Chicago’s Buona Launches a Plant-Based Italian Beefless Sandwich with Upton’s Naturals

*Click here to skip my story and go right to the Chicago Tribune piece about the Italian Beefless Sandwich!

Obviously I got the scoop on this because I was copied on the original email when Buona reached out about a partnership! But truly, I can’t explain how excited I am that we at Upton’s Naturals (where I am the Marketing Director) got to partner with Chicago institution Buona to launch their first-ever vegan Italian Beefless Sandwich.

If you’ve never heard of an Italian beef sandwich, it’s a Chicago staple – like deep dish pizza and dragged-through-the-garden hot dogs. It’s roots are said to be in the Union Stock Yards, where Italian-American immigrants made the sandwich from the less desirable (and therefore cheaper) cuts of beef. This story is contradicted by Al Ferreri, founder of Als #1 Italian Beef, who claims to have created the sandwich himself in 1938. Regardless of where it actually started, it’s now a mainstay in our cuisine. It’s a simple sandwich made with thinly-sliced and highly seasoned roast beef, a crusty Italian roll, au jus (we call it “gravy”) and spicy giardiniera. That’s it! Oh, but I should also mention that it comes doused in extra gravy so it’s a wet, wet sandwich and we love it.

There have been plenty of vegan versions over the years, but never before has one been taken on by one of the “big beef” brands. Upton’s Naturals founder Dan Staackmann and I worked closely with the folks at Bunoa to create an Italian Beef Seitan that had the look, mouthfeel, and of course flavor they’re known for. Combined with their own specially made vegan gravy and signature toppings, it’s the most authentic Chicago style Italian Beefless Sandwich anyone anywhere has ever made.

The italian Beefless Sandwich is available at all 24 of Buona’s Chicagoland and Indiana locations starting Monday April 26th. They’re planning to keep it on the menu until this summer, but if it’s a hit it might just stick around – and possibly pave the way for more vegan options. I should note that in addition to partnering on the main ingredient, Dan and I also personally advised on best practices to ensure that vegan and vegetarian customers have the best possible experience when dining with Buona.

Better Than Sex Cake Goes Vegan

If you stayed over at my house on a Friday night back in the day, you’d know I had two requirements for a good time – mom’s Better Than Sex Cake, and USA Up All Night. From 1991-1998, this B-movie variety show introduced me to classics like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Hell comes to Frogtown. And, in a twist of fate, they were both things my mom didn’t particularly care for! We weren’t allowed to say “sex” so we had to call it “Better Than a Handshake Cake” and I watched Up All Night with my finger on the “previous channel” button because I wasn’t allowed to watch that, either.

Still, the combo of chocolate cake, caramel sauce, whipped topping and crunchy toffee candy bars was the stuff of dreams. When I first published by book you couldn’t buy stuff like vegan whipped cream at the grocery store so this recipe is INTENSE and has lots of steps. But if you want to stick to the store-bought roots of the original, I have a quick version too.

Vegan Better Than Sex Cake – Cheater’s Edition:

Note: A surprising number of cake mixes are vegan! Most of them call for water, oil, and eggs to prepare them. If you have a preferred replacement for eggs, and the cake mix only calls for 1-2 eggs, use whatever you like. However, I’ve noticed when mixes call for three eggs you need to combine replacements that will: help the cake rise, bind the mixture, and add moisture. So I like to use the following in cake mixes that call for three eggs: 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce, 1 tsp baking soda + 1 Tbs vinegar, & either one egg’s worth of egg replacer, or 1 egg’s worth of flax egg.

Bake the cake in a 9×13″ pan and allow it to cool completely. Once it’s cool, use the handle of a wooden spoon or a metal straw to poke holes all over the cake. Pour about 6oz of caramel sauce into the holes (it’s fine if it gets on the cake, too. Chop up the candy bars and spread about 1/2 on the cake. Top with whipped topping, then sprinkle the remaining chopped candy on top. Sneak into your room and eat it before mom finds out.

For the from -scratch recipe below, you’ll need to prepare a batch of DIY Chocolate Cake Mix.

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click and make a purchase I will earn the tiniest amount of money imaginable.

