Monday, August 31, 2015

Stuff I Ate (and Stuff I Did)

So September 1st begins Vegan Mofo!! For those who don't know, "Vegan Mofo" stands for "Vegan Month of Food," and for the whole month, vegan bloggers, Instagrammers, tweeters, Facebookers, and users of whatever other social media is out there will be blowing up the internet with pictures of delicious vegan food.

It's been going on for years, and I've participated every year (I think). But I'll be honest — I've never been all that excited about Mofo, at least not for my own blogging. I love reading everyone else's posts, especially my blogger friends who don't blog as often the rest of the year. But for me, since I already blog five days a week, it's always been kind of the same thing I always do. And some bloggers choose a theme, but I could never commit to one for a whole month. But this year, I'm going ALL THE WAY. And I'm very excited. I'll be following the official Mofo daily prompts, which are new this year. But more on that tomorrow! Tonight is a pre-Mofo photo dump.

But before we get to the stuff I ate, I wanted to share with y'all what I've been doing for the past couple weekends. Memphis held its first-ever Ren Faire — the Mid-South Renaissance Faire — at Shelby Farms Park, and I went both weekends. The first weekend, I went with a traditional dress and long wig. And it was SO HOT and SO HUMID! My wig hair was all sticking to me. But I looked pretty cool.

Here I am with my friend Pam and her kid Lily. 

The Ren Faire had a Fairy Grove, so that first weekend, as I was sweating my ass off, I decided that the following weekend (which was this past weekend), I would go for a much more minimal look as a faery! It was still very hot, but I was much more comfortable.

But you're here for the food, not my nerdiness! I've been eating lots of good stuff, as usual. I've been doing a ton of eating out, so I haven't had much in the way of leftovers for lunches since I've not cooked much. And that means lunches of Amy's soups and frozen burritos. One day last week, I had this Amy's Vegetable Barley Soup with Hummus Toast.

Speaking of eating out, I'm making it a point to visit Cassi's new place, Pink Diva Cupcakery, once a week for lunch. She was doing themed daily menu specials, but now she's got a small menu so people can choose. Last Wednesday, my co-workers and I stopped in for big ole plates of BBQ Tofu Nachos!! So good!!

My friends and I have been brunching almost every Sunday at Imagine Vegan Cafe for years (since they relaunched brunch a year ago and during the original brunch run several years ago). We brunch so much that I've started ordering off the regular, non-brunch menu to mix it up. Yesterday, I got the Southern Staple — brown rice, black beans, collard greens, garlic sauce and cornbread on the side. Love all that garlic sauce! Plus, I added sriracha, like I do.

The Sunday before last, I went with a more traditional brunch of Vegan Sausage & Cheese Quiche with Salad and a side of Mac & Cheese. Stephanie makes the quiche, and it's to die for. Our friend Pam orders it EVERY SINGLE WEEK.

Last Tuesday was Vegan Drinks night! And we met at Memphis' newest Ethiopian joint, The Blue Nile. Mmmm ... injera bread. I ordered the Vegetarian Platter and a Lagunitas IPA, and I'm proud to report that I cleaned my plate. No leftovers here. 

Y'all remember that vegan pizza special I mentioned last week? My neighborhood pizza joint, Midtown Crossing Grill, was offering a vegan cheese pizza called The Goodman as a test item last week. Of course, I had to stop in and get one! This has two kinds of vegan cheese — mozzarella and cream cheese — and potatoes, spinach, and mushrooms. Ridiculously good!

That's it! See y'all tomorrow for Mofo!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Upton's Naturals Jackfruit!

It's here! It's here! Upton's Naturals Jackfruit is here! The makers of the world's best seitan (in my humble opinion) are now the makers of the world's best jackfruit meal starters.

If you're not familiar with jackfruit, it's this stringy fruit that resembles pulled pork or carnitas in both taste (if it's seasoned well) and texture. Vegans use the unripe jackfruit flesh for savory dishes, so even though it's a fruit, it's not sweet. Of course, people all over the world eat the ripe, sweet fruit, too. But for vegan purposes, we're talking about the not-so-sweet, unripe fruit. 

You can buy whole jackfruit in Asian markets, but they're HUGE. And it looks like it would take an experienced jackfruit butcher (did I just coin a new term??) to hack into it. I typically buy plain already-chopped jackfruit packed in brine in a can. And then I season it with whatever sauce I'm using and slow-cook it until tender.

