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.

Monday, October 17, 2016

36th Birthday Witches' Ball & Pumpkin Potluck

Last night, I shared pictures of the food I ate on my actual birthday, which was Sunday. But tonight, I've got pictures from my birthday party, which I hosted at my house on Saturday night. Since the Blood Moon was full this weekend, I thought it'd be a perfect time to get all witchy! So we had a Witches' Ball and Pumpkin Potluck. Everyone was supposed to dress like a witch and bring a vegan pumpkin dish. And for the most part, everyone did! There were lots of witches' hats and black clothing. And plenty of delicious pumpkin dishes — both savory and sweet.

Here's a shot of the potluck table before a few more dishes were added. Every potluck has a couple of stragglers.

I made three dishes for the potluck. One was this Baked Penne Pasta with Pumpkin Cream Sauce form Julie Hasson's Vegan Casseroles. It has a creamy cashew-based sauce with canned pumpkin, garlic, and spices. It's topped with a buttery breadcrumb topping.

And I made these Butternut Squash Spring Rolls with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds from Veganomicon. These were really yummy and very different from other spring rolls I've had. You roast a squash and just add the cooked, cooled squash to the rolls, along with rice noodles, cilantro, and toasted pumpkin seeds. It was served with a soy-sesame dipping sauce.

I also made these Chickpeas in Baskets from Fall Fomo No Mo. Super cute little vegan quiches made with a chickpea flour/black salt filling in pumpkin biscuit crust.

Don brought over some amazing Pumpkin Cashew Cheese with homemade bread. He's truly mastered the art of vegan cheese-making.

Nicole made this Pumpkin Potato Curry dish that had Indian spices, raisins, and peas. It reminded me of aloo gobi but with pumpkin instead of cauliflower. Lucky for me, she left all of the leftovers at my house!

Diane also brought a pumpkin curry. Hers was a Spicy Thai Curry with Pumpkin over Mixed Grains. This had a great flavor and it was served atop a mix of brown and red rice and other grains.

Shara made this amazing Roasted Cauliflower Pumpkin Swirl Dip from Happy Healthy Life. I adore cauliflower, and this was so good. She left me a bunch of it and the rest of the pita chips, so I've been eating it all weekend.

Mike always brings his homemade chex mix to parties, and it's typically spicy. But for this party, he made Pumpkin Spice Chex Mix, which was lightly sweet with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.

I somehow accidentally deleted the close-up shot of Melissa and Anthony's Sweet Potato Bake, but it was beautiful. Spice-coated orange sweet potatoes roasted with red and green bell peppers. And I failed to photograph Misti's Peanut Butter Pumpkin Dip with Apple Slices, but it was great. I have a little leftover for breakfast this week!

Pam made this sweet Pumpkin Cream Cheese Roll. It kind of fell apart as she rolled it, but it still tasted amazing. I think this was one of my favorite things of the night! The bread was so soft, and it was only slightly sweet.

Shay made Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Bread. Perfection! This moist loaf was flecked with bits of chocolate. I couldn't have eaten this whole thing. Sad there were no leftovers.

The highlight of the night, though, was my birthday cake baked by my friend Stephanie, aka Poopie Bitch from the PPK (RIP, PPK ... sadness). I had asked her to make her pumpkin insanity bars, so that's what I was expecting. And I was thrilled and surprised when she showed up with this cake!

I was even more excited when we cut into the cake! She made me a vegan ice cream cake, y'all!!! I haven't had ice cream cake since I was a little kid, and I love it so much. This was a pumpkin cake with Ben & Jerry's Coffee Caramel Fudge almond milk ice cream and a vegan whipped topping. I am SO GLAD I have two slices left of this in my freezer.

Such a fun party! I also made a Witches' Brew Cocktail with vodka, OJ, and pom-blueberry juice, but I failed to take pictures of that. And I got lots of amazing gifts. Here's my gift spread from the party! Mandala coloring books, a vintage Oreo cookie jar, crazy pink sunglasses, a cat finger puppet, a handmade Arkansas painting, a sodalite pendulum, a cat/waning moon necklace, a bunch of Soy Curls (Jennifer got me six bags!), a Contigo Purity Glass water bottle, a six-pack of assorted high-gravity craft beers, a bottle of wine, a birthday wine glass, a unicorn doll, an evil unicorn horn (it's covered in fake blood!), and some Hello Kitty toys. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

My 36th Birthday!

Okay, I know I promised last week to do another Stuff I Ate round-up with doughnuts and stuff. But I ended up staying up late Thursday talking with my friend Autumn, and it was just too late to blog by the time she went home. So I'll do that round-up later this week. But today is my 36th birthday! Here's my obligatory birthday selfie. I take one of these every year.

