Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Paul Eats Vegan Food!

A few months ago, my partner Paul relocated back to Memphis after a year and a half of living part-time in Nashville for work. During the time he was living in Nashville, he was still coming home every other weekend. But now he's back full-time.

It's great having him back. But I'll be honest — I'd grown quite used to living by myself, with only my messes to clean and my food in the fridge. As a someone who grew up as an only child, I'm completely happy being along most of the time, and I'm not that good at sharing. Cohabiting again has been an adjustment for me, and I told Paul before he moved back that it'd be a lot better if he would at least try to eat vegetarian food at home. I wasn't thrilled about the idea of having meat in my house again. To my surprise, he said okay!

Now, I should clarify that he, by no means, is going vegan yet. Maybe someday, but Paul will need a big wakeup call before that happens — either a health scare or maybe a visit to a farm animal sanctuary. I've tried to make him watch slaughterhouse footage to no avail. But I do think the seed is being planted, and that's a big deal.

Every morning, Paul starts his day with Chocolate Banana Smoothie with almond milk, banana, wheatgrass, and protein powder (currently whey protein because he has a giant tub that needs to be used up before he buys plant protein powder).

Paul's very favorite meal has always been Spaghetti with Mushrooms, so we're having that pretty often. He doesn't even miss the meat here since he's always preferred vegan spaghetti.

I've had to simplify my cooking a little and repeat meals more often than I'm used to. But his tastes are expanding. Just last night, he opted for quinoa over white rice with his Mandarin Chick'n Vegetable Stir-fry. I used the Gardein Mandarin Chick'n for this.

I made BBQ Tofu Nachos a couple weeks back since he loves the BBQ tofu nachos at RP Tracks. Mine were much lighter since we air-fried the tofu rather than deep-frying like Tracks does.

One night, I shared my leftover Curry Tofu from Mulan with Paul. He really liked that.

One of his favorite meals since moving back has been this Buffalo Tofu Bowl with mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn. His bowl was kale-free though. This is a picture of mine.

Paul did eat Kale Chips at Next Door American Eatery in Crosstown Concourse though! Kale chips were a big step for him. He hasn't quite graduated to steamed or sauteed kale, and raw kale may be years away. But kale chips are a good start.

This is a huge change for a guy who typically eats Taco Bell beef burritos, canned ravioli, fish sticks, and frozen pizzas. He's still having those things on occasion, and Paul typically orders meat when we eat out. But he starts his mornings with a vegetarian smoothie and ends most nights with a vegan dinner. He's on his own for lunch at work, but he occasionally sends me pictures of salad or whole avocado that he eats for lunch. On days he doesn't send pics, I just assume he's eating McDonald's. Ha! Baby steps!

I will say that this isn't the first time Paul has experimented with vegetarian eating. He did a vegetarian 'til six thing a couple years ago, but back then, I wasn't cooking him dinner because he was too picky to eat the things I was eating. He was subsisting on smoothies and black bean burgers during the day back then and eating meat at night. Now that his tastebuds are expanding, I'm able to share dinner with him and have him actually eat it. We'll see if this sticks!

Speaking of Paul, he and I are going to Imagine Music Festival in Atlanta tomorrow, so I won't be posting here again until at least Tuesday night (maybe even Wednesday if I'm feeling lazy). See y'all then with a festival food recap!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Imagine Vegan Cafe Ranch Dressing!

Imagine Vegan Cafe — my home away from home — boasts an amazing menu of vegan comfort foods, but there are a few items that stand out as my very faves. And one of those is their creamy, dreamy homemade ranch dressing, which I typically order on their Fried "Chicken" Salad or as a dip for their Steamed Broccoli, Buffalo Wings, or French Fries. But it's good with just about everything on the menu.

And now I can drown EVERYTHING at home in Imagine's ranch too. Last week, Imagine began bottling and selling their vegan ranch!

They've been talking about doing this for years, and I'm soooo glad they're finally doing it. I will ONLY buy this ranch from now on. Just Mayo's Just Ranch is great, but this stuff is ten times better. It's the kind of ranch that's so creamy, it's hard to get out of the bottle. Like the stuff I remember from my pre-vegan days.

For now, it's only available in the restaurant, but they'll soon be selling it in local stores. I'll be sure and update y'all when that happens.

My friend Megan designed the label. Isn't it adorable? Imagine owners Kristie and Adam have a pet pig named Miss Piggy, so they've got quite a soft spot for pigs. I love that the label includes facts about how smart and amazing pigs are.

