Imagine Vegan Cafe

I’m way behind on posting this, but while I was in Memphis for the St. Jude Marathon weekend, I was finally able to check out this awesome little restaurant that I’ve heard so much about.  It’s located in a cute little renovated home in the Cooper-Young neighborhood.  I loved the quaint, personal feel to the place.

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This was only the second time I’ve been to an all-vegan restaurant.  I’m so used to having to carefully read the menu and ask for modifications… it was so refreshing to have a whole menu full of stuff to order!

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This was printed on the front of the menu.  Sums it up!  An herbie’s dream come true!

After scouring the menu for a long time because EVERYTHING sounded amazing, I decided on the buffalo chicken sandwich.  Because if buffalo anything is an option, I’m almost always gonna take it.  It was reeeeeally, really tasty!  As was the slaw and ranch(? bleu cheese?) dip for the sammich.

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But my favorite part of the meal came as an impulse buy at the counter as I was paying when I left.  VEGAN. CHESS. BAR.

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Dear sweet baby Jesus, that thing was delicious.  And HUGE!  It took me all day to eat that thing, but by golly I did it.  haha I nibbled on it the entire drive home and polished it off after dinner that night.  Hey, don’t judge.  I’d run 13 miles.  I’d earned it.  I’m a little too far away for this to be a place I’d make a special trip back to, but it’s nice to know it’s there when I find myself back in that area!

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Food For Thought X: My Plant-Based Thanksgiving!

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This is my second year of being the only herbivore at Thanksgiving.  The first two years, I was vegetarian, so that was pretty easy.  Pass up the turkey and the ham, and you’ve got yourself a vegetarian Thanksgiving.  But after I went totally plant-based, most of the Thanksgiving dishes we’d always served were off limits.  Deviled eggs, hashbrown casserole, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, potato salad, and the list goes on.  So for the past couple of years, I’ve found veganized versions of some these things, and y’all, I don’t feel deprived one tiny bit.

We went to my parents’ house this year.  There were only six of us there, but MAN, you should have seen the spread.  I brought everything you see above, and my mom made all of their meat, a few vegetable sides, and all the desserts.  I feel like I kind of get the raw end of the deal here… I bring all this vegan stuff to share with everyone else, but they don’t have to share their meat and dairy-laden stuff with me!  haha  Although in the interest of full disclosure, I did cheat and have a piece of very much nonvegan chocolate chess pie.  I never claimed to be perfect.

So what did I bring?  Since I didn’t get a chance to get to Nashville (the nearest place that sells vegetarian roasts), I just made a hippie loaf as my main dish with golden gravy to smother it with.  This is seriously the best brown gravy ever.  The dressing was just plain old cornbread dressing, which is easily veganized from any recipe you might find just by using substitutes for the egg and milk in the cornbread and by using No-Chicken broth when you’re putting the dressing together.  The green beans are just plain ol’ green beans with a little no-beef broth powder and garlic added while they were simmering, and the turnip greens just had a splash of white vinegar and quite a bit of cayenne pepper.  The sweet potato casserole is my signature dish.  Everyone has asked me for years to bring this stuff, and no one batted an eye when I veganized it last year.  I don’t have a link to the recipe as it’s one I just have typed up and saved, so I’ll add the recipe to the bottom of this post.  The only new-to-me recipe I tried this Thanksgiving was Cookin’ Crunk’s Deviled Tofu Bites.  They were AMAZING.  It was remarkable how much they tasted like deviled eggs.  These will definitely be a new holiday staple!

Sweet Potato Casserole:

  • 4-1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance, melted
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg equivalent of Ener-G egg replacer
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup Earth Balance, melted
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400.  Grease an 8 x 8 glass baking dish.  In a food processor, mix together mashed sweet potatoes, 1/2 cup Earth Balance, almond milk, sugar, vanilla, and egg replacer.  (I have to do this in two rounds because it won’t all fit in my food processor.)  Spread mixture into dish.  In a small bowl, mix brown sugar and flour, then mix in the other 1/3 cup of Earth Balance until mixture is crumbly, then mix in pecans.  Sprinkle pecan mixture over the sweet potatoes.  Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the pecan topping is golden brown.

