Happy National Cheesecake Day!!

It seems to me that the flavored cheesecake days should have come *after* plain old regular cheesecake.  But whatevs.  I found this cashew-based cheesecake recipe a few months back and have found it quite wonderful - you should definitely try it out! 


Happy National Hamburger Day!

Happy burger day y'all!  In case you were wondering how to celebrate today free of ham (pigs!) or beef (cows!), and not inclined to throw some frozen patties on the grill or in the microwave, you need look no further than Santa Fe Tapas.  Their vegan burger is so realistic as to be a bit spooky.  Spooky... and delicious!  And the fries are excellent as well!


Happy National Milk Chocolate Day... one day early!

It seems that Whole Foods has ceased carrying my very favorite vegan milk chocolate.  Vegan milk chocolate... sounds like a contradiction in terms, doesn't it?  But it's not, I swear!  I loooooove the Creamy Sweet chocolate bar from Rice Dream.  Perhaps I can find it at another local grocer... I'll let you know! 

What's your favorite vegan milk chocolate?


Happy National Bagelfest!

Yes indeed, Bagelfest!  During my years in New York working across the street from a classic Jewish bagelry, I developed quite a taste for fresh, huge, chewy bagels.

In Nola, they're tough to find... but not impossible!  If you have a hankering, check out Artz Bagels on Ninth Street, just below Magazine.  They don't have any tasty vegan spreads yet, but take them home and add your own schmear of vegan cream cheese, peanut butter, hummus, mashed banana - whatever floats your boat.  You could even make some home-made vegan lox!


Happy National Hot Fudge Sundae Day!

I'm noticing a theme here.  A frozen things theme.  It's like someone thinks July is hot or something.

In reference to this day, please see Strawberry Sundae Day, for which I did in fact use hot fudge!


Happy National Vanilla Ice Cream Day!

In case you didn't get enough ice cream on National Vegan Ice Cream Day, here's your chance to fill up on vanilla!

Somehow, "vanilla" has come to mean boring or plain in United States culture.  I simply don't understand how this is possible.  Vanilla, the flavor, when it's real - and it should always be real - comes from the seed pods of a tropical orchid vine.  Each vanilla flower opens and is available for pollination for only one day.  If in that day the flower gets pollinated, it will then spend the next eight to nine months developing a pod.  It is the only widely eaten orchid in the world.  It is as gorgeous as it is delicious.  So when you chow down on some vegan vanilla ice cream today, take a moment to reflect on what an exotic treat vanilla really is!


Happy National Penuche Day! (Yep, I said Penuche! Vegan Penuche!)

So... what the heck is penuche?  According to teh internets:
"Penuche (Italian: panucci) is a fudge-like candy made from brown sugar, butter, and milk,[1] using no flavorings except for vanilla. Penuche often has a tannish color, and is lighter than regular fudge.[2] It is formed by the caramelization of brown sugar, thus its flavor is said to be reminiscent of caramel."
Thanks teh internets!

So guess what?  In an unsurprising turn of events, you can make vegan penuche - Thanks Vegan Appetite!
Penuche (veganized and paraphrased)
2 cups light brown sugar
3/4 cup soy cream (or soymilk, but cream is better)
1/8 tsp salt 2 tbsp earth balance or other vegan margarine
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts or coconut (we never used these)

Combine sugar, cream, and salt in a saucepan. Heat over low heat and stir until it comes to a boil. Cook to 236 degrees (soft ball stage), stirring frequently to prevent curdling or scorching. Remove from heat and add margarine. Wipe the edges of the pan (the sugary bits) the best you can, but it’s hard to do. Don’t disturb it again until it reaches 110 degrees. Add the vanilla. Then beat it like crazy with the wooden spoon. Once you start beating, you can’t quit until you’re done or it will get grainy. Here is where the original recipe gets vague: “It takes skill born of experience to judge the exact time at which the fudge should be poured. If it is too hot when poured out, it will be granular; if it is poured too late it will not flow and form a smooth sheet of uniform thickness.” Big help, huh? So we beat as long as we can, then pour it out on a greased cookie sheet (thinner) or a pie plate if you want it to be a little thicker. Let it set for a couple of hours, then cut it and see how quickly it disappears. Oh, if you’re gunking it up with nuts or coconut, add those right before you pour.


Also, Happy National Lollipop Day!

"They were put in the care of Visitación, a Guajiro Indian woman who had arrived in town with a brother in flight from a plague of insomnia that had been scourging their tribe for several years. They were both so docile and willing to help that Ursula took them on to help her with her household chores. That was how Arcadio and Amaranta came to speak the Guajiro language before Spanish, and they learned to drink lizard broth and eat spider eggs without Ursula’s knowing it, for she was too busy with a promising business in candy animals... In the meantime, through an oversight that Jose Arcadio Buendía never forgave himself for, the candy animals made in the house were still being sold in the town. Children and adults sucked with delight on the delicious little green roosters of insomnia, the exquisite pink fish of insomnia, and the tender yellow ponies of insomnia, so that dawn on Monday found the whole town awake."

100 Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Happy National Ice Cream Day!

Happy National Vegan Ice Cream Day!  Yep, that's right, I'm co-opting it.

And I feel validating in doing so by this website I just discovered (through a magnificent vegan friend, of course): Vegan Ice Cream Paradise!  It's all in the name, folks.  If you have ever wanted to make awesome vegan ice cream at home, look no further!

Just remember that you cannot live on nothing but ice cream... probably.


Happy National Peach Ice Cream Day!

I don't actually know of any commercially sold vegan peach ice cream.  But that's OK, as it's easy to make your own!  And the only special kitchen gadget you need is a food processor.  Swing by one of the area farmer's markets, pick up some nice ripe peaches, and get to creating this tasty frozen treat!


