Thursday, May 24, 2018

Caramelized Vidalia Onion, Mushroom, & Black Bean Tacos

I few weeks ago, I came home from work to find a mysterious box on my front porch. I often receive vegan treats in the mail, but they're usually in small packages. This one was large enough to hold a small dog. I ripped it open to find this!

A box of Vidalia onions! Of course I knew they were coming. A rep from a Vidalia onion supplier had emailed me asking if I wanted some for recipe development. But I'd forgotten, so this was a fun surprise!

Vidalia onions are in season now, and they're only around for spring and summer. Did you know they can only be grown in 20 South Georgia counties and only hand planted/harvested? Fun facts!

I've used these sweet onions in a number of recipes throughout my Engine 2 oil-free challenge, but I wanted to share with you one special recipe that I'm particularly proud of. I made these Caramelized Vidalia Onion, Mushroom, & Black Bean Tacos without any oil! And they taste as decadent as something you'd eat in a restaurant.

You see, you don't need oil to caramelize onions. You can do it with water and non-stick skillet. The key is starting with a water saute until that water is absorbed, and then you continue to cook and stir the onions as they brown in the dry skillet. Once you add the chopped mushrooms, they'll rehydrate the skillet with their natural juices as they cook.

This recipe is also low-sodium, but you can add salt (or buy beans with added salt) if that's not your thing.

Here's the recipe!

Caramelized Vidalia Onion, Mushroom, & Black Bean Tacos
Yields 8 tacos

1 Vidalia onion, cut into thin half-moon slices
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 14-oz. can no salt added black beans
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
8 corn tortillas, warmed until pliable
8 Tbsp. salsa
1 avocado, sliced
Lettuce, shredded
Tomato, diced
Hot sauce, to taste

Put the onion slices and a couple tablespoons of water in a non-stick skillet, and turn the heat to medium-high. Saute until water absorbs and then continue to saute in a dry skillet for about 8-10 minutes or until onions brown and caramelize.

Add the mushrooms and saute another 5-7 minutes. The mushrooms will brown in the dry skillet at first, but they'll eventually make their own liquid. If you find the mixture to be too dry though, add a tablespoon or two of water.

Add the black beans, nooch, and spices, and cook until beans are heated through.

Spoon onto tortillas and top with avocado, salsa, lettuce, tomato, and hot sauce. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Engine 2 Food Journal, Day 10

I'm almost done with my 2 weeks on Engine 2! I've been following this oil-free, low-salt, low-sugar plan pretty well, but I've made plenty of room for treats and dining out. And that's because, going forward, I'd like to make most of my home meals as Engine 2-friendly as possible because I definitely feel best when I'm eating less oil. But I also don't want to deny myself sweets and plant meats and vegan cheeses when I want them.

Yesterday started off with another neighborhood walk/run (yay! my foot feels great right now!) followed by a healthy breakfast of Oats with Fruit, Flax Seed, and Almond Butter. Ahhhh, almond butter. So glad this stuff is so good for me!

Morning snack was more Texas Armadillo Tater Tots (aka baked red potatoes in hummus) from The Engine 2 Cookbook. And then lunch was leftover Black Bean Soup as seen in yesterday's post.

But then came afternoon snack time, and well, I wanted ice cream. So I had some! I work upstairs from Area 51 Ice Cream in Crosstown Concourse. They always have a vegan sorbet on the menu, and this week's offering was Sweet Tea Sorbet. I'd walked past the ice cream counter so many times and couldn't stop thinking about that sorbet. So I got some!

This was REALLY sweet, just like my mama's homemade sweet tea. I'm not used to so much sugar, so I definitely felt it. But it was worth it.

Dinner was my favorite Engine 2 meal so far! I made the Beer Biscuits and True Grit Gravy, both from The Engine 2 Cookbook. I mean, beer biscuits y'all!

These are whole wheat drop biscuits with a little beer for flavor, and they're topped with an oil-free gravy made with mushrooms and sweet onions. So very, very good. God, I love biscuits and gravy. On the side, I steamed some asparagus and only lighted salted it. Yummy!

By the way, I had half a beer can left after making the biscuits, so I had to drink it! Love this Crosstown Brewing Co. Traffic IPA. Locally brewed in the neighborhood where I live and work.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Engine 2 Food Journal, Days 8-9

Catching up on what I ate Sunday and Monday on Engine 2! My Sunday morning started with a Folded Chickpea Omelet from The Engine 2 Cookbook. This is essentially pudla — chickpea flour pancake — stuffed with oil-free, sauteed mushrooms, spinach, and onions and topped with tomato, salsa, and avocado. So good! I'd eat this again and again.

