Monday, September 30, 2013

Vegan Cuts Beauty Box

We've talked about the awesome Vegan Cuts snack box, the once-a-month subscription service that delivers samples of yummy vegan goodies to your door, before on this blog. But there's a new Vegan Cuts box in town, and, in my opinion, it's even better. It's the Vegan Cuts Beauty Box!!

You see, I'm a food hoarder. I don't subscribe to any snack boxes (though I'd love to!) because I know my habits. I'll hold on to some of that stuff forever because I have some irrational fear of running out of food (you should see my pantry/freezer/fridge ... trust me, no one is going hungry around here). But sustainable, ethically-made vegan beauty products? I'll use the heck out of those.

Each month, the Vegan Cuts Beauty Box delivers a grab bag of both sample and full-size items. They sent me a box to review. Here's what was inside — four sample bottles of Weleda body lotion (pomegranate, wild rose, citrus, and sea buckthorn), Weleda Refreshing Citrus Body Oil, Manic Panic Pretty in Punk Mix eyeshadow, Beauty Without Cruelty Shampoo, NYL Gentle Sugar Body Polish, and Good Almost Naked Lube.

Love the little Weleda lotions! I'm a chronic hand lotion user since my skin is a desert. And the Weleda body oil and the NYL sugar scrub were godsends for my skin. I'm one of those people who just can't put enough oil on my skin. Oil-free = not for me. On the one hand, it's great because I rarely get zits. But on the other hand, it's not uncommon to literally see flakes of dry skin falling off my face (gross!). The BWC shampoo was also great! And it's the perfect travel size for my upcoming trip to Atlanta VegFest in November.

But the best part of this box was, hands down, the Manic Panic eyeshadow. I love colored eyeshadow, and I didn't have anything in this shade of blue. Plus, how cool is this '80s cassette case?

Here I am taking Instagram selfies wearing my new eyeshadow.

Alright, this is the part of this post that boys shouldn't read. Inside the box was a card with a coupon code for a free reusable pantyliner from Glad Rags! Being the eco-friendly girl that I am, I've always wanted to try reusable lady products. But I was scared to spring for a whole set of Glad Rags when I didn't know for sure if I'd like them (they do offer a money-back guarantee if you're not happy though). But this free liner is a chance to try these babies on and see how they do. It arrived in the mail today! If I love this, I'll order more!

The Vegan Cuts Beauty Box is $19.95 per month (with free shipping in the U.S.!). Click here for more info on how to subscribe.

Full disclosure: I'm a Vegan Cuts Ambassador, meaning I promote this awesome vegan discount and box subscription service on my blog through ads (on the right side of my page) and occasional products reviews. Vegan Cuts is the only vegan company that I have a regular affiliation with, but it's an awesome mom-and-pop run by some awesome vegan friends.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gettin' Crunk on the TV News

Bright 'n' early on Saturday morning (6:45 a.m.!), I was on Fox-13's Good Morning Memphis mixin' up my Eggless Tofu Olive Salad from Cookin' Crunk with morning show host Wendy Nations. Okay, technically I wasn't mixing anything up at 6:45 on Saturday. The segment was pre-recorded around 10:30 a.m. on Friday to air on Saturday's show. I had the option of doing a live segment, but being up that early on a Saturday is tough.

Here's a screenshot. The full clip is at the bottom of this post.

Anyway, the producer had asked me to come in and talk about approachable vegan options, and she suggested that it'd be even better if I could demo something while I was being interviewed. I won't pass up any opportunity to promote veganism to the mainstream, so of course I said yes! A couple days later, the producer emailed back to let me know that host Wendy Nations was vegan too!

How cool! I've done cooking segments on morning shows before (one other time on Fox and another time on the local CBS affiliate) but never with a vegan host. Wendy told me, before we began filming, that she went vegan in February after a short vegan and gluten-free cleanse left her feeling better than ever.