Vegan Better Than Sex Cake

A 100% from-scratch, veganized version of the cake I loved but wasn't allowed to talk about as a kid. If you're making the Whipped Coconut Cream, place the cans of coconut milk and whisk in the refrigerator overnight so they're all very cold when you're ready to use them.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: better than sex cake, vegan better than sex cake, vegan cake
Servings: 12

Equipment

  • double boiler (rig one up with a pot & glass bowl if you need to)
  • stand mixer or hand mixer

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 batch DIY Chocolate Cake Mix, prepared link above

Caramel Sauce

  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup plain, unsweetened nondairy milk
  • 2 Tbs arrowroot starch
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped Coconut Cream

  • 3 (14 oz) cans full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

Toppings

  • 3/4 cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chopped, or use chips
  • 1 Tbs plain, unsweetened nondairy milk
  • 1/2 cup slivered or chopped almonds or crunchy thing of your choice

Instructions

  • Prepare the cake as directed in that recipe, baking in in a 9×13" pan. While it's baking and cooling, prep the rest of the ingredients.

Make the caramel

  • In a large measuring cup, whisk arrowroot starch into the soy milk and set aside. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, cook the margarine, maple syrup, sugar and salt. Stirring constantly, cook until the margarine melts and the mixture begins to bubble.
  • Add soy milk mixture, and turn the heat up to medium. Cook, whisking often, until the mixture bubbles again. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Set aside to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

Prepare the crunch topping

  • Cover a baking sheet with waxed paper. Place the chocolate and soy milk in a double boiler, melting the chocolate. Stir in the almonds, and spread the mixture onto the waxed paper. Chill in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, or until the chocolate hardens. Remove from fridge, and chop into small pieces.

Whip the coconut milk

  • As noted above, place coconut milk cans and whisk attachment for mixer in refrigerator the night before you're going to make this topping.
  • Without shaking them, open the cans of coconut milk and scoop out the thick cream on top. Place the cream in your mixing bowl, add the sugar, and beat with the chilled whisk for 1-2 minutes, until it’s thick and fluffy.

Fill and frost

  • With the handle of a wooden spoon, poke holes all over the cooled chocolate cake. Pour caramel sauce into holes and drizzle on top of cake. Top with ½ chopped chocolate, and frost with Whipped Coconut Cream. Sprinkle top with remaining chopped chocolate. Serve immediately.
  • Whipped Coconut Cream sets up when chilled, so you can refrigerate it for about 30 minutes, then scoop it into a piping bag if you want to be fancy. If you refrigerate the frosted cake, be sure to let it sit out about a half hour before serving so the whipped cream softens.

Notes

I know, I know. This is a lot of work. Feel free to break it up into a few days! Make the caramel sauce ahead of time, it stores up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Bake the cake the night before! The only thing that should really be done last minute is the whipped coconut cream. 

Podcast: The Mental Vegan

I recently had the fun and unexpectedly emotional opportunity to chat with Billy Lau of The Mental Vegan. We talked about the pressure we put on ourselves as vegans, and why striving for perfection doesn’t help us or the animals – as well as body image, anti-Asian racism, and a lot more.

This was recorded on the same day as the Masters of the Obvious DC Hatecast so it was a big day of getting a lot of things off my chest.

Vegan Jedi The Mental Vegan

A collaboration with the vegan Jedi, host of “Vegan Debates and Topics,” nutritionalist and all around smart, cool guy.
  1. Vegan Jedi
  2. Bake and Destroy
  3. The Vegan Zombie

Podcast: Masters of the Obvious DC Hatecast

You may or may not recall a few months back when I was a guest on the premiere episode of Masters of the Obvious podcast. Since then, this has quickly become my favorite pod to listen to while working (along with Scientology: Fair Game – I love you so much, Leah Remini.)

If you love nerdy stuff, hot takes, and pop culture news you’re going to love it too. Anyway, I was STOKED to be asked back for their second season to dunk on Wonder Woman 1984, the final hot poker to the butthole of 2020.

I hope you enjoy it – subscribe, buy merch, and tell your friends!

