Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Roasted Red Pepper Penne Alla Vodka (+ what we're reading now)

We have dinner pretty late at night sometimes, especially on the weekends -- one of us, a photographer, has a crazy schedule that rarely fits into normal weekday hours. So it's nice to come home to a meal that we can share, even if it's after 9 or 10 p.m. And if we're hanging out at the table that late, the main dish is probably going to be pasta. That way, whoever is at home can relax in the quiet and just read for a while…and then jump up and throw dinner together at the very last minute.

By the way, Jonathan Franzen's essay collection  was a recent excellent find; the very first essay, "Pain Won't Kill You," about how technology unfortunately  (and probably purposely) mirrors love, was originally the 2011 commencement speech at Kenyon College. It is perfectly critical and absolutely true, and you really should read it, too, so we can all chat about it. :)

(Crazily enough, we wrote to Mr. Franzen years ago, and he immediately wrote us back. That was a pretty memorable moment at the mailbox.)

Anyway, for your next post-reading meal, this new TCV recipe is our take on traditional penne alla vodka. We just work some more vegetables into the mix and add a ton of flavor. Sometimes we confit peeled garlic in olive oil in the oven and crush a few more cloves on top, and sometimes there are rolls; also, our Southern Caesar Salad would be a good first course if there's time to make it.

Roasted Red Pepper Penne Alla Vodka

No-Peel Roasted Red Peppers (recipe follows)
3 tablespoons olive oil (more to garnish)
1 medium onion (diced)
1 medium carrot (peeled and finely grated)
4 cloves garlic (crushed)
1/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup vodka
1 28-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes (divided)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
1 box penne pasta
Romano cheese (to garnish)

Make the No-Peel Roasted Red Peppers according to the recipe and set aside.

 Into a large skillet, pour the olive oil and bring it to medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and carrot and stir occasionally until browned. Lower heat to a simmer, add cream and vodka, and stir. Add half of the fire-roasted tomatoes to the pan. Add sugar, red pepper flakes, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally. Blend the cooled red peppers with the other half of the fire-roasted tomatoes and add it to the sauce to complete it. Keep the sauce warm until ready to serve.

Put the water for the pasta on to boil and cook penne according to package directions. Drain pasta and coat it with a tablespoon or so of pasta water and a splash of olive oil. Mix it and serve in bowls. Ladle the red pepper vodka sauce on top of the pasta and top with Romano cheese.

No-Peel Roasted Red Peppers

2 large red bell peppers
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roughly chop the red peppers, coat them in olive oil, and add salt and pepper to taste. Spread peppers onto a parchment-lined sheet and bake for 30 minutes until the edges have darkened. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Soup Sunday in Memphis on Sunday, Jan. 29 + a sweepstakes featuring 4 tickets to the event (and TCV's ringing the dinner bell IRL!)

** This sweepstakes has ended. Congratulations, Jane Hopper, you are the winner! Your tickets will be at the ticket window at the FedEx Forum, so you can pick them up the day of the event. Just leave us a comment if you have any questions. Thanks to everyone for participating, and we'll see you at Soup Sunday! **

We're so excited to partner with Youth Villages, a non-profit organization that helps children and their families live successfully by restoring a supportive family system. Today, we want to tell you about the Youth Villages Soup Sunday fundraiser. This year's event is on Sunday, January 29th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the FedEx Forum. (Click HERE to purchase tickets.) 
Amy and I are honored to have been asked to ring the dinner bell at the opening ceremony this year alongside Youth Villages CEO Pat Lawler. (BTW, we cannot wait to see this bell for ourselves. We are beside ourselves and are going to do our best to do this bell-ringing thing right! This is going to be a new experience, y'all. Bring on the bell!)

For the past 28 years, Soup Sunday has offered a chance for Memphians to come together and feast on creative soups from nearly 50 of Memphis's best-known restaurants. This year's participants, who are graciously volunteering their time and talents, include Amerigo, The Peabody, Huey's, Kooky Canuck, Hard Rock Café, Bardog, Babalu, Rizzo's Diner, Cafe Olé, and Say Cheese food truck. (Click HERE for a full list.) In addition to amazing soups, some participating restaurants may also offer appetizers, cornbread, cheese biscuits, and, of course, dessert. 

There will be several vegetarian options including pimento cheese from Hope Church, Apple Kiwi Kale Smoothies from Smoothie King, and Creamy Tomato Basil Soup from Stone Soup Café and Market. We also see some hints of our favorite vegetarian dishes on the list like doughnuts, ice cream, bundt cake, and coffee. We can't imagine you'd go home hungry.  

