rooted delights vegan mac and cheese

This local food beats food allergies 5 ways

No gluten. No tree nuts. No soy. No dairy. No eggs. Pure comfort.

– By the Veggie Fairy Team

Food allergies are on the rise. Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. That includes 5.9 million children under the age of 18. That’s 1 in 13 kids, or just about two in every classroom. And 30 percent or so of those kids are allergic to more than one food.

Others don’t suffer from a full blown allergy, but just feel better when they don’t eat gluten, soy, tree nuts, dairy, or eggs. Still, just because you or someone you love can’t eat those things, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a yummy comfort food like macaroni and cheese…

rooted delights vegan cheese

…or even an entire wheel of cheese! Not when Rooted Delights is handcrafting artisanal, plant-based cheese using ingredients you can pronounce.

Rooted Delights is one of the new locally prepared foods we’re welcoming into our home-delivered farmers market this year — part of our goal of making it easy for you to eat the healthiest food available: local food!

rooted delights vegan allergen-free local food

Rooted Delights was co-founded in 2016 in Alexandria, Va., by Janay, a fellow sufferer of food intolerances… until she realized that, lo and behold, she felt so much better when she cut things like gluten, dairy, and soy out of her diet.

We veggie fairies were curious about Janay’s journey from food sufferer to food artisan. We also love, love, love her cheddarliscious vegan cheese and mac and cheese. And so, as usual, we just had to her a bunch of our usual nosy questions.

Veggie Fairy:

For you veganism was the cure, right? How did you discover that?


My vegan journey started with meatless Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. During that short period, I noticed amazing changes in weight loss, fewer cravings, improved sleeping habits, and overall more energy. I was convinced that my new diet was a positive lifestyle change that could easily and permanently be done.

Veggie Fairy:

What made you jump from cooking vegan food for yourself to cooking for others?


I couldn’t wait to share my experience with others and provide plant-based alternatives to help with transitioning! I was determined to create vegan comfort food for my loved ones to enjoy without compromising its taste. While doing research, I found that a high percentage of people have allergies to soy, gluten, and tree nuts. I knew then that I had to be particular with the foods I decided to use and buy so everyone could enjoy it. My co-founder Alexander and I started out with a vegan food truck/catering venture, and I just fell in love with how our food made others feel — that feel-good feeling we all crave. I quickly realized the need for more plant-based cheese alternatives.

Veggie Fairy:

So you graduated from the food truck to creating artisanal cheese. What was the hardest part of getting the cheese business off the ground?


The hardest part was finding a cheese type to start the Rooted Delights product line. At the time, I was making different vegan cheeses at home as a hobby.

rooted delights vegan allergen-free local food

Veggie Fairy:

How did you learn to make vegan allergen-free cheese?


Lots of trial and error, haha! It took almost a year to get it right. I tried many different ingredients and quantities. But I kept at it because I believe plant-based foods have the ability to be flavorful and make you feel good. As I experimented with those different vegan cheeses, that’s when the cheddar-style cheese was born! I figured a cheddar-style taste has so much diversity and can be used in so many dishes, which in my opinion, makes it a perfect transitioning cheese.

Veggie Fairy:

What do you love most about making artisanal food?


I’m so excited that Rooted Delights can provide delicious meals for all! I love that one by one, we are changing people’s perspective of what plant-based food tastes like.

Veggie Fairy:

What makes Rooted Delights different from other vegan food makers?


For me, veganism is a movement based on love and positivity. So Rooted Delights is about more than just food making — we are a feeling! We want to provide our customers with the same great feeling as non-vegan foods, but with a plant-based product. That’s how we give our customers something to enjoy with their nachos, burgers, pastas, and mac and cheese… pretty much all the amazing foods we thought we had to give up!

rooted delights allergen-free mac and cheese

Veggie Fairy:

Well, we’re super excited to welcome you and Alexander and Rooted Delights to our home-delivered farmers market! Is there anything else you want to tell our members about Rooted Delights?


Yes, one last thing! Rooted Delights is also part of a group called ‘Less Media More Social”. We visit different cities and we provide four-course vegan cuisines, poetry, and great vibes. We also take away our guests’ phones for a small session of the night. Yes, we take their phones. We do give them back! But in the process, we all educate and learn. We are so grateful for the opportunity to partner with Seasonal Roots and look forward to sharing more cuisines and cheeses in the near future.


Learn more about Rooted Delights on their website and on Facebook.


Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at

Birdies Pimento Cheese healthy eating

Healthy eating starts with local pimento cheese. Seriously!

With pimento cheese, even picky eaters eat their veggies

– By the Veggie Fairy Team

Pimento cheese may have been invented in New York, but it became a southern staple long ago. South of the Mason-Dixon, everybody’s got a favorite — a cherished family recipe, a potluck tradition, a beloved deli.

Now, it’s true that dairy products do provide lots of nutritional value. And pimento cheese is gluten free! But admit it: With all that cheddar and mayo, you eat pimento cheese for the fabulous creamy comfort it provides, not to achieve excrutiatingly correct nutrition.

