Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Big News! Plus Tempeh Steak!

Ready for the exciting news? I know you're all just holding on to the edge of your seats. I bet some of you were so anxious that you couldn't even sleep last night. Well, maybe not. I slept fine and I'm sure y'all did too. Honestly, I'm just writing silly stuff to build the anticipation. If I could go to an annoying commercial break right now, I would.

But alas, I'll delay no further. Guess what? I'm gettin' published!!! Yep, after almost three years of slowly working on my Southern vegan cookbook, I've landed a book deal. And you're never gonna guess the publishing company? Okay, well maybe you will. This is a company that I mention all the time on my blog. A popular publisher of important vegan tomes. A company located right down the highway from me in Summertown, Tennessee. Any guesses?

If you said the Book Publishing Company (yes, that's the formal name) at the Farm, then you'd be spot on. I've adored this company for years because a) they publish some of my favorite titles like The Uncheese Cookbook, Raw Food Made Easy, and Tofu Cookery and b) it's only a three hour drive from Memphis, and c) it's run by some of coolest hippies you'll ever meet. Many of the folks who work there have been with the company since the Farmies caravaned to Summertown from San Francisco in the early 1970s.

My manuscript is due in January so that's why you've seen more and more tester recipes on the blog. I'm in the final re-testing and editing stages right now. Though there's no set release date, it should be out within a year of the Book Pub Co receiving my manuscript.

If asked to pick a favorite recipe from my book, I'd be hard-pressed to choose just one. But if you really, really pushed me, I'd probably vote for my Country Fried Tempeh Steak with Soymilk Gravy:

To be fair, the above tempeh steak wasn't fried. Though my original recipe calls for pan-frying, I'm working on a baked variation for folks who fear the fat. We'll call this Country Baked Tempeh Steak. It's tasty, but my heart belongs with fried version. Both variations will be included in the book.

On the side, I'm also tweaking my recipe for Mama's Mac & Tomatoes:

I grew up eatin' macaroni and stewed tomatoes at least once every couple of weeks. It was always a favorite side dish. This version is made with quinoa pasta and fresh summer tomatoes from the Memphis Farmers Market.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Typical Vegan Southern Meal

Quick post tonight about a few cookbook dishes that I've posted about before. I'm in the testing phase so sorry for the repeats. But I like to post yummy food pics daily, even if some of you may have seen them before. Hope you don't mind.

I actually made this meal on Sunday since the main dish — Creamy Squash Casserole — takes quite some time to bake in the oven:

This is a veganized version of one of my Granny's delicious squash casseroles. She has several variations, some with cheese and some without. This version didn't originally contain cheese so it was easy to veganize. I used fresh summer squash from Dodson Farms at the Memphis Farmers Market and wholesome brown rice.

I'd been craving stewed okra & tomatoes ever since Veggie Cookie posted about her re-creation of Deja Vu's (a veg-friendly Memphis soul food joint) tasty vegan side dish. I actually created a cookbook recipe for my Smoky Stewed Okra & Tomatoes last October, and I felt my craving was a great excuse to test the recipe one more time:

I love okra prepared this way. Growing up, we only ever had it fried because my parents don't like boiled okra. And while I still love the fried stuff, I think stewing (or boiling) really brings out okra's awesome texture.

That's all for tonight. But come back tomorrow night for a big, big announcement!! And don't worry. If you're not around Thursday night, that post will remain on top throughout the weekend. It'll be way exciting!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

'Nanner Butter!

Sorry for the lack of posting Monday night. I left O.C. Night with the girls early (missed the season one finale!) to come home for my nightly blogging ritual. But as soon as I walked in the door at 10:30 p.m., the sky opened up and a massive storm ensued. The power went out and stayed out until about 3 a.m.

But it's all good now. My four pints of soy cream (including the homemade rocky road) didn't even melt! Tonight's post is a tribute to the awesomeness that is Chocolate Covered Katie. If you don't know about CCK (formerly known as CCV ... I still call her that ... the V stands for "vegan" of course), check out her blog. She's a super-healthy, super-vegan, super-athelete from Texas, and she creates so many yummy wholesome treats like this Banana Butter:

After reading her numerous tributes to homemade banana butter, I finally broke down and made a batch to top my morning bowl of steel cut oats:

What is it? Just bananas and peanut butter. That's it. But the secret's in the blending. It's super-creamy and nearly double the volume of two little ole' tablespoons of peanut butter.

