Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gluten-Free Crackers & Cookies!

I'm not gluten-free. But I enjoy eating gluten-free foods occasionally because they offer a different taste and texture. And because they're made with different grains and non-wheat flours, I feel like gluten-free products help me vary my diet. As a bonus, I can take a gluten-free, vegan dish to a potluck and pretty much everyone can eat it!

Mary's Gone Crackers is one of the leading names in gluten-free crackers and other treats. And they sent me a bunch of stuff to try and review! All of their crackers and treats are gluten-free, non-gmo, and vegan.

On the savory side, there were Italian Herb Thins and Original Crackers.

The Italian Herb Thins were my favorite of all the products they sent. These crisp, thin crackers have a light crunch, and they're packed with herb flavor. The rosemary, basil, and oregano stand out the most, and although I don't see it in the ingredients, there's a hint of tomato flavor. They're made with a blend of flours that includes tapioca starch, brown rice, quinoa, mesquite, sprouted black bean, and sprouted buckwheat. 

The Original Crackers are much more heavy than the Thins. Rather than being baked with gluten-free flour, these crackers are made with whole grains. The first ingredient in the list is organic brown rice, followed by quinoa, flaxseed, sesame seed, and so on. They're crunchy and chewy at the same time. Although not raw, they have a similar taste and texture to raw flax crackers. And they're quite delicious with hummus! These also come in so many other flavors, like Black Pepper, Caraway, and Jalapeno, to name a few.

Next up are the Sea Salt Pretzels.

These are like the Original Crackers but in pretzel form. They have basically the same ingredient list, although the pretzels have some extra stuff like amaranth, millet, and chia seeds. Also excellent for hummus dippin'. They also come in Chipotle Tomato (yum!) and Everything. I'd love to try the others!

Mary's Gone Crackers makes more than crackers though! They also make cookies! And they sent me two kinds to try — Cocoa Minis and Ginger Snap Cookies.

The Cocoa Minis remind me of a healthier, gluten-free version of Teddy Grahams. Remember those? Maybe they still make them. I don't know. But I used to eat them all the time when I was a kid. These are made with a gluten-free flour blend, and they're sweetened with prune extract and tapioca syrup. I'm not gonna lie. They definitely taste like health cookies. And that gluten-free taste is detectable. But they're good. Maybe not if you're looking for junk food. But perfect for those times when you want something sweet that won't make you feel guilty. Also, they come in fun celestial shapes! Other flavors include Graham and Vanilla.

The Ginger Snaps Cookies are amazing! Granted, I'm a little biased because I love me some ginger snaps. But these don't taste overly healthy, and if you hadn't told me, I'd have never guessed these were gluten-free. The ginger flavor comes from organic ginger root puree and powder, so it's quite strong and doesn't taste artificial. They're super crispy and perfect for dunking in chia tea, which is how I enjoyed these this afternoon. The cookies also come in Double Chocolate, N'Oatmeal Raisin, and Chocolate Chip.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tempeh BLT with Miyoko's Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese

So I was planning on saving this sandwich recipe for Vegan Mofo, which starts September 1st, but I needed a post for tonight. And it just makes sense to follow yesterday's review of Miyoko's Creamery Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash with another Miyoko's Creamery post. They sent me a few cheeses to review and develop recipes with, and tonight, I'll be sharing my recipe for a Tempeh BLT with Miyoko's Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese.

The Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese is my second favorite of all of Miyoko's line of vegan, nut-based cheeses. It's soft like a cream cheese, and it melts in your mouth — literally. It's LOADED with chives and bursting with flavor. In the past, I've enjoyed it spread on bagels or slices of toasted garlic bread.

But last week, I used Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese as a sandwich spread on a vegan BLT. And it really took my otherwise-standard bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich over the top. I made my own tempeh bacon, of course. And I spread one slice of toast with Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese and another with vegan mayo (I used Just Mayo by Hampton Creek) and sriracha.

Here's the recipe!

Tempeh BLT with Miyoko's Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese
Yields 1 sandwich

2 slices toasted whole wheat bread
3 slices tempeh bacon (recipe below)
2 slices tomato
1 leaf of romaine or green leaf lettuce
1 ounce Miyoko's Creamery Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese
1/2 Tbsp. vegan mayo
Sriracha, optional

To assemble, spread one slice of bread with the Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese and spread the mayo on the other. Add any desired sriracha to the side with the mayo.

Lay the lettuce leaf on the slice with the cream chive cheese. Top with tomatoes and then bacon. Top with the remaining slice of bread. Eat!

