Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Taco Cleanse: Cheat Night!

Okay, so you know how when I do a real cleanse (like the 28-day Abundance Diet I did in January), I'm always throwing in cheat days (like the time last month when I ate a giant slice of peanut butter chocolate birthday cake and had a gluten/plant meat buffet)? Well, this week I'm taco cleansing (which, of course, isn't an actual detox plan), and I worked in a little cheat night tonight.

For the week, I'm making recipes from The Taco Cleanse, a satirical  cookbook poking fun at the cleanse trend. That means tacos for breakfast, tacos for lunch, tacos for dinner, and even dessert tacos. And I did, in fact, have breakfast and lunch tacos today — leftover tofu scramble/tempeh bacon tacos and leftover soy curl fajitas.

But I'd made dinner plans several weeks ago with the Memphis Vegan Dine-outs and Potlucks group, and I wasn't about to miss out on a group meal at Jasmine Thai & Vegetarian Cuisine. I actually considered packing my own tortillas and stuffing the meal into them. But I didn't want to be the weirdo at the table pulling tortillas out of my purse (though I've totally stuffed guacamole and other condiments in my purse before, so I'm not sure what the difference is).

Anyway, here's our group tonight. Big crowd! Lots of new (and plenty of familiar) faces.

It's been years since I've dined at Jasmine, a mostly vegetarian Thai joint, and I'm not sure why I've waited so long. I adore this place, and there are so many vegan options that the menu is incredibly overwhelming. So much so that I tend to stick with a couple of old standards that I know and love there. One of those is this Crispy Orange Bean Curd, which is what I ordered again tonight.

It's made with fried tofu and vegetable fritters, and they're coated in a sweet and savory orange soy sauce. You just can't go wrong with fried veggies. The fritters, which are stuffed with broccoli and cauliflower, remind me a little of gobi manchurian, the Indo-Chinese Dish.

I may have eaten this the traditional way — with a fork. But never fear. I'm back on the taco wagon tomorrow, and I will be stuffing my leftover orange bean curd into tortillas. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

It's Fat Taco Tuesday!

I typically celebrate Fat Tuesday with Cajun food, king cake, and Abita beer. But I'm taco cleansing this week — making recipes from The Taco Cleanse cookbook by Austin vegans Wes Allison, Stephanie Bogdanich, Molly R. Frisinger, and Jessica Morris.

So I only had one of my three Fat Tuesday traditions — king cake! And the rest of the day was all tacos and sangria but more on that in a few. Here's my Peanut Butter Cup King Cake!

As I do every year, I turned to Kittee's amazing wealth of king cake recipes. I typically make her traditional cake and stuff it with cinnamon butter or, some years, vegan cream cheese and fruit filling. But this year, I went a little crazy and made her peanut butter chocolate king cake. It has peanut butter pastry, peanut butter frosting, and a chocolate mousse filling (made with tofu!). I brought this to work, and it was a hit. Only a tiny sliver was left at the end of the day. And just like last year, Toby (the reporter who sits in the cube next to me) got the baby. 

I know king cake isn't a taco, so I totally broke the all tacos, all week rule here. But hey, it's Fat Tuesday! But it's also Taco Tuesday, and I had the last of my Totcho Tacos for lunch. I'll miss them. I could probably eat totcho tacos for the rest of my life and be just fine with that.

Dinner was a new recipe from The Taco CleanseSoy Curl Fajitas!

These were fantastic! Soy Curls are sauteed with red and orange bell peppers and onions, cumin, and fajita seasoning. I served these on homemade flour tortillas with homemade cashew crema (both recipes from the book). Lots of Yellowbird Habanero Sauce on top! The only adjustment I made to the recipe was to cut back on the oil. It called for 1/4th cup, but I used a half-tablespoon. One thing I learned on the Abundance Diet last month is that you just don't need that much oil to make something taste delicious. Oh, and I only used 1 cup of Soy Curls instead of two cups. It made less tacos that way, but Soy Curls aren't sold around these parts. So I like to horde them. 