My friend Andy asked me to help him cook for his church on Sunday. Not my thing, but I owe him for all the pet-sitting he does for me. I made vegan pigs in blankets and some of my vegan pimiento cheese (from Cookin' Crunk). Neither would be Engine 2-approved, but I snacked on those things anyway as we prepped the food.

Then my parents came over Sunday afternoon for a late Mother's Day dinner since they were out of town on actual Mother's Day. My dad brought some Seva Foods Space Ice Kream that he ordered me. It's cashew and coconut milk-based vegan freeze-dried ice cream! Fun! I tried this, which I would think is pretty healthy since it's just made with coconut milk, vanilla, and cashews.

Then we went to Genghis Grill for dinner. My parents love this build-your-own stir-fry chain! I tried to assemble the healthiest thing I could. I ordered a small bowl since that's plenty for a serving. I added tofu and every vegetable I could fit in, and for my grain, I picked brown rice. I chose the Sweet & Sour Sauce because it's one of only a couple sauces there made without HFCS. Still has a lot of sugar and sodium though! 

After my parents left, Paul and I went to our friend David's house and had a few beers (Memphis Made Fireside) on his back porch. So other than breakfast, I didn't follow Engine 2 that closely on Sunday.

But I made up for it on Monday! The day started with Savory Oats from The Engine 2 Cookbook — oats with nooch, mushrooms, spinach, sundried tomatoes, and turmeric. Mmmmmm.

Morning snack was Roasted Cashews. I had a meeting that ran very long, so I snacked on these until I could get to some real lunch. 

I'd intended to go home to eat lunch, but since my meeting ran long, I didn't have time. Luckily, I work in a building filled with vegan food options. I chose the healthiest meal I could find — Superfood Salad from Farm Burger. This has kale, dried cranberries, pecans, beets, nooch, and tahini dressing. The salad is only lightly dressed though and doesn't seem oily at all. By the way, Farm Burger now carries the Impossible Burger! So I'll be back for that VERY soon. It was a little hard to order a kale salad when the Impossible was an option.

Afternoon snack was Bell Pepper Slices with Oil-Free Hummus.

And finally dinner! Dinner was so amazing. I made the Snappy Black Bean Soup from The Engine 2 Cookbook. This soup has a base of pureed black beans and lentils, and it's just fantastic. There's a whole cup of salsa in the recipe, which adds awesome flavor with no need for added salt. It has also has fresh-squeezed OJ for a touch of citrus. I made some oil-free tortilla chips to crumble on top using corn tortillas cooked in the air fryer. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Green Goddess Popcorn & Tea Lounge

Memphis is home to a new all-vegan business! Green Goddess Popcorn & Tea Lounge at 3078 Summer Avenue opened for business this past weekend. This awesome little shop is exactly what it sounds like. You hang out, eat popcorn, and drink tea. Plus, they also sell fresh-based vegan pastries!

Green Goddess has been around as a popcorn company for quite some time. For the past 10 years, Owner Omi Ogunwale El has run Green Goddess Gourmet Vegan Foods — makers of the most amazing vegan flavored popcorns, which are sold at Memphis Whole Foods, Cash Saver, and Super Lo stores, plus Whole Foods in Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Atlanta. But now Green Goddess has their own brick-and-mortar, and they've vastly expanded their popcorn flavor options.

I took a little break from my Engine 2 meal plan on Saturday to enjoy some treats at the grand opening. Susan and I split a bowl of the Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn (vegan parm of course!).

You can order a small, medium, or large bowl to enjoy at the lounge. Or you can get a one-pound bag of any flavor to go. They've added a bunch of new flavors, like vegan ranch and vegan butter. You can also buy the sealed bags of the same popcorn they sell in other stores. I got a bag of Garlic & Herb for my friend Mike, and since it was grand opening day, they handed out some free bags of Cinnamon Twist (it has dark chocolate and dried apples mixed in!).

We got to try several flavors of popcorn and teas since they were handing out free samples! The teas can be ordered by the cup or by the pot.

In addition to popcorn and tea, they also have VEGAN PASTRIES, y'all!!! In this case, there were cinnamon rolls, brownies, and little mini banana bread loaves.

I got a Cinnamon Roll because go big or go home, am I right? This was soft and buttery, but it didn't taste overly sweet, which was nice since I've adjusted to less sugar over the past few weeks of eating Engine 2 meals.