Tempeh Bacon
1 8-ounce package tempeh
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. hoison sauce
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 tsp. Liquid Smoke

Slice the tempeh lengthwise into about 12 long, thin strips. Steam tempeh in a steamer basket over boiling water for 10 minutes. Or if you don’t own a steamer basket, place tempeh directly in enough water to cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Mix the veggie broth, soy sauce, hoison, maple syrup, and Liquid Smoke in a large storage container. Place tempeh slices in container and make sure liquid is covering each slice. Marinate overnight.

To cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drain marinade and place strips on a greased baking sheet. Cook for 10 minutes and flip each slice. Then bake for 10 more minutes.

Makes about 12 slices.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Vegan Wine & Cheese Party for One!

Last weekend, Paul took a few days off to visit his parents in Nashville. I stayed home to attend Memphis' first-ever Renaissance Faire (yes, of course I dressed up!). And that meant having the whole house all to myself all weekend. It was glorious! I'm an only child, and I grew up having loads of "me time." So I'm perfectly content being alone.

So what I did do? I had a party for one! When I got home from work Friday night, I pulled up Netflix and picked out a good movie (The Devil's Knot — the narrative film about the West Memphis Three). I poured myself a glass of petite syrah. And I made a fancy spread.

There are slices of toasted artisan garlic bread, dolmas, marinated mushrooms, roasted garlic cloves, olives, cherry tomatoes from my garden, baby carrots, slices of Braeburn apple, and two kinds of cheese from Miyoko's CreameryClassic Double Cream Chive and Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash.

I was sent a few of Miyoko's cheeses to review, and since I'd reviewed most of the flavors before, I'm using those for recipes or sharing with others and getting their feedback. I've reviewed the Classic Double Cream Chive before here, and I'll be posting a sandwich recipe using it very soon (saving that for Vegan Mofo next month). It's melt-in-your-mouth creamy and popping with oniony flavor. Probably my second favorite of all Miyoko's nut cheeses.

But the Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash was totally new to me. And I wasn't sure what to expect. The outside is coated in black ash, so it's a little messy. But aren't most good things messy?

I don't know how to compare this cheese to a dairy counterpart because I was never into fancy cheeses before going vegan. I loved cheese back then, but I grew up in Arkansas, and my tastes are quite pedestrian. I was into American slices, Velveeta, and cheddar shreds, not stinky cheese with fancy names.

That said, I'm a little classier now (only a tad!), and I do appreciate a good, complex, aged cashew cheese. So while I can't describe what this compares to, I can tell you that it's a medium-soft cheese with a buttery flavor. There's a slight tang there, too, but it's not over-powering. Miyoko's website recommends pairing it with fruit, so I interspersed bites of the black ash cheese with bites of crisp apple. Perfect pairing!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Eat Like You Give a Damn

It's official — I have a new favorite cookbook. Eat Like You Give a Damn by Michelle Schwegmann and Josh Hooten of Herbivore Clothing Company!

I mean, it just makes sense that I'd fall in love with this book. A large chunk of my wardrobe is made up of tees and hoodies from Herbivore. For years, I've had Herbivore bumper stickers on all of my cars (and yes, I've had a lot of cars because I've had a lot of wrecks — never my fault, though). Michelle and Josh are adorable people, and their book is filled with easy and delicious vegan meals. And I want to make EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

This book is so Portland. As you may know, Herbivore has a storefront in Portland in the vegan mini-mall. So of course, Michelle and Josh eat like Portlanders — bowls, chunky tofu scrambles, soy curls, loads of nooch. Flipping through it reminds me of past visits to Portland, a.k.a. The Vegan Mothership. It brings me back.

I had a hard time deciding what to try for this review because everything sounded (and looked) amazing — Kale, Tempeh & Tomato Salad; Praise Seitan Vegan Roast; No-Bird Noodle Soup; Sweet Potato Ravioli with Popeye Pesto Sauce; Roasted Beet Burgers; Skillet Taco Pizza; and bowl after bowl of awesomeness. How could I possibly choose?? I finally settled on four recipes because I couldn't pick just one.

Of course, a bowl was a must! This Curry-Barbecue Soy Curls Bowls called out at me on my first flip through the book.

It has all the things I need in life — soy curls simmered in sweet 'n' tangy BBQ sauce, Southern-style braised collard greens and corn, wholesome brown rice, and a homemade chunky vegan blue cheese dressing. I added a touch of Austin to my Portland by adding a drizzle of Yellowbird Habanero Sauce. 

