You know those family recipes that are like, some of this, some of that, whatever else you feel like, and dinner is served! I love those! For a long time my family lived on Bowl of Stuff, and every time I posted a picture of my bowl of the day people asked for the recipe. But there never really is one, because Bowl of Stuff is more of a concept than a recipe. (But then I did eventually write some recipes because I know not everyone is cool with winging it.)
Well, the same is true for Noochy Noodles. There’s a naked version, which is #1 below, and then there are the loads of variations I make depending on what’s handy! Make the basic noodles, and then add whatever you want – #2-5 are suggestions, but I’d love to hear what you end up doing with this!
1. Naked Noochy Noodles
Quick back story: My son Teno used to love buttered noodles from Noodles & Co. when he was little… and I have loved pasta with garlic and olive oil my entire life. So this recipe came out of sort of combining the two, and making them vegan.
- Cook one box of pasta as directed on the package. We always make farfalle, but you can choose a different shape – I recommend something with twists or curls so the sauce has something to stick to. Make sure you salt your cooking water – I usually throw a tablespoon of salt in.
- Before draining your pasta, scoop out about 1 cup of the cooking water – this has salt in it, plus starch from the pasta. It’s going to help your sauce stick to the pasta. Set is aside and drain the pasta.
In the same pot you cooked your pasta in (unless you have a good reason to dirty a new one) melt a good quality vegan butter (I like Miyoko’s) over medium-low heat, add some olive oil, and a bunch of nutritional yeast. Splash in as much of the reserved pasta water as you need to make a sauce, and return the pasta to the pot, stirring to coat.
OK, I know I lost a couple of you who are looking for measurements – look, it’s super preferential. If I’m cooking a whole box of pasta, I use about 1/4 cup butter, 2 Tbs olive oil, 1/4 cup or more of nutritional yeast. You might use more or less.
4. Turn the heat off and serve. I like to season it with some freshly ground black pepper and Not Parm – but do whatever makes you happy. And keep reading for more ideas.
2. Dragon’s Blood Noochy Noodles
I make this nourishing dish for myself after I donate blood. All the green stuff is full of iron, which you’ll be low on after you donate, plus a shot of B-12 from the nutritional yeast.
Make Naked Noochy Noodles as directed above – when it’s just me, I like to also throw 2-3 garlic cloves into the butter/oil mixture. Teno isn’t a big fan, despite is overwhelmingly Italian name. While the pasta is cooking, steam a cup of chopped broccoli and a couple handfuls of spinach for about 3 minutes – until the broccoli is bright green and the spinach is wilted. When you’re ready to add the pasta to the sauce, throw the veggies in too. I usually top it off with some basil from my herb garden and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.
3. Teno’s Garden Noochy Noodles
Although he passed away before I was born, my mom’s told me enough stories about my great-grandpa Teno’s backyard garden for me to feel like I saw it myself. (His full name was Defendente Petitti, and I think if you whisper it over your pasta while it cooks magical things might happen.)
Sorry recipe sticklers, this is kind of another one where I’m gonna ask you to wing it. The concept here is fresh, fresh, fresh. Taking things from your backyard garden and throwing them into the pot raw so they have texture, color, and lots of flavor. While your pasta is cooking, chop up: a sweet pepper, basil, and flat leaf parsley. When you’re ready to add your pasta to the sauce, throw these ingredients in too. If you want them to get a bit softer, cook everything for 3-5 minutes over medium-low heat. But I like them just warmed through, still crunchy and leafy. Garnish each bowl with halved cherry tomatoes, freshly ground black pepper, and if you like them, some nice salty pitted olives.
4. Roasty Toasty Noochy Noodles
This version came about, again, thanks to my son Teno. His school lunch schedule is cray, sometimes he eats lunch at 11am so by the time I’m home from work he’s starving, but Tony gets home an hour, sometimes two hours after me. So I needed to figure out a way to make Teno a quick dish that could be re-heated and tweaked for us grown ups a couple hours later.
- So, for Teno, I make Naked Noochy Noodles, which he eats with absolutely no vegetables (sometimes broccoli, if I nag him) and no additional seasoning. I stick the leftovers in the fridge and turn the oven to 475 degrees F.
- Then I start cutting my favorite roasting vegetables – carrots, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc. – into pieces that are roughly the same size as each other. Throw them in a bowl, along with whole cloves of garlic, big chunks of red onion, a pinch of dried oregano, a pinch of dried rosemary, a pinch of dried thyme, and toss with 1/4 cup olive oil.
- Spread everything out in an even layer on a baking sheet – put down some parchment paper first for an easier clean up – and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then roast for 35-40 minutes, stirring/flipping it all about 20 minutes in.
- Once Tony gets home, I grab the pot I cooked the pasta in, drizzle a little olive oil so it’s not sticky, and I stir together the prepared Noochy Noodles with my roasted veggies. The sauce isn’t going to coat the veggies as much as it would have if you’d cooked everything at the same time – but I like the difference in color, texture and flavor. You still get that nice charred flavor on the vegetables, with a buttery, cheesy soft cushion of noodles.
I’m just looking back at this now and laughing thinking about anyone who prints it out to make at home. “OK so first make Teno his, then when Tony gets home…”
5. Fakon Noochy Noodles
One of my favorite dishes is Chloe Coscarelli’s Vegan Pasta Carbonara with Shiitake Bacon, and while it’s not all that complicated to make, sometimes I’m just too lazy. So one way I can guarantee that I’ll have something similar for dinner even on my busiest night is to make the star ingredient – the shiitake bacon – over the weekend, and keep it on hand for a Monday night dinner.
Then, make a batch of Naked Noochy Noodles – while your pasta is cooking, heat a bit of olive oil in a pan and cook 1 chopped white onion and three minced cloves of garlic until soft. Throw that into the pot with your cooked noodles and prepared sauce, and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Top with the bacon, some black pepper and parsley, and make a note to make the real carbonara recipe sometime when you aren’t so lazy.
