Thursday, March 19, 2015

Stuff I Ate and a Seattle Send-off!

I'm writing this post on Wednesday night, but I'm setting it to go live on Thursday. But as I type, I'm about to go see Die Antwoord at Minglewood Hall!!!!!! I actually saw Ninja and Yolandi just walking around downtown Memphis today. I was listening to Die Antwoord on Pandora in my car at the moment I saw them so it was totally surreal.

But anyway, I'm posting a quick "stuff I ate" round-up because I'm heading to Seattle early Friday morning for their VegFest. My publisher was gracious to invite me to go again this year, and I enthusiastically agreed. So if you're in Seattle, come see me at VegFest! I'll be doing cooking demos and signing copies of Cookin' Crunk, and there are lots of other great vegan cookbook authors lined up too — Miyoko! Chat Mingkwan! Sproutman!

Anyway, here's some stuff I ate recently. Let's start with dessert because when I'm eating dessert, I always have it BEFORE my meal. You know, so I don't get too full first. A couple weeks ago, Stephanie made a vegan version of O'Charley's Caramel Pie to sell at Imagine Vegan Cafe. OMG!! A layer of caramel and a layer of whipped topping!! I'm such a fan of anything covered in whipped topping. I think this is my new favorite pie.

Last week, Stephanie made Vegan Baklava! This girl is tearin' it up with all the stuff I like.

Other meals from Imagine Vegan Cafe — Vegan Steak & Cheese Quesadillas!! This is one of my top five favorite menu items. They use the Gardein Beefless Tips, and they're shredded and fried and squished inside a crispy tortilla with lots of vegan cheese and peppers.

And one day, when I was feeling sorta healthyish, I ordered this Vegan Grilled Chicken Salad from Imagine. Also made with Gardein. Lots of vegan ranch on the side.

Speaking of healthy, this Vega One Cinnamon Bun Smoothie tastes like dessert, just like a cinnamon roll! But it's loaded with healthy protein, greens, fiber, and maca. Had this after a run one day.

I've been eating these Field Roast Apple Maple Breakfast Sausages for breakfasts this week, and they're so amazing. They taste like sausages that have been rolled up in pancakes. Field Roast really does everything right, you know? Sadly, you can't buy these in Memphis right now. But I found some in Little Rock at their Whole Foods.

Speaking of Little Rock, I also found Treeline cheese at their store. Another product Memphis WF doesn't carry. Come on, Whole Foods!! Get with it! For dinner one night, I made this snacky plate with Treeline Aged Cashew Cheese, Milton's Baked Everything Crackers, Hope Thai Coconut Curry Hummus (also from the LR Whole Foods), and Crudites.

While we're on the subject of Arkansas, I'm proud to announce that my little hometown — Jonesboro — now has a pizza joint that carries vegan cheese!! It's called Uncle Maddio's, and they have Daiya!! I went home a couple weekends ago to visit my parents, and we went there. It's a build-your-own pizza joint, and I picked Daiya cheese, a garlic olive oil base, black and green olives, sundried tomatoes, and portabella mushrooms. Man, this was good. I can't wait to go back home and eat another one.

Finally, I'll close with this. It's not food. But isn't this wine glass from the Little Rock Marathon the best? For now, I can drink wine up to the 13.1 mark (about 10 ounces), but hopefully, by the year's end, I can have the full glass!

Alright, well, I'm off to Seattle! I'll share lots of pics when I return!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Green Eats

So I meant to publish this on St. Patrick's Day. I wrote it last night, and then I failed to hit publish! Oops. Perhaps I was waaaaaaay too into the St. Pat's spirit!

And the St. Pat's, ahem, spirits. Yes, I started my morning with a shot of vegan Irish cream in my coffee. Don't worry. It was fairly weak, so no booze buzz before work. P.S. Let's not talk about those dark circles under my eyes. It was early!

The Irish cream recipe I use is from Joni Marie Newman's Vegan Food Gifts. I make it every year for St. Pat's. It has Jameson, vegan creamer, coffee, sugar, and cocoa. YUM!

