back roads and mason jars

live country. eat plants. be happy.



We are Southern after all.


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!

are you scared? part 4

What’s stopping you from being vegetarian or vegan?

For part 4 of this Friday mini-series, we’ll talk about what  you can eat on a vegetarian or vegan diet.  If you missed the other posts, check out these links to catch up: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Are you scared you’ll never have anything to eat?

There is a preconceived mindset that if you are vegan, you can’t eat anything anymore.  The reality is that you can eat so much REAL food and sometimes even more food than you ate before.  Removing animal products from your diet really opens up a new world of possible foods that you might not have been willing to even try before.

Throughout this post, I will take you on a tour of my local grocery store to show you how much food you can actually it.  You won’t feel deprived and you’ll probably be amazed at all the food you can eat.  I will be showing what my small town Kroger (East coast version of Ralph’s) bread-watermarkoffers.  Let’s start at the beginning of the store.  I always stop by these little islands when I first get to the store.  The fresh bread section usually offers several options that are vegan.  I love extra crunchy bread full of seeds like sunflower, flax and pumpkin.  The next stop is this little cheese island.  I am currently still eating cheese, but I hummus-watermarkhaven’t purchased a cheese item from this island in months! However, one of my favorite foods is always here…HUMMUS.  I love all kinds of hummus but my all-time favorite is the roasted pine nut.  To take it up a notch, I squeeze half of a lemon into the container and stir it up.  I love to eat my hummus with carrots, snap peas, bell pepper strips and Mary’s Super Seed crackers.


Moving on through the store, I approach the two sections of the store that I spend the most kroger-watermarkamount of time and money – the Natural Section and Produce.  These two sections kind of blend into one harmonious store.  In the Natural section, I can find some baking staples that I use frequently like unsweetened coconut chips, different flours, ground flax seeds for egg replacers, vegan sour cream, vegan yogurt, vegan ice cream and vegan meat alternatives.  There is even shelf stable macaroni and cheese kroger-produce-watermarkproducts like these by Daiya.  Here is where you can find all the meal replacement bars, coconut water, almond milk, coconut milk and oat milk.  Now this may be news to some, but this section – Produce – here is ALL VEGAN!  You can have anything you want here! Clearly you can see that there are tons of options here like tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, potatoes, onion, lettuce, carrots, cabbage, watermelon, oranges, avocados, mushrooms, etc.  The options truly are endless.

Now you’ll want to pretty much avoid the outer perimeter of the store from here as it’s usually where the meat, seafood and dairy departments are.  The dairy department does have some saving grace though since they now offer cold milk alternatives and of course juice.

center-store-watermarkIn the center aisles, we purchase a lot of the same ingredients consistently.  Some of our pantry staples include various types of pasta, various flavors of spaghetti sauce (Don’t forget to check for hidden dairy!), taco shells, salsa, canned veggies, canned and dried beans, cereal, dried fruit, popcorn kernels, flour, chips, pizza crust and – how could I forget? – BREAD!

The standard frozen aisles has a lot of hidden gems that most people would miss completely.  When fresh produce is out of season, the frozen vegetable section is the next best bet since they don’t have any added salt like their canned counterparts.  Just keep an eye out for anything frozen-watermarkthat says it’s in some kind of sauce!  There are also more meat alternatives in this section as well like Boca, Gardein and Morningstar.  All of these offer vegan options for delicious additions to your dinner rotations.  Now the section that everyone loves – frozen pizza.  Growing up, Friday nights were always movie and pizza night.  We’d get delivery sometimes but usually it was a standard frozen pizza.  There are a few options here and can be difficult to find and unfortunately my store doesn’t offer any vegan options.  I usually have to go to the city to get my vegan pizza fix.  Amy’s Kitchen offers a vegan pizza with no cheese as well as a vegan cheese option sporting the Daiya label.  There are a ton of vegetarian options though!  I have never been a fan of meat on my pizza and have always purchased or ordered a pizza full of veggies like onions, pepper, mushrooms, spinach and basically whatever else I could fit on it!

The last section of the my store boasts lots of salty snacks and alcohol.  Chips are my favorite  chips-watermarkguilty treat.  There are a lot of vegan options here.  Here is a list of my favorite options: Kettle Brand Potato Chips (Backyard Barbecue and Pepperoncini), Lay’s potato chips (Barbecue and beer-watermarkDill Pickle), Lay’s Kettle Cooked potato chips (40% Less Fat Original, 40% Less Fat Sea Salt & Vinegar), Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos, BBQ Pringles and Tostitos tortilla chips.  If your Friday night includes a happy hour, check out the Barnivore website to find vegan beer options.  Just type in your favorite booze to learn if it is vegan!


Hopefully, this gives you some confidence on where to steer your buggy on your next shopping trip.  Just remember to always check the ingredients list.  I have found that there are a lot more vegan products than just those that are labeled as such.  So many products are accidentally vegan so don’t deprive yourself and pick up those Oreos – they’re vegan!

Bye y’all!


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