Wednesday, October 26, 2016

More Stuff I Ate

Another random meal round-up! If you're new to the blog, I should explain that I often do these posts featuring random pictures of all the things I ate recently that didn't warrant a full blog post. This week, I have a ton of random pics, so I did a round-up yesterday, and there will be another one tomorrow.

But for now, here ya go! My birthday was October 16th (a Sunday), and I had a big pumpkin potluck at my house and then a taco dinner at my parents' house to celebrate. But when I came back from my lunch break the following Monday, my coworkers had sat out a bunch of vegan cupcakes that they sneakily ordered from Cassi's Pink Diva Cupcakery!! I was so touched! There were Vanilla Cupcakes and Red Velvet Cupcakes.

And Chocolate Cupcakes and Cookies 'n' Cream Cupcakes! These disappeared quickly!

The day before my birthday, I attended an all-day annual Samhain fest at Meeman Shelby Forest State Park. The volunteer chef (aka kitchen witch) Cyn offers vegan and gluten-free alternatives to the mostly meaty menu every year. There's always Vegetable Soup for lunch. This had rice, finely chopped greens and carrots, and a yummy, savory broth.

The meat-eaters and vegetarians get grilled cheeses with their soup, so Cyn always brings Daiya vegan cheese to make special grilled cheeses for any vegans in attendance. Because she loves me, she always makes me two! Nothing beats a buttery grilled cheese on white bread. At home, I always use sprouted grain or whole wheat, but white bread is where it's at.

Cyn also made a yummy vegan rice pudding for dessert, and she let me sample her vegan gluten-free chocolate cake (that she made for the following day's dessert, but she knew I wouldn't be there, so I got to taste it early!).

After that birthday potluck that I mentioned above, I had LOTS of pumpkin-based leftovers. One of those was Misti's Peanut Butter Pumpkin Dip, which I've been eating with apple slices. It's just made with peanut butter, pumpkin, and sugar, and it's perfect for apples. Such a great fall snack!!

And finally, a Pizza Protein Waffle. It's no secret that I'm obsessed with FitQuick Protein Waffle Mix. My favorite flavor is the pizza one, and I've learned that it's best served topped with half a Tofurky Spinach-Pesto Sausage (for even more protein!), marinara, spinach, and Follow Your Heart Vegan Parm.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Stuff I Ate

As promised, here's another meal round-up.

Yesterday, the nonprofit arts organization that I work for — Crosstown Arts — had a "team-building" day at Go Ape, a zip line/ropes course at Shelby Farms Park. I opted to stay on the ground and watch my coworkers dangle hundreds of feet in the air. Sorry, I just don't do crazy things like that! But afterward, we all convened at LYFE Kitchen for lunch. I got the Quinoa Crunch Bowl with Chili-Lime Tofu!

My neighborhood — Crosstown — is organizing a Community Development Corporation, so I attended an organizational meeting last night at Phuong Long, a Vietnamese place down the street from my house. Our lunch at LYFE was fairly late in the day, so I wasn't terribly hungry by dinner time. So I just ordered a couple of Veggie Spring Rolls and a Yeo's Chrysanthemum Tea (love this tea!).

On another trip to Phuong Long for lunch a couple weeks back, I ordered the Tofu and Broccoli. Solid meal of fried tofu and broccoli with steamed rice. Can't go wrong.

A few weeks ago at brunch at Imagine Vegan Cafe, I ordered the Memphis Slam — biscuits, gravy, vegan cheddar sauce, tofu scramble, and vegan sausage — and a side of spinach.

I rounded out that meal with one of Imagine's homemade Maple Doughnuts because I know how to party.

One of the greatest things about living and working in the same neighborhood is never driving, and that means eating at restaurants closer to home. My favorite Middle Eastern joint, Al-Rayan, is just a block from home, but when I was working downtown, I rarely went there just because it wasn't convenient for lunch. And I tend to eat dinner at home. But a couple weeks ago, I stopped by on a work day lunch for the Ful (fava bean stew) with pita. SO GOOD! And the whole meal was less than $7.