Click here for Katie's directions. She uses a Magic Bullet, but I don't have one. Instead, I tossed one very ripe chopped banana, two tablespoons of Earth Balance chunky peanut butter, and splash of soymilk (to aid in blending) into my upright blender. The end result was an uber-creamy banana-flavored peanut butter, perfect for plopping onto oats or just eating by the spoonful.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lick It!

I love homemade ice cream, but I went all last summer without making my own because I couldn't find my ice cream maker. Actually, it's my mom's ice cream maker, which I gave to her as a gift years ago. But I'd borrowed it the summer before last to make some fresh peach ice cream, and I swore I gave it back to her. When I asked to borrow it again last summer, she couldn't find it. In fact, she didn't think I ever gave it back.

Well, turns out she was right. It was in the storage room at my house all last summer, right under my nose. When I came to this realization in the fall, I was all sad that I'd missed ice cream season. But now that temps are in the 90s again, I can finally put my long-unused ice cream maker back into commission. Lucky for me, the fine folks at the Farm's Book Publishing Company gave me a copy of Lick It! to review.

Lick It! by Cathe Olson is filled with mouth-watering recipes for vegan ice cream, sorbets, frozen yogurt, popsicles, and even tasty ice cream toppings. Because I had half a package of Sweet 'n' Sara vegan mini marshmallows begging to be used, I opted to try the Rocky Road Ice Cream first:

This is a variation on Olson's basic chocolate ice cream, which like most of her full fat ice creams, has a coconut milk base. I added the marshmallows and some walnuts to make it Rocky Road. It tastes EXACTLY like the So Delicious coconut milk ice cream, which makes me very, very happy:

And yes, I do have new hair!

As for texture, it's super creamy, but it does seem to melt a little faster than commercial store-bought ice creams. Of course, it's so tasty that it's hard not to eat it so fast that it doesn't have much time to melt.

I can't wait to try some of the other frozen treats in Lick It! Next on the list are Strawberry Lemonade Sorbet, Blueberry Frozen Yogurt, Peanut Butter Ice Cream, and Drumstick Cones.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Twlight Delights

I have a confession. I'm a huge Twilight nerd. I read through Stephenie Meyer's vampire saga faster than I've ever finished a book series. I had the world's biggest crush on Edward (go Team Edward!). I cherished every minute of the movies, especially New Moon and the latest Eclipse film. The film version of Twilight was incredibly cheesy, and the makeup and acting were awful ... but I didn't care. Still loved it.

So when I was contacted about reviewing Love at First Bite: The Unofficial Twilight Cookbook by Gina Meyers, I jumped at the chance. It's not a vegan cookbook by any stretch, but the way I see it, all non-vegan recipes are just begging to be veganized. I figured I could make just about anything in the book without meat, cheese, or eggs.

When the book arrived a few weeks ago, I flipped through and noticed quite a few easily veganizable recipes and a couple that were already accidentally vegan. So no problem there. However, I also noticed that the book is poorly organized. Some of the ingredients in recipes aren't listed in the order they're used. At least one recipe — the Yellow Squash and Tomato Parmesan — is listed twice in the book. Some words are capitalized or lower-cased that shouldn't be. Basically, the book could use some serious editing. Oh, and the black and white photos aren't all that appetizing. Honestly, if you're publishing a cookbook with no color, you really shouldn't include photos.

Because I'm a huge stickler for proper editing (my day job is a newspaper reporter) and decent photography, this was an immediate turn-off. But I'd promised a review of the recipes, so I kept my word. And I'm glad that I did. Many of the recipes have cutesy Twilight-themed names like, "I Dare You to Eat Pizza, Edward" and "Harry's Famous Fish Fry."

I chose the Bella Bruschetta as my main course because it seemed easy enough to veganize:

I swapped out the sausage for my homemade Creole Seitan Sausages and the mozzarella for Daiya Italian Shreds. Those are combined with mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and fresh garlic atop a slice of whole grain French bread spread with olive oil. The recipe actually called for one cup of olive oil to spread over the entire loaf, but I thought that sounded crazy. So I spread each slice (I got four large slices from one loaf) with about a tablespoon of olive oil each. Sadly, I forgot to top this bruschetta with the recommended fresh basil before snapping my photo.

Sure, it was an easy recipe, but nonetheless, this bruschetta (more like a French bread pizza, really) was damn tasty. Bella would be proud to serve this to Charlie on a busy weeknight.