These flavors work so well together! The dressing has chunky bits of tofu that simulate chunky blue cheese (minus the mold! yay!), and since it's made with tahini and vegan mayo, it's super-duper creamy and thick. The soy curls are simmered in the BBQ sauce for a long time, so they get really plump and juicy and soak up all that flavor. This dish is like last-meal-on-earth good.

I saw that Cadry of Cadry's Kitchen tried the Herbivore's Tofu Scramble in her review of this book, and she compared it the amazing tofu scramble that we all had at Bouldin Creek Cafe in Austin during Vida Vegan Con 3. So I had to see for myself!

And she was right! This is eerily similar to Bouldin Creek's scramble, which was a drier, noochier, chunkier scramble than I'm used to. That scramble and the Herbivore one seem closer in texture and taste to real eggs, which is awesome because 11 years into veganism, I still miss eggs sometimes. 

I also love that this scramble is veggie-less. I always add veggies to beef up the nutrition factor in my scram. But let's face it — the best part is the tofu. Veggies just get in the way. Better to have them as a side dish, which is what I did this morning. I had my scram with a side of steamed kale and cracked wheat toast with lemon jam.

I tried another breakfast recipe from Eat Like You Give a DamnNut Butter & Bacon Toast!

This is just toast spread with any nut butter (I opted for a chia peanut spread) and topped with homemade vegan bacon. They give two bacon recipes — one for tempeh bacon and one for coconut bacon. I made the coconut bacon, and it's just perfect. The recipe warned that the coconut bacon might get soft if wasn't used right away, but not so with mine. It has stayed crunchy for two weeks now in a plastic Tupperware bowl! I used most of it last week, but I have a tad left that I'm saving for salads. 

Finally, y'all know I love my smoothies, so I had to try one from the book. I went with the Minty Kale-Pear Smoothie so I could sneak some more greens into my diet.

It has kale, pear, banana, mint, plant milk, vanilla, and molasses (but I subbed out maple because that's what I had on-hand). Just a perfect combination. Filling, nutritious, delicious.

Eat Like You Give a Damn is sure to become one of my go-to staple books. There are so many more recipes that I need to try — like I said earlier, EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. But I think next on my list is the Sweetpea Snickerdoodle. You see, right next door to Herbivore in the vegan mini-mall is Sweetpea Baking Company, an amazing vegan bakery. And they've shared their snickerdoodle recipe for this book! Can't wait to try that!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

New Vegan Pizza Special at Midtown Crossing!

Hey Memphis readers, this post is for you! This week, Midtown Crossing Grill is offering a special vegan pizza called The Goodman, named after one of their regular customers.

They're trying it out for the week to see how well it goes over. And if it goes over well, they'll add The Goodman to their upcoming new menu. I had the chance to try it a few weeks ago as a tester, and let me tell ya — THIS IS THE BEST VEGAN PIZZA IN MEMPHIS. Seriously.

There are currently eight — count 'em, EIGHT — places in Memphis to get a vegan cheese pizza these days. Crazy, right? In my early days as a vegan here, I'd never have imagined that could happen. All of those places have excellent pizza, and each has it's strong points. But Midtown Crossing wins for best with this one.

The Goodman is made with two kinds of vegan cheese — vegan mozzarella shreds and vegan cream cheese — and that makes for an incredibly creamy, cheesy pizza. It's also topped with tomato sauce, potatoes, spinach, and mushrooms. And all of that is layered upon some of the best pizza crust this city to offer. Somehow, it's soft, crispy, and chewy all at the same time. Perfection.

So Memphis, let's show Midtown Crossing that we want The Goodman on the regular menu! This is my neighborhood bar, and I'm so happy they've become so vegan-friendly. Besides The Goodman special, they also have a vegan Greek Flatbread with hummus and olives, amazing spring rolls, and there's a vegan banh mi named after me (the Bianca Banh Mi!).

Midtown Crossing Grill is located at 394 N. Watkins. You can call ahead at 901-443-0502. The Goodman will be available all week!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Spaghetti & Meatballs, 1920s-Style

Pasta has been around for centuries, and the long, thin noodles that we call spaghetti are believed to date back to the 12th century in Sicily. Until the 19th century, everyone had to make spaghetti by hand, but Italian spaghetti factories began springing up in the Industrial Age, making pasta more convenient.

Like all foods that originated in other countries, spaghetti has its own history in America. In the late 1800s, Italian immigrants were offering spaghetti in their restaurants here. It was often called Spaghetti Italienne, and it was served with a tomato sauce seasoned with cloves, garlic, and bay leaves rather than the basil and oregano we use today.

