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Our East Coast Summer Tour

Posted on August 04, 2013 by Michelle Della Penna | 0 Comments

Happy Summer!  My family and I just got back from a 2 week vacation traveling up and down the Eastern Seaboard.  We got to see a lot of family and friends and visit some of my favorites cities.  It was a long trip though and with two little ones in tow, I think we were all happy to get home. 

In addition to getting a chance to see our beloved families, I was also excited about trying some new food.  I'm what you would call "an eater".  I love food!  Sometimes when I discuss traveling, people ssay, "What do you eat?  It must be so hard to find vegan food on the road!".  And although there are some cities that are more vegan friendly than others, I have yet to visit a city or town with something I CAN'T eat.  Even in Central Pennsylvania, I was able to find hemp milk, coconut yogurt and Gardein!  How about that?!  Anyhow, enough banter...on to the food.  I apologize for the lack of pictures.  I ate most of the food before I even remembered that I should stop and take a picture.  I did chronicle some of our journey on twitter, if you're so inclined.

Our first stop was in New York City which is one of my favorite places on the planet (and the bulk of this post).  I had my restaurant wish list and couldn't wait to get started.  We arrived late in the afternoon and once we got situated at our hotel all four of us were starving.  God Bless Virgin Airlines, but you can only have so much hummus and crackers.  And my kids were kind of over coconut yogurt and Lara Bars.  So I pulled out my Happy Cow app and to my great excitement found a Loving Hut around the corner.  Although the restaurant was small and likely more for take-out, they did their best to accommodate us.  We scarfed down fried rice, mac n' cheese, veggie burgers and some sauteed veggies with black rice that was so delicious my husband and I had to roshambo it for the last bite.

The next day we visited Eataly, which lucky for us, was right up the street from where we were staying.  Now, let me say that as a food lover and as an Italian, it was amazing.  I saw products that I haven't seen for years and only ever saw being unpacked from my Nonna's suitcase on a trip home from the old country.  Most of the products I don't eat anymore, but I was filled with nostalgia nonetheless.  We stocked up on some focaccia and later returned for some vegan gelato. 

I had the onion focaccia, which was delicious and the stracciatella gelato that was made from whipped bananas with dark chocolate shavings.  Who even needs the dairy?  My husband got plum and my kids got limone.  We returned there every day for this treat and then walked across the street to the park. 

The next day we stopped at Blossom in Chelsea.  I had been looking forward to visiting this place for the weeks leading up to our trip.  Unfortunately this location isn't super kid friendly, so we ordered to go and ate at the park, which was actually lovely.  We had the Cape Code cakes, the Cashew Cream Raviolli and the Spicy Tempeh Sandwich.  Everything was outstanding.  We all just kept passing the plates around so we could try it all.  I would like to go back and enjoy more of their menu. 

The last night in town, my husband and I were able to sneak away for a date and we went to L'artusi in the West Village.  It's my husband's favorite Italian restaurant in the city and he really wanted to take me there.  I was looking forward to indulging in some home made pasta.  Luckily we had a very kind waiter that didn't roll his eyes at me when I told him I'm vegan.  He asked the chef what they could prepare and came back with some recommendations.  And I'll tell you what, this was some of the best pasta I've ever had in my life.  My nonna's home made pasta has always been the bench mark, but this pasta was right up there (sorry, nonna!).  It was a simple spaghetti dish with chilis, garlic, parsley and crunchy olive oil bread crumbs.  That's it!  But it was so delicious.  The water had been perfectly salted, the pasta was cooked to perfection and all the ingredients were in perfect harmony.  I literally licked the bowl!  I also had a delicious beet salad and passionfruit sorbet.  It was a great night and a perfect way to cap off the New York leg of your trip.  I'm already planning my next trip out so I can cross off more places on my list. 

The rest of our trip was spent cruising through Central Pennsylvania, then back down to the coast of Virginia and ending our trip with a night in DC.  We all ate sufficiently and we were actually all impressed with how many vegan options were readily available to us.

And if you're ever on Chincoteague Island in Virginia, check out the Sea Star Cafe.  They have a separate vegetarian/vegan menu.  The Santa Cruz sandwich is awesome! 

What are some of your favorite restaurants or vegan dishes that you've discovered while traveling?

Until next time, friends...






Posted in new york city, vegan food

Lentil & Farro Soup with Tender Greens

Posted on March 11, 2013 by Michelle Della Penna | 0 Comments

Hello there!  With all these chilly days and nights, I have been in the mood for warm, comforting soup.  I rummaged through our freshly stocked vegetable drawer, thank you CSA, and pulled out some delicious beet greens, kale, carrots and onions.  I grabbed some farro and lentils from the pantry and I was on my way.  On a side note, I am a huge soup fan.  I could probably eat soup every night.  I just love it!  I especially love making a huge pot of soup that I can leave in my dutch oven, throw in the fridge and reheat throughout the week.  It makes the perfect quick meal.  If you have time to spare, you can leave this soup to simmer on the stove for hours, but if you’re crunched for time, it can be ready in 30-45 minutes.  Here we go…


Lentil & Farro Soup with Tender Greens
Serves 4-6

1/2 C dried lentils, preferably sprouted
1 C cooked farro; brown rice or quinoa would also work
2 generous bunches of chopped greens; beet, kale, chard, spinach
3-4 small carrots, chopped
2 small yellow onions, one diced & one cut in half
4 cloves
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 C vegetable broth
2 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp italian herbs
2 bay leaves

Start by boiling the lentils. Take the cloves and stud the halved onion. Fill a large pot with water, add the rinsed lentils, studded onion and bay leaf.