Speaking of pita, I met my friend Cindy for Mezze Platters at Casablanca last week. Hummus, falafel, pita, and the best damn baba ganoush in Memphis. Casablanca isn't my favorite Middle Eastern place (Al-Rayan is, see above), but they have, hands-down, the best baba ganoush.

More random meals coming at ya tomorrow.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Chubby Vegetarian Dinner Party!

So it's vegetarian cookbook release week in Memphis! Or so it seems. Yesterday, I blogged about Memphian Marisa Baggett's new vegetarian sushi book, and tonight is all about my friends Justin and Amy's new cookbook, The Chubby Vegetarian Cookbook. They run a blog by the same name, and this is their second book. It's dedicated to making vegetables the star of the plate, and while it's not all vegan, there are a number of vegan recipes. And plenty can be veganized.

I'll do a full review soon, but I haven't gotten my hands on a copy yet. Thankfully, my friend (and former coworker) Susan has a copy, and she threw a fun dinner party on Saturday night featuring recipes from the book. And she invited the authors! You see, Susan is the managing editor of the Memphis Flyer, the newspaper I used to write for, and Justin is one of the Flyer's freelance photographers. And Pam, another dinner guest, used to be a copy editor for the Flyer, but now she teaches journalism at the University of Memphis. Here we are in an Ussie at the end of the evening (thanks to Justin for the pic!). That's Susan standing in the back and Pam to her left. Amy and Justin are in the foreground.

For our appetizers, Susan made the Bagna Cauda Smashed Chickpea Dip. This was similar to a hummus but chunkier, and it had a lovely herbed flavor. Susan served this with pita chips and grilled veggies and olives.

She also made a non-vegan recipe for Figs in a Blanket — figs, walnuts, and cheese wrapped croissants. But she made a few Vegan Pigs in Blankets with Vegan Cheddar for me!

Our salad was one of my favorite things! I must try this at home. It was Fresh Cucumber Noodles with Cashews and Mint. The recipe had plum vinegar, mirin, and fresh jalapenos, so it had an interesting spicy twang.

Justin and Amy are known for their inventive take on vegetarian hot dogs. Rather than use vegan meats, they use veggies like roasted carrots or, in the new book, grilled eggplants! Susan made their Italian-Style Eggplant Sausages using peeled Japanese eggplant and a topping of onions and peppers. These were AMAZING!

Y'all know I like my plant meat, but I didn't even miss it with these eggplant sausages. They were smoky and juicy and perfect.

For dessert, she made their Frozen Peanut Butter Banana Pie. Another winner! This is basically frozen banana soft serve in pie form with a chopped peanut crust. We topped our slices with chocolate syrup. Such a healthy dessert but it tasted totally decadent.

At the end of the meal, Justin declared that everything tasted just like they'd made it at home! I can't wait to try my hand at a few recipes from the Chubby Vegetarian Cookbook. If you're local, they're having a booksigning at Booksellers at Laurelwood on Thursday, Oct. 27th at 6:30 p.m. You can also order the book here.

Oh, there was one more dinner guest! She spent the evening napping though. Here's Susan's dog Janet! Isn't she the cutest?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Vegetarian Sushi Secrets Launch Party!

Okay, I know I said I'd do more random meal round-ups today. But I'm going to save those posts for later this week because I had a fabulous food weekend that I want to share over the next couple days! Two new vegetarian cookbooks by Memphis authors have hit stands over the past couple weeks, and this weekend was all about celebrating those books! I went to a dinner party highlighting dishes from my friends Justin and Amy's new book (but more on that in tomorrow night's post).

Today, Cassi and I attended the launch party for Marisa Baggett's Vegetarian Sushi Secrets, a totally vegetarian (mostly vegan) cookbook. I did my own review of her book in this post last week, but today, I got to try a number of the sushi rolls made by Marisa herself. The launch party was at Marisa's lovely home in East Memphis, and Justin and Amy (the other folks with a new book out) were there to introduce Marisa before her talk. Justin and Amy (of the Chubby Vegetarian blog) also wrote the forward to Marisa's book.

