Monthly Archives: January 2013

Vegan Recipe Shares: Crispy Rice Treats

As part of Sunberry Baking Company’s mission to educate, provide information and resources for vegan living, and help everyone get access to vegan products, we will be sharing recipes for delicious vegan fare–including some of our very own baked goods!

Crispy Rice Treats--made with vegan marshmallows!

We are quite excited about the possibility of people making some of the things they buy from us in their own home kitchens. We will begin our “open-source kitchen” vegan recipe sharing endeavor with something that is fun, easy, and gluten-free–and of course scrumptious: Crispy Rice Treats.

Crispy Rice Treats
2 cups vegan marshmallows
½ cup vegan margarine (see below)
4 cups crispy brown rice cereal (we use Erewhon brand)

Lightly oil an 8×8 pan, or line with parchment paper. Combine marshmallows and margarine in a saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until marshmallows are completely melted. Add rice cereal and stir until combined. Transfer mixture to the pan and press down to make an even surface. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before cutting to your desired sizes and serving.

If you want to make vegan margarine at home, saving money and getting a splendidly versatile product, follow the directions here: We are also considering making this for sale in the future!

Happy vegan cooking!


“Free to Roam in Barns”?

During our first Vegan Shopping Class & Store Tour at the Friendly City Food Co-op tonight, we came across chicken products made by a brand called FreeBird. Their tagline–or punchline–is apparently presented without a shred of irony on the front of their boxes:

“Free to Roam inside the Barns”

Obviously, FreeBird’s marketing/branding director has not really thought this one through very much… This is a “humane” alternative to industrially raised chickens…? This is a reason to rejoice…? We think not.

This would be funny if it were not sad, and frightening, to realize so pointedly how problematic the labeling of “happy” animal products is. Using the word “free” like this, TWICE, is a pretty awful instance of “happywashing” of animal products. A barn-roaming chicken is not a solution to the ethical and environmental problems created by the production and use of animal products…indeed no chicken raised for food, no matter the production practices, is a solution.

But going vegan is.

To learn about this and many other fun facts in order to navigate the grocery store and buy cruelty-free products, come out for our second Vegan Shopping Class on Wednesday, January 23rd at 6:30 p.m.

Whatcha Want?

We find the process of planning our weekly Farmers Market menu to be quite thrilling…so many moving parts, variables, and elements of educated reasoning cum prognostication.

The feedback we have gotten so far and the pattern of purchases in our two days of vending have been enlightening–we know, for example, that a good number of people want gluten-free AND healthy/wholesome items.

As we plug away at the menu prep, we would like YOU to weigh in as well with input on the menu for this Saturday (January 26th). (Check out our Ingredients & Prices page for more info about each of the items listed below.)

Let us know by Wednesday night, and then watch our Market Menu page for the final menu!

Scenes from the Farmers Market, Day 2

(We did not quite sell out this week, but we got REALLY close. It was another busy day–colder than last week but very pretty. Once again, the scones were a fast seller, especially a wonderful new flavor: Cranberry Orange Scones. And the gorgeous cupcakes created by the gorgeous Rosemary wowed everyone–especially since one was gluten free!)

January 19 2013

Coconut Lime Cupcakes

Coconut Lime Cupcakes

Crispy Rice Treats--made with vegan marshmallows!

Crispy Rice Treats–made with vegan marshmallows!

Toasted Coconut Cupcakes--gluten free!

Toasted Coconut Cupcakes–gluten free!

“Knowledge of ‘label-ese’ supports a vegan lifestyle”

From Rocktown Weekly, 01/18/13
by Samantha Cole
[Our thanks to Samantha Cole for yet another great story about vegan living in the Valley. Who would ever have thought that the word “vegan” could appear on the front page of a major local paper??? Also look for the story in this weekend’s Daily News-Record. ~ Justin]

“Being armed with the knowledge of what to look for when shopping makes the whole experience a lot more pleasant and less overwhelming,” says Ariana Witt, marketing and branding manager at the Friendly City Food Co-op.

“Not being quite sure what you’re looking for on a label or packaging may leave you standing and staring at products longer than you want.”

Avoid feeling overwhelmed and defeated — a slippery slope into sticking with what you know to be good, even if it’s not good for you.

On Jan. 20 and 23 at 6:30 p.m., Harrisonburg Farmers Market Assistant Manager Justin Van Kleeck will guide shoppers through a vegan tour of the store. Van Kleeck and his wife Rosemary own Sunberry Baking Company, creating exclusively vegan treats for sale at the market.

