Without the Empire Pass this year, I am not getting to the beach as often as last year. I am stealing the EZ-pass to go, however.
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This was some mushroom. I wanted to buy it and sit on it with a hookah. IMG_2811

The butterfly bush started getting some action. This huge Stryper butterfly was amazing to watch feasting on that sweet, sweet nectar.IMG_2854

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A then (May 7) & now picture of the sunflowers. Though some have been trampled by, I suspect, a rambunctious family of raccoons that enter the backyard by jumping the fence behind the sunflowers, proceeding to the cat bowls on the porch, a few are sturdy and high. IMG_2987

No blooms yet, though I can see things are happening!IMG_2975

Tomatoes getting ripe already. IMG_2983

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It is amazing to me how quickly you can discover rural charm outside of the bustling New York City area. It takes about two hours. Those are sloooow, traffic-stricken hours… at any hour. But it’s worth it.

Lambertville, New Jersey, which sits on the Delaware River on the state border, is a charming little town. You know the kind–25 MPH speed limit, colorful, maintained row houses, a rainbow flag here and yoga studio speaking for the town’s values. Its ma and pop‘s eateries have vegan options (next time) and its Golden Nugget Antiques Flea Market is an institution.

The flea market is open 3 times a week, bringing a slew of gypsies and vagabounds. I stopped by hoping to find kooky stuff for my classroom. I left empty-handed after a couple of hours of browsing. IMG_2873

Cross a small bridge and you’re in New Hope, Pennsylvania, another charming town with lots going for it. The streets were bustling with patrons window-shopping, drinking complicated coffee concoctions, and taking in the sights. This is the home to the always-delicious Sprig & Vine, who beat the heavier, unknown vegan lunch options back in New Jersey. Sometimes even this intrepid vegan blogger sticks to what she knows. IMG_2874

I had a small plate of scrambled tofu soft tacos. They were absolutely perfect. Every bite.IMG_2884

The local Sole kombucha was also just what I needed after sorting through antiques in the blazing sun.
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Next, I headed back towards New York by way of Trenton. Trenton is the home of Grounds For Sculpture, an outstanding sculpture garden that is my new favorite place in New Jersey. After being cooped up at home sick, there was nothing more invigorating than spending an afternoon amongst towering pieces of art inside lush nature.  DSC_0078

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I was excited to see the American Gothic couple. I wondered if this same work was what I saw being transported in Florida in 2008IMG_2943

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IMG_3960I’ve written about these cookies before, a cookie so ingrained in my memory that I can still vividly experience them. From the shuffling through the brown paper grocery bag, as tall as me, in the backseat of my mother’s car to find and be the first to open them; to opening them, their smooth teal-blue paper like a gift wrapping; to the two cardboard boxes, natural brown, in a time when everything was bleached white; to the slightly waxy parchment paper inside the cardboard that tucked away the darling little sandwiches neatly–all parts distinct in my memory. Opening them was a ritual. Enjoying them was a gift; they were coveted by most of my family members, including 3 hungry older siblings.

I feel like I loved them the most in my family, most in the world. But perhaps it was just the first of food love I had ever experienced and therefore, presumed special and unique to my own heart. But the love of these cookies was certainly not all my own. Food Timeline has compiled an amazing memorial space for these cookies. Scrolling through this page, you can read how these cookies still hold a special place in many people’s memories. It is truly amazing to see there is a Marshmallow Sandwich army. All with similar experiences and a deep nostalgia for these cookies.

So, how on earth did I get my hands on an unopened box of these cookies? Let’s call it kismet. As a long time thrift shopper who loves vintage stuff, I’ve since moved to eBay for vintage finds… since the thrift shops no longer have truly vintage items, just like WCBS fm doesn’t really play true oldies anymore. I search things randomly as they pop in my head, then I “follow” these searches to get alerts when new items are added. I searched for these cookies when I saw that eBay had a market for retro food. Then one day, they had the cookies, unopened, the familiar teal-blue still like I remembered it. Seeing the pictures of these cookies made my heart skip a beat. And I was able to “Buy it Now,” for $19.99 plus $5.74 shipping from seller Stancil Antiques Unlimited. I’ve continued to monitor this search ever since and… nothing. Where many are happy to see a .jpeg of the packaging design, I was somehow able to get a box.

When they arrived, I was so excited. This box–an earlier version (copyright 1967) than the one I remember, which looked more like this (copyright 1974)–was the real deal. I shook it gently, tempted to open like I had loved doing so long ago. But, no. This box would be preserved. And I’m not quite sure I want to see what these cookies look like after sitting for almost 4 decades.

