Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Crunchy Onion Crunkness

I can't believe I used to hate onions. When I was a little kid, I wouldn't come within ten feet of a dish cooked with onions. My mom would have to make two separate versions of many of her dishes, leaving the onions out of mine. Of course, sometimes she'd chop 'em up really small and try to sneak them in. But she didn't come clean with that until I started liking onions years later.

I don't know when the change happened. But I know that I adore onions now — caramelized, sauteed, fried in rings, and even raw. I like onions all kinds of ways. But you wanna know my favorite way? French fried!! Like green bean casserole onion topper style!

The people at Loeb's Onion Crunch asked if I'd like to review their Original Roasted flavor of crunchy onion topping. Of course I said yes!

This stuff is all-natural and vegan. There's even a cute little "V" on the label. Of course, it's marketed to a wider non-vegan audience so the packaging suggests using Onion Crunch on steaks, eggs, and fish as well as a topping for hummus, soups, and vegetables. But I love it when non-vegan companies put the "V" on their stuff! It makes it easier for vegans to figure out if the product is safe, and it spreads the message to omnis that vegan food is accessible and tasty.

I've tried Onion Crunch in a few ways so far. First, I sprinkled it on some Sauteed Kale with Garlic and Mirin. Loved the crunch and deep oniony flavor.

I'm of the opinion that a salad isn't a proper salad without sufficient crunchy toppings (bacony bits, vegan croutons, sunflower seeds, etc.). Onion Crunch completed this Big Ass Dinner Salad topped with vegan ranch and peppered with vegan ham.

Now I try to cook all of my veggies from scratch, but some days, I just don't have time. Some days, I eat veggies from a can. But canned veggies need a little extra TLC to make them taste delicious. Onion Crunch (plus a little Vegeta all-purpose seasoning) took these canned green beans from meh to super yummy.

I still haven't tried Onion Crunch on a vegan hot dog, but they're having a contest right now on their Facebook page and if you send Onion Crunch a picture of your hot dog topped with their fried onions, you can be entered to win a $100 gift card to the grocery store of your choice. Click here for more info.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Memphis Vegan Drinks! Our First Meetup!

I've been wanting to form a Memphis Vegan Drinks for well over a year. We have a pretty active vegetarian social club, Food Awareness, but we typically meet for leisurely lunches on Saturdays. I wanted to jump on the Drinks bandwagon and gather some vegans for booze and happy hour fun!

So after months of procrastinating (and being re-inspired by Super Vegan and New York Vegan Drinks founder Jason Das at Vida Vegan Con), I finally scheduled a meet-up. I plan to move the meeting around to various vegan-friendly bars. But I knew I just had to host the first one at my favorite Mexican/hot dog joint, Chiwawa!

Okay, I'll admit that part of the reason I picked this place is because they have a vegan hot dog named after me. But that wasn't the only reason. They have several vegan menu items and, perhaps most importantly, they have Adult Snow Cones (yes, that means snow cones spiked with booze). Ashley ordered one! Not sure what flavor this was one was.

I was so amazed at the crowd that came out for this. We had about 20 people at the first meeting!!! Here's a crowd shot early on, but more people poured in as the evening wore on. Oh yea, by the way, Chiwawa also has an amazing patio!

Here's me and Barbara.

And here's Autumn, Vaughan, and Nicole.

Stephanie and Richard brought their kid Peter. And Stephanie even let little Peter take the last little sip from her cocktail. Even the kids get drunk at our Vegan Drinks! Don't worry — she's a good mom, I swear. The glass was actually empty.

Stephanie ordered a Bianca Dog, which typically comes dressed with vegan slaw and a black bean spread on a pretzel bun. But since she was sharing with her kid, she had the slaw and beans on the side. I wish I'd taken a picture of someone else's fully dressed Bianca Dog since lots were ordered at our table. But I got so busy chatting that I forgot!

And let's not forget Cassi. Here she is with a plate of Papas and Chipotle Ketchup and a Sangria.

Leslie ordered the Pickled Veggies.

Here's a close-up of those Pickled Veggies. I was surprised to see corn in there!