Tuesday Tidbits – The “New Stuff” Edition

  • New ‘do!  I used to play with the color and change it up quite often, but I’ve been the same plain brown for a few years now, only varying the shade slightly with the season.  I was totally ready for a change.  Something a little funky!  We darkened the color and added some red streaks.  I love it!

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  • “New” outfits!  I’m trying to keep the shopping to a minimum for my winter wardrobe, so I’ve been trying to put together new outfits out of what I already have in my closet.  I threw this one together last weekend and thought it was super cute–a dressy lacy tank top from Ross with an army green American Eagle button up with Michael Kors skinny jeans and knee boots.  I love putting together things that don’t really match.

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  • New restaurant!  Going out to eat as a vegetarian was no problem, but since going fully plant-based a couple of years ago I’ve found it more challenging.  I’ve been saying this whole time that I wish we had more options in this area, and then I very recently found out that there’s a vegan restaurant called Living Well only about a half-hour from here!  (They call themselves a “vegetarian” restaurant, but the owner said the only non-vegan thing under their roof was honey and that was only on-hand for people who ask for it with their tea.)  It’s been there for THREE YEARS, and I’m just now finding out about it?!  I went last weekend, and I hate myself for not knowing about it sooner.  It was AMAZING!!!  And SO CHEAP!  I had a salad, appetizer (tofu balls), and entree (roti), and my bill was $13.  I will be going back every chance I get.
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I had never heard of roti, but it was delicious!
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That salad dressing was to DIE for. I could have drunk it right out of the bowl.
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Roti
  • Off topic for a second…On my way home from the restaurant I passed this and had to stop to take a picture.  I thought it was simply beautiful.  The “southern snow” went on as far as the eye could see.

11-9-2014 - Cotton field

  •  New beer!  I went to pick up some more of my favorite seasonal beer, Blackstone Brewery’s pumpkin ale, a few days ago, and this one caught my eye too.  After Leinenkugel’s fall brew flops, I was a little skeptical, but I had to try it.  It’s greatt!

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  • New iPod!  My several-year-old shuffle has been gimping along on its last leg for my last few runs.  It’s getting hard to get it to come on and even harder to make it stay on.  I can’t stand running without music (it’s dangerous to leave me and my thoughts alone together for too long haha), so I knew I’d best be procuring backup.  I know these things are pretty cheesy and old school, but if I’m gonna fall and break something or let something get ruined by rain or any of that other stuff that’s likely to happen on a run, I’d much rather it be an iPod that I bought on eBay for $40 than my Samsung phone!

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Food For Thought IX

I feel like I should put a little disclaimer out here.  Since I’ve renamed and migrated this blog, I’ve picked up a few new foodie followers.  To you guys, I say… unless you’re here to laugh at me, you’re sure to be sorely disappointed!  haha  I am not a foodie.  I am not a food blogger.  I am definitely not a chef!  I’m a decent cook if you give me a recipe though.  I can follow the shit out of a recipe.  This “Food for Thought” series is just that–me cooking my way through some of my plant-based cookbooks and sharing the good and the bad.

Swedish Meatballs from Happy Herbivore Abroad – I really have mixed feelings about this one.  The gravy was perfect, but all the recipe used for the “meatball” was cubed tempeh.  For me, the flavor of the tempeh completely overpowered the flavor of the gravy.  It took a LOT of gravy to compete with the tempeh.  I love tempeh, but its flavor was just a little too strong and out of place here.  This gravy would be fantastic with a different vegan Swedish meatball though.

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Migas from Happy Herbivore Abroad – Not a fan.  At all.  It’s similar to a tofu scramble but very bland.  The recipe suggested serving it with a side of refried beans and salsa, but I ended up mixing the salsa in with the migas just to give it a little flavor.  Won’t be making this one again.

