Thursday, March 31, 2016

All-Natural Vegan Mints!

For most of my life, I've been a gum and mint addict. I always had to have something minty after a meal, and I'd carry sugar-free gum or mints in my purse at all times. But nearly everything I found contained aspartame or some other artificial sweetener, and shortly after going vegan, I started to care more about not consuming so many icky chemicals.

That's about the time I discovered VerMints — organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, nut-free, vegan mints!

I stumbled upon them at Whole Foods years ago and quickly found a new addiction. I was so excited to have found a healthier way to freshen my breath! But as with all good habits, it eventually fell by the wayside. I'm sure I ran out of VerMints one day and didn't have time to make the 20-minute drive out to Whole Foods for more. And then I probably found myself in a gas station, hiding my face in shame as I purchased Breath Savers or something in desparation.

Anyway, at some point, I kicked the mint/gum addiction, but I'd happily accept it back into my life if I could stay on the right track. VerMints sent me some samples of their mints, and that might be just what I need to get that healthy habit started.

They sent me their Wintergreen mints and their Chai mints. These mints have the mouthfeel and texture of Altoids, which as you probably know aren't vegan because they contain gelatin. But VerMints are gelatin-free. The Wintergreen mints are flecked with little bits of real organic peppermint leaves, and they're flavored with natural wintergreen oil, so they leave a fresh feeling in your mouth.

They're lightly sweetened with organic cane sugar, tapioca syrup, and maple syrup, so no nasty chemicals or bone-char sugar. And even though they contain real sweetener, they're still super low-cal — only 10 calories per 3 mints.

The Chai mints taste just like a cup of warm chai with hints of cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, and tea. These don't exactly leave your mouth feeling minty fresh, but they are delicious and just the thing you need when you're sitting through a boring meeting and need a little boost. 

VerMints also makes Peppermint, Cinnamon, Gingermint, and Cafe Express (a coffee flavor). I'm definitely hooked again, but this time, when I run out of VerMints, I'll stop being a lazy ass and head to Whole Foods to stock up on more.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Smoothie Bowls!!!

I'll admit that I'm late to the smoothie bowl game. Until recently, I just didn't get smoothie bowls. Why would you want to eat smoothies with a spoon when you can drink them with a straw? The straw seems much more efficient. It doesn't really make sense that I thought this way since I'm a girl who loves to take her time with a meal, savoring every bite (or sip). It seems like I'd be a smoothie bowl natural.

But nope. For some reason, I just couldn't get down with the idea. Maybe I'm just not good with change — a creature of habit. Anyway, I'm happy to report that, thanks to a new cookbook by Alison Lewis, I'm now firmly in the smoothie bowl camp. I tried my first smoothie bowls this week using Lewis' 200 Best Smoothie Bowl Recipes cookbook.

The book is mostly vegan, but some recipes call for Greek yogurt or honey. Those are easy substitutions though. There are fruity smoothies, nutty smoothies, green smoothies, kid-friendly smoothies, coffee and tea smoothie bowls, and even dessert bowls (one is topped with Oreos!).

I tend to have my smoothies after runs, so as much as I wanted to try the Candy Bar Smoothie Bowl in the dessert chapter (made with ice cream, peanut butter, and yep — candy bars), I knew I'd better stick to the healthier fruity or green smoothies.

First, I tried the Wake Up Orange Bowl. It actually wasn't orange in color at all, but it's made with fresh-squeezed orange juice, banana, mixed frozen berries, and protein powder (I used Vega Sport Vanilla). That's topped with a homemade Classic Granola from the book (oats, bee-free honee, walnuts, and raisins). Truly divine. The crunchy sweet granola provided such a fun textural contrast to the creamy smoothie, and the fresh raspberries are so pretty.