Obviously, June Brigman Masters of the Obvious

On this episode we discuss nerd news, the Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and we play a nerdy game of battle royale. We also have a conversation with June Brigman about Power Pack, Stan Lee and receiving the Ink Pot Award.Support the show (https://paypal.me/MOTOpod)Brought to you by FierceUnicorns.com Use code "OBVIOUS" at checkout for 15% off!
  1. Obviously, June Brigman
  2. Obviously, Tech & Fashion
  3. Obviously, DC Hatecast
  4. Obviously, Rose McIver
  5. Obviously, Season Finale Greetings

My Favorite Vegan Shoes

I’ve been posting Veganuary tips on my Instagram all month, and have covered a lot of basics from “no, you won’t die of protein deficiency” to vegan makeup brands. I’ve avoided vegan shoes as a topic because personal style varies so much, and my favorite pair of clunky black creepers might be your actual nightmare. But, even if your style isn’t quite the same as mine (half 41-year-old vegan hardcore lady and half spooky mom) I think the shopping resources here are still useful if you’re new to the world of vegan shoes.

So, here are my very favorite pairs of vegan shoes and boots sprinkled with info about where to shop, or other styles that might suit you better. Oh, and my style is pretty femme, so if that’s not your thing, you might want to check out Vegan Skate Blog and fall down a rabbit hole devoid of ballet flats and creepers.

Jeepers Creepers

Creepers will never go out of style, and even though they’re best loved by punks, skinheads, and goths, the right pair of creepers can look perfectly cute with office attire. I personally love a classic black pair of creepers with a significant, but not dangerous sole height so I’m devoted to my T.U.K. Vegan Viva Mondo Creepers. They can be dressed down so as not to freak out the squares, or, I can wear them with fishnets and a black dress and relive my punk rock youth. T.U.K. has been in business for 25 years because they make really nice quality shoes in classic and not-so-classic styles, including sneakers, boots, creepers, ballet flats, and mary janes. Now they have a large vegan collection, and even an outlet store where you can get amazing deals on shoes and boots.

If you’re looking for something along these lines, but a bit more overtly “Halloween,” Strangecvlt is a newer, all vegan shoe company that really specializes in creepers, flats, and flip flops featuring jack-o-lanterns, bats, and other creepy characters.

To All the Sneakers I’ve Loved Before

I really only wear sneakers casually. I haven’t been to my gym for nearly a year and since then I’ve gotten really into Pilates, which you do in bare feet. When I did go to the gym I had an insanely expensive, hideously ugly pair of running shoes that I don’t want to talk about. Just about every major gym shoe brand has vegan options now, including Nike and Adidas, and there are plenty of all-vegan gym shoe brands now, as well as sneaker options from other vegan-friendly brands like T.U.K. and others I’ll namedrop throughout this post.

So how do I choose my recommendations? I’m just going to show you a few pairs that I buy over and over again. Even if your style differs from mine, maybe this is a good starting point for you finding your forever sneakers.

Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81 – I’m giving you a direct link to my all-time favorite gym shoes because this website is actually infuriating. In fact, when I’m shopping for Tigers I usually cross-reference Zappos and vegan fashion blogs because their own descriptions aren’t always helpful. But this particular style is sleek, lightweight, and easy to wear with everything. I’m a black and white person myself, but there are some more colorful options, too. I also like some of the Mexico 66 options, which bafflingly are the only ones actually categorized as vegan on the site, but I haven’t pulled the trigger on a pair yet.

But do I need custom Garf Life Vans?

Saucony Jazz – This was my go-to for about three years in a row. I started traveling a lot with my friend Nicole for work, though, and they’re also her go-to shoes. Given that the two of us are almost always wearing dark wash jeans and an Earth Crisis shirt it just got to be a bit much and I switched to the Tigers. But Saucony has pretty many vegan shoes in varying degrees of ugliness.

Vans Authentic black/black – You can take the girl out of the stoner metal environment of Joliet, IL, but you can’t take the stoner metal out of the girl. To me, these solid black, plain AF sneakers are the ultimate doom shoe. If you plan to live in these all summer, I recommend upgrading to the Authentic Pro, which has better cushioning and studier build. I’ve also bought these in solid yellow and solid red, when available, and people always stop me to ask about them. So their Custom tool might be handy if you’re looking for something more striking. (I’ve designed so many shoes inspired by Skeletor but like, will I wear purple shoes? Probably not.)