An onion with cloves may sound weird, but I tell you this will add so much flavor to your lentils. Bring to a boil and cook until tender. If lentils are sprouted, cooking time will only be about 15 minutes. If they’re not, it will be closer to 30-40 minutes. When done, rinse and set aside. (Discard onion and bay leaf)

An onion with cloves may sound weird, but I tell you this will add so much flavor to your lentils. Bring to a boil and cook until tender. If lentils are sprouted, cooking time will only be about 15 minutes. If they’re not, it will be closer to 30-40 minutes. When done, rinse and set aside. (Discard onion and bay leaf)

In a large soup pot, add a dash of olive oil or thin layer of broth (for a lower fat soup) and add onion, carrots and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and let sweat for about 3-4 minutes or until onions are soft. Add the bay leaf and seasoning and toss to coat. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the greens and another pinch of salt and lower to medium heat. Cook for a few minutes until greens are tender. Add the lentils, farro, worcestershire and another pinch of salt and pepper and lower to simmer. Let cook on a very low simmer for about 15-20 minutes. At this point, taste it and decide if you need more salt and season accordingly. Serve with warm, crusty bread. Enjoy!

Welcome, 2013!

Posted on January 04, 2013 by michy | 0 Comments

Happy New Year!  I hope it was a beautifully, blessed year for you all.  2012 was very busy.  We finally got our cookies onto Ralph's shelves (for those of you who don't live in Southern California, Ralph's is a huge grocery retailer).  That was a huge deal for us.  The cookies have done well and we're looking to introduce some new gluten-free products very soon!

Life was a bit of a blur this past year.  My youngest is about to turn a year-eek!  And with two kids, a business and a household to run, some days I feel like my head is going to fall off.  It's wonderful though and I feel blessed to be apart of this crazy life!

There were a few vegan goodies that I ran across this year and had to share.  If you haven't had the chance to try any of these, you should definitely make it a priority.

just pure foods crispy onion rings knocked my socks off! I ran into these at Aptos Natural Foods when home for the holidays and they were awesome! They also have zucchini chips and tomato chips which looked divine!

These Go Raw pizza snacks are awesome! They taste just like pizza and provide the perfect cracker crunch without all the crap. Kids will love them too!

I also had the pleasure of trying Real Foods Daily's Tu-nut salad.  It's their take on tuna salad and it was delicious-hence no picture!  Instead of a soy base, it's made from almonds with lots of yummy herbs and flavors.  It wasn't until after I had inhaled the salad that it dawned on me that I should have taken a picture.

I will be blogging more this year; recipes, products, restaurants, personal stories-you name it, I'm writing about it.  So stay tuned and have a wonderful week.


Posted in Recipe, Winter

The Dino Cake

Posted on October 15, 2012 by michy | 0 Comments

So a couple of weeks ago my friend asked me if I could make a cake for her son's birthday! "Of course!" I said, "No problem." But, as she explained, her son really, really wanted a dinosaur cake. Now I can frost a cake and cupcake with the best of them but a dinosaur cake is a whole other animal (sorry for the pun). There are misshapen edges, weird angles, layers of frosting and piping and a whole host of other things that can go wrong. But, I wanted to challenge myself and make my friend's son happy, so I of course, said yes. I found a great mold online and got to practicing. It really wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. The hardest thing about the whole cake was the intricate piping on the dinosaur body, which required me to ice my wrist for a few minutes (I know, such a wimp)! But all in all it turned out really well and what really matters is that the birthday boy was elated with his cake! As it turns out, the rest of the party was equally thrilled with it as evidenced by the empty cake stand.  I also did a few dozen cupcakes and played around with some new frosting styles.  I think they look really cute and without so much frosting, you could really taste the delicious cake.

My "Cupcake Wars" Fennel Cupcake with Clementine Frosting

Posted on March 21, 2012 by michy | 0 Comments

Hello All

I am so sorry that it has been so long since my last post. Life has been very busy, specifically the welcoming of our second baby boy about 6 weeks ago. Whew, things have been crazy!

As some of you may know, we competed on Food Network's Cupcake Wars a couple of weeks ago. My partner, Melissa and I had a great time. We were so honored to be apart of the first ever all vegan challenge. It was truly a wonderful experience. We were disappointed to not move on to the final round but Florian did call our Fennel Cupcake with Clementine Frosting "amazing", so we were pretty pleased. This cupcake turned out so well that we are adding it to our regular cupcake menu. It is bright, fresh, fluffy and delicious. I hope you enjoy it!

