravy or ketchup. Simple as that.

I used Field Roast Hand-Formed Burgers for this because they're basically the best burgers on the planet. Have y'all had these? They're so meaty and juicy. Oh my! I may have purchased four packages last time I bought them just to make sure I didn't run out for awhile. Any veggie patty would do, but hearty, juicy veggie burgers would work best. For the gravy, which I added over the top at the end, I used Riega Foods Turkey-Style Gravy Mix (I found this at Rabbit Food in Austin!). But any brown gravy will do! And gravy is totally optional.

As you can see in the pic, broccoli and cheeze makes an excellent side. That was Heidi Ho Smoky Chia Cheeze.

Here's the simple recipe for the burgers. But it's not so much a recipe as a meal with instructions. Since you make individual packets, this recipe just serves one. But you can easily double or triple or whatever. Just wrap each packet separately.

Vegan Hobo Burgers
Serves 1

1 thawed veggie burger patty (you could use frozen but it would take longer)
1 medium red potato, cubed
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. seasoning salt (I use Cavender's Greek Seasoning)
Pinch of garlic powder
Black pepper
Non-stick cooking spray
Aluminum foil

Preheat the oven to 400.

Tear off a large sheet of aluminum foil and place the potatoes and carrots in the center. Spray them with non-stick oil and add spices. Toss to coat. Place the burger patty on top and fold the sides of the foil in to cover everything. Seal by folding the foil where the sides meet.

Place the foil on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender.

Note: If you have a crappy oven like mine that only works sometimes, you can also do a variation of this on the stovetop. For that version, steam the potatoes and carrots for about 5 to 7 minutes. Then heat about a teaspoon of oil in a skillet, and add the veggies. Saute until browned. Add the burger to the center of the pan and cook on each side until browned and cooked through, stirring the veggies around the patty as you go.