 The Soup Sunday event has raised over a million dollars for Youth Villages and their programs. To celebrate, Youth Villages has given us a family pack of tickets (2 adults and 2 children) to this year's Soup Sunday so that a TCV reader can go for free. To enter, comment on this very Soup Sunday post before January 26th at 10 p.m. and tell us about your favorite soup. That's it! We moderate comments, so don't worry, we will post them a few times a day. (See the official rules below for more details). Check back with The Chubby Vegetarian blog on Friday, January 27th to see if you won. We'll leave your tickets at the ticket window at the FedEx Forum so you can pick them up the day of the event. Good luck -- and we'll see you at Youth Villages Soup Sunday!
Official rules: No purchase necessary. The Chubby Vegetarian Soup Sunday Sweepstakes is sponsored by The Chubby Vegetarian blog. The featured prize is a package of 4 passes (2 adult, 2 kids) to the Youth Villages Soup Sunday event to be held in Memphis, Tennessee on Jan. 29, 2017; approximate retail value of the set of 4 tickets is $60. Winner is responsible for reporting the value of his/her prize where required. No other prize or compensation is included. Enter by commenting on this TCV Soup Sunday post and tell us about your favorite soup. Eligibility requirements: entrants must be 18 years of age or over and reside in the U.S. Duration: sweepstakes starts at 6 p.m. CST on Jan. 24, 2017 and ends at 10 p.m. on Jan. 26, 2017. Deadline to enter is 10 p.m. on Jan 26, 2017. Open to individual U.S. residents aged 18 and older only; void where prohibited by law. The number of eligible entries received will determine the odds of winning. Only one comment per person will be considered; duplicate entries from the same entrant will be deleted. Winners will be selected by random number generator by 11 p.m. on Jan. 26, 2017 and announced by 10 a.m. on Jan. 27, 2017. If the prize is forfeited or unclaimed by 10 a.m. on Jan. 28, 2017, another entrant will be chosen by random number generator at that time and announced by 8 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2017. Tickets will be held under winner's name at the ticket desk on the day of the event unless other arrangements are made prior to the event. If technical issues require postponement of the selection of a winning entrant, an update will be posted on this blog post with updated information and deadlines. Winning entrant is responsible for paying any taxes related to the prize(s). TCV has the right to obtain and publicize the winner's name and likeness as well as require winner to sign a liability release. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Foxy BBQ Sandwich at City Silo in East Memphis

If there's one thing we love, it's a good collaboration. Over the past few months, we worked with our buddies Scott Tashie and Will Byrd of City Silo in East Memphis to create a brand-new TCV-inspired sandwich. It's called the Foxy BBQ Sandwich. (Get it? Inspired by Justin Fox Burks!) The Foxy BBQ is just one of the amazing new things on the City Silo menu, which includes tons of vegan and gluten-free options in addition to the fresh-pressed juice that you always ordered at Cosmic Coconut.

You know you love the TCV Mushroom Debris Po Boy at Kelly English's restaurant The Second Line, so now you can have the Foxy BBQ for lunch and the TCV Debris for dinner. (Breakfast is still up to you…but hey, if anyone's up for working with us on a TCV option for that, just let us know!)

Our recipe for the 'meat' of City Silo's dish is in our second cookbook, The Chubby Vegetarian. It's a variation of our Pulled BBQ Spaghetti Squash and our Spaghetti Squash Ribs, and some Purple Cabbage Slaw goes on top. We wanted to make something different from our usual Italian-style Stuffed Spaghetti Squash; we thought there had to be a variation that would work well.

So if you want to know even more, check out today's video from Michael Donahue of The Commercial Appeal HERE; you can watch Will make the sandwich and then hear Scott talk about how it all came about.

We got to be among the first to try the Foxy BBQ at a menu preview lunch at City Silo over the holidays, and we absolutely loved it along with all the other dishes and the inventive, healthy lattes and juices. Please let us know if you try this new Memphis spot or if you plan to order our new sandwich this week!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

TCV Visits Oxford, Mississippi

We usually go out of town for like one night and just go non-stop for the day before and after. That's relaxation around here, at a crazy pace as usual. We've written about our time in NYC for fun and for our time at the James Beard HouseLittle Rock and P. Allen Smith's Moss Mountain FarmColumbia, MS, and Valentine's Day in Oxford one year.

One place we're always visiting is Mississippi, the state where both of us were born. Sometimes, we go for the quiet and to help do a little work in the family garden. We saw this amazing person perform there in November; we always go to Jackson and stop by High Noon; we finally went to Water Valley one Valentine's Day weekend; and we really love Oxford, which is a little over an hour away from Memphis. North Mississippi also has this now, which we can never resist, and it's right there on the way.

There's always so much to do in Oxford. Memphis chef Kelly English has a second Second Line in Oxford now! And if you've never been, you must go to at least one of John Currence's restaurants. (His new cookbook, Big Bad Breakfast, is so good.)

For New Years 2017, we wanted to check out some new places we'd never been. But our first stop in the rain in Oxford was a mainstay, the absolutely amazing Square Books, and then we ran over to Off Square Books when we remembered that's where the cookbooks are. We spotted The Chubby Vegetarian and got to sign the couple of copies they had left. (Found this new vegetable cookbook there, too.)

