Tuesday, March 29, 2016

TCV Visits Little Rock, Arkansas

We've been wanting to visit this wonderful place right outside of Little Rock for such a long time, and we finally made our way there on Easter Sunday. Today, we're still thinking about all of the beautiful gardens, the amazing meal, and the wonderful hospitality we enjoyed at P. Allen Smith's Moss Mountain Farm! If you're thinking about your next trip to the South, or wondering where to go for your next quick getaway if it happens that you already live around here, we think fitting in a jaunt to a workshop or tour there would amaze you, too.

We stopped in Little Rock and stayed at the Capital Hotel on Saturday. We arrived in running clothes, which may have raised an eyebrow or two—there was a fancy wedding taking place later that evening and we sort of really didn't match that particular aestheticbut we laughed about it and immediately set out exploring downtown and getting in some miles.

Our first choice for dinner was Three Fold; we had a slightly hazy recognition of it due to a recent article in this magazine, but the guy at the counter reminded us where we'd seen it when we asked him about it. We ordered everything on the menu and went with the vegetarian option for each dish. It was just 3 things, really: the Noodle Bowl, Dumpling Bowl, and Steamed Bun, all with seasoned tofu and seasonal veg, and we loved all of them. We walked back through downtown a couple of times, walked the Junction Bridge, and hung out at the park for a while to take in the sunset.

The next day, we woke up early to drive to one of the places our friends Kyle and Petya recommended from their last Arkansas trip, Mylo Coffee Co. They had mochi doughnuts, gluten-free and made with rice flourhow amazing, chewy, and different! We also tried a cheese croissant, which was like cheese straws times a million. What they're baking at Mylo blew us away with its creativity and playfulness. Their pour-over coffee and cortado were exactly what we needed. After quick stops at a little promenade overlooking a nature trail and then the Capitol, we were ready to get to the countryside and see what was in store for us at Moss Mountain Farm.

Little Rock was so much fun, and there are plenty of vegetarian options in town. It came across as a vibrant and forward-thinking place, and spring was exploding there when we visited. Pretty nice that's it's only a couple of hours from our house in Memphis, Tennessee.

So, let us know in the comments if you're interested in us sharing more about upcoming short trips with you soon! We've been thinking of including more travel stuff on TCV since we've discovered a new love of making plans to get away now. We like the kind of one-night, two-day vacations where you don't have time to put off anything, and we find that it's always good to get recommendations in order to figure out the vegetarian angle ahead of time.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Our Visit to P. Allen Smith's Moss Mountain Farm (And All About Our Upcoming New Cookbook!)

Earlier this year, we decided to plan to visit Moss Mountain Farm for a tour and their first-ever Easter brunch; we'd been talking about going for a while, and finally, we made it happen. Looking forward to the trip to Little Rock on Saturday and then driving 40 minutes or so outside of the city on Sunday to where the farm is located got us to thinking. We have a great deal of respect for what Moss Mountain Farm founder P. Allen Smith is doing to shine a light on Southern agriculture and the importance of conservation, and we learned so much during our visit this past weekend.

Our journey started two years ago when Allen and his awesome crew came to our house in East Memphis and filmed two cooking segments with us (our Grilled Watermelon and Tomato Salad with Honey-Lime Vinaigrette was featured and also our Mushroom Tamales). Allen conducted a radio interview with us in our living room, and pretty much made sure that crazy-fun summer day in 2014 was one for the memory books. Later, we grew ingredients in a container garden for Allen's Patio to Plate Challenge and ended up creating a new dish, Thai-Inspired Green Curry with Eggplant and Peppers with our surprisingly impressive little crops.

Almost two years later, here we are gearing up for our new project, and we're so thrilled to be able to tell you more about it now. The same day this year that we took the leap and signed up to make the trip to Allen's farm, something inspired us. We started dreaming about maybe, possibly asking him to write the foreword for our second cookbook. The new book is set to be released in November 2016 by Susan Schadt Press, and we'll be in some pretty remarkable company there, not to mention having the invaluable gift of Susan's admirable expertise and style as our new editor.

So we crossed our fingers and asked Allen to write the foreword for our new cookbook via email the very day that we made our plans to go to Arkansas. Guess what? He said yes, and now we can't wait to see how it all turns out!

And oh, Moss Mountain -- what an experience we had there this past weekend. Never in early 2016 did we as a couple imagine we'd soon be sitting together silent in the light wind one morning while hearing intermittent rooster crowing and lambs baaaaa-ing as we sat together inside a house made of daffodils. Where we end up sometimes through this serendipitous adventure that's built on our cooking and our writing is quite surprising at times.