I went on a run this morning, but I'm still having some knee issues after a couple miles. So I'm keeping my distances short for now. After my run, I had this Iron-Rich Green Smoothie with Vega One natural protein, pineapple, parsley, and spinach.

I snacked on some green dry-roasted edamame at my desk at work (and yes, I'm that nerd who chose her morning snack based on color). But my lunch was leftover raw vegan hamburg steak and potatoes au gratin from yesterday. Not green but potatoes. That's Irish-ish, right?

After work, I stopped by Cassi's Pink Diva Cupcakery to try one of her special St. Pat's Vanilla Coffee Stout Cupcakes. She made these with beer, and they were awesome! That little plastic tube holds more beer that you can squeeze into the cake.

While I was there, I had Cassi come out to my car for a special treat — Irish Car Bombs!! We used Brooklyn Brewery Dry Irish Stout and my homemade Vegan Irish Cream. The Irish Stout isn't listed on Barnivore, but from what I've read, Brooklyn Brewery uses Biofine Clear, a vegan substitute for isinglass, for filtering their beers. A few of their beers contain honey, but I don't think an Irish stout would have honey so I'm assuming it's vegan.

Bonus points for us doing car bombs in a car! Just FYI, I live across the street, so I wasn't driving far. But I didn't want to bring my booze into the cupcake shop since it's located inside the Midtown Crossing bar. I'd have been happy to buy booze there, but they wouldn't have vegan Irish cream. Also, this was Cassi's first car bomb.

Afterward, I went to my hula-hoop class at Co-Motion Studio (also across the street from me ... I live in an awesome neighborhood). And then I came home and got started on dinner — Cream of Broccoli Soup and Irish Soda Bread. 

Both recipes are from Dynise Balcavage's Celebrate Vegan, a collection of vegan recipes for EVERY holiday (she even has recipes for Festivus and World Vegetarian Day!!). I'd made her soda bread before for St. Pat's, and I'm a huge fan. It's a dense and hearty quick bread that's perfect for coating in Earth Balance and dunking in soup.

And the cream of broccoli was so good. I loved having something light after all the cupcakes and booze earlier. Plus, I had another car bomb for dessert. Sue me.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Vegan Steak & Potatoes

So as you probably know, I'm currently working on developing recipes for my next cookbook, a collection of veganized trendy foods of the last century. And right now, I'm deep into the 1900-1910 decade. After studying a number of old menus from that time, I noticed many listed Hamburg Steak as an entree option. Not hamburger steak. Just hamburg.

So I googled, and I learned that the hamburgers of the early 1900s were nothing like our hamburgers of today. They were eaten without a bun. There was no mustard, pickle, lettuce, and tomato. And often the hamburger meat was served raw. Raw beef! Aside from that just being gross, I'm certain that's just asking for intestinal disease.

But lucky for vegans, raw burgers are kind of a thing. So I whipped up a Raw Walnut-Hemp-Mushroom Hamburg Steak and prepared them in my dehydrator.

Most of the mentions of hamburg steak cite raw onions as a topping. So I added those, but the burger seemed so bare without at least a lettuce leaf and some ketchup. Tradition be damned. These were really good. This was my first time creating my own raw burger from scratch although I've tried plenty of other recipes. Besides the aforementioned walnuts, hemp seeds, and mushrooms, these also contained flax, miso, soy sauce, and some spices.

Since my cookbook won't be a raw cookbook, I don't expect everyone to have a dehydrator. So I'm working on baking instructions for these too. But I haven't gotten that figured out just yet.

On the side, I had another menu item that pops up frequently in old menus from 1900-1910 — Potatoes Au Gratin.