Marisa had a full spread of sushi samples for her guests. These were all from recipes in the book. My very fave were the Vegan "Soft Shell Crab" Rolls. She created vegan "crab" using enoki mushroom tempura, and they were to die for. I also loved the rolls (on the far left in this pic) with shredded tofu inari inside and avocado on top.

There were adorable mini takeout containers of sesame kale salad with almonds and cranberries! Best kale salad I think I've ever had. I love sesame oil in anything.

She also had sake, beers, and Memfizz (a new sparkling probiotic beverage made right here in Memphis!!). Cassi and I had some sake and the Memfizz. This stuff is awesome, and I'll likely do a full review soon.

After a short and funny talk about how she became a sushi pro, Marisa led a demo on how to make those "soft shell crab" rolls. I've been rolling my own sushi for years, but mine is always a little ugly. I learned a few tricks today that may help me create prettier sushi!

Marisa's book is available now on Amazon! It's by far the most comprehensive vegetarian sushi book out there, and I'd say about 90 percent of the recipes are vegan (or easily veganizable). 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Stuff I Ate

I have so many random meal pics saved up! So I've decided to do three Stuff I Ate posts in a row. Maybe even four! I'll post one tonight, one on Sunday night (since I don't blog on Fridays or Saturdays), and one on Monday. And then, depending on what I eat between now and Monday, maybe I'll post another round-up on Tuesday.

So without further ado, here are some things I ate. I just had this Greek Flatbread from Midtown Crossing Grill for dinner. They had a watching party for the remake of Rocky Horror on FOX tonight, and since I don't have cable, I went over there with some friends to watch it. This is Midtown Crossing's superb pizza crust with hummus, cucumber, radish, kalamatas, arugula, and hot sauce. Note: I ONLY like arugula in a few dishes, and this is one. Btdubs: Laverne Cox made an excellent Frank N. Furter.

One day last week, I had this Tofu Avocado Toast with some soup for dinner. Just pan-fried tofu marinated in a little Drew's Roasted Garlic & Peppercorn Dressing, gluten-free toast, and avocado.

A random breakfast — Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg Omelet with Baby Spinach and Daiya Mozzarella. Fluffy Pumpkin Biscuits from Fall Fomo No Mo on the side.

Another yummy breakfast — Scrambled Tofu on Wheat Sandwich Thins.  I made this scramble with crumbled tofu and Vegg powder.

I froze some refried beans a few months ago, and then one day last week, I needed a quick lunch. So I made some brown rice (the night before) and combined both with tomato and lettuce for this Bean & Rice Burrito. Classic.

Speaking of classics, I've been on a PB&J kick lately. But I'm digging Wowbutter Soynut Butter over PB. It's perfect with Stephanie's homemade Earl Grey Apricot Jam.

And that's it for tonight! See ya Sunday night. And don't forget about the Aquafaba Cookbook giveaway!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Aquafaba Cookbook Giveaway!

Isn't it amazing that something as simple as bean juice has revolutionized the vegan world? Just a couple short years ago, all of us vegans had sadly resigned ourselves to a lives without meringue or macarons. But thanks to the discovery of aquafaba, those sad days are behind us.

If you're not familiar, aquafaba is the cooking liquid from beans. When whipped in a stand mixer, it forms stiff peaks just like egg whites, and it can be used interchangeably for eggs in many recipes, including the aforementioned meringues and macarons. It's best for baking and can't really be used as sub for like scrambled eggs or boiled eggs, but tofu and Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg already provide great substitutes in that department.

Most commonly, vegans use chickpea liquid, but I hear many other bean liquids will work. I've only experimented with chickpea myself. And chickpea liquid is the preferred liquid of choice for Zsu Dever in her new cookbook Aquafaba.