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I knew that these cookies’ new home would be in our renovated kitchen. I had a shadow box custom made to display the cookies, which, by chance, just happened to match the color scheme of the new kitchen.IMG_4586

Along with my excitement was a desire not only to attempt to recreate the cookie, but to recreate a vegan version of the cookie that I could actually eat!  Now, I am not Nabisco. Even in the years these cookies were around, I am sure they utilized a variety of food processes that can not be duplicated in my kitchen. So my cookies would be inspired by these darling Marshmallow Sandwiches. First, I dissected the listed ingredients: sugar, flour, shortening, corn syrup, apricots, whey solids, gelatine, salt, leavening, and artificial flavor. A surprisingly brief list of ingredients, all recognizable unlike today’s processed foods. The “apricots” explains the characteristic smear of jellyishness that affixes the cookie to the marshmallow in the original cookie. The marshmallow and its unvegan “gelatine” would be the most difficult to recreate. The cookie, not as much. I once made chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips that reminded me of the cookie sandwich.

Here is the recipe I used to recreate the cookies, vegan style.

The cookie
Dry:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
Wet:
1 & 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup real maple syrup
1/4 tsp. black strap molasses (Tip: Oil-coat the 1/4 tsp.)
1/4 cup canola oil

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk dry ingredients in large bowl.
Mix wet ingredients in small bowl then add to dry.
Mix until incorporated.
Roll 1 teaspoon of dough into a sphere, rolling in the palm of your hand.
Place on parchment papered baking sheet and press down slightly to flatten.
Continue till you’ve used up the dough.
Bake for 6-8 minutes, watching closely.
Remove from oven before it browns. You will think it’s too soon, but it’s not.
Let cool on baking sheet for a minute or two before transferring to a cooling rack.
Cool for 10 minutes and then put in an airtight case. This will keep them soft and moist.

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The Jam
2 TB of a high-quality apricot jam

Sieve the 2 TB of jam into a small saucepan.
Cook and until thicker. Stir until smooth.

 

The marshmallow
Aquafaba (liquid) from 1 can of chickpeas
1 & 1/2 10 oz bags of Dandies
2 tsp coconut oil, plus more for bowl & spoon
2 tsp corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

Coat a large microwave-safe bowl’s interior and a large metal spoon with coconut oil.
In a stand-up mixer, whip aquafaba until fluffy peaks form.
While aquafaba is whipping, microwave coconut oil and marshmallows in 30 second intervals, stirring in-between intervals.
Add marshmallow mixture in with aquafaba meringue and whip until combined.
Stop to scrape sides, then add corn syrup and vanilla.
Whip again till thick, well-incorporated, and beautifully glossy.
Let set in the fridge till you’re ready to assemble cookies.

The aquafaba, before and after:PicMonkey Collage2 The marshmallow fluff stuff:PicMonkey Collage3

The Assembly
Upside down cookiesIMG_2549

Smear of apricot jamIMG_2551 Piping of marshmallowIMG_2552 Sandwich complete!IMG_2553

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I found these cardboard sleeves at BRP Box Shop, similar to the original packaging, and cut parchment to fit.
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Though my cookies looked like the old Nabisco Marshmallow Sandwich Cookie I once loved, The airy meringue marshmallow fluff center gives too quickly with a bite, which throws off it feeling like that cookie. It may have been more texturely reminiscent if I simply cut the large Dandies in half and sandwiched them with the cookie? This is a work in progress! I will update this post with new notes after more experimentation.

Either way, it’s been a wonderful stroll down memory lane.

With only a few hours to get my munchy on, I hit Nana’s Donuts in doorbust fashion. Nana’s Donuts used to be Diggity Donuts, which I have been peeping on Instagram for a bit. I was excited to learn that what seemed to be electronic evidence of their demise was really a switch of ownership… the delicious looking vegan donuts would not be impacted.  A rose by any other name…PicMonkey Collage

A bright and colorful shop with great service is a treat in and of itself. But the donuts, gazing at me through the showcase, of course sweetened the deal. I love when I can do this: I ordered one of each. I knew that with a quick flight back to New York, I’d be free to continue enjoying the donuts at home. And that The Electrician could partake too. Part of what hurts vegan travel blogging is being stricken to enjoying just one option. With a sublime vegan version of a frappuccino in hand, I hit the road, Jack.IMG_2475

Car photo shoot ensued. IMG_2494

Followed by eating in the car. Look at that airy delight. These are the real deal. I’m so impressed with vegan donut endeavors these days. Move over cupcakes!PicMonkey Collage2

After sweet, I needed a final savory breakfast in Charleston. I returned to Gnome Cafe because I knew I’d leave content. And after this customized brekkie bagel sammy (I sound like a 22 year old.) with tofu scramble, portobello bacon and avocado on a scooped everything bagel, I sure did. Then potatoes, you can’t do no wrong there. IMG_2489

Gnome Cafe has met air lift status. Oh, if I could design a vegan town, what a spectacular place it would be!IMG_2490

Farewell, Charleston. It’s been mostly yummy.

