Indulging in Asheville

asheville_roadtrip

The little town of Asheville, NC should get more credit as a mini vegan mecca. Do folks know about the awesomeness of this place? Jeff and I have spent a couple of weekends there, and immediately upon leaving begin planning our next trip. It’s our retirement plan. Good food, drinks, local shops, rafting, hiking… what more do you need in life?

You wouldn’t expect a town in NC to be down with the vegan crowd, but Asheville gets it right with good options at just about every local eatery. The seitan company No Evil Foods, and the hempeh-tempeh company Smiling Hara are both based there, and we found many restaurants using their products as a tasty vegan option.

I’ll start with our favorite spots and give the rest a mention.

Our Favorites –  Food:

Plant – One of our favorite vegan restaurants, nationwide. Every bite of food – whether appetizer, entree, or dessert – is so flavorful and expertly prepared. It’s simple yet impressive. For appetizers we’ve had the gourmet cheese plate, plantains, and maitake mushrooms. The light crunch on the outside of those mushrooms, paired with the cream sauce… I couldn’t get enough. We love the Seitan Chile Con Queso so much we’ve had it multiple times. The cannolo, cheese cake, and ice creams are killer. Everything here is made from scratch, in house, which, as a chef, is the quickest away to impressive me.

French Broad Chocolates – This little gourmet chocolate spot is a must hit, if you have even the smallest sweet tooth. We tried both kinds of ice cream – toasted coconut and Costa Rican chocolate – a snickerdoodle, and all 6 of the vegan truffles. The vegan options are clearly marked and the staff is knowledgable and friendly. The strawberry balsamic truffle was my favorite.

Tacos & Taps – A drive-thru that serves tacos and growlers of beer. Yes, please. The vegan options included a BBQ tempeh taco using Smiling Hara tempeh, and the el diablo with No Evil Foods vegan chicken. There’s something exciting about a drive thru with quality vegan eats. We loved it.

Vortex Donuts – This awesome shop has a daily selection of vegan deep fried yeast donuts. You cannot go wrong.

Honorable Mentions – Food:

Laughing Seed – A mostly vegan cafe downtown. We enjoyed their healthier options over the dinner entrees, and the cocktails were great.

Rosetta’s Kitchen – An Asheville classic. Nachos, biscuits and gravy, tempalo wings. You will not leave hungry.

Bean – Serving vegan comfort food south of Asheville.

asheville_laughingseed
Laughing Seed

Our Favorites – Drinks:

If you like craft beer, you have got to make a trip to Asheville. There are more than 10 breweries downtown alone, within walking distance of each other. And yes, we hit up each one.

The Funkatorium by Wicked Weed – Sour beers galore, my fave.

Twin Leaf – Loved everything we tried, and they have locally made hummus.

Burial – Good beer and good vibes.

New Belgium – So much outdoor seating, right on the French Broad River. Our favorite place to chill in Asheville.

Honorable Mentions – Drinks:

Asheville Brewing Company – I don’t remember anything special about the beer tbh, but they’re open late and they serve vegan pizza. Checkpoint.

Sierra Nevada – This one is 20+ minutes from downtown, but worth the drive if you enjoy visiting breweries.

Our Favorites – Random Fun:

Floating on the French Broad – We grabbed a tandem kayak from French Broad Outfitters and took the 2 hour float through the River Arts District.

Salvage Station – We stopped for a beer at this outdoor event space. Bars, a stage for shows and events, endless outdoor seating, hip decor, and it’s all right by the river.

Dog-Friendly Fun – We took Bubba on our most recent trip to Asheville, and he was welcome everywhere we went! Lots of dog-friendly hotels, and every spot we stopped with outdoor seating (including breweries and restaurants) brought out a water bowl for him.

Just walking around downtown is a blast. There are so many cool local shops, a womens museum, a pinball museum, a drum circle every Friday night… There are plenty of waterfalls and swimming holes within driving distance. Have you started checking airbnb yet?

 

Happiness & Hummus,

Chef Kristina

In Love with Lasagna

One of my favorite things to make with our V-Grits Mozzarella Cashew Cheese Sauce… Lasagna! It’s not nearly as time consuming as you may think. If you want to impress your friends or family, this is the perfect dish.

We’ll start with a basic recipe using store bought ingredients, followed by even more recipes for ricotta, marinara, and parm. But to keep it simple, your favorite jarred tomato sauce and packaged vegan ricotta will work wonderfully. Here we go!

lasagna

CROWD PLEASING VEGAN LASAGNA

V-Grits Mozzarella Cashew – store list is here

Lasagna Noodles – you won’t need as many as you think

Marinara – Jarred or try the homemade recipe below

Ricotta – Packaged by Tofutti or Kite Hill, or recipes below

Bonuses: Basil & Parm – recipe below

 

Instructions…

 

OODLES OF NOODLES

Par cook your lasagna noodles – this means only boil them until you think they’re 50% done. You don’t want them to fall to pieces while you’re building this beauty, and they’ll continue cooking in the oven. They go a lot farther than you think. You can find regular, whole wheat, or brown rice noodles nowadays. After cooking, lay them out on parchment paper or foil with oil so they don’t stick together.

MAGIC MARINARA

Any variety of jarred will work. If you want to go big, our favorite recipe is below.

CREAMY RICOTTA

The easy way would be to purchase a packaged vegan ricotta, such as Tofutti or Kite Hill brands. I love making my own! So my 2 favorites recipes – one with cashews and one with tofu – are below.