On the side, I tossed together this Breaking Dawn Berry Salad:

It called for mixed greens, but I thought spinach sounded like a good fit to combine with the fresh raspberries, avocado, red onion, chopped pecans, and raspberry vinaigrette. I'm bad about falling into salad ruts when it comes to side salads, just tossing in whatever veggies I have on hand. So this was a nice change. I'd probably never think to combine avocado and raspberries, but it was delicious.

Though I take issue with the editing errors, the food I chose to make from Love at First Bite didn't disappoint. I'm also impressed with the book's very large cocktail section featuring drinks with names "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" and "Cullen Club Collins."

There's also a Twilight party planning guide with a strange idea for a New Moon party with an astronaut theme (what?!), a prom planner for Bella (also strange), and 101 random Twilight saga facts. For example, did you know Stephenie Meyer initially named her book Forks? The back of the book is filled with a Twilight trivia quiz, which I'm assuming would come in handy at the New Moon astronaut party.

In conclusion, I'd say the book could certainly use a little cleaning up. But it's still a kitschy, fun volume for diehard Twilight nerds like me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Know It Sounds Weird, But Just Eat It

Y'all are just gonna have to trust me on this one, okay? So my dad always raves about this pineapple salad that he grew up on — pineapple rings, cheese, salad dressing (like Miracle Whip), and lettuce. Sounds weird, right?

My mom thought so too, until my dad had her try it years ago. Now they both love their pineapple salad. For some reason, my mom never made this dish when I was growing up though. It was only recently that I learned about Papa Crunk's penchant for pineapple. Even though I thought it sounded weird, I set out to veganize it. And you know what? It's freakin' tasty. Cooling, sweet 'n' savory, creamy, perfect for a hot summer day. Here's my vegan Pineapple Salad:

The cheese is my beloved Daiya, but any vegan cheddar would do. The white stuff is my homemade Tofu Mayo, which is way less fat than Vegenaise. Though I love the V-stuff, I'm too calorie-conscious to plop that much over a salad. But the homemade mayo works great for this recipe. I'm including it in the cookbook's salad section. I dare you to try it.

On the side, I noshed on my Dry Rub BBQ Seitan Ribs, also in the cookbook:

I've been tweaking this recipe for awhile, and it's almost there. In Memphis, barbecue people are all serious about the wet ribs (with BBQ sauce) vs. dry ribs (with a spice rub) debate. I wanted to create a dry rib version of vegan ribs since there are already quite a few recipes out there for the wet variety.

In Soap Nuts giveaway news, we have three winners who will receive samples of soap nuts for all their clothes washin' needs. And the winners are .... drumroll please ... Buddy, East Village Vegan, and Tanya! Yea!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pokeweed Foraging with Granny

Back on Father's Day, my family grilled out at Lake Friarson, just outside Jonesboro, Arkansas. After downing my plate of veggie dogs, veggie burgers, potato salad, and baked beans, my Granny and I left the pack to go foraging for wild pokeweed. The stuff was growing all around the picnic grounds, so we grabbed a few grocery sacks to stuff.

Before that experience, I'd eaten Granny's poke salad before, but I'd never seen the wild weed in its natural habitat. Granny showed me what to look for. You want a young plant with a tender stalk rather than an older one with leaves that are turning red. I didn't get any photos of our foraging fun, but here's a picture of wild poke from Wikipedia:

Don't eat those berries though! Those are poisonous. In fact, the entire plant is poisonous, but folks down South have been eating the plant's leaves for years. According to Southern folk tradition, you have to boil the greens in water three times, pouring off the water each time, in order to cook out the toxins.

I'll admit that I was a little scared I wouldn't cook it right and then I'd end up dying or something. But Granny assured me that I probably wouldn't die. Wikipedia says poke poisoning can result in severe nausea, spasms, tremors, vomiting, and convulsions. Apparently, severe poke poisoning cases can result in coma or death. Eeek!

But I'm a huge supporter of keeping Southern foodways and folk culture alive. So I took one for the team and cooked my poke down three times, just like Granny said. I didn't have any immediate plans for the stuff, so I placed the cooled, cooked greens in a baggie in the freezer. I pulled them out this week to mix in with a tofu scramble. I used my recipe for Cheeze Eggs, the poke, and some Ro-Tel to make this Poke Salad Scramble:

This is the only way I've ever had poke because my Granny recommends cooking it with eggs. Since tofu is my eggs, I tried it this same way in 2008 when I cooked some poke that Granny had given me (after she'd already cooked out the toxins). It tastes very much like spinach, and it was the perfect complement to my yummy tofu scramble. I scooped it all into my mouth with a slice of whole wheat toast spread with Earth Balance and Marmite.

