Orange Pound Cake (soy free)


Once in awhile I come across a recipe that hits me like a ton of bricks and I just have to make it as soon as possible. I happily completed my mission with this delicious vegan version of sweet and citrus flavored pound cake from fellow blogger Dina over at

Vegan Orange Pound Cake 

More photos of this moist, delicious cake below:



Dirty Oatmeal


Oatmeal is one of those foods folks tend to either love or hate. Controversy notwithstanding however, I believe that on the vegan/vegetarian WordPress blogs I have come across more photos and recipe variations of oatmeal than any other food.

And so I enter the fray with my own savory, spicy take on this hearty, versatile food. Oats are an easy to cook, neutrally flavored grain like rice and I like to treat them basically the same.

This is how I like to start my day. I know it’s a little unconventional, but I really love the way the pepper blend brings fire to my blood. The flavor is both energizing and exhilarating!

Why not surprise everyone by tossing in some fresh herbs and serving it as a side dish tonight?

Dirty Oatmeal

Microwave a nice-sized serving of rolled oats (not quick-cooking). If you don’t know how, here’s the method


1/2-1 tablespoon organic extra-virgin olive oil

A few grinds of Himalayan Pink Sea Salt (or other coarse salt)

1-2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)

Peanut Butter Pie (gluten and soy free)


Here’s a sweet treat you can feel pretty good about! A light, creamy, no-bake peanut butter pie drizzled with melted chocolate. Sweetened naturally with bananas and a bit of maple syrup, why it’s almost virtuous!

No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie

recipe courtesy

Avocado Toast with Tahini-Miso Butter

IMG_4471 2

Toast is the most basic comfort food to me, something I will never tire of. At any meal or snack throughout  the day,  it will always be welcome at my table. One thing different about the toast I eat today is I try to make it as nutritious as possible–instead of the simple butter and jelly I grew up on.

I had to chuckle recently, when I read the trend in some upscale restaurants  to serve toast as an appetizer with various toppings. As a chef, I am not likely to order in a restaurant something I know I can prepare at home (maybe better, but definitely cheaper) so this gave me particular amusement.

This toast is a breakfast staple at my house– organic whole wheat toasted dark and crunchy, topped with fresh avocado and a combination of light yellow miso and tahini. It has the most satisfying umami flavor, punctuated by a sprinkling of ground black peppercorns and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Tahini-Miso Butter

1 tablespoon sesame tahini paste

1-2 teaspoons light yellow miso paste

1-2 teaspoons water

Blend tahini and miso with a spoon in a small dish, adding water as needed for a spreadable consistency. Taste for saltiness. If too salty, add a bit more tahini to your preference.

This spread is best prepared fresh, but can be made ahead in larger quantities and kept refrigerated in a sealed container. You may need to add a bit more water at time of service as it thickens upon standing.

Party Enchiladas (gluten and soy free)


Now, I’m not gonna lie, enchiladas are neither quick or easy to make, but they are great for entertaining. These can be prepped ahead of time then popped into the oven for 20 minutes. Make it easy on yourself with simple side dishes such as  chips and salsa and frozen roasted corn kernels (Whole Foods) sautéed with chopped fresh zucchini and red bell peppers. Drizzle with a little cilantro pesto for an extra note of flavor.


1 recipe gluten free enchilada sauce (below)

1/2 recipe cilantro pesto (below)

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 can refried beans, pinto or black

1 large russet potato

1 small bell pepper

1 small green pepper

1/2 red onion, diced

1/2 cup Daiya dairy-free cheddar, shredded

2 scallions, thinly sliced

6-8 black olives, sliced

12 gluten free corn tortillas (check the label)

Coconut oil

Gluten free enchilada sauce

recipe courtesy

Cilantro Pesto

recipe courtesy Bobby Flay

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds) lightly toasted

1/2 lime, juiced

Jalapeno, to taste

Salt and pepper

Place first 4 ingredients in blender or small food processor and completely puree. Add lime juice, jalapeno, and salt and pepper, to taste.


