Thursday, August 30, 2012

Vegan Cuts Offers Choc & Nut

If you've not yet discovered Vegan Cuts, you're missing out. I had the pleasure of meeting (and drinking with) the site's co-founders, Jill and John, at Vida Vegan Con in Portland last August. They are awesome, and so is their website. It's like Groupon for vegans. Amazing vegan products are offered for a limited time at highly discounted rates.

Their marketplace is loaded with goodness (kale chips, vegan designer handbags, gluten-free cake mixes, shoes, and jewelry), all offered at discounted prices. And one of the very special items offered right now is something I've been dying to try since I first read about it in VegNews a few months ago — Choc & Nut Spread:

A high school French teacher introduced me (and the rest of my French class) to Nutella years ago. She brought a loaf of good bread and a jar of Nutella to class. As we all sampled the chocolatey-hazelnutty goodness, she told us that Nutella and bread was what French kids ate for breakfast. I fell in love with Nutella.

Fast forward to 2004. I went vegan, and not long after giving up dairy, I made an alarming realization: I could no longer eat Nutella because, to my surprise, it contained dairy. My life was officially over. But over the years, a few brands have introduced vegan versions of the chocolate hazelnut spread, and plenty of recipes for a homemade version are available online. That sustained me. But none were quite like Nutella.

That is, until Choc & Nut came along. This stuff is much more like the real thing, probably because it's made in France. And the French know how to do chocolate and hazelnuts right. Also, unlike some other vegan versions, Choc & Nut has that milky taste. It contains soya protein, and I think that might be the answer to achieving the milky creaminess that Nutella has. It also contains cashews, and maybe that makes it kind of creamy too.

When my review jar arrived at work, my co-worker Hannah wanted to try it. So we cracked it open. She spread some on a banana, and being the classy person that I am, I stuck my finger straight into the jar. We both oohed and aahed, but Hannah, who has eaten Nutella more recently than me, said the Choc & Nut could use more sugar. I didn't think so at all. It seemed plenty sweet to me. In fact, cane sugar is the first ingredient in this stuff. 

This morning, I spread some Choc & Nut on whole wheat toast and downed it with a glass of coconut-almond milk:

Mmmmmm ... breakfast of champions.

Anyway, you can order 3 jars of Choc & Nut on Vegan Cuts for $19. That's a bargain considering 3 jars would normally run you about $27.

And, because you're a Crunk reader, if you order between now and October 31st, you get a 10 percent off discount using the promo code BLOGFRIEND.

On a less chocolatey note, I was a little late in picking a winner in the Juice Here Now e-cookbook giveaway. Oops! But the lucky random winner is ... Gluten-Free Happy Tummy!

How to Make Hot Sauce

Back in the spring, Paul and I planted nine pepper plants in our front yard. Six of the nine were hot (jalapeno, habanero, golden cayenne, hot banana pepper, Thai hot chili, and tabasco). The others were my bell peppers. Anyway, as of last weekend the plants were loaded with hot peppers. Paul uses some for "pepper challenges" with his friends, and I cook with some too. But we still had way too many.

So what did we do? We made hot sauce! I looked up a recipe online, tweaked it to my liking, and then we spent all day last Saturday makin' and cannin' sauce. I'll share the recipe in a little photo essay.

1) Measure out a pound of hot peppers. We mixed different varieties because the larger peppers weigh more so it was easier to use some of those in every batch.

Here's a bowl of jalapenos and hot banana peppers, ready for one batch:

 And here's a bowl of habaneros, ready for another:

2) Chop the peppers and place in the bowl of a food processor. Process until mostly well chopped.

3) Add one chopped onion, 4 cloves of minced garlic, and two cups of tomato sauce. Process until very smooth.

4) Pour the sauce into a saucepan with a lid. Simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes on medium-low heat.

5) Stir in one tablespoon of vinegar.

6) Carefully pour the sauce into a fine mesh sieve and use the back of a metal spoon to push the liquid through the sieve into a bowl. Reserve the chopped peppers for chili paste. 

7) Pour the sauce into sterilized jars. Add the paste to separate sterilized jars. Seal. Add to a water canner. Cover with water and bring to a boil for 30 minutes.

All in all, we ended up with 16 jars of hot sauce and chili paste. The sauces are all delicious, but the tabasco-Thai chili-jalapeno is by far the hottest.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More Healthy Surprises!