And guess what? I didn't die. I've eaten this breakfast for two mornings in a row with no adverse effects. I'm sure the poisonous claims about poke are true, but generations of Southern cooks (including my Granny) have been cooking out the toxins forever. I think I'll take their word for it and keep the food culture alive.

By the way, I'll be randomly choosing the winner of the Soap Nuts giveaway on Wednesday evening (around 10 p.m. CST). Enter here if you haven't already.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Busty Blackberry BBQ

I subscribe to VegNews and Vegetarian Times, both of which are loaded with delicious-sounding vegan recipes. But sometimes all those recipes in one thin magazine can be overwhelming. I'll dog ear one recipe to make in the future, flip the page, and dog ear another. By the time I'm through with the magazine, I have at least 20 recipes added to my to-make list (which is very, very long already, mind you).

But for some reason, when I come across a vegan recipe in a non-vegan magazine, I get way excited and I have to make it. Especially when that vegan recipe was developed by our own Isa Chandra Moskowitz. The June/July 2010 issue of Bust Magazine featured a Berry Barbacue Sauce recipe by Isa! And I came across the recipe a day after my friend Aaron brought me a big ole' bag of local blackberries.

Here's some of Isa's berry sauce atop a Savory Seitan Steak from American Vegan Kitchen: Check out that big ass slice of heirloom Cherokee Purple tomato!

This tasty lunch was actually my way using some of the leftover BBQ sauce after I brushed most of it over tofu and veggie kabobs that my friends and I ate at a Pat Benatar outdoor show a couple of weeks ago. It was rainy outside and I was scared to take my camera, so no kabob pics. Sorry!

But more about the sauce — this smoky-sweet 'cue sauce is quite different from vinegar-heavy sauces folks eat here in Memphis. But it's oh-so-good! Onion, garlic, ginger, fresh berries, molasses, and smoked paprika all come together to create a sauce with rich, complex flavor.

If you happen to own the June/July issue of Bust, the recipe is featured in the "Life's a Picnic" spread. It's the only one submitted by Isa, but the feature also contains a bread and butter pickle recipe that I must try!

Don't forget to enter the soap nuts giveaway. Click here for more info.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Few Things I've Made

Last week, I took more food photos than I had days to post them so I have a little surplus. Since I didn't cook this weekend (except for a coconut icebox cake that I neglected to photograph!), I thought I'd share a couple of last week's meals. Both are testers for my Southern vegan cookbook. Here's my Fried Green Tomato & Tofu Sandwich:

Mmm-mmm. I wish had the fixin's to make this sandwich again right now. I love the way the savory flavor of the baked tofu compliments the tangy fried green tomato. The homemade Dijon-maple sauce really ties it all together.

My breakfast several days last week was this Sorghum Molasses French Toast with Local Blueberries:

The toast is prepared using my vegan French toast recipe, but the sorghum syrup (subbed for the traditional maple) is what really makes this dish shine. Down South, we love our sorghum syrup. If you've never had it, it tastes a little like molasses but much milder. A lot of folks call the syrup sorghum molasses, but there's really no molasses in sorghum. They're similar, yet completely different products — sort of like the sweet potato and the yam. In a pinch, you can certainly sub out blackstrap molasses for the sorghum in this recipe though.

Don't forget to enter the soap nuts giveaway! Click here for details.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Soap Nuts Giveaway!

When I was contacted by Maggie's Pure Land Products about trying free samples of Soap Nuts Laundry Soap, I didn't really understand what I was signing up for. The nice person who contacted me tried to explain that this eco-friendly alternative to traditional laundry soap involved washing my clothes with dried fruit. But maybe I wasn't really paying attention. Then two generous packages of these little round dried nuts came in the mail:

You actually wash your clothes with these! They're totally vegan, hypoallergenic, low-sudsing, and super eco-friendly. The nuts come with a cute little reusable cotton sack:

Stuff the sack with 2 to 5 nuts (depending on whether or not you have an HE washer), tie it up, and toss it in the machine with your dirty skivvies. About a half an hour later, you've got clean underoos.