I'm hoping to work my way through the margarita chapter in The Taco Cleanse this week, but tonight, I went a little rogue and made a single-serve sangria instead. This isn't from the book. I had one glass of wine left in a bottle of cab sauv from the weekend, so last night, I added sliced apples and oranges and a shot of triple sec. I let that steep overnight, and tonight I served it with a splash of sparkling water. Sangria typically has brandy too, but I didn't have any, so here's my improvised sangria.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Taco Cleanse, Day 2

I'm on my second day of the Taco Cleanse! And I'm feeling amazing, because how can you not feel amazing when you're eating tacos for every meal? For one week, I'll be making recipes from The Taco Cleanse, the new satirical "cleanse" book by Austin-based taco scientists Wes Allison, Stephanie Bogdanich, Molly R. Frisinger, and Jessica Morris.

I wanted to try some Taco Yoga this morning, but I had an early morning meeting for work. So I had to skip my workout and just get straight to the taco-eating. Breakfast was the Supreme Bacon, Scramble, and Cheese Tacos from The Taco Cleanse.

These are made with the Wake and Shake Scramble (from the book), the Foundational Tempeh Bacon (from the book), Daiya cheddar, and corn tortillas. Oh my god, this scramble is amazing! When I was in Austin for Vida Vegan Con last May, I had the greatest scramble ever at Bouldin Creek Cafe, and this reminded me so much of that. Rather than scramble the tofu in a skillet, you shake it in a paper bag with nooch and spices (like Shake and Bake!) and bake it in the oven. The crumbled pieces separate and are individually coated. I did take Susan's advice (from Kittens Gone Lentil) and used 1/2 cup of nooch instead of a full cup because that seemed like a waste of perfectly good nooch. Also, the cubed tempeh bacon was out of this world. Love this taco!

Because I had such an early breakfast (6:30 a.m.!), I was hungry again by 10:30. And sadly, I didn't have a snack taco. But I did keep it Mexican-themed with some nectarine sprinkled with Tajin, a chili pepper-lime-salt for fruit. This brings out the natural sweetness in fruit and gives it a fun, spicy kick.

My lunch was leftover Vegan Chicken Fajitas from Imagine Vegan Cafe. And dinner was leftover Totcho Tacos. You can see pics of those in last night's post.

One cannot Taco Cleanse without supplementing with margaritas, and there are plenty of recipes in the book for those. I'll be working my way through the booze chapter this week, but tonight, I started with the very basic Fundamental Margarita — tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and salt. I've rarely had real margs like this. Typically, I order them at Tex-Mex restaurants, and they're made with a mix (probably one laden with high-fructose corn syrup). This pure margarita was so perfect. It had a lot less volume than I'm used to, but it feels good knowing that all the calories in this came from liquor and not extra sugary crap.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Taco Cleanse Begins!

Y'all know I'm a big believer in cleanses. I know they're kinda silly, and I don't actually believe all that healthy food is cleaning out my liver and cleansing my aura or whatever. I definitely don't believe in those crazy maple syrup-lemonade cleanses or anything that involves depriving yourself of delicious food. Instead, my cleanses, like the Abundance Diet I just completed in January, tend to be whole foods-based and free of junk food but big on taste and portions.

But what fun is life if you can't poke fun at yourself? That's why I'm following my serious month-long January cleanse with a one-week taco cleanse, using recipes from the hilarious new satirical cookbook, The Taco Cleanse. It was written by Austin vegans/taco scientists Wes Allison, Stephanie Bogdanich, Molly R. Frisinger, and Jessica Morris, all of whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Vida Vegan Con in Austin last May.

Their book is filled with recipes for — yep, you guessed it — tacos! Breakfast tacos, vegan fish tacos, hot dog tacos, frito pie tacos, salad tacos, and so many more tacos. Plus, there are recipes for all the fixins (vegan cheese sauces, jalapeno ranch, corn gravy, guacamole) and all the fillings (tequila sausage, refried beans, cumin-onion rice, roasted butternut squash, beer-battered portabellos, etc). And you can't have tacos without margaritas, and there's a whole chapter for that too. Plus, taco yoga, taco gardening tips, and a guide to explaining the taco cleanse in social situations and raising kids on the taco cleanse, and taco-friendly tips for getting through the holidays.

My "cleanse" started today. For one week, I'll be eating tacos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and sometimes dessert!). I'll be using recipes from the book for most of my tacos, but I may freestyle a little and dine out occasionally. I'll also be supplementing with margaritas because tequila is a superfood, right?