I also tried the Carrot Cake Smoothie Bowl. I had less luck with this one in the Vitamix. Smoothie bowls are made with very little liquid so they're thicker than an average smoothie, but my Vitamix wanted me to add more liquid to process the whole frozen banana. It might have worked better if I'd cut the banana into slices first. Anyway, this one wasn't as thick, but it was still delish. Almond milk, cinnamon, banana, pineapple, carrots, and Vega One Vanilla Chai protein (this recipe didn't call for protein powder, but I added some anyway). It's topped with more of that homemade granola, cinnamon, and diced dried pineapple.

This morning, I made the Peach & Oat Bowl, and I think it may be my favorite of the three. The base is made from frozen banana and peaches, spinach, rolled oats, chia seeds, and Vega Sport Vanilla protein. It's topped with fresh peaches, chia and hemp seeds, and rolled oats. Isn't it pretty? Smoothie bowls are just so lovely. 

If I had more time, I'd totally style the toppings into a mandala! But seriously — when it's time to eat, I just wanna eat. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Anyway, LOVE this book. I already have some more recipes bookmarked to make next week. I'm trying the A.M. Goji Bowl (goji berries/orange juice/yogurt base and topped with granola, blueberries, and strawberries) next, and I'd love to try some of the dessert smoothies just for fun (not for breakfast though).

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

So Delicious Almondmilk

So Delicious has a new line of almondmilk! That's right — the makers of cashew milk ice cream, coconut yogurt, and coconut ice cream bars are now making almondmilk. And it's damn good.

So Delicious sent me some samples to try. There are two new blends —Walnut Almondmilk Blend and Coconut Almondmilk Blend.

And two new pure almondmilks in Unsweetened and Vanilla.

I'd seen these in the store, but I hadn't sprung to buy them yet when the samples arrived. But I'd had my eyes on the Walnut Almondmilk Blend for some time. I mean, walnut milk, y'all!! Seriously. Of course, I opened that one right away. It has a strong walnut flavor that completely overpowers the almond taste, and that's a good thing because it means this milk is set apart from any other milk on the market right now. I knew I wanted to enjoy it in its purest form — not cooked in some dish or mixed into a smoothie. So I enjoyed most of this carton in my Love Foods Fruity Sea Stars cereal. I will definitely be making the walnut milk a regular part of my life. It's my fave of the four.

Next up, I opened the Vanilla Almondmilk because I thought it'd also be good in cereal and in my morning smoothies. It has a strong vanilla flavor and only a hint of sweetness despite this being a sweetened almondmilk. None of the new flavors are more than 50 calories, which means they're not overly loaded with sugar. The vanilla milk was excellent mixed with some Vega Sport mocha protein after a run one morning.

I've been using the Coconut Almondmilk Blend in all kinds of ways. I'd say it's the thickest out of the bunch, probably because coconut milk tends to be thicker. When I made some hot mandarin masala chai at my desk at work today, I knew the coconut blend would be the best match. The coconut flavor is very mild, so it doesn't tend to add a coconut flavor to your food. But it is a little sweet and best used in sweet applications.

I tend to use unsweetened milks in savory recipes. And last Sunday, as I was preparing for our brunch potluck, I decided to use the unsweetened almondmilk in the gravy for my breakfast casserole. I knew one of the guests was allergic to soy, so I figured my casserole would be safe if I used almondmilk in the country gravy and left the vegan sausage out of a small portion I'd made for him. But once I arrived at the potluck, with my big casserole and a small sausage-less one for our soy-free friend, I was informed that he's also allergic to almonds! Oh well! The gravy came out deliciously with the almond milk instead of soy.

Love the new milks! I'll be buying them all regularly, but that walnut blend has a special place in my heart!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Papa Crunk Turns 62!

My dad's birthday is next weekend — April 3rd — but I went home to Arkansas this past weekend to celebrate a little early. Can you believe this man is 62? He may be getting older, but my dad is really just a big ole kid with a big ole heart. He likes to ride motorcycles and drink whiskey and do fun stuff. He also happens to be the best dad ever.

He wanted Chinese takeout, so my mom and I drove over to Chin Chin Express, an sort of Asian fusion restaurant. I went with the more Japanese side of the menu and opted for a Vegetable Udon Stir-fry. I've rarely seen udon noodles served in a stir-fry (usually in a soup), but I love, love, love the fat, thick wheat noodles. And this stir-fry was excellent. I also had a couple spring rolls.