Noochy Noodles Five Ways
By July 27, 2018Published:
Noochy Noodles are less a recipe and more a way of life. Check out the suggestions above for different ways to serve this simple dish.
- 1 box dry farfalle pasta cooked
- 1/4 cup good quality vegan butter
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- Please see #1 above for the full directions.
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Because I am a human person who lives on earth, my self confidence goes through highs and lows. In professional settings, people always tell me I’ve accomplished a lot, that I’m a wealth of knowledge about marketing and sales. Then, after the initial high of being acknowledged wears off, I kind of go back to wondering if I actually know anything about anything. And, in the worst cases of this, I become paranoid that people will soon figure out that I don’t know a damn thing in the world.
It’s called Imposter Syndrome, and put simply, it’s a failure to recognize your own accomplishments. In and of itself, Imposter Syndrome isn’t considered a mental disorder, it’s more of a phenomenon. Of course it can be some part of a larger self esteem issue, and if you feel this way more often than not, you might consider seeking professional counseling.
Recently, in the midst of a bout of good ‘ol IS, I asked people on Instagram if they ever experience this feeling, and if so, what they do to counteract it. Again, I’m not here to replace your therapist, and I urge you to read more on the subject because there are a lot of articles with great, in-depth analysis and advice (like this piece from Psychology Today or this one from Fast Company) but for those of you who just need a little boost to get out of a funk, here are five suggestions from my Instagram followers on how to push past Imposter Syndrome:
1. Know That Everyone Feels This Way
“Everyone” might be a tad hyperbolic, but I was overwhelmed with responses when I asked if anyone else experiences this. Hundreds of messages. Take a quick peek at that Fast Company article I mentioned, scan the five types of Imposter Syndrome and see if any of them ring true for you. The chances are high that one of them does, and that’s because this is a very common phenomenon, especially in people who set the bar high for themselves. Knowing that I am not alone in this feeling really helped me to see that my fears are unfounded. If I was the ONLY person on all of Instagram who sometimes feels like she lucked into everything she has and that it could all crumble away in an instant, OK, then maybe there’s something to it. Or maybe I need some serious counseling. But the fact that so many people concurred with that feeling – people who I know personally, and I know how hard they work and how talented they are – it poked a lot of holes in my own fears.
2. Learn to Accept and Believe Positive Feedback
I mean, if only it were that simple, right? Most people I know have a hard time accepting compliments – I’m in that group, too. But as we are social creatures, we benefit from positive feedback from our peers (and bosses). The next time someone tells you that you did a great job on something, or that they’re impressed with how much you know about this or that, internalize it. Maybe write down what they said on your calendar or something. Create a database of positive feedback for yourself, and reflect on it whenever you find yourself in a dark place.
3. You vs. You
Sometimes I’ll have a particularly nagging case of Imposter Syndrome about a particular issue. For instance, I have a BA in magazine journalism, and my peers in my field are mostly MBAs. Accomplishments-wise, we are peers. Outside of throwing around jargon that I think sounds stupid anyway, and making elaborate spreadsheets, there’s nothing they can do that I can’t do. But sometimes, for instance if I’m job-searching, it nags at me. And I start to consider positions that are far below my experience level, or I accept a salary that no one else with my experience would accept. The best way to squash a nagging, negative thought about yourself is to gather evidence. Write it down. Write down the thing you believe about yourself, and under that, draw a line that divides the paper into two columns. On the left, write down any evidence that you have – facts, not feelings – that support that negative thing you believe. In the right column, write down any evidence you have that contradicts the opinion. If you struggle with the exercise, ask a friend or a loved one to help you fill in the columns with facts about you and your accomplishments. The people who suggested this practise to me said that they always find more evidence to dispel negative thoughts about themselves than to support it.
4. You Suck, But Not As Much as Other People Suck
This one made me laugh, but it kept coming up as a coping mechanism people use. It’s a little mean-spirited, so if that’s not for you that’s fair, but basically when you doubt yourself, get a little judgey with the people around you. Listen, every brand I’ve ever worked for does this. We might be a $100,000/year widget brand that constantly gets bad reviews on Amazon, but we’re still better than that multi-billion dollar widget brand because they’re still using virgin plastic and ours is post-consumer recycled. So fuck them! We rule! Comparing yourself to others is usually not great advice to give anyone with low self esteem, but in this context it’s an exercise in leveling the playing field. Tread lightly, but I can see where this helps in a pinch.
5. Fail On, You Crazy Failure
The root of Imposter Syndrome? The fear of failure. The fear of trying something and not succeeding. But you’ve read those fucking clickbait articles about the world’s richest people who failed a million times. (Here’s one.) We’ve all read the stories about Steve Jobs failing. Oprah failing. Elon Musk failing. All of your heros have tried and failed and picked themselves up, dusted off, and tried again – and succeeded. And you do it too, all the time. But it’s easy to focus on your failures when you aren’t seeing yourself through the hero lense we see others through. Failing is normal. Failing is fine. Failing is nothing to be scared of. When you let go of your fear of failure (and/or perfectionism, if like me, that’s your problem) it’s easier to accept your successes, and maybe even to celebrate them.
OK, But How?
I received some suggestions on ways to put these suggestions into everyday practise:
- Therapy/counseling – A lot of people with particularly crippling cases of Imposter Syndrome told me they sought professional counseling. Obviously this isn’t the right fit for everyone, but if it’s something you have the means to try, why not?
- Daily affirmations – Make a practice of repeating positive thoughts to yourself, either silently in your head, or say them right out loud. There are tons of apps and free resources online to guide you, there’s even a Twitter account.
- List making – This is my go-to. Most recently, I pulled myself out of a case of IS by quantifying my career accomplishments – “grew this brand’s social media following by X% in 12 months, increased conversions from social media on this webstore by X% in 6 months.” If you don’t love data, just straight up make a list of everything good you’ve done in the past 6 months, or everything you’re proud of, or the ways you’ve made things run smoother at work or home. It’s hard to look at a list of things you’ve done well and not feel good about yourself.