I started the night with an Abita Strawgator — a mix of Abita Andygator and their strawberry ale. So summery!

Then I switched to a Michelada, which appeared vegan on the menu (sometimes they contain Worcestershire sauce). It was made with Pacifico beer, tomato juice, lime juice, and habanero hot sauce.

Since Chiwawa opened, I've had plenty of Bianca Dogs! So I wanted to try something new tonight. I went with the Aftershroom Delight Taco — oyster mushrooms, corn smut (that's corn fungus ... like a mushroom!), and corn. Corn smut sounded weird and gross, but I was willing to try it. And it was surprisingly tasty. I couldn't tell much difference between the corn smut and the oyster mushrooms.

I also ordered Chips and Salsa for the table. Chiwawa's homemade tortilla chips are ridiculously good, and the salsa is garlicky and just the right consistancy.

Here's Shay lookin' lovely with a classic Margarita. You can never go wrong with a margarita.

Some folks ordered the Jicama, Mango, and Cucumber Fries with Chili-Lime Salt. I didn't try one, but they looked healthy and lovely.

Our first Memphis Vegan Drinks was a huge success. I'm only a little sad that I didn't do this sooner! We plan to switch bars each month, but we'll likely end up back at Chiwawa in a few months. If you're in Memphis and want to join us, we'll be at 3 Angels Diner on Tuesday, August 27th at 5:30 p.m. Hope to see you then!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Lazy Bubble Tea!

I was flipping through the latest issue of VegNews — The Burger Issue (August 2013) — when I came across Hannah Kaminsky's feature on homemade bubble tea. And that's when I realized that I haven't had bubble tea in way too long, like at least two years, maybe longer.

There's a Vietnamese joint — Pho Vietnam — across from my street that supposedly has bubble tea. But I'm not sure of the vegan options, so I've never checked it out. I typically get my vegan boba fix from Mr. Chang's Bubble Tea in Cordova, but that's a good 25-minute drive from Midtown. And why buy overpriced bubble tea when I can make my own, right?

So I put down the magazine and drove down the street to the Viet Hoa Grocery. They had bags of instant boba (tapioca pearls) for $2.99. Of course, when I bought the pearls, I didn't notice they were the instant kind. So I used these to make Hannah's recipe, which calls for allowing the pearls to soak in water for 15 minutes. Oops. My pearls turned to mush.

And then I read the package — "5 minute boba"! Ahhhh. So I made some more following the directions on the package. Look at these fun colors!!

Then I mixed some coconut milk and Blue Lotus Chai instant powder in the blender with a few ice cubes and a touch of agave. Voila, instant chai bubble tea.

Lazy Chai Bubble Tea
1/3 cup instant tapioca pearls
4 cups water
8 ounces plant milk
1 serving scoop of instant chai tea powder
1 Tbsp. agave
Ice Cubes

Place the tapioca pearls and water in a pot with a lid. Bring the water to a boil and boil until pearls are slightly soft but still a little chewy (about 5-7 minutes). Turn off the heat and cover for 5 minutes.

Blend milk, chai powder, agave, and ice cubes in a blender.

Pour the tapioca into a colander and rinse with cold water until pearls are cool. Pour them into a glass. Pour chai tea over the bubbles. Enjoy with a thick boba straw (available at Asian markets).

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Picnicking & Swimming in Mississippi

My home in Memphis is hundreds of miles away the ocean, but there's a beach just a short drive down I-55 into Mississippi at Sardis Lake. Sardis and John W Kyle State Park is about 45 minutes south of Memphis. There's plenty of room for picnicking, and there's a quaint beach on the bank of Sardis Lake.

My partner Paul and my friends Andy and Jordan went down to Sardis today for a little summer swim and picnic.

Me & Paul

Andy & Jordan

Each of us packed our own lunches. Paul had chips and crackers (he lives on snacks). Andy and Jordan had meat sandwiches and chips. And I made a big ole spread just for me (but Paul ate some of my bread). I picked up this locally baked Rosemary & Olive Oil Cucina Bread from the Memphis Farmers Market on Saturday morning. It was so fresh and soft, and the rosemary flavor was delicate.

