Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cheribundi Challenge!

Cheribundi, the makers of all-natural tart cherry juice, has launched their 7-day Cheribundi Challenge. It's pretty simple. Drink cherry juice for 7 days, and supposedly, you'll see some health benefits. On their website, they claim that cherry juice can help improve sleep, fight inflammation, and boost athletic recovery. They sent me some cherry juice so I could take the challenge and blog about!

I don't have problems sleeping. I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow and sleep like a log until my alarm goes off in the morning. And even then, I don't hear it most of the time. And I'm currently not all that athletic since I've been dealing with a nagging knee injury that's kept me from running.

But one thing I do have is pain. Runner's knee, to be exact. Ever since the Little Rock Half-Marathon, I've been dealing with what I believe to be IT band issues causing knee pain. I've been icing and foam-rolling and doing exercises designed to build strength in the hips. Since I'm hoping to be ready to train for a marathon in a couple months, I'm really trying to take it easy.

I embarked on the Cheribundi Challenge hoping this tart cherry juice would help manage that knee pain. According to the Cheribundi website, there's a theory that phytonutrients and anthocyanins in tart cherries combat aches and pains associated with everyday activities by blocking the enzymes that cause inflammation.

So I drank one 8-ounce juice everyday for 7 days. And while my knee still hurt from time to time, like when I did any squatting or attempted to run, the pain did seem to lessen quite a bit. I started the challenge a few weeks ago, right after I returned from Seattle. And at that time, my knee was hurting even while walking because I'd done SO MUCH walking in Seattle. That subsided during the cherry juice week, and now it doesn't hurt at all while walking. Is it fixed? No. But cherry juice isn't a miracle cure. I wish it could heal my knee, so I could run again. But only time and strength training can do that.

As for the taste, it's delicious. Tart and sweet at the same time. Each bottle contains 50 cherries! That's an insane amount of cherries that you could never eat in one sitting. Plus, it's sweetened with apple juice, not sugar. My only complaint would be the high calories. The regular cherry juice has 130 calories per 8 ounces, and since I'm not running, that's a big chunk of my snack calorie allotment. I'm having to eat less calories since I'm not as active. But Cheribundi does make a light version with five less cherries per bottle that's only 80 calories. That's more my speed.

By the way, I got pretty creative with my daily juice. Some days, I drank it straight from the bottle. But other days, I mixed it into smoothies. This one had frozen banana, cherry juice, cashew milk, and hemp protein.

And other days, I spiked my cherry juice with vodka. Yum! This has Absolut Blueberry Acai vodka, cherry juice, and lime juice. This was definitely my favorite way to drink it!

I stuck with the original cherry juice for the challenge, but Cheribundi also sent me some of their Refresh juices to try. This Tart Cherry Lime Refresh was my fave!

This has less cherries per bottle, but it's mixed with other fruit juice. In this case, it was cherry and lime. Reminded me of a Sonic Cherry Limeade but much healthier!

I also tried the Tart Blueberry Refresh Juice. Cherry and blueberry go so well together!

I'd love to work cherry juice into my daily routine. But the calories are a little prohibitive. If I were to make this a regular thing, I'd definitely go with the light juice instead. But then again, if I were able to run again, I might be able to work in the original daily. And since it's said to help with muscle soreness and oxidation, this would be great for post-run recovery!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Puppies and Cupcakes and Squirrels! Oh My!

Quick post tonight because I have an early meeting in the morning. But it's filled with adorable animals so that should make up for the lack of wordiness.

As you probably know from past posts, my friend Cassi runs a vegan cupcake shop in Memphis called Pink Diva Cupcakery. She's been baking cupcakes for humans for months now, but now she also bakes cupcakes for dogs.

These little Pupcakes have a carob-coconut cake base with a vegan whipped cream frosting. I brought a couple home from her cupcake sale at the Healthy Memphis Food Fest this past weekend.

You can't see the cake in this picture, but I'm holding the cake just outside the frame. And Maynard is literally licking his lips! Datsun is just giving that adorable puppy-dog eye thing he does when he wants something. Spoiled rotten.

They gobbled the pupcakes right up, and then Datsun looked at me as if to say, "Where's the next one?" Anyway, if you're local and want a batch of pupcakes, place an order with Cassi here.

While we're on the subject of adorable animals, I figure you're all due for a Herman update. As you might remember, Herman is the little baby squirrel orphan we found in our backyard last summer. We bottle-fed him for months, and then when he was ready, we set him free. But he came back. And he's continued to visit (and get nut treats) nearly every day since we freed him in October.