Remember the Healthy Surprise box? I did a post a couple months back about this amazing vegan, gluten-free, mostly raw subscription service that sends a box of snacks right to your door every month. My last review box was full of all kinds of goodies, and in fact, I still have a few of those snacks left (some nuts, hemp seeds, and cookies).

But to my, um, surprise (no pun intended), the adorable Jorge from Health Surprise offered me another review box because the company just released a new box ... like the physical box. Check it out. It's shorter but deeper:

And that means two layers of snacky goodness:

Look! Jorge even left me a little note:

I don't even know how they stuffed so many snacks inside, but look at all this madness:

There's four packages of fruit Crisps (two peach and two Asian pear), two packages of Livin' Spoonful raw crackers (pizza and pesto pumpkin seed), two packages of Olomomo Nut Co almonds (Righteous Cinnamon Cayenne and Chai Bliss), a package of pistachios, two bags of Parma raw kale chips, a package of gluten-free cinnamon Skinny Crisps crackers, two packages of Cocomocorn (healthy caramel corn), one small Raw Rev 100 bar (chocolate coconut bliss), two Rise Energy Bars (raspberry pomegranate and coconut acai), two Bumble Bars (cashew and almond), two Rawvolution Apple Raisin cookies, and two Mrs. May's White Sesame Crisps (goji cranberry and pom blueberry).

So yea, that's a LOT of stuff! I've been eating bars in the morning before my runs, so the morning after I received the new box, I tried the Rise Coconut Acai bar. Made primarily with dates and almonds, these bars are super natural and only mildly sweet. I find many bars to be too sweet, but these were perfect. They reminded me of Larabars but better.

Next up, I tried the Parma kale chips. I LOVE kale chips!! These were probably my favorite item in the box. I'm too cheap to buy kale chips in a store, and I'm too lazy to make them at home in my dehydrator very often. I tore through this bag like nobody's business. Thankfully, they sent me two bags.

I don't eat enough fruit, so I was happy to see so many bags of fruit Crisps. Regular fruit bores me, but I always enjoy it in dried form. These were tangy and sweet.

Yesterday, I had a late meeting after work, so I wasn't headed home until 6:30. I was famished, but luckily, I had stuffed this bag of pistachios in my purse. Totally hit the spot.

This morning, before my run, I decided to crack open a cashew Bumble Bar. I'd tried these before, but it was long ago. And I'd forgotten how sesame-seedy these are! I love sesame seeds, and these are packed with them and sweetened with my favorite natural sweetener for bars — brown rice syrup.

That's all I've had a chance to try from the new box so far, but you better believe I'll be eating these snacks for awhile. And Vegan Crunk readers might get a chance to enjoy the same kinds of snacks in the new box too!

For a limited time, the folks at Healthy Surprise are doing a giveaway on their Facebook page. All you have to do is post a picture to their Facebook page of your favorite healthy snacks on something (Jorge's examples include in your house, in a park, on your parents' heads, whatever).

Happy snacking!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Isa Pizza!

I'm not sure why, but I've really been drawn to Vegan with a Vengeance lately. I mean, duh, it's a classic. And it's awesome. But I have a ton of cookbooks in my collection (more than 200), and many books tend to get swallowed up. Yet somehow, Vegan with a Vengeance always stands out and more so now than ever.

Last time I made pizza, I used Isa's Pizza Dough: A Novel recipe from VwaV. The recipe makes enough dough for two pizzas, so I froze half. I also made Isa's Pizza Sauce and froze half. And then my sweet neighbor Dennis gave me a big ole bundle of basil (like my alliteration there?) from his giant backyard basil plant a few weeks back. I made some simple walnut-pesto using this recipe (but subbing nutritional yeast for the parm). I froze that too.

So I basically had almost all the ingredients for the Isa Pizza from VwaV in my freezer. As Isa says in the introduction the recipe, a pizza with her namesake has to be awesome. And it is!

There's tomato sauce topped with mounds of pesto and Tofu-Basil Ricotta (also from VwaV), olives, and mushrooms. The rich pesto and creamy "ricotta" are a perfect complement. And while you wouldn't think a tomato sauce would even be necessary on a pesto pizza, it actually goes quite well with the other flavors.

New favorite pizza? Yep. I think so! Here's a close-up.

Also, don't forgot to enter to win a free copy of Cookin' Crunk on Allison's Gourmet blog here.