Fennel Cupcake with Clementine Frosting and Candied Sage

Yields 24 mini cupcakes

1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup non dairy milk; almond, soy etc
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
¾ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
¼ chopped fennel fronds; very loosely packed
Clementine Buttercream Frosting, recipe follows
Candied Sage; recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a mini cupcake pan with 24 mini cupcake liners. Measure the non dairy milk in a liquid measuring cup and add the apple cider vinegar. Set aside to curdle. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In another medium bowl, add vegetable oil, sugar and vanilla extract and mix. Add the “buttermilk” and whisk together until all of the ingredients are well blended. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 additions using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Mix together gently being careful not to over mix. Once the ingredients are well incorporated, fold in the fennel seeds and fronds.

Fill the mini cupcake liners about ¾ of the way full and bake for 12-13 minutes until cooked through.

Clementine Buttercream Frosting
Yields approximately 2 cups
¼ cup vegan margarine
¼ cup vegan shortening
¼ cup fresh Clementine juice
2 tablespoons fresh Clementine zest
3 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted

With electric beaters, beat together the margarine and shortening until creamy. Add in the juice and mix. Slowly add the powdered sugar until the frosting comes together and becomes creamy. You can frost the cupcakes by hand using a butter knife or put frosting in pastry bag and cut ½ inch off the top.

Candied Sage
Yields 12 candied sage leaves
12 fresh sage leaves
½ cup water
½ cup + 2 tablespoons cup cane sugar

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add ½ cup sugar and whisk together until dissolved. Add the sage, lower the heat to medium and simmer together for 2-3 minutes. Drain the sage and pat dry. Roll the sage in the remaining sugar and lay each leaf flat on the baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Let cool completely.

To Assemble:

Generously frost the top of each cupcake with the Clementine frosting and top with a candied sage leaf.

Vegan Broccoli & Pepperjack Quiche

Posted on May 19, 2011 by michy | 2 Comments

Here is a delicious vegan quiche recipe that is sure to please.  It is creamy, fluffy, cheesy and full of crunchy broccoli.  In fact, this whole quiche lasted less than 2 days in my house; it's that good!  I happened to have an extra pie crust in my freezer that I'd made a few days earlier, but a store bought one can work just as well.  I had a beautiful tart pan that I used and it created these beautiful fluted edges, but any pie pan will work.


Broccoli & Pepperjack Quiche

1 prepared vegan piecrust

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 head broccoli, cleaned & roughly chopped

1 tsp. herbs de provence

1 12 oz container mori-nu silken tofu

½ C non-dairy milk

¼ C nutritional yeast

2 Tbsp. white miso paste

1 Tbsp. powdered mustard

1 Tbsp. braggs liquid aminos (or tamari or soy sauce)

¼ C daiya pepperjack cheese (or cheddar works too)

1 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 375

Roll out the piecrust and place in pie or tart pan.  In a large cast iron pan, heat a dash of vegetable oil on medium heat.  Add the onions and a dash of oil and cook until translucent (about 2-4 minutes).  Add the broccoli and a dash of water.  Cover the pan with the lid and let steam for a few minutes.  Remove lid and give everything a toss with another dash of salt and the herbs de provence.  Turn off heat and seat aside.

In a blender mix the tofu, milk, miso and Braggs until it is smooth and creamy.  Pour into a large bowl and add the cheese, spices and broccoli/onion mixture and make sure everything is well combined.  Pour into the crust and place in the middle of the oven.  Cook for 40 minutes or until the center is firm, then crank the oven up to 425 and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the crust and top get nice and golden brown.  Remove from oven and let sit for at least 15 minutes before you serve.  Enjoy!

Veggie Quinoa with Cashews & Balsamic Glaze

Posted on May 11, 2011 by michy | 0 Comments

I made this dish the other night for my family and they flipped.  The quinoa is the perfect vessel for the crisp veggies and the crunchy cashews.  The best thing about this dish, besides the fact that it’s incredibly easy, is that you can literally use any veggies you have in your fridge.  I happened to have broccoli and asparagus, but it would easily work with mushrooms, carrots or peppers.  Enjoy!

Veggie Quinoa Serves 4-6

1 C uncooked quinoa

2 ½ C chopped veggies; broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, carrots, peas etc.

½ C red onion, diced

½ C cashews or peanuts

¼ C chopped herbs, loosely packed; cilantro or parsley work best

1 C balsamic vinegar

To cook the quinoa, place in small saucepan with 1 ¾ C water and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil, cover and lower heat to low and cook for 15.  Turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes and then fluff with fork.

To make the balsamic glaze, place vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower to medium low heat and cook for 20-25 minutes until the vinegar reduces and starts to become slightly thick.  You want it to be like maple syrup, not like molasses.  Turn off heat and let it cool.

Heat a large cast iron pan on medium heat with a dash of oil.  Add onions with a dash of salt and cook until translucent.  Add veggies, another dash of salt and cook for another 3-5 minutes (cook time will depend on which veggies you use).  Make sure to keep the veggies crisp.  Add the cashews and brown for a minute more.  Add the quinoa and another dash of oil.  Mix together and cook for another couple of minutes.  Turn off the heat and fold in the herbs.  Drizzle the balsamic glaze over each individual plate.  Enjoy!!!

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