Veja is an eco-friendly shoe brand with a wide variety of vegan options. I wore these until they were like, curled into a ball.

If You’re Gonna Die, Die With Your Boots On

I’ve been wearing combat boots since I was 12 years old. My family went on a day trip to some boring and quaint Illinois town where my mom probably wanted to go a quilt shop or something. I wandered into an antique shop where I fell in love with a pair of deadstock Austrian army mountain boots. My mom thought they were the ugliest things she’d ever seen but I was relentless, and for $20 she made me the happiest miserable little doom metal kid in the whole world. That started a long love affair with Dr. Martens that resulted in me moving to Chicago with about 15 pairs in varying eyehole counts and colors, that I’d soon be shamed out of when going vegan. Now, of course, you can buy vegan Docs… more on that in a sec.

My absolute favorite pair of boots are from an out-of-business brand called Nicora. I know that isn’t helpful, really, except to say that they were an investment – I got them on clearance for $300 – and almost five years later, they’re still the most beautifully made shoes I’ve ever owned. In recent years I’ve seen second hand pairs of their other styles on sites like Poshmark, and if you ever see a pair that suits you I recommend snatching them up.

Koi Footwear

In the meantime, I’m still searching for the perfect combat boots to replace them with should I ever need to. I did recently buy a pair of platform boots from Koi Footwear that I think are cute. I’m still breaking them in, but so far so good. I mention this brand because they’re all vegan, and have a lot of styles ranging from pretty wearable biker boots, to completely insane raver shoes. They ship from the U.K. but it’s not terribly expensive, and it’s SO FAST. I got mine in about five days.

So let’s talk about vegan Docs. A couple years ago, one of the Chicago Dr. Martens retail shops asked me to host an event to promote their then-new line of vegan shoes and accessories. I grabbed my friend Heather, and we hosted it together. They sold tons of shoes, and thanked us each with a pair of boots. Heather chose a pair of black Docs that I believe she has re-purchased since, and loves. I was really stuck on the Jadon II Platforms, but they didn’t have black in my size so I took home a pair in cherry red, and I think that was a mistake. They were really shiny, which I grew to hate, as well as plasticy and squeaky. Maybe if I’d chosen another style in the not-shiny black I would have had a different experience, I know other people love them. So they’re on my list for a second chance when I need a new pair of boots.

A U.K. brand called Vegetarian Shoes also has a lot of combat boot options, and in the U.S. you can get them from Moo Shoes NYC.

For the Country Club

Here are some types of shoes I never in my life thought I would wear, and now wear a lot: saddle shoes, oxfords, and loafers. I think once I reached a certain level of tattoo coverage – like, pretty much my whole body, hands, and neck, I finally felt secure enough to wear a precious and preppy shoe. That’s not a dig on preppy style, it’s more of a story about a person who needed to go on a long journey before she figured out she should just wear whatever shoes she likes. I know this is a bit of a jumble, but stick with me if you like preppy shoes:

B.A.I.T. Footwear

I wore saddle shoes as a kid and have so many memories of wishing I was dead inside the Buster Brown store. A few years ago, though, I got really enamored with a clothing brand called Deandri, and filled my closet with a half dozen variations of their Wednesday Addams dresses. They were making super high platform saddle shoes back then, but I knew I’d break my ankle so I went on a search for non-fetish vegan saddle shoes for adults. I ended up finding an all-vegan vintage style shoe brand called B.A.I.T. Footwear that makes saddle shoes in a bunch of cute colors, including classic black and white. They specialize in styles from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, so if you’re a vintage-loving vegan definitely check them out.

For our 10th wedding anniversary, Tony and I spent a week in NYC. That’s where I defied all odds, and became an oxford shoe-wearer. We were at MooShoes NYC and I spotted a pair of silver brogues by Matt + Nat. My love for them made no sense. They weren’t gym shoes or combat boots. They weren’t black. And most offensively, they had a tan gum sole – one of my most hated qualities in a shoe. But I kept going back to them over and over until Tony just insisted I buy them. Five years later I have them worn in to the point of perfection, soft as butter. This style is no longer made, but Matt + Nat still has a pretty cute pair of oxfords on their site. Moo Shoes also has a pair of brogues from a brand called Novacas that are almost as cute as my silver ones.