We'd heard about The Graduate Hotel, and they had a New Year's Eve package that included little themed gifts and breakfast, so we finally decided to go. The deal seems to be that they just make everything as simple and effortless as possible, so nothing is a big deal. And it's adorable. Every design detail is so smart and knowing with an original point of view.

We were set to go to dinner at Ravine, which is further outside of the square. Due to providing food photography a little while ago, we had a credit at Ravine, and we can't wait to go back and stay at the inn. The NYE menu there consisted of an amuse-bouche, 4 courses, wine pairing, and lime sorbet somewhere in-between. The vegetarian option included a first dish of roasted beet, goat cheese, and olive tapenade and then came local mushrooms and manchego on grilled ciabatta toast. The main dish was farro risotto with butternut squash, kale, and a fried egg. We also had a pear tart and chocolate cake.

Ravine was packed and festive, and owners Chef Joel Miller and his wife Cori are so fun to be around and talk to. (Read a story Justin and Pam worked on about the inn and restaurant here.)

It was still Christmastime in Oxford, so when we got back to the square, we walked all around and looked at the lights and the big tree, people-watched, window-shopped, and also checked out the pizza oven at Saint Leo.

We had breakfast, apple oatmeal, biscuits, home fries, and an egg-white and vegetable frittata, at Cabin 82 in the hotel and walked outside for a bit in the morning. We noticed pimento cheese and crackers front and center and ready to go at the gas station across the way.

All of this was the best way to put 2016 away and start something sure to be even better in 2017. If you haven't been to Oxford lately, we think you would love it just as much as we do!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year! A Vegetarian Guide to Black-Eyed Peas, Cornbread, and Greens for January 1, 2017

We're so ready for the arrival of 2017 on Sunday, and we're happy to close out the holiday season well, finish up 2016 in style, and enjoy the brand-new start! One of the best things about this past year was the November release of our second cookbook, The Chubby Vegetarian (Susan Schadt Press, 2016). Getting the chance to share how we cook during the week was such an awesome opportunity after sharing all of our homegrown favorites in The Southern Vegetarian (Thomas Nelson, 2013). After being encouraged throughout this year to create more videos for our You Tube channel, if only to provide a steady stream of TCV entertainment to family members who love this sort of thing, we have taken the advice to heart and will be posting more about our recipes in the weeks to come.

So we have some exciting (or are they daunting? maybe the best ones are?) resolutions involving TCV and our health this year. Taking the leap into getting a gym membership and lifting weights the past few days in order to beat the rush back to the gym has been quite a new step. Adding something besides running into the mix has been a goal of ours for a while now, and we have already picked up on the 'push day, pull day, leg day' lingo. We'll see how all of this goes and will report back.

But hey, more importantly, we made sure to pick up some dried black-eyed peas from the bulk section of Whole Foods yesterday and have some fun ideas about how to cook them this weekend. We tend to mix it up and do a different beans, greens, and cornbread dish most years; below are some of our favorites from years past. Maybe these recipes will help you find a fun way to prepare your own good-luck meal come Sunday. We're going to make ours at lunch and then have ramen for dinner, which always sounds like a really good plan.

Hope y'all all have a safe and happy New Year's Eve and a relaxing New Year's Day. We so appreciate you reading here and cooking vegetarian along with us. Looking forward to a wonderful 2017 with all of you!

A Really Good Pot of Black-Eyed Peas

Classic Black-Eyed Peas

Cornbread Crepes and Smoky Black-Eyed Peas

Black-Eyed Pea Burger

Black-Eyed Pea and Collard Greens Quiche

Hoppin' John Black-Eyed Pea Butter

Gluten-Free Cornbread Waffles

Smoked Cheddar and Jalapeño Cornbread

Whitney's Coconut Greens 

TCV Collard Greens

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Vegetarian Christmas Cooking: 20-Minute Tamales, Sea Salt Granola, TCV BBQ Dry Rub, and Hickory Smoked Hot Sauce

Surprise, surprise: we're not that skilled at finding the 'perfect gifts' for everyone. Each year at the height of holiday shopping craziness, it quickly becomes clear that we just need to rely on what we enjoy doing and get to cooking a lot of our gifts. It's rainy and gray here in Memphis this Christmas Eve, and we're going to be in the kitchen for a while today, so here's what we're making!

On Thursday, we were on a late-night hunt for corn husks, and with a little help from the awesome and super-enthusiastic produce guy at the Mendenhall Kroger (our third stop) in East Memphis, we found them on a low shelf and snagged them along with mushrooms, masa, and onions so we could make our 20-minute Tamales

Oh, and Curb Market in Midtown has the best dried peppers, Sparkling River Hickory-Smoked Poblanos, and they unbelievable in tamales, soups, grits, beans -- in anything, really. We bought a bunch for us and some for a few other pepper-obsessed folks we know. 

