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back roads and mason jars

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vegan

It’s been awhile…

I know it’s been quite some time since I blogged for sure.
Life happens, you know.
I sure have missed my creative time writing, practicing my photography and, of course, cooking!  Don’t worry – I will be back on a consistent schedule now!

After the first of the year, I started a new workout program that took a lot of my side time. However, due to some medical issues in April and May, I’ve had to take it easy for a little while which has given me more of my time to be back with y’all sharing all things VEGAN!  As a part of my New Year’s Resolutions, I have decided that 2018 is the year for me to go fully vegan – 100%. With that goal in sight, I will be testing more and more products to find my essential, must have foods. Cheese and ranch dressing are the last non-vegan items that I eat so I’m almost there!

Beyond Meat Sausages

I feel like every time I go the grocery store I find a new vegan product on the market. It truly is so easy to be vegan in today’s world. A few weeks ago, we were finally able to score some of the brand new Beyond Sausages! I was so jealous reading the reviews of other bloggers, but they aren’t available in my rural part of the world.  My husband and I traveled over an hour to get a package of the Holy Grail of Vegan Sausages.

It was totally worth it.

First of all, the Beyond Sausages are available at most Whole Food locations.  They are available in 3 flavors – Bratwurst, Sweet Italian, and Hot Italian.  We decided to try just one package at a time so we went with the traditional Bratwurst option.  (Spoiler – We have packages of the Sweet Italian and Hot Italian in our freezer as I type this.)  They don’t have a sour smell like I thought the Beyond Meat Burgers had, but the texture out of the package is slightly different than traditional sausages.  I think the best cooking method for this product would be a grill, but we couldn’t wait to try them and cooked them on the stove top due to rain.  It turned out OK – they were still amazing!

Now, I haven’t had meat since 2015, so sometimes my taste buds can be a little deceiving to those of an omnivore.  However, my husband, the omnivore, and I had the same reactions and love for the Beyond Sausages.  I chose to dress mine with the classic Dijon mustard while my husband likes just ketchup. The Bratwurst flavoring is very authentic to its traditional counterpart and it even has the classic *snap* you hear as you take your first bite of a fresh sausage.  My husband tasted a hint of lemon which we later read was an actual ingredient on the label, but I did not taste it.  The only negative was that cooking it on the stove top resulted in a lot of grease that cooked out of them.  I don’t think this would be a concern when grilling out with these tasty treats!  These sausages will be a staple at our summer cookouts this summer for sure!

Wannabe Vegan: 10/10  ~  Omnivore: 9.5/10

 

Bye ya’ll!

We are Southern after all.

Grits.

Possibly my family’s favorite carb dish.  As Southerners, grits can be considered it’s own food group for the most part.  You can sugar them if you like the sweeter side of life or season with salt and butter for a savory flavor which is right up my alley.  Some even like cheese melted on top hot off the stove top.  Whatever you like, they can easily be made vegan with little altering.  We can eat them with the whole breakfast buffet spread or simply with grilled shrimp (in a previous life, of course).  I still associate grits with meat even more than two years later after giving up meat, but why I love grits so much is that I NEVER had to give them up when I stopped eating animals.  I just had to make some easy substitutions which I’ll explain later.

Whenever I find a new meat substitute, my first thought is “Does it go with grits?”  Even at my rural, small town grocery chain, I was actually able to find two new varieties of products on my last shopping excursion.  Unfortunately, they are only vegetarian, but with a $3.00 coupon – it was hard to pass up.  The product we tried this week was Quorn’s Meat-free Sausages (Chicken & Apple style).  I used to eat the chicken version frequently for breakfast with grits actually so I immediately thought it would be perfect for a savory dinner.   For the health side of things, each sausage has 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, less than 5 mg of cholesterol (there are egg whites in this product), 10 grams of carbs, 5 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein.

Quorn Meat-Free Sausages

We decided to cook ours in a skillet on the stove top with a tiny bit of coconut oil and they were done in about 10 minutes.  I served them along side grits, of course, that I seasoned with vegan butter, salt and pepper.  Grist really are the perfect accompaniment for anything.  I love caramelized onions with mushrooms and they added so much flavor to dish.  No meal is complete without a green so our classic go-to is always broccoli.