And don't forget about my Pura Vida Pantry "Juice Here Now" e-book giveaway here.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Buddhist "Bake" Sale

First, a few Cookin' Crunk updates (or shall we call them "crunk-dates"?):
* Wanna win a copy of Cookin' Crunk? If you haven't bought one yet, then here's your chance to score one for free! Allison of Allison's Gourmet is giving away a copy to one lucky reader of her blog. All you have to do is click through and leave a comment. Just one. So what are you waiting for?

* It may seem a little conflict-of-interesti-sh, but Cookin' Crunk was featured on Hungry Memphis, the food blog for the newspaper I work for (The Memphis Flyer). Click here to read about some dishes from the book and my feelings on Memphis' ridiculous "heritage pork" foodie glutton-fest (a.k.a. pig murder fest), Cochon 555.

* And finally, if you want to buy a signed copy of Cookin' Crunk (and you live in the U.S.), just hit that new PayPal button on the right side of this page. If you're not in the U.S., shoot me an email and we'll figure out shipping costs just for you!

Okay, now on to today's post. This morning, my friend Greg and I woke up early and headed to the Buddhist temple — Quan Am Monestary — for an interesting twist on the traditional bake sale. Members of the temple were selling authentic Vietnamese food (some savory dishes and some sweet treats) to raise money for their temple.

Neither of us had been to the temple before. It's pretty far away from our Midtown homes, but after a 20 minute drive through some rather rundown neighborhoods in Hickory Hill, we arrived at our destination — a gleaming, massive temple that seemed out of place in an otherwise abandoned part of Memphis. As we walked onto the grounds, we were greeted by this lovely statue of Quan Yin surrounded by a pair of protective foo dogs:

The sale was at the back of the temple grounds, so we also passed this serene water garden and koi pond on the way:

After admiring the water garden for a bit, we arrived at the sale. Even at 10:15 a.m., the place was bustling. Ladies and a few men stood at tables piled high with pre-packaged Vietnamese dishes. Nothing was labeled, and many of the sellers didn't speak English. We couldn't tell what most dishes were, but we had heard that all the dishes for sale were supposed to be vegetarian. However, I'm pretty sure I saw one booth selling something meaty-looking wrapped around a bone.

Anyway, when I recognized tofu, I knew I was in the safety zone. The woman manning this booth spoke a little English, and once she informed us that this was Lemongrass Tofu, we shelled out $5 each for our own packages.

Wow! This fried tofu is so flavorful. I've eaten a lot of lemongrass tofu in my day, and this was among the best. When I got home, I sauteed some red and green bell peppers and onions and added those along with some brown rice. There had to be at least a pound of tofu stuffed into this box!

Next, we ventured over into an area that looked to have some sort of dumpling. A teenage girl was helping her mother pack dumplings into plastic containers, and we figured she probably spoke English since she was young and likely in school here. Greg asked her what was in the dumplings, and she smiled and said, "Um, I don't really know." He asked her if they were vegetarian, and she confirmed they were. So we each bought a package of the Mystery Dumplings with a Sweet-and-Sour Carrot-Daikon Sauce:

There were round dumplings and half-moon-shaped ones, and the outside was made from some kind of glutenous flour or rice. I love that sticky, chewy dumpling texture, and these were perfect. After biting into a few, we determined the round ones were stuffed with carrots and mushrooms and the half moon ones had some sort of potato mixture (maybe?). It's still sort of a mystery, but they were delicious nonetheless.

That's all we bought. I was tempted to try a sweet dish, but since I knew I wouldn't be able to confirm whether the desserts had dairy, I figured it was safer to skip the sweets. One table was selling bubble tea, but sadly, it appeared to have milk in it. But that's okay! The food we did purchase was enough to last for at least two meals.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Juice Here Now Giveaway

Every year, usually in January, I vow to start juicing daily. I have good intentions, but juicing is so darn expensive. I wish fresh, organic produce was more affordable. Anyway, I love juice. It makes me feel refreshed, energetic, alive.

I was asked to review Juice Here Now, a juice e-book from Pura Vida Pantry. Of course, I jumped at the chance. When I can afford to juice, I tend to stick with recipes since my creative conceptions tend to be disastrous. Thankfully, the e-book is loaded with recipes for fresh juice to cure all kinds of ailments from hangovers to thyroid problems. It also contains smoothie recipes (which I can always use help with) and even recipes using the pulp leftover from your juices.