Herman survived the winter just fine! But he is just LOVING spring. Here's a cute video of Herman playing in the backyard this past weekend.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Vegan Pork 'n' Beans

Still hard at work on that vintage vegan cookbook! And I'm just about done with the savory recipes from 1900-1910, but I still have to develop several dessert recipes from that decade. Since I don't bake much at home (easier to watch what I eat that way!), I tend to save dessert development for last when working on a cookbook.

So I'll get to dessert soon. But this week, I developed what may be one of the last few savory entrees for the first decade of the 20th century. It's a veganized version of one of the first canned convenience foods — Pork 'n' Beans!

I grew up eating pork 'n' beans. You know, the cans with the baked beans and one teensy bite of pork on top? And the dish remains a popular convenience food today. But, according to Wikipedia, pork 'n' beans was introduced in cans in the 1880s, and it would have still been pretty new and popular at the turn of the century. In fact, Heinz didn't introduce their pork 'n' beans until 1895.

My version has lots more "pork" though. I chopped up a half a loaf of my homemade steamed seitan (recipe will also be in the book) and threw it in with white beans, crushed tomatoes, maple syrup, and some spices. And then it's all baked in the oven.

I'd share the recipe, but it's still a work in progress. The beans weren't quite as saucy as I'd like, so next time, I'll up the tomato sauce and liquid. In fact, I may blend this recipe with an earlier recipe I developed for franks 'n' beans. I prefer the seitan over the veggie dogs I used in that recipe.

I enjoyed my beans with a side of Irish Soda Bread (which I froze from St. Pat's Day) spread with pesto and a side salad. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Stuff I Ate

I eat stuff. I take pictures. Here's a round-up.

One of my favorite breakfast snacks right now is Sriracha Peanut Butter Marmite Toast! I put all that stuff on Ezekiel bread. So weird but so good. By the way, I used PB2 on this toast to cut back on calories since this was a pre-brunch snack.

Still eating lots of oats for breakfast. This is Earnest Eats Hot 'n' Fit Cereal with Strawberries and Superfood Trail Mix. Healthy and filling.

And since I'm all about balance, of course I had to show you my not-so-healthy breakfast! I had this Breakfast Burrito (stuffed with tofu scramble, vegan sausage, and vegan cheese) with Guacamole and a Hash Brown (deep-fried of course) at Imagine Vegan Cafe on Sunday.

I'm not into Easter in a religious sense, but I do love the candy. I picked up this Sjaak's Peanut Butter Melk Chocolate Egg in Seattle. Ate it on Easter Sunday while watching House of Cards. 

I also picked up a Sjaak's Melk Chocolate Almond Butter Bunny in Seattle too! Mmmm ... filled with almond butter!

Omg, I finally found the Just Cookie Dough from Hampton Creek for sale at Kroger! I've been looking for this stuff, but our Whole Foods doesn't have it yet. And Kroger can't keep it in stock. Have y'all had this yet? HOLY CRAP IT'S SO GOOD!

I wish I'd remembered to take a pic of these awesome Vegan Chili Cheese Fries from Imagine Vegan Cafe before I polished off half the plate. But I couldn't stop myself long enough to take one. That's how good these were.

Again with the balance. I found these ready-to-juice veggies on manager's special at Kroger. Convenient. No rinsing or chopping necessary, but the bag promises two servings of juice. And all I got was about six ounces.

Enjoyed this Hemp Spacebar vegan "meat" stick before yoga one day. Stephanie brought this back for me from England back in December. Been hoarding it for just the right moment. Loved the chewy, meaty texture.

We had our monthly Vegan Drinks meetup at Evelyn & Olive (a Jamaican restaurant) a couple weeks ago. I had the Black Bean Tacos with Tofu, Slaw, and Kiwi Salsa, Jamaican Rice & Peas, and Tomato-Cucumber Salad.

Paul and I attended the Memphis Redbirds (our minor league baseball team) exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals last week at AutoZone Park. I grabbed a Veggie Dog and a Sweetwater 420! Local vegans, note that the veggie dogs have moved to an upstairs concession stand for now, so they're nearly impossible to find. But they're there.

April 3rd was my daddy's 61st birthday! We went to Jonesboro for the day and grabbed some takeout pizza from Uncle Maddio's. I went with Daiya, marinara, broccoli, red onion, tomatoes, black olives, and mushrooms!

Last Saturday was the Healthy Memphis Food Fest, which strangely did not offer much in the way of food. But Cassi was there selling cupcakes for her Pink Diva Cupcakery. I actually helped her bake some the Friday night before. I grabbed a Spicy Diva (chili chocolate cake with cherry buttercream).

After my cupcake, I found a little balance with this Go Green Detox Juice from Cosmic Coconut (Memphis' all-vegan juice bar).