The classical planning of Allen's garden with its symmetry, origins in history, and surprising details is one of the most pleasing things we've seen in a very long while. We felt so at peace there and grateful for all the work and vision that goes into such a monumental endeavor. Once we thought we'd been curious and intrepid enough and discovered every corner of the gardens -- upon arrival we'd all been set loose to explore before Easter lunch in the barn, and wow, did everyone love the sense of freedom and trust inherent in that -- someone would ask, Did you see the vegetable garden? Did you see the chickens? And we'd set off to discover more.

That Easter meal, by the way, was spring perfection with dishes made from Allen's cookbook. We made friends with the sweet south Louisiana folks sitting across from us and admired the tiny white dog they brought with them. We enjoyed a magnificent spread of chilled asparagus-potato soup, deviled eggs, sweet and citrusy kale salad, roasted brussels sprouts, mashed sweet potatoes, pecan chess pie, orange-vanilla frosted cake, and slices of spiced carrot bundt. The barn where we had lunch was replete with beautifully set tables, fairy lights, barn doors that were also Dutch doors…yeah, it seemed like something out of a daydream. Being included in the celebration of a place we'd heard so much about for so long from our neighbors and friends made us happy beyond measure.

This is a day that came with an abundance of realization and resolve for us. And also a question: How does one transform a beloved passion into something everyone else can join in to celebrate?

Well, quite an excellent example has been set for us…

"I believe in the transformative power of beauty," Allen remarked in his talk to guests after lunch under a huge oak tree with reaching branches, the tree that's right in front of his house. The two of us recognized ourselves in those words; we glanced at each other. It's something we've appreciated lately more than ever. We both love the beauty of a shared meal, the simpler the better; certain relationships with friends and family that weather all of the unexpected surprises, happy or not so much, that are bound to happen in life; a garden at any stage; the beauty of tapping into our creativity every day; the beauty of love.

So we are writing a new cookbook this year. It's going to have recipes in it from all over the world and reflect more of our usual home cooking, not just our Southern, Memphis roots like we highlighted in our first book, the one that taught us everything we know about writing a cookbook, The Southern Vegetarian. Like last time, we are thrilled to have so much genuine support from people around us and so many folks wishing for us to just absolutely kill it this time around.

We appreciate you reading here, and we hope to make all y'all and everyone who's involved in our new endeavor so very proud later this fall!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Lunch at Park + Cherry in the Dixon Gallery and Gardens

Acre is one of our favorite places in our neighborhood here in Memphis. It is where we hammered out the details of our first cookbook, The Southern Vegetarian, with our very first editor, where we've celebrated big birthdays and hung out on Saturday date nights, where a family-style meal orchestrated by a bunch of good friends cheered us up during a pretty trying holiday season last year (oh, the fluffy herb biscuits, smoked sunchokes and carrots, Vietnamese pancakes, lotus root chips, and that jar of red, spicy housemade sriracha that we took home, with chef's permission, of course!), and where we've prepped for joint events with Andrew and his awesome, welcoming staff.

All of this is to say how we'd been so looking forward to going to lunch on Friday at the new café created by Wally Joe and Andrew Adams of Acre. It's always fascinating to see the creativity and vision chefs tap into when they try something different. Park + Cherry is a casual, beautifully designed spot inside the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, and it just opened this past Tuesday. We ordered at the counter and then browsed in the new shop that 20twelve has created right next door and got to catch up with our aunt who works there. You can choose to sit at one of the tables that circle the counter or settle in at a quieter spot in the hallway / alcove.

Yesterday, we tried the Truffled Pimento Cheese sandwich and the Goat Cheese, Roasted Beets, and Arugula one, Yukon Gold potato salad, Quinoa with Pickle Pear, Cranberries, and Arugula, and oh my, the amazing Triple Chocolate Brownie. Such a gorgeous and fun lunch! All of this and two drinks came to around $40, and though you may just stop by for a quick meal without paying for admission into the museum, we opted to spring for it in order to walk the gardens after lunch. Every year, the two of us try to make it to the Dixon to take in the change of season, and all of this newness made for one of the best adventures we've had so far in 2016.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Kale-Artichoke Dip

After having some baby kale dropped off at our door this week by Amy's dad, who's always got some awesome food growing at his place, Concord Farms out in Slayden, Mississippi, we started thinking about what our new version of spinach-artichoke dip would be. The Lawrence side of our family orders spin-art dip whenever it's on a restaurant's menu, and it's just something that everybody at the table agrees is great.

Feeling inspired by Whitney's Coconut Creamed Greens recipe that we make all the time, we decided it was time to finally make a greens-and-artichoke dip, you know, officially. In the past, we have posted an artichoke dip that we've been making since we were teenagers in Germantown, Tennessee, and we've done Spinach and Artichoke Ravioli.

