For the Love of Za’atar! We Made Spinach Pie! [Recipe]

za'atar spinach pie vegan

We love Mediterranean food. It’s what we each grew up eating A LOT. Being 1.5 Italian, there’s always a mix of Southern Italian, Sicilian and Middle Eastern flavors happening. So, we have to have essential ingredients on hand.

One of our favorite places to shop is Fattal’s in Paterson, New Jersey. It’s a Syrian grocery store, where we get some of our favorite spices, seeds, and treats. We also can grab a quick bite at their luncheonette for falafel and spinach pies. Of course, when we can’t make it out to Fattal’s, we have to recreate these dishes at home. 

One of the things we love about the food is that it’s REAL FOOD! None of that fancy-shmancy inflated stuff. You get the real deal with simple dishes, full of flavor, culture and za’atar! Za’atar is one of the best spice blends on the planet. 

What’s za’atar? It’s a combination of ground dried oregano, thyme, marjoram, sumac, sesame seeds and sea salt. Some add fennel seed or coriander to it. 


Za’atar is amazing on plain flatbread with olive oil or on a spinach pie, which is made with spinach, shallots, spices and lemon juice on top of a delicious flatbread! While we make our own flatbread on a rare occasion, you can simply use store-bought, like Trader Joe’s pizza crust (which is more flatbread than pizza crust, if you ask us)

So, here’s our recipe for Spinach Za’atar Pie. Please give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments!

Spinach Za'atar Pie
Serves 2
Inspired by the spinach pie made at Fattal's Syrian Grocery in Paterson, NJ
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
  1. 1 10 “-12” pizza crust
  2. 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  3. 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  4. 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  5. 1 lb. of fresh spinach
  6. Pinch of red pepper flakes
  7. 1 lemon, cut in half
  8. 1 T. za’atar spice blend
  9. Salt and pepper to taste
  10. 1 T. flour (for dusting)
  1. Preheat the oven 450 degrees
  2. Place olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add garlic and shallots in the skillet and cook until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes)
  3. Place the spinach in skillet. Add red pepper flakes, the juice of ½ lemon, salt, pepper, and cook until reduced (about 5 minutes)
  4. Remove spinach and place in a strainer. Squeeze out as much water out as possible
  5. Lightly dust a baking sheet and place the pizza crust on top
  6. Brush pizza crust with 1 T. of olive oil. Spoon the spinach on the crust making sure to leave about 1" edge for the crust. Evenly sprinkle the za’atar spice evenly on the pie
  7. Place pie in oven and cook until the crust is golden brown (about 12-15 minutes). Remove from oven and squeeze ½ of lemon juice over pie
  8. Enjoy
  1. You can use homemade pizza dough. You can also use your favorite flatbread.
  2. Looking for store-bought? Trader Joe’s frozen crust is a good option.
The Food Duo


S’mores Jingle Balls [Holiday Recipe]

Ever try a recipe you found online and have it go wrong? We’ve all been there, right? One of the greatest feats in the kitchen is trying to salvage any part of that dish into something everyone will enjoy.

Certainly, my most recent “fail” in the “Don’t Try This at Home” recipe category was with S’mores Pinwheels. I was attempting to veganize the version I had seen online, but it just didn’t work for me. The proportions seemed rather “off,” with WAY too much cereal and not enough chocolate. 


I couldn’t just toss it. As much I was would have loved to eat an entire jelly roll of this rice cereal, chocolate and marshmallow, that wasn’t going to happen either, even sharing with Carlo. Since it was Christmas Eve, I decided to switch things up and play around with the idea of a pulled “bread,” but made with the rice cereal instead. 


And that’s how the S’mores Jingle Balls were born!

S'mores Jingle Balls
Serves 8
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Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
For Jingle Balls
  1. 10oz. bag of mini marshmallows*
  2. 1/4 c. vegan butter
  3. 1/4 tsp. pinch of sea salt
  4. 4 c. rice cereal**
  5. 1 c. graham cracker crumbs***
  6. 1/2 c. chocolate chips
For Chocolate Drizzle
  1. 1/4 c. chocolate chips
  2. 1 T. vegan butter
  3. Zest of 1/2 orange
  1. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, add marshmallows, vegan butter and sea salt. Heat for 90 seconds to 2 minutes until the butter has melted
  2. In a large bowl, add cereal, graham cracker crumbs and fold in marshmallow mixture until well combined, using a greased spatula. Fold in the chocolate chips until all is well combined
  3. Using a greased 2T ice cream scoop, form the mixture into balls.
  4. Add the balls to a non-stick start pan or a 8x8 or 9x9 baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Set them close together, touching.
  5. Make the chocolate drizzle: Add chocolate and butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Melt for 60-90 seconds. Mix well, adding the orange zest. Using a fork, drizzle the chocolate over the balls
  6. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes
  1. *For this recipe, we used Dandies marshmallows
  2. **For this recipe, you can use Kellogg's Rice Krispies or Nature's Path Organic Crispy Rice cereal
  3. ***For this recipe, you can use Nabisco Grahams (pink box, honey-free), Mary's Gone Crackers or Sweet 'n Sara
The Food Duo