I brought along some Viana Wild Herbs Sunflower Spread for my bread. I won eight jars of these Viana spreads at the Galarama silent auction for the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in Portland during Vida Vegan Con. These spreads, most of which are sunflower-based, are delectable.

I also brought along some Smart Deli Baked Ham Style Slices and some Daiya Swiss Style Slices to eat with my bread.

My favorite picnic fare always involved a good artisan bread, vegan cheese, a vegan meat, and grapes! I found these local Table Grapes (that's how they were labeled) from the Whitton Farms folks at the Memphis Farmers Market on Saturday.

And wine is a must. You can't have a picnic without wine. You simply can't. Unfortunately, Sardis Lake is in a "dry" area, which means no booze is allowed. If the park rangers catch you with alcohol, you have to pour it out or they'll ticket you. But we were slick about it. We kept the wine bottle in the cooler and poured our organic, vegan Orleans Hill Alexandria white in cups. We never even spotted a park ranger, so no biggie. Breaking the rules is fun. Just don't get caught.

After lunch, we spent about an hour swimming in the muddy lake and sunning on the beach. It was a nice little day-trip getaway. I wish summer would last forever.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vegan Food Is Sexy!

Aimee Hughes, yoga devotee and blogger over at The Sexy Vegan Kitchen, has a new cookbook! And it's all about foods that can enhance your love (and sex) life.

The Sexy Vegan Kitchen (her book has the same name as her blog) is filled with wholesome, mostly raw recipes (but there are some cooked recipes too), each containing what Aimee calls the "sexy players" or aphrodisiac foods. Bet you didn't know that celery, dates, strawberries, bananas, sea veggies, and a host of other common plant foods are believed to be able to help you in the bedroom. Yep.

I picked two recipes from the book to try. One was the Slinky Kelp Salad.

Since kelp is a sea veggie, it's the "sexy player" in this recipe. Sea veggies are believed to help produce sex hormones.

I'd picked up some kelp noodles at the Rainbow Co-op in Jackson, Mississippi last time I was passing through. I've never seen them for sale in Memphis, but I'd long wanted to try them. I don't like most sea veggies aside from a little nori on my veggie sushi. And dulse is okay. But kelp powder? Blech. I was worried that, like kelp powder, kelp noodles might be too fishy, but nope! They're actually flavorless! And they have a delightful soft-chewy texture.

Aimee's recipe adds plenty of flavor though with sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, ginger, onion, jalapeno, and carrot. It was supposed to have scallions too, but I forgot to buy them. The best part about kelp noodles and this recipe? Low-cal as hell! Only 110 calories in the WHOLE recipe, and it makes two to four servings. I ate half the recipe in one sitting.

The other recipe I tried was the Soulful Cucumber Slaw with Cashew Dressing.

This was awesome! Raw, blended cashews mixed with oil (I used less than the recipe called for), garlic, and lemon made for a very creamy dressing for the chopped local English cucumbers, grated carrots, celery, and raisins.

The celery was the "sexy player" here since celery produces apigenin in the body, which is responsible for dilating blood vessels in the you-know-where area. Uh-huh.

Both of these recipes came from the chapter on salads, but the book also has chapters dedicated to appetizers (called foreplay in the book), smoothies and juices, soups, grains (yay, cooked food!), desserts (a mixture of raw desserts and wholesome baked goods), elixirs (yes, there are cocktails!), and travel snacks.

I've bookmarked a ton of recipes to try soon, but the Avocado Cacao Cake of Adonis is definitely way up the list. I love that name, and it's a gluten-free cake made with avocado! I also hope to try the Killing Me Softly Kale Chips, Beautiful Biriyani (a cooked dish), Strawberry Oatmeal (also cooked), and the Date Muffins (because I LOVE dates so much I want to marry them).

If you're looking to spice up your love life or just looking for a great balanced book of super healthy raw and cooked vegan foods, The Sexy Vegan Cookbook is your man. Or woman. Or whatever you're into.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Vegan Mushroom Bacon Swiss Burger!