Once I’d allowed myself to put an oxford on my foot there was no stopping me, and I ended up getting and even shinier and more silvery pair from T.U.K. that you can actually snag for $29 on their outlet site.

Beach Goth

Feet are gross, and I hate the summer. So, I try to make due in my all-black Vans Authentics for as long as I can. But, sometimes I have no choice but to let my toes see the sunshine, so I’ve won some hard fought battles to find sandals that don’t make me want to set my own head on fire.

One major problem I have with most sandals, especially flip flops, is that they destroy your feet. If you’re going to walk in them for any length of time, they shred your toes, and if you’re like me, your feet swell in hot weather and anything strappy cuts into the tops after a while. For the actual beach when you’re going to end up with sand everywhere, I recommend Crocs flip flops for comfort, and you can get them in all-black. I’m not even going to link to them because everyone knows what Crocs are, and no one likes them. Which brings me to my actual favorite sandal:

Sanuk Yoga Sling 2 – the most comfortable, man-repelling sandals of all time. I have them in five colors, but I only ever wear the all-black version. When I first showed these to Tony, he said they look like a shoe you’d fashion for yourself on a desert island. Every man I’ve ever showed them to has recoiled in horror. Every woman who sees them asks me where I got them. Here’s the deal: The sole is a yoga mat. Legit. I’ve walked MILES in them and my feet never hurt. The straps are stretch-knit like a t-shirt. So if your feet swell, they stretch. And they don’t rub on your toes or heels so no blisters. They are the greatest summer shoe ever made and the fact that men don’t like them only makes me love them more. They’re weird enough that they look perfectly natural with my anti-beach summer wardrobe, and if you aren’t a summer goth there are tons of colors and patterns to choose from.

Last summer I also bought a pair of Bat Sandals from Strangecvlt, and I’m going to be honest and tell you they’re so uncomfortable… but if you cannot bring yourself to wear rubber flip flops and just need something fast for the beach they’ll do it for you. And if bats aren’t your thing, they have lots of other weirdo sandals on the site.

Working Stiffs

I’m fortunate that my job is super casual 99% of the time, and even when we have professional events I’m usually fine in sneakers or creepers. But, on the rare occasion I have to like, wear non-jeans pants or a dress that doesn’t go with fishnets, here’s what I do:

You know those really expensive flats that are all up in your Facebook ads claiming to be the world’s most comfortable shoe? Well, I bought them. I bought a pair of Rothy’s. A friend of mine in a similar line of work received a pair as a gift, and recommended them. After spending probably a month trying to decide if I should do it, I did it. I opted for the pointy flats, because they’re a little dressier than the round-toe version and I planned to wear them with wide-leg pants so the longer shoe would show more. They’re very lightweight and breathable, so they’re great for long shows where you stand around with sweaty feet all day, and the heels don’t slip so I haven’t gotten blisters yet.

Under no circumstances do I ever want to wear high heels. If you’re a person who loves them, good for you. To me, they’re torture. But, I’m not going to stroll into your wedding, or some other formal occasion in my combat boots so I own TWO pairs of heels. One black, one metallic. They’re low, less than three inches, so I can walk in them, and relatively comfortable although as soon as I’m back in the car I fling them off.

Will’s Vegan Store has a lot of styles made from really nice vegan leather, including the perfectly classic City Courts. This fills my “standard black heels” requirement, and I bought the gold pair I have at DSW a billion years ago, which brings me to my next point…

Where Oh Where?

MooShoes NYC

Where to buy vegan shoes? Well, technically… just about anywhere. Most inexpensive shoes are made with synthetic materials so you can actually grab vegan shoes at Target. Of course it’s a little murky whether they’re “vegan” or just “not leather” because some glues used in shoemaking are made from animal products. But for the budget-conscious, you can absolutely find vegan (enough) shoes almost anywhere shoes are sold. But if you’re looking to support specifically vegan businesses, or know that every part of the shoe is, in fact, vegan, I have some suggestions.