Anyway, here's the full clip. It's only three minutes! And you get to see me make a blooper. I totally spilled red onions all over the counter. Oops!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Earth Balance Giveaway!

It's time for a giveaway! And I guess this is what you'd call a sponsored post. I don't typically do those. Sure, I get free stuff to review sometimes. But those are review posts, and I'm free to express my opinion — like or dislike — about a product.

But there's not much I don't like about Earth Balance. It's the vegan answer to margarine, and as a lady who used to eat dairy margarine by the stick (yes, my Granny let me do that when my parents weren't around), I truly appreciate having a delicious, non-hydrogenated, and widely available vegan alternative. So when Earth Balance contacted me about hosting a giveaway during Mofo, I happily obliged.  

At the end of this post, just leave a comment (and an email address) about how you love to use Earth Balance spreads and I'll randomly select a few winners next Tuesday for some Earth Balance free product coupons.

But first I'm including one of my recipes from Cookin' Crunk: Eatin' Vegan in the Dirty South that I like to use a very specific Earth Balance product in. The Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread is awesome in both savory and sweet applications. My omni boyfriend Paul just eats it plain by the spoonful. I wouldn't recommend that, but it's great on toast with nooch, used in stir-fries, melted over mashed potatoes. Or you can try it in my Granny's recipe for Old-Fashioned Coconut Pie from my cookbook.

Old-Fashioned Coconut Pie
Yields one 9-inch pie (6 to 8 slices)

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons Ener-G Egg Replacer powder + 1/3 cup soymilk
6 tablespoons Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread, softened
1/2 cup soymilk
1 1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut (divided into 1 cup and 1/2 cup)
1 single pie crust, uncooked

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Stir together the sugar, flour, and sea salt in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Whisk together the egg replacer and 1/3 cup of the soymilk in another large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the margarine and beat until margarine is creamy. Add the 1/2 cup of soymilk and beat until everything is incorporated. Pour the flour mixture into the mixing bowl and beat until just combined.

Use a spoon to fold in 1 cup of the shredded coconut. Transfer the filling into the uncooked pie crust. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded coconut. Bake for 1 hour.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Leslie's Birthday Potluck

 This is my friend Leslie.

She invented the Magical Traveling Vegan Potluck, which moves from friend's house to friend's house each month. It died for a time when someone dropped the ball and didn't host their potluck (you know who you are, coughSHAYcough). But Leslie picked the ball back up in August and re-launched the potluck at her house. Well, since her birthday is in September, she decided to host this month's potluck there again.

We had a mostly Indian feast since Leslie LOVES Indian fare (and does an amazing job cooking it). She made these Samosas and chutneys from scratch!

And since she had the fryer going, she also made my favorite Indian dish, Vada!!

And hell, why not fry up some Papadum while you're at it, Leslie? I adore this crispy fried gram flour Indian snack, especially dipped in coconut chutney!

I brought a crock full of Chana Masala from The Vegan Table.

Vaughan brought an interesting dish of Lentils with Dried Cranberries.

And Cassi made homemade Vegan Dumplings! These were super tasty.

Greg brought his usual — Tofu Nuggets. He gets requests for these at every potluck, so he can never bring anything different. My friend Greg makes the most amazing breaded and fried chicken-flavored tofu nuggets!

Nick brought a dish of Lady Peas with Squash and Smoked Paprika. Lovely end-of-summer treat. Lady peas are so expensive that I rarely shell out the dough for them. Glad Nick did.

Oh, and let's not forget the non-brown dish at the table. Leslie made a lovely Berry and Almond Salad. Sadly (for my waistline), I filled my plate with lots of fried goodness and only a smidge of salad.

Oh, and then there was cake!! Stephanie (Poopie Bitch on the PPK) of Swell Baked Goods made two cake treats for Leslie's birthday. She brought Fauxstess Cupcakes (and yes, there is cream in the middle)!

