Sunday, February 3, 2013

Puppy Bowl!

It's Super Bowl Sunday. I'll be watching the Puppy Bowl and eating lots of vegan treats! And it's time to start blogging again ... It's been a while. A looong while.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Rainbow Connection

I thought my NY trip was going to be about donuts, but Doughnut Plant thwarted me again. The place was closed for vacation ... VACATION! Donuts don't go on vacation. That Doughnut Plant man has some nerve. I think the Bobby Flay throw down went to his head. DP you are officially off my list.

Good thing one of my other favorite pastry delights stepped up to the plate -- the Italian three-layer cookie aka the rainbow cookie.

I usually make a trip to Ferrara's in Little Italy to get my fix. The rainbow at Ferrara's is, in my opinion, the ultimate. Now, my brother thinks the rainbow at Egidio on Arthur Ave. is the best but he's wrong. He's just pissed off at Ferrara's cause they gave him some cookies that could have been fresher. I'd have asked for other cookies ... but that's just me.

The only downside to the Ferrara's rainbow is the price. These cookies are expensive, like $20 a pound. And a pound doesn't go far ... I've taken a box down in minutes. Edigio is more reasonable, maybe $10 a pound. Still, I prefer the taste of Ferrara's. The Ferrara's rainbow has the perfect balance of almond paste, jam and chocolate -- combine that with the correct level of moistness (moist but not too moist!) and you've got the winner. Plus, they're not too sweet. Most places make them too sweet and too moist, especially Jewish bakeries (they even put chocolate sprinkles on the outside).

I saw so many rainbows on my trip I felt like I was in Hawaii! They were popping up everywhere. Maybe I was just tuned in?

Rockland Bakery had the traditional cookie size (which ... eh, too sweet and way too much almond paste!) but then they had the SUPERSIZED rainbow. OMG, it was pretty darn good too. I thought it was going to be like the cookie only bigger ... but no. It was less sweet, had a better balance of almond, and it was good. It had more of a chocolate fudge on top rather than a hard chocolate shell. I was hooked. Plus, the giant rainbow was only $1.75!!!

My other rainbow surprise came at the oddest of places. A convenience store up in the boonies, near Kreg's folks. I couldn't believe it. Displayed proudly on the counter -- a packaged rainbow cookie bar. Weird, I know. Obviously a big seller because the box I choose my rainbows from was practically empty. Who knew they made such a product, guess I'm not the only one who likes rainbows! Flavor-wise, this prepackaged treat was a delight. It was moist, not too sweet, not overstuffed with jam and it had that almond paste taste.

I did buy a few for the plane ride back home and I still have one left ... I wonder if it's still fresh?

Monday, September 8, 2008


Ok, got shut out again!!! That friggin' Donut Plant has done it again. Last year, I made a special trip to go to donut mecca and guess what ... they were closed!!! Lesson learned, no donuts on Mondays.

So, this year on my annual trip to visit the inlaws, I decided to make the pilgrimage again (this time on a Wednesday). Guess what? They were CLOSED!!!! Again. Some lame note on the door about being on vacation. Well, F me. It's not in the cards. No Donut Plant donuts for me.

On a side note, I did have a very scrumptious donut in NY. It was an apple cider donut, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. So good!!! It wasn't right out of the fryer (the best way to enjoy country donuts), but it was still so fresh... so moist ... and just plain delicious. I found this treat at Roe's Orchard in Washingtonville(?), NY. Roe's is a farm stand with excellent local produce. We stopped in to get some corn and ended up with three bags full of veggies & treats (including the donuts)! Baked goods are only available on the weekends, so I was lucky to get those donuts!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Icebox Cake

Simple to make, yummy to eat and comforting to the core. I love icebox cake. I need icebox cake ... and I made icebox cake.

In between prepping for a hurricane, I decided to make the icebox cake. We needed something to soothe the nerves a little... and caloric comfort was it.

I grew up on icebox cakes, my mom whipped them out on almost every occasion. So, I was sort of surprised when people would ask me what it the heck is that white blob?

The white blob is one of the most delicious dessert there is - no baking required (and very little actually cooking needed).

Making the cake is simple... 3 ingredients.

1. Graham Crackers (Nabisco original graham crackers, highly recommended. you can taste the difference!)
2. Chocolate Pudding (you need the cook and serve variety)
3. Cool Whip

To make the cake, cook the pudding and let it cool slightly. Then on a plate or serving platter start the cake assembly.