It doesn't look super-sexy, but that's okay because it tastes fantastic. It's just scalloped potatoes topped with my homemade nooch sauce (from Cookin' Crunk but you can find the recipe here on a guest post on the Blissful Chef) and baked in the oven. No fancy vegan cheese. Just good old fashioned hippie nooch. There's something so comforting about nooch sauce.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Havana's Pilon

For authentic Cuban cuisine in Memphis, there's really only one place to go — Havana's Pilon. This casual downtown lunch counter serves THE BEST black beans and rice I've ever had. And there are a number of other vegan options on the menu.

I've been wanting to try this place since it opened almost two years ago, but it took me buying a Groupon to finally go. I often buy Groupons just to give myself more motivation to try restaurants. It's not even about the deal. It's just that if I know I'm spending money on the place in advance, I have to go and get my money's worth.

Anyway, I opted for the Berenjena (stewed eggplant) and Congri Rice (black beans and rice).

And the Boiled Yuca with Mojo Sauce (garlic sauce).

The stewed eggplant was out-of-this-world good! Chopped eggplant is cooked down in a tomato sauce with peppers, onions, and cilantro. It's such a flavorful dish! It comes with two sides, and I picked the black beans and rice and the yuca. But next time, I think I'll order a side of white rice just to eat with the eggplant because it's the kind of dish that would pair beautifully with a plain grain.

As I mentioned earlier, the black beans and rice are insane. I don't know how they season it, but they assured me the dish was vegan. I loved how the beans and rice were all mixed together, and the beans weren't soupy.

The yuca was excellent as well. I'd only ever had yuca fried before (in New Orleans), but Havana's Pilon doesn't have fried yuca. So I was eager to try it boiled. It reminded me of mashed potatoes but the chunks of yuca were still intact. A garlic sauce (made with olive oil, no dairy) is poured over the top, and then the dish is sprinkled with pickled red onions. I still think fried yuca is my favorite, but boiled yuca is pretty good too.

Other vegan items on the menu include the Tostones (fried plantains), Amarillos (ripe plantains), and French Fries. They also serve red beans, but I didn't inquire as to their veganness. I'll investigate next time.

Havana's Pilón is located at 143 Madison Avenue. Call 901-527-2878.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Raw Desserts Made with Love

Today is my day on the blog tour for Love Fed: Purely Decadent, Simply Raw, Plant-based Desserts by Christina Ross. So let me tell you all about this awesome raw dessert book!

The cookbook (or un-cookbook, rather) was born from Christina's adorable blog, Love Fed. She's been posting raw dessert and cooked vegan recipes there for quite some time. And now her raw dessert collection is available in a beautiful, full-color, photo-heavy book! It's filled with mouth-watering recipes for raw cakes, pies, brownies, puddings, ice cream, candy, and even doughnuts (yes, raw vegan doughnuts!!).

Just a few recipes I'm drooling over right now: Maple Banana Tiramisu Truffle, Chocolate Coriander Ice Cream, Frozen Coconut Key Lime "Cheese" Cake Bars, White Chocolate Macadamia Pops, Dark Chocolate Almond Bark with Sea Salt, and Sweetly Southern Pecan Pie Squares.

I had a hard time settling on what to make, but I ended up picking a couple recipes that I already had most of the ingredients for. Many of Christina's recipes call for what I call "Whole Foods ingredients," meaning a trip to the old WF is in order. Stuff like cacao butter, Irish moss, and coconut flour. But our WF is about 20 minutes from my house, so I took the easy route.

First, I whipped up these super-simple Strawberry Babycakes.

These are like the raw version of a strawberry shortcake, but they're about the size of a thumbprint cookie. The cookie part is made from cashews, almonds, and a honey substitute. She actually calls for honey the book (the only non-vegan ingredient in her recipes), so I used Bee-Free Honee, an easy swap-out. Agave or maple would work too. And the strawberry topping is made from berries mixed with chia seeds, which thicken and create a yummy gel.

These little bites were so fresh and had just the perfect hint of natural sweetness. I ate one before my morning yoga and run, and it kept me satisfied throughout both workouts.