This morning, I winged it with this Vegan Egg, Sausage & Hash Brown Breakfast Taco. There are several breakfast tacos in the book, and I'm trying one of those tomorrow. But I didn't have the fillings ready this morning, so I threw together a taco with what I had on-hand — Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg, Gimme Lean sausage, some shredded hash browns from the freezer, Daiya cheddar shreds, and Yellowbird Jalapeno Sauce. That was all tucked inside a homemade flour tortilla made using the recipe in The Taco Cleanse. Breakfast of champions right there. I only had one breakfast taco because I had brunch plans at 11 a.m. at Imagine Vegan Cafe, and I didn't want to be too full.

Alright, now I have a confession. It was doughnut day at Imagine. Owner Kristie rarely makes doughnuts, but she did this morning. And I ate one. It wasn't a taco. But it was delicious. Couldn't even make it to lunch without a cheat! Cheating was totally worth it though because this Vanilla Frosted Doughnut was deep-fried magic. Pam suggested that I fold the doughnut like a taco, but by that time, it was already half-devoured.

I stayed true to the cleanse with my brunch entree though. I went with Imagine's Vegan Chicken Fajitas — shredded "chicken," peppers, onions, brown rice, black beans, guacamole, sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, and salsa. The number-one rule of Taco Cleanse is "a taco only has one fold." I usually roll my fajitas up, but I followed the one-fold rule with these fajitas. It was messy, but I survived.

Most days on the Taco Cleanse, I'll be supplementing with margaritas (and a glass of sangria or two). But you can't drink margaritas during the SuperBowl! You gotta have beer for that. So I grabbed a build-your-own six-pack of Mexican beers from the Cash Saver. I poured a Tecate with salt and lime just before kick-off.

And just before halftime, I was plating up these Totcho Tacos from The Taco Cleanse. Yes, that's exactly what you think it is — tater tot nacho tacos. It's the stuff dreams are made of — tater tots, Parmela Creamery Chipotle Nut Cheese, guacamole, cashew crema (from the book), bulgur chorizo (from the book), tomatoes, pickled jalapenos, scallions, and cilantro. Totchos are pretty much my favorite food, so I knew when I first glanced through the book that I'd be making these right away.

That's all piled into a homemade flour tortilla. I made 20 flour tortillas last night to use throughout the week. I'm storing them in the freezer until I'm ready to use them. Flour tortillas keep pretty well, but homemade corn tortillas need to be eaten fresh, so I cut corners and bought some corn tortillas from the store to use in tacos later this week. Don't judge me, Taco Scientists!

Check back tomorrow for more taco fun times!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Vegan Egg Sandwich!

I've done a review of the Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg already, so this won't be a full review. But I just had to share with y'all this awesome Vegan Egg Breakfast Sandwich that I made using the Vegan Egg this week.

Just look at that awesome egg! It reminded me so much of the McDonald's egg breakfast sandwiches I used to love in my college days. I was vegetarian then, but I lived on egg & cheese biscuits from McDonald's.

In case you're not familiar with the Vegan Egg, it's a powder that you mix with water (I mix mine in the Vitamix for a fluffier "egg"). After mixing, it looks just like scrambled egg yolks. You pour it into a hot skillet, and it cooks up like scrambled eggs.

Up until now, I'd only prepared the Vegan Egg as scrambled eggs. But for this sandwich, I poured the wet mix into the skillet and left it alone so it would cook up omelet-style. When it was cooked through on one side, I flipped it and let it cook on the other side. I sprinkled the finished egg with black salt, folded it, and placed it on an English Muffin. That's topped with Gimme Lean vegan sausage, avocado, and hot sauce.

This was so good!! And the Vegan Egg was JUST LIKE AN EGG. I believe this sandwich would totally fool a non-vegan. 

On another note, I got to see Gene Baur, founder of Farm Sanctuary, speak tonight at Rhodes College in Memphis. I first saw him speak at Vida Vegan Con in Austin last May, and he just blew me away. And the same thing happened tonight. He touched on all the important vegan issues — factory farm cruelty, health benefits of a vegan diet, the environmental degradation caused by animal farming, animal welfarism vs. animal abolitionism. If you ever get a chance to see him speak, DO IT! Here's me and my friend Megan (who once interned at Farm Sanctuary) with Gene.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Salt For Life

I love salt. Too much really. I salt my food while I'm cooking. I salt my food at the table. Sometimes, I just eat salt by itself — mostly just delicious seasoning blends, not plain table salt. Paul eats salt by itself too, and in much higher quantities than me. Amazingly, we still have totally normal, healthy blood pressure.