S’mores Holiday Nog “Frostie” [Recipe]

Hey friends! We hope you’ve been enjoying this holiday season, no matter what you celebrate!

As a kid, I grew up absolutely hating the idea of egg nog during the holidays. Eggs in a drink? NOPE! While I hated it, I couldn’t drink it anyway, because my mom would make it with brandy or rum for our family holiday gathering. Nevertheless, the idea of egg nog was gross to me.

Even as an adult, I couldn’t fathom the thought of it. I remembered how my mom made it with milk, sugar and eggs warmed up to make it “safe” and then added the booze. NOPE, not for me. Yes, the alcohol was tempting, but NOT that tempting. My aunt even tried to serve me an “egg-free” version which was just spiked milk, sugar, vanilla with spices. It was “okay.”


Isn’t it odd that I would love nog as a vegan? Well, I’m an odd person. Without the eggs and dairy, vegan nogs made me feel “safe.” Nog is now something I could enjoy during the holidays and enjoy however I wish.


With veganism on the rise, the number of vegan holiday nogs are the market have grown: Soy, coconut, almond, etc. You can also make your own, which I haven’t attempted to do…yet…there’s always next year right?


While I try to work out making my own nog, I played around with the idea of a yummy take on it, using store-bought nog and a bit of inspiration of having all the ingredients to make S’mores at home.


May I present to you the S’mores Holiday Nog “Frostie.” It’s a semi-frozen treat to drink with a straw or eat with a spoon! Give it a try and let us know what you think!

S'mores Nog "Frostie"
Serves 1
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
  1. "Frostie:"
  2. 1 c. vegan nog*
  3. 2 graham cracker squares**
  4. 1/4 c. vegan chocolate chips
  5. 2 Tbsp. vegan marshmallow fluff or mini marshmallows
  6. 1/4 c. spiced rum (optional)***
  7. 1-1/2 to 2 c. crushed ice
S'mores Garnish
  1. 1 graham cracker square
  2. 6 mini marshmallows
  3. 10 vegan chocolate chips
Other garnish options
  1. Graham cracker crumbs
  2. Fresh grated nutmeg
  3. Fresh grated cinnamon
  4. Chocolate sauce
  5. Soy/rice whipped creme
  1. To make the "Frostie:"
  2. In a blender, add all "Frostie" ingredients. Set on high and blend until smooth (about 30-45 seconds)
  3. Pour mixture into mason jar (or 2 if you want to share)
To make the S'mores garnish
  1. Break the squares in half. Each square will become a mini S'more
  2. On two of the halves, lay down 5 chocolate chips. Set in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Remove from the microwave
  3. On a skewer, thread your mini marshmallows, and set aflame until they become somewhat browned and gooey
  4. Set 3 marshmallows on each of the chocolate chip-covered halves. Place the remaining halves on top of each set of marshmallows
  5. Press down slightly before placing the S'mores on top of the drinks
  6. Feel free to add any of the other garnishes as you like
  1. *For this recipe, we used Califia's Holiday Nog, made with almond milk. Want to make this nut-free? Try Silk's Soy Nog or So Delicious' Coconut Milk Nogs
  2. **For this recipe, we used Nabisco Grahams (dark pink box). You can also use Sweet 'n Sara's grahams. Want to try this gluten-free, Mary's Gone Crackers may be a good option for you!
  3. ***Not into rum? Give this a try with bourbon. Not into alcohol? Replace the booze with an additional 1/4 c. of nog!
The Food Duo

DIY Holiday Leftovers Sandwiches with Gardein Holiday Roast

Gardein Holiday Roast in Box

Roasts are not just for special events or holidays. They can be a great dish that can spread across a couple of meals, especially if you’re in a smaller household like we are. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, there’s no better time like now to plan for how to deal with those leftovers! We’ve got a plan in place to make you go #OMGardein, using the Gardein Holiday Roast


The Gardein Holiday Roast is one of the best vegan roasts we’ve had, and it’s quick and easy to make! You can cook from frozen and all will be ready in about 60-75 minutes. The gravy packets only require steeping in hot water. Nothing more is needed, unless you want to do more.