Meditation – Similar to affirmations, in some ways. Taking the time to quiet and focus your mind. Again, there are lots of free resources for this online, and in the app store, with lots of guided meditation videos available on YouTube.
- Say something – my last piece of advice is this – if you find yourself feeling this way more often than you can cope with, tell someone. Or even if it’s just something you feel once in a while – bring it up to your best friend, to a trusted loved one, or do what I did and just confess it on a social media platform where you feel safe. Chances are, you’ll find out that what you feels is normal, and often times whomever you’re speaking with will remind you of things you’re good at that you hadn’t even thought of.
I’d love to learn more about this – so if it’s something you deal with, or have managed to overcome, please tell me about it in the comments! I’m open to book suggestions, blog posts, etc!
A couple weeks back, Tony and I spent a long weekend in Atlanta eating all the things and seeing my brother and his new baby. While we were there, we stopped in Tinkertown Pies and had the most amazing Cherry Rosemary Pie. The. Most. Amazing.
Anyway, Kyle, the master pie baker, gave me his recipe and I recreated it at home! My first try was a little liquidy, I think because I was using cherries with too high of a sugar content (Skylar Rae®). So I tried again today with cherries from Northwest Cherry Growers, which are much firmer and have a bit less sugar so they hold up better when you bake them.
Just to be safe, though, I also switched up the filling recipe. So, fill your favorite pie crust with the recipe below, and top it with the Rosemary Streusel topping from my previous post. Bake it at 350 F for about an hour, then let it cool completely (maybe even overnight) before you dig in.
Not-Runny Vegan Cherry Pie Filling
By July 11, 2018Published:
- Yield: 1 pie (8 Servings)
A couple of secrets to success: use less-sweet cherries, use tapioca starch instead of cornstarch because it cooks firmer, and use a slotted spoon when filling your pie to cut back on how much liquid you end up with.
- 6 cups Northwest Cherries pitted (cut about 2 cups of them in half and leave the rest whole)
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 4 Tbs tapioca starch
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- Combine all ingredients except the extract in a saucepan and heat over medium flame until it comes to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, and cook while stirring for about 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in the extract. I like to let my filling cool a bit before scooping it into my prepared pie shell.
- Use a slotted spoon so you get cherries and leave most of the juice in the saucepan. Top with a second crust, or use your favorite streusel topping.
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I love Jackie Sobon’s inspiring vegan recipes and gorgeous food photography, but mostly I like her habit of liking the stupid, often mean things I say on Twitter. No, that’s not fair, she’s a prolific food blogger over at Vegan Yack Attack, and a two-time cookbook author, with the release of her new book Vegan Yack Attack On the Go! just last week. So yeah, I like the food stuff about her the most, but the part where she encourages me to be rude on Twitter second.
This new book is a departure from her previous, Vegan Bowl Attack!, in its focus on make-ahead, and portable (think packed lunch or camping trip) recipes featuring short ingredient lists and quick prep times. The recipes are simple enough for someone new to cooking, but interesting enough that old school vegans will find plenty of inspiration, too.
I chose this Asparagus Omelet in a Bag recipe to share, because quick, healthy breakfast options tend to go the way of smoothies or overnight oats for vegans, and tofu scrambles get tiresome. You can actually throw the ingredients in a Mason jar and store it until you’re ready to cook – you can even put it in your camping cooler and be the fanciest vegan at the campground when you whip out some omelets for breakfast.
P.S. I’m giving away a copy of Vegan Yack Attack On the Go! Enter here!
Please note that some links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click and make a purchase I could earn a commission. However, this is not a sponsored post and the opinions expressed here are my own. Photo and recipe by Jackie Sobon. Shared with permission from Fair Winds Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group.
Vegan Asparagus Omelet
By July 10, 2018Published:
- Yield: 4 Servings
I love Jackie Sobon's inspiring vegan recipes and gorgeous food photography, but mostly I like her habit of liking the stupid, often …
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- 3 Tbs nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 Tbs cornstarch
- 1 & 1/2 tsp Indian black salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 & 3/4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups chopped asparagus woody ends trimmed
- 1 cup packed baby spinach or arugula
- 1/2 cup vegan Cheddar shreds (optional)
- 1/4 cup diced shallots
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, cornstarch, Indian black salt, and
black pepper until combined.
- Pour vegetable broth into the flour and whisk until smooth, then divide the mixture between 4 sealable sandwich bags. (Alternatively, use Mason jars.)
- Next, place ½ cup (75 g) of asparagus, ¼ cup (10 g) of spinach, 2 tablespoons (15 g) of Cheddar shreds (if using), and 1 tablespoon (7 g) of shallots into each
bag. Store in the refrigerator or an iced cooler for up to 1 week, or move on to preparing it.
- When you are ready to prepare an omelet, warm a pan or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Spray the pan with a thin layer of cooking oil.
- Once it is hot, shake the omelet bag vigorously. Pour the mixture into the pan and cook on one side for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. Flip one half over onto the other half and cook for another 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining bags, when ready, and serve hot.
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I travel from Chicago to Atlanta 1-2 times a year for work, and I always spend my time between meetings and shows stuffing myself with vegan biscuits and spending as much time with my friends and family there as I can. My little brother and his wife (and their new baby!) live about an hour outside of the city, and my friend Leigh, who puts on Atlanta Veg Fest, is also a local who always steers me to the best things to eat.
Tony and I booked a long weekend in the city to visit the baby and…eat as many biscuits as we could. (Chicagoans – if you can’t make it to Atlanta, Ste Martaen offers what I consider to be the only truly legit vegan biscuit in the Midwest.) One our first full day of this last trip, we were bumming around Little 5 Points (eating biscuits at Sevananda Co-Op) when Kyle from Tinkertown Pies hit me up on Instagram to invite me over to his vegan pie shop in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.