Make a layer of graham crackers (I usually use 4 crackers per layer), then ladle on some pudding to cover the crackers. Repeat until you've used up all of the pudding. Make sure you end up with a layer graham crackers at the top.

Cover the cake with plastic wrap and place in the fridge. Chill for 3-4 hours (longer if you wish).

When you're ready to serve, frost the cake with cool whip. Cut into pieces and enjoy!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Pretzel Dog.

I've been teased by these hot-diggity delights for years. Calling to me from the glass cases of Auntie Anne's or Pretzel Twister. They look so scrumptious - golden brown and glistening with butter. Waiting for me to give in. Why can't they just use a veggie dog and end this obsession.

Well, after my last trip to the mall (and the ever present smell of baking dough wafting across my path) I decided to take matters into my own hands.

So, I searched the net for a recipe and came across one by Alton Brown (click here for recipe). Now, he's definitely not my favorite foodtv host but his recipes are usually well-tested and reliable.

I only had to tweak the recipe a little. The dough needed a tad more sugar to give it that PA Dutch pretzel taste. And to keep it vegan, I had to eliminate the butter (using margarine instead) and the egg wash (I brushed the pretzels with melted margarine before baking).

I'm not a pretzel-baking virgin (I've even graduated from the Julius Sturgess Pretzel House in Old Lititz PA! Okay, it's not really a school ... but you get to go on a tour of the pretzel factory and you even get to make your own pretzel!). Somehow, I've always had the challenge of getting the texture right. Last time I made them I used a mix from Williams-Sonoma and while the flavor was good, the texture of the crust wasn't quite right. The WS mix had you shape the pretzels and then dip them in a hot water-baking soda bath before baking.

The Alton Brown recipe has you dip the pretzels in the baking soda bath as well but the water has to be boiling. Sorta like making bagels. This technique totally worked. The crust was so much better - crisp and crunchy yet soft on the inside.

I made the dough Friday night, let it rise, and then realized ... It's kinda late to be making pretzels. So, I wrapped it up, placed it in the fridge, and went to bed with visions of pretzel dogs in my head!!!

Saturday afternoon, I took the dough out, let it come to room temperature and contemplated how to wrap the dogs. Kreg suggested using a rectangle of dough (kinda like the bagel-dog or pigs-in-a-blanket approach). I wasn't thrilled with that idea, so I opted for the classic Auntie Anne's spiral wrap. I knew it would take more time to make the dogs this way but it was worth it. I just rolled the dough into long pieces (just as you would for a traditional pretzel), and then wound the dough around the dog.

After I finished wrapping the dogs, it was time for them to take a dip in the pool. I placed each one into the boiling water/baking soda mixture for one minute each (it's best to only boil one dog at a time). Then I brushed them with melted margarine and sprinkled some pretzel salt and sesame seeds on top.

They were now ready for the oven. I popped them into a 450 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, until they were golden brown. Mmmm, they smelled so good. I couldn't wait to dive in. Totally worth the effort.

I paired my dogs with a trio of mustards ... spicy brown, yellow, and sweet and zesty. The spicy brown was my favorite, followed by the yellow (the sweet and zesty didn't work). Kreg wanted to go all gourmet by using a (fancy-schmancy) raspberry course-ground mustard pretzel dip, but it looked a little iffy (who knows how long it was in the fridge) and he didn't want to chance it. He had to settle for a crazy mixed-up concoction of the previously mentioned mustards.

This recipe totally worked out. I had enough dough to make five pretzel dogs and three large soft pretzels. Hmmm, maybe I'll whip up some pizza pretzels with the leftovers! Yum.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Yes, donuts make me lose control. I love 'em!!! So, when I heard about a new donut shop in town that had VEGAN donuts, I was quite excited. Yes, the vegan donuts were a perk, but heck... we all know that donuts make me fall off the vegan wagon.

Kreg and I checked out Buddha Belly Donuts in Sarasota last Sunday. We figured we'd pick up a few breakfast treats and then take the doggies for a walk (to burn off some of those fry calories!) I ordered four vegan donuts (two pink coconut and two oreo cookie) and one "regular" plain donut (this was my benchmark donut). The "benchmark" donut was kinda dry and a little tough but it was sorta light in texture. I'd give it a 6.5 out of 10 (with 10 being the best).