I believe this is the first aquafaba cookbook on the market, and it's got all the basics. Stay tuned and I'll be giving away a copy at the end of this post! There are recipes for baked doughnuts, crepes, mayonnaise, yogurt, portabello schnitzel, challah, brioche, quiches, and frittatas. Plus, tons of dessert recipes (yes, macarons), including lemon meringue pie, homemade marshmallows, nougat, madeleines, soft-batch chocolate chip cookies, pound cake, and more.

I picked two recipes to try — one savory and one sweet. For the savory dish, I made the Sundried Tomato & Artichoke Quiche. I've made plenty of tofu quiches in my day, but this one was entirely tofu-less. Just blended cashews, aquafaba, sundried tomatoes, chopped artichokes, and spices. The filling was very light and airy and fluffy when I poured it into the pie pan (and I even had a little more filling than would fit), but it cooked down into a firm, eggy quiche. Perfect with a side salad.

For my dessert, I couldn't resist the Chewy Fudge Brownies. I've often used silken tofu in vegan brownies, but in this recipe the aquafaba is really the only "liquid" ingredient. The batter started out fluffy like the quiche batter, but it cooked down into a soft, chewy, melt-in-your-mouth, fudgy brownie. I gave some to my non-vegan neighbor, Dennis, and he loved them.

Zsu's publisher graciously offered to share the brownie recipe with my readers, so I've posted it below. And I'm giving away a copy of Aquafaba to one lucky reader (U.S. residents only at the publisher's request). To enter, just leave a comment about an eggy dish you'd like to recreate with aquafaba. I'll randomly select a winner on Sunday night! BE SURE AND LEAVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. If there is no email address, I have no way to contact you if you win. Good luck!


Rich, chocolatey, and chewy on the inside and lightly crisp outside, these brownies are sure to satisfy any chocolate craving. Make sure to use Dutch-process cocoa powder and bake the brownies just until a test toothpick is still holding onto a few crumbs. The aquafaba acts as an emulsifier and light leavener in this decadent dessert. (from Aquafaba, copyright © 2016 by Zsu Dever. Used by permission.)

1/2 cup aquafaba (see Note)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup granulated organic sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
Fudge Brownie Batter
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup neutral canola or other neutral oil
2 tablespoons nondairy milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Meringue: Prepare an 8- x 8-inch square pan with a sheet of parchment paper hanging over one set of opposite sides of the pan to form “handles” for removing the baked brownies later. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Add the aquafaba and cream of tartar to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a whisk, whip the aquafaba for 10 seconds. Using a balloon whip attachment, whip the aquafaba on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whip for another 5 minutes, or until the aquafaba can hold firm peaks. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar (add the granulated sugar first and then the brown sugar), 2 tablespoons at a time, over the course of 3 minutes and continue to whip for an additional 2 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved and the meringue is climbing the side of the bowl.
2. Batter: Sift together the cocoa, flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add the cocoa mixture, sifting it again, right on top of the meringue. Add the oil, milk, and vanilla directly on top of the cocoa mixture and fold the mixture until a pourable batter forms without any obvious air bubbles.
3. Add the batter to the prepared pan and bake the brownies until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean with only a few moist crumbs, about 30 to 50 minutes. Do not overbake (but note that glass baking dishes will need a longer baking time). Run a knife around the edges of the pan and, grasping the overhanging parchment paper, transfer the brownies to a cooling rack. Cool completely before serving.

Makes 12 small brownies

Note: Although aquafaba is best if homemade using the recipe provided in the book, you can use aquafaba from canned chickpeas. Use the organic, low-sodium, canned chickpeas and strain off the liquid into a measuring cup using a fine mesh strainer. Note the amount of liquid you acquired, then add it to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid reduces by 1/3. Cool the aquafaba completely before using. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Vegetarian Sushi Secrets

I can't even tell you how many times I've told someone I was going out for sushi only to have them reply, "Sushi isn't vegan." I'm always amazed at how many people don't realize vegetable sushi is a thing. In fact, contrary to popular belief, "sushi" does not mean "raw fish." The word actually refers to vinegarized rice combined with other ingredients (which can mean anything from fish to veggies to fruits or whatever).