Here are some more interior shots.

Super excited about this concept, and I can't wait to become a regular. Popcorn is seriously in my top five favorite foods, and no one does popcorn like Green Goddess. It's so flavorful! 

Green Goddess Popcorn & Tea Lounge is located at 3078 Summer in Memphis, Tennessee.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Engine 2 Food Journal, Days 5-7

Still doing this Engine 2 thing! But I'm definitely not being super strict about it. I'd like to make this oil-free, low-salt diet my normal way of eating day to day, and I think allowing myself non-Engine 2 treats will make the whole way of eating more sustainable going forward.

Thursday morning started with a little walk-run through my neighborhood. Yes, that's right! Run! Only for a minute like five times, but still, it's progress. I've had a stress fracture in my left foot since April 7, when I sustained the injury on a 20-mile training run. It hasn't given me any issues in a couple weeks, so I thought I'd try a little running. And it's okay! I'm gonna get back into running slowly though. I do have a 5K next weekend, and I'm hoping to at least be able to walk-run that.

Anyway, after my run, I had some Oatmeal with Walnuts, Blueberries, Strawberries, and Flax Seeds.

Morning snack was more Carrots with Roots Oil-Free Hummus (it's much tastier than the Engine 2 hummus!).

I went to yoga at Y in my building over the lunch hour, and then popped into Mama Gaia for some takeout to bring back to my desk. This Cena Bowl (quinoa, mushrooms, asparagus) and Side Salad was not oil-free, and that's okay. I don't expect to be able to eat oil-free when dining out. 

I never visit Mama Gaia without grabbing a Raw Vegan Brownie. Pretty sure this is made with dates, coconut oil, cocoa, and walnuts. They're really good! Again, not Engine 2-approved since there's oil in it, but that's okay. I halved this and shared with my co-worker Madelyn, who is also doing Engine 2.

Dinner Thursday night was another Engine 2 Pinto Habanero Burger on Sprouted Grain with Air-fried French Fries. The "fries" were oil-free and lightly salted. I even made my own sugar-free ketchup by thinning out some salt-free tomato paste.

Friday morning started with another bowl of Rip's Big Bowl Cereal with fresh fruit and oat milk. No picture because I've shown y'all plenty of cereal pics.

Morning snack was popcorn! This is 365 brand low-sodium, low-fat popcorn. It does have some oil but less than most bagged popcorn.

I had more leftover Split Pea Potato Soup over Brown Rice and Salad with Cashew Ranch for lunch. I froze a bunch of this soup a couple weeks ago when I was doing the Engine 2 7-day Rescue. No pics of that either because I've taken so many of that soup.

Dinner on Friday night was Chick & Salad from The Engine 2 Cookbook. This is a chickpea chicken salad with a base of oil-free hummus instead of mayo. Very good! It's loaded with veggies and fruit too — cabbage, onion, celery, carrots, dried apricots, and raisins. I had it on sprouted grain bread with steamed kale on the side.

Saturday morning started with more Green Hornet Toast — avocado toast with mashed black beans, salsa, and sriracha. Very good! I had that before yoga.

And then after yoga, I met my friend Susan at Green Goddess Popcorn & Tea Lounge — a new all-vegan shop at 3078 Summer Avenue. I'll do a full post about Green Goddess tomorrow (and I'll save my pics from there for that), but just know that I had a cinnamon roll and a bowl of vegan rosemary parm popcorn. No shame.

Dinner was more Chick & Salad but over salad greens dressed with cashew ranch this time.

Saturday night, my friend Andy hosted a birthday party for our friend Mike. I knew there would be non-Engine 2 snacks there, so I brought an appetizer from The Engine 2 Cookbook to encourage healthy snacking for me. These are the Texas Armadillo Tater Tots, which look weird but are actually really tasty. They're baby red potatoes coated in oil-free hummus and baked. The hummus gets all crispy on the outside. Very good with ketchup!

I did snack on those, but I also had a couple more decadent things — like Mike's homemade Chex Mix and Andy's French Onion Dip (made with onions, Just Mayo, and Tofutti Cream Cheese). I probably ate more dip than I should have, but it was DELICIOUS! I also drank a couple vodka-La Criox cocktails (my new fave).