Later that same day, I finally got a proper meal in with these Tofu Sofritas Tacos from Chipotle! This was my first time ordering the new tofu sofritas, and it is sooooo good. Also, I love how they just pile on the guac.

Finally, here's a fantastic Tofu Kabob Plate from the Stickem Food Truck last week. They were selling lunch at the Tennessee Brewery Revival beer garden. They really have the best tofu in town I think.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar

I was totally into ramen before it was cool. I used to eat ramen for breakfast before school most days in junior high and high school. Ramen got me through college, cliche as that may sound. And to this day, I enjoy a bowl — dressed up with baked tofu and veggies — at least once every weekend morning while catching up on my shows (currently Homeland and House of Cards).

But now that ramen's all vogue, I can get a gourmet bowl in a restaurant! Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar in Overton Square serves to-die-for vegan Yasai Ramen!

I ordered this bowl on a recent dinner meetup with my pal John from The Fork. It has rice noodles in a seaweed and soy broth with vegetables, tofu, and corn. Yum! The broth is so very flavorful, and they don't skimp on the veggies. In Japanese style, they use plain silken tofu instead of the baked tofu I'm used to, but I didn't mind one bit.

Vegans, you should know that Robata's non-rice noodles are egg noodles. So stick with the rice noodles!

Although ramen is the star of the show, Robata has lots of other little snacky vegan items. The Deep-fried Vegetable Gyoza are so good! They're crispy on the outside and all cabbagey on the inside. You can also order these pan-fried.

The Plum Onigiri is one of my favorite things. These rice balls are sticky and chewy. Be sure and ask for plum because they're often served with fish. It's hard to explain the complex flavor of these, but if you love rice and salty plum pickles, you'll love these.

Robata specializes in yakitori (skewers), and they have a number of vegan options on the yakitoti menu. John and I ordered several to share — Nasu Dengaku (eggplant with miso), Eringi (king oyster mushrooms), and Garlic.

The garlic is my very fave! It's all char-grilled, so you get those crispy bits with every bite. But since it's cooked, the strong garlic flavor is subdued quite a bit. The eggplant yakitori is also amazing! They're generous with the miso sauce, and the scallions really round out the flavor. Also, you can never go wrong with king oyster mushrooms. By the way, that white blob of sauce in the corner of the plate is not vegan. Don't eat that.

There are some other tofu dishes on the appetizer menu, but beware. Some contain fish sauce. So when ordering at Robata, be sure and ask about any word on the menu you're not familiar with. We made the mistake of ordering the Age-dashi tofu. I asked them to leave off the bonito flakes, which they kindly did. But I didn't realize that dashi also means fish, so the tofu was sitting in a fishy sauce. But it's all good — John eats meat, and he was happy to eat the fishy sauce.

Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar is at 2116 Madison Avenue. Call 901-410-8290.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

We All Scream for Cashew Milk Ice Cream!!!!

Dudes. Dudes. Seriously. Have y'all had the new So Delicious Cashew Milk Frozen Dessert yet? Holy-freakin-crap. This shiz has gone and taken vegan ice cream to a whole 'nother level.

I get a lot of free products to review and sample for this blog. Marketing folks from various vegan companies email me asking if I'd like to try such-and-such product. And since most vegan things sound awesome to me, I usually accept. And I like 99% of what is sent for review, but sometimes, a review package just BLOWS ME AWAY. I come into work (where I receive my blog mail), and there's a package on my desk, and I'm just, like, speechless because it's so awesome. That happened when this package arrived.

I knew it'd be good. Everything So Delicious makes is, well, so delicious. They don't call it that for nothin'. But this ice cream is, hands down, the best vegan ice cream on the market. It's creamier than anything I've tasted since going vegan. And there's the slightest hint of cashew taste in every flavor, though it's most pronounced in the plain Creamy Cashew flavor. Cashews are my favorite nuts, so it makes sense that I'd fall hard for this stuff.

I'm going to discuss each flavor in order of favorite. But honestly, I love them all. Even the one on the end is still miles better than its non-cashew vegan ice cream counterpart.

Of course, my number-one pick is the Salted Caramel Cluster. It's vanilla ice cream with a caramel swirl and chocolate-covered salted cashews.

Give me salted caramel anything, and I'll be in love. This ice cream is chock full of those chocolate-covered cashews, and the caramel ribbon is all melty and sweet. My non-vegan partner Paul declared this the best ice cream he's ever eaten. Ever. He said it was a shame our Whole Foods didn't carry these cashew milk ice creams yet because he'd buy all the pints in this flavor.

Next up — Snickerdoodle!