But Upton's Naturals has done all the work for you! These two new jackfruit meal starters are so freakin' handy. You just open the package, heat in a skillet, and serve. They sent me two packages to try and review, and I absolutely love them both.

I used the Chili-Lime Carinitas Jackfruit to make the first tacos I've eaten since Vida Vegan Con in Austin last May. And boy did I miss tacos! These were so very good.

The jackfruit has a strong lime flavor and a mild hint of chili. Think taco meat with taco seasoning in it but with added lime. I sauteed it with some hot peppers to step up the heat. And then I topped with an easy slaw made with shredded cabbage, rice vinegar, olive oil, diced chiles, salt, and pepper. That's topped with spicy guacamole and Yellowbird Jalapeno Sauce. Since every component was spicy, these tacos made my nose run a bit. But that's the way I like it. Spice-aphobes can have a totally mild taco with this jackfruit if they don't add any spice.

Tonight, I used the Bar-B-Que Jackfruit to make a classic 'cue sandwich with coleslaw on a whole wheat bun.

This jackfruit was my favorite of the two, but that's only because I'm a Memphis girl through and through, and I love me some barbecue. The jackfruit comes coated in a vinegar-heavy sauce, and I like mine just a tad sweeter. So I added a tablespoon of Muddy Pond Bold Barbecue Sauce, a regionally made sauce that gets its sweetness from Southern sorghum. For the slaw, I just mixed some shredded cabbage with Just Mayo, salt, and pepper. 

With both of these starters, dinner was on the table in 15 minutes. And that's only because I had to mix up some coleslaw. I'm so glad Upton's has made jackfruit easier and more approachable! Now, I just hope my local Whole Foods will start carrying it!

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!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Driftwood Magazine! It's Vegan!

There's a new vegan magazine in town, y'all! My online buds Holly Feral and Michele Truty (yes, the esteemed Vida Vegan Con organizer) are part of a team of vegan journalists and photographers behind a brand-spanking-new vegan glossy mag. It's called Driftwood Magazine, and it's all about vegan travel and culture. And issue number one is hitting stands this month!

I was sent an early digital review copy, and I was so impressed that I immediately placed my order to have the print edition mailed to my house. It's a quarterly mag, so there are just four issues a year. And they're printed on thick, coated, recycled paper, so it's the kind of mag you store on your bookshelf. Of course, you can also order digital copies if you're into that. Personally, I like to hold a magazine in my hands. But I'm old, so ...

Here's a sneak peek at the first issue.
  • Travels features on vegan options in Budapest, Seoul, Tel Aviv, and other destinations
  • A Q&A with vegan graphic novelist Nicole Georges
  • A feature on the couple behind Upton's seitan
  • A profile of a factory farm undercover investigator
  • A story on the rise and fall (and rise again) of the vegan tattoo
  • A Q&A with Vegan In Brighton blogger Jojo!
Seriously, it's a gorgeous publication. Print issues are kinda pricey at $14 per pop, but the magazine is loaded with good stuff. And it's a keeper, the sort of digest you want to treasure forever and ever. Plus, you're supporting vegan business! But if you're into digital mags, the internet version is just $5! You can order by the issue or subscribe on the Driftwood website. And soon, you'll be able find print issues at Herbivore, Nooch, and Vegan Essentials.

Additionally, Driftwood is looking for contributions for upcoming issues. Details can be found here.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Vegan Cheese Dip!

Did y'all know that cheese dip was invented in Arkansas in the 1930s? Okay, well the jury is kind of out on that one. But some cheese dip history researchers (yes, this is a thing!) believe the dish was invented by Blackie Donnely, the owner of an Arkansas Tex-Mex chain called Mexico Chiquito. Others believe chili con queso came from Mexico or Texas.

But I'm from Arkansas, and we don't have much to be proud of in the Natural State, besides the Clintons (obvs), natural diamond mines, and the gorgeous Ozarks. So if someone thinks we invented cheese dip, we'll take it. Regardless, cheese dip is immensely popular in Arkansas. I grew up on Pancho's Cheese Dip, a locally famous queso that got its start in the Pancho's regional restaurant chain in the 1950s. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could come close to the awesomeness that is Pancho's Cheese Dip.