The bummer of my flight being cancelled seemed to infiltrate my food choices, too. I plan to make up for these less than wonderful options with a kick-butt breakfast tomorrow. But first, some roamings: The Babcock Building of the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum, now empty and decaying.DSC_0006

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The UFO Welcome Center in Bowman, South Carolina. Though visitors are invited to enter, it didn’t look to sturdy. IMG_2442

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A hasty choice in lunch back in Charleston, Dellz Uptown is kind of frozen in time. IMG_2455

Tell me you wouldn’t totally be thrill about this wrap in 1996. IMG_2448

And I kid you not that I could NOT break this cookie in half with my hands.  IMG_2443

And now, eager for a satisfying sweet treat, dreaming of Sweet Theory Baking Co. from yesterday, I gave Cupcake Downsouth a try. They had a vegan option on Fridays. But I guess today… I can’t get no satisfaction.IMG_2456

Taste, texture, frosting… all ummm, huh? It is great that they offer vegan options, but I think the recipe needs to be overhauled.IMG_2457

I think the record heat index is messing me all up. I decided on pizza chain Mellow Mushroom for dinner. You can veganize their pizzas with some effort. If you have time to wait a few tries for them to get it right.IMG_2462

This is the 3rd pie they had to make me. I appreciate them catching the errors, but would have preferred the pizza I asked for in a reasonable amount of time. They did comp it in the end, however. IMG_2466

And it still wasn’t what I asked for. They left off the tofu. And the other toppings were really sparse. What the heck today?IMG_2467

Ok, Charleston, you’re going to have to do better tomorrow.

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Jacksonville, Florida has vegan credibility.

This I state enthusiastically in my head while the locals in Southern Roots Filling Station discuss New York City vegan eats. I could chime in, I suppose, and tell them that New York City isn’t all that spectacular. Well, I mean that the places they are naming are not all that spectacular. But I understand that it’s partly generalized New York allure. I see it all over the faces of people all over the country when they see my i.d. or ask where I’m from. It’s like having an overachiever sister who you know is super cool, but you also know that she is a pain in the ass most of the time. Anyway, this little counter spot has some great things going on. Like a ton of decadent vegan sweet treats and some sandwich basics that are perfect starts to the day.PicMonkey Collage

And pretty coconut milk soy lattes.IMG_2203

And local made cheesy spread on the perfect slice of bread. Shakti Life Kitchen makes some of their nut cheeses, but I don’t recall of that is what I got.IMG_2205

So yeah, Jacksonville. And vegan credibility. Sweet Theory Baking Company. How about thee vegan best donuts? For reals. Better than San Francisco’s Pepples. Better than Portland’s Voodoo. Better than Seattle’s Mighty O. Better than Vegas’s Ronald’s Donuts. Better than Brooklyn’s Dun-well. Better than Cinnamon Snail. Minneapolis’s Glam Doll Donuts. Chicago’s Fritz Pastry. Atlanta’s Revolution Doughnuts. Better than all those round, frosted cakes with holes in other bakeries. Better than… wait–I forgot about Los Angeles’s Donut Friend. Sweet Theory has the best vegan donuts in every state but California. How about them apples? Let’s look:PicMonkey Collage2

Divine showcase.IMG_2207

The Samoa, the French Toast and a cinnamon bun. How do I drive with these things next to me?IMG_2213

That is donut perfection right there.IMG_2216
SCOnward…

I’m now at 45 states reporting!

Yowzer. but I didn’t eat anything yet. It starts with a roadside attraction: The Old Sheldon Church in Yemassee, South Carolina.
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Have to love these trees. DSC_0017
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Such a rich history. Thankfully it is now preserved and protected.DSC_0027

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So first eats in Charleston would have to be Gnome Cafe. I’ve fallen in love with the place via Instagram. And I think the Long Island baker from High Hopes Vegan Bakery started working here? Maybe that’s how I find out about them. I don’t remember. PicMonkey Collage3

I got the Southern Grit Bowl with geechie boy grits, sauteed kale, tofu scramble and portobello bacon. With a light sprinkle of nooch. Delectable! This is the meal I was waiting for. Flavorful, well-composed, outstanding.IMG_2319