What we really enjoy about the roast are the breadcrumb coating and the cranberry and wild rice stuffing. They really put the “holiday” in Gardein Holiday Roast. Not to mention, the roast itself is juicy and tender, which may seem odd for something made of soy protein and vital wheat gluten. There’s a lot of flavor in there! Yup, #OMGardein

Sorry, if you’re gluten-free, but Gardein does offer a number of gluten-free option in its line!

Gardein Holiday Roast Cut Open

Gardein Holiday Roast nicely serves up to 8 and comes with 2 gravy packets! So, there may just be plenty for everyone to make your holiday compassionate and cruelty-free. If not, a second roast won’t hurt you. Compared to others on the market and the animal kinds, you can’t beat a price of around $14.99 for this roast!

If you’re lucky to have leftovers (or have a second roast on hand), we found a great way to enjoy them in a fun way…DIY Holiday Leftovers Sandwiches. This may seem like a lazy recipe, which it is, but who wants to put in any additional effort after a busy week or a massive family feast? So, here we go! It really is an anything goes type of creation!

gardein holiday roast leftovers sandwiches


DIY Holiday Leftovers Sandwiches
Using Gardein Holiday Roast, we came up with our idea of "lazy" "the day after" dish that takes little prep. Just use what you already have! Cooking is optional!
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
  1. 8 sandwich rolls or 16 hearty slices of bread
  2. 1 Gardein Holiday Roast, cooked according to package
  3. 2 pkts. Gardein Holiday Roast gravy, prepped according to package
  4. 2 c. whipped sweet potatoes* (Carlo has one for you, if you want to try!)
  5. 1 c. your favorite cranberry sauce
Optional ingredients
  1. 1 c. greens
  2. 1 c. vegan mac & cheese
Carlo's Quick Whipped Sweet Potatoes
  1. 2 medium sweet potatoes
  2. 1/4 c. vegan butter
  3. 1/4 c. maple syrup
  4. 1/4 tsp. dried sage
  5. Salt & black pepper to taste
For Sandwiches
  1. Toast your sandwich rolls or bread slices
  2. Slice Gardein Holiday Roast into 8 equal portions. Then slice each portion in half
  3. Assemble each sandwich as follow: 1/4 c. sweet potatoes, two slices of roast, spoonful(s) of gravy, cranberry sauce
  4. If adding other leftovers, be sure to add them before the cranberry sauce and top part of roll or slice of bread
  5. Enjoy, especially while in front of the TV in pajamas!
For Sweet Potatoes
  1. Rinse potatoes and prick skin with a fork
  2. Microwave for approximately 7-10 minutes
  3. Push ends together of each potato to open them
  4. Scoop out the potato into medium bowl
  5. Add the remaining ingredients and whip with a fork or whisk until smooth
  1. You really can add anything you like to this. Carmella would highly recommend some mashed turnips. Carlo would throw in some spicy peppers (of course). Have fun!
  2. Playing with your food is always encouraged!
The Food Duo

Need some ideas for your holiday feast…and leftovers…see what Gardein has to offer! There are some quick and easy meal ideas to go along with your Gardein Holiday Roast and other seasonal items!

gardein holiday leftovers close up

Hungry for that sandwich? Yeah, us too! #OMGardein!

Question: What’s your favorite way to enjoy the holidays…and the leftovers? Share with us in the comments!

Simmered in Tradition with Ragú® & Vegan Cast-Iron Pepperoni Pizza Dip!

Vegan Pepperoni Pizza Dip

Traditions can mean many things when it comes to food. Those traditions don’t necessarily have to be conventional. Not a lot in my family was!

As a kid, most people in our family knew my mom, aka Momma Mac, to be an amazing baker. What many don’t know is that she taught me how to cook pasta, which she learned from her travels in Europe…and then later marrying my Italian father. At the same time, she was a busy lady, not really having time to make her own pasta sauce except on a rare Sunday. She would often pick up a jar of Ragú®, do some kitchen magic by adding her own blend of spices and serve up a plate of popping flavor. Little did she know that her “tradition” would be passed down to me.

