Wednesday, February 28, 2018

10 Questions: Vegan Foodie with Hannah Kaminsky

Okay, so can I just say that
Hannah Kaminsky is one of the original vegan rock stars of the Internet age and she’s still in her 20s? How is this possible? Well, when you’re an ambitious, creative and precocious teenager and you start your own website to post your innovations as a ridiculously talented wunderkind, it’s kind of easy. Hannah has been gifting the world with her alluring vegan recipes and adorable crafts since she was a wee teen and today, she lives in San Francisco as a photographer, continuing to post on her original website, BitterSweetBlog, and to knock my socks off with her beautiful, bold photography and imaginative recipes, made especially for the lover of sweets but with plenty of savory delights as well. The original post that got me hooked to all things BitterSweet was this recipe for peanut butter cups, which I still make every year for Halloween. (And, oh, whenever.)

As a multitalented freelancer – she can do photography, writing, recipe development, web work and more and you can hire her for it by
contacting her – her prolific spirit and work ethic has produced FIVE cookbooks (okay, now I’m really feeling like a loser) including the new beauty, Real Food, Really Fast: Delicious Plant-Based Recipes Ready in 10 Minutes or Less. It’s a fabulous new cookbook, full of her trademark creative recipes and stunning photography, but written from the angle of ease and speed, which is so important if we want to make plant-based food more accessible, with fast and flavorful recipes like Red Velvet Smoothie, Chickpea Mulligatawny, Cauliflower Risotto alla Milanese, S’Mores Baked Alaska and this week’s guest recipe, Hash Brown Waffles. Follow Hannah on her Instagram for loads of inspiration. I highly recommend Real Food, Really Fast for everyone, from vegan-curious to long-time vegans alike. I am proud to feature vegan trailblazer Hannah Kaminsky as this week’s Vegan Foodie.

1. How did you start down this path of creating delicious food? Was a love for food nurtured into you? Did you have any special relatives or mentors who helped to instill this passion?

It was all quite unintentionally, really! Everything started with my blog, which began life over 12 years ago as merely a place for me to share my crafty ventures- Knitting, crochet, sewing, beading, and so forth. Eventually I began to see baking as an art and a craft, and slowly grew more passionate about that. My love for creating food only grew when I got my first job cooking at a small café, and my boss there really taught me the fundamentals from the ground up. I was a 16-year-old with no experience and no skills, but Sue Cadwell took my enthusiasm and turned it into real competence in the kitchen.

2. What was your diet like when you were growing up? Did you have any favorite meals or meal traditions? Do you carry them over today?

I was a super picky, unhealthy kid growing up! The basis of my early diet was instant ramen, mac and cheese out of the box, and hot dogs. My current eating habits couldn’t be more different. Luckily, I was never big on eating meat, so it wasn’t a strain to go vegan, even back in those early days when the alternatives were not so widely available nor palatable.

3. It’s late at night and you just got home: What is your favorite quick and simple vegan meal?

Soups and stews are my go-to instant meals. If there are any vegetables in the fridge or freezer, there’s a soup waiting to happen. Start with onions and garlic sautéing on the stove, add in any produce you can scrounge up, raid the spice rack for any sort of complimentary flavors, and you’ve got a delicious meal in minutes, no matter the time of day or night. Canned beans are indispensable at these times to add a quick infusion of plant protein, too.

4. If you could prepare one meal or dessert for anyone living or dead, who would it be for and what would you create?

Tough question… I think it would be fun to bake my version of Nana Blanche’s famous chocolate cake for her and see what she thinks, comparing it to her original creation. She was my Nana’s nana, so that would be a long lineage of strong bakers to live up to!

5. What do you think are common mistakes in vegan cooking and how do you avoid them?

I’ve found that a lot of people conflate veganism with gluten-free, or no oil, or no sugar diets, and it’s a big mistake to jump in and cut everything out at once. If those approaches work best for your healthy, then the more power to you! It’s just plain wrong to think that merely cutting out cruel animal ingredients should automatically mean a severe, strict, deprivation diet.

6. What ingredients are you especially excited about at the moment? Also, what ingredients do you always like to have on hand?