Of course, the order included way more noodles than that, but I only put a small amount on my plate, because I also ordered a Vegetable Sushi Roll with avocado and cucumber. My parents always think it's gross when I order sushi, even though mine is fish-free. It's just not their thing.

No birthday is complete without birthday cake! Before I left Memphis, I picked up a few vegan cupcakes from Pink Diva CupcakeryTriple Chocolate Ganache for my parents and Lemon for me.

My hometown of Jonesboro, which is much smaller than Memphis, just got a new health food store called The Truck Patch, and they have all sorts of vegan items that I can't buy in Memphis! In Memphis, we only have one Whole Foods and a couple of Sprouts stores (way out east). But there are no indie health food shops. My dad usually always gives me an Easter basket (filled with vegan treats from Vegan Essentials), but since he knew I'd want to stock up at the Truck Patch, he just gave me money to go on a shopping spree instead! 

I got all kinds of awesome stuff that I haven't been able to buy in Memphis! A Tofurky BBQ Chick'n Pizza, three packs of Vegan Egg, Annie's Natural Vegan Mac & Cheese, Rising Moon Organics vegan ravioli (in artichoke & olive!), Treeline Herb-Garlic cheese, Earth Balance Roasted Garlic & Herb Spread (for some reason, our WF sells every EB spread except this one), and Food Should Taste Good White Bean Hummus (with caramelized onions). Also, I'm sure I can find the Back to Nature Sunflower-Basil crackers in Memphis, but I needed crackers for my Treeline cheese.

I'm so excited that this new store is only an hour from Memphis! I will definitely be stocking up there every time I go home to visit my parents. Thanks to my awesome parents for all the treats. And happy birthday Papa Crunk! Don't worry — I got him a present too (a bottle of aged scotch whiskey).

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Brunch with the Bitches

Nearly every Sunday, a few of my friends and I get together at Imagine Vegan Cafe for brunch. It's a tradition that goes back years — as far as back as 2011. My brunch crew has changed over the years. Some people have stopped coming, others have joined on. And there was about a year in there when Imagine briefly stopped serving brunch. But nonetheless, the tradition is alive and well. And I'd say the little core group we have now is made of up of some of the best lady friends a girl could have. We like to call our squad "Bitches Who Brunch."

Imagine closes for Easter Sunday though, and we couldn't bear the thought of taking a week off. So last Sunday, as we were brunching at Imagine and discussing what we would do with Imagine being closed, Stephanie threw out the idea of an Easter brunch potluck. Somehow, we managed to convince Pam to host. We invited some more folks, and while most couldn't come due to Easter family obligations (including Megan, one of our solid weekly crew), we managed a group of six!

Here's Pam (our host), Jason and Susan, and Stephanie. Not pictured is Pam's roomie Dandelion. I love this awkward picture because Pam's giant tree centerpiece is totally blocking everyone's faces.

Selfie with Stephanie time!

Of course, we started with cocktails. I brought stuff to make vegan bloody marys — locally made (and totally vegan) Nikki's Hot Ass Bloody Mary mix, Svedka, pickles (a MUST!), olives, and celery.

And of course Pam, the wino of the group, had orange juice and champagne ready for our mimosas. I had a bloody mary as a pre-brunch cocktail and a mimosa with my food.

I brought a Breakfast Casserole, based off this non-vegan recipe that my mom first veganized for me a few weeks back. For the crust, I lined the dish with Immaculate Baking Company crescent rolls. That's topped with Gimme Lean vegan sausage, Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg, Daiya cheddar, and a homemade country gravy based off my recipe in Cookin' Crunk.

Pam loves tofu quiche, probably more than anything in the world (except for maybe red wine). So Stephanie brought one of her famous Vegan Quiches. So good! We all took leftovers of everything home, and I wanted a quiche slice to take home, but I knew Pam really wanted all the leftover quiche for herself so I forfeited my slice to her. 