Eventually, in the early 20th century, some Italian-American restaurants began serving spaghetti with meatballs, a dish that originated in the States. The National Pasta Association, a U.S. organization, is said to be the first to print a recipe for the meatballs dish in the 1920s. But since it's not really authentic, spaghetti with meatballs was (and likely still is) mocked for not being a traditional Italian dish.

I love that kind of stuff! Sure, the American palette led to the bastardization of so many traditional and authentic dishes from other cultures. But at the same time, these new dishes were being created, these uniquely American dishes. Other than say, burgers and barbecue, Americans don't really have a cuisine all our own. But we do have this amazing array of dishes tweaked from other cultures, and since we're a melting pot, that seems appropriate.

Anyway, all that is to say that of course I developed a Spaghetti & Meatballs dish for my retro vegan cookbook! I served it with steamed kale peppered with cherry tomatoes from my garden.

I went with a sort of 19th century fusion here — a tomato-clove sauce (no herbs) from the 1900s and meatballs from the 1920s. The balls recipe is still a work in progress though. These came out perfectly. But I used one kind of vegan burger crumble (Beyond Meat), and I want to make sure this recipe will work with multiple brands, as well as TVP. My goal is to always have my recipes be as accessible as possible.

So there will be much meatball testing in my future! Life is hard.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Stuff I Ate!

It's another Stuff I Ate round-up — random pictures of all the meals I've been eating lately.

I feel like these posts always start with avocado toast. But hey, that's the life I'm livin'. I picked up some amazing carrot-curry hummus from Geek Eats when I was in Little Rock a couple weekends ago. And it made for the BEST EVER Avocado-Hummus Toast. With Yellowbird Sauce in habanero and jalapeno, because that's how vegans living in a post-Vida Vegan Con world do.

Went to my friend Pam's house last weekend for a Cards Against Humanity night with buds Andy, Jordan, Mike, and Stephanie. And Pam cooked up this gorgeous pan of Vegetarian Paella.

Stephanie brought the bread — Country Rustic Loaf and Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls. I didn't have the rustic slices because I was too busy cramming the soft and sweet dinner rolls (slathered with Earth Balance, of course) into my face. Omg, so good.

Somehow, I got sent home with a ton of leftover paella and salad mix (that Mike brought) as well a GIANT tub of Andy's hummus. I brought vegan cheese dip to the gathering (you can read about that in this post). Needless to say, I've been eating serious leftovers this week. Here's Monday night's meal — paella, salad, wine.

I've also been eating out quite a bit. I really love (and prefer) cooking at home, so I can save money, review cookbooks, and develop recipes (plus, cooking is fun!). But there is so much delicious vegan food to be eaten at Memphis restaurants, and I've gotta spread my vegan dollars! I'm trying to eat at Cassi's new Pink Diva Cupcakery once a week. She does a different lunch special every day, and Monday was ramen day. So of course I was there for that! Here's my Ramen Bowl with tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, jalapenos, and fried tofu. Fantastic!

Of course, Sunday brunch at Imagine Vegan Cafe is still happening just about every week. This past Sunday, I went with the Breakfast Platter — tofu scramble, biscuit, sausage, cheese grits, and a hash brown.

Also been eating my share of Ethiopian fare at the newly opened Blue Nile in Midtown. Definitely my new favorite Ethiopian place! I met my friend Leslie there for lunch last week, and we both ordered the Shiro Wat (ground chickpea stew), and mine had House Salad and Cabbage. And of course, all the injera!!

Since LYFE Kitchen opened in East Memphis a few weeks ago, I've eaten there a number of times. It's nowhere near my home or work — like 20 minutes out near the 'burbs — but I just can't help myself. It's so amazing! Last week, I met friends there, and I was feeling a little under-the-weather (caught Paul's stupid cold). So I ordered the Corn Chowder (made with cashew cream!).

And I paired that with the Edamame Hummus Platter. Sometimes, when you have a cold, all you need is soup, hummus, toasted bread, and fresh veggies to fix you right up.

LYFE is near the East Memphis Whole Foods, and I had to get some groceries on Saturday. So I popped over to LYFE first to grab a Banana Date Shake. This shake is soooo good. It's really just frozen bananas and date syrup, and I could totally make this at home. But they make their own date syrup, and I'm lazy sometimes.

And then tonight, I met my old friend Audrey, who I haven't seen in years, at LYFE to catch up over drinks and dinner. I had a glass of pinot noir and this Ancient Grains Stir-fry, which is made with Gardein beefless tips and black quinoa. So good!