Afraid that these strange dried fruits would stain my clothes, I first tested the soap nuts on dirty sheets. The sheets came out of the wash clean and fresh-smelling. The Soap Nuts company also sent me a bottle of their laundry liquid (made from soap nut extract, lavendar, lemongrass, and tea tree oils), so I tested it on my delicates with perfect results. I went back to the whole nuts for my tough jeans and towels, all of which came out of the wash clean as hell (and I let my jeans get pretty funky before I finally wash them).

According to Maggie's Pure Land Products, soap nuts are the dried fruit of the Chinese soapbery tree, which is related to the lychee and rambutan. They're harvested in Indian and Indonesian jungles. Apparently, the locals there have been using these nuts as soap for ages. Here's a photo Maggie's sent me of soap nuts drying in the sun:

Maggie's Pure Land wants to give away a sample of soap nuts to three lucky readers! Leave a comment about your favorite article of clothing, and I'll use a random number generator to choose the three winners next Wednesday (July 21st). Tweet about the giveaway with a link back to my blog and then leave an additional comment for an extra entry. You can also mention the contest (with a link) on Facebook and leave another comment to let me know you did. If you have a blog, link back to this contest on your blog and leave me yet another comment.

That's an opportunity for four entries per person! But please, please, please leave an email address if you don't have a blog so I have a way to contact you. The winners will be able to choose between an 8-load liquid sample and a 5-load raw soap nut sample. Good luck!

UPDATE: A few commenters have expressed concerns about the mass marketing of soap nuts and how it might affect the prices of these natural cleansers for the indigenous people who've used them for years. I don't have enough information to speak to that point exactly, but I did find this link to information about the company's sustainable forest harvest (and paying living wages to workers who gather nuts) on their webpage. From a quick Google search, I can see that Maggie's isn't the only company selling soap nuts, and I'm not sure how their practices compare to the other companies. But I've emailed the company for more information. Until then, comment on! And good luck!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Eight Ingredients = Two Yummy Vegan Dishes

Y'all know I love to cook, and I don't typically shy away from time-consuming dishes. I'd say I probably spend about one-third of my time piddlin' in the kitchen. But I do have a social life. I work out at the gym five days a week. I go out with friends for drinks, movies, live theater, concerts, and weird costume parties. Some nights, I need to get dinner on the table with a quickness. But rather than turn to takeout, I typically opt for an easy-peasy recipe.

Enter The 4-Ingredient Vegan, a new book by Meribeth Abrams and Anne Dinshah. It's pubished by the Book Publishing Company in Summertown, Tennessee, and though I just began cooking from the book, I have a feeling it's about to make my life a little easier.

As the title implies, every recipe in this 150-page cookbook has only four ingredients. That makes for a cheaper meal with less prep. Last night, I whipped up these Stuffed Bell Peppers in no time:

These colorful bells are stuffed with brown rice, canned vegan chili (I used the Whole Foods generic chili), and salsa. Although it's technically five ingredients here due to my use of the optional nutritional yeast topping, this recipe shines with simplicity. Of course, I also used salt, pepper, and hot sauce, but those don't really count as ingredients.

On the side, I couldn't resist trying the Asparagus in Corn Sauce:

Asparagus is baked with a sauce of pureed corn, celery, and cumin. That's it. Doesn't sound like much, but the cumin really pumps up the flavor in this dish. And the baked corn sauce gets all crusty and delicious in the oven. Here's what the spears looked like on my plate:

Though I've only tried these two recipes, I've dog-eared many more recipes in the book like Seitan with Tomatoes and Sauerkraut, Pumpkin-Bean Soup, Baked Bean and Tater Casserole, Crispy Artichoke Hearts, Vegan Fudge, and Banana, Chocolate, and Ginger Pastry. Can you believe all of those recipes only contain four ingredients?! It's crazy, but it's true.

Granted, a few recipes call for hard to find convenience foods, like the Ravioli with Broccoli in Coconut Sauce. Though it sounds divine, I'm not sure where I'd ever find the frozen butternut squash ravioli called for in the recipe. Another recipe calls for vegan pierogies, which I've never seen in a store ... though I'm sure that might be available in a place with more selection than Memphis.