We drove over, and wandered around a bit trying to find it before realizing, and being totally charmed by the fact, that Tinkertown is actually inside a bike shop called The Spindle. (In hindsight, the chalkboard outside that read, “secret pie shop inside” should have been a clue.” We ordered slices of peach basil and cherry rosemary and got chatting with pie shop owner Kyle, about everything from the city’s new “renegade scooter” program and cemetery-grown rosemary. The cherry rosemary pie was absolutely unreal, and Kyle was sweet enough to send me the recipe so I could make it at home!
So, in addition to sharing this dreamy recipe with you, I’m also going to run you through our quick trip. The pie filling is pretty simple and straightforward, the magic is all in the streusel, and you’ll find the recipe for that below.
Tinkertown Cherry Pie Filling
*Look for cherries with a lower sugar content because this recipe adds a lot of sugar and you could end up with cherry soup. Delicious cherry soup, but still. Or, if you’re not a risk-taker, try this other filling recipe I made later.
For the filling:
- About 2 lbs cherries, pitted
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 4-5 Tbs tapioca starch
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbs amaretto or kirsch*
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
*If you’re anti-booze in your baked goods, or simply don’t have any on-hand, you can substitute with cherry juice.
- Wash, stem and pit the cherries. Split about a cup of them into halves.Place the cherries in a bowl.
- Mix the sugars, tapioca and salt in a separate bowl.
- Add the liqueur and extracts to the cherries, and mix.
- Add the dry ingredients to the cherries and mix to incorporate.
- Pour pie filling into a prepared pie crust – you can make your own, or use a store-bought crust.
- Crumble streusel atop the pie. (Tip: I gently patted the streusel into the cherries so it formed a nice crust as it baked.)
- Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, or until delicious cherry juices are bubbling up.
- Let stand to cool at least two hours before slicing. Better yet, chill it in the fridge after.
Three Days in Atlanta
Breakfast: We made it just in time for the last of the breakfast hot bar at Sevananda Co-Op, but fresh biscuits had just come out of the oven so it was far from being left-overs.
We crossed the street and Tony checked out Stratosphere Skateboards. Tony spent a little while talking to the shop owner about old guy skateboard stuff and then we went next door to Junkman’s Daughter. (Chicagoans: imagine if The Alley and Hollywood Mirror had a baby.) In that same plaza, we hit up Aurora Coffee for some nitro cold brew (it was called Shallow Grave, so obviously I had to) and then we bummed around the neighborhood, which is made up of lots of resale shops, tattoo shops, record stores and head shops. It reminds me a bit of when Clark and Belmont (Chicago) was still grungy and punk.
After we’d popped into nearly every store in the area and gotten sufficiently sweaty, we drove over to Old Fourth Ward and, as I’ve already mentioned, enjoyed a couple slices of pie while hanging out with Kyle from Tinkertown Pies.
It was time to check into our hotel at that point, so we headed over there and cleaned up a bit before driving out to Cumming (heh) to visit my brother and his family.
One the way back into the city we stopped in Sandy Springs (it reminds me of Naperville – I keep wanting to translate Atlanta for Chicagoans LOL) and had dinner at Cafe Sunflower. On a previous visit I had dinner here with Leigh, but she navigated the manu and ordered all the best stuff. This time I had the Moo Shu Vegetables which was bafflingly served wrapped in two huge flour tortillas like a burrito. Still, the vegetables and plum sauce were tasty and I was starving so I wolfed it down.
I’d saved an anise cake from Tinkertown Pies, so I laid in bed eating that before conking out for the night. Atlanta is so hot and you spend a lot of time in the car there – it’s kind of exhausting.
We drove out to Dulce Vegan, which is a cute little bakery and cafe in what looked like a popular strip of restaurants and bars. We both got breakfast sandwiches with tofu “egg” – but I was smart, and got mine on a biscuit, whereas Tony was a weirdo and ordered an English muffin. Mine had tempeh bacon and a smoky chipotle aioli and it was stupid good. We also shared a ginger-peach scone that was buttery and delicious. I really wanted to take some pastries back to the hotel with us, but we were headed to a few more places and I didn’t want them to melt so I sadly went without – next time!
We caught the Jim Henson exhibit at the Center for Puppetry Arts and as expected, it made us both almost cry like 30 different times. I’d also just been reading a book called Street Gang, about the fascinating story of how Sesame Street came to be, so it was extra emotional for me to see all the Muppets up close and to read about cult classics like the The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth and to see those amazing creations in person.
The center is in Midtown, which also happens to be home to Cinnaholic, a somewhat-secretly all-vegan cinnamon roll shop so we decided to eat dessert for lunch.
A bunch of people suggested we check out East Atlanta Village, so we headed that way next. Either it’s cooler at night, or you have to want to hang out at a bar to enjoy it because I’m sad to say we walked around what appeared to be the whole area in just a few minutes and didn’t find a lot to do. They were also filming a movie on the street, which happens a lot in Atlanta, so it’s possible that they were blocking off some places we would have liked. Either way, there were tons of colorful murals and it was a nice day so we enjoyed the walk.
I was hot and exhausted, so we went back to the room and watched a couple hours worth of Ancient Aliens before we went over to Ponce City Market. I’d been there previously with my brother, who is obsessed with the decidedly not-vegan burrito at Minero. (I got the cauliflower tacos sans cheese, and the chips and guac and they’re both really good.) Ponce City Market is kind of a fancy mall with a big food hall with some fun vegan options – like scoops of cookie dough, or popsicles from King of Pops (which is EVERYWHERE in the city). We saw so many hilarious, shameless Instagram influencer photos being taken in and around this place, it was kind of like being in Brooklyn again.