Since spring is almost here, and the weather has warmed up to about 65 degrees, I figured it was as good a time as any to make popsicles! I've been dying to use my popsicle molds again! I made these using Christina's recipe for Blueberry Coconut Dreamsicles.

These were so easy with just three ingredients — fresh blueberries, coconut nectar (I actually used Bee-Free Honee again because I didn't want to buy anything new), and coconut cream. I enjoyed this icy treat while I cooked dinner last night, and the coconut was so creamy. Think coconut ice cream in popsicle form.

A word about coconut cream: I went to my neighborhood Vietnamese market for this, and the can marked "coconut cream" seemed awfully liquidy (more like coconut milk) when I picked it up and shook. But I bought it anyway. But as insurance in case that cream wasn't solid enough, I went through all the brands of coconut milk on the shelf and shook cans until I found one that seemed pretty solid. It was a can of coconut milk (not cream) by a brand called Coco King.

When I got the cans home, I opened the coconut cream first, and sure enough, it was actually coconut milk. But I opened the Coco King coconut milk, and most of the can was thick, solid coconut fat. That's the good stuff. That's what you need for this recipe. So word to the wise, shake your cans. Or if you can only find liquidy stuff, you can always refrigerate coconut milk or cream overnight until it goes solid. I just didn't have time for all that.

The publisher is allowing me to share the Blueberry Coconut Dreamsicle recipe with you! Here ya go!

Blueberry Coconut Dreamsicles
Yield: 5 dreamsicles
Prep time: 5 minutes, plus 2–6 hours freezing time
When my local Whole Foods Market sponsored a Blueberry Blast-Off Blog Challenge, I was excited—I have a ferocious appetite for all things blueberry. The contest specified using only ten ingredients, a breeze for me, since I tend to keep things simple anyway. The hard part was deciding which blueberry recipe to go with. In the end, nothing called to me more than the humble elegance of homemade Blueberry Coconut Dreamsicles. A dreamsicle is my version of the creamsicle, which, if you grew up in the 1980s like I did, will probably be familiar. They’re usually orange flavored, a pairing of sweet cream and citrus nectar. I thought the idea would translate well to blueberry and coconut cream (and be even more delectable, hence the name dreamsicle), and it did. I can guarantee kids of all ages (aka everyone) will appreciate these blueberries and cream pops. If you like, replace your pop mold’s sticks with 6” twigs for a rustic look.            

1 c. blueberries
2 tbsp. coconut nectar or sweetener of your choice (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 ½ c. coconut cream
In a medium bowl, combine the blueberries, coconut nectar (if desired), and lemon juice. Mix lightly to coat the berries.

Place the coconut cream in a second medium bowl. Adding the blueberry mixture a few spoonfuls at a time, whip with a handheld electric mixer or whisk until thickened. Some of the berries will break down, releasing their juices and creating texture. If you want the berries whole, gently hand mix them into the cream using a rubber spatula. If you prefer a quicker method and a more vibrant purple pop, simply blend all the ingredients together in a blender.

Pour the mixture into pop molds. Freeze for 2–6 hours or until completely firm. Run the mold under warm water for a few seconds and gently remove the pops. Serve immediately or store in the freezer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Curry Fit for a President

Off the Reservation by Glen Merzer isn't exactly a cookbook. Okay, it is. But it's also a novel. It's a novel about a U.S. presidential hopeful (who isn't all that hopeful about anything, really) who just so happens to be vegan.

Presidential candidate Evan Gorgoni is probably more likeable than any real-life candidate who has run for the Oval Office. He is writer Glen Merzer's ideal candidate — a liberal Democrat who doesn't mince words when it comes to the nation's real problems (overpopulation, human-induced global warming, a drug war that's done nothing more than break up families and pour money into the coffers of private prisons, etc.) and a few trival-but-annoying issues (wasteful stickers on fruit, telemarketers). I'd vote for him.

The book follows Gorgoni's journey from a Congressman ready for retirement to a presidential candidate running a grassroots campaign funded solely through $20 per person donations raised on social media, like a true crowd-funded presidential campaign rather than some multi-million dollar campaign funded by corporate giants. It's a great book — engaging, idealistic, funny — and it's a fantastic commentary on how far out of whack our current political system has gotten.