Through the event, the co-op hopes to educate customers on how to navigate the sometimes-daunting task of grocery shopping.

“Shopping vegan can be a challenge at first, but you will get more familiar with products that are vegan-friendly, learn what to watch out for and become more comfortable with and adept at reading labels,” he says.

“With a little effort, you can eat a very diverse, tasty, healthy diet and live a full lifestyle, without compromising your commitment to being vegan.”

Van Kleeck shares his tips and tricks for navigating the grocery store without putting offending items in your cart.

No. 1: Reading labels

Look out for labels that say “vegan” or carry the Certified Vegan logo.

Always, always read the ingredients. Here are some words to watch for:

  • Whey: a milk byproduct.
  • Gelatin: made from animal bones and other parts.
  • Casein: another milk byproduct.
  • Honey: no, honey is not vegan (more details to follow later).
  • Mono- & diglycerides: often derived from animal sources.
  • Natural flavors & colors can be derived from animal sources.
  • Lecithin: unless it is specified as soy- or plant-based, it could come from an animal.

When something is not familiar to you and is not clarified on the label, be careful and ask the company.

No. 2: “What do you mean that’s not vegan?”

“Animal products can sneak their way into a lot of things you might not expect,” says Van Kleeck.

Even carefully reading labels can leave some questions unanswered.

  • Beer, wine and spirits: some alcoholic products are filtered with isinglass (a fish byproduct) or albumin (from egg whites), in addition to those made with milk or honey; a good resource to check is
  • Red-colored juices and other products: many juices and other red-colored products made with “natural flavors/colors” can be made from cochineal (or carmine), an insect.
  • Margarine: Although “butter” is the byword for dairy-based spreads, most margarines also contain whey and other dairy by products.
  • Sugar: Many sugars are processed with bone char; in order to be certain your sugar is vegan, buy only organic sugar, where processing does not use bone char.

No. 3: Vegan substitutes for animal products

“Being vegan is not about sacrifice,” Van Kleeck says. Here, he suggests substitutes that easily stack up against animal products — without the cruelty.

  • Meat: Tofu (soy-based), tempeh (fermented soy), seitan (vital wheat gluten), and specific product substitutes, such as faux-hot dogs or sausage.
  • Milk: A host of non-dairy milks are available, including soy, rice, almond, coconut, hemp, oat, multi-grain, hazelnut, flax and more.

You can also find vegan substitutes for coffee creamer, eggnog, and other milk-like products that are coconut, almond, flax, rice, hemp and soy based.

  • Butter: Be sure to look for the word “vegan” on the label and/or the Certified Vegan symbol.
  • Cheese: plant-based cheeses are available in blocks, in slices and shredded.

Be careful! Not all “veggie” cheeses are actually vegan. Most vegan cheeses are not going to taste the same or have the same texture, but they work in many recipes and have other uses. Some cheese substitutes can melt and stretch like real cheese.

You can also make cheese substitutes at home using cashews and other plant ingredients.

  • Eggs: Egg substitutes are available for use mostly in baking. You can also easily substitute ground flax seeds, xanthan gum, arrowroot powder, corn starch, guar gum, agar agar and other binders for baking.
  • Ice Cream: Vegan ice creams made from soy, almond, rice, hemp and coconut are widely available — and delicious.
    Shortening: Be sure to use the type made entirely of vegetables; you can also substitute with coconut oil in many recipes.
  • Honey: Because bees are exploited for production, which can also take a toll on the environment, honey is not considered a vegan-friendly food. Agave and maple syrup make great honey substitutes for baking and most other uses.

No. 4: Vegan body care and other non-food products

Always look for the cruelty-free bunny symbol on body care products, supplements, cosmetics, cleaning products and more.

Also read labels for ingredients — some brands (such as Ecover) have some animal-product-free items and some that include animal products.

No. 5: Vegan on the cheap: How to save money when buying vegan

Buy in bulk (and always bring reusable bags). Also, avoid packaged products.

Get a few good vegan cookbooks so you can make food from scratch — rather than going out to eat.

For more information and local support, visit the Shenandoah Valley Vegans meetup page: Contact the Friendly City Food Co-Op at (540) 801-8882 or visit

The Sell Outs

Having walked away with a number of unsold baked goods from our first two selling events (the Virtually Sisters Pop-Up Shops and the European Holiday Market, both in December), we were not banking on much for our first “official” day of vending at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market.