And since Leslie attempts to eat gluten-free when possible, Stephanie made a Lavender and Jasmine Gluten-Free Birthday Cake!

After we stuffed our faces, Leslie (a trained herbalist) taught us how to combine herbs at this build-your-own tea station. I made black tea blends and a few tisanes that I plan to drink iced since I'm not a fan of hot tea.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Vegan Cheat Sheet

I wish I'd had a book like The Vegan Cheat Sheet when I went vegan in 2004. I learned most of what I know about veganism from cobbling together information from various books and blogs and being a creepy lurker on the Post Punk Kitchen forums.

But The Vegan Cheat Sheet by Amy Cramer and Lisa McComsey puts all that stuff into one pocket-sized (okay, maybe for a slightly oversized pocket) guide. They devote a chapter to debunking vegan myths (i.e. going vegan is expensive, vegans are weird). They provide a list of common animal ingredients to watch out for. They talk about where to get your vitamins and minerals. The break down how to cook just about every whole grain there is. There are travel tips for eating vegan on the road, and there's even a guide to vegan options at fast food and chain restaurants.

They even provide a 21-day meal plan using a combination of recipes from the book and suggestions for what to order when dining out. My only issue with the meal plan though is that it doesn't seem to account for leftovers if you're doing the vegan thing solo. But if you have family and you're sharing food, the plan could work for you.

And of course, there are plenty of recipes! There are simple, three-step recipes for newbie vegans who don't care to spend much time in the kitchen. And there are menu plans for vegan parties (Latin fiestas, SuperBowl parties, Mother's Day, Thanksgiving, etc.).

I opted for one of the recipes from the "No-Brainer" chapter — the BBQ Kale Over Sweet Potato.

When I saw "BBQ" and "kale" together, I knew I had to try this. It isn't BBQ in the traditional sense though. This recipe uses canned vegan baked beans for the 'cue part, and those are mixed with black beans, kale, red and yellow peppers, and fresh corn. It's all simmered in a pot together. Then you can serve it over a baked sweet potato or a bowl of polenta. Delicious and simple.

This recipe, like all the recipes in the book, is oil-free. Cramer and McComsey subscribe to the Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn school of thought on oils, which is that there's no such thing as "heart-healthy oil." I'm not a big fan of that theory. I'm no nutritionist though, so who knows? But I like to use olive and coconut oils in my cooking, and I'm not afraid to straight-up deep fry some shit. But oil isn't needed in every recipe, especially if you're looking to lose weight. I certainly didn't miss oil in this kale dish.

Overall, this is an awesome book. It's definitely going on my recommended list of gifts for my newbie vegan friends!

On an unrelated note, one of my fellow Memphians has written and illustrated a beautiful children's book about eating plants called The Unpopular Pea (& Carrot). It's all about teaching kids to stick to natural foods and avoid processed and sugary stuff like doughnuts, soda, and candy bars. Author/illustrator Elle Valentine is taking pre-orders for her book on her website. Check it out!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Autumnal Eats

Sorry I failed to post last night. I spent the weekend in Nashville attending the Tennessee Equality Project's (an LGBT equality advocacy group) Olympus gala, where I received a Champion of Equality award for my work as an LGBT beat reporter at the Memphis Flyer. And then we visited with Paul's family (they all live in Middle Tenn), and of course, I squeezed in a trip to Nashville's vegetarian restaurant, The Wild Cow!

Anyway, yesterday was the first day of fall! And I spent much of it barbecuing with Paul's family and driving home to Memphis in his car. So I didn't have time for a proper Mabon celebration. Mabon is another name for the Autumn Equinox, when we celebrate the second harvest as the earth turns inward and prepares for the long winter ahead. Basically, it's time to accept the fact that summer fun times are over, but pumpkin soups, bonfires, and apple cider are coming!

I spend all summer dreading fall. I hate the cold, even the sorta cold. I shiver when it's 70 degrees outside. But when that equinox hits, I know I have no choice but to suck it up and embrace autumn. Besides, fall is the time of my birthday, Halloween, and Thanksgiving — my three favorite holidays (in that order!).