This is one of those posts when I give you a recipe! But it's not really a recipe. It's like a semi-homemade, lazy-ass recipe. But it's tasty. I promise.

It all started when I spied the new Daiya Swiss Style Slices at Whole Foods. I'd been eagerly awaiting the new Daiya products (slices, cream cheese, and frozen pizzas) for months, and every time I went to Whole Foods, I'd look to see if they were stocked. As soon as I spotted the Swiss slices, I threw some in my cart.

I made a few vegan Swiss and ham sandwiches right away using Smart Deli Baked Ham Style Slices. This stuff is awesome. It really tastes like Swiss! There's a slight sweetness to it, but it's a good sweetness. Anyway, there are 11 slices of Swiss in each package, so what to do next? Mushroom Bacon Swiss Burgers, of course!

I used Gardein Beefless Burgers (the best packaged veggie burgers ever), Daiya Swiss slices, Phoney Baloney's Coconut Bacon, Roasted Garlic Vegenaise, and some mushrooms sauteed with paprika and garlic salt. And it's all on a Food for Life Ezekial 4:9 Sesame Bun.


This was amazing. Sure, it's loaded with processed stuff. But hey, that processed stuff is still vegan, and that means it's free of cholesterol and low in artery-clogging saturated fats. And I'm okay with that. I had some homemade slow-roasted garlic tater wedges on the side.

Here's the lazy recipe. You can use whatever burger, mayo, bacon sub, or buns that you want.

Vegan Mushroom Bacon Swiss Burger
1 tsp. olive oil
8 ounce package sliced button mushrooms
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
4 vegan burger patties
4 slices Daiya Swiss Style Slices
2 Tbsp. vegan mayo
1/4 cup coconut bacon OR 1/4 cup crumbled vegan bacon
4 vegan hamburger buns

Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet. Add the mushroom slices, paprika, and garlic salt. Stir and saute for 7 to 10 minutes until mushrooms have cooked down and are soft.

Heat the burger patties in a skillet according to package directions. When the burger is cooked through on one side, flip and top with slices of Swiss. Place a lid or some type of cover over the skillet for a few seconds to allow the cheese to melt better.

To assemble, spread the mayo on the top halves of buns. Sprinkle the bacon over the mayo. Place the cooked burgers with cheese on the bottom halves of buns. Top with 1/4 cup mushrooms and top half of bun. Eat.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Kombucha Shirts!

About a month ago, I was contacted by Shango Los, designer of Shangobrand tee-shirts for the homesteading enthusiast. He'd seen my tutorial post on brewing kombucha, and he about wanted to let me know about a design in his shop that I might like.

It's a kombucha tee! I had to have it! I've been brewing my own 'booch since December, and I've always got a batch fermenting on the shelf and a ready-to-drink batch in the fridge. I'm constantly learning new ways to flavor my kombucha, and just last month, I started bottling my brew in re-purposed Grolsh bottles. Anyway, I paid the $20 plus shipping and a few days later, my tee arrived in the mail.

I wanted to share these tees with y'all, because I know some of my readers are 'booch brewers too. And Shango also offers some other fun designs. There's a Vegan Farmer tee (surely, there are some vegan farmers or gardeners out there!) and kid's tee that reads "Microgreen." How cute is that?!

Anyway, check out Shango's tees. They're printed on American Apparel tees, so that means sweatshop-free. Not to mention that American Apparel tees are the best-fitting, most comfy tees out there.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Power Vegan!

Have you ever thought, "Man, I wish there was a vegan book with plant-based nutrition info, exercise routines, tips for eating affordably and curing your ailments, and recipes."? Oh, and maybe you want a little coaching in there too — you know, someone to kick you in the butt when you try to make excuses for why you can't eat healthily.

That book is real! It's called Power Vegan by nutrition specialist and fitness trainer Rea Frey. This book literally contains just about everything you need to know about a maintaining a healthy vegan diet. It's for new vegans. It's for veteran vegans. And it's for the veg-curious. Often, these sorts of books are tailored to one group or the other, but everyone can get something out of this.