Which is what makes Virginia-made Birdie’s Pimento Cheese such a great secret weapon for getting picky eaters to eat their veggies. You can transform veggies into pimento cheese delivery vehicles by dipping it up with sticks of raw carrots or celery, wrapping it in collard greens, and adding it to tomato sandwiches. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s addictively delicious, and on a busy day it’s a lot better for you and your family than fast-food take-out.

birdies pimento cheese healthy eating

We’ve got some how-to’s on that at the end of this post. Because figuring out how to eat healthy meals even when you’re pressed for time can be a real challenge.

Bad news about kids’ restaurant meals

It’s especially hard to find convenient kids’ meals that are also healthy. Ninety-seven percent of the children’s restaurant meals studied by the Center for Science in the Public Interest did not meet expert nutrition standards for children’s meals. Even at home, less than one-fourth of family dinners include a full serving of vegetables, according to a recent survey by Birds Eye.

Good news about convenient home-cooked meals

Yes, they CAN be convenient! That’s why we’re including prepared foods like Birdie’s Pimento Cheese alongside the vegetables and fruits in our home-delivered farmers market — to equip you with the tasty tools you need to eat healthy, even when you’re in a hurry or faced with a picky eater.

birdies pimento cheese healthy eating

Birdie’s story

Birdie’s is our fave because it’s locally made, its ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible, and we’ve got it in five — count ’em FIVE — fun flavors: Classic, Cream Cheese & Black Pepper, Garlic Parmesan, Smoked Gouda with Roasted Red Pepper, and Jalapeno.

Birdie’s is co-owned by Robin and Glenn, affectionately known as Birdie and Bubba. Robin grew up in North Carolina, and there was always some pimento cheese in the fridge. Since it was easier to eat a spoonful of pimento cheese than to make a sandwich, she chose it for her go-to after school snack. She didn’t think much about it, other than sneaking a few bites between playing outside and maybe doing some homework. (Let that be a lesson to all you parents out there — always stash those celery sticks next to the tub of pimento cheese to encourage sneaky kiddos to use veggies instead of spoons!)

birdies pimento cheese picky eaters

So Robin grew up, got married, and she and Glenn ran their own printing business. When Robin’s niece got pregnant, everybody in the family was picking out their grandma name or family nickname.

“I think my niece thought I was going to feel left out and she pondered what to call me,” Robin recalls. “You have to be careful letting others nickname you, you could end up as Fruit Loops. So I jumped in with an offer: With a bird as my first name, I thought how about Birdie!”

After that, Robin was once asked if her pimento cheese recipe was hers or her Aunt Birdie’s. She said, “I’m Aunt Birdie!” It was only in July of 2014, as Robin was about to turn 50, that she saw an opportunity to make and sell her own pimento cheese. “My great niece thinks it’s very fine that she’s the catalyst for the name of our pimento cheese. She’s a super fan!”

It happened like this. A revitalization grant brought a farmers market to the Allen’s home of South Hill, Virginia. Eventually, Glenn caught the market bug and figured he’d try his hand at growing and selling cabbages.

“He planted about 24 cabbages in our little garden,” Robin remembers. “As the cabbages started to grow, like good little cabbages do, our hound dog, Day-z, would nip the tender heads right off. Glenn was beside himself. Every afternoon, there was another dead cabbage in the driveway. I suggested I could make pimento cheese.”

So Robin and Glenn came up with a plan to sell three flavors of pimento cheese at the market — just for one day, just to see what it was like.

birdies pimento cheese farmers market

Turns out, they loved everything about it. The town of South Hill cleared the way for Robin and Glenn to get their pimento cheese inspected and their business established, and after that first day — making new friends over pimento cheese, feeling the thrill of the sale, and selling out all 30 tubs of cheese they had in stock — Robin and Glenn launched the next phase of their lives together. They sold the printing business and started making pimento cheese full-time.

birdies pimento cheese farmers market

Why we love pimento cheese

Robin, a.k.a. Birdie, explains what she loves about it all:
“When I would take my pimento cheese to people’s parties, people would say, ‘Oh, well, I put a little onion in mine,’ and that’s when I realized that people are really doing things with it. That’s why we have five flavors. Familiar and exotic at the same time, we’re wildly curious about this Southern tradition. Store-brand pimento cheese has become blander, a please-all attempt that has just left it flavorless. People will taste ours and then they start talking about their aunt’s recipe or the way their mom would make it. That’s one of the beautiful things we’ve experienced with having this business — we get to share everybody’s memories.”

We veggie fairies love that about it, too… almost as much as we just love eating it. It’s so fresh! You’ll find Birdie’s Pimento Cheese in the market’s Extras section.

birdies pimento cheese healthy eating

How to cook with pimento cheese

Watch Robin demonstrate how to make chicken breasts and collards stuffed with Birdie’s Pimento Cheese. To max out the flavor and nutrients, use the healthiest possible ingredients: local pasture-raised chicken and bacon and local sustainably grown collards. They’re available in our home-delivered farmers market. Serve it up with a salad of veggies and/or fruits and you’ve got a complete meal full of fresh nutrition, especially if you double up on the collards.