It’s awesome to see aquafaba getting so much love these days, even from the mainstream media! I no longer need to explain the weird “canned chickpea brine” to people and get nothing but raised eyebrows in response. Since I eat a ton of chickpeas anyway, that’s something I always have around. I tend to freeze the excess in ice cube trays, so I can pop out a few portions anytime I want to bake.

7. What are your top three cuisines from around the world?

Japanese cuisine has always been a top inspiration for me; I went to a magnet high school to learn Japanese language and culture, so I was obsessed from an early age. Living in California, I’ve been exposed to lots of excellent Mexican food, which has slowly begun to influence my own approach to building flavors as well. Finally, Chinese food has always been very accessible, yet diverse and always exciting, so I find a lot of those nuanced flavors and unique cooking techniques very inspiring.

8. Who or what has been most influential to you on your vegan path? Individuals, groups, books, films, etc. included.

When I first went vegan over 15 years ago, Vegan Freak by Bob and Jenna Torres was my north star in a dark sky. I’ve gone back and re-read it several times since then, and it always reminds me why I’m vegan and re-energizes my commitment, if I find my enthusiasm ever flagging.

9. What issue is nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like people to know more about?

I wish that so-called “conscientious carnivores” would really take a closer look at what they think is “humane meat.” It’s a lovely concept, but not the reality…

10. Last, please finish this sentence. "To me, vegan food is…"

Simple. There’s no need to make life so complicated. It’s just good food, period!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

10 Questions: Vegan Rockstar with Donna Zeigfinger...

I met Donna Zeigfinger more than 15 years ago at the Animal Rights Conference in Washington, D.C. I don’t remember the specifics but I do remember being very impressed with this passionate and funny longtime vegan who’d recently launched her all-vegan travel agency, Green Earth Travel. In 
the years since,. this pioneering globe-trotter has helped to pave the way for a world that is much easier, more enjoyable and more accommodating for vegan travelers and that is why I am so excited to be partnering with Green Earth Travel and the Vegan Travel Club for a vegan tour of San Francisco and the Bay Area, August 2 – 6, 2018. It’s going to be AMAZING. Details! Please contact Donna with any questions here. I promise you fun, hijinks, great vegan food and an utter blast in one of the best, most beautiful cities in the world. Join us! And check out this interview with a true pioneer, vegan rock star, Donna Zeigfinger. 

1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?

My evolution started with meeting Ingrid Newkirk at the DC Animal control. She was head of human resources. She used to throw flyers on my desk all the time about vivisection and circuses, etc. I also had to do rabies checks and when animals were euthanized like raccoons or possums, I was the one to take out their brains for rabies testing and I remember thinking that they looked too much like steak.

2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?

I think sitting down and talking to me and telling me why this is bad for the world or the animals would be the most effective way. I also think really the best way are the documentaries that are out there now that have the most impact.

3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?

Lead by example seems to work for me. And passion but not reaction.

4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?

The internet is one of the bigger strengths. I also love that we are embracing new vegans in a gentler way-letting take baby steps and not making them feel guilty

5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?

Inter-fighting within the group.

6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.

Not only is going vegan good for you and the environment but also the animals that we all love and respect.

7. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?

Ingrid Newkirk, “The Animals Film”, Animal Liberation by Peter Singer

8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?

I love watching trash TV. Love travel and experiencing new places. And I love connecting on social media.

9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?

Puppy mills - not a vegan issue but as one who is owned by a puppy mill survivor I have learned so much from him-so much so that I started a group to help people that have adopted dogs from puppy mills that need help.

10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is...”

Being compassionate, yet passionate, kind yet strong. Do the best you can.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Pictures of Things That Make Me Happy.

Looking for a little reprieve? Visit here for my latest post, pictures of things that make me happy. How about you? What would be on your list? Maybe you'll create a post like this on Medium, too? It's super easy...

Monday, February 12, 2018

Not a Witch-Hunt: A Snapshot of Abuse and Disregard in the Animal Protection Movement

Hi, all -

Just a little housekeeping note: I've been posting more of my image-laden work on Medium because it is a much better platform for that. Please check out my latest piece there. Thank you!