Luckily, about 99 percent of the recipes call for whole foods or easy to find convenience foods, like canned chili, canned beans, pre-made hummus, tator tots, or tomato soup. I have a feeling The 4-Ingredient Vegan will become an essential guide for busy (and cheap) vegans. It certainly will be essential for me.

UPDATE: Several commenters have mentioned that Rising Moon Organics makes a vegan butternut squash ravioli that's available at Whole Foods. After checking out their website, I do recall seeing that packaging in my Whole Foods' frozen food aisle. Maybe b-nut squash ravioli is available in Memphis after all!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Butter Tarts & Apple Hearts

Can somebody say "cuteness"? Because this post is full of all things tiny and adorable. Like these Better Than Butter Tarts:

This is the July recipe in Sarah Kramer's 2010 Go Vegan wall calendar, so I whipped up a batch for the bitches at O.C. Night (that's when a bunch of girls get together and watch The O.C. on DVD).

These cutesy little pastries are filled with an Earth Balance-y raisin/walnut filling. The tart shells were made using my own recipe for whole wheat pie crust. According to Kramer (a native Canadian), butter tarts are all the rage in Canada. The O.C. ladies couldn't even tell these were vegan, and I'm sure they'd be perfect to serve at your next Newport cotillion (that's some nerdy O.C. humor for ya).

On to other cuteness ... check out this ADORABLE Happy Apple change purse that River made for me!

In case you don't know, River is an old-skool blogger of the awesomest order. She's pretty much the Martha Stewart of the blog world. But I'm sure River is way cooler than Martha Stewart. River used to maintain the blog Wing It Vegan, where she displayed crafty vegan treats like veggie meatloaf coffins and mashed potato ghosts for Halloween (or Halloweegan as she called it). That blog is no longer active, but it remains online. You must check out her sweet vegan holiday treat ideas!

These days, River blogs at The Crafty Kook, a melting pot of her mouth-watering vegan eats and fun crafty projects. A few months ago, River showed a few of her latest coin purse creations including one like the happy green apple one shown above. She mentioned in the post that she might be giving away a few, and she was soooooo sweet to include me in the lucky bunch!

Right now, my happy apple is hanging out in my kitchen window next to a tiny pirate monster sewn by the PPK's Panda Cookie.

Thanks River!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Move Over, Hamburger Helper!

Back in my pregan days, I used to buy boxes of Hamburger Helper and mix in veggie burger crumbles in place of the meat. That was dinner. These days, I can't imagine eating a supper centered around instant cheese powder from a box (except for those Road's End Organics vegan mac & cheeses meals ... those are pretty tasty in a pinch). But no worries .... I can still have my Cheesy Burger Mac:

This homemade version of the comfort food classic will be included in my cookbook. The little cheesy chunks peeking out is Daiya cheddar shreds, an optional but delicious ingredient. The sauce is super cheesy without the addition of packaged vegan cheese, but I believe everything is better with a little Daiya. I used quinoa pasta this time because I adore that stuff, but whole wheat elbow macaroni would work too.

I served my burger mac with Caramelized Brussels Pecan Saute:

Another cookbook tester that I've featured on the blog several times. I've been tweaking the recipe, looking for the best way to cook the sprouts all the way through while still achieving that sexy caramelized effect. I've finally nailed it. Yea!

By the way, Tasha at Voracious Vegan is giving away one of those fancy new-fangled TofuXpress tofu presses. Head to her blog for details.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I finally tried vegan overnight oats, and I liked them. A few months ago, overnight oats were hot stuff in the blogosphere. All the cool kids were making them. I kept making a mental note to try them, but my mental notes never stick around very long. I finally remembered to give the oats a shot one day last week when I noticed some chia seeds looking all forgotten and lonely on my pantry shelf.

Here's the Overnight Oats I enjoyed one hot summer morning last week:

I used this recipe for Easy Vegan Overnight Oats from Oh She Glows. It's super simple and kinda raw-ish. Just whole oats, chia seeds, a mashed banana, plant milk (I used soy), and vanilla extract. I topped my bowl with a healthy dose of Smart Balance peanut butter.

You mix all the ingredients up (except nut butter) the night before, place the bowl in the fridge, and let the chia seeds do their weird, expanding magic. The next morning, you've got a creamy bowl of oats best enjoyed cold from the fridge. Perfect cool breakfast for a humid summer morning.

Will I trade my steamy, creamy hot steel cut oats for overnight oats? No. But the cold chia version will be a tasty occasional treat.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Cafe Eclectic (and a Blogger Meetup!)