Like a good trainer, Frey is encouraging without being preachy. She includes chapters on power foods (with sections on sprouting and eating raw), eating vegan for life (including answers to all those common excuses for why you don't think you can eat healthily), curing ailments (foods and exercises to help with dry hair or nagging aches), workouts (with planned workout circuits and pictures demonstrating the moves), and recipes for healthy (but not over-the-top-healthy) meals (she uses oil! thank god).

After reading a few chapters, I could tell that Frey is heavily influenced by Brenden Brazier, vegan Ironman triathlete and maker of Vega. I'm a huge Brazier fan, so Frey's philosophy (especially on pre- and post-workout foods) is something I can get down with. She recommended Brazier's date bites as the best pre-workout fuel, and that's what I've already been eating before runs since I read Brazier's Thrive in January.

This is Rea Frey! Look at those HOT arms!!!

Her workout routines are great! I made a workout plan for my off-running days this week using her core and arm exercises.

But you're really here for the food pics, right? So of course, I tried a couple of recipes!

For starters, I made the Chopped Salad with Dijon Dressing.

This is a simple veggie salad with celery, bell pepper, cucumber, romaine, carrot, tomato, red cabbage, onion, cilantro, and a homemade dressing of oil, Dijon, and lemon. Simple, yes. But I actually learned something when making this salad! Frey recommends throwing large chunks of veggies in a food processor and pulsing for a few seconds to chop. Can you believe I've never thought of chopping salad veggies this way? It seems so obvious now.

I also made her Black Bean Quesadillas.

Love, love, love these. They're made with a mix of cooked, raw, and comfort ingredients — the perfect combo. Cooked black beans, a raw corn and tomato salad, and shredded Daiya cheese are tucked into a gluten-free Food for Life tortilla. And it's topped with mashed avocado and lime juice. They made me feel healthy, but I still got some of my beloved Daiya cheese in there.

She also includes a number of smoothie recipes that call for "1 scoop of hemp, pea, or rice protein," so I'll be trying these with Vega powder soon. Love finding new ways to use my Vega powder!

And there are meal plans. God, I love a meal plan. Maybe it's my childhood love of following directions ... which is totally weird because I hate rules. But I love directions!

Anyway, Power Vegan is a great all-around vegan bible for anyone looking to boost their fitness level or just eat a healthier plant-based diet.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Vegan Buffet Food at Gold Strike Casino!

A buffet typically doesn't scream "vegan-friendly." And a casino buffet? Well, I'd expect a bare looking salad bar and maybe a bowl of steamed white rice. But the new Buffet Americana at Gold Strike Casino in Tunica, a little casino cluster about 30 minutes south of Memphis, is vegan-friendly!

The folks at Gold Strike reached out to me to ask if I'd sample some of the vegan options on their buffet. Paul and I went last night to check it out, and the chef walked me through the buffet and pointed out every vegan option. Granted, there is a lot of meat (including whole lobsters, which made me sad). But if you find yourself getting peckish after a concert at the casino or a night of playing the slots, a vegan can find a good, solid meal at Buffet Americana.

For starters, the Salad Bar is pretty decent. It's not just ham cubes and shredded cheddar. The salad bar has actual vegetables — peas, beets, mushrooms, black olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, corn, waster chesnuts, chickpeas, romaine, mixed greens, and iceberg. I put a little of all of that onto my salad plate and topped it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (the Italian style vinaigrette is also vegan).

There's a Mongolian Grill at the buffet, and the chef there will gladly saute your veggies in oil instead of butter. Now, meat has also been cooked on this same grill, so if you're super strict, this may not be the thing for you. But they do clean the grill between cooking customers' entrees.

At the grill, you fill a bowl with veggies and noodles and then hand it to the chef. You pick a sauce, specify oil instead of butter, and he cooks your meal on a hot griddle. I went with carrots, onions, bell peppers, spinach, cabbage, and mushrooms. Those noodles were a fettucine-style noodle, which made me happy since traditional lo main isn't typically vegan. I picked ginger-hoisin for my sauce. After the dish was handed to me, I drizzled it with some sweet and sour sauce too.