(This dip with kale is part of our lunch today along with these beauties as we're hanging out in the kitchen and putting together a dessert for a going-away dinner tonight. We'll share what we decided to create for this soon!)

Kale-Artichoke Dip

4 cups loosely packed baby kale
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
1 large egg (beaten)
1 can artichoke hearts (drained, roughly chopped)
1 clove of garlic (chopped or microplaned)
1/4 cup grated parmesan or asiago cheese
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
cracked black pepper (to taste)
Baked Tortilla Chips (recipe follows)

Boil 2 quarts water in a saucepan; add 2 tablespoons of salt. Place the kale in the saucepan to blanch, which takes a minute or two and turns the kale bright green. Remove kale from the pot using a mesh strainer or spider and set it aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, Greek yogurt, vinegar, and egg. Add the artichokes, garlic, parmesan, salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Drain and roughly chop the kale and add it to the bowl. Stir ingredients until well incorporated and pour into a small casserole dish. Bake for 25 minutes or until dip is lightly browned around the edges. Grate some parmesan on top if you like. Serve with Baked Tortilla Chips.

Baked Tortilla Chips

2 sprouted wheat tortillas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut tortillas into 1/8ths making them into triangles. Lay them out in one layer on a parchment-lined pan. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

New Ingredient: Mung Bean and Edamame Fettucini

Oh, wow, these are pretty great! This type of bean pasta is starting to pop up at stores around town, and Hannah and Amy of Raw Girls in Memphis have a great dish made with these, so you can order it in town or by mail this week. That's how we first learned about mung bean noodles, from trying their excellent food truck dish made with them. Here's how they describe it: Mung Bean Pasta with Roasted Asparagus, Blistered Cherry Tomatoes, and Basil Pesto (raw) with hemp seeds and pine nuts. 

Mung bean and edamame fettucini is ruffly, chewy, and most importantly, it has a good tooth to it, unlike some gluten-free noodles. We put together a broccoli-cashew-Beyond-Chicken stir fry today for lunch and served it over these. (See our favorite stir-fry method here.) We'll definitely be using this ingredient again soon and think it's worth a try if you want a different spin on pasta.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

7-Layer Chipotle-Chocolate Chili

Thank you to Sprouts Farmers Market for partnering with us for this post! We have been compensated for our time, but as usual, all opinions are our own. 

The most common question that's asked when the subject of vegetarianism comes up is definitely this one: "So, where do you get your protein?" The question is asked with a tilt of the head and an abundance of concern as if the person is trying to figure out how you're standing upright in front of them with, they figure, no protein at all in your diet. After all, according to Janet Little, Sprouts Farmers Market's Director of Nutrition, "Proteins are the main functional and structural building blocks of every cell in your body and help rebuild and repair muscles and tissues."

Well, believe it or not, many plant-based foods, particularly seeds, nuts, and grains, are great sources of protein, and there are benefits to getting at least some of your protein from vegetable sources. "Clean, plant-based protein provides easily digestible, nutrient-dense fuel for optimal performance and health," Janet told us. Quinoa is at the top of her list of plant-based protein sources because this gluten-free grain contains healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and is a complete protein.

This week, we decided to make a simple vegetarian dish that uses quinoa as the base and is topped with a protein-packed chili that's made using lentils and walnuts. The dish gets its depth of flavor from two sources: smoky chipotle chilies and dark chocolate. This chili is so easy to make -- you seriously won't believe it. There's no sautéing and almost no chopping. All the ingredients were found at our local Sprouts Farmers Market, and most of them are organic to boot. 

7-Layer Chipotle-Chocolate Chili

1 16-ounce jar fire-roasted salsa
1 cup dried green lentils
2 cup vegetable stock
1 cup water
1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts
1 chipotle chili from a can (minced)
1 ounce 72% dark chocolate (1/3 of a bar)
1 teaspoon cumin
Coriander Quinoa (recipe follows)

Cherry Tomato Pico De Gallo (recipe follows)
No-Fuss Guacamole (recipe follows)
4 ounces cheese shredded cheddar cheese

2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup Greek yogurt

Into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the salsa, lentils, vegetable stock, water, walnuts, chipotle, chocolate, and cumin. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce mixture to a simmer for 40 minutes or until lentils are tender. (Most of the liquid will be absorbed by the lentils.) 