Anyway, enough blabbering. I made a few special meals today to celebrate Mabon. For breakfast, I had these Harvest Morning Muffins.

These are whole-wheat muffins with grated carrots and apples. Very fall. And very tasty with a cold glass of almond-coconut milk and a banana. Here's the recipe (you have to scroll down). It's not vegan as written, but I subbed Ener-G egg replacer powder for the 3 eggs in the recipe.

I can't tell you about lunch yet, because I'm saving that for a review post tomorrow. But it involved a sweet potato, so it was seasonally appropriate.

Dinner was extra special. I did a little ritual honoring the changing of the seasons, lit some candles, and set out the new yellow mums I bought today. Mums are so autumn. I made Curried Pumpkin Soup.

 And Spicy Hummus with Pita.

The soup was creamy and simple — just pureed pumpkin, almond-coconut milk, onion, garlic, curry powder, and veggie stock. It's from a recipe I found online and printed out years ago, but I can't seem to find it now to link.

And the hummus was very different from what I usually make (here's the recipe, but you'll have to scroll down past some other recipes). Instead of tahini, it called for peanut butter! And you know what? I think I like that better. Tahini is great and all, but peanut butter is the bomb (can I even say something is the "bomb" anymore?). The hummus also has a chopped cayenne pepper from my front yard garden. Oh, and I picked the pita up from my favorite Middle Eastern joint, Al-Rayan. They have the softest, fluffiest pita.

But you can't let a holiday pass without dessert and booze, right? I picked up a Cream Cheese Brownie from Imagine Vegan Cafe to enjoy with this Bridgeport Witch Hunt Ale. The spiced ale had hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, and isn't "Witch Hunt" the cutest name for a fall beer ever?

Happy Autumn, y'all!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Memphis Vegan Dishcrawl!

Have y'all heard about Dishcrawl? You might have one in your city! Or if you're a Memphis reader, we have one right here! It's like a pub crawl but with gourmet food. Dishcrawl Memphis has events all the time. There's a soul food crawl and a taco crawl coming up, and they've had all sorts of other themes set in different neighborhoods around town.

But last night, they had a Cooper-Young Vegan Dishcrawl! Cooper-Young is an artsy, walkable community in Midtown (and it's home to our best vegan restaurant, Imagine Vegan Cafe). Our Dishcrawl ambassador Kim invited me to come along, and of course I answered with an emphatic "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

The night began at Imagine, where Kristie (owner/cook) served up hefty sample plates of a few of their most popular dishes — Beef Tips Over Rice, Gumbo, and Eggplant Parm.

Of course, that's faux beef, and the eggplant is topped with vegan cheese sauce. At Imagine, I sat at a table with some nice omnivore couples, who said this was their first experience with vegan dining. They all seemed very impressed with Imagine's offerings! But we all got pretty stuffed, thanks to Kristie's generous plates of food.

But we had to find room for more because there were three more stops on the crawl! Next, we walked down to the very corner of Cooper Street and Young Avenue for a meal at the new-and-improved Cafe Ole — Cactus Fries with Adobo Sauce, Chickpea Tacos, and Citrus Stuffed Avocado.

Everything on this plate was just out of this world. Cafe Ole is an old Midtown Tex-Mex joint that, over the years, hasn't exactly been known for having the best food. Great margaritas! But the food was just meh. But the place was recently sold to new owners, and they've hired a chef who is shaking things up. These vegan dishes aren't on the menu yet, but I hope he adds these, especially those tacos!

Next was Ink Lounge. This is a fairly new restaurant in the old Melange/Dish/Cortona space (the spot has been a million things over the years). I don't think they're particularly vegan-friendly normally, but they made us a special meal — Red Quinoa and Radish Salad, Sweet Potato Fries with Mushroom Sauce, and Tofu Caprese.