I had some of Imagine's ranch at lunch today on my salad, which I packed in a jar the night before to make for a quick and easy lunch.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Stuff I Ate

I'm so excited that Mama Gaia — Memphis' totally organic vegetarian restaurant — now has vegan cheese for their pita pizzas. I stopped by the Crosstown location last week for lunch takeout (after my lunchtime yoga class at the Church Health YMCA) and got the Copia Petitizza (with mushrooms and vegan cheese). I first tried Mama Gaia's vegan cheese petitizzas at their Ballet Memphis location, and it was delicious. But the vegan cheese gets way meltier at the Crosstown location because they have a better oven there. Good to know! This pizza was perfect.

Speaking of pizza, here's another "pizza" I ate. My friend Misti had her birthday brunch at Majestic Grill this past Saturday. It's not the most vegan-friendly restaurant (though they do have a veggie plate option at dinner), but a few of us vegans were able to order flatbreads with no cheese from the brunch menu. I went with the Wild Mushroom Flatbread. This had garlic olive oil and a nice mix of mushrooms and caramelized onions. Really yummy!

Before that brunch, I ran a 12-mile training run, so I started the morning with my fave pre-long run meal of a Cinnamon Raisin Dave's Bagel with Cookie Butter. Yay for carbs and fat! Plus coffee for added energy.

Here's a Cactus Pear Agave Ice Pop from MEMPopS in Crosstown Concourse. Love that color!

And here's another pink thing I ate (or, well, drank). This morning, after my 4-mile run, I had this Morning Sunrise Smoothie with fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, frozen strawberries, and VeganSmart Peaches & Cream protein powder.

Friday morning's breakfast was a steamy bowl of I Heart Keenwah Toasted Quinoa Hot Cereal with YumButter Protein Almond Butter, Bee-Free Honee, & Raspberries.

I'm not a huge fan of fall because it feels like a prelude to winter. Sure, the leaves are pretty, and my birthday and Halloween (my two fave holidays!) are in fall. But it's hard to get excited about summer ending. However, there is one thing that makes fall okay in my book — PUMPKIN SPICE! I found this giant bottle of Silk Pumpkin Spice almond creamer, and it's totally been taking my coffee to the next level.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Air-Fried Okra

A week or so ago, a co-worker brought me a big bag of fresh okra because she had more than she could eat. I will always gladly accept gifts of fresh produce (hint to anyone local who may be reading this!).

Growing up, fried okra was just about the only way I ever had okra. I think my parents weren't into how okra gets a little slimy when prepared any other way. Since then, of course, I've roasted okra, stewed okra, and even added it to soups and sautes. I don't mind a little sliminess. In fact, I kinda love that weird boiled okra texture.

But we all know that frying takes every veggie to the next level, and fried okra still reigns supreme in my book. However, deep-frying just isn't something I do at home much anymore. I've been trying to cut back on oil over the past year because I've found that too much oil just doesn't agree with my stomach. If I eat too much fried food, I get a little gassy. Sometimes, it's totally worth it (like when my mama cooks for me or when I'm eating out). But at home, I try to do better.

Sooooo....what's a fried okra lover to do with all that free okra? Air-fry! I whipped up this simple Air-Fried Okra, and while it isn't quite the same as the oil-fried version, it's still pretty darn tasty. Here's the recipe.

Air-Fried Okra 
Yields 2 servings

20 pods fresh okra, sliced
2 Tbsp. Vegg yolk replacer powder 
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
Salt to taste
Olive oil spray

In a small bowl, whisk together the Vegg yolk powder and water until thick and resembling the texture of egg yolk. Note: I used Vegg brand here because it's designed to mimic yolk, and that works well here. But you could experiment with Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg (if so, alter the water to match package directions).

Pour the breadcrumbs in a separate bowl. Toss the okra with the yolk until coated, and then transfer the okra to the breadcrumbs bowl. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Spritz with olive oil.

Place the okra in an air-fryer basket. Heat on 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Shake. And then heat for 5 more minutes or until panko is browned and crisp.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Super-Easy Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff

As I've mentioned before recently, I've been making a daily effort to eat my GBOMBS. That's greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds. Vegan doctor extraordinaire Dr. Fuhrman recommends eating those things everyday for optimal health, and it sounded like a good habit to adopt. Some of those things were already so common in my daily diet that they didn't take any effort to work in, but others, like mushrooms, take some planning and forethought.

I've been eating way more mushroom-based entrees these days in my effort to work them in. It helps that Paul, who is trying to eat more vegan meals, also loves mushrooms. I made this Mushroom Stroganoff Pasta for dinner one night this week, and it's so easy and delicious that I just had to share the recipe.

Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff
Yields 4 servings

8 oz. whole wheat or gluten-free pasta (I used ww fettuccine, but spiral pasta would also be nice)
2 Tbsp. vegan butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup vegetable broth
3 Tbsp. flour
12 oz. vegan sour cream (that's one whole tub of Tofutti sour cream)
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Parsley, for garnish

Boil the pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta is boiling, melt the butter in a skillet. Add the onions and saute for about 2-3 minutes or until they begin to soften. Add garlic and saute another minute, stirring constantly. Add the mushrooms and saute for about 10 minutes or until mushrooms are soft.

Transfer the cooked vegetables to a bowl and set aside. Pour the veggie broth into the skillet and bring to a boil. Whisk in the flour, one tablespoon at a time until it forms a gravy. Add the sour cream and stir to combine. Add the mushrooms back in and heat through.

Stir the mushroom sauce into the cooked pasta and serve. Taste for salt and add as much as you think it needs (this will vary depending on how salty your veggie broth is). Season with black pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh parsley. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

More Stuff I Ate

More random meals tonight! The Sunday before last — the day after we found the baby squirrels at 3 am — I was WAY too tired for brunch. We got to bed so late Saturday night, and I can't sleep past 9 am so matter how little sleep I've had. But when I saw that Imagine Vegan Cafe had posted that they were making doughnuts that morning, I knew something HAD to be done about that. So I threw on some pants and drove to Imagine. I had no makeup on, and I'm sure I looked a hot mess, but MUST HAVE DOUGHNUTS. I got this Chocolate Sprinkle Doughnut to go!

Life is all about balance, right? Doughnuts one day, green juice the next. Here's a post-workout Pineapple Greens Juice from Juice Bar, procured after a hill run workout on the dreadmill at the Church Health YMCA in Crosstown Concourse.

FitQuick Protein Waffle! You knew I'd sneak one of these in, right? I had this yesterday morning after my interval run workout. This is a Lemon Poppyseed Protein Waffle with Brown Rice Syrup, Tahini, & Organic Blackberries.

My friend Susan sent me a pic of this Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter when she came across it in Fresh Market, and I HAD to have it. I love anything by Peanut Butter & Company, and pumpkin is one of the few redeeming qualities of fall (well, that and Halloween, my birthday, Thanksgiving, and soup). I ended up at Fresh Market later that day, so I bought some. Enjoyed here pre-run on a Dave's Cinnamon Raisin Bagel.

My friends Monica and Kelly invited Paul and I over for dinner on Sunday night. We haven't seen them in ages, so it was nice to catch up. Rather than cooking, Monica called in an order for takeout from Noodles Asian Bistro in Bartlett (where they live). I had the Korean Spicy Stir-fry with Tofu. This was tasty, but they were pretty skimpy on the tofu (only four pieces in the whole dish!).

I ate all of my stir-fry that night, but I had lots of brown rice left. Leftover takeout rice is perfect for making fried rice! So that's what I had for dinner on Monday night. Brown Fried Rice with Soy Curls and Veggies. I just used all the veggies I already had in my fridge — peppers, onions, scallions, carrots, and mushrooms.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Stuff I Ate

Some random meals! A couple Wednesdays ago, I met my friends Mike and Andy for dinner at Imagine Vegan Cafe. I got the Spinach Florentine Ravioli with Garlic Bread. Such a classic. This meal always make me feel like a kid again.

I met Pam for lunch at Next Door in Crosstown Concourse one day last week, and I got the Hummus & Flatbread appetizer for my meal. Next Door's awesome creamy hummus is served with the softest, awesomest flatbread, crunchy veggies, and a cold, spicy chickpea dish. I love snacky plates as meals.

I also ordered a cup of Next Door's Thai Butternut Squash Soup because I wanted to try it. This soup is SO GOOD. I can't wait to eat this all the time as we're entering soup season.

We have a catered staff lunch at work once a month, and there's always a vegan option (thanks for making that happen, Stacy!). This past month, we had Vegan Potato Skins (with Daiya and mushrooms!) and Salad from Midtown Crossing Grill. LOVED these potato skins, and I'll definitely be ordering these in the restaurant soon.

As always, I'm eating plenty of FitQuick protein waffles after my runs. Here's a Chocolate Raspberry Protein Waffle with Maple PB and Strawberries.

And here's a weird breakfast that I make every once in awhile. The idea came from Sarah Kramer and Tonya Bernard's How It All Vegan (my first vegan cookbook!) — Brown Rice Tofu Toast. You cook brown rice, crumble plain tofu into it, and serve atop toast. Then you spray that toast with Bragg's, drizzle with flax oil, and top with ketchup. Weird, but delicious.

More random meals coming at ya tomorrow!