Wash potato and place in pot of cold water just to cover. Simmer on medium high until tender when pierced with a knife blade. Remove carefully and allow to cool. Meanwhile, prepare sauces and prep veggies. Saute onions and peppers in a large skillet over medium-high heat with a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, peel cooled potato and cut into 1/2 inch dice. Add to vegetables with pinto beans and mix together. Add about 3 tablespoons of cilantro pesto (maybe more) and stir to coat well then remove from heat. Check for seasoning and let rest.IMG_4437

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Assemble the enchiladas by first brushing each with a coating of enchilada sauce, front and back. Spread a  layer of refried beans followed by 2 or 3 tablespoons of the vegetable filling then top with a light sprinkling of cheese. Roll carefully and place seam side down in a lightly oiled 9 x 13 inch baking pan.


Place rolls snugly together in pan, then top with more sauce and a sprinkling of cheese. If you are making ahead, cover pan and refrigerate until ready to bake, then top with sauce and cheese.


Bake, uncovered, 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and edges look a little crisp. Garnish with scallions, olives and a bit more cilantro pesto if desired and serve immediately.


Coconut Creme Anglaise with Cinnamon Walnut Crumble (gluten and soy free)



Looking for a company-ready dessert for your next dinner party? This is a simple, sweet and delicious one that will please everyone!

Coconut Creme Anglaise with Cinnamon Walnut Crumble

1 recipe coconut creme anglaise

1 recipe cinnamon walnuts

3 gluten-free, soy-free vegan spice muffins, crumbled (optional) (here’s a good recipe)

Layer all ingredients in a dessert dish, starting and ending with crumble. Serve chilled. Serves 4.

Coconut Creme Anglaise (4 servings)

  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 3 tbsp. Cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp.  Salt
  • 7 ounces Coconut milk
  • 1 cups almond milk
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla


Stir together sugar, cornstarch and salt in saucepan.:
  • Stir in soy and coconut milks. Bring just to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.:

  • Remove from heat and stir in extract(s). Refrigerate until chilled.:

    Walnut-Cinnamon Crumble

    • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • pinch salt


    Pulse ingredients just until crumbly



    Sesame Grilled Tofu with Spicy Green Beans


    I am all about a quick and easy dinner idea and here’s one of my favorites. Especially with a couple of pieces of timesaving equipment: microwave steamer and pasta cooker, this dish goes really fast from stove to table.

    Sesame Grilled Tofu

    3 Tablespoons Tamari or Soy Sauce

    1 Tablespoon Sesame oil

    14 ounce pkg. Extra firm tofu, pressed

    Preheat grill or grill pan to sear setting. Slice tofu width-wise in eight equal slices. Mix soy sauce and sesame oil. Marinate tofu while grill is heating. Remove tofu slices and reserve marinade. Grill tofu slices for approximately 6-8 minutes, until brown and nicely marked.


    Meanwhile, boil up your favorite asian noodle: ramen, soba and udon and micro-cook a couple servings of green beans. Heat about 1 tablespoon of light oil on low in a non-stick pan and add 1 tablespoon Tom Yum Paste or Spicy Black Bean Paste. Toss green beans lightly.



    Drain noodles and toss with remaining marinade. Divide into two bowls. Slice tofu and top noodles. Add green beans on top and serve immediately.


    Cinnamon Applesauce Muffins (gluten-free, soy-free, vegan)


    The best part about this recipe is it’s simplicity. Many gluten-free recipes read like a science project, but this one has only a couple ingredients you may not already have in the pantry:  brown rice flour and garbanzo bean flour (besan).

    I could hardly wait for the muffins to cool. The aroma was heavenly, like spicy gingerbread. The flavor and texture did not disappoint, either. Sweet and flavorful, these muffins make a perfect snack or a light breakfast.

    Cinnamon Applesauce Muffins

    recipe courtesy Allyson Kramer (

    • 1 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons besan/chickpea flour
    • 1/2 cup superfine brown rice flour (reg. works too)
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 cup nondairy milk
    • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

    Preheat your oven to 375 ºF. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners, or grease a non-stick pan lightly. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the applesauce, olive oil, vanilla extract, molasses, salt and sugar until well blended. Gradually add in the rest of the ingredients, one by one in the order given. Mix vigorously using a whisk about 100 strokes, or until very well mixed.

    Drop 1/3 cup batter into each muffin tin and place onto middle rack of the oven. Bake 25 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.

    Cheater’s Chocolate Cake


    When I’m in the mood for a warm, gooey chocolate experience, I don’t want to waste any time. This recipe is quick, easy and every bit as rich and chocolatey as your favorite brownie, maybe even better!