Now about the taste, we have tried a competitor (Field Roast) that really holds the market on meat products like this as well as one of two of the best vegan cheeses that I have tried (Chao).  I preferred the texture of the Field Roast sausages over the Quorn.  It didn’t have a lot of that fake smoke flavoring that everyone else is so fond of, but it did hit a lot of savory notes.  My husband thought it had the perfect texture while I thought it was a bit on the squishy side, but the sausages didn’t leave a weird aftertaste or gritty feel in our mouths.  These are attributes that I didn’t really question when I was a meat eater, but now when I recognize them it makes me get a little creeped out by the realism behind the product like when we tried the Beyond Burger.  Overall, it was a good product that we will probably purchase again.

Omnivore Rating: 8/10 ~ Wannabe Vegan Rating: 6/10

Bye y’all!

Yesterday’s – A Present Favorite

A few years ago, a good friend of ours moved back to her college town – her second home.  The very first time we had the opportunity to visit in her element, she introduced us to one of her all time favorite places to be where everyone knows her name.  That place is Yesterday’s.

The first time I visited, I did still eat meat, but I was in the “cutting back phase” of my journey and only eating meat or eggs about two meals a week.  I heard stories about Yesterday’s for years throughout our friendship before actually enjoying the restaurant so my mouth was watering before I even walked in the door.  I ordered a classic southern staple, Shrimp & Grits, which used to be one of my all time favorite meals, but my husband ordered a unique variation of the classic – Buffalo Chicken & Grits.  He loved it so much that he still orders it every time we have the opportunity to visit!  I have changed up my orders a little bit now.  During our last visit, I tried their Veggie Mushroom Burger which was delicious as always, but you have to ask for no mushrooms since they are sauteed in butter.  It’s worth noting too that even though it is a southern comfort food restaurant, they have made an effort to accommodate vegetarians/vegans as well as those that follow a gluten free diet.  Their menu is clearly labeled which items are vegetarian and the staff is well versed in what items have hidden non-vegan items like butter, milk, and eggs.

Fast forward a few years and I see food a little differently now.  When I dine out for a meal, I think “Can I make that vegan?” when reading through the non-vegan portions of the menu.  My husband and I will toss around ideas while waiting on our order.  This is where some of my inspiration comes when planning my blog posts as well.  When I was planning out my meals for this week, I was craving this dish and knew instantly that I could easily make this vegan.  Check out my easy and quick version below!

Vegan Buffalo Chicken & Grits

1 pack of Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders

1 cup of Grits

4 cups of water

Salt & Pepper to taste

Vegan Butter to taste (I used Earth Balance)

Optional – Vegan Cheese will add a creaminess to the grits.  I recommend Follow Your Heart Parmesan.  For this recipe, I only seasoned them with salt, pepper and vegan butter.

 

Buffalo Sauce:

1 cup of your favorite hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot)

1 tablespoon of Vegan Butter (I used Earth Balance)

 

 

  1. Bake the Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders per the instructions on the package.  I baked mine a few minutes longer than the package instructions.  This really paid off because the chicken stayed crispy after it was tossed in the buffalo sauce.
  2. While they are baking, you can get started with the grits and buffalo sauce.  I used stone ground yellow grits in this recipe, but you could use polenta or even instant grits.  I used 1 cup of grits and 4 cups of water which makes about 6 servings.  Adjust your ratio based on how many servings you need.  I’ll be having the leftovers for lunch and grits are never wasted in my house.  Again, depending on what type of grits you are having, this will affect your cooking times.  After they are done, I like to add some vegan butter for a more creamy consistency and salt & pepper to taste.  For the buffalo sauce, melt the tablespoon of vegan butter in a saucepan with a cup of your favorite hot sauce (Only Frank’s Red Hot will do in our house!).  Simmer to make sure the butter is well combined and transfer to a bowl to toss the chicken.
  3. Once the chicken is done cooking, simply toss the chicken in the buffalo sauce and assemble your plate.  To kick it up a notch, you could drizzle a little bit of vegan Ranch dressing on top to cool down the heat.  Enjoy!