When Jessica of Veggie Cookie mentioned an upcoming trip to Memphis on her blog a few weeks ago, I left a comment suggesting that we do lunch. I never miss an opportunity for a blogger meet-up! Apparently, Memphis is Jessica's hometown, but she hasn't lived here since 1999 (I think that's right ... correct me Jessica if I'm wrong about the year). She and her partner Alex were headed to the M-town to visit Jessica's folks.

But thankfully, the two had enough time during their visit to meet me for lunch at Cafe Eclectic. Here's Alex, Jessica, and me in front of our booth:

Cafe Eclectic is a laidback Midtown coffeeshop with a full breakfast and lunch menu. The menu has a vegetarian selection, but there are several other veg options (or easily made veg) lurking in other areas of the menu. But it never fails. Despite having a few options to choose from, I always order the Spicy Black Bean Wrap with Roasted Taters:

The gigantic wrap is stuffed with Cafe Eclectic's spicy black bean patty, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and spicy Vegenaise (yes, they have spicy freakin' Vegenaise ... I guess they add the spice part in house). The black bean patty is also pretty tasty on a bun too.

Other veg options include a hummus wrap, a portabello panini (leave off the pesto and cheese to make it vegan), a veggie dog, and black bean and rice stuffed bell peppers. Of course, they also offer soy for their tasty coffees. And Cafe Eclectic sells delicious fresh-baked sourdough loaves and baguettes in their bakery case.

Cafe Eclectic Midtown is located at 603 N. McLean Blvd. Call them at 901-725-1718 or check out their website here. They also have a smaller location in Harbor Town at 111 Harbortown Square.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Frenchie Onion Soup

Cookbook author extraordinaire Sarah Kramer's 2010 Go Vegan wall calendar hangs proudly on my kitchen wall right next to the fridge. When I hung the calendar on New Year's Day, I promised myself I wouldn't peek ahead. Now each month's kitschy-cute pic of Kramer and accompanying recipe 'o the month is a fun surprise.

I also promised myself that I would make every recipe in the calendar in the month it appeared. June was Frenchie Onion Soup, and though I had intentions of making this veganized comfort standard in June, I actually didn't get around to cooking the soup until July 1st. Oops! Here it is — better late than never, right?

I haven't had French onion soup in years, certainly not since I went vegan in 2004. But I remember loving the soft, caramelized onions, melted cheese, and soup-logged bread. Kramer's easy beef stock-free version did not disappoint. You may not see much liquid in the picture, but it's there hiding under all those onions and whole wheat bread. My vegan cheese of choice was mozzarella Daiya, which melted to stringy perfection under the broiler.

If you don't have Kramer's wall calendar, this soup is also featured in La Dolce Vegan.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Raw Food In 30 Minutes or Less

So many raw dishes take forever to prepare. The night before a Raw Food Tuesday (the first Tuesday of each month), I spend hours in the kitchen — chopping, dicing, processing, blending, and then washing all those dishes. Ugh. I couldn't do it every day. Once a month is enough for me. But this Raw Food Tuesday's prep went a little quicker thanks to a few easy-peasy dishes.

For starters, I made the Live Cinnamon Rolls from 30 Minute Vegan:

Don't let the fancy presentation fool you. These tasty raw buckwheat-based treats only took about 20 minutes to prepare. All you need is a food processor and a few ingredients. The light brown part is made from processed raw buckwheat, dates, and agave. That's spread with a cinnamon-raisin mixture and walnuts. But the best part? The frosting!

The roll's frosting has a coconut butter-orange base, which meant I had to break down and shell out $12 for a jar of Artisana coconut butter. I've been eye-ing this stuff for ages at Whole Foods (ever since I read about it's awesomeness on Chocolate Covered Katie's blog), but I'm cheap. I needed to have an excuse to allow myself to buy it, so I made plans to make cinnamon rolls. Now I can't imagine why I've waited so long. Coconut butter is amazing!! Totally worth $12.

Mid-morning, I snacked on some Raw Veggies with a Quick Cheesy Sauce:

The cheese sauce is just 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast mixed with a little water, salt, and pepper. Perfect for veggie dippin'.

Lunch was another 30 Minute Vegan recipe — Live Mango Gazpacho:

Again, this was super-easy to make. I would say it took 10 minutes from start to finish, and it tasted wonderful. The sweetness of the mangos was the perfect balance to summer tomatoes, jalepenos, and red onion. I had a small garden salad on the side.