Watch Robin demo how to make grilled pimento cheese and tomato sandwiches. Be sure to use fresh local tomatoes and fresh-baked local bread. She’s also got other suggestions like sandwiching the pimento cheese between cucumber slices.

Visit Birdie’s Pimento Cheese on Facebook or on her website.


Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at

my empanada busy family meals

Empanadas make busy family meals easy

And eating together is so good for families!

– By the Veggie Fairy Team

All you local food lovers have been telling us that you love local veggies AND locally prepared foods, too — because prepared foods make eating fresh and local so easy. So we’re kicking off 2019 by expanding our home-delivered farmers market with prepared foods from local food artisans like My Empanada in Henrico, Va.

My Empanada busy family meals

It’s easy to build a healthy meal around fresh-made prepared foods. That’s really important because our hurry-scurry schedules are cutting into busy family meal times. Sixty years ago, families spent 90 minutes eating dinner together. Now they give it only 12 minutes! And those precious dozen minutes together are happening less frequently — compared to 20 years ago, families eat together 30% less often.

With our busy lives, it seems like you have to make a conscious decision to carve out time for a meal together. But it’s totally worth the effort. Meal times are often the only time when everyone’s in the same room at the same time doing the same thing. It’s a time for catching each other up on your day and growing closer as a family.

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, kids and teens who share family dinners three or more times per week:
1. Are less likely to be overweight
2. Are more likely to eat healthy food
3. Perform better academically
4. Are less likely to engage in risky behaviors (drugs, alcohol, sexual activity)
5. Have better relationships with their parents

Eating together is just as beneficial for couples, too!

My Empanada bake at home

So knowing all that, we veggie fairies have discovered that My Empanadas’ frozen ready-to-bake empanadas are perfect for busy family meals. An empanada is a type of pastry that’s baked or fried in many countries of the Americas and in Spain. The name comes from the Spanish verb meaning to wrap or coat in bread.

My Empanada Juan & Claudia

At My Empanada, Juan and his wife Claudia make the crusts by hand and source the fillings from local farmers when available. Stuffed with beef, chicken, or veggies, empanadas are a painless way to get healthy nutrients into picky eaters.

My Empanada picky eaters

Eat them as a snack on the run…

My Empanada easy snacks

…or make them the centerpiece of a meal. To build an easy home-baked meal around them, apply an egg wash to the frozen empanadas and pop them in the oven for 25 minutes. While they’re baking, toss together a salad or roasted veggies for sides, and viola! You’ve got a delicious, nutritious meal you can gather around to enjoy together, even during a crazy-busy day.

These family meal favorites come from a family business. We talked with Claudia, who trained for two years in the baking program at culinary school in North Carolina. She now owns and runs My Empanada with Juan.

My Empanada Claudia


So why did you and Juan decide to focus your food artisan skills on empanadas?


My husband Juan and I were born and raised in Colombia, South America, where there are as many empanada vendors as there are burger joints in the United States. Empanadas are a popular comfort food. They’re golden brown, crescent-shaped pastries that come in a wide variety of sweet and savory flavors from all over South America and the Caribbean. So they’re multi-functional — you can eat them as a snack or a meal, and they’re a staple for special events and parties.

My Empanada veggie


How are your empanadas different from the kind you can get in the frozen section of the big grocery store chains?


We start with traditional recipes passed down from our family. We’re all about going back to the roots of a culture. Not just our Latin culture, but also other cultures, in search of that special ingredient or spice that creates a nostalgic flavor. Then we use the best ingredients to hand-make flaky, mouth-watering crusts, and we fill them with a variety of filling options.

My Empanada local fresh made

CLAUDIA (continued):

They’re baked fresh every day. Our fillings include traditional recipes from several different countries, as well as some modified American flavors that you may find in your grandma’s cookbook. Our goal is to give you a taste of these many cultures, straight from our kitchen to your table.

My Empanada Virginia farmers markets


In addition to your take-out store in Henrico, you also go to farmers markets. What kind of response do you get there?


So far we have received great feedback from our customers at the farmers markets we serve. We have really enjoyed getting to meet new people and share a taste of our culture with them. There are often people who have never even heard of empanadas. We find it very rewarding when they try our empanadas and come back for more! Thanks to our farmers markets patrons we just moved into a bigger production kitchen. We’re looking forward to introducing more people to the pleasures of enjoying empanadas!


My Empanada snacks or meals

Now you can see why we jumped at the chance to welcome Claudia and Juan and their irresistable empanadas to our home-delivered farmers market! With a little help from prepared foods like this, busy families can still enjoy mealtimes together. So while you’re shopping this weekend, throw some fresh-made local empanadas in your basket and make plans to sit down and enjoy them next week with the ones you love.

In the meantime, if you’re in Henrico, stop in at My Empanada at 1421 Blue Jay Lane, or visit them on Facebook!


Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at