Strong Hearts Cafe in Syracuse

I actually jumped for joy when Google told me a vegan cafe was a block from my hotel in Syracuse. It was almost unbelievable!

Strong Hearts Cafe was great fun. Definitely focused on being vegan.

The menu offers standard fare except for the extensive milkshake options with very fun names.

For breakfast I decided on the green scramble with marble toast. My friend also got a scramble.

I really enjoyed it. We returned for dinner the same night, but I forgot to take pictures. I tried a milkshake and it was wonderful. I also got the Cesar “Chicken” Salad that was just okay. My friend got the “Chicken” Salad Sandwich that she enjoyed.

The space is rustic and simple.

At breakfast the counter person was surly, but at dinner a different counter person was nice.

Strong Hearts Cafe gets three out of five vegan cupcakes. The food was decent, the staff hit or miss, and I was super happy to have clearly vegan food on my trip.

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Alto Cinco in Syracuse

I am in Syracuse, NY for a couple days and very pleasantly surprised by all the vegan options.

A quick search through my phone the first night revealed Alto Cinco and my colleague who lives here was thrilled when I suggested it. She describes it as Cali-Mexican food. But there are Catfish and BBQ options on the menu, so lots of people can find what they find yummy.

There is a standing BBQ tofu dish on the menu, so I knew I would be happy. Excitingly, one of the specials during my visit was tofu ricotta tacos!

I picked spinach with brown rice and beans for the sides. I was not disappointed. It was yummy. A bit bland, but fresh and worth eating.

When in Syracuse, Alto Cinco is worth trying. The dining room was dark, noisy, and cold, but our server very kind. Alto Cinco gets three out of five vegan cupcakes. A good option when dining with others who still think they need to eat animals.

Unreal Dark Chocolate Peanut Gems

I have seen pictures of these gems for a little while and decided to finally try them. I used to love Peanut M&Ms and wondered if these would be similar.

As a dark chocolate, they don’t taste like the M&Ms, which is good since I don’t want the non-vegan ick in those candies. But they are tasty. Even hubby likes them and he is fairly picky.

If interested in a chocolate and peanut combination, check these out. They won’t last long in my home.

Le Botaniste in SoHo NYC

Hubby and I were famished after volunteering with Best Friends Animal Society in SoHo and realized Le Botaniste was only a few blocks away. We had to try it!

It is an adorable space that feels clean and bright.

All vegan and gluten free, it has smaller cold dishes and larger warm dishes.

Being that it is about 20 degrees outside right now, we opted for warm bowls and the cheese plate. Mmm…

I got the equivalent of spaghetti and hubby got something like stewed veggies over quinoa and potatoes. Both were yummers, as well as the cheese plate.

We had a little room left in our tummies and decided to try dessert. Hubby picked out a chia brownie covered in a cashew vanilla sauce and I got a tiny key lime pie. My pie was wonderful and hubby really enjoyed his brownie, especially with an Americano coffee.

Ordering happens at a counter and the staff is very nice. Even asking about our volunteer shirts.

We really enjoyed Le Botaniste and will absolutely go back. Maybe even on Sunday when we volunteer again. Le Botaniste gets five out of five vegan cupcakes for delicious and healthy food with a welcoming environment. Check them out next time in SoHo.

Bryant Park’s Winter Village 2017 NYC

In 2016 the organizer of Bryant Park’s Winter Village changed and the vegan mission was lost. I was so disappointed in the lack of vegan options that I didn’t even want to blog about it. This year is better and I’m thrilled.

There are two vegan food vendors this year and several vendors with a vegan option. The photo is a cous cous bowl from Cous Cous Vegan Bowl. I almost jumped into the air with joy when I saw this name on the Village map today. And the bowl is yummers! When I picked it up I said, “thank you for brining vegan back to the event.” The person behind the counter said, “that was our goal.” Excellent! They also have vegan hot chocolate.

The other vender is the always wonderful Raaka Chocolate. This year they have a gift box of their current six bar line up.


If wanting something else, explore deeper to discover vegetable dumplings, tacos, Mediterranean wraps, and more. Yummers!

Chili

When I first started this blog I asked my friends, because of course I started by sharing this with friends, what they would like to see. A dear friend I have known since 1996 requested a chili recipe. I honestly cringed. Every chili attempt I had made was mediocre to not great. Every recipe I explored had so many ingredients that I was uninterested. So I just didn’t do anything with that request, but kept it in the back of my mind.

I’m happy to say that I have cracked the code to easy and delicious chili. It fills my home with a smell that makes my mouth water. I place everything in my crockpot and come home at the end of the day for yummers!

What you will need:

1 and 1/2 cups dried beans, your favorite, or two cans of your favorite. I like to mix it up. Red beans, black beans, white beans, kidney beans, and garbanzo beans all work well.

1 4oz can diced green chili, Hatch is still my favorite

2 16 oz cans diced tomatoes

1 small onion, diced

1 small green bell pepper, diced

2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced, choose the amount based on how much you love garlic

2 to 3 tablespoons chili powder, based on how hot you want it 

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

If starting with dried beans, sort and rinse them, and set to soak the night before, at least 8 hours.

Place everything into the crockpot and add a can full of water. If ingredients are not yet covered with fluid, add a bit more water.

Turn on crockpot to low and let cook at least 8 hours. Before serving, check that the beans are fully cooked.

If cooking in a pot, simmer at least 30 minutes if using canned beans. Dried beans need to be cooked before cooking with chili on the stove.

Serve with your favorite toppings such as avocado, vegan sour cream, vegan cheese, or corn chips.

Yummers!

Vegan Food & Drink Festival

The vegan food & drink festival finally came to NYC! I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to see what other cities have been able to experience. I was not disappointed.