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Last but not least, my dinner in Columbia, SC. Sick of staying where there are roaming drug addicts and unnerving, prolonged stares from the day mayors, I shelled out a bit more for a room right smack dab in the city center. A 3-minute walk from this raw place, Good Life Cafe. I ordered pick up, avoiding the First Thursday festivities in the adjacent park, and watched the sun set from my tower. This is the good life.
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Ok, here’s the mostly raw spread. And a cup of fiery, gingery kombucha from their tap. (Shuddering at landfill waste, however.)IMG_2332

Raw tacos: cashew nacho cheese, salsa, cashew sour cream, lettuce, walnut meat, and guacamole on flax taco shells. Walnut meat was a bit salty. Or it needed a sweet component… and some crisp crunch.IMG_2334

Spring rolls: kelp noodles, avocado, carrots, lettuce, mango, red pepper, herbs, cucumber rolled in a rice paper wrap. So good.
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And the sunset in the buildings. And you can see the shadow of the capital building. Goodnight, South Carolina!IMG_2341

When I picked up my rental car in Charleston and started on Highway 17 south to start my trip, I saw these sunflowers–a bright smear of yellow. Happy faces peeking from a lush sea of green. I love sunflowers. There would be hardly much more pleasing than to frolic between rows of sunflowers with my camera.

But I’d only been driving like 20 minutes after a delayed flight and was eager to make up some time on the road. So I drove past, dismissing the notion of pulling over for a stop so soon. But I couldn’t shake the regret for the many miles that went by.  Even though I’d be at Babette’s Seeds of Hope next week, I knew that there wouldn’t be blooms in Minnesota like this bloom down south and its sweltering sun. I kept saying the name of the farm in my head, or what I though was the name: “Chaucy Farms.” I said it similar to David Brent when he is mentioning Canterbury Tales to Tim. Then I remembered 17 (as in 17 south) by singing Winger’s Seventeen.

So on my way back into Charleston, I was hawking the side of the road, ready to pull in and inquire about whether I could take pictures. Long story short, I made it and was given permission to take pictures. So these are a few of my favorite things: a whole lot of sunflowers.

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This reminds me of “God’s Coming, Look Busy.” DSC_0054

The sun was so powerful, most of the sunflowers were staring at their feet. Shoe gazers. This made me love them more. I imagine them as introverts trying to lessen the stimulations of their environment.DSC_0058

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Some fresh onesDSC_0082

I want to photshop books underneath all their heads. DSC_0084

Some were completely burned out.DSC_0089

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How wonderful that so much land would be used for these sunflowers, which bear no fruit or profit.DSC_0114

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There is the sunflower seeds I suppose.DSC_0141

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Gainesville is a university town, so you know vegan options are good… for them educated, idealist types. Starting early, breakfast: The Tempeh Scramble with potatoes, toast with vegan butter and housemade jam at The Jones B-sideIMG_2051

Good, hearty fare, but soy-saucey marinade made the dish a bit salty. And unfortunately I couldn’t stay for a sweet bite, though the v-bombed menu board was certainly tempting.IMG_2048

Despite the record high temperatures, my next stop was a farm. I was visiting Kindred Spirits Sanctuary to meet all the rescues, because it’s one of the best ways to spend the afternoon. The stories of the ___ animals are both devastating and inspiring. And the free tour offers a chance to meet all of the survivors.

Pigs seeking a break from the hot, hot heat.IMG_2055

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Playful Kids looking for carrot hand-outs.IMG_2077

Sweet cowsIMG_2089

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Jack asses and JenniesIMG_2196

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Pretty eyes. (A blue-eyed “cremello.” Double-dilute (which I suppose is like having two recessive genes in humans) “cream gene” determines this beautiful combination of rosy pink skin and blue eyes)IMG_2172

Feral pig (and feral and domesticated friends)IMG_2126

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Baby cow, sweetly search for the suckle.IMG_2148

A handsome turkey… who knew itIMG_2171

After, back in Gainesville, a well-earned lunch at Southern Charm Kitchen, a soul kitchen with a slew of vegan options.IMG_2169

I got the Country Fried Seitan with vegan mac & cheese and corn succotash. Vegan options and spectacular service = Southern hospitality at its finest.IMG_2173

Layered housemade seitan was moist and flavorful.IMG_2175

Karma Cream is one of those places you want to airlift and bring home. Tons of vegan ice cream flavors with vegan toppings that you definitely want.PicMonkey Collage

And baked goods.IMG_2179

My sundae: two scoops coconut ice cream, marshmallows, chocolate sauce, cookie dough and an airy coconut whip. Spectacular!IMG_2184

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They even have Florida cookies, though this one was frosted on the wrong side. Doh! Still delicious.IMG_2198

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