I was quite thankful for the small portions by this point because, as you might imagine, I was stuffed! My tablemates, none of whom were vegans as far as I know, seemed to really love the Tofu Caprese. The tofu was marinated in a balsamic vinegar, and it was heavenly. The cherry tomatoes and basil were so fresh. One lady commented that she'd been meaning to try quinoa, so this was her first time.

Finally, we ended the night back where we started — Imagine Vegan Cafe. That's because they offer the best vegan desserts in town! My friend Stephanie (and no, I'm not biased ... her stuff is just amazing) bakes Imagine's desserts through her Swell Baked Goods company. She made us Chocolate Pie with Raspberry Coulis.

OMG! Definitely my favorite course of the night. Tender crust, rich creamy chocolate, soy whip, and a tart raspberry sauce. I was definitely way too full for this, but that didn't stop be from downing the whole slice while I chatted with my tablemates (one vegetarian and one omni) about Orange Is the New Black.

This event was so much fun! I'm so thankful that a non-vegan group would organize a vegan dishcrawl, and I loved seeing all the omnivores really enjoy their meat-free meals.

Here's the Dishcrawl website to see the list of future events for Memphis. Or non-Memphians can search by city to see if there's a group in your area.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

No Moo Crisps

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm trying to squeeze in all my ice cream posts before summer's end in a few days. But as I said in Monday's Tofutti ice cream post, ice cream should really be for all seasons. But when fall comes around, food blogs are supposed to be all pumpkin, pumpkin, squash, pumpkin! So I'll conform, just this one time.

But it's still summer for now! It was at least 90 degrees in Memphis today. Not very almost fall-like and thus perfect for a cool bowl of (sorta melty cause I like it that way) ice cream.

That there is Coconut Bliss Maca Chocolate Ice Cream. Tasty stuff. But this post isn't actually about coconut cream. It's about those crispy waffle bits on top. They're called No Moo Crisps, and I was sent a few packages to review. Basically, they're lightly sweetened, crisp waffle cone bits. Tasty on their own or atop another dessert, like ice cream.

Problem is, my No Moo Crisp samples were all broken to bits when they arrived (thanks a lot, US Postal Service!). The fine folks who make No Moo Crisps packaged them alright with padding and such, but the postman must have squished the entire box because the outside packaging was all dented in. Maybe he was having a bad day and took it out on my package.

But I digress. The crisps, despite being broken, were just right for topping ice cream. But here's what they look like when the postman doesn't stomp on your box.

This fine picture is borrowed from the No Moo Crisps website, and these are Hot Chocolate Covered Crisps. They come in a variety of flavors — plain, hot chocolate, peppermint chocolate, chocolate chips, and cinnamon kiss. The samples they sent included some chocolate-dipped crisps, and of course, those were my very fave.

Anyway, this is a small vegan company, so check them out! End of summer, be damned. I'm sure the cinnamon ones would be delightful topper for a pumpkin mousse.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Vegan Drinks, Part 3

It's the third month for Memphis Vegan Drinks, and we're having more fun than ever. Each month, we gather for happy hour at a different vegan-friendly bar. Tonight, we went to Slider Inn, a motorcycle-themed slider joint with good beer and three vegan tiny burger options.

Here's the group, minus a few stragglers who arrived later.

We even had a couple of awesome service dogs in attendance! Slider Inn has a dog-friendly patio. The server even gave them water bowls!

I started with a High Cotton Oolong Tea, a pale ale brewed with oolong tea! High Cotton is a new Memphis brewery.

A few people ordered cocktails. John had a lovely looking Margarita.

I had the Falafel Sliders — falafel patties, black bean hummus, cucumber, tomato, and sprouts (hold the yogurt sauce). They're served with the world's best fries. They use just a touch of sugar in their salty seasoning, and they taste a little like McDonald's fries (which are not vegan, by the way).