    Cheater’s Chocolate Cake

    Adapted from The Happy Herbivore Cookbook by Lindsay Nixon

    4 tbsp all purpose flour

    2 tbsp brown sugar

    2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa

    1⁄4 tsp baking powder

    1⁄4 c canola or olive oil

    3 tbsp nondairy milk

    1 to 2 drops vanilla extract

    2 to 3 tbsp vegan chocolate chips

    pinch salt


    Coat a microwave safe coffee mug or soup cup with non-stick cooking spray. Mix all ingredients well and smooth into mug.


    Microwave at 80% power for 2-3 minutes, until almost fully baked (should be slightly soft in center). Serve warm with non-dairy ice cream or as is.

    Note: Microwave cooking time based on 1,000 watt microwave.



    Rice Crispy Treats


    Did you think you would never eat rice crispy treats again once you found out the gelatin contained in conventional marshmallows is derived from animal sources? Well, cheer up, because now you can enjoy the exact same treat–cruelty free!

    Using the classic Kelloggs Recipe, I created these delicious little crispies with puffed brown rice cereal, non-dairy margarine and vegan marshmallows (purchased from Whole Foods). I dressed them up with a nice coating of melted chocolate, but they are fine on their own. Enjoy!





    Raw Collard Wrap Spring Rolls



    These spring rolls are a refreshing, healthy change of pace from the usual baked or fried spring rolls. Chock full of crunchy vegetables and tangy sesame-marinated shiitakes, they set the stage nicely for your next Asian themed meal or can be eaten alone as a light meal or party finger food.

    Raw Collard Wrap Spring Rolls

    Recipe courtesy Selene Vakharia

    (Servings: 4)

    8 leaves Collard greens, de-stemmed
    2 sheets Seaweed (optional)
    4 ounces Shittake mushrooms, sliced
    4 ounces Snow peas, julienned
    4 ounces Carrots, julienned
    4 ounces Napa cabbage leaves, julienned
    ½ Cucumber, julienned


    • 2 tbsp. Ginger, minced
    • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
    • 4 tbsp. Tamari
    • 4 tbsp. Lemon juice
    • 4 tbsp. Sesame oil


    • Marinate the sliced mushrooms for 15-30 minutes. Squeeze marinade back into bowl. Set aside to use for dipping.


    • Put ingredients in the middle of the collard leaf and roll. Wrap and secure the roll with a strip of seaweed, if desired.


    Meze 119, St. Petersburg, Florida


    On a recent trip through St. Petersburg, Florida we visited the Salvador Dali Museum. We worked up an appetite viewing such an immense collection of awe-inspiring art and were definitely in the mood for a fun and creative lunch.

    We took a stroll and discovered within a couple blocks this cute little restaurant, specializing in Middle-Eastern vegetarian food. The menu is not 100% vegan, but offers many more vegan dishes than most.


    We started with one of several herbal blend iced tea choices and the soup of the day, a Creamy Jamaican Spinach Soup. This was delicious and I had to flag down the server to make doubly certain it was vegan, because it almost tasted too good to be true. The teas were served with a whimsical touch–a thin stalk of raw sugarcane.

    We tried the falafel pita and chick’n salad sandwich. Both were available on our choice of white or whole wheat pita. The portions were generous and both sandwiches were tasty. Mine was served with thick steak fries–a nice surprise.

    Something we thought was pretty cool– the check presenter is actually a booklet where guests can write comments in an ongoing “slam book” style. A  fun and creative touch!



    Meze 119 is located in the heart of the city’s office district and seating is limited, so if you are looking for a quiet meal  with minimal wait time, I recommend a visit during weekday off hours or a Saturday lunch as we did.

    Isan Thai Restaurant Sarasota, Florida


    My love of Thai food causes me complaint when it comes to eating out. Although I enjoy the authenticity of the small, family operated restaurant, along with this comes the addition of fish sauce, a staple in Thai cuisine.

    While visiting St. Petersburg recently, I happened to discover a hidden gem among the parade of usual corporate chain restaurants along the city’s main drag. Isan is nestled in a strip mall, and one would almost miss it if not intentionally looking for it.


    The decor boasts all the opulence of as Asian temple, with intricate gold wall hangings and tapestries.  The staff was warm, friendly and welcoming–seating us in a cozy booth with a glass-topped table and roomy benches.