Versions of our Sea Salt Granola made their way into both of our cookbooks, The Chubby Vegetarian and The Southern Vegetarian. The funny thing is that while we have it as an extra on top of a salad and also a pear dessert in the books, we usually just have it right out of the container as breakfast with yogurt, berries, and honey or a quick snack by itself. (Our cousins gave us a big jar of sorghum this year, and we were thrilled since lately, we often sub it in for brown rice syrup in our granola recipes.)

This week, we also made kind of a Stone Soup-style vegetable-and-pasta soup for friends with kids and included a baguette, parmesan, and our favorite chocolate-covered peanuts so they could have dinner taken care of one night. We need to work on a recipe for vegetable soup for y'all in January when everyone's trying to eat vegetables and be all healthy, but in the meantime, here are a ton of favorite TCV soups we really like. We'll be working on a new white bean soup recipe for Christmas Day along with our usual cornbread. 

For a family party in Mississippi last weekend, we gave everyone TCV BBQ Dry Rub, and we made our Hickory Smoked Hot Sauce for those who've been hinting that they needed another bottle of it. We're excited to work on getting these seasonings available for purchase in 2017, and we'll keep you posted on the process as we figure it all out. 

Y'all, we hope you have a beautiful holiday with the people you love! Please let us know in the comments what you'll be cooking. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Vegan White Chocolate Matcha Hot Chocolate + Dandies Peppermint Mini Marshmallows (in a mini slow cooker!)

We received free marshmallows from Chicago Vegan Foods in exchange for developing this recipe to feature here on TCV. As always, all opinions expressed are our own.

After we asked what was new for the holidays, Dandies sent us a box of vanilla, pumpkin, and peppermint mini marshmallows to try, and it's been a lot of fun to dream up a new way to highlight one of our favorite vegan treats. This festive drink is earthy due to the matcha powder, rich because of the white chocolate, and the peppermint marshmallows add a sweet note to balance everything out. 

We've been big fans of Dandies marshmallows for a while now. They're aren't made with corn syrup or gelatin, and they're non-GMO and kosher, so it's awesome that folks who usually have to avoid marshmallows can enjoy these along with everyone else. They're great to have on hand for topping sweet potato casserole at Thanksgiving, making Brown Rice & Brown Butter Crispy Treats or a pumpkin version, and for stocking a S'Mores Bar outside around the fire pit (or use for Gingersnap Oven S'Mores if it's too dang cold out). 

Dandies are available online, and the vanilla flavor is often on the shelves at Whole Foods in the baking section. We also found peppermint version on sale here and here

(Oh, we also have to mention that we brought out our mini slow cooker for this recipe; we use ours all the time since receiving it a few years ago. A friend brought it to a party with a dip she made already in it and then said, Keep it; that's your gift! We use it all the time now for cooking beans and soup, and it really was a cool thing we didn't know we needed but actually did.)

White Chocolate Matcha Hot Chocolate + Dandies Peppermint Mini Marshmallows

2 1/2 cups milk of your choice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 ounces (about 6 squares) white chocolate 
2 teaspoons matcha powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Maldon sea salt (to taste)
Handful of Dandies peppermint mini-marshamallows

Place milk, maple syrup, white chocolate, matcha, vanilla, and sea salt into your mini-slow cooker and set it on low for an hour or so; whisk the mixture twice during this time so that the chocolate melts. Set the slow cooker on high to further warm for an hour; whisk before serving in mugs. Top with peppermint marshmallows. (Serves 2; recipe can be doubled or tripled if needed). 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Old School Tempeh "Bacon"

So we were talking about tempeh with a new friend at a preview lunch this past Saturday at City Silo in East Memphis.

(We are so excited to see the restaurant in the expanded, former Cosmic Coconut space open in January 2017. It's going to be absolutely amazing! That's all we can say for now. :)

At lunch, during our discussion of one of the dishes, What actually is tempeh? was posed. After explaining the unappealing-sounding truth, that it's whole, fermented soybeans inoculated with a mushroom-like fungus and shaped into a flat, square cake, we talked about how we use it: in stir-fry, raw with sriracha as a snack, and of course, transformed into crispy, sweet, smoky Tempeh "Bacon."

We have about 1,000 recipes on the blog and 200 recipes in our cookbooks, The Southern Vegetarian and The Chubby Vegetarian, but sometimes, we seriously can't believe that we don't have a recipe available for something we've made for years. Meat analogs just aren't the type of thing we promote often, but we do use some of them in our everyday cooking. This homemade fake bacon is begging to be out there in the world and tried out in your kitchen, especially if there are vegetarians in your life who haven't yet found a decent sub for real bacon.