But we're not getting any younger, so cutting back on sodium might be a good idea. That said, I'm just not willing to sacrifice taste. But Salt For Life sent me some samples of their alternative salt blend to review, and I think it just might be the answer.

Billed as "nature's alternative salt," this is a blend of sea salt (from ocean water off Brazil's coast) and potassium salt (sourced from ancient sea beds in Canada). The potassium salt has much less sodium than sea salt (or iodized for that matter), and so the blend ends up having 75 percent less sodium than table salt.

One-fourth teaspoon of Salt for Life has 140 mg of sodium, while table salt has 590 mg of sodium for that same amount. It's a huge difference.

Salt for Life is white and the granules are much larger than regular table salt, and when you sprinkle it on food, you can see the white flecks. I kind of like that because it's easier to see how much you're using.

But how does it taste? Well, that depends. Sprinkled over food, it tastes like salt. And just a little goes a long way. But sampled by itself, you get a saltiness right away, but it's followed by a weird aftertaste. I wouldn't recommend eating it by itself, but why would you do that anyway (unless you're a weirdo like Paul and I)?

For the past two weeks, I've been subbing Salt for Life in my recipes and at the table, and I can't tell a difference in taste. My food seems just as well-seasoned as always, but I know I've probably cut my sodium intake in half. Plus, I've probably boosted my potassium intake as well. I'd definitely recommend this stuff!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Spring Is Coming!

Today is the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Some call it Imbolc, Saint Brigid's Day, or Candlemas, but whatever you call it, it's the time when we recognize that spring is on its way. It's also the reason we have Groundhog's Day on February 2nd, and lucky for us, Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow so maybe spring temps will come early (although he got it all wrong in 2013!).

It actually already felt like spring in Memphis today! The high was 75 degrees and we had some strong storms and tornado watches, just like a typical spring day in the South. But the weather will most certainly grow colder again before actual spring comes on March 21st. Until then, I'm just holding out hope that time passes quickly. I really hate winter and detest the cold.

Traditionally, folks eat dairy products to celebrate the Gaelic spring festival of Imbolc. Imbolc translates to "ewe's milk." Back in the day, during the last cold winter weeks, people relied heavily on dairy products because winter veggies were scarce. But this is 2016, and we know better than to contribute to factory farm cruelty by consuming dairy. So I typically always eat some sort of plant-based dairy alternatives on this day. Tonight, that meant pizza — specifically Daiya Fire-Roasted Vegetable Pizza.

I always crave pizza after a month of cleansing, and I typically go to Mellow Mushroom or Imagine Vegan Cafe and order a big ole pie for myself. But then I'm stuck with days of leftovers (not that that's a bad thing, but I'm already working on lots of other leftovers). So I got a Daiya frozen pizza, which makes two servings (the box says three, but it's a liar). It was just the right amount and so perfect for celebrating the feast of Imbolc. 

On the side, I made the Winter Greens from Cooking By the Seasons, a vegetarian cookbook with recipes for pagan holidays. I figured this dish could symbolize the coming spring since it's so green! It's wilted spinach with a dill-mustard dressing. Very yummy.

One of the great things about holidays is that they totally call for an awesome dessert. On Monday, when I arrived at work, there was a cupcake on my desk with a note that said "Happy Retox Day!" It was from my co-worker Susan, who joined me on the cleanse throughout January. She'd stopped at Muddy's Bake Shop on the way to work and picked me up a vegan Plain Jane Cupcake! I saved it for today to enjoy after my Imbolc feast of pizza and spinach.

Muddy's is a cute little bake shop/coffeehouse, and while they're not entirely vegan, they generally have a couple vegan cupcake flavors (and they make the greatest vegan peanut butter bars). Plain Jane is my fave of their cupcake flavors because, despite my eccentric exterior and strong opinions, I'm a vanilla girl at heart.