There's also a Pasta Grill! This was, by far, the best part of the buffet. I love pasta, and so often, pasta served in Italian restaurants is made with fresh pasta, which contains eggs. But the chef assured me that they use dry pasta at Buffet Americana. And that means it's vegan. Here's the Pasta Grill lady! You pick the veggies, oils, pasta, sauce, and seasonings. She sautes your veggies, boils your pasta, and puts it all together at the end.

And here's what I picked — bow-tie pasta with marinara, garlic oil, white wine, fresh garlic, black olives, tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, onions, and crushed red pepper.

I got this dish last, but I so wish I'd have gotten this first. It was my fave, but I was so full from the salad and the Mongolian grill meal that I couldn't finish this lovely plate of pasta. But I ate it until I felt like I would pop.

As to be expected, none of the desserts are vegan. But if the chef knows you're vegan, he'll make sure you get a lovely fruit plate after dinner. With Paul's help, I made a tiny dent in this big ole plate of fruit. I wanted to eat more, because I hate to waste.

Oh, I've forgotten about the most awesome thing about Buffet Americana — free wine and beer on the weekends!

And they have Memphis-made Ghost River Golden on tap!

Once you're thoroughly stuffed, you can head out to the casino floor for a little slot machine action. I'm not a big gambler because I'm cheap as hell. But that didn't stop me from feeding a few dollars (and losing them all) into this penny slot machine. I mean, how can any vegan resist the siren song of Kitty Glitter?!!!

Buffet Americana is located inside Gold Strike Casino, 1010 Casino Center Dr., Robinsonville, Mississippi.

Buffet Americana is open Monday-Thursday 7 a.m.- 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday 7 a.m.- 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.-12 a.m.; Saturday 8 a.m.-12 a.m. and Sunday 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Breakfast is $10.99; Lunch is $13.99; Dinner is $20.99.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Guest Post: Vegan in Birmingham

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you've met my friend Cassi. She's newly vegan and lots of fun! Anyway, while I was in Miami last weekend, Cassi was on a road trip to Birmingham. She asked if she could do a guest post about vegan options there. So here it is!

Hi, I'm Cassi, some of you may know me from such posts as Grills Gone Vegan for the 4th, Vegan Bake Sale, or as I am referred to in Vegan Divorce Party, "the bitch that stole Bianca's foursquare mayorship."

Over the weekend, Bianca and I both ventured out of the tri-state area. She headed to Miami, and I headed for Birmingham. I know what you're thinking, "Who goes to Birmingham 'just because'?" Well, my "ex" — we'll just call him G.I. Joe — has drill there every month, and he asked if I would join him. I agreed, because I jump at any chance I have to get out of the city.

Now, being a new vegan is hard enough, but being a new vegan while traveling is a horse of another color. So I hit the web in search of eats and stumbled upon The Southern Vegetarian blog. It is LOADED with great info. I picked two places from that website to visit.

Our trek to Birmingham was SUPPOSED to start at 6 p.m. on Friday. I'd planned to find something quick for dinner once we got there, but G.I. Joe was late, and we didn't hit the road til about 7:30 or so. I fought the fat girl in me as long as I could, but about 9:30, I couldn't take it anymore and asked him to find me food.

We pulled off in New Albany, Mississippi in search of a Taco Bell. As he was ready to turn around and go in the other direction, in the distance, I spotted my favorite type of food — CHINESE! We pull over to China Buffet (yes, that is the name), and we are greeted by a great staff! I looked over the menu — pretty meaty but there were two tofu options. Of course me being me, I asked for an item not on the menu, my all time fave Chinese dish, Chow Mei Fun. Sadly, they were out that night, so I ordered Bean Curd Family Style.

I made sure they did not use fish sauce. She even made me a fresh eggless batch of fried rice, informed me that it was made in the same wok as the normal rice, and to be safe, she gave me a side of white rice! All 30 minutes before closing on a Friday night! This dish was amazing! Fresh, crisp veggies, and she even fried the tofu so it wasn't mushy. Needless to say I fell in love with this place.