Our Tempeh "Bacon" goes really well with scrambled eggs and another recipe we haven't published, Cinnamon Rolls for Lazy People (crescent roll dough, melted butter, salt, cinnamon, and chopped pecans). It's also perfect on BLTs or as a topping for loaded baked potatoes.

We seem to be on a real breakfast-foods kick lately (see our recent super-easy Cheese Grits recipe below this) since we have a little extra time during the holidays. So, what holiday brunch tradition are you most looking forward to this week?

Old School Tempeh "Bacon"

1 block tempeh
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
3 drops liquid smoke
1 teaspoon champagne vinegar
Cracked black pepper (to taste)

Slice the tempeh longways, about 1/3 to 1/4-inch thickness. Next, cut those slices in half. In a large skillet over high heat, add the sesame oil. Once it shimmers, add the tempeh slices in a single layer. Allow tempeh to cook until browned on one side. Flip the tempeh and continue cooking it. Mix the maple syrup, soy sauce, Worcestershire, liquid smoke, vinegar, and pepper together in a bowl. Pour the mixture over the tempeh and remove the pan from the heat. The sugar from the maple syrup will caramelize on the tempeh, and the liquid will be absorbed. Once this occurs, remove tempeh from the pan and serve alongside your favorite breakfast foods or atop your favorite sandwich. (Makes 4 servings.)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Cheddar Cheese Grits

We love grits for breakfast, not just because we're Southern; we grew up eating them all the time, and they just rock. We had grits-and-egg bowls for weekday breakfast before school and slow-cooker cheese grits for Sunday brunch and holidays. Last weekend, we added a fried egg, melted green onions, and tomato gravy to ours, like in the pic here. A bowl of grits can be anything you want it to be -- even dinner.

This recipe works for white corn grits as well as yellow corn grits, but you have to use grits or polenta, not cornmeal. Unless you want a heaping bowl of mush.

(Can you get grits where you are? We're curious…let us know in the comments.)

Cheddar Cheese Grits

1 cup yellow grits
2 cups whole milk
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup cheddar cheese (shredded or cubed)
5 cloves garlic (smashed, roughly chopped)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
Fried egg (optional)

Place the milk and broth into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the grits and add butter, cheddar, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes. Serve with a fried egg. (Serves 4.)

Monday, December 5, 2016

TCV Cookbook Signing on Saturday, Dec. 10 at The Memphis Farmers Market in Downtown Memphis + an upcoming TCV Cooking Class at Whole Foods this Month

The Memphis Farmers Market's 'Home for the Holidays' event is happening this coming weekend! On Saturday, December 10 from 9:00 to 1:00 p.m., make your way downtown, catch up with all of your market friends, and check out what a bunch of great vendors will have on offer. 

We'll have copies of both of our cookbooks, The Southern Vegetarian and The Chubby Vegetarian, on hand so that folks may purchase a signed and personalized copy for yourself or for a gift for a home cook (vegetarian or…not so much :) that's on your list. So far, it looks like this may very well be our last open-to-the-public Memphis-area signing on the calendar, so please put it on your calendar and stop by and say hey. 

We had a blast meeting people and visiting with friends and family at Whole Foods in East Memphis yesterday afternoon at the Maker Market hosted by the store. Later on in the month on Thursday, December 15 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., we'll be teaching a class at Salud Cooking School in Whole Foods Poplar in East Memphis. Spots are filling up quickly, and we wanted our readers to have first pick! Here's where you register (or call 901.969.4199), and here's the scoop: 


Salud favorite Justin Fox Burks is back and preparing fantastic dishes that are meat-free and full of flavor!  Justin's philosophy is not about replicating meat; it's about moving vegetables from side dish to the center of the plate. Most of all, it's about making delicious food that just happens to be vegetarian. Tonight he will be highlighting recipes from he and his wife Amy Lawrence's latest cookbook, The Chubby Vegetarian, and you'll get a chance to take a copy of the book home. Join us as we show you step-by-step how to make creative vegetarian dishes that everyone can enjoy!

Demonstration - $55.00
MENU: Carrot “Lox” and Pepper Jelly Rangoons; Olive Bar Puttanesca with Cauliflower Chops; Sweet Potato Almandine or Truffled Corn Pudding; White Wine Poached Pears with Pumpkin Seed Granola

Thursday, December 1, 2016

TCV Gift Guide: For Those Who Really Love Coffee

The two of us dream about the next morning's coffee and often discuss it at night: What kind will we make? Do we have the right beans for the French press or espresso? Is there whole milk or cream in the fridge? It's kind of cliché and a little obsessive. Drinking great coffee at home seriously is one of the best parts of the day, though!

Here are the things we can't live without, and maybe you or the people on your gift list will love some of them, too.

Our ceramic Le Creuset French Press is something that's so well-made we haven't been able to break it for two years. (That's a big deal at our house. We tend to use our kitchen items a lot.) It's big and heavy and reliable, and it makes great overnight iced coffee as well as hot.