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Mongolian BBQ from Chloe’s Kitchen (full recipe in link, and I use this recipe to make the hoisin sauce rather than using store-bought) – This stuff is the shit.  Absolutely perfect.  It isn’t a new-to-me recipe, but I haven’t made it in a long time for no other reason than I can’t buy seitan around here.  (It’s funny…I used to find seitan but not tempeh, and now I can find tempeh but not seitan.)  But I had a couple of baggies of seitan left in the freezer from when I made the roast a few weeks ago.  Chloe gets two thumbs up and a pat on the ass for this one.

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Cheesy Burger Mac from Cookin’ Crunk – Back in my pre-herbie days, before I knew anything at all about nutrition, I ate more Hamburger Helper than I care to admit.  Hey, it was quick, it was cheap, and it required no culinary skill.  Right down this busy, broke kid’s alley.  Somewhere along the way, I saw the light and realized what shit it was and started finding from-scratch versions of my favorites.  Then I stopped eating animal products, which all those dishes were laden with, and so I hadn’t made a Hamburger Helper-ish dish in quite a long time.  Until I made Bianca’s Cheesy Burger Mac!  This really was good, y’all.  It had such a satisfying junk food feel to it.  haha  I either made too much sauce or not enough noodles and “beef,” so the sauce completely smothered everything, but that was perfectly fine by me.  I’ll definitely be coming back to this one, and next time I’ll make sure I have some vegan bacon bits on hand to go with it!!!  (And file this one under the TMI category, but the quinoa shells gave me terrible gas!!!  haha  At least I assume that’s what it was as that’s the only thing I’d never tried before!)

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With a side of slow-simmered kale with Tabasco sauce–oh yeah!

 

Three Things Thursday

1.   My poor C.C… I had to take her to the groomer Monday.  I know, I know… who takes a cat to the groomer, right?  Well, trust me, you would have too.  I’m still not real sure what she did or how she did it, but over the weekend, she got some of her litter clumped in the fur around her … ummmm… lady parts.  I cleaned her as best I could, but I just couldn’t get it all.  She wasn’t very cooperative for me, and bless her heart she’s old and can’t really clean herself anymore, so she was no help.  The groomer bathed her and still had to shave some out.  She was none too happy about it, but it HAD to be done!

She haaaaaaaates riding!
You will pay for this, servant.

2.   I found this at the grocery Tuesday!  I had seen online that they were releasing it and was excited to try it.  I was shocked to find it here so soon.  This little po-dunk town is waaaaaaay behind the times when it comes to plant-based options.

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3.   I had a dinner-and-a-movie date with my sister Monday night!  We checked out a new (well, it opened in the spring, but I hadn’t been there yet) Japanese joint here in town called Miso.  She had some kind of raw fish sushi shit, and I had a veggie/tofu entree.  We both really liked our food.  I’d definitely go back!  Then we drove a couple of towns over to a theater where Annabelle was playing.  (They’ve already taken it down here–WTF?!)  That is one creepy-ass doll.

Have you ever given a cat a bath?  C.C. is 15 years old and this is her first one.

What’s your favorite non-dairy milk?

Do you like scary movies?  I love ’em!  We’re going back to see Ouija when it opens.

CSA: Weeks 8 and 9

Foreword:  For those of you just joining the party, this summer I joined an organic CSA (which stands for community-supported agriculture).  For 20 weeks, I’ll get a share of the farm’s crops.  If the crops do well, we get more.  If the crops don’t do well, our baskets suffer along with the farmers.  I’ve been documenting this experience here.

BLOGGER FAIL.  I did not take a picture of the week 8 haul.  You see, when I went to take it out of my truck, I dropped it and produce went rolling every-freaking-where.  So by the time I finished picking up blueberries and tomatillos out of my driveway and mourning the loss of three busted heirlooms, I was pretty over it.

The heat really affected the yield this week.  There wasn’t a lot, and some of what we did get was pretty sad looking.  There were tomatoes, some PITIFUL broccoli, cucumber, tomatillos, eggplant, blueberries, sweet peppers, potatoes, okra (LOTS of okra), and… wait for it… yes, MORE CABBAGE.  I’m two heads behind on my cabbage now.  It’s the only thing I can’t keep up with!