A few people got the Vegan Triple B Sliders — black bean, brown rice, and beet sliders with avocado. I've had these before, and they're really awesome.

I didn't get a picture, but a few people ordered the Veggae-Reggae (caramelized onions, mushrooms, and avocado on a bun ... make sure you ask them to leave off the cheese).

I finished out the night with a Wiseacre Tiny Bomb, a locally brewed pils from Wiseacre Brewery on Broad Avenue. Memphis has gone from having one local craft brewery last year to four this year!!


Monday, September 16, 2013

I Scream For Ice Cream Bars!

Summer may be over in a few days (sadness), but that doesn't mean we have to give up ice cream, y'all! Ice cream is for all seasons!

Tofutti sent me some samples of their ice cream bars to try before summer's end. But honestly, despite the official changing of the seasons this weekend, it will feel like summer in Memphis until at least early- to mid-November (goddess bless the south). And even when it's finally frosty outside, the inside of my house will be a toasty 75 to 78 degrees. I like it hot.

They sent the Hooray! Horray! Crispy Crunch Bars and the Chocolate Covered Flowers.

I'd never tried the Hooray bars, but I was excited to see that they are stevia-sweetened. I mean, they're practically guilt-free, right? A creamy vanilla ice cream is coated in dark chocolate and crispy bits. Yum.

I did sample the Chocolate Covered Flowers a few years back, and I really love these too. I'm not always crazy about flower-flavored foods. But the flower essences in these bars are really subtle, and since the ice cream is pink and covered in chocolate, it almost seems berry-like in flavor. Placebo? Probably. But delicious nonetheless. (Yes, I was in my car when I ate this one).

Can we just talk about Tofutti ice cream for a sec? When I first went vegan in 2004, Tofutti was the only brand of ice cream I could find at my local health food store, Square Foods (RIP Square Foods). It was so creamy, and I honestly loved it so much more than I ever loved dairy ice cream. But then all these newfangled ice creams came out — coconut milk ice cream, rice cream, raw nut-based ice creams, almond ice cream. And I've spent years eating those, and I've let my precious Tofutti fall by the wayside.

But these bars reminded me why I loved Tofutti ice cream from day one. It is, hands down, the creamiest vegan ice cream out there. The tubs of Tofutti are hard to find around here, but Cuties and ice cream bars are available at Whole Foods. And my favorite vegan restaurant, Imagine Vegan Cafe, uses Tofutti in their milkshakes and banana splits!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Perfect Protein Salad

There are some dishes that just make me feel so connected the vegans who came at least a generation or two before me. You know, that super 1960s and 1970s vegan food? The stuff people ate before Daiya cheese and Beyond Meat?

I'm talking about stuff like nut loaves, carob, nutritional yeast crepes, and all manner of whole beans and grains. One such dish is a long-time standard of mine — Perfect Protein Salad from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.

I had hoped to spend much of Mofo recreating a few recipes that I cooked the most when I first went vegan and only had a handful of dishes under my belt. But Mofo is halfway gone, and this is the first such post about an old standby. But I've been making this soybean and wheat berry dish since at least 2005 or 2006.

It's from the famous Moosewood vegetarian cookbook, written and published by Mollie Katzen in 1977. I got this book as a gift in college, when I was a vegetarian but not a vegan. The book isn't vegan, but many of the recipes include vegan instructions. For example, this recipe calls for cottage cheese, but Mollie suggests subbing out crumbled tofu. I also used vegan mayo for this. That's mixed with crunchy soybeans, chewy wheat berries, cucumbers, scallions, carrots, and dill.

In the recipe's intro, Mollie mentions making this one day when soybeans and wheat berries were the only foods in the pantry. How '70s vegan! Right?

Anyway, I love this dish so much. It's so cool and crisp and perfect for these last few dying days of summer. Because the book is not mine, I don't feel comfortable reprinting the recipe, but you can find an adapted version (that isn't vegan, but you know what to do) on The Parsley Thief blog.