Susan and Jason brought these fluffy Chocolate Chip Pancakes that were so good! I did get to take a few of those home, and I can't wait to eat them for lunch tomorrow. These pancakes made me question why I don't always put chocolate chips in my pancakes. Seriously, chocolate chips belong in pancakes.

And they brought Hash Browns too. Brunch isn't complete without hash browns.

We had dessert covered! Stephanie brought these AMAZING Sticky Buns. The topping tasted almost like toffee! It's a bit hard to tell in this picture because it looks like one dish pan, but these were individual cinnamon roll-style buns.

Pam made the CUTEST dessert I've ever seen. Seriously. Aren't these Bird's Nests ridiculous? And they're mouth-watering too. The nest is made from crunchy chow mein noodles, peanut butter, and chocolate, so they're salty-sweet. And the little eggs are Jordan almonds (some brands aren't vegan, but Pam sourced some vegan ones).

Yesterday, Pam, her daughter Lily, and Dandelion had a little Easter sugar cookie fun, and they had these out on the table. I ended up taking one for the road because I was just too full to try one at the potluck. It'll be a perfect treat for tomorrow.

I think we may have to make this a new Easter tradition! 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Stuff I Ate

It's time for another random roundup! Here are a few things I've been eating lately.

A couple weeks ago, I had to pick up my cat Akasha's medicine at the pharmacy way out east by the Whole Foods, and the pharmacy closed at 5:30. So I left work a little early, got the meds, and then stopped by Whole Foods to get some groceries. And since it was dinner time, I grabbed some treats from the hot bar — eggplant sambar over quinoa, baked curry tofu, roasted tomatoes, kale chips, chickpea salad, potato & kale salad, and loaded side salad. Of course, this plate cost me $12. I always accidentally spend too much on hot bar plates.

For Valentine's Day, my dad ordered me a box of Larsen's Bakery Chocolate Doughnuts from Vegan Essentials. You store them in the freezer and reheat in the oven (or microwave when you need one in a hurry). I had one last week. Mmmmm.

I picked up some Field Roast Wild Mushroom Deli Slices at Whole Foods in Nashville a couple weeks ago since our Memphis Whole Foods doesn't carry them. Made myself a sandwich with deli slices, Follow Your Heart Smoked Gouda, guacamole, sprouts, lettuce, and tomato. I had a salad on the side.

I was craving veggies at our weekly Imagine Vegan Cafe brunch last week. That, like, never happens. I'm usually craving plant meat or gravy or something. But anyway, I followed my gut and got the Fried Vegan Chicken Salad with ranch. It's a bit of a compromise. Veggies and fake meat!

Our Memphis Vegan Meet-up group met up at Abyssinia last Saturday. It's a great Ethiopian restaurant, and I typically go there during buffet hours. But this was a night meet-up, so I ordered the Veggie Platter off the menu. Same stuff as what's on the buffet, but you get a massive amount of food. I took half of this home. I love Ethiopian food more than just about anything in the world. By the way, you can't see it in this picture, but there was a big ole basket of injera on the side.

This morning, I'd intended on running and having a protein smoothie for breakfast. But I accidentally turned my alarm off instead of hitting snooze. Oops! I woke up at 7 a.m., which was much too late for a run. So I skipped the smoothie and made a breakfast of Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg with Smoked Gouda on Toast. And there's a side of Coconut Dream Raspberry Yogurt (with added raspberries).

We had a grill-out party on the dock at work today. Our office does that from time to time. We close up around 2 p.m. on party days. They get us a keg, grill some burgers, and a few of us bring sides. And then we just hang out and drink beer at work. A few folks play cornhole or go down to the park by the river and play volleyball. My job is pretty awesome. This time, Joe (the IT guy and grillmaster) grabbed the Boca Chick'n Patties, which was perfect because I like them better than the burgers. Susan made a vegan pasta salad, and I made a kale salad (but you can't see it in this picture because it's behind my burger). Susan also brought an awesome vegan lemon cake!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Alsa Vegan Energy Drink Review

I'm a coffee addict. I have to have a cup (or two) every single morning or I seriously cannot function. I've tried giving coffee up for various cleanses, only to find myself in a full-on mental breakdown by the end of the first week. A couple years ago, I decided — once and for all — that I will never give up coffee. You can pry that from my cold, dead hands.

