Restaurant Review – Strong Hearts Cafe, Syracuse, NY




Although I live only an hour away from Syracuse, I just finally got up to Strong Hearts Cafe.  Situated on a one-way street in the heart of Syracuse, the cafe is easily found and has ample parking.

The cafe is not only 100% vegan but also environmentally conscious and community focused.  They use local produce and compost all their food waste as well as their compostable food packaging.  Best of all, the food is delicious!

I treated myself to a vegan reuben and was not disappointed.  It was grilled to perfection and topped generously with sauerkraut and Russian dressing.  I was given a choice of potato chips or greens on the side (I chose chips because I’m not that righteous).

I couldn’t wait to take the picture before
biting into this scrumptious sandwich!



If you’re a fan of milkshakes, Strong Hearts can deliver!  I counted 44 different kinds of shakes on their menu all named after famous movers and shakers.  Try the Medgar Evers shake made with peanut butter and strawberries or the Farm Sanctuary shake made with caramel cookie dough.  All vegan!

The soups and muffins served change daily and they’re even open for breakfast!  Check them out and let me know what you think!  I know I’ll be back for more!

Avgolemono Soup from Vegan Mos

There’s not much to say in this blog post except, “Yum!”.  The star of tonight’s dinner was Avgolemono Soup from Vegan Mos.  Avgolemono may be a mouthful to say but I guarantee this vegan version of a Greek egg-lemon soup will be a delicious mouthful!

It was super easy to make too!  I made it using staples I always have on hand.  While you’re checking out the recipe, check out the rest of the Vegan Mos blog.  You’ll be glad you did!


Vegan Bargains

I will often get asked if it’s expensive to become vegan.  Well, usually the “question” is posed more like this:

“But vegan food is so expensive!”

Not true.  Let me show you.

Shopping



If you restrict all your shopping to a specialty health food store you most certainly will spend more.  However, on a couple of recent shopping trips, I found bargains galore on some of the more common items that should be staples in every vegan kitchen.  I did the work, now you get to benefit from my research in frugality.

My youngest, Miss M. and I ventured into a traditional Asian market last week and I was thrilled to find shelf-stable tofu for only $1.49!  I love this kind of tofu as we can store it in the pantry and it doesn’t take up space in our tiny fridge.  This usually sells for $1.99-$2.25 in most stores.

Check out the bulk foods section of your grocery store or food co-op.  Often, you can find items such as nutritional yeast or chia seeds much cheaper than if they were pre-packaged.

We have an Aldi’s about a mile from our home but I usually only shop there when I need canned goods.  If you’ve never shopped at Aldi’s, you’re in for a treat.  You deposit a quarter in the cart which is refunded to you when the cart is returned.  Bring your own bag or you’ll end up paying for one and watch the cashier line carefully to see what the protocol is for paying for your items.

If I haven’t scared you off and you decide to make the trip into this unusual store, you will find many bargain items for the taking.  Dried beans of any type imaginable, organic bananas for 59 cents a pound, avocados for 89 cents each and my most recent discovery, organic agave nectar for only $2.49!  For those of you not familiar with agave nectar, it’s frequently used as a vegan alternative to honey.  At Wegmans, this sells for $4.99.  You don’t have to be a math genius to figure out that’s half the cost!  



Right next door to our Aldi’s is a store called Big Lots.  Big Lots is always a fun place to shop because the inventory changes so you never know what you’ll find.  On this trip I was happy to find the biggest selection of Bob’s Red Mill products I’d ever seen!  Of course, it may not be there the next time I go.



I picked up some pearl couscous at a great price as well as this for only $2.00:

Wegmans price: $3.49

For those of you blessed with a Trader Joe’s nearby, you will find many items for your vegan pantry at a much lower price than most grocery stores.  I have yet to find raw cashews (a must if making “cheese” sauces) that cost less than at Trader Joe’s.  As with any kind of shopping, however it pays to know the average cost of your staples.


Cooking

One trap a lot of new vegans fall into (myself included) is trying to find substitutes for the food they’re used to.  For instance, processed meat substitutes like veggie burgers, soy bacon or sausages and vegan cheeses can be pricey.  I’ve learned to only treat myself to those every now and then and to focus more on whole foods that are much more beneficial to your health as well as your wallet.

Lentils are a great source of protein and fiber and average around $1.39 a pound!  That’s a whole lot of nutrition for pennies!  In my blog post from July 12th, you’ll find a favorite recipe for Masoor Dal where approximately 75 cents worth of lentils will give you four meals.