MooShoes NYC – 100% vegan shoes, in a wide variety of styles, from lots of different brands. They also carry wallets, purses, belts, and home goods.

Vegetarian Shoes – This company has been around for 30 years, and everything they carry is their own house brand. Tony is good at spotting what conventional shoes a lot of their styles are dupes of, so if you had a favorite shoe and wish it was vegan, you might want to see if they’ve made it.

Herbivore Clothing is clearing out a lot of their shoe inventory so you can get some styles for as little as $10. That means it’s a big of a roll of the dice if you find your size, but if you do, that’s a pretty sweet deal.

Zappos – This online shoe giant actually has a vegan category that makes it really easy to find vegan shoes. If I’m looking for something specific that isn’t in that category, though, I use their material filters and just shuffle out all the suede, silk, leather, etc and can usually find what I want.

Of course there are hundreds of places to buy vegan shoes now, but the ones listed here, and throughout are all places I’ve personally shopped from and can recommend. And, like I mentioned, even Nike and Adidas have vegan shoes in their catalogs now so it’s really a matter of finding your style.

Sock Love

We Love Colors

I would be remiss to give shoes all this attention and not talk a little bit about socks. Vegan socks are decidedly not hard to find – just like, don’t buy wool or cashmere and you’re pretty much all set. But, I do believe that a cute pair of socks can make any shoes look 100% cooler, so here are some places I like to shop for them:

We Love Colors is THE PLACE to go for tights, socks, fishnets, and gloves in literally any color. Plus, they’re very size inclusive. I am especially fond of their Sheer Anklets, which are super soft, stretchy, and can make an outfit an entire mood. I have a few pairs in black, that just add a bit of creepy doll vibes to any look, but I also have red and kelly green, which totally change up a whole outfit.

T.U.K. also has a lot of cute socks, including these tie dye tube socks, fishnet crew socks (which I wore on set with Svengoolie!) They also have a lot of sheer, slouchy, and ruffled socks that are super cute.

Honestly, when Tony drug me into a Stance store and told me I should spend $15 on a single pair of socks I almost divorced him. But he made some kind of promise about how I could slap him or take his wallet or something and convinced me to buy a single pair of the Boyd St crew sock and he was not wrong. What really did it for me was the arch support – it’s like nothing I’ve ever worn and now I have a whole drawer full. They also do a lot of licensed designs, so if you’re a person who wants Baby Yoda socks, there you go.

This is the weirdest way to end this post, but one last foot-and-leg-related piece of advice, if I may. If you have leg tattoos, you’ve probably run into a time when it might have been appropriate to wear pantyhose but realized that wearing them makes your tattoos look like huge bruises. It doesn’t happen often, because who wears pantyhose anymore? But once in a while I’m at a winter wedding and bare legs just aren’t OK. For whatever reason, I impulse bought a pair of nude fishnets and they’re the perfect solution. It’s warmer than nothing, they make your legs look more “polished,” and your tattoos show through. I’ve found Capezio to be the nicest quality, and worth the money. Plus they’re available in a wide variety of shades, so nude doesn’t just mean “caucasian.”

Wait… There’s More?

I was so excited to stop writing this I forgot I’d promised on social media to also talk about how to save money when shopping for vegan shoes. One major tip if you love creepers and boots is to check out the T.U.K. outlet I linked above. But over all, when shopping online I have two tools on my Google dashboard:

Rakuten (affiliate link) – You’ve probably seen their ads on TV. Basically, when you shop with Rakuten, it not only searches the internet for coupon codes, but it also earns you cash back. They get a commission for “referring” you as a customer, even if you visit the shopping site directly, and use Rakuten when you’re ready to check out – and they share that commission with you. You can earn anywhere from 1-10% back. I literally get a check for at least $100 every couple of months just for buying stuff I was going to buy anyway. You can install the plug in to your browser, and you can also download the app if you shop on your phone. Plus, if you sign up with my code (affiliate link) you’ll get a $20 bonus after you spend your first $20.

Honey – Honey is similar to Rakuten, although I use it less often. Sometimes when Rakuten can’t find a code or doesn’t offer cash back, Honey does. Honey rewards you in points rather than cash, and you can use those points to get gift cards. So, I typically redeem mine for Target gift cards. I have an affiliate link for Honey, too, but I’m not sure what the bonus is for you to use it – let me know if you find out!