On my first morning in Birmingham, I was ready to hit the streets. I dropped G.I. Joe off at drill, and I loaded my destination into the GPS — The Golden Temple Vegetarian Cafe.

I arrived 10 minutes early, only to read the sign and see that on Saturday, they don't open til 10 a.m. It was only 7:50 a.m.! So back to the hotel I go for a bit.

Normally, on Saturday mornings, I go to the Memphis Farmers Market. Since I was in a new city, I figured I might as well check out Birmingham's farmers market.

Let me tell you, the Jefferson County Farmers Market was like stepping back in a time in a good way! This market reminded me of the Scott Street Market we had in Memphis. It had everything I remembered from my childhood visits with my grandma, right down to the pea huller!

Being a good granddaughter, I bought everything my grandma would have bought, right down to the Chow Chow!

I headed back to The Golden Temple Cafe to try breakfast once again. This time they were open! As soon as I walked in, I was instantly in love. There is a book section! No Cookin' Crunk, but plenty of books. They have a small frozen food section, as well as shelf goods. Then I rounded the corner, and they have CLOTHES! LOVE that this place is a one-stop shop! Then I remembered I came here to eat. So I ventured to the cafe side and looked over the menu. I'm told they don't start food service until 11:30 on Saturday, so I ordered a smoothie from their build-your-own smoothie menu. I choose Mango, Pineapple and Peaches with Almond Milk, and for an extra $1.50, I added Perfect Food Powder.

With more than an hour to burn, I hit the streets of Five Points just to see the sights. Then I went back to the cafe to eat. I decided on the Golden Temple Salad and the soup of the day, Vegan Black Bean Chili.

Now this was the king of salads. It was huge! It was loaded with lettuce, spinach, black olives, cucumber, tomato, guacamole, hummus and cheese. Of course, I asked for Dayia. I am not a lover of beans, but this chili made me change my mind. It was spicy, loaded with black beans, and even had the beef-flavored veggie protein that they sell in the cafe store.

I still had a few hours to burn before picking up G.I. Joe, so I headed to the winery. Yes, Birmingham has a winery! The Vizzini Winery is a family-owned winery right off of I-65. They gave a short tour and even had a tasting. I decided on the Alabama Red, and it did not disappoint.

After a little poolside reading at the hotel, I headed to pick up G.I. Joe from drill so we could go to dinner. I was looking forward to Bottletree Cafe because it was a mostly VEGAN BAR! Again walking in, I fell in love with this bar, because on the projector screen, they were showing my favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz! There was no sound, but that didn't matter. I know the lines by heart and happily recited them aloud.

This bar is great. It has a ton of vintage memorabilia, and they even have a shelf of board games! So G.I. Joe and I picked one to play while waiting on dinner.

When ordering, my goal was to eat like Bianca. She calls me the "healthy vegan," and she is the "deep fried vegan." To start, we ordered chips and salsa and beer.

Yes, even though my soul wanted wine, I picked a beer. I went with a draft because we wanted to taste the local brews. G. I. Joe chose Good People Bearded Lady. It is a summer wheat ale, too bitter for my taste, but he liked it. I decided on Bells Oberon, which is an orange wheat. It tasted like a Corona, so I asked for a lime, and I was happy.

For dinner, I decided on the Spicy Thai Burger. This black bean burger was topped with a spicy soy and ginger sauce, sriracha sauce, jalapenos, and cliantro. Spicy and filling. G.I. Joe decided on the "meaty" The Real Deal, which he raved about with every bite. Needless to say, we both left full and happy. Just a note — Bottletree is also a music venue on Saturday night, so check the website to make sure there is not a cover.

Sunday afternoon, we hit the road back Memphis. I batted my eyes, and asked G.I. Joe if we can stop back at China Buffet. And because I am a princess, he does. Again, I ask for Chow Mei Fun, and sadly, they still are out. So I settle on Veggie Chow Mein with Tofu. But guess what I find in my container when I open it? CHOW MEI FUN!

They made it just for me! They also gave me a side of fried rice WITHOUT eggs. They remembered! Needless to say, every time I go through New Albany, I will stop here.