The vegan donuts were super heavy (a little heaviness is to be expected, and I was prepared) and the dough lacked salt. The donuts weren't greasy, so that's a plus, but they didn't really have any flavor and the texture was tough. The pink coconut topping was ok (I'm sure the pink food coloring wasn't natural), but it was too sweet. Same thing goes for the oreo topping plus it was so thick that it crumbled off before I could take a bite. Vegan donuts 4 out of 10.

It's cool to support local businesses but you've got to have a great product. I was really disappointed that the donuts weren't up to snuff. Will I go back? I don't know.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Little Village (minus the noodle) House

Another Hawaiian food blog! We ate in Hawaii's Chinatown a lot. This time Kreg and I are at Little Village Noodle House. We were attracted to Little Village because they had a pretty extensive vegetarian menu, plus they had green onion pancakes!

We decided on the green onion pancakes and tofu turnovers as our starters, followed by a noodle dish. Heck, the place has "noodle house" in it's name so you would think they'd be good. Since we couldn't decide on what noodle dish to order we asked for some suggestions. I really don't know what they said, but I heard tofu, vegetables and noodles ... sounds good to me!

The green onion pancakes were a little on the greasy side but for the most part, they were okay. They could not compare to the awesome scallion pancakes at Veggie Heaven in Teaneck, NJ. (We'll be heading there in September, and I can't wait!!! Best Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant... EVER!)

Next up tofu turnovers... these were tasty. They were similar to a large veggie dumpling, except the crust was flakey instead of doughy. The filling was a combo of tofu, chives and mixed veggies, and they were served with a garlicky ginger soy dipping sauce.

Our noodle entree was a disappointment. Nothing special here, some carrots and broccoli mixed in with your typical canned chinese vegetables ... bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and straw mushrooms. The noodles were okay, but not worth the calories for me. I'll stick with the appetizers.

Little Village
1113 Smith Street, Honolulu

Monday, June 23, 2008


My new favorite dairy-free ice cream is Turtle Mountain's Purely Decadent made with coconut milk. It is so delish I actually decided to have a sundae for dinner last night.

The texture was creamier than soy or rice based frozen desserts. It tasted (well, what I remember tasting) like real ice cream. They make several flavors, I prefer the straight up Coconut Milk coconut. The chocolate coconut is good but it wasn't as creamy, plus it was missing the coconut flakes that I enjoyed in the original.

I'm thinking tonight might be a good night for sundae dinner, again!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

It's a Thai!

Kreg and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary this year with a trip to Hawaii. We decided to stick with one island this time and stayed on Oahu. Kailua, a small beach town, on the windward coast was the perfect choice for us. It's more laid back, yet close enough to the action of Waikiki & Honolulu.

We had stayed in Kailua before so we knew what to expect as far as vegan food was concerned. On our last trip, Kreg fell in love with the garlic cabbage at Champa Thai. So, we knew we'd be back for more!

This time we ordered the garlic cabbage with tofu and a papaya salad starter. The papaya salad was so garlicky I couldn't eat it. Raw garlic affects me, so I refrained from eating it. (Cause Kreg would have complained the whole time about my garlic breath!) You would think we'd have to be wary of the GARLIC cabbage but NO ... the garlic was cooked, so it's mellow and delicious!

The garlic cabbage and tofu did not disappoint. It was better than we remembered. The tofu was cut in large pieces that were coated with panko and then fried. Mix that in with thinly sliced cabbage, fried garlic and creamy coconut milk, and serve with sticky rice. Yum! So good, almost made me forget about that garlicky mess of a papaya salad.

On another night we were on the mood for Thai again, this time we decided to try a new place. We read a lot of reviews online and most recommended Saeng's Thai Cuisine. They had a large vegetarian selection on the menu, so we figured we'd give them a shot.

It seemed promising, the restaurant definitely had more ambience. The decor was what you'd expect in a Thai restaurant. Carved wood, sparkly fabrics with elephants embroidered, etc. We ordered a starter of vegetable satay, followed by pad thai with tofu and mixed veggies with tofu.

Everything was mediocre. The peanut sauce with the satay was really sweet. The mixed veggie & tofu dish was nothing special. Saucy, bland and uninspired (I hate when all you get are canned baby corn, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots). And the pad thai... forget it. Too saucy and too sweet. Tasted like they used ketchup in the sauce. I prefer my Thai food to be more savory with a layering of flavors, not sweet, saucy glop.

Guess you really can't judge a book by it's cover. While the decor was nice ... the food was blah.

Neither place is perfect. Champa Thai has their share of sweet sauces (where they should be balanced) too. Saeng's has the ambience, Champa has slightly better food.