When I saw the recipe for PVP Viper Juice, I knew what I had to start with. Just read the description for this tomato-based veggie cocktail made with kale, carrots, garlic, jalapeno, celery, cucumber, and cilantro:  
"The ultimate in everything I look for in a juice.  Packed with free radical fighting antioxidants, cleansing and alkalizing, proven to aid in the discharge of heavy metals from the blood, builds flourishing skin, teeth and bones, improves eyesight….hmmm what else?  Oh, yes, I shall continue:  the PVP Viper helps restore healthy cholesterol levels, support healthy nerve and blood vessels, lessen the risk of cancers, is a pain reliever, lowers blood pressure, is a diuretic, antibacterial, antimicrobial and wellness."

Here's what went into the PVP Viper:

Here's the juice. I made a jar of this to enjoy for breakfast for the past few days:

I use a Jack Lalanne juicer, and it makes a ton of pulp. I never know what to do with it, but Juice Here Now has recipes for utilizing pulp. I made some extra tomato pulp, onion pulp, and vinegar to mix with my PVP Viper pulp in this Salsa Fresca:

Yea, it's a little weird eating juice pulp for salsa. But once you get past that weirdness, it's pretty delish and refreshing.

Besides the juice, smoothie, and pulp recipes, this e-book is loaded with healthy living tips and basic ideas for juices and smoothies. You can purchase the e-book on Pura Vida Pantry's Facebook page. But you can also enter here for a chance to win your own copy. Here's how.

Enter one comment letting me know about your favorite homemade juice for one entry. Be sure and leave your email address so I can contact you if you win.

For ADDITIONAL chances to win:
1. "Like" Vegan Crunk on Facebook and let me know about it in a separate comment.

2. Tweet this: "Win a Pura Vida Pantry Juice Here Now e-book at Vegan Crunk:" Make sure to tag me @biancaphillips. Then leave another comment letting me know you tweeted.

3. Follow me on Twitter @biancaphillips. Then leave yet another comment letting me know you did.

4. Like Pura Vida Pantry on Facebook, and leave a comment letting me know you did.

That's five chances to enter, folks! So get busy! And good luck! I'll randomly choose a winner on Monday night.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


A few days ago, someone asked me if my cookbook — Cookin' Crunk — would be SOS-free. My response? "What does that mean?"

And then, later on that same day, I picked up my review copy of Bravo! Health-Promoting Meals from the True North Kitchen by Ramses Bravo, and there on the front cover are these words, "SOS-Free (No Sugar, Oil, or Salt)." Ah, so that's what it means!

Well, I can tell you for certain that my recipes are NOT SOS-free. I like my oil. I like my salt. And I like my sugar. Those things make food taste good, and I believe they aren't too bad for you in moderation. And some oils can even have health benefits. But all that aside, I had a task — make something from the SOS-free Bravo! cookbook and write about it.

I have to admit that I was skeptical that any savory dish made without salt could taste good. I can do without oil sometimes, and sugar isn't a necessity. But salt? I mean, come on. Nevertheless, I had to give these recipes a try. So I chose to make this Brown Lentil Stew over Brown Rice:

Yes, it's probably the most basic recipe in here. But lentils just sounded good, especially topped with the recommended avocado. And you know what? There's so much seasoning (garlic powder, onion flakes) and chopped onions, leeks, celery, and shallots in here that it doesn't really need added salt. Someone on a salt-free diet could eat this and probably not miss too much. Confession: After taking a few bites, I did add a touch of salt in my bowl. I'm a salt addict, and asking me to remove salt altogether is really asking too much.

But the recipes in this book definitely sound great! And healthy! It's the kind of stuff you'd want to make after a long weekend of treating yourself to too much cake, French fries, and beer. Cleansing stuff, you know?

The Eggplant Cannelloni with Bravo Tomato Sauce is definitely on my list. He uses rolled eggplant slices in place of pasta cannelloni. Also on my list: Toasted Barley & Tomato Stew, Baked Plantains with Coconut-Vanilla Granola, Scrambled Tofu & Curried Potatoes, Pickled Vegetable Slaw (you can pickle that!), and Tofu and Tempeh Skewers with Roasted Garlic and Tamarind Glaze (what?! must make this!).

Anyway, SOS-free isn't really for me. I'd probably add some salt (and maybe a little oil) to all these recipes. But I like the basic healthy framework of the recipes, and I'm sure people on restricted diets would love this book!