This was by far the most interesting thing in the basket this week:

I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a white eggplant!  Although it does just make good sense.  It definitely looks more like an egg than the purple ones.  Who ever heard of a purple egg anyway?  Except at Easter…

Friday night, I wanted pizza.  So I stuck my head in the fridge and started pulling out anything I thought could go on one.  Onion, banana peppers, CSA bell peppers, CSA jalapenos, black olives, CSA broccoli, spinach, CSA tomatoes (was able to salvage one of the busted ones), mushrooms, and Daiya “cheese” on a whole wheat crust did the trick!

And then this week I found what has quickly become my favorite web site.  Have you ever heard of supercook.com?  Yeah, I hadn’t either.  I don’t even remember how I came across it, but I sure as hell am glad I did.  I’ve been using the “In My Bar” feature on webtender.com for a long time and have always said that there needed to be a food version of that.  Well, that’s what supercook is!  You enter the ingredients that you have on-hand in your kitchen, and it tells you all the recipes that you can make from what you already have.  How cool is that???  Now maybe I’ll actually use up some of the stuff in my cupboards.  I am bad about buying something that I need for one recipe.  Now I can use this to find other things to make with that stuff!  After you enter in everything you have, you can click on any one or any combination of those things to narrow it down to recipes using only those things.  Monday night I used it to find a recipe for the eggplant and squash that I had in my fridge and were quickly approaching their toss date.  This was the first thing that came up.  BAM.  There you have it.  Dinner!

Mine doesn’t look as pretty as the picture on the recipe, but I’m super lazy when it comes to chopping stuff.  Quarter-inch cubes quickly become one-inch chunks when it’s left up to me.  The recipe suggested serving it with a bread, but the whole point of this was to use stuff I had on hand.  Well, I had whole wheat tortillas, so it kind of became a ratatouille burrito.  Mexico meets the Middle East.  Whatever.  It was frickin’ delicious.  The cinnamon was what made this dish.

We went to my in-laws’ for a cookout on the 4th, so that was a good excuse to make cole slaw again.

One head of cabbage used, bringing me down to two heads left!  Thank God this stuff keeps in the fridge.

And I also unloaded quite a few potatoes I had accumulated at the cookout.  I just tossed them with olive oil, rosemary, and thyme, wrapped them in foil, and put them on the grill for about half an hour.  YUM.

Potatoes pre-grill.  I kind of doubt my in-laws are up on the whole “taking pictures of your food for a blog” thing, so I refrained from taking pictures of the grilled potatoes to save myself from a lot of explaining and teasing.

Since we had so much okra this week, when the farm sent out their weekly email, they included recipes of what to do with it.  I’m all, ‘WHY???”  I like my okra RAW.  I’ve had quite a bit of it so far in the baskets, and I don’t think I have cooked any of it (except for tossing some in a marinara once).  It’s the perfect snack food just by itself

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Week 9:  Green beans, onions, jalapeno, okra, heirloom tomato, gold potatoes, eggplant, tomatillos, and red and green onions
She told us last week that we would have blackberries this week, but at pickup she told us that the blackberry bushes were toast.  They were able to get a few off of them, but that was it.  A few people had some in their baskets, but I didn’t.  Bummer.  But we did get a few new things this week!  We switched from new and red potatoes to gold; I finally got a couple of onions (some others have had them in their baskets in previous weeks, but they haven’t had enough to go around for everyone, so it was hit and miss with those); and the green beans came in!  I was really happy to see those.  I loooooove fresh green beans!  Since I knew I wouldn’t be cooking any over the weekend, I blanched and froze them for later.
Again, all the okra was eaten raw.  I’d love to learn to pickle that stuff someday, but for now, raw it is.

I hadn’t used last week’s tomatillos yet, so I had quite a few of those to use this week.  I used last week’s to make salsa verde.  It was fan-freaking-tastic.  I swear I got a little Mexican in me somewhere.  (Unrelated tidbit:  My dad’s half-sister’s mom is Mexican.)

On the left:  Salsa verde simmering.  On the right:  sauteed spinach, baby arugula, tomatoes, onions, and bell pepper (no oil–sauteed in their own juices) topped with Tofutti and served with salsa verde and avocado.

And since I still had a second week’s worth of tomatillos in the fridge, I made this chili again.