This All-Clad kettle looks nice on the stove and is sturdy. Its broad base allows for quick heating of water for the French press. It also possesses an extremely loud and clear whistle.

French Truck Coffee is our new favorite. Jimmy knows his coffee, and last week, he told us frankly that as much as we like good food, we really should be using better beans than the ones we were used to. He was right; you should try it, too. (He also told us he prefers this coffee bean grinder. It's on order!) If you're in the Memphis area, you'll find French Truck here.

The Gaggia 'Classic' espresso machine is made by an Italian company, which is a plus since Italians invented the espresso method. It really boils down to one thing when it comes to espresso machines: metal. You can tell that a machine is well-made if its parts are metal. The Gaggia 'Classic' has a metal housing, frothing wand, and basket. This means that the manufacturer didn't cheap out when designing and constructing the machine. The portafilter and group head are made with heavy duty marine-grade brass. This ensures a consistent temperature during the duration of the pull. We did extensive research before buying this machine a few years ago, and while it's more expensive than some machines you'll find, it's a bargain compared to what you could spend for what would actually turn out to be a lesser machine. This is our coffee soulmate!
Once you have an espresso machine, you need the right tools. A stainless steel coffee scoop and coffee tamper are useful accessories that people may not automatically buy for themselves, but they'll happily put them to good use every day.

One of the best gifts we've ever received is the amazing maple syrup that you can order from our friend's dad's place in Vermont, Jacob Brook Farm. One of us here at TCV uses maple syrup as a sweetener in her coffee every day, and this particular kind is the best we've tried. (Oh, and on waffles and pancakes, oh my…)

Let us know your favorite coffee-making items from your house in the comments! Also, we have a few more gift guides in the works for December, so feel free to give us some suggestions for topics. We'd love to help you figure out what might be both thoughtful and worth the money this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

TCV Home Kitchen Renovation

We wanted to share a recent story with y'all about a place that's really important to us: our home kitchen! Style Blueprint did a great job in covering what this room is all about and how it came together. You can read the story and see the photos HERE.

Our friends Walker Uhlhorn and George Uhlhorn of Uhlhorn Brothers Construction graciously took on our project amidst working on a bunch of new builds in the Memphis area. They helped us rethink the two rooms that were damaged by a hidden-under-many-layers-of-old-tile dishwasher leak. Now, we're so happy to cook and hang out in one big room since their guys knocked down a wall for us and rebuilt the kitchen and adjoining dining room.

We both love redesigning spaces. In previous posts, you can see how our kitchen has changed since we've lived in the same 1950's East Memphis house (our first home) for the past 14 years. Here's a spice cabinet re-dopantry re-dothe update before the leak happened, the beginning of the renovation (including a bit of the pretty weird stuff that was hiding behind the walls), and the middle of the reno, including cabinets and woodworking.

If you ever find yourself in the middle of a renovation, planned or completely not, or if you just don't feel like cooking one weeknight, this is the meal for you: Annie's microwave mac and cheese, a can of Amy's chili, Greek yogurt, and sliced avocado. It's quick and it's the best.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ethiopian Vegetable Plate

We love Ethiopian food! Besides being super-delish, it’s very vegetarian-and-vegan-friendly. Most of the dishes highlight a single ingredient that’s been perfectly cooked and spiced to bring out the best of what it has to offer. Our buddy Ermyias Shiberou was kind enough to run it all down for us when we asked how he makes a few of the delicious dishes he serves on the vegetable plate at Blue Nile Ethiopian Kitchen in Memphis. Here are a few of his favorite recipes!

Ethiopian Vegetable Plate

Ethiopian Roasted Beets

Berbere Spiced Split Peas
Sautéed Cabbage with Turmeric
8 very thin slices of whole wheat sourdough bread or injera
Jalapeño  and Rosemary Dressing

Make beets, peas, and cabbage according to the directions below. Serve on slices of sourdough or injera. (Serves 6.) 

Ethiopian Roasted Beets

4 medium red beets
1 medium jalapeño (thinly sliced)

1 tablespoon Jalapeño and Rosemary Dressing (recipe follows)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place beets in a small casserole dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Allow beets to cool completely. Peel skin from the beet by rubbing it with a damp paper towel just as though you're polishing it--the outer skin will rub right off. Slice beets in 1/4-inch cubes. (You should have about 2 cups of cubed beets.) Toss with sliced jalapeño, Jalapeño and Rosemary Dressing, and salt. Set aside in the fridge until ready to serve. (Makes 2 cups.)

Berbere-Spiced Split Peas

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced white onion
1 tablespoon Berbere spice
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup yellow split peas
3 1/2 cups warm water
Kosher salt to taste
1 teaspoon 
Garlic and Ginger Paste (recipe follows)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the olive oil and onion. Cook until the edges of the onion start to brown. Add the Berbere spice and tomato paste. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato paste turns a darker shade of red. This caramelizes the sugar in the tomato paste and gives a deep flavor. (This process should take about 10 minutes.) 