Since this was our anniversary dinner, we decided to go to Herban Fix. Plus, after a day of biscuits and cinnamon rolls I was craving vegetables and this place is a very veggie-forward vegan restaurant. Again, Leigh took me here the first time so I remembered the pom pom mushroom steak and a few other dishes that were really, really good.
After that we saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the Mr. Roger’s movie, and as expected – cried a bunch more. It was a very emotional day.
I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my brother on my last full day in the city, so we went back to Sevenanda for the breakfast hot bar (this time we got there early, so they had a few more dishes available) and we loaded up on sandwiches and sides to bring out to Cumming with us.
We spent most of the day at my brother’s, holding a sleeping baby and trying to make his hateful little dog Mookie like us (he eventually let Tony pet him, but he never warmed up to me). We busted out the food and I gleefully watched my brother dig into vegan chicken salad and spicy collard greens. He said if he could eat like that every day he’d be a vegetarian. I resisted the urge to tell him he could eat like that every day, but Aaron, if you’re reading this – you could!
I’d hoped to meet up with Leigh and her family before heading home early in the morning on Sunday, but we did the math and figured out we had to get up around 4am the next morning so we decided to grab dinner near the hotel and go to bed early.
For dinner we went over to Yeah! Burger. Not only do they offer three vegan burger patties (Beyond Burger, Impossible Foods and a housemade quinoa burger) and two vegan bun options, but they also offer Beyond Sausages. Lots of vegan condiments are available – like Follow Your Heart cheese slices, and Just Mayo. The most exciting part for me? Vegan ice cream sandwiches! Sadly, I was so stuffed from my burger and fries I decided not to get one – but next time I’m eating that first.
What I Missed:
I’d hoped to head back to Revolution Doughnuts, a place I’d previously visited with Leigh, but never made it. I also wanted Tony to try Soul Veg Atlanta, because the one in Chicago has gotten less-great over the years but theirs is still awesome. Green Sprout also looked good, but we only had so much room in our stomachs. Oh, and if you find yourself hungry in the airport, Grindhouse Killer Burgers has a housemade veggie burger and Impossible Burgers.
Anyway, it was a fun, quick trip and I hope to be back in a couple months for Veg Fest!
Vegan Cherry Pie with Rosemary Streusel
By June 18, 2018Published:
- Yield: 1 pie (8 Servings)
Don't be intimidated by what sounds like a strange combo. Fresh rosemary's subtle pine flavor adds a brightness and sophistication to this pie that you'll find as addictive as I did.
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 3 Tbs light brown sugar
- 4 Tbs sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbs fresh rosemary washed and finely chopped
- 6-7 Tbs vegan butter
- Mix all of the ingredients except the vegan butter.
- Using your hands, drop the butter in a couple chunks at a time, squishing and pinching it into a crumbly streusel.
- Refrigerate for 15 minutes before using it to top your pie.
- Tip: If you have some left over, save it to sprinkle on oatmeal or to top a couple cute muffins.
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I’ve attended the Sweets and Snacks Expo as an exhibitor a few times, but it’s a whole different world when the press pass goes on. Last year I went with a mission to find at least five really great new vegan products, and I did. (Check out last year’s post and finds here.)
This year I didn’t find as many new products – although I did find a handful, and some new flavors from old favorites. So I thought I’d mention a few throughout this post, which will focus on some trends I spotted instead.
1. All of the Beans
Just like last year, there were a ton of new snack lines (and additions to not-so-new-lines) featuring chickpeas, lentils, peas, and other legumes as the main ingredient. As someone who works for a quinoa-based snack brand, alternative proteins are something I clearly embrace.
I should note – the booth staff for Lebby didn’t seem to know much about the ingredients, explaining that they are co-packed in Turkey. I was curious how they got them so shiny without using confectioner’s glaze, which is not vegan, and didn’t see an ingredient on their list that could be used as a glaze. I found the booth for the confectionery that actually helped us develop a non-GMO vegan glaze for our chocolate products, and they told me they also did not think any of those ingredients could be used as a glaze, and cautioned me that it seemed like this brand was using a non-vegan glaze and not disclosing it. I have contacted Lebby to clarify this, and not received a response.
2. Refusing to Say the Word “Vegan”
So, that Lebby possible shadiness brings me to another trend. Last year I spoke with the folks at Little Secrets about why they don’t label their vegan-friendly products as “vegan.” Short answer? Because vegans. Basically, they have not certified that their sugar is vegan-friendly, and they received so many inquiries about it that they decided not to call their dark chocolate products vegan as a result. In fact, when I posted that I’d tasted them, I received many DMs from vegans warning me about the sugar.
I found this really interesting, as vegans have also collectively decided that Oreos are vegan-friendly, but as far as I know, there is no evidence that they have been transparent about the source of their sugar. (And don’t get me started about palm oil.)
This was frustrating, to say the least, as booth after booth I would ask if they had any vegan-friendly items and 9 out of 10 vendors would dance around the topic, replying that the ingredients are “plant-based,” or in one case, telling me “that depends on how vegan you are.”
That’s why I was so relieved when I found booths like Bixby & Co., Vegan Rob’s and Dandies, where items were labels “vegan” and the booth staff knew exactly what that meant, and that there’s no such thing as “depends on how vegan you are.”
3. So Puffy
Everything – everything was a puff. Every grain, every legume, even cheese was puffed. Again, as someone who works for a brand that sells quinoa puffs I am pro-this trend. I did notice that a lot of them were opting for whey protein as opposed to something both allergen and vegan-friendly like pea protein, and many of them have a corn base, like Cheetos. Corn puffs up light and airy, like Pirate’s Booty, but it doesn’t add much nutritionally. I hope to see more brands (like ours) using nutrient-dense, plant-based ingredients for their puffs since this trend only seems to be growing.
4. Uh, Is it Me?
I had a few bummer experiences with brands this year – either because they didn’t really know their ingredients, didn’t know what vegan meant, or because they just didn’t feel like talking me to. Yes, I have a lot of tattoos, but I also have eight years of CPG experience with some pretty heavy-hitting brands, I dress cute, I am courteous, and I attend the show with the genuine intention of finding and promoting vegan products (which is a long way of saying, I’m not there for the samples – in fact, I refuse most samples because I don’t want a bunch of crap in my house).