I went a little heavy on the chipotle peppers this time.  WHEW!  But that’s just the way I like it!  If you’re not sniffling when you eat it, your chili isn’t hot enough.
As much as I’m loving the tomatillos, they sure are a pain in the ass to work with.  Sticky little fuckers.  But the payoff is so worth it…

Tuesday Tidbits

  • This is my 300th post.  Please hold your applause.  Mostly because you would look a little challenged sitting alone at your desk clapping.  On second thought, go ahead.  Your coworkers could probably use a giggle.
  • We have baby bluebirds on our porch!
  • This photo was taken last week.  Not last fall.  All those leaves you see on the ground?  Yeah, that’s because everything here is dying or already dead from lack of rain.  We got a little rain a couple of days after this photo was taken, but I’m afraid the damage is already done.  Poor farmers.
  • Remember Mimi from the Drew Carey Show?  If she has a Mini Me, I saw her at Walmart Sunday.  The sad thing is it was a CHILD, no more than 8 years old, and her mother let her leave the house looking that way.  If it wasn’t so sad, it would have been hilarious.  
  • We saw the movie Ted Saturday night.  It’s been a long damn time since I’ve seen a movie that funny!  It was positively hilarious.
  • A new gourmet cupcake shop opened up in town.  I liked their Facebook page and posted to it asking if they had vegan cupcakes.  They replied that they don’t but “hopefully in the future.”  I won’t hold my breath.  This IS Hicksville, after all.  There’s not a huge demand for vegan fare here, so I’ll be shocked if they come through on that.
  • I had THE. WORST. RUN. Sunday morning.  It was 8 miles of sweat and expletives.  Fucking miserable.
  • I just scored a pair of Brooks Ghost 4s for $63.  I guess they’re clearancing them out to make room for the 5s.  I didn’t need the shoes yet.  The 4s I’m running in now only have about 200 miles on them, and I’ll be able to make those last a while longer since I’ve got the Mizunos in rotation now too, but DUDE I couldn’t NOT get them for that price.
  • I did this circuit yesterday after seeing it posted on the 5 Miles Past Empty Facebook page.  Well, I did MOST of that circuit.  My dogs decided they wanted to play, too.  I hate doing mountain climbers.  The dogs, however, thought they were awesome.  Ever tried to do mountain climbers with one dog trying to climb under you and the other licking your face?  I’m just glad they weren’t humping me.

Halfway There Already???? GEEZ! The 2012 Mid-Year Check-In

It is ASTONISHING how quickly this year is flying by.  Scary, really.  Everyone told me this would happen as I got older.  Damned if they weren’t right.

At the beginning of the year, I, like everyone else, set some goals for myself.  Let’s review, shall we?

Non-running:
  • BE HAPPY, DAMNIT!!!  – SUCCESS!  While I still have my moments of stress and just feeling blue (who doesn’t?) I’ve come so far with just being able to deal with it, do what needs to be done, and move on.  This has been the most stressful year at work I’ve ever been through (and it will likely only get worse from here), but I’m managing not to let it consume me.  It’s still a struggle sometimes, but overall I’ll give myself a passing grade on this one.  
  • Continue to decrease dairy and processed foods. – SUCCESS!  Processed foods are pretty much nonexistent in my diet now, the major exceptions being Clif bars and the occasional vegan convenience food like Tofurky.  And I still have a weakness for Fritos.  It could be a lot worse.  And as far as animal products go, a tiny bit of dairy may sneak past me every now and then as an ingredient in something I didn’t make myself, but other than that, I’m DONE with animal products of any kind.
  • Save a higher percentage of our combined salaries. – FAIL.  We just haven’t made this happen.  We’re still saving, but at the same rate.  I want to kick that up a notch or two.