Oh my god, this was SO LONG and I left out SO MANY things! The conversation carries on in this Instagram post, and you can drop your favorite vegan shoe styles or brands in the comments!

Vegan Halloween Spooktacular

So many vegan apparel brands released Halloween collections this year that what started out as a Friday Five idea turned into a big ‘ol roundup. Here I’ve pulled together some favorites from those collections, on-theme cookbooks, and other spooky things. Did I miss something cool you spotted this year? Tell me in the comments!

Podcast: Keep On Cookin’

Dustin Harder, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Keeping on my podcast kick lately, another dear friend recently launched a show and I was so flattered to be a guest! Dustin is the chef behind The Vegan Roadie, and so many amazing cookbooks including Epic Vegan – but even better he is such a sweetheart and so fun to talk to.

Dustin is an avid cookbook collector and this pod is his way of digging deeper into some of his favorites, finding out the behind-the-scenes stories from the authors. In our episode we talk about pro-wrestling, getting fired from TV shows, and baking for Trixie Mattel.

Vegan Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Elaborate Jell-Os. “Salads” made with Cool Whip. Dessert recipes that call for a whole package of cream cheese. This is the song of my people. You either grew up eating Strawberry Pretzel Salad at family get-togethers, or you clicked this out of morbid curiosity and aren’t sure if you’re about to be dazzled or horrified. Either way, you’re here, and I’m glad to have you.

This, of course, is just a veganization of a recipe that has been around for ages. But, I am offering a few tips and suggestions if for no other reason than to make myself feel better about posting this. Let’s get started.

Jell-O

Gelatin is made from animal collagen, which is why vegans (and most vegetarians) don’t eat it. Although most people think of gelatin and Jell-O as being one and the same, it actually shows up in lots of foods, like marshmallows and gummy candies. But, just like their are vegan marshmallows and gummies these days, there is also vegan Jell-O. You can order it online from sites like Vegan Essentials, iHerb, and Vitacost. (Shout out to Vegan Essentials, though, for being vegan-owned.)

If you aren’t a fan, or don’t want to wait to mail order it to make this recipe, Tony and I both agreed that this dessert would be perfectly delicious topped instead with sliced fruit. Strawberries, if they’re in season, but really anything you like.

Cream Cheese

These are so many delicious vegan cream cheeses on the market right now. My personal favorite is Kite Hill’s chive cream cheese, which you absolutely do not want to use in this recipe. In fact, leave all of the fancy, new-fangled cream cheese behind and reach instead for good ‘ol Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese. Why? Because most of the fancy ones are super tangy (and hard to find without savory mix-ins) and in this case, you want something on the blander side to mimic Philadelphia Cream Cheese. (I know that sounds shady, but where is the lie?)

Tub of Whipped Stuff

The OG Strawberry Pretzel Salad recipe calls for a tub of Cool Whip, and we’re lucky to live in a time when most well-stocked grocery stores carry a vegan alternative from So Delicious in the freezer section. If you can’t find it, though, you can definitely make coconut whipped cream yourself, it’s just going to take a bit of work and a couple cans of full fat coconut milk. Plus, you’ll want to add a stabilizer so it doesn’t go weepy on you in the fridge.

Vegan Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Please refer to the tips in my post about where to source ingredients & substitutions.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: dessert for a group, picnic food, vegan, vegan jello

Equipment

  • hand mixer

Ingredients

Bottom Layer

  • 2 cups crushed pretzels
  • 3/4 cups vegan margarine, melted
  • 3 Tbs sugar

Middle Layer

  • 1 tub Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 container So Delicious CocoWhip, thawed or 8oz homemade coconut whipped cream

Top Layer

  • 2 packages strawberry vegan gel see post for source, or skip this step & top with freshly sliced fruit
  • 20 oz sliced strawberries, fresh or frozen