It was especially a bummer when the brands’ PR teams had spent weeks convincing me to go check them out and then the activation team had zero interest in answering my questions with more than 1-2 word replies. I get it, those are long days, but I’ve worked those long days and I never miss an opportunity to talk about my amazing brand.
Case in point? Good Day Chocolate. I’ve always passed these by in the store because they’re made with confectioner’s glaze, which is made from beetles, and the ones I picked up were always made with dairy. So when the PR person reached out a took a shot in the dark and asked about vegan options and she replied warmly with a list of the vegan-friendly dark chocolates.
When I walked up to the booth, the first person I spoke with refused to use the word “vegan,” instead directing me to the dark chocolates “made without dairy,” as she put it. I picked up a package and flipped it over, surprised to find that the confectioner’s glaze had been replaced with vegan-friendly Carnauba Wax. I would have asked more, but it was clear that this person had no interest in speaking about vegan products so I waited until another person at the other end of the table was free.
I asked her the same question about vegan options, and received the same response – that the dark chocolate was dairy-free. There was a pause, and then she offered me a box of the Probiotic chocolate, saying it was the most popular dairy-free one. I worked for a huge kefir brand for several years and know that there are dairy-based and non-dairy-based probiotic strains, and would have loved to ask more about it, in addition to finding out when they switched to Carnauba Wax, but again, this person turned away from me and I was left with a really salty feeling about the whole brand.
Despite this experience, I posted a picture of the booth in my Story and, of course, received tons of DMs from people warning me about confectioner’s glaze. I would have loved to tell them that the company officially switched over, but since no one could be bothered to speak with me, I didn’t. In fact, one person sent me a photo she took, because she was standing at check out in Whole Foods Market, showing me that confectioner’s glaze was listed on the package. I wish I could tell her when the Carnauba Wax products would be hitting the shelves but… oh well.
Meanwhile, a member of the Vegan Rob’s sales team saw me from across the room and came over to tell me to visit their booth. Real talk? I wasn’t going to go near that booth because they’re technically a competitor with my brand. But his enthusiasm convinced me, and I ended up trying their snacks and finding some I liked. Now I’m a fan, and I’ve been posting about them on Instagram. I don’t need every brand to throw me a parade, but word of advice? If someone is interested enough to ask you about the ingredients, take five seconds to chat with them.
5. Friggin Meat Snacks
It is SUPER easy to walk away from a show like the National Products Expo feeling like the whole world is finally catching on to the ethical, health, and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. But, when you walk the floor of a show with conventional brands like Hershey’s mixed in with the avocado chips, you realize that vegans are still very much in a bubble. There were soooo many jerkys and meat bars thanks to the KETO craze (I guess everyone forgot Atkin’s was already a thing). But, on the upside, there were also a lot of vegan-friendly mushroom snacks, including Shroom Bars made with mushrooms and… lemon. I don’t know either, but I’d try it.
And now, for the vegan sweets & snacks:
Please note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click and make a purchase I may earn a commission. However, this is not a sponsored post and all opinions expressed here are my own.
Paulie Gee’s is one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago (find it among my other faves in my Chicago’s Best Vegan Eats Guide). It’s an omnivore, woodfired oven joint with extensive vegan options. We’re talking housemade faux meats, cheese that isn’t nasty old Daiya, vegan cake AND ice cream for dessert… I just love it. So I was EXTRA stoked when the owner of the Logan Square location, Derrick, asked me to compete in their first all-vegan Dough Down Throw Down pizza battle!
I got to choose my competition, and I had a long debate (with myself) about whether I should choose a vegan restaurant owner, some fancy chef, or one of my friends who has a small vegan business. I ultimately decided to challenge my friend Nahum, one of the chefs behind Ste Martaen and the Vegan Food Truck (and soon, Meet Stop) here in Chicago. I love Nahum’s food, and I love him as a person – so regardless of who wins I know we’ll have fun in the kitchen together and all the guests will have some killer pizzas.
As if that wasn’t going to be enough fun, I’ve asked my friend Chelsie, the cutie pie behind Hootenanny Vegan Country Kitchen to help me out the night of the battle.
Who: Me vs. Nahum!
What: A vegan pizza battle
When: Sunday, June 3, 5pm – 10pm
Where: Paulie Gee’s Logan Square
Why: Because for just $30 you’ll get 1/2 of each pizza, a cocktail and a housemade vegan dessert (plus there will be additional vegan ala carte items available, including slices of cake from Pie, Pie My Darling
RSVP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/2238590386364284/
Buy your ticket: https://www.exploretock.com/pauliegee
People ask me all the time what my favorite vegan protein powder is, and up until last year when I joined a gym and stopped eating like a raccoon that lives in an all-vegan dumpster, I honestly had no idea because I’d never tried one. Fast forward to now when I down a nutrition shake every morning for breakfast and I’ve definitely separated the studs from the duds.
Everyone’s tastes and dietary preferences are different, of course, so don’t take these picks for gospel. They’re just some suggestions from someone who has tried a LOT of vegan protein powders in 12 short months. It’s my personal preference to blend my smoothies with a low-sugar blend of frozen berries and unsweetened cashew milk. I only ever drink them mixed with water in an emergency. So if you’re a simply water or ice-blender, these will all be slightly less sweet than what I describe. Also, most of these are considered a nutrition shake, or meal replacer, but always double check the nutrition panel to make sure your protein powder has everything you’re looking for.