But morning joe aside, I would like a little variety in my liquid stimulant habit in the afternoons. And tea just doesn't do it for me. I love iced tea (unsweetened, please), and I've been trying to learn to love hot tea for years (getting there, slowly but surely). But tea doesn't provide much in the way of an energy boost. And most energy drinks are filled with nasty chemicals and taste pretty gross.

But Alsa Energy offered to send me a few samples of their vegan, gluten-free energy drink powders that are free of preservatives and artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners. The energy part comes from a mix of yerba mate extract, white tea extract, and a special PUREENERGY blend (more on that in a few). Alsa powders also contain citicoline, a popular supplement that's believed to enhance mental focus.

PUREENERGY is a special patented blend of caffeine that supposedly metabolizes better than ordinary caffeine. Here's what Alsa's website has to say about that:
Another premium ingredient in Älsa, PURENERGY is an innovative, patent-protected caffeine ingredient that is a co-crystal of caffeine (43%) and pTeroPure® pterostilbene (57%). What’s unique about PURENERGY is that the caffeine is metabolized more efficiently compared to ordinary caffeine. In fact, PURENERGY provides caffeine 25% longer and, at six hours, delivers 51% more than ordinary sources of caffeine. That’s six hours of steady energy from the amount of caffeine (100 mg) contained in just one average cup of coffee (and let’s be frank – who stops at one cup?). 
Caffeine that lasts longer? Sounds pretty good to me! But does it work? And how does it taste? The powders come in a few flavors — Three Citrus, Dragonfruit, and Pomegranate Blueberry.

I tried the Dragonfruit powder last Friday, the day after St. Patrick's Day. I wouldn't say I was hungover, but I had that feeling you get after you've had a few beers the night before and you don't feel 100 percent because you're getting old and you can't hang anymore. I mixed the powder with a Dasani water from the office vending machine (btw, I do keep reusable water bottles at my desk, but I didn't want my bottles to taste fruity).

The flavor was nice. It was only subtly sweet, and it didn't taste like chemicals in the way Red Bull or Monster energy drinks do. And you know what? I felt much better after drinking that. I had more energy and renewed focus that helped me get through the work day.

I had the Three Citrus yesterday before an after-work board meeting. I wouldn't say I was tired, but going from work straight to a board meeting is rough. So it was nice to have a pick-me-up, and the citrus had a refreshing orange flavor. The water turned bright orange, but I failed to take a picture.

I did snap a shot of the Pomegranate Blueberry this afternoon. I enjoyed this at my desk around 3 p.m., which is always the time of day when I need something to help me make it through the rest of the day. It worked. I was able to power through the rest of my duties, and it tasted pretty awesome too. Perfect for washing down a slice of leftover vegan French yogurt cake!

I probably won't trade Alsa out for my coffee anytime soon, but I'd go so far as to say that it works as well as coffee. I just really enjoy my steaming cup of French-pressed, fresh-ground, locally roasted beans (with coconut creamer) every morning. But I'd definitely drink Alsa again in the afternoons!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

New Green Goddess Gourmet Popcorn Flavors!

I've got a special post for my Mid-South readers tonight! Long-time Memphis vegan Omidele Ayetoro (some may know her as Bastet) has been popping up some of the finest popcorn in the South for several years now. She sells her flavored, all-natural popcorn at the Memphis and Germantown Whole Foods, City Market, and at Cosmic Coconut under her brand, Green Goddess Gourmet Foods (formerly known as OC Vegan Foods).