    We ordered the vegetable curry and asked that it be prepared without fish sauce and the restaurant was happy to acommodate. The sauce was creamy and decadent, flavorful and chock-full of perfectly prepared vegetables in spiced coconut milk.

    It’s great to know in this era of pre-packaged, pre-seasoned, flavor-engineered restaurants, one can still find made from scratch meals, prepared with integrity.

    Soup and Bread


    It occurs to me that there are two foods I can simply never do without–soup and bread.  I will never tire of a hot, comforting bowl–be it a thick, hearty stew or a thin, savory broth as long as I have a nice chunk of bread to sop in it.

    The best soups and the best breads are those made at home. Here are a couple simple recipes worth trying for yourself.

    Easy Olive Oil Bread

    Creamy Chick’n & Mushroom Soup



    1 Tbs olive oil
    2 large cloves garlic, minced
    1 small onion, diced
    2 celery stalks, chopped fine
    12-oz pkg Beyond Meat Chicken-Free Strips, cubed
    4 C (about 18) mushrooms, quartered
    5 C vegetable broth
    3/4 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp black pepper
    1/2 tsp garlic powder
    1 tsp onion powder
    1/2 C vegan sour cream
    3 Tbs flour
    1/2 C nutritional yeast
    1/4 C unsweetened, plain almond milk
    3/4 tsp Herbs de Provence


    In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and add the garlic. Saute 2 minutes, then add the onion and celery. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables soften.

    Add the broth and let simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Toss in the chick’n and mushrooms and let cook for 10 minutes.

    In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, flour, nutritional yeast, seasonings and almond milk; stir into the soup. Season with Herbs de Provence. Let simmer a few minutes until it thickens. Serve and enjoy!






    New Summer Menu

    melanieheadshotI am happy to introduce my new summer menu! if you haven’t checked out my website, feel free to visit Over the coming weeks, I will be featuring some of the new items and posting the recipes. Let me know the dishes that interest you and I will be sure to share when I can!


    Linguine Primavera with Roasted Chickpeas and Artichokes

    Indian Chik’n Curry

    Soba Noodle Salad with Tofu and Sesame-Miso Dressing

    Falafel Burgers with Tahini Sauce

    Chana Masala with Tomatoes and Spinach

    Chik’n Fajitas

    Sweet Potato and Lentil Stew

    White Bean Pomodoro with Creamy Ricotta and Seared Spinach

    Mongolian Tofu with Basmati Rice

    Cheezy Mac and Peas with Chik’n

    Tofu Pad Thai with Rice Noodles

    Barbecue Chik’n

    Spinach Artichoke Lasagna Rolls

    Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Chik’n

    Smoky Chile Taco Beef-less

    Sesame Tofu Stir-Fry

    Greek Gyro Slices with Tzatzki Sauce

    Buffalo Tofu Planks with Ranch Dressing

    Lentil Sloppy Joes

    Tofu Scramble Florentine



    Caesar Salad

    Chopped Greek Salad with Tofu Feta

    Watermelon and Red Onion Salad

    Creamy Pasta Salad

    Indian Lentil Salad with Curry Vinaigrette

    Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup

    Spicy Tortilla Soup

    Faki (Greek Lentil Soup)

    Tom Yum Soup

    Herbed Potato Salad

    Classic Coleslaw

    Fiesta Rice

    Macaroni and Cheeze

    Indian Samosa Potatoes

    Cheezy Queso Sauce with Tortilla Chips

    Creamy Vanilla Pudding

    Apple Cobbler

    Mini Coffee Cakes

    Key Lime Cheesecake


    Key Lime Pie with Mango-Ginger Coulis


    I challenge you to tell the difference between the flavor and texture of conventional key lime pie and this dairy-free, decadent delight! This recipe yields a sweet, tart, creamy filling–exactly what I was looking for to top off my Sunday barbecue. Best of all, the preparation is simple, just blend and bake!

    Dressed up with a swirl of sweet mango-ginger coulis, this dessert makes an elegant presentation for a dinner party as well.

    Vegan Key Lime Pie

    adapted from a recipe by Jolinda Hackett

    2- 8 ounce containers Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese (non-dairy cream cheese)
    1 cup sugar
    1 tsp vanilla
    1/3 cup key lime juice
    2 tbsp cornstarch
    1 pre-made graham cracker crust, pre-baked and cooled completely


    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Blend all ingredients in a food processor until very smooth.