This is my current favorite, as it has a really good chocolate flavor without being too sweet, and it blends really smooth and not chalky. The ingredients list is simple (only 12 ingredients in this flavor, which includes a variety of real-food proteins like hemp and pumpkin seed) so I don’t feel like I’m drinking a concoction as much as I feel like this is a whole foods smoothie. It’s also available in Vanilla, Mixed Berry and Banana, which I haven’t tried yet, and you can get it in single-serve pouches for travel. Buy it on Amazon
Sweetener: Monk Fruit
A couple years ago I met John “Bad Ass Vegan” Lewis at Green Fest in San Francisco. He was at the VeganSmart booth and persuaded me to try the Chocolate flavor, even though at that point I hated this sort of thing. But out of Midwestern politeness, I tried it, and was surprised that it was actually pretty good. Now this one is sweetened with Stevia, but it also contains several fruit powders as part of its whole food complex, and I believe those natural sugars cut the bitter aftertaste that makes most people have Stevia. These shakes come in lots of flavors ranging from the standard Chocolate and Vanilla to more adventures ones like Chai and Peaches and Cream. Available in tubs and in travel pouches. Buy it on Amazon
Sweetener: Stevia, with other fruit powders
Ingredients-wise, this one isn’t my favorite, but I did pick up a jar of the Peanut Butter flavor when I found myself scooping peanut butter powder into all my smoothies for flavor. It tastes pretty good, and the ingredients are organic – but there are quite a few thickeners and preservatives in there that don’t show up in some of my other top picks. This one is available unflavored and unsweetened, or in a lot of flavors like Pumpkin Spice and Iced Matcha Latte. Sometimes you can grab it really cheap at Costco, or on Amazon, though, it even though it’s made with Stevia I haven’t found it bitter when I blend it with frozen fruit. Buy it on Amazon
Sweetener: Stevia, or unsweetened
This is a good option for an ingredient purist – no gums, no “natural flavors” and there’s even an option with no Stevia. With up to 26g of protein, depending on the flavor you choose, this is the highest protein option of all the ones I’ve tried. I like the blends they put together, too, it takes the guesswork out of adding superfoods to your smoothie. One other bonus to this brand, the multi-serving option comes in a resealable pouch instead of a big plastic tub. It takes up less room in your kitchen and it less to recycle or throw away when it’s empty. Four flavors are available right now. Buy it on SproutLiving.com
Sweetener: Stevia, or unsweetened
5. Carrington Farms
This is another one for clean label freaks – between only three and five ingredients! Obviously with such a short list of ingredients you aren’t going to get all the prebiotic, whole foods complex bells and whistles of some of these other options but the beauty is you can add whatever you want and not worry about drinking a bunch of weird thickeners and additives. This one only comes in two options – unsweetened and unflavored or in Chocolate. Buy it on Amazon
Sweetener: Stevia, or unsweetened
If you’re just looking for a vegan protein powder with no flavor or sweetener – either to make your own custom blend, or to add to baked goods and other recipes, try some of the options listed as “unsweetened” above.
Here are some ideas for healthy additions to your daily protein shake:
D’Vash Organic Date Nectar – I used to throw a whole, soaked date in my smoothie to sweeten it without spiking my blood sugar, but it never quite blended all the way and pieces always got stuck in my straw. So now I use this organic date nectar that contains 25% less sugar than honey.
Turmeric Liquid Drops – Turmeric is a great anti-inflammatory to add to your smoothie. I like it in liquid form like this because it’s concentrated, and your body absorbs it faster and better than in powder form.
Gelatinized Maca Powder – Don’t let the name scare you, this is a vegan ingredient. Gelatinized just means that the maca was heat-treated to remove some of the starch, which makes it easier to digest. This is a great additive if you’re experiencing hormonal imbalance.
Peanut Butter Powder – Peanut butter flavor and protein, minus the fat. I use this for flavor, mostly – it’s especially good with chocolate, duh. Sometmes for a late night snack, though, I rehydrate it with water and eat it with apple slices.
Vanilla and/or cinnamon – I never thought about these two ingredients, Amy Dumas is the one who first suggested them. Just like in baking, each of these adds a really nice flavor to your smoothie without contributing a significant amount of calories, fat, or really anything else.
What are your favorite vegan protein powders and smoothie ingredients? Tell me in the comments!
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click and make a purchase I could earn a comission. Additionally, some of the items in this post were sent to me for free by the companies, but my opinions and recommendations are my own, and I was not compensated for any of the opinions expressed here.
It’s been a while since I did a random round-up of vegan snacks (re: Vegan Chocolate Attack, Healthy Snack Obsession and Vegan Sweets and Snacks) but I’ve been having really good luck trying new things lately and wanted to share. Some of these are not so much snacks as pantry items, but hear me out because they’re worth a try.
1. Rule Breaker Snacks
Duuuuuuuuuuude. The folks at Rule Breaker Snacks reached out to me to see if I wanted to try their new Birthday Cake flavor (they’ve had Deep Chocolate Brownie and Chocolate Chunk Brownie for a minute now) and I went from having zero expectations to being a fan in one bite. These chickpea-based brownies (in some cases, blondies) are gluten-free, free of most of the top allergens (nuts, dairy, eggs) and good god, so good. They aren’t in any stores near me (Chicago) but you can buy them by the case on Amazon – and you should.
2. Aloha Organic Protein Bars
Aloha and my company I Heart Keenwah did a product swap – it’s a fun thing food brands do, mail each other snacks. They sent us a million protein bars and again, I had no expectations. I’ve just been burned by too many gross, chalky protein bars. But theirs remind me of cookie dough – they’re chewy and sweet (but not too sweet). I tried the peanut butter chocolate chip one and it honestly tastes like dessert, but has the nutritional profile of a healthy snack. I’ll also be talking about their protein powder in an upcoming post about, um… protein powder.
3. Endorfin Foods Chocolate
I saw Endorfin Foods in a list of NorCal products for something I was doing for work. Curious, I checked out their website and almost fell off my chair when I saw they offer an Absinthe flavor. You might recall that I’m obsessed with controversial flavors like licorice and absinthe. While I do love the complex flavor of that bar, my favorite is their Coconut Mylk Chocolate with Ginger and Rose. It’s a must for any chocolate lover. I’m hoping they get expanded distribution this year, but in the meantime you can order them online, and keep an eye out for a collab bar with I Heart Keenwah.