By the way, Ramses Bravo is the executive chef at the True North Health Center in Santa Rosa, California. It's designed for people who need to change their diets and health with a quickness. And I think these recipes would work. So if you're looking for a healthy change, give this book a try.

Also, if you're looking to buy Cookin' Crunk, I've added a Paypal Buy Now button on the right side of this page. Click through to order. It's $19.95 plus shipping, and I'll sign your copy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cookin' Crunk Has Arrived!

The day has finally arrived, folks. After five long years of recipe development, testing, tasting, editing, editing, editing, and more editing, Cookin' Crunk: Eatin' Vegan in the Dirty South is finally here! The first copy arrived at my office this morning before I even made it in. My managing editor texted me, "I think your book is here." I was at home listening to a Memphis City Council meeting online for work, but I wrapped that meeting up and booked it in so I could hold the first printed copy in my hands!

Check it! In a few short days, I'll have another three cases in my possession to sell around town and on this blog. But if you don't want to wait, you can order it here on Amazon. Also, most major booksellers should be able to order copies.

Locals, I'll be scheduling a few booksignings for October and a release party for late September. Whole Foods and the Booksellers at Laurelwood will have copies soon. Stay tuned to the Vegan Crunk Facebook page (or this blog) for details. Anyone who knows me at all knows I'll pimp the hell out of this to the point of shamelessness. So don't worry. You'll know the date when I do.

Anyway, holding the printed copy in my hands was nothing short of magical. The occasion called for something special. So I decided to open the bottle of Vegan Vine Cab Sav that I picked up in Portland last year when I was there for Vida Vegan Con. I've been saving it for a special occasion, and this seemed to be it:

 Yep, it's been a pretty, darn good day.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Food Diary

I typically post photos from one special meal of the day. But every once in awhile, I like to give y'all a glimpse of what I eat all day long. As much as I talk up fried food and ramen, I don't actually eat that stuff on a daily basis (although I do tend to eat a few bowls of ramen each week). I typically eat pretty healthy, and today was a good example of that.

I started my morning around 6 a.m. with an Apple Jack Smoothie from the 2012 Happy Herbivore wall calendar. This tastes EXACTLY like Apple Jack cereal in a bowl of milk, but it's actually made of good-for-you stuff like spinach, apples, bananas, dates, plant milk, and cinnamon:

Then I went for an hour run through Overton Park. After my run and shower, I had my second breakfast — a bowl of Chocolate Soynut Butter & Ricemallow Cream Oats. Like a peanut-free Fluffer Nutter with chocolate!

I tend to have a mid-morning snack of nuts or trail mix at my desk at work, but this morning, the oats carried me through until lunch. That's when I had a plate of leftovers — my Tempeh Wellington and Hearts of Palm Salad (which I blogged about last night). About 90 percent of my lunches are leftovers from the night before. I ate this at my desk since Monday is deadline day:

The puff pastry on the Wellington wasn't as flaky when re-heated. But it was still tasty. I don't mind the diminished quality of some leftovers. Food is food, and I enjoy just about everything — fresh or not. I just like to eat.

Around 4 p.m., my tummy started grumbling. So I went to the breakroom and grabbed my afternoon snack — Carrots and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus:

I only cook dinner a couple nights a week, and the rest are spent eating leftovers or cobbling things together. Tonight was a combination of both. I made a Vegan Patty Melt using an Amy's All-American Burger, Wayfare "We Can't Say It's Cheese" Cheddar Spread, pickles, lettuce, and ketchup on "buttered" whole wheat bread. Better than any fast food burger I remember:

On the side, I had some leftover Summer Tomato Salad, a recipe from Cookin' Crunk that I made for a picnic at a Duran Duran concert on Friday night. It has fresh summer tomatoes, cucumbers, a yellow bell pepper from my front yard garden, red onions, and a sweet-n-savory homemade vinaigrette:

So there you have it. That's a pretty good example of what this vegan eats in a day.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mad World

As some of you might remember, I'm already hard at work on my next cookbook project. With Cookin' Crunk due in my hands any day now (the printed copies have arrived at the publisher!), I have to hit the ground running with my next book. The concept: recipes through the ages. It'll be divided by decade throughout the 1900s.