This is a cinnamon ice cream with little chunks of gluten-free snickerdoodle cookie dough! The best part is you can't really see the cookie dough because it's the same color as the ice cream, so you never know if you're getting a cookie dough bite until it happens. It's like a tiny present with every other bite. Mmmmm. And it's cool that they made this gluten-free so everyone can eat it. I'm not gluten-free, but I don't mind eating gluten-free cookies!

Third on my list is Creamy Cashew, shown here sundae-style with crumbled vegan Girl Scout Thin Mints!

The Creamy Cashew is sort of a plain vanilla flavor, but it's very cashew-y. I love the combo of vanilla and nuts. And the simple flavor makes it perfect for sundaes. Next time, I'm trying this drizzled with Love Bean vegan coconut chocolate sauce.

I'd say Cappucino would be my fourth fave.

This is made with fair trade coffee, so you can feel good about indulging because, with every delicious bite, you're supporting some coffee farmer's living wage. Nothing beats ice cream with a conscience. I love how the coffee flavor melds with the creamy cashew mouthfeel.

Finally, there's Dark Chocolate Truffle.

In all fairness, like I said earlier, this one is also phenomenal. But I'm a vanilla ice cream gal, so chocolate always goes last on any list. But it's still so very good! The chocolate flavor is a true dark chocolate, so it has just the right hint of bitterness. It's made with fair trade cocoa (yay!), and it's folded with fudge and shaved chocolate.

Whole Foods across the country should be carrying these now, but if your store doesn't have them yet (I don't think mine does), ask them to carry it! It really knocks every other vegan ice cream out of the park, and you're gonna need this in your life this summer. Trust me.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Real Food For Everyone!

I love it when cookbooks present vegan food as accessible — not weird hippie stuff (though that stuff has a special place in my heart, too), not recipes made with a long list of only-available-at-Whole-Foods ingredients, not dishes made with a bunch of fake meat. Don't get me wrong. I also love fake meat and hard-to-find ingredients (black salt is my JAM!). But when it comes to pushing veganism to the masses (and as an ethical vegan, that is my ultimate goal), we need cookbooks that won't scare away meat-eaters.

Real Food For Everyone: Vegan-Friendly Meals for Meat-Lovers, Vegetarians, and Vegans is one of those books. It's by Ann Gentry, owner of the world-famous Real Food Daily restaurant in L.A. This is a book that is truly designed for EVERYONE! (Bonus: Ann grew up in Memphis!!)

Here's what I mean by that: The focal point of Ann's recipes is fresh veggies. Yet this isn't a raw food cookbook. It's not even a uber-health book. It's just simple recipes made with veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, tofu, tempeh. There are very few processed ingredients, maybe some vegan mayo here or vegan cheese there. But those things are kept to a minimum.

Recipes like Black-Eyed Pea & Pepper Soup, Maple-Dijon Tempeh & Vegetable Stew, or One-Pot Vegetables with Tofu and Sesame Rice grace the pages, and they're accompanied by gorgeous full-color photos.

So many recipes called to me, but I kept coming back to the recipe for Hemp-Crusted Tofu Wrap with Grilled Vegetables and Walnut-Basil Pesto Mayonnaise.

Man, I'd really forgotten how awesome wraps are! It's like a burrito with sandwich fillings! These were stuffed with tofu that was coated in hemp seeds and lightly fried in a skillet. I prepared the grilled veggies on my indoor grill. And the walnut-basil pesto mayo was made with fresh basil, walnuts, miso, and vegan mayo. Together, these ingredients made for the perfect wrap filling.

I can't wait to try a few recipes from the breakfast chapter — Tofu Scramble with Avocado, Bacon, & Cheese (that's tempeh bacon and vegan cheese, of course!), Blueberry Corn Pancakes, and Sesame-Shiitake Tofu Frittata.

There are chapters on sandwiches (like the wrap above) and family-style salads (think Southwestern Salad with Chipotle Ranch Dressing and Agave-Chili Tortilla Strips). And there are lots of soups and stews (Tomato-Lemon Rice Soup, California-Style Gazpacho). And the entrees are truly impressive! The Pecan- and Cornmeal-Crusted Tempeh with Coconut-Sweet Potato Puree would be perfect for any vegan/omni dinner party.

As for dessert, there are Double Chocolate Brownies, Almond-Jam Thumbprint Cookies, and the drool-worthy Vanilla and Chocolate Swirl Bundt Cake with Chocolate Fudge Glaze. Yum!

If you're looking to make the vegan switch yourself, or if you're looking for a book that offers recipes to please your mixed vegan/omni family, this is it. But even if, like me, you're already vegan and you're just feeding yourself everyday, you will still love this beautiful book!!