While the chili cooks, make the Coriander Quinoa, Cherry Tomato Pico De Gallo, and No-Fuss Guacamole. Assemble each serving by adding 1/2 cup of Coriander Quinoa to a medium bowl and top it with 3/4 cup of the 7-Layer Chipotle-Chocolate Chili. Layer one quarter each of the cheese, lettuce, yogurt, and No-Fuss Guacamole. Finally, top it all off with 1/4 cup Cherry Tomato Pico De Gallo. Repeat the same pattern in 3 bowls. (Makes 4 servings.)

Coriander Quinoa

2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup white quinoa (rinsed under cold water)
1 teaspoon coriander

Into a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the stock to a boil and add the quinoa. Cover and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Uncover a fluff with a fork. (Makes 4 servings.)

Cherry Tomato Pico De Gallo

1 small shallot (finely diced)
1 pint cherry tomatoes (halved)
1 cup cilantro leaves
Juice of 1 lime
1 small Serrano pepper (finely diced)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Rinse the diced shallot under cold water. (This will keep it the onion from overpowering the mixture.) In a medium bowl, combine the shallot, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, and Serrano pepper. Add Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste. (Makes 4 servings.)

No-Fuss Guacamole

2 ripe medium-sized Haas avocados
juice from 1/2 orange
1/8 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste 

Peel and dice the avocados and place them in a medium bowl. Add the orange juice, sugar, olive oil, salt, and pepper and then stir. (Makes about 1 1/2 cups.)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Oats at Every Meal

Our recent article about Chubby Veg recipes in The Memphis Flyer featured oats, and in writing it and choosing which dishes we wanted to feature, we found that there are so many options for fitting more of this amazing grain into your diet. You know, a big bowl of oatmeal is usually our go-to breakfast on Monday mornings, just like it was today after last night's pizza and chocolate extravaganza.

You don't have to relegate oats to breakfast, though -- veggie burgers, cookies, granola, and pancakes can benefit from the addition of them, too. Read more about the health benefits of oats here, and see if you like a recipe or two of ours that will make them a part of your week!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Chocolate Eclair Banana Pudding For a Party

Contrary to what some might think, we don't always cook labor-intensive dishes from scratch. You know, we're versatile like that. This version of banana pudding is easy to assemble, and after making this type of dessert pretty much weekly for years, we have some opinions about how good it can be while still being fairly easy to put together.

Banana pudding kind of has a lot of steps, so simplifying each one is key. We like European Gourmet Bakery Organic pudding mixes, and having both vanilla and chocolate on hand for this particular eclair-like / but no-real-eclairs-included idea makes the main part of the dish very simple and quick. Lately, were blown away when we tried GF vanilla wafer cookies by Kinnikinnick Bakery for the first time, and they're a staple in the cupboard now.

Layer it up and top it with homemade whipped cream, and you've got a killer dessert to take to a party in one of those handy insulated casserole carriers that seem like preparedness overkill but actually are pretty useful. Namely when you're transporting something and don't want to drop the contents of some flimsy aluminum pan onto the driveway once you get there (which has happened more than we care to discuss).

Hey, you can also browse some of our other takes on this dessert from years past on TCV:

Mascarpone Banana Pudding in a Jar

Classic Banana Pudding with Meringue

Banana Pudding Ice Cream Cake

Chocolate Eclair Banana Pudding for a Party

1 box vanilla pudding (European Gourmet Bakery Organic)
1 box chocolate pudding (European Gourmet Bakery Organic)
4 cups whole milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 boxes vanilla wafers (We used the GF kind by Kinnikinnick Bakery.)
3 sliced bananas
Whipped cream (recipe follows)

Make the puddings separately according to the package directions; however, for the European Gourmet Bakery brand mixes we like, we use the recommended 2 cups of whole milk per box but doctor it up a bit and also add beaten egg, 1/2 a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract per box of mix before cooking.

While the two puddings are cooling, place vanilla wafers in a single layer on the bottom of a shallow casserole dish. Add a layer of chocolate pudding on top, add all the banana slices, and then top with a few cookies and the vanilla pudding. Top this with whipped cream plus some crushed cookies and a sprinkle of salt.

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of Kosher salt

Whisk cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Our Oven-Roasted Chipotle Sweet Potatoes with Avocado & Salsa-Poached Eggs over Fajita-Style Vegetables in the March issue of Good Health Memphis

Flip through the new issue of Good Health Memphis online HERE (or pick up a copy at any Memphis-area Kroger store) and be sure to check out p. 20-21 to see our brand-new vegetarian brunch recipes! We had a blast developing them and including our favorite finds from stores and farmers markets around the city.

You'll also read in the intro. about how very spontaneous we are, y'all. No planning of meals here, believe it or not. Life's better lived on the fly and with some room for serendipity, and a well-stocked fridge and cupboard are key.