 

mozzLAYERING THAT LASAGNA

The fun part! I typically use a 9×13″ glass pan. Spread a thin layer of marinara in the bottom (and up the sides just a bit) to prevent the noodles from sticking and burning. Layer the pasta evenly – you’ll probably have to slice it to fit. More marinara covering those noodles, and then next up is the ricotta – spread or scoop evenly. Followed by creamy V-Grits Mozzarella Cashew sauce, and another layer of noodles. I can usually only get 2 full layers of all this goodness. Then for that final top layer I do noodles, then marinara, then a little more V-Grits Mozzarella – but not spread out all the way out, so you can still see that bright red sauce. Check out the main photo above for reference.

SHAKE & BAKE

Ok, don’t actually shake it. For a full 9×13 lasagna it’s going to need a solid 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Top with plant parm (recipe below) and fresh basil. And then instagram it to impress your friends!

 

Feeling really inspired? Here are the marinara, ricotta, and parm recipes!

 

V-Grits Marinara Recipe

Put all this tasty stuff in a food processor and puree to a chunky consistency…

1 15oz can of crushed tomatoes

  • or 8-ish tomatoes, diced
  • try broiling them for 5 minutes first!

1/4 cup sundried tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp rough chopped onion

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup water

1/2 tbsp sugar or agave

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Then simmer on the stove lightly for at least 10 minutes. Throw in some fresh basil and oregano. You can also sauté some mushrooms in the pan before adding the marinara – and/or – some vegan beef crumbles for a meaty marinara.

 

V-Grits Cashew Ricotta

Into the vitamix or food processor goes…

2 cups cashews, soaked

4 tsp lemon juice

3-4 cloves garlic

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp white pepper

3/4 tsp onion powder

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

1/4 cup water

Then chop up these greens and stir them in…

spinach

basil

oregano

 

V-Grits Tofu Ricotta

This one can be nut-free or oil-free if desired too, depending on which cream cheese you pick. Using your hands, because that’s more fun, smash up…

1 14oz package firm or extra firm tofu

4oz vegan cream cheese (I like Tofutti or Kite Hill)

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp white pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

3/4 tsp onion powder

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

Then chop up these greens and stir them in…

spinach

basil

oregano

If you have leftover ricotta it’s wonderful on pizza, rolled up in thin zucchini slices, on toasted bread, etc etc, just don’t waste it for pete’s sake!

 

V-Grits Plant Parm

In a small food processor, process down…

1/2 cup cashews, dry/not soaked

3 tbsp nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp or less black salt (opt.)

You can also make this with almonds or sunflower seeds.

Breakfast Tacos

Breakfast Tacos 1

This is an easy introduction into meal prep!

Make this epic tofu scramble on your off day and enjoy the Breakfast Tacos. Use the extra tofu scramble for a quick breakfast or lunch all week. It’s delicious by itself, in a tortilla, or with toast. Mix it up by adding sliced avocado one day and vegan cheese the next.

It heats up great in the microwave!

Let’s get to the ingredients… 

Tortillas

  • I like organic whole wheat

V-Grits Pimento Cheese

Fresh Greens

  • whatever is already in your fridge

1 Scoop Scramble

  • make this over the weekend and incorporate it into your breakfast or lunch during the week!

Spicy Mayo (I mixed Just Mayo with Franks Hot Sauce)

Fresh Basil

Scramble

  • 1 block extra firm tofu
    • crumbled with 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • a handful baby kale
    • spinach, arugula, or watercress would be tasty too
  • roasted veggies
    • Here’s what I used, but you can use anything you have on hand. Some great options that I didn’t use would be squash, zucchini, asparagus, sweet potato, and jalapeño.
    • 1 medium potato
    • 1/2 yellow onion
    • 1 bell pepper
    • 1/2 lb brussels sprouts
    • 1 pint cherry tomatoes

Cube/dice your potato. Small dice onion and pepper. Slice brussels in half. Leave cherry tomatoes whole. Preheat oven to 425. Toss veggies with oil, salt, and pepper. Cook potato for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring halfway through. Cook brussels, tomatoes, onions, and peppers together for 15 minutes. Your tomatoes will “pop” open, bursting with a sweet, juicy new flavor.

Cook your seasoned tofu in a skillet. Stir together scramble, baby kale, and roasted veggies. Eat it up!

Breakfast Tacos 2

Happy Food Truck Season!

The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and is that the smell of… mac and cheese in the air?! That’ right, it’s food truck season and we’ll be back out on the streets in no time!

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We’ve had a winters worth of time to think up new menu items and we can’t wait to share them with you. How about a country fried steak sandwich, with mashed potatoes and gravy? Or a ham and cheese? We’ve got a sweet potato brunch bowl (allergen friendly and taste bud tempting) with fresh veggies. And a favorite from last year, the pizza burger, will make a reappearance!

Here’s where you can catch us in April!

  • Saturday, April 8th
    • 11am – 5pm
    • Flea Off Market
    • 1007 East Jefferson St
  • Saturday, April 15th
    • 10am – 2pm
    • Douglass Loop Farmers Market
    • 2005 Douglass Blvd
  • Friday, April 21st
    • 5pm – 8pm
    • Great Flood Brewing
    • 2120 Bardstown Road

Follow along vgritsfoodtruck.com/events

See you on the streets!