The festival was on Randall’s Island, a place I had only driven over in a taxi or bus to the airport. I had seen countless others walk along the bridge to other events on the island and decided to ride my bike and take a pedestrian bridge on the southern end. Good choice. A very easy route that gave me stunning views of the East River.


There were many local vendors at the event and many I had never heard of. I skipped long lines for places I knew, like Cinnamon Snail. Other long lines snaked out of vendors offering fried goodness. Tempting, but I would rather explore more.

The deliciousness seemed endless.


We finally tried the Impossible Burger, which was a total trip and weirded me out. It really does smell, taste, look, and and have the texture of a medium raw burger. Hubby gobbled, I tried a bite. I also got a Nashville sauce tofu sandwich that was amazeballs.

But it was more than food!


I had great fun exploring all the signs and information.

There was music too, but nothing live while I was there. Just so many people enjoying vegan goodness.


If you get a chance to go to one of these, I recommend it. I got early bird tickets that were only $10.

JaJaJa in Lower East Side


My aunt came to visit and wanted to experience a cat cafe. There are two in the Lower East Side and we were hungry after all the kitty cuteness. I had seen JaJaJa on Instagram and wanted to try it. Not at all disappointed.


We were excited to dig in. Oddly, good guacamole is challenging to find in NYC, unless I make it myself. JaJaJa has wonderful guacamole! I also had to try the cucumber gazpacho. It’s green.


Beyond appetizers, I got the Chorizo Tacos and my aunt got the Chilaquiles. Both delicious. My aunt thought her dish was too big for her and shared some with me. This was good since the tacos felt a bit small. But, since I got the gazpacho, I was doing okay.


Again, yummers! Since hubby didn’t join us, I decided to bring home a chocolate chip cookie for him to try. I ordered two, knowing that if I wanted to try it, I would need to have my own. Well, it’s a whole bag of gluten-free soft yummyness. Score! And the server liked us so much that he gave me a bag of Mexican Wedding Cookies too. Second score! They are like my snowball cookies, meaning they do not have the anise flavor.


Tha ambiance is open and clean and the wait staff very nice. We even got the Sanctuary discount. If a member of an animal sanctuary and at a vegan restaurant in NYC, many places will take 10% off your bill when you show your current membership card. I always ask, just in case. I’m in my third year of membership with Catskill Animal Sanctuary and keep the membership card in my wallet.

JaJaJa gets five out of five vegan cupcakes. I love the food, the space, and the people. When hungry on the Lower East Side, consider stopping here and enjoying. Good Mexican food is challenging to find in NYC.

Savory Bites

My cousin has been living in the city all summer and goes back to Texas this week. I have been lucky enough to see him almost every week. Last weekend, I invited him and other family over for dinner so we could all share more time before he leaves.

My apartment, like many apartments in NYC, is small, so a sit-down dinner is a challenge. I decided, instead, to have a finger food meal to make things easier and normalize the idea of sitting on the couch while eating. The dinner went great and I invented a new yummers finger food for the occasion, Savory Bites.


The idea comes from using filo dough, but I dislike using that dough. It can be a lot of work and my approach remains easy cooking. Instead, I used crescent rolls. The kind that come in tubes.

I made two different kinds. One that was like pizza and another with pesto. To do the exact same thing, you will need:

  • Two rolls of crescent roll dough, in the tube, check the ingredients to make sure they are vegan
  • Spaghetti sauce, I used a garlic heavy one
  • Black olives sliced into thin circles
  • Shredded vegan mozzarella 
  • Vegan pesto
  • Small onion, diced into small pieces 
  • Small red bell pepper, diced into small pieces 
  • A few button mushrooms, diced into small pieces
  • Tablespoon of olive oil

Start by sautéing the onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms in olive oil. Sauté on medium heat until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Let cool. Take the first roll and open onto parchment or wax paper. This will let the dough be more easily removed later. With your fingers, mash together all the seams to make one sheet of dough. Using a rolling pin (or label-free and cleaned wine bottle), roll out the dough a couple times in each direction to flatten and even everything.

For the pesto bites: Use a spoon to add a thin layer of pesto to the dough, then a thin layer of the cooked veggies, and a thin layer of cheese. There will be left over filling. The layers should be thin because the dough is delicate and won’t roll well if too thick.


Looking at the longest edge of the dough, begin to roll that edge towards its opposite edge. Don’t be afraid to help the dough off the parchment paper. If the original seams reappear, this is okay. Try to carefully mash them together again and keep rolling. Soon you will have a long roll of dough with filling. Take a sharp knife and slowly cut into circles of about an inch thick. I got about 12 circles from each roll. Place each circle on a pan with at least one inch between each.


They won’t look perfect, and this is okay. Flavor is most important.

For the pizza bites: Follow the same dough preparation process of making into sheet. Add a thin layer of speghetti sauce, a thin layer of black olives, and a thin layer of cheese. Follow the same roll and cut process.


Cook the bites at 375 for 10 minutes or until the edges are golden.

So yummy! Everyone ate as many as they could and kept going back to grab another one. The process can easily be used for other savory or sweet ingredients.

I hope you try these and let me know how it goes, especially if you try different ingredients. I will absolutely be making these again.

Pizzeria L’Angelo in Venice

I was thrilled to find a pizza place in Venice, Italy with clearly labeled vegan option.


Of course I got the vega. It was okay. Hubby was not at all impressed. The place is a counter only, so we ordered and took our pizza box to a nearby square. This is common in Italy. It was fun to do this, but I wish the pizza had been better.

Pizzeria L’Angelo gets two out of five vegan cupcakes. Not only was the pizza not great, the people working there clearly didn’t want to be there. Too bad. I say skip this place and keep exploring.