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  • Stir together crushed pretzels, melted margarine and 3 tablespoons sugar; mix well and press mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  • Bake 8-10 minutes, until set. Set aside to cool completely.
  • Use a hand mixer to beat together the cream cheese and sugar. Gently fold in the whipped coconut topping.
  • Spread evenly over the cooled pretzel crust. Cover, and store in the freezer while you prefer the last layer.
  • If you are not using a gel layer, simply top your dessert with sliced fruit, and chill at least 4 hours before serving.
  • Prepare the gel as directed on the package. While the water is boiling, get the sliced fruit ready. Vegan gel sets up quickly.
  • Once you've mixed the gel and boiling water, add the fruit. If you're using frozen, there's no need to thaw it first.
  • Allow the gel and fruit to set only until it's about the texture of egg whites – still loose, but a bit firm. With frozen fruit, this step only took me about 3 minutes.
  • Use a large spoon or ladle to scoop the gel mixture evenly on top of the chilled whipped cream layer.
  • Cover, and refrigerate at least 4 hours before slicing and serving.

Notes

Experiment with different flavor combinations using different gel flavors and fruits.

Podcast: Masters of the Obvious

I read a tweet somewhere that joked about all the podcasts mediocre white men were going to launch during quarantine, but luckily there are plenty of cool new pods like Masters of the Obvious to counter them. Cynthia Rose and Kirsten Bosio are hilarious, nerdy, and really fun to listen to. And, as I found out on their premiere episode, they’re also fun to talk to!

You can listen to my episode below, and be sure to subscribe so you can hear their chats with other people who are far, far cooler than me.

Vegan Buffalo Jackfruit Dip Recipe

Just in case you thought I was exaggerating when I called my house “Dip City” in my previous post, here comes another hot dip recipe for all those parties you better not be having right now. Apparently Buffalo Chicken Dip is a big deal in the Midwest. I have an ear of corn tattooed on my finger, so I thought I was pretty Midwestern, but I was not aware of this phenomenon until recently. So I challenged myself to not only create a vegan version, but to skip most of the store-bought ingredients like vegan cream cheese and ranch dressing. It also happens to be nut-free, which makes it pretty inexpensive.

Oh, and I also thought I’d use this as an opportunity to try out a new recipe plug-in for my site since the old one is no longer being updated. This is just the free version, but if you all like it I’m going to pop for the pro version and maybe even get a custom template made so when you print it out you get some fun Bake and Destroy design bonuses. So let me know in the comments if you like this recipe format as opposed to the one I used for the Spinach and Jackfruit Dip.

Vegan Buffalo Jackfruit Dip

This gluten-free, nut-free dip owes its "buffalo chicken dip" texture to jackfruit. Sunflower seeds and beans give it a creamy texture without dairy or nuts. For a cheesier flavor, add a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: gluten-free, nut-free, vegan
Servings: 8

Equipment

  • high speed blender

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1 medium potato cooked
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds soaked and drained
  • 1/2 cup canned white beans rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup buffalo sauce
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic

Jackfruit

  • 1 package Upton’s Naturals Original Jackfruit
  • 1/4 cup buffalo sauce more to taste

Instructions

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Cover sunflower seeds in boiling water and soak for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • Place cubed potato in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Place over high heat until boiling, then boil for about 5 minutes – until potato is easily pierced with a fork.
    Drain, and place in a high-speed blender with the other sauce ingredients. Blend until smooth.
  • Transfer mixture to a baking dish. A small casserole dish or ramekin works well.
  • Place jackfruit and buffalo sauce in a food processor or clean blender and pulse. You want to keep the texture, just break up the jackfruit and incorporate the buffalo sauce throughout. Use ¼ – ½ cup of buffalo sauce, depending on your taste preference – the more you add, the spicier it will be.
    Fold jackfruit into the sauce mixture you placed in the baking dish earlier.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the layer is firm and starts to brown.
    Serve while warm with crudités, crackers or tortilla chips.

Notes

Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Sauce is “accidentally vegan,” but feel free to use your favorite. Swap in an equal amount of cashews for sunflower seeds if you prefer. Non-dairy milk can also be swapped with your preferred sort, but make sure it’s unsweetened and unflavored. 
chicago's best vegan food

Buy A Shirt

Buy A Sticker

My Book

My Book

Shop My Faves

Sponsors

Web Hosting