Most sushi places, however, only offer a slim selection of veggie sushi — the standard cucumber roll, avocado roll, or mixed vegetable roll. If I'm lucky, I'll find a place with tofu inari or natto roll. I do make sushi at home occasionally, but even then, I get stuck in the same boring ruts the restaurants do. But not anymore! Fellow Memphian/sushi pro Marisa Baggett has just released her latest sushi book, Vegetarian Sushi Secrets, and it's filled with creative recipes for authentic veg-friendly sushi.

This is Marisa's second sushi cookbook. Her first was called Sushi Secrets, and it was filled with more traditional fish-based sushi recipes. But Marisa, a trained sushi chef, said she wanted her follow-up book to be all about "debunking that all-too-familiar myth that sushi must contain raw fish." And debunk she did! This book is loaded with inspired recipes for thin sushi rolls, thick sushi rolls, inside-out rolls, hand rolls, soups and appetizers, and even desserts! But the very best part is the entire chapter dedicated to my favorite sushi — inari (those deep-fried tofu pockets filled with vinegar rice and other toppings).

This book isn't for the throw-it-in-the-microwave convenience cook. Most all of the recipes call for homemade sauces or condiments that must be made from scratch first. I selected a few recipes for a sushi night at home, and I got a head start the day before by making all of my sauces ahead of time.

I picked one traditional nori-wrapped roll — the Summer Corn and Pickled Okra Rolls. This was just before the summer ended, and corn was still sweet and juicy. I used homemade pickled okra that my granny canned a couple summers ago. These also contained toasted sesame seeds, carrot, and bell pepper. And unlike many recipes in this book, there were no special sauces required. Just homemade sushi rice and veggies! The pickled okra added just the right twang, and I was able to skip my usual pickled ginger.

From the inari chapter, I went with the Spicy Carrot and Tomato Inari Sushi. This was my favorite thing from the book! The tofu pockets are stuffed with a sesame-flavored sushi rice with chopped carrots and homemade chia seed togarashi (a mix of chia, sesame, and hemp seeds with spices). Then it's topped with fresh tomato. Perfection!

For my appetizer, I picked the Cold Tofu Trio. It's three recipes in one — each for different toppings for silken tofu. This recipe was complex because it required making several homemade sauces — amazu sauce, vegetarian eel sauce, vegetarian dashi, and ponzu sauce. And I'm sure you could skip a couple of sauces to save time (or purchase pre-made sauces), but the homemade versions really lend so much flavor. 

The first tofu dish in the trio was topped with fresh grated ginger, daikon, carrot, and amazu sauce (rice vinegar, vegetarian dashi, and sugar). I loved the amazu sauce on my tofu, but I wasn't crazy about the fresh ginger. Next time, I'll use pickled. The fresh was too potent for me.

The second tofu dish was topped with ponzu sauce, tomatoes, and green onion. I really loved the citrusy soy sauce with the bland, cold tofu and veggies. Probably my favorite of the bunch. By the way, I used homemade silken tofu for these dishes (not in the book but from a make-your-own tofu kit that had been lurking in my pantry for months).

Finally, there was a tofu dish topped with vegetarian eel sauce and fried onions. The "eel" sauce was sweet and savory with a hint of booziness (thanks to rice wine, which I subbed for the sake in the recipe -- mostly because I didn't want to buy a whole bottle of sake for a few tablespoons when I already had rice wine in the pantry).

This is an awesome book, and I feel like it has potential to truly step up my sushi game. Even though making all the homemade sauces takes more time, they really do lend the dishes an authentic flavor that you don't get from nori alone. I've never had non-vegan sushi because I wasn't exposed to sushi at all until I was an adult. People just didn't eat stuff like this in small-town Arkansas in the 1980s and 90s. But I'd imagine this stuff is closer in flavor to non-vegan sushi than most veggie sushi.