Add the yellow split peas and 1/3 of the water. Stir, raise the temperature to high, and  bring to a boil. Once the pot is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for ten minutes. Once all the water has been absorbed, add another 1/3 of the water, stir, and cook for ten minutes. Add the last of the water and stir. Cook split peas until tender, which will take approximately 10 more minutes. (Makes 3 cups.)


Sautéed Cabbage with Turmeric

1 tablespoon olive oil1 small head cabbage (cored, sliced, about 5 cups)
1 cup onion1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon Garlic and Ginger Paste (recipe follows)

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the oil. Once it starts to shimmer, add the cabbage and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until soft. (This process will take about 10 minutes.) Add the turmeric, salt, and the Garlic and Ginger Paste. Toss to incorporate. Set aside until ready to serve. (Makes 3 cups.) 

Jalapeño  and Rosemary Dressing

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon minced jalapeño
1/4 teaspoon Garlic and Ginger Paste (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

In a small bowl, combine the rosemary, jalapeño, Garlic and Ginger Paste, and olive oil. Whisk together and add salt and pepper to taste. (Makes about 2 tablespoons.)

Garlic and Ginger Paste

6 medium cloves garlic

1-inch piece ginger
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Using a fine microplane, grate the garlic and ginger. Mix paste together in a small bowl along with the salt. (Makes 2 tablespoons.)

Friday, November 25, 2016

TCV at Booksellers at Laurelwood for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 26 at 2 p.m.

We have a ton of love for all our friends who run small businesses across the country! It's so important to support the people who have created jobs for themselves and others. They tirelessly share their expertise and vision with their community and bring unique events and, of course, some really great stuff to their towns and cities. We think small business owners all need our support not only during the holiday shopping season, but on a regular basis.

So to show our support for Small Business Saturday, we'll be hanging out with the folks at Booksellers at Laurelwood this Saturday, November 26 at 2:00 p.m. to chat with our readers and sign copies of our cookbooks. Booksellers is where we always go to choose kids' books for gifts and check out all the new cookbooks. Please stop by tomorrow afternoon, browse all the books and gifts, and come say hi!

Local stores that carry one or both of our cookbooks, The Southern Vegetarian (Thomas Nelson, 2013) and The Chubby Vegetarian (Susan Schadt Press, 2016):

- Booksellers at Laurelwood
- Babcock Gifts
- Five-in-One Social Club
- Bazaar Olive Oil
- Palladio Art & Antiques
- Burke's Book Store
- Rhodes College Bookstore
- Miss Cordelia's

Other local shops we love:

Justin's picks: Shangri-La, Goner Records, and the Cleveland Street Flea Market to browse vintage vinyl. Get some coffee and a snack at City and State or Porcellino's. Five-in-One Social Club has Memphis-branded handmade items, great sweatshirts, and tons of classes for makers. Sparkling River Peppers from Curb Market would be an amazing stocking stuffer. Gift certificates to your favorite locally owned restaurants (might we suggest The Second Line for a Chubby Vegetarian Mushroom Debris Po Boy? ;) are also perfect for keeping money in the local economy. We are also newly obsessed with the top-notch coffee beans from French Truck.

Amy's picks: Found has some of the best vintage clothes and accessories. Right next door, you can make jewelry and get broken items repaired or old jewelry reworked at Bead Couture. Tate Professional Jewelers can make any piece you dream up. Sugarplum Consignments and Celery always have a nice selection. Buying from and donating to the Repeat Boutique helps so many Memphians. I love stopping by La Maison, Garden District, Pickering Boxwood, Spruce in East Memphis, and Sheffield's in Collierville. I also think it's impossible to go wrong buying anything at Muddy's.

Friday, November 18, 2016

TCV at Bazaar Olive Oil in Collierville, TN this Saturday, Nov. 19 at 1:00 p.m.

We have so many fond memories of the Collierville Historic Town Square. One of us used to skateboard all around there, and he had his very last hamburger at Mensi's Dairy Bar back in the late 80's. The other one always wants to buy some cowgirl boots at Hewlett & Dunn and is determined to find the just-right pair; she also thoroughly enjoyed writing about Café Piazza way back when.

Now we'll be at Bazaar Olive Oil this Saturday at 1:00 p.m. to talk about cooking and sign copies of our new cookbook, The Chubby Vegetarian!

The Square is having its moment. A new restaurant by Chef Brian Thurmond, 148 North, opened last week, and we stopped by last weekend to get a preview of the new spot. Now we're excitedly awaiting the opening of Pharm 2 Fork by Chef Mac Edwards.