Ragú® Old Style Marinara
Source: Ragú®

Mom often played around with jarred sauces by adding various ingredients and trying different cooking styles. I think she felt like a star chef on a shoestring budget. And when she would cook dinner, it was often good and weird. Pizza grilled cheese? Uhh yeah! Her creativity made up for her working late nights and being too tired to cook. Now that I’m vegan, I’ve found my cooking game has been improved by being able to be as creative as my mom and enjoying my time in the kitchen.

While there are many pasta sauces on the market, you have to be careful as many are not vegan, often having cheese/milk or even chicken broth (say WHAT?!?!). However, being vegan doesn’t mean you have go for the expensive sauces either. Ragú® Old World Style® Marinara* is an affordable vegan option, which is often around $3.00 for a 24oz jar. It makes for a good base for a variety of dishes from lasagne to pizza pillows. You can go basic or add your favorite ingredients to kick things up a notch. 

Pre-oven vegan pepperoni pizza dip

The marinara has a lot of real tomato flavor! Ragú® believes in using no artificial flavors, colors or high-fructose corn syrup. The sauce is made in a slow-cooking, simmering style to really appreciate that red fruit! While we find the sauce a bit thin for our liking, we use it as a base to which you can your favorite veggies, spices and even vegan cheese! You know how we roll in doing kitchen whip-ups, which are becoming our “tradition.” So, of course, we did one with this sauce!

I was having pizza cravings, but didn’t want an actual slice or pie. Thanks to Ragú® for providing us with the sauce, I was inspired by my mom’s cooking style, her love of cast-iron and favorite pizza spice blend. Hence, the Vegan Cast-Iron Pepperoni Pizza Dip was born! 


The marinara sauce set the platform for a creamy, “cheesy” dip mixed with vegan cream cheese and vegan mozzarella shreds. Whisked together with vegan pepperoni, later topped with more cheese and then broiled, you have no idea excited we were to eat this right out of the pan!! It was pizza…and really good pizza…where you could taste all of the ingredients, especially the tomatoes in the sauce. 

Vegan Pepperoni Pizza Dip with Bread

To serve this dip, Carlo sliced an Italian bread loaf and made some easy-peasy pan-fried bread!

Want to give this a try at your next party or raging pizza craving? Here’s the recipe!

Vegan Cast-Iron Pepperoni Pizza Dip
Serves 6
Got a pizza craving? Here's a fun way to satisfy it, featuring Ragú® Old World Style Marinara sauce! Share with family and friends or eat it by itself!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
30 min
Pizza Dip
  1. 1 24oz jar of Ragú® Old World Style Marinara Saue
  2. 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  3. 1 4.2oz pkg. vegan pepperoni slices
  4. 1/2 c. vegan cream cheese
  5. 1/4 c. nutritional yeast
  6. 1 1/2 c. vegan mozzarella shreds
  7. 1 tsp. garlic powder
  8. 1 tsp. dried oregano
  9. 1 tsp. dried basil
  10. 1/4-1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
  11. Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  12. Torn fresh basil for garnish)
Pan-Fried Bread
  1. 1 loaf of Italian bread, cut into 12 slices
  2. 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  3. 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  4. Dash of sea salt to taste (optional)
Pizza Dip
  1. Heat cast-iron pan with olive oil. When hot, add half of the pepperoni slices and cook for 2 minutes on each side
  2. Pour in marinara and bring to a boil. Then, stir in cream cheese and 1c. of vegan mozzarella shreds until melted into the sauce
  3. Lower heat to a simmer and stir in nutritional yeast and spices (except black pepper). Simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally as sauce thickens
  4. Set oven to broil on high
  5. Remove pan from heat. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella shreds and layer the remaining pepperoni slices
  6. Place pan in oven for 5-7 minutes until the cheese gets slightly brown
  7. Remove pan from oven. Sprinkle fresh cracked pepper and torn basil on top before serving
Pan-Fried Bread
  1. Mix garlic powder and olive oil into a small bowl
  2. Heat a large skillet with the oil. When hot, arrange bread slices cut-side down
  3. Cook for 4 minutes. Turn over. Cook for another 4 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle with sea salt before serving (optional)
  1. You can serve this dish right in the pan on a trivet
  2. Yummy ways to enjoy: Scoop with pan-fried bread, spoon into a bowl with fresh veggies or spoon on top of your favorite pasta
  3. Psst. This taste good cold too next day!!
The Food Duo
Have you heard about’s Ready. Set. Cook! contest? It challenges home cooks to create new and unique recipes featuring Ragú® sauce plus a set list of other ingredients. The contest runs between now and November 30, 2015! Click here to enter!

Note: Not all of the Ragú® Old World Style varieties are vegan. Check the label before you buy!!