sassy pepper and friends
A sassy lady pepper stands in the foreground in front of a merry band of dorky veggies doing a kick line
Plant-based cooking with a side of snark
sassy pepper and friends
A sassy lady pepper stands in the foreground in front of a merry band of dorky veggies doing a kick line
Plant-based cooking with a side of snark
sassy pepper and friends
A sassy lady pepper stands in the foreground in front of a merry band of dorky veggies doing a kick line
Plant-based cooking with a side of snark
Marlas Obsessions2023-11-22T11:23:00-05:00

Marla’s Obsessions

Objects, People, and Ideas Marla Feels Strongly About

2023 Guide: 10 Essential Kitchen Tools for Plant-Based Cooks

Last year, I debuted my first annual Essential Cooking Gadgets list for the vegan kitchen, inspired by my friend Jan’s wisdom that the right kitchen tools make all the difference. After trying her velvety New York-style cheesecake (made with her KitchenAid Mixmaster), I was sold. Although I’ve not eaten cheesecake in some time, I have held on to Jan’s advice, and assembled a group of reliable gadgets and appliances that make cooking easier and more fun.

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My Beliefs

  1. In my Perfect World, humans would eat only plant-based foods. But I’m a realist. My intent is to encourage you to discover new plant-based recipes you love, wherever you are on the omnivore-vegan spectrum.
  2. Instagram, Tik Tok, Pinterest, and YouTube are exploding with plant-based recipes and sublime, mouthwatering photos of the finished product. My role as Recipe Explorer and Tester is to share the best of this with you. (I do the trolling, so you don’t have to).
  3. I’m grateful that products made by companies like Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat exist, but I don’t eat them.
  4. People who say “I hate kale” have not tasted these kale chips.
  5. Plant-based cheese that is served on a cheese platter rarely tastes like cheese. It often tastes good, but calling it “cheese” is likely to lead to disappointment. (At least for now. Many folks are working on this).
  6. I’m grateful that restaurants like Slutty Vegan and Plant Pub exist, but junk food is junk food, whether it involves animal products or not. As a treat, yes, as a habit, no.
  7. People who say, “I hate tofu” have not tasted air fryer crispy tofu croutons.
  8. Happiness is a prolific summer garden that produces too many tomatoes.
  9. Eat food. Not too much. Only plants. (Hats off to Michael Pollan).

Entering a Preach-Free Zone

I’m often asked why my husband Max and I chose not to have children. Most people have kids, just as most people enjoy a Thanksgiving turkey, pizza with cheese and perhaps pepperoni, and, on a hot summer night, a barbecue with hot dogs, burgers and chicken. We are not among those people. Opting out of cultural defaults; e.g., deciding not to have kids and not eat animals, raises eyebrows and demands explanations.

There’s no single reason Max and I stopped eating animal products. And over time, the reasons have changed. (The same is true for not having kids).

Preaching belongs in church, not here. So I won’t preach you our reasons, I’ll inform. Succinctly. And I won’t bring it up again. I promise.

Top 4 Reasons to Eat Fewer (or No) Animal Products:Read More

Just Say No! to Cold Turkey

January 1st kicks off yet another Vegan Holiday, this one a monthlong celebration, Veganuary. (We’ve barely had time to recuperate from World Vegan Day, celebrated a mere two months ago!). Vegans are considered by many to be joyless and dour, yet we certainly have busy holiday calendars.

Veganuary is intended to make our New Year’s resolutions lists, up there with Dry January.

I’ll say it loud, and I’ll say it proud: I’m vegan, and I’m anti-Veganuary.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’d be thrilled if hundreds — even dozens — of Good News Veg readers went vegan this month. A good place to start would be the Epicurious 5-Day Comfort Food Meal Plan. Or, read why chef J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (who unapologetically hunts, cooks and eats meat) decided to take the 30-day vegan challenge, how he felt about it halfway through, and the 60 Great Vegan Recipes he created for the task.

Why am I against Veganuary?

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Pining for Pesto

Do you remember your first time? I do.

It was 1983. We were in Vermont, renting a house with a group of friends for the weekend, among them Fabio, from Italy. We took turns making dinner. Fabio made pasta with pesto. After that night, there was no going back to red sauce for me.

To this day, pesto is my favorite food. Tossed with penne or gemelli and ample amounts of crisp-sweet broccolini; smeared on crostini, cherry tomato on top; dolloped onto a bowl of steamy vegetable soup; smothered on pillowy-with-a-crunch pan-fried gnocchi; the base of a summer-fresh pizza; mixed in a salad of fusilli, fresh arugula, basil and tomatoes.

When I quit eating dairy, pesto was my final frontier. Pesto without parmesan? No other food tested my commitment to a plant-based diet so intensely.

And then.

I interviewed my friend Seba, an Italian plant-based food investor, food snob (in the best sense of the word), Tuscan wine-maker, and chef. Seba told me, “Use fresh basil and garlic, and high-quality olive oil. Parmesan isn’t necessary.”

I disagreed. (But give it a try, and see for yourself).

And now, because I like you, and because I love cows, I am going to share what I learned during my months-long quest to discover Winning Plant-Based Pesto:

  • Follow Your Heart Parmesan (shreds, not chunk) is so good, I am certain neither Seba nor Fabio would detect them in my pesto. (Violife and Whole Foods brands are good too, but I prefer Follow Your Heart).
  • No plant-based cheese will win a blind taste test against dairy cheese. A hearty, flavor-packed pesto needs a salty, slightly musty flavor. That’s what Follow Your Heart delivers.
  • Basil is not the only herb that makes mind-blowing pesto. Fennel fronds? Who knew? (Be open, and click below).
  • Pine nuts make my taste buds sing, but as their price has skyrocketed …in the words of John Lennon, all I am saying is give walnuts and sunflower seeds a chance.
  • Scads of vegan pesto recipes call for nutritional yeast. Do not do this. Nutritional yeast has its place in many plant-based dishes. Pesto is not one of them.
  • Trader Joe’s extra virgin olive oil is my go-to.

** NOTE: Most of the recipes I’m sharing here call for dairy parmesan. PLEASE replace it with Follow Your Heart or another plant-based parmesan, at least once. Then Open Your Heart by reading this beautiful essay from Best American Food Writing 2021.

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Ode to the Tomato | Plant-Based Dishes for Tomato Lovers

Over the last few weeks, home gardeners and farmers across the country have plucked gazillions of ripe tomatoes off their vines. Some are candy-like treats (typically the baby Cherries), others, meh … bland and/or mealy. And yet. There’s no reason to leave any tomato behind.

I’ve scoured and devoured the internet, building this collection of plant-based tomato recipes to ensure you taste every ripe tomato in your bounty. They’re the best of the best.

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