Fun weekend! I'll be back tomorrow with a Green Goddess popcorn post, and then we'll resume this food diary thing. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Engine 2 Food Journal, Day 4

And here we are 4 days in to Engine 2 (after a 7-day stricter Rescue Diet version last week). I'm really enjoying this oil-free, low-salt, low-sugar plan, y'all. I will say that I'm not being super strict with the rules, and I'm surely eating/drinking a few things that Engine 2 guru Rip Esselstyn would not (hello, beer!), but everything else I'm eating is super healthy, so I feel pretty balanced when I indulge.

Yesterday (day 4) started with half a Peanut Butter Cookie Larabar before my 5:30 am (!!!) spinning class at the Y in Crosstown Concourse. Nuts are allowed on Engine 2, and this is probably the healthiest bar out there since it's just nuts and dates. As you can see, Maynard was sad that I didn't share.

After spinning, I came home to another bowl of Rip's Big Bowl Triple Berry Walnut Cereal with Oat Milk, plus added blueberries and banana. Love this cereal!!

Lunch was leftover Split Pea Potato Soup from the 7-Day Rescue Diet last week. I made a lot, so I froze a couple portions. I had it over brown rice, and I had a salad with cashew ranch on the side.

I go to yoga at my downtown gym (Envision Memphis) on Wednesday nights at 6:15 pm, so I need a hearty snack to power me through since dinner is super-late. I had my last slice of oil-free Badass Banana Bread with Cashew Butter. Mmmmm, cashew butter.

After yoga, I came home and whipped up some quick Black Bean, Mushroom, & Caramelized Onion Tacos with avocado, salsa, lettuce, and tomato. Plus, Steamed Broccoli on the side.

These tacos were so good, and I promise you'd never know they were oil-free unless you asked. I made these with Vidalia onions that were sent me to for review (yep, a whole box of onions!). So I plan to post the recipe very soon (maybe next week) in a whole post devoted to onions!

I've got a fun weekend planned, and there will be some beer and non-Engine 2 snacking happening, but I'm going to try to practice moderation (something I'm not great at). We'll see how it goes!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Engine 2 Food Journal, Day 3

I finished my third day on the regular Engine 2 plan (after kicking off with the Engine 2 7-Day Rescue). Loving this oil-free, low-salt, low-sugar way of eating! My energy level is awesome. And my digestion is on fire! I started yesterday with Green Hornet Toast from The Engine 2 Cookbook — a full-color, hardcover cookbook companion to Rip Esselstyn's other Engine books.

Yes, this is avocado toast! YAY! On the 7-Day Rescue, avocados were allowed but just in smaller amounts. But regular Engine 2 allows for more avocados, nuts and seeds, and other whole foods-based fats (no oils though). This avo toast was made extra awesome with smashed salt-free black beans and tomatillo-mango salsa. Plus, I added some sriracha, which I think makes a great salt sub. It has sodium, sure, but in the past I would have added salt and sriracha.

Morning snack was Grapes, Strawberries, and Blueberries.

Lunch was a leftover Tofu Teriyaki Bowl from The Engine 2 Cookbook. Brown rice, baked sesame teriyaki tofu, steamed broccoli, and sriracha. So perfect!

I had spinning class at the Y in my building at 5:30 pm, so I snacked on some more Badass Banana Bread with Raw Almond Butter. This oil-free bread is from The Engine 2 Cookbook, and despite the lack of moistness that you'd get with oil, it's still really tasty. It's hard to describe the texture. It's not dry. Just not moist. Like, it's soft but not greasy. Anyway, very good with almond butter.

After class, I looked out the windows of Crosstown Concourse, and it was POURING. I'd walked to work that morning, and there was no way I could walk home in that. So while I waited, I hit up So Nuts & Confections, our building's nut roastery, because they were having a BOGO sale. They have all kinds of seasoned nuts and candies, and I was tempted to get some high-salt or high-sugar snacks, but instead, I got Raw Walnuts and Roasted Cashews. Both healthier options! I was proud of myself. When my transaction there was done, the rain had let up, so I snacked on nuts on the walk home.

Dinner was a frozen Engine 2 Pinto Habanero Burger on a Sprouted Grain Bun. I topped it was tomatillo-mango salsa, tomato, and lettuce. And I had a salad with Rip's Favorite Ranch (a cashew-herb ranch) from The Engine 2 Cookbook on the side. Y'all these burgers were goooooood! They had a bean and rice base, so they were on the squishier side. But I like a squishy burger when it's bean-based. The habanero flavor really came through, and they were spicy enough for my liking (I'm not usually impressed by habanero flavored things, never hot enough!).

Yay for awesome meals!!