    Pour into cooled pie shell and bake 40-45 minutes until set. Cool on a rack, then chill for at least 4 hours before serving.


    Mango Ginger Coulis

    1 cup mango puree

    1/4 tsp. finely minced ginger

    2 tbsp. vanilla soy creamer

    Combine all ingredients and refrigerate at least 2 hours to allow flavors to blend.


    3 Step Almond Bark


    As most vegans know, there are several good brands of dairy-free and vegan-friendly dark chocolate bars available at your local Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s. What is missing for me, however, is a bar full of almonds, like I used to enjoy as a kid (think Hershey’s with Almonds).

    It is easy to make your own, though, and add as many almonds as you like, or dried fruits, roasted peanuts, etc. Here is a quick and easy recipe to satisfy that spontaneous craving for something you can’t find on the store shelf :-)

    3 Step Almond Bark

    by Melanie daPonte

    2 ounces fine quality dark, dairy free baking chocolate or chocolate chips

    1/4 cup almonds, chopped, sliced or whole


    Step 1:


    In a heat resistant bowl over a pot of simmering water, stir and melt chopped chocolate, or chocolate chips until smooth and pourable.

    Step 2:


    Remove chocolate from heat, fold in nuts and pour into a small container lined with waxed paper.

    Step 3:

    Place in freezer for about 1 hour, or until hardened, then turn out of the mold onto a board and cut into pieces, if desired.

    This recipe makes a small, very rich bar, enough for two servings.

    Jam Session


    Here’s an easy recipe for blueberry preserves I found this morning in a sudden rush of inspiration


    Wash the berries

    Warm the sugar in the oven

    Bring blueberries and sugar to boil with water



    Cook for about 45 minutes, until thick


    Keep it Simple Smoothie


    A smoothie can be a tasty, quick and efficient delivery system for several servings of fruit and/or veggies at one time. This recipe provides an easy to prepare method using fruits and vegetables you probably have on hand. You don’t need a $400 blender either, just a humble household model will do.

    Once you see how truly easy smoothie-making can be, play around with the fruits, substituting melon or kiwi for the pineapple, apple juice for orange, mango chunks for banana–you get the idea. It’s not an exact science.


    Simple Green Smoothie

    Large handful fresh spinach or other dark, leafy greens (chard, kale, etc.)

    1 ripe banana, fresh or frozen

    1 cup frozen pineapple chunks

    1/2 cup orange juice

    Place greens in blender with juice and puree until smooth. Add banana in chunks along with pineapple and a bit more liquid if needed ( I use ice cold water). Blend it up and enjoy!

    Ultimate Cheezy Sauce


    As many vegans will tell you, one the hardest foods to give up, in the beginning, is cheese. I have read that cheese actually contains addictive opiate substances, so that might explain its magnetic appeal.

    As for me, I have learned to live without cheese and appreciate the flavors of the food underneath–where cheese would have been. At the same time, I’ve been on a quest for the perfect cheesy sauce for macaroni, nachos, broccoli, and general dipping of crusty bread.

    I have posted cheezy sauce recipes before–but this one is the mother of all cheezy sauces. It’s a adaptation of a modern vegan recipe with classical method. I am in love with the umami flavor and the smooth velvety “pour” of this sauce. I think you will agree that it is both delicious and easy to make with ingredients found in most vegan pantries.



    Cheezy Sauce III

    by Melanie daPonte

    1 1/2 tbsp. non-dairy margarine

    1 1/2 tbsp. all purpose flour

    1 cup Soy milk ( can use almond milk, but I prefer the higher fat content in soy for creamier sauce)

    ¼ cup Nutritional yeast

    2 tablespoons Tamari sauce
    1 tablespoon Tahini
    1 tablespoon Lemon juice
    2 tsp. Dijon mustard
    1 tsp. Paprika


    Melt the margarine in a  saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk in flour to make a roux (classical sauce thickening combo).


    Add all remaining ingredients and whisk until well combined and smooth. Stir until mixture begins to thicken and lightly bubble. Reduce heat to low and check for consistency and seasoning.



    At this point you may wish to add more paprika depending on the level of orange-ness you like your cheezy sauce to have. You may also want to play with the consistency a bit depending on how you plan to use the sauce. Just add a little more milk if you like more pour-ability. Add salt if desired, or more tamari or lemon juice as desired. It’s YOUR sauce now, so enjoy it!