I snacked on more veggies and cheese dip, as well as half an orange (leftover from the cinnamon roll's frosting) before dinner.

I chose one of the quickest sauces from Ani's Raw Food Kitchen to top my zucchini pasta — Garlic Cashew Aioli:

Ani suggests using this sauce to top raw pasta for "fettucine alfredo" and though I've had a better raw alfredo (Gena's sauce from the Choosing Raw blog), this one was damn tasty atop my locally-grown zucchini.

I served my pasta with a slice of Raw Flax Foccacia from Living in the Raw Gourmet:

Okay, I'll admit. This raw bread took a little longer to prepare because it had to dehydrate for 14 hours. But it was a cinch to mix up and spread on a Teflex sheet. The Excalibur took care of the rest. The "bread" contained a base of summer tomato and basil, as well as ground almond and flax seed. A bit like a flax cracker but softer. Perfect for scoopin' up extra cashew aioli sauce.

After dinner, I went to my friend Shara's house for O.C. Night (yes, we watch all the old episodes of The O.C. on DVD). I took the extra cinnamon rolls, and everyone — all omnis, mind you — actually liked them.

By the way, I totally forgot to ask you guys to check out my guest post on Lindsay's Cook. Vegan. Lover blog. It went up on Friday, and it contains a few of my favorite vegan tofu-eggy recipes. Thanks Lindsay for letting me guest post!

Fourth of July Fun!

Admittedly, I'm not a very patriotic person. But I do love grilling out and watching fireworks, so I happily celebrate Fourth of July every year. This year, my friend Greg and I wanted to grill like we did last year. But my old charcoal grill has seen its last veggie burger. It's all rusty now and destined for the dump. So I borrowed by mom's indoor grill and set it up outside. Here it is loaded up with Amy's Quarter Pounder veggie burgers and some local squash and zucchini:

We basted the burgers with BBQ sauce and enjoyed them with barbecue chips:

I washed mine down with Sam Adam's Summer Ale, a light lemon-y brew:

For dessert, I made a Blackberry Cobbler (from my cookbook) using local blackberries hand-picked by my friend Aaron:

After dinner, it was fireworks time! We loaded up on explosives from wrestler Jerry "The King" Lawler's fireworks stand in West Memphis, Arkansas (they don't sell fireworks in Memphis city limits). I found this kitschy Exploding Osama Bin Laden Noggin:

I'm totally against the wars in the Middle East and all, and I certainly don't condone real violence. But I bought the Osama head for pure kitsch value. It seemed super-white trash and funny.

We actually caught the city's lame-ass fireworks show on Beale Street, but we started a small show at the house before dark. My inner child was way excited about these black snakes:

And Greg pretended to be just as enthused:

Later, after the city fireworks, we found a vacant parking lot in Midtown and shot off lots more sparkly fun.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Cafe Ole

Two restaurant recaps in one week! I've been eating out a lot lately thanks to a sudden increase in social obligations. Last night, that obligation was Girl's Night Dinner with my friends Misti, Holley, and Maggie. We met on the spacious courtyard patio at my favorite Mexican joint — Cafe Ole in the Cooper-Young Historic District.

Here's Misti and I, anxiously awaiting our food. We were starving:

My photo of Maggie came out all blurry, but here's Holley lookin' cool in her shades:

Of course, we started with a pitcher of Strawberry Margaritas:

These icy cocktails are so fantastic for sipping on the Cafe Ole patio during this crazy Memphis heat. The margaritas are spiked with real chunks of strawberry, and they're just the right balance of tangy and sweet.

Cafe Ole offers several vegetarian and easily veganized options. Veg dishes are clearly marked with a green "vegetarian," and though most contain cheese, the cooks are more than happy to leave it off. My faves include the Veggie Taco (it has bean sprouts!), the Veggie Burrito, and the Cozumel (pictured here):

The Cozumel is two enchiladas — one with spinach and mushrooms and the other with black beans — smothered in tomatillo sauce. The dish is served with a small guacamole salad and the best Mexican rice ever:

Cafe Ole's Mexican rice is lightly seasoned, and the texture of the rice is always perfect. Though I prefer brown rice at home, I don't mind splurging on white rice when I'm dining out.

Cafe Ole is located at 959 S. Cooper St. Call 901-274-1504 or go to their website here.