I've been getting loads of ideas for the 1960s chapter from Mad Men, which I'm currently working my way through on DVD. Every time Don or Betty Draper orders a dish in a restaurant, I jot it down. I've also been getting great ideas from the Food Timeline website. That's where I got inspired to create this Tempeh Wellington:

It's marinated, pan-fried tempeh topped with a mushroom duxelle (that's just fancy talk for diced, sauteed mushrooms and shallots), wrapped in a flaky puff pastry. Delicious! And so fancy. Y'all know I don't usually do fancy, but this recipe is actually easy as hell.

On the side, I made a Hearts of Palm Salad, inspired by Mad Men. Don Draper ordered one when he met Bobbi Barrett for dinner at Sardi's. He also ordered steak tartare, but I don't have the faintest idea of how to veganize that! Anyway, back to the salad:

I'd never had a hearts of palm salad before. But I like it! It's pretty simple — hearts of palm, tomatoes, avocado, and a red wine vinaigrette.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bluff City Vegan Eats: Evergreen Grill

Midtown Memphis is a collection of neighborhoods. There's Central Gardens, Cooper-Young, Overton Square, Annesdale-Snowden, the Broad Avenue Arts District, etc. I live in a little historic district called Evergreen. It's one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. But the state threatened to split the community with an interstate back in the 1970s, and some of the old homes were torn down. The citizens rose up and fought the plan. And they won! New homes that were built to look like old houses went up in their place, and those are dispersed throughout the neighborhood. I live in one of the new homes.

It's a cute little area — close to Overton Park (the BEST park in the city), the Sears Crosstown building (the BEST abandoned warehouse ever), and the V&E Greenline (the BEST greenline in the city). Yes, I'm a little biased. But we don't have much in the way of businesses. It's mostly residential. But there's this cute little strip of shops along Overton Park Avenue, and when I saw that a new restaurant had opened there, I had to check it out. I was just hoping that it would be vegan-friendly.

It's called Evergreen Grill, and it's located in an old pizza joint. Luckily, when I checked the menu online, I saw several items that sounded pretty vegan. So my co-worker Hannah and I went there for lunch. The place serves mostly Italian food, but it's not limited to that.

We started with the Bruschetta. The menu didn't say anything about cheese, but when we asked the server, she confirmed that it did have cheese on top. So we asked to have that left off. Unfortunately, they forgot and added cheese anyway. We had to send it back and make sure they understood what vegan meant. Here's what we ended up with:

Now, sending things back is annoying, for sure. But it was so worth the wait. This has to be the best bruschetta I've ever put in my mouth. There is so much garlic in the tomatoes, and they were so juicy, fresh, and flavorful.

For my entree, I opted for the Roasted Vegetable Sandwich with Roasted Asparagus:

Tasty. The veggies were squash, mushrooms, and onions, and the whole wheat bun was spread with avocado. The asparagus was delicious, but I'm a big eater, and I could have used a bigger portion.

Hannah ordered the Spaghetti with Marinara:

I tried a bite, and it was pretty yummy. We didn't inquire as to the vegan-ness of the pasta though, but it doesn't seem like the kind of place that would have fresh pasta. However, I would ask before ordering that for myself.

On the side, she got an order of Roasted Potatoes, which also accidentally arrived topped with cheese. But she sent them back, and the new ones were perfect. Crisp and coated in olive oil:

Evergreen Grill was nice. I like knowing that I can get vegan Italian food in the neighborhood. Plus, I love that they have a roasted veggie sandwich (with avocado!) on the menu. But the one thing truly worth returning for again and again is that bruschetta!

By the way, Hannah is our food writer at the newspaper we write for, the Memphis Flyer. You can read her story about Evergreen Grill here.

Evergreen Grill is located at 1545 Overton Park Avenue. Call 901-249-2393.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cuban Meets Southern

I've not done much world traveling. Okay, so I've done NO world traveling outside of a quick stop in Mexico on a Carnival cruise in 2010. But even though world travel is out of my budget, I can still taste my way across the globe through exotic vegan recipes. Hands down, the best vegan collection of worldly fare is The Healthy Voyager's Global Kitchen.

Each chapter is dedicated to a country, and when flipping through most recently, I set my sights on Cuba. Something about the No Es Vaca Frita (or Fried Beef and Onions) intrigued me:

These are strips of homemade seitan boiled in a pepper-onion broth and then fried with onions until caramelized and crisp. The seitan is baked, so it has that deli-meat-chewiness that I love in a good seitan. Honestly, you could make lunch meat from the seitan loaf before slicing into strips. But the strips were so delicious fried up in olive oil, garlic, and lime juice.