One of my favorite “fast food” meals is greens and beans.  You can use swiss chard, endive, escarole or any of the other kinds of greens you find in your produce section.  Saute them in some olive oil and minced garlic and add a can of black-eyed peas (79 cents) at the end.  This will make two servings of a filling and nutritious meal.

We use a lot of vegetable broth and usually buy it at the store but making your own vegetable broth is super easy!  Save your vegetable scraps and throw them in the freezer.  When you have enough for stock, cook them in salted and/or seasoned water and voila!  Instant vegetable stock for next to nothing.  This website is great for more detailed instructions.

If you’re looking for inexpensive vegan cookbooks to get your creative juices flowing, check out BookBub.  The offers are only for a limited time but I found the following titles for FREE:

On Amazon
Vegan Sandwiches by Ruby Cooper


Now $3.99

These were all free when I got them but are now $1.99-$3.99 so sign up for BookBub emails so you don’t miss the next round of free vegan cookbooks!

I’d love to hear about your experience finding great prices on vegan eats.  Shoot me a message in the comments section!




The Days & CPG – Falafel Burgers


I love falafels!  They’re one of the few things I can eat at various summer festivals but I always have to tell them to hold the tzatziki sauce since it’s made with yogurt.

The Falafel Burgers in Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Vegan Table came together easily and I liked that the burgers were baked instead of fried.  We ate them without the bun and with this amazing tzatziki sauce from Vegan Mos (I love those guys!) instead of the sauce in Colleen’s recipe.  I added some fresh dill since we have an overabundance of it from our CSA box and that really added to the deliciousness of it.  

Psst…I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Dr. D. doesn’t like falafels so I told him they were chickpea burgers.  He enjoyed them but said they were a little dry while piling on more of that yummy sauce.  I thought they were very good but agreed that they were a bit on the dry side.  We’ll definitely make them again though!

  • Ease of preparation – A 
  • Availability of ingredients – A 
  • Taste – B (due to the dryness)
  • Appearance – A

The Days & CPG – Basil Pesto

As many people do at this time of the year, we have a bumper crop of basil in The New Day Garden.  I took my shears to it yesterday and gave it a good trimming and in return it gave us a meal!  Sitting on our sunny deck pulling leaves off of fragrant stalks of homegrown basil is my favorite way of “making dinner”. 




Most pestos use some sort of cheese usually Romano or Parmesan so it’s difficult to enjoy this dish in a restaurant.  CPG’s recipe in The Vegan Table uses four simple ingredients: olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and lots and lots of basil!  I’ve found pine nuts to be ridiculously expensive so was thrilled to find a great big bag at Sam’s Club this weekend for a decent price.

For dinner, I prepared this mung bean fettuccine.  This was perfect for a couple of reasons, 1) it’s not a starchy pasta and 2) the noodles are wide enough to be the perfect vehicle for getting that delicious pesto into your face!  Dr. D. found it at Down to Earth but I’m sure your own health food store or Wegmans will carry it.



And here it is!  Basil Pesto from The Vegan Table!


  • Ease of preparation – A (what could be easier than putting four ingredients in a food processor and pressing Start!)
  • Availability of ingredients – A 
  • Taste – A
  • Appearance – A

The Days & CPG – “Honey” Mustard Salad Dressing

I know, I know.  Salad dressing…no big deal.  However, I never make my own and usually resort to olive oil and vinegar poured on top of my salads.  It can get old after a while.

While perusing The Vegan Table for this project, I came across this recipe for “Honey” Mustard Salad Dressing and thought I’d give it a try.  We loved it!  Agave nectar takes the place of the honey to make it vegan and the rest of the ingredients are those found in most cupboards or fridges.  By the way, if you need any Dijon mustard, I have three jars.


Here it is!


“Honey” Mustard Salad Dressing
*Wheat-free, soy-free

Makes: 5 (2-tbsp per) servings

Ingredients:
3 to 5 tbsp agave nectar (I used 5 but you could definitely get away with 3 or 4)
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (I wasn’t sure what the difference was between rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar so I used the one I had (rice vinegar) and it came out great)
1 tbsp olive oil (optional) (I used the full tablespoon)

Directions: Blend/whisk until smooth and enjoy with salad mixings of your choice!

We had it over Boston curly lettuce and I added sliced almonds and dried cranberries.

  • Ease of preparation – A
  • Availability of ingredients – A 
  • Taste – A
  • Appearance – A