Note: The picture is from our dinner at Saeng's.

Champa Thai
306 Kuulei Rd
Kailua, HI 96734
(808) 263-8281


Saeng's Thai Cuisine
315 Hahani St
Kailua, HI 96734
(808) 263-9727

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hot, Soft & Fluffy Buns!

I think I may have mentioned in my profile that I like soft, doughy, bready things. Yeah, I love 'em - if I could roll myself up in dough, I WOULD!

Well, steamed Chinese buns and shui mai totally fit the bill! It's always such a treat for me to go to a vegetarian dim sum restaurant because we don't have any in the Sarasota area. Heck, it's so hard to just find a veggie dumpling here!

We found Legends Vegetarian Restaurant a couple of years ago on our first trip to Hawaii. So, it was a no-brainer that we'd be going back! I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into a soft, fluffy bun. The dim sum menu changes daily, on the day that we visited we had a choice of: a veggie filled bun, that was stuffed with chopped mushrooms, taro and cabbage; a "faux pork" char sui bun (which is a wheat gluten "meat" seasoned with a Chinese barbeque sauce; shui mai stuffed with taro, mushroom and cabbage; and a bean curd wrap (a veggie stuffing wrapped with a soy skin).

I'm all about the bun, so we had three orders of steamed buns (two of the char sui, one veggie) and an order of shui mai. The char sui bun was our favorite, the sweet barbeque sauce and soft bun melted in your mouth. I liked the veggie bun a lot (Kreg, not so much ... he likes the sweet stuff!) The filling had a nice flavor, slightly salty with more of a mushroom flavor and a starchiness from the taro. This one could have used a little dipping sauce since the filling was dry, but all we had was some soy sauce.

The shui mai were awesome as well. The wrapper was nice and thin, and the filling was not sticky. Same thing here with the dipping sauce, it would have been nice to have a choice of something other than soy sauce.

I definitely could have eaten two more buns and maybe another order of shui mai, but I was saving some room for a bubble tea! And there are a ton of boba shops in Honolulu's Chinatown.

Legend's also has a large menu filled with "faux" meat and veggie dishes. I can't say how good the dishes are as I've never tried any. But if the dim sum is any indication of the quality then the other dishes have to be great! Next time I'm in Honolulu ... I'll be ready for my bun.

Legends Vegetarian Restaurant
100 N. Beretania St., #109, Honolulu, Hawaii
Phone (808) 532-1868
open for lunch only, closed on Wednesdays

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Finally, A Faux Pho!

I've been jonesin' for a vegan Pho for soooo long. Every time I go to my local Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Cali in Sarasota, I'm teased by the tofu and vegetable Pho ... it's on the vegetarian part of the menu, so you would think it's veggie ... um, think again. They use chicken stock. Boo! I've asked for a veggie stock, but they won't do it (they're weird that way).

Anyway, while in Oahu recently, Kreg and I found the Saigon Noodle House in Kailua and my dreams of a veggie Pho finally became a reality. And man, that soup was freakin' GOOD! It was so worth the wait.

My faux Pho arrived in a huge bowl. Loaded up with tofu (which was pressed, marinated, and yummy), fresh veggies and rice noodles. Served on the side were bean sprouts, basil (which looked and tasted like Thai basil) and lime. The broth was good, but a little bland ... a good base to start building flavors. I added some hoisin sauce, then the Sriracha hot sauce, the basil, bean sprouts, etc. Outstanding. I enjoyed the entire bowl, right down to the last slurp!

Besides having the veggie Pho, we also tried the papaya salad with tofu, veggie sandwich with tofu, and curry tofu with eggplant.

Everything was fresh and delicious. The papaya salad was so refreshing. The flavors exploded in your mouth - citrusy, salty, and with a little bit of sweetness. The different textures of crunchy peanuts, crisp green papaya and smooth marinated tofu worked so well together. The tofu was some of the best I've ever had. It was firm but not hard and it had a slight smokiness.

Next up was the curry tofu and eggplant, this was Kreg's choice. We weren't sure what to expect, since there are so many different types of curry. This one was a yellow curry and sort of reminded us of a cross between an Indian curry and a Singapore curry. The tofu was fried and had a really nice soft texture inside. Watch out though because this dish had some heat. The kind of heat that doesn't hit you at first but then sneaks up the back of your throat. I like hot foods, so it didn't bother me. Kreg on the other hand, found it a little too spicy. So, to cool his mouth down a bit, he decided to order the veggie tofu sandwich. This was a small baguette stuffed with veggies and marinated tofu. Simple, effective at putting out a mouth fire and yummy.

