For most people, eating healthy or adopting a vegan or gluten-free lifestyle starts with a choice and a commitment. For Mike Barootjian of New Windsor, it began with a bet. “About 10 years ago, a friend bet me I couldn’t go vegan and stick with it,” he explains. “But I felt really good. I lost a lot of weight, and I felt good about myself.” And upon giving up gluten, too, he felt even better.
At the time, he was working in a pizza shop and, while he sold pepperoni pizzas with one hand, he crafted a menu of vegan choices with the other. “It was very, very successful,” he says. “It was life-changing for me.”
Knowing his way around a kitchen and armed with a slew of homegrown healthy recipes, Barootjian hatched Party Animals Catering about four years ago, offering a hearty array of vegan and gluten-free “party food,” like buffalo cauliflower bites, rice balls, mackin cheeze balls, baked ziti with cashew ricotta, and crabless cakes of chickpeas, artichoke hearts, and a rainbow of peppers with house-made tartar sauce. Cannoli cream pie, fashioned from tofu, was for dessert.
Party Animals developed a fast following — not only among vegan and gluten-free eaters — and within a few years, customers began requesting individual meals. Barootjian was happy to oblige, but he was hesitant. “This is party food. I eat it and I love it, but there’s a time and a place for it,” he explains, as many items are fried.
So, with the dexterity of a seasoned chef, and in the middle of a pandemic, the 31-year old Barootjian pivoted and kicked off MindFull Meals, a subscription-based (for the most part) delivery service, while continuing to operate Party Animals Catering. He runs both out of a commercial kitchen in Newburgh.
With MindFull Meals, customers can place a one-time order of six meals (delivered on Wednesdays), or subscribe and save. The menu rotates weekly, and all offerings are plant-based, vegan, gluten-free, soy- and oil-free, and served in compostable containers. A sticker is affixed to each item detailing ingredients, calories, and grams of macronutrients (proteins, carbs, fats).
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Everything is locally sourced and organic whenever possible. “I shop local and I’ve established connections with a few farmers,” Barootjian says. He’s even got someone nearby growing all his micro-greens.
Customer favorites include the breakfasty pineapple pecan upside-down oatmeal and the luscious eggplant rollatini, generously stuffed with cashew and tofu ricotta, topped with marinara sauce, and served with crisp broccoli on the side. The savory and ultra-satisfying chickpea Buddha bowl involves chickpeas, Yukon Gold potatoes, spinach, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, bell peppers, dill, cranberries for a hint of sweetness, and a side of cashew sour cream.
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16-ounce containers of original house-made sauces can be added to any order, along with sweet “cheats” like cannoli-stuffed French toast and that aforementioned cannoli cream pie (say when).
MindFull Meals is available for delivery throughout Westchester County, and the code WESTMAG5 at checkout scores a $5 discount.