Running

  • Run 1,000 miles. – FAIL.  I was on track for a couple of months, but I’ve fallen behind now.  I ended June with 401.7 miles for the year.  That means I’ll have to average 100-mile months for the remainder of the year.  Doable?  Probably.  Will I make the effort?  Probably not.  (Just being honest here…)
  • Run a sub 2:10 half-marathon. – FAIL.  I was sure I would nail this one at the Shamrock Half in March, but I bonked and ended up running a 2:13:20.  Next opportunity will be in October.
  • Run a sub-27 5K.  –  BOTH?  But mostly fail.  I “officially” ran a 26:31 in February, but the course was short and I don’t count it.  It wouldn’t have been under 27 anyway.  And that’s the only 5K I ran this year.  My 5K split from a 4-mile race in April was 27:11, still 11 seconds short of the goal.  So success for the official record, fail because I personally don’t count it.  Maybe this fall…
  • Run a sub-60 10K – Neither.  I haven’t run a 10K this year.  I was sick the day of the race I planned on running to meet this goal.  Since that’s the only one I know of in this area, I may not get another chance at this one this year.
  • Cross and strength train more. – SUCCESS!  I’ve made use of my spin bike and D’s Bowflex and have done some core work.  Even though I’m calling it a success, I still want to up my game in this area the latter part of the year.  Especially going into marathon training.
So overall not a horrible year.  You win some, you lose some!  And I’ve still got six months to make progress in the areas I’m currently not succeeding in!

CSA Weeks 6 and 7

I’ve always enjoyed eating.  Sometimes too much.  USUALLY too much.  But never have I enjoyed cooking so much.  If anyone had told me I would enjoy this whole CSA experience this much, I’d have thought they were a total fruit loop.  Maybe it’s just because I feel more… I don’t know… involved?  Actually going to the farm to get the food and stuff.  Maybe it’s just because it’s so fresh and flavorful.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been eating 99% vegan so there’s no guilt.  Whatever it is, I’m loving it!
Week 6:  Potatoes, mint, yellow squash, patty pan squash, red and green tomatoes, turnips, cabbage (AGAIN), tomatillos, zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant, chard, and kale.
Tomatillos

I had heard of tomatillos, and maybe I’d even unknowingly eaten them before, but I certainly had never bought them or cooked with them.  I honestly had no idea what to do with them.  I googled, and just about every recipe that came up was some kind of salsa or verde sauce, but then a friend sent me the link to this recipe.  Sounded good to me!  I couldn’t find the chiles in adobo sauce at my regular grocery, so that gave me an excuse to go into that little Mexican grocery in town that I’d never been to.  I had been curious about it but never went in because from the street it looked pretty shady.  Yeah, it was no better on the inside, but they had what I needed so it was all good.

BEST CHILI EVER!!!

I still had beets from the previous week to use up, so I made this beet and berry smoothie again.  This time I added a little bit of agave nectar and it made all the difference in the world.  It was still kinda pulpy, so maybe if I ever make it again I’ll steam the beets first.  Maybe that’ll make them blend a little smoother…

If nothing else, at least it’s pretty!

The chili had a very close runner-up as my favorite meal this week.  Another friend sent me a link to this avocado sauce, and it sounded like it would pair perfectly with “zoodles” (zucchini noodles)!  The sauce was absolutely decadent.  I didn’t use the oil that the recipe called for, and it was a little bit thick, so I just added another splash of lemon juice.  PERFECTION.

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Week 7:  Yellow squash, zucchini, potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, purple sweet peppers, blueberries, cabbage (yes… again… will this stuff ever go out of season???), okra, and jalapenos.  No greens!  😦  It has finally gotten too hot.
The biggest, fattest, juiciest heirloom tomato ever..
The only way to eat an heirloom–on whole wheat with Vegenaise and a slice of cabbage.  Everything comes with a side of cabbage these days.

I really wasn’t feeling very creative this week.  I actually made a lot of repeat stuff.  I had an eggplant/squash marinara again, the zoodles with avocado sauce again, baked potatoes, roasted veggies, salads… basically anything easy simple as I’ve been pretty distracted by life this week.  I did do one new thing this week though!  Mashed turnips!  Made just like mashed taters and OH SO GOOD!  And this isn’t anything new, but I did use some CSA ingredients in it.

Paella primavera:  Best enjoyed on the deck with a Heineken.
I’m 1/3 of the way through our 20 week program, and I’m already dreading it coming to an end!