Also, Happy Birthday Grandpa Joe!

Today, my grandpa Joe Grisaffi would have been 104 years old.  Sadly he left this earthly plane back in 2004 - but 95 years is still a pretty good run.

Joe Grisaffi was a dixieland jazz musician with the Kings of Dixieland.  (That's him behind the xylophone, second from the right. I do own this record cover; sadly there is no record in it.) They played happy music that people loved to dance to.  And dance they did, all over New Orleans on most evenings in the fifties, sixties, and seventies - including at City Park's Peristyle, originally designed as a dancing pavilion, and annually at Jazz Fest until 2001.  By day, he repaired instruments at Gruenwald's.

Grandpa Joe was pretty awesome - besides my sister I can say confidently that he is my favorite family member.  He loved animals and they loved him.  He made jokes all the time, and even though he'd try to keep a straight face his mustache would twitch and give it away.  He survived incredible strife (both World Wars, the Depression, getting hit by a train, his wife's death from cancer, his son's suicide), but never became bitter.  He loved everyone in his family as well as he knew how.

And so.  My (living) family members have a tradition.  Every year, on this day, we go out and enjoy the things that Grandpa Joe considered extraordinary treats: Chinese food - Five Happiness was his favorite - and a spearmint snowball from Sal's.

Miss you and love you, Grandpa.


Also, Happy National Macaroni Day!

Noodles, as you may know, are among my favorite food.  In the broad category of "noodle" I tend to include all types of pasta - especially fun shapes.  And so, in my mind, macaroni totally qualifies.

There are so many fun ways to eat macaroni!  In the winter you can stir it into vegan chilli with some Daiya on top for a nice hot chilli-mac.  In the summer, you can mix it up with a lil Vegenaise, some chopped bell pepper, and some roasted red pepper for a cool macaroni salad treat.  But I think we all know that the ultimate purpose of macaroni is... MACARONI AND CHEESE.

There are many, many, many vegan mac n' cheeze recipes out there, ranging from healthy to dreadul junk, and from delicious to... well... dreadful junk.  Today I offer you my own mac n' cheeze concoction.  Not so healthy in that it relies pretty heavily on processed dairy substitutes, but delicious, fast, and always a crowd pleaser.  And to make it just a smidge healthier, I usually make it with quinoa pasta.

  • 1 pound pasta {I like to use one box quinoa macaroni elbows and one box quinoa spaghetti}
  • 1 package shredded Daiya, whichever flavor you prefer (two cups total)
  • 1/3 tub Tofutti or other vegan cream cheese
  • vegan margarine
  • Tony Chachere's or other seasoning salt
  • cook your pasta in a large pot per the directions on the box
  • while it's boiling get together your other ingredients so they are ready to stir in
  • when the pasta is perfectly cooked, drain completely
  • put pasta back in the pot and quickly add the Daiya and cream cheese {do not add the margarine yet - it will prevent the cheese from "sticking" to the noodles!}
  • stir, and stir, and stir, and stir - I like to use a wooden spoon because they don't bend - until the mixture is as homogenous
  • add one or two pats of margarine and stir some more
  • season to taste with Tony's if you can get it, and some other peppery seasoning salt if you can't - make sure to stir well again so that you don't end up with weird salty patches!
  • serve and eat immediately - it's best when still hot, especially if you've used the quinoa pasta
  • you *will* have leftovers - it's no good cold, so add a few drops of water and microwave for 1 to 1.5 minutes

Happy National Strawberry Sundae Day!

Ice cream.  Hot fudge.  Whatever else you please, more or less.  These are the things the Sundae is made of.  A sugary but delightful treat.  And aren't we lucky that we can find vegan strawberry ice cream at the grocery, and make our lives a little more complete?

This here sundae is made with whole frozen strawberries, Santa Cruz Organic Chocolate Flavored Syrup, and strawberry and chocolate ice cream made by Almond Dream, my favorite ice cream brand!


Happy National Apple Turnover Day!

Little known fact: many if not most of the fruit turnovers that you see in grocery bakeries are actually vegan!  Not healthy by any stretch of the imagination, but free of animal products.  So the next time you have a craving for flaky apple-y goodness, hit up your store and see what they got!  (Whole Foods uptown usually has them.)

If you're a go getter, you can also make them at home!  Recipes abound on the internet.  You can buy frozen puff pastry, or go whole hog and make your own. Either way, you're sure to end up with a delicious treat.  Happy apple-ing!


Happy National BBQ Day... a.k.a the Fourth of July!

Grilling on the fire escape, July 2007
Yes, it's July Fourth, the day when Americans celebrate their American-ness by setting things on fire!  Kinda.

Trying out the new grill, July 2013
The term "BBQ" (or barbeque or bar-b-que) is frequently, if erroneously, used interchangeably with the term "grilling."  BBQ, technically, is the long slow cooking over fire or smoking of... meat.  So I will specify that today, we will be grilling - but I'll be happy to call it a BBQ!  That's just how I roll.

We'll be throwing lots of tasty comfort foods on the grill today: Boca vegan burgers, Field Roast frankfurter hot dogs, tofu steaks, skewers of mushrooms and squash and other veggies, corn on the cob.  And we'll also be making a number of other goodies like pasta salad and blueberry cheesecake!  Need some big 4th ideas?  There are plenty on the internet!

Have a great time, stay safe, and remember that your animal companions can hear the fireworks too.  Happy 4th!

4th of July Fireworks on the Mississippi River Moonwalk
And since it's "America's Birthday", check out this printable PDF of the U.S. Constitution! Just in case you'd like to keep it handy. ;)