As far as ambiance goes, the place is pretty utilitarian. Nothing fancy here ... mismatched dishes, plain tables & chairs, fluorescent lighting, and one wall covered with illuminated photos of the food. It's a locals place -- casual, come as you are -- and we loved it. The staff were fantastic, they totally got the vegan thing which is a joy. We didn't have to worry about fish sauce, etc. And, you cannot beat the prices ... nothing was more than $7. In fact, we enjoyed this place so much, we were back the next day for lunch!!! (We had combo plates -- papaya salad with veggie spring rolls for Kreg and vermicelli salad with spring rolls (Vietnamese bun) for me. So much food, so good, and only $6.25 each.)

My only regret ... I wish we would have found Saigon Noodle House at the beginning of our trip rather than at the end!

Saigon Noodle House
Enchanted Lakes Shopping Center
1020 Keolu Dr
Kailua, HI 96734

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bring the Bug Spray

Maunawili Falls Trail

Stream crossings, lots of steps, and a deep-pool waterfall await on this three(ish)-mile trail on Oahu's windward coast. Bring the bug spray since this can be a wet one.

We started our day at Lanikai Juice in Kailua. An acai bowl with extra granola would be needed to get me through this hike. We're still not sure how long the hike is, could be three miles round trip, could be five. Who knows! Luckily, the trail is really close to Kailua, so it didn't take us very long to get there.

There is no designated parking for trail users. We parked in the Maunawili subdivision on Kelewina Street. Make sure you remove all valuables from your car as break-ins are a common occurrence on Oahu (don't believe me, just look at all of the broken glass on the ground.)

The hike starts with a paved access road that leads you to the trail head. Follow the signs and head out. From this point on you'll be walking on a dirt path that can be overgrown with tree roots in spots and covered with leaves in others (yeah, I'm a klutz... I tripped several times!). Be careful, the path can become very slick and muddy at the slightest rain.

You'll pass strawberry guava trees (Kreg wanted to eat the guavas but some pretty little birds beat him to it - this hike started his obsession with strawberry guava), banana trees, bamboo, loads of torch ginger, heliconia, lobster claw, and ti plants. I was drooling over the gingers and lobster claws, they were so cool ... just growing in the middle of nowhere!

Ready to get wet? Cause I did. Well, if you can boulder hop those feet may stay dry! The three stream crossings are not bad at all. The water is shallow (unless there's been a heavy rain) and there are many spots to hop across. Some of the rocks can be slippery (I realized this first hand and went tumbling into the stream). So, if you don't feel like jumping from rock to rock just wade across (this became my technique, since I was wet already). After one of the stream crossings is a really cool embedded rock pathway, it's a welcome relief to the roots-ridden dirt path.

Eventually, the trail starts to gain some altitude. You'll climb up some rustic steps, and some more rustic steps, and yes, even more rustic steps! At the top, you'll be awarded with great views of the Ko'olaus Mountains and realize how out of shape you are. We were huffing and puffing! Breathe in the views (ie, catch your breath) and get ready to hit the falls.

Keep following the markers and start descending the steps to the gulch. It's a lot of steps ... take some time at the falls to recharge, cause you'll be climbing back up all of those stairs you've just walked down!

The falls are beautiful, tucked away in a canopy of trees with dappled light shimmering on the pool. Now is the time to bust out the bug spray. The mosquitoes love the falls (and my blood!) too. We were lucky to have the falls to ourselves, well I guess we kinda shared them with the mosquitoes!

A lot of people jump off the cliffs into the deep pool, just check out some of the videos on youtube. We didn't. It's a long way down (and I don't really like heights), plus there are all of these warning signs about stream water having Leptospirosis. So use your own judgement.

Ok, remember all of those steps you climbed down to get to the falls ... well, it's time to visit them again. This time going up! Whew! Those steps are not normal steps, they're like twice the height of regular stairs. Killer.

You'll reach the top again, but from here on out, it's all downhill! It's a good idea to start this one early morning (like before 8 a.m.) for a couple of reasons. 1, it gets hot at the top and 2, it gets crowded. As we were hiking out, we passed several groups heading to the falls.

Overall, I really liked this hike. I tried to stay dry by being cautious ... forget that! It's way more fun bounding over the rocks, running through the stream and getting muddy. Enjoy.