Bye y’all!

Is it seriously almost June?!

In 2016, my little family took a chance for a better life that we had been striving for in the city for so many years with no luck.  I left my job of over five years and we moved into a 600 square feet cabin that challenged us in many ways.  As our lease was coming up for renewal, we were struggling finding something affordable to rent with still one income.  After months of searching and interviewing, I was offered a job in my hometown that I started the day after our house closed.  All of our dreams were realized within a short 30 days.  With the help of our family, we were able to move into our dream home in March.
Since then, I have been focused on learning my new job and loving being back home only a few miles from my family’s farm where I was raised.  In addition to all those life changes, there have been holidays, birthdays, baseball games, concerts and home improvement projects that have kept us busier than ever!  With all that said, I am back to doing what I love – blogging!

Just to share a little bit of our lives with you, here’s what we’ve been up to so far in 2017.

Our forever home tucked down a back road
Almost front row at Jason Isbell in Charlottesville, VA      (I’ve lost count how many times we’ve attended his concerts)
My husband and I at Carolina Rebellion in Charlotte, NC.
Before: The original fire pit at the new house.
After: Brodie enjoying his new fire pit thanks to the help of my Grandpa! We completed this project on Memorial Day 2017.

Now, let’s talk about something I was so excited to learn recently.  Girl Scout cookies are vegan!  I know you’ve seen the troops sitting outside every Wal-Mart or local grocery store in your town.  There is a catch though – you have to check to make sure your local troops get their cookies from ABC Bakers.  The list includes my family’s favorites and more!

Pictured left to right are Peanut Butter Patties (non-vegan name is Tagalongs), Thanks-A-Lot (an exclusive ABC Bakers cookie),  Girl Scout S’mores (non-vegan version has the same name but it shaped like a sandwich cookie), Lemonades (non-vegan version is Savannah Smiles), and Thin Mints.  Thin Mints are actually the only Girl Scout cookie that is vegan when made by ABC Bakers or Little Brownie Bakers.  If your local troop is unsure what bakery supplies their product, you can always email their corporate office to find your closest troop.

Bye y’all!

Welcome to 2017!

brodie-snow-2016The holidays are over.  The tree has been removed.  The lights have been packed away until next December.  As you can see by the photo, we’ve even had a decent snow storm.  Brodie loves watching and playing in the snow as long as it’s not taller than him.  The magic is over and we have to transition back to reality.

In our small little world, 2017 has already started off with a bang!  My husband and I have new jobs and we are closing on a new house.  We are absolutely thrilled with the idea of having our little slice of heaven tucked in the woods down a dirt road.  We are looking forward to sipping our coffee on the front porch in the mornings and drinking a beer at the fire pit with friends on the weekend.

chex-watermarkOver the holidays, I made one of my husband’s favorite treats – homemade Chex Mix.  His Mom made it every year and it was always a huge hit for the entire family.  It took me awhile to find some vegan Worcestershire sauce, but I finally found some!  In fact, I actually found 2 varieties!  I was very excited to find this baking staple as I also use in my favorite gravy recipe.  Follow my tweaked version of the traditional recipe for a tasty, vegan snack.

 

Homemade Vegan Chex Mix

6 Tbsp of vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)

6 Tbsp of vegan Worcestershire sauce

2 Tsp of seasoned saltchex-mix-watermark

2 Tsp of garlic powder

2 Tsp of onion powder

3 cups of corn Chex

3 cups of wheat Chex

3 cups of rice Chex

2 cups of dry roasted and lightly salted peanuts

1 cup of sesame sticks

  1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan, melt the vegan butter.  Whisk in all of the seasonings once the butter has melted.
  3. Combine all other ingredients in a large roasting pan.  I find it easiest to just purchase one of those throw away pans from the dollar store.
  4. Pour butter and seasonings all over the cereal mix and combine.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes then stir.  Repeat this process for an hour making sure to stir every 15 minutes.

Bye y’all!

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