Her original Green Goddess popcorn (a mouth-watering blend of spirulina, kelp, garlic, nooch, and spices) and Garlic & Herbs popcorn (Garlicky noochy goodness! That's my fave flavor!) have been available for a couple years, but she's just released two new flavors! She asked me to try them and post a review. Popcorn is basically my favorite food group, so I was more than happy to oblige. 

One of the new flavors is savory, and the other is sweet. So I started with the spicy, savory Caribbean Curry.

Omidele does not skimp on flavor. Every kernel is coated in spices, and some (the best ones!) are so coated that you can't even see any white corn shining through. It's like when you're eating from a bag of chips, and you find that one chip that's completely covered in spices, so you save it for last. That's what I do with the extra-coated kernels. The curry popcorn is generously seasoned with Jamaican curry power and cayenne, so it's got a very spicy kick. One or two bites, and you won't notice as much heat. But eat a bowlful, and you'll be blowing your nose a bit. Nothing wrong with that though! Bring on the heat.

I love that she pops her corn in coconut oil because it adds such a richness and depth of flavor. And even with the savory flavors, there's a pinch of sugar added for balance. That sugar really helps mellow out the curry spice heat. It's just perfect!

Next up is the sweet popcorn — a kettle-cooked Caramel Popcorn!

As much as I love popcorn, I typically opt for savory flavors over caramel corn. BUT kettle-cooked popcorn is whole 'nother story. I crave that salty sweetness, and once I pop, I can't stop. This sweet popcorn is seasoned with a touch of salt and even a pinch of cayenne, so there's a sweet heat lingering under the surface. She uses vegan butter, coconut oil, and safflower oil in this one, so you know it's good. Plus, there are kettle-cooked cashews and pecans in the bag too!

These new flavors are so good! And local stores already have them in stock! Go get some. For my non-local readers, I don't believe Green Goddess Gourmet ships, so you'll just have to dream. Or maybe pick some up on your next visit to Memphis! If you want more info, you can sign up on the Green Goddess mailing list here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Vegan French Yogurt Cake

I'd never heard of French yogurt cake until recently, but apparently, the simple loaf cake is as ubiquitous over there as the boxed, frosted sheet cake is in the U.S. It's the one thing everyone knows how to whip up in a jiffy, you know if company is coming over and you can't get over to the fancy pâtisserie.

I love a good light, unfrosted loaf, so I decided to veganize the traditional French cake to celebrate the Spring Equinox. I enjoyed a couple slices on Sunday night — the first night of spring — with a glass of cheap chardonnay (because I'm classy like that).

The most important elements in the yogurt cake are yogurt (duh) and oil — both of which give the cake a moist, soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture. The folks at Taste the Dream sent me a bunch of their almond and coconut yogurts to develop recipes with, so I used the Almond Dream Non-Dairy Yogurt Alternative in Plain, and it made for a perfect cake!

I veganized a recipe I found in the New York Times — the French Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze by Emily Weinstein. The main changes are the yogurt (subbing almond yogurt for the dairy called for) and eggs (I used Ener-G egg replacer powder). And honestly, there's not quite as much rise in my cake without the eggs, but that's okay. The cake held together expertly, and it's light and fluffy despite the fact that it didn't grow to be as tall in the pan.

Vegan French Yogurt Cake with Lemon Glaze

Yields one loaf

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer + 6 Tbsp. warm water
1 cup sugar
Zest of one lemon
1 container Plain Almond Dream Non-Dairy Yogurt
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup lemon marmalade

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan (8.5 x 4.5-inch) with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, beat the egg replacer powder and water until it forms a froth. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, use you hands to work the lemon zest into the sugar, rubbing the zest with your fingers to release the natural oils and moisten the sugar. Stir in the yogurt, egg replacer mixture, vanilla, and oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry flour mixture and stir until just combined. Don't overmix. A few lumps are okay.

Transfer the batter into the loaf pan, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (you can also test the cake by touching the middle top of the cake with your finger to see if it immediately springs back. If it does, it's done).

Cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, and then transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. 