4. Beyond Sausage
OK. Before we begin, let me tell you that these are $8.99/pack and a lot of people on Twitter have a lot of opinions about that. My opinion is don’t buy it if you don’t want to. Me? I bought four packs the day they hit the stores because I’m the fuckin’ 2 Chainz of vegan sausages. These gluten-free links are unlike any vegan sausage you have ever tried. They aren’t seitan. The taste and texture is so realistic I panicked. The casing crisps when you cook them, and has a snap. If you can get your hands on a pack it’s worth the (apparent) splurge. (Oh and if you’re curious about why some foods are pricier than others check out the “Food Biz” archive on my Instagram bio where I break down pricing and distribution from a professional’s POV.)
5. Shishito Gold Mustard
I don’t know why my job is coming up so much in this post, but I actually tried this mustard because of a collab we did with Punk Rawk Labs. My boss takes all of our social media pics, and after he received his package from PRL he chatted me online, “Have you tried this mustard? It’s legit.” Ravi isn’t one to casually hand out compliments, so I picked up a jar at Heartland Cafe, a local restaurant with a little natural grocery attached. I’ve been told mustard obsession is a Chicago thing, but I think it should be a people with mouths thing because it adds amazing flavor to everything – especially vegan cheese sauces. Shishito Gold Mustard is really bold, a little sweet, and kind of spicy but in a flavorful way, not a hurt your face way.
Bonus: Elmhurst Plant-Based Milks
I just read in Forbes (yeah, I read Forbes, shut it) that plant-based milks now make up 10% of total milk sales. Which, as someone who used to have to buy soy milk in a can from Asian grocery stores, is very amazing. Elmhurst actually used to be a dairy producer, until they shifted to a 100% plant-based model. Now they make “milked” nuts and grains in pretty white cartons that look really fancy. They were nice enough to send me a sampler and Teno finished off the Milked Peanuts with Chocolate in one day. Peanut milk is unique, to be sure, but really good in smoothies. My nut allergy friends are really excited about their grain-based options, and I like that many are available unsweetened.
It’s been nine years since I was a judge on the pilot episode of Cupcake Wars, but my tell-all post about the experience is still one of my most popular! At the time I just wanted to address the questions I was getting about my specific episode, but now I want to address some of the more general questions people search, leading them to my original post.
Oh, and if you want to see the episode I was on, it’s on Amazon for $1.99.
1. What Happens to All the Cupcakes?
Again, it’s been nine years since I was on the show, but on my episode there was no shortage of people willing to take cupcakes home. When we filmed the pilot there were probably 50 people involved – hair and makeup, editors, producers, a zillion camera operators, sound engineers, show runners – and we were filming inside a giant tent on the UCLA campus. So imagine how much production got ramped up once the series was actually picked up.
Some of the cupcakes quite honestly weren’t worth keeping either from not being well-prepared or just melting under the studio lights. But the ones that survived were snatched up by the show staff pretty quickly.
2. How Do They Come Up With Recipes On the Spot?
In the interest of not getting sued by Food Network, I should say that I actually didn’t ask anyone about this, so my answer is simply speculation from the perspective of someone who has been on the show. That being said, I believe the contestants are told ahead of time what the general theme of each challenge will be so they can prepare.
It’s a pretty common practice for cooking competitions – Iron Chef does it. Sorry to disappoint if you’re someone who still believes reality TV and food competitions are 100% real and unscripted. I guess this would be a good time to let you know that the outcome of professional wrestling matches is also pre-determined.
3. How Do the Contestants Build Their Displays So Quickly?
On the pilot episode, the on-site carpenters were part of the show. I haven’t watched lately, but if I remember correctly that’s an aspect that didn’t make it into any of the regular seasons. For our episode, they did meet with the contestants before we even started filming to plan their displays, which leads me back to my theory that the contestants know the themes ahead of time. The carpenters worked off camera during filming to build the display, but all of that was edited to appear that they only had an hour to complete their work.
It also took two days to film the episode I was on – so even though the contestants really did only have 30 minutes to do this, or an hour to do that, it was spread out over multiple days.
4. How Do the Judges Choose a Winner?
This is probably the trickiest one to answer, which is weird because I was a judge, right? I can only speak for my episode, but on the first day of filming one of the producers was telling us about each of the contestants. It was a casual run-down, and not framed as instructions in any way. When he got to Elfie, the baker who won the episode, he said some nice things about her bakery and her personality and then he said, “She’s going to win.” It was definitely not “you are going to choose her,” it was more like a prediction. But I remember thinking it was a weird thing to say to the judges before the competition even started.
As the contest went on, it was clear that Elfie was, in fact, the superior baker, and she did end up winning. We judges had maybe a two-minute whispered conversation about who we were choosing, and I remember a production assistant looming over us insisting we hurry the whole time. (Which is also weird because it took two days to film this show – why are we in a big hurry all of the sudden?)
Nevertheless, we ended up agreeing with the producer and choosing Elfie as the winner. But I often wonder if they cast the show with a ringer, knowing full well who will win ahead of time. They definitely didn’t tell us who to eliminate, or in what order, so maybe it’s just chance that it ended up the way it did? Who knows.
5. How Do You Get on Cupcake Wars?
In my case, as a judge, the casting director and I had actually previously chatted about me possibly being on a different show she was working on. When they decided at the last minute that they needed a third judge she called me and I flew to L.A. the next day. But if you’re looking to compete on the show, keep your eye on the Food Network casting call page – it’s where they post about all of their competitions. They definitely also scout social media to see if any bakers are shaking things up on the Internet, too.
I hope that quenches people’s surprising thirst for knowledge about this show! If you still have questions leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!
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