Although the recipe suggests serving this dish with rice or beans, I'd been craving some of my Corn Casserole from Cookin' Crunk: Eatin' Vegan in the Dirty South (the book arrives from the press at my publisher's office this week!!):

This is one my Granny's classic Southern recipes, and it's so easy, it should be illegal. Frozen corn is mixed with a tub of vegan cream cheese (I used Galaxy's vegan cream cheese, which was provided free because Galaxy is awesome, and they keep sending me free stuff!) and vegan butter. Oh, and there's chilies and pimentos. It's baked until bubbly and very, very creamy. This stuff is like velvet with corn stuck in it, which doesn't sound so appetizing now that I think about it. But it's way good, y'all. Way, way good.

Also on the side, I made some Butternut Squash Puree:

I didn't use a recipe for this. It's just fresh butternut squash from the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market, sliced in half, roasted for about 45 minutes, skinned, sliced, and pureed in a food processor with a pinch of salt, some vegan butter, and a bit of water. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Better Than Sugar or Honey

A few years ago, after reading Skinny Bitch, I attempted to give up as much granulated sugar as possible. I switched from white sugar to evaporated cane juice (which is guaranteed to be vegan while white sugar can be questionable) in baked goods. That was an easy switch. But in my attempt to cut down on the more refined granulated stuff, I started using agave in my coffee. And I grew to love it even more than sugar.

Now I know there's some agave controversy these days. Is it the same as sugar health-wise? Is it worse? To be honest, I really don't care. At the time I switched, it was a health move. But my healthy changes are always phases. I'm not a health food vegan. I'm an ethical vegan, and I like things that taste good. I also like things that aren't honey that taste kinda like honey. Agave haters, don't hate.

Xagave offered to send me a bottle of their raw organic white and blue agave to review. And they sent me a giant bottle!

First, I tasted it by itself. Tastes like agave. All the brands I've tried taste about the same. Then I put some in my coffee. Delicious!

Since just using the agave in my coffee would make for a boring review, I decided to make one of my favorite fruit salads that calls for agave — the Classic Ambrosia from Raw for Dessert:

It's just banana and orange slices mixed with dried, unsweetened coconut and agave. So simple, and yet so satisfying. I'm not a huge fan of fruit, but I do love anything with coconut. And bananas are my probably my second fave fruit. The agave adds a touch of decadence to an already naturally sweet salad.

While I didn't notice a huge difference in taste with the Xagave over other brands, I do love that it contains both calcium and fiber. I'm always trying to work more calcium into my diet, so I can avoid supplements.

I also like the packaging better than most other brands. The back of each bottle contains a Sugar Exchange Table, which tells you how to convert sugar measurements to agave measurements in baking, cooking, and beverages. I've always been scared to bake with agave unless a recipe calls for it because I've never understood the exchange rate.

The chart also shows the calories saved my using Xagave over sugar. Since its sweeter than sugar, you don't have to use as much and, thus, you save calories. Let's see – it's tasty, it's sweet, it contains calcium and fiber, it's not mean old honey, and it can save you calories because you use less. That's a winner in my book.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Green, Local, and Homemade!

I love to cook as much from scratch as possible. But for some reason, when it comes to things like curry paste, I always buy the pre-made stuff. And honestly, when I was flipping through my trusty old copy of Vegan with a Vengeance, and my eyes landed on the scrumptious-looking image of Green Thai Curry, I figured the dish would call for a storebought paste.

But I should have known Isa Chandra Moskowitz wouldn't stand for that. Of course, her Green Thai Curry recipe would call for a homemade paste:

Luckily, nearly all the ingredients were hanging out in my pantry (and pepper garden). The green paste was made with Thai green chilies and jalapenos, both of which are growing in my front yard (it doesn't get more local than that). And it has stuff like cilantro, fresh ginger, lime zest, garlic, etc.

The paste is simmered in coconut milk and lime juice. And as you can see, there's red onions and red bell peppers (also from my garden) and fried tofu. I tossed my tofu triangles in a little cornstarch before frying, even though the recipe didn't call for it. The cornstarch gives the fried tofu that crusty Asian restaurant look.

I think, from now on, I'll be making my curry paste from scratch.

What ingredients do you tend to buy in a store rather than make from scratch?