And oh yeah, as I mentioned, Gorgoni and his family are vegan. When I agreed to review the book, I assumed the vegan diet would play a bigger role. But the word "vegan" isn't even mentioned until halfway through the book. Yet there are little clues dropped throughout. Every time Gorgoni and his family are eating, Merzer describes their meal in detail, and it's always missing the meat and dairy. It seems as though Merzer intentionally didn't mention the family's vegan diet right away because, in the book, the family seems to think their diet isn't a big deal. It's just how they eat.

Speaking of meals mentioned in the book, have you ever read a description of a meal in a novel and thought, "Man, that sounds good. I wish I had a recipe for that?" Happens to me all the time. Well, guess what? Nearly every dish mentioned in the book does have a recipe! Merzer's partner Joanna Samorow-Merzer wrote recipes for each dish, and they're included in the back of the book.

The recipes are all very healthy — whole foods-based, refined sugar-free, oil-free. But they all sound fantastic. I tried the Mung Bean Curry that the Gorgoni family ate while they watched a CNN special comparing Gorgoni with his Republican challenger.

This simple dish reminded me of a curry made from red lentils, but instead it had mushy mung beans. I often forget about cooked mung beans, even though I keep them stocked in my pantry for sprouting. It's seasoned with curry powder, turmeric, onion, garlic, and Bragg's. And it's served over brown rice. I topped my bowl with cilantro and sriracha. So satisfying!

Other dishes include raw beet borscht, red lentil shiitake stew, sunflower pate, mild herb almond cheese, chocolate date nut balls, and mixed berry cobbler.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Green Smoothie Powder!

I might as well change the name of this blog to "Bianca Drinks Smoothies." I feel like I'm posting about smoothies ALL THE TIME these days, but as I've said before, smoothies are such an important part of my diet. I typically drink Vega One protein smoothies after runs for recovery.

But sometimes, I drink smoothies BEFORE workouts for energy. When I do, I prefer less protein and plenty of fruit for quick, easy-to-break-down energy. And a little greens certainly can't hurt! But let's be honest — when I first wake up at 5 a.m. to do yoga or run or do cross-training stuff, I don't have time to  wash and de-stem kale or chop broccoli. I'm not about that life.

Enter Kaeng Raeng Daily Green Energy.

This is an organic green superfood and protein drink powder. But not too much protein for a pre-workout. It only has six grams compared with Vega One's 20 grams. It's from the makers of the Kaeng Raeng Cleanse, the three-smoothie-a-day cleanse that I've reviewed a couple of times now (you can read my review of their original formula here and my review of their soy-free formula here). I'm a huge fan of the smoothie powders included in their three-day cleanse, so I figured this would also be great.

And my suspicions were correct. I tried the powder in a Strawberry Banana Smoothie this morning before yoga and strength-training.

This smoothie had almond milk, half a frozen banana, three fresh strawberries, and a package of Kaeng Raeng Daily Green Energy. The Kaeng Raeng+banana combo gave the drink a creamy consistency, and even though it was loaded with greens, it didn't taste too green. The powder is made with dried banana, strawberries, and blueberries, so my choice of fresh fruit was a perfect complement.

The package suggests mixing with 8-12 ounces of liquid, but my experience mixing powders with straight water have been pretty awful. While this powder was fantastic in my smoothie, I don't think it would have been so great on its own. They even suggest mixing it into a smoothie for "added flavor or thickness." Good call.

This smoothie started my morning off just right with vitamins A, C, and all the B's, calcium, iron, manganese, and other vitamins and minerals. Plus, it's loaded with chlorella, spinach, celery, spirulina, ginger, broccoli, and carrots. Now that's a good way to start the day! And since I had this pre-workout, I got to have another breakfast (toast with tofu and marmite) afterward. I'm like a Hobbit!