We're so happy to be a part of all that's happening out east, and we're thrilled to have been invited to sign books at Bazaar. So if you can, come see us on Saturday at 1:00! We'll have a couple of snacks that feature olive oil, and if you like, we'll sign a book for you or help you choose the perfect bottle of olive oil or vinegar or put together a gift for someone you know who loves to cook.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Vegetarian Thanksgiving 2016: We've got answers!

It's on everyone's minds now: Thanksgiving is almost here! We can't wait to try to help you figure it all out, at least the what-to-cook and what-to-eat parts of it. For the rest, we just wish you patience and an open heart. Enjoy the holiday! :)

But first, it was an honor this week for one of our recipes to be featured by The Washington Post as the dish for vegetarians this holiday. As though that wasn't enough for us to rejoice about, then there was a great video and then our very first 'Free Range on Food' live chat on You can read how it went and what people asked HEREWe're grateful for the help in spreading the word about how we cook and why we do what we do. Being vegetarian at Thanksgiving isn't a sad, missing-out, left-out sort of thing; it's actually pretty awesome, or it can be if you know how to prepare for it. 

Here's a quick guide for people who may be just beginning to figure out the whole no-meat situation, and we wanted to help the people around them who are silently freaking out about how to accommodate them. Here goes…and please feel free to ask us anything else about Thanksgiving in the comments!

1. "What might be something vegetarian I could make that rivals the turkey and has a nice presentation?" 

Our vegetarian centerpiece this year is the 'Roast Beast' from our new cookbook, The Chubby Vegetarian. The Roast Beast features an array of vegetables like portobello mushroom caps, eggplant slices, onions, and roasted red peppers, all flavored with pesto and cheese and then threaded onto a spit. It's like making one huge vegetable kabob. The result is roasted on the grill or in the oven for about an hour. It's spectacular when presented to the table and will give any turkey a run for its money. The best part is that it's so easy. Another favorite is Stuffed Acorn Squash, but we think a nice, big lasagna can bring happiness as well.  

2. "What should be on my list if I'm shopping for a meal that'll involve folks with special diets?"

In the spirit of being inclusive, it's nice to consider everyone at your table when preparing the classics. Vegan (and consequently, vegetarian) marshmallows for topping your sweet potato casserole are readily available now at places like Whole Foods, and simply swapping vegetable stock in for the chicken stock in things like dressing will keep everyone happy and going back for seconds. Gluten-free pie crusts (we like this one) have come a long way recently, so if you have a guest with a gluten allergy, it's a breeze to feed them dessert. We like to think about who's vegan and who's gluten-free as we plan for Thanksgiving, and we always offer separately prepared dishes without nuts for those with allergies. 

Most of all, just be open with your guests and ask them about allergies or preferences beforehand. You'll be surprised at how understanding people can be. They may even offer to help by bringing a dish that works for them to share.

3. "How can I be a good Thanksgiving Day guest?"

It's good to try to be a fountain and not a drain when attending any gathering. Bring everything you'll need for serving your dish, and that'll really help your host's stress level. If your dish needs to be hot or cold, bring it in an insulated casserole carrier. It's best not to require oven or fridge space since your host probably has both at full capacity. We often pack hot items in a cooler, too, for the short drive over to someone's house. (And we're happy to help clear the table, but we've learned not to jump in and start doing the dishes unless we're directly asked to do so! Even though it's so tempting just to go for it and get it done! No one likes this, even if we all feel they should appreciate it so very much at the time.) 

We've done all of these wrong in the past but have somehow learned to do better along the way! 

4. "I don't really like to cook. What in the world am I going to bring to the table?"

If you want to make something easy that has a a big impact, make an easy cranberry sauce from scratch. We often flavor ours with oranges, and it's something we always make since sometimes good cranberry sauce is kind of seen as unnecessary but actually is amazing.

5. "I am tired of pumpkin. What should I make for dessert?"

Definitely a spicy chocolate tart from our first cookbook, The Southern Vegetarian (Thomas Nelson, 2013).

6. "I'm going to a Thanksgiving potluck. How can I make sure my dish stands out?"

One recent Thanksgiving potluck featured no less than six sweet potato dishes! This elicited a heated critique of each person's creation and and a ranking by one person of favorite iteration to least favorite, and well, it led to some mildly crestfallen feelings at the table. If you are going to use classic Thanksgiving ingredients, do something different so your dish stands out. Use sweet potatoes as grilled slices mounded with buttery almonds, lemon zest, and fresh parsley. We call it Sweet Potato Almondine.  

Also, don't be afraid to go outside the bounds of traditional Thanksgiving food. There are plenty of dishes that are in the spirit of Thanksgiving classics but feature international flavors. In The Chubby Vegetarian cookbook, we have a curried acorn squash salad with apples and raita dressing that would be a great starter. 

7. We have a question for you. What do you eat for breakfast on Thanksgiving? That's always a tough thing to figure out. Give us some ideas in the comments!