Once cool, heat the lemon marmalade in a small saucepan on low. You may need to thin it with a couple teaspoons of water. Heat until the marmalade melts down and liquifies. Using a pastry brush, brush the marmalade over the top of the cake.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

V is for Vegan

Sometimes a cookbook is so beautiful that you just want to read it from front to back, just so you can admire every page of glossy, full-color food porn, perfectly placed type, and expert layout and design. Oh, and then maybe, when you're done admiring the book as a work of art, you might want to cook from it, too. But only if you're careful not to get splashes of olive oil and sprinkles of smoked paprika on the pages.

That's how I feel about V is for Vegan, the new hardcover cookbook by British underground supper club pioneer (and blogger at MsMarmiteLover) Kerstin Rodgers. It's as much work of art as it is cookbook. The book features a unique zine-style layout and a punk rock aesthetic. The recipes range from simple dishes, like a watermelon-veggie stir-fry or a homemade miso soup, to complex, gourmet meals that are equally impressive and intimidating. Think Artichoke, Potato, Spinach & Tofu B'stilla with Poppy Seeds and Rose Petals (b'stilla is described as "an exotic filled pastry pie" and is created with phyllo pastry). And some pages feature magazine-style photo spreads with various easy ideas for spreads and dips, ramen noodle hacks, or things to spread on toast.

As a toast lover, I was immediately drawn to the 13 Things on Toast spread. Just look at this gorgeous layout!

Of course, I had to try a few of these ideas first! I actually shared a picture of the first toast I tried — Marmite, Tahini, & Alfalfa Sprouts — in my St. Pat's Day post last Thursday. But here it is again. I went with a big chunk of whole-wheat bread (from the Whole Foods Bakery), and it's topped with creamy tahini, salty Marmite, and sprouts. The yeasty Marmite is such a good marriage with the tahini! 

I tried the Dark Chocolate Spread with Hazelnuts on Saturday morning before my long run. For this, I used the Endangered Species Cocoa Spread, chopped hazelnuts, and chunky sea salt. I would never have thought to add the sea salt on my own, but it really stepped this toast up a notch. Perfectly gourmet!

Today was the Vernal (or Spring) Equinox! Also known as Ostara. And on this day, it's common to eat eggs as symbols of the Earth's fertility. But since eggs are out of the question for me, I typically make some sort of vegan "eggy" dish to celebrate. I settled on the Scrambled Tofu on Truffled Sourdough Bruschetta. It looks like this would also be from the toast page, but it's actually listed in the breakfast chapter (though I had it for dinner!). 

This was unlike most tofu scrambles I've made in that it didn't really mimic eggs, and it was made with silken rather than firm tofu. But it was delicious nonetheless! The tofu was cooked on high for quite a while with mushrooms, scallions, and herbs until all the water cooked out of the tofu. Then, it was served on toast that was spread with garlic and truffle oil. Anything with truffle oil is alright by me. I actually added a little black salt at the end just to make it eggier, but it would also be good without that.

On the side, I made another one of the simple recipes from the book — Roast Potatoes in Coconut Oil. This is just what it sounds like! Potatoes are roasted in coconut oil. And she offers several flavor variations. I went with the Italian variation, which meant adding one can of tomatoes and some herbs. So amazing! I used expeller pressed oil, which has a heavy coconut flavor, and I really loved how that paired with the Yukon potatoes.

Here's my Spring Equinox celebration plate! The kale was just steamed and tossed with soy sauce and vinegar (not a recipe from the book).

There are far more complex recipes in this book as well. But I like to keep things simple (and I'm a little lazy sometimes), so I steered away from those. But dishes such as Beet Pelmeni with Herb & Walnut Filling (like little raviolis made with — gasp! — homemade pasta), Lettuce Cups with "Ceviche" & Sweet Potato (the ceviche is made with hearts of palm), or Wilted Day Lilies with Mustard Greens (who knew you could eat lilies?!) would certainly be impressive for guests. 

Thankfully, the book offers enough easier, more pedestrian dishes for lazy cooks like me! And even if I'll never make the Orange Flower Water, Cardamom, & Coconut Rice Pudding, a girl can dream.