Boy were we wrong.

Humble beginnings...

Humble beginnings…

Thanks to a serendipitous combination of eerily spring-like weather, a great spot in the Turner Pavilion, and (of course) some pretty impressive vegan treats, Sunberry Baking Company managed to sell out completely! And, even more surprising, we sold the 75+ items we had with us in about two hours.

The first to go were the Apple Rosemary Scones. I was not quite sure how these would sell, but it looks now like our moist, delicately spiced vegan scones are a hit! We also quickly sold out of the Lavender Shortbread, which are kind of adorable with their patterned tops–and local lavender flowers. And our free samples of gluten-free Vegan Deluxe Brownies went in a flash–no surprise there…

The Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins (regular and gluten free), Wundermuffins (gluten free), and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies disappeared at more of a pace than an explosion. We also had a lot of oohs and aahs at our Sugar Maple Cupcakes, a two-in-the-morning concoction made with local maple syrup; the smell alone was enough to grab anyone’s attention. SoldOut_01122013

Overall, it was an unbelievably positive experience for us. So much of our work thus far has been theoretical, plus a lot of “administrative” work–sourcing ingredients and supplies, pricing recipes, filling out forms… It remains to be seen just how much the community will support our endeavor–though we are sure they will enjoy our goodies.

Perhaps the most vivid memory I have from yesterday’s Market is standing behind the table and making my pitch to eight or so people, standing together in little groups. The looks of interest and happiness on their faces were immensely rewarding; sharing our treats with them was even better. Because all of our products reflect our care for animals, people, and the planet, I am always encouraged when others are receptive to them…and to us.

We are excited for next Saturday’s Market, and about finalizing our kitchen inspection so that we can offer Sunberry Baking Company products in other places.

If you have feedback about anything you tried or suggestions/requests for next Saturday and future Markets, please feel free to e-mail us at Otherwise, we look forward to seeing you next week!

– Justin

Let the Farmers-Marketing Begin!

While we continue to work towards the light at the end of the VDACS inspection tunnel, we have decided (with managerial permission!) to start our vending foray at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market this coming Saturday, January 12th!

Look for us in spot #39 (on the east end of the Turner Pavilion, 228 S. Liberty St. in Harrisonburg) on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to noon.

We are planning to come with a selection of vegan treats that will please — and even surprise — anyone:

  • Apple Rosemary Scones, a unique flavor combo that is perfect with a cup of coffee from the Market;
  • Lavender Shortbread Cookies, made with local lavender flowers;
  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, with a sprinkling of sea salt on top;
  • gluten-free Vegan Deluxe Brownies, our staple cake brownie now made without wheat;
  • and gluten-free Wundermuffins, which are wonderfully chocolatey and spongy!

Stop by to say hello, pick up some goodies, and chat about the finer points of vegan baking! Also be sure to sign up for the Farmers Market newsletter and watch for our regular Vegan Food Corners–like this one featuring a vegan holiday menu.

Oh, and lest I be remiss as a webmaster, I encourage you to keep an eye on our Events page for our future regular and special selling times, classes, events, and other fun Sunberry stuff.

– Justin

Hey, I’m the Tax Man

December was a pretty good month for us here at Sunberry Baking Company. We got a lot of back-end paperwork and logistical things done, we baked some awesome vegan treats, and we actually earned some money.


Enter the Virginia Department of Taxation. (Boooooo hisssss boooo.) Having sold a few things and earned a few dollars, we duly paid our December 2012 Virgina state sales taxes (well before the deadline, I might add), thus passing yet another milestone in our epic journey to vegan world domination! Er, running the business at full scale.

It took me lots of research, furrowed-brow moments, and inquiries to various tax/accounting gurus to wrap my brain around the wherefore and how-so of figuring out and paying state sales taxes. Interestingly (and fortunately), Virginia offers a sales-tax exemption for certain foods. Our products qualify, so the state sales taxes are lower on our products than on those from other businesses.

These have to be paid monthly, and pay we did (well before the deadline, I might remind you) for the first time EVER today.

There are still federal and local taxes to deal with, but for now I am enjoying the afterglow of a successful (I hope) first encounter with the “Tax Man.” And Rosemary reminds me that my excitement over paying taxes is yet another sign of my nerdiness.

– Justin