I had a pumpkin potluck last night to celebrate, and I'll be posting all those pics tomorrow. But today, I thought I'd stick with my real birthday eats.

This morning started with vegan brunch, of course! Midtown Crossing Grill, which is just down the block from my house, launched a test-run of vegan brunch this morning. So Paul, Stephanie, and I walked over there to give it a try.

I ordered the Tofu Scramble with potatoes, onions, bell peppers, jalapenos, and vegan cheddar. It was served in a piping hot cast iron skillet! Very tasty!

I also ordered the Vegan Biscuits & Sausage Gravy. The fluffy biscuits were covered in a savory gravy with finely crumbled veggie sausage. Loved this.

And the best part? Midtown Crossing has a full bar! And they had vegan Bloody Marias (that's like a bloody mary but with tequila instead of vodka). Typically, bloody marys have worcestershire sauce, which contains fish. But these bloody marias were made with fresh tomato juice. Just what I needed this morning.

After brunch, Paul and I headed to my parents' house in Arkansas for birthday dinner, presents, and cupcakes. Here we are at their house!

I asked my mama to make me tacos! So she set up a taco bar with all the fixins (vegan cheese, guac, salsa, cilantro, jalapenos, tomatoes, lettuce, and sour cream). 

She made refried beans and Spanish rice from scratch. So good! Here's my taco plate!

And Frozen Margaritas! My mama knows how to throw a proper taco party.

For my birthday cake, she made me these Vegan Funfetti Cupcakes from the Minimalist Baker! We ate them with Ben & Jerry's PB & Cookies vegan ice cream.

My dad gave me money to buy new running shoes! I'm long overdue for a new pair of Brooks Ghosts, and my mama gave me a bunch of running shirts, some long workout pants, and a couple of pullovers and jackets for those soon-to-come cold winter runs.

We drove back to Memphis just after dark and stared at the beautiful full Blood Moon all the way home. How cool to have a full moon birthday! Paul and I are about to crack open this bottle of Turtle Run Le Subereux Aux Pinot de Corton that I picked up the Turtle Run Winery in Indiana this summer. I've been saving it for a special occasion, and what's more special than a birthday?

I'll be back tomorrow with potluck party pics!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Stuff I Ate: Workout Edition

When I was pulling out pics for this week's Stuff I Ate post, I realized I had a bunch of pre- and post-workout meal pics and a bunch of totally junk food meal pics. So I figured we'll go healthy tonight with a round-up of workout-related meals, and tomorrow, I promise to give you doughnuts and gravy (not in the same meal though because gross).

Last Saturday, I ran 18 miles! That's my longest distance yet. I'm training for the St. Jude Marathon in December, and it'll be my first. I'm a super-slow runner, and 18 miles takes me about fours, so fueling is very important. I've started experimenting with having oat cups before my long runs because they're perfectly portioned and fun to eat. They leave me filling satisfied for at least five miles. But after last weekend's run, I realized that I need to add some fat. So next weekend, I'll have oats with nut butter. These Kroger brand Moroccan Spice Oats were spiced with cinnamon and ginger. Yummy.

During my long runs, I need lots of snacks. I like to have a gel or bag of energy chews every five miles. Not only do the carbs digest quickly and give me energy, they also give me something to look forward to. I'm always telling myself, "If I can run just one more mile, I get a snack!" This Saturday, I packed a Clif Strawberry Gel, GU Salted Caramel Apple Chews (they're vegan!), and Huma Cafe Mocha Gel. Huma gels are made with chia seeds and real fruit, and they're definitely the healthiest of these three, but they're also the most expensive. And Huma doesn't make nearly enough flavors to keep me from getting bored. Also, while I typically love the GU chews, I wasn't crazy about this flavor. I'll stick with the fruity berry ones from now on.

After that run, I re-fueled with a thick and creamy Mocha Almond Butter Protein Smoothie — Vega Sport Mocha protein powder, unsalted almond butter, cashew milk, and banana.

Protein smoothies or FitQuick protein waffles or doughnuts are my usual post-workout go-to. But I've been mixing things up lately with some new protein foods. I found these Orgain Organic Nutrition Plant-Based Protein Shakes at a health food store in my hometown. They're yummy and great for on-the-go. I had one with a bagel post-workout last week.

I'm also loving Lenny & Larry's Complete Cookies. They're vegan and contain 16 grams of protein! I picked up a box of the White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies last weekend. I had one with a Sweet Tango apple after my Tuesday run. Cookies for breakfast! Yes please. This is why I run. :-)