It's served in the Pancho's restaurants around the Mid-South, and it's also sold in stores. And even though I'm not in Arkansas anymore, downtown Memphis is only about two minutes from the Arkansas state line, so the influence of cheese dip has certainly bled over. Folks in Memphis love their cheese dip — specifically their Pancho's Cheese Dip — too.

Well, awhile back, I was visiting my parents in Jonesboro, Arkansas. And we were having a nacho night or taco night or something like that. And my mama decided to try making a vegan version of Pancho's Cheese Dip. And she nailed it! I got her recipe, and now that I know cheese dip has such a fascinating history, I've decided to use it in my retro vegan cookbook.

I made it again this weekend for a little gathering at a friend's house. It was a huge hit, even with the non-vegans.

Because everyone needs an awesome vegan cheese dip recipe in their lives, I'm not keeping this one secret until the book comes out. I'm gonna give it to you right now. But let's be honest — you know you're craving cheese dip this very second. You're welcome.

Arkansas-Style Vegan Cheese Dip
Makes 3 1/2 cups

1 8-ounce container of vegan cream cheese (I used Tofutti)
2 cups vegan shredded cheddar cheese (I used Daiya)
1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes & green chiles
1/2 cup plant milk, unsweetened
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat over medium-high, stirring often, until the cheese shreds and cream cheese are melted and smooth.

Transfer the dip to a blender and process until very creamy.

Serve warm. I transferred my dip to a mini-crock pot for the potluck, but you can microwave it just before serving as well.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sneak Peek of Vegan Options at the Germantown Whole Foods!

The Mid-South area (that's Memphis and our surrounding suburbs) is getting a new Whole Foods! For years, we've only had one Whole Foods in the area, and it served a ton of people. So it's often crowded at peak times, despite the store's massive size. But on Tuesday, a second Whole Foods is opening in Germantown, a little suburban town on the outskirts of Memphis.

I'll be honest. Midtowners (those of us who live in the city's urban core) like myself spend a great deal of time poking fun at uppity, well-to-do Germantown, and when we have to drive out there, it's like, "OMG, I have to drive ALL THE WAY OUT EAST!" I even have a tee-shirt that says "A Bad Day in Midtown Is Better Than a Good Day In Germantown."

But for real — it's only about 30 minutes away on the interstate, and with this new Whole Foods, the new Germantown Sprouts store, and the rumored, soon-to-come G-town Trader Joe's (!!!!!!!), well, I may have to stop whining and start frequenting the 'burbs more often.

On Friday night, the new Germantown Whole Foods hosted a special sneak peek tour and tasting for local bloggers. So I was there! Of course, product-wise, this store will carry much of the same stuff that the East Memphis Whole Foods does. But the in-store food counters are very different, and dare I say, better, than the East Memphis store in terms of vegan options. While the East Memphis Whole Foods has a BBQ joint inside (with no vegan options ... sigh), this new store features a very vegan-friendly Korean place called Genji Kei Jei Kitchen.

They serve ramen bowls, and the wheat noodles are vegan (the others have egg, so be sure and ask for wheat noodles!). They also sell Sushi Burritos! And for vegans, they offer a Tofu Inari Sushi Burrito. Inari (fried tofu skin) is basically my favorite thing ever. So this makes me very happy! Besides the inari, this is also stuffed with brown rice, spring mix, beets, carrot, teriyaki sauce, and fried shallots.

And they have bao (steamed sandwich buns)! The Angry Soy Bao is made with soy chicken and lots of fresh greens!

At the end of our blogger tour, each blogger was given a personal charcuterie board filled with meats and cheeses from the Whole Foods deli. But they made me a special vegan board featuring some of the vegan cheese products and other specialties they'll be selling. On the top are two jams from Blackberry Farms (a cherry jam and a smoked onion jam), pickled cucumbers and pickled tomatoes from Doux South, and candied walnuts. On the bottom are Kite Hill Almond Ricotta (my fave!!), eggplant tapenade, and Heido Ho Smoky Chia Cheeze.

Sampling my way around the board was so much fun! And so tasty! Another cool feature about this store are the dining tables. They reclaimed the wood from the trees cut down to build the store, and a local company called City Wood fashioned the wood into tables.

This Germantown Whole Foods may be quite a haul for city folks like me. But I'll most certainly be making the drive back after it opens to the public on Tuesday. I need more sushi burritos and bao in my life!