Happy Herbivore Blog

Vegan Christmas Menus

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Holiday

Top 10 Tuesday: 10 Vegan Christmas (Holiday) Menus [delayed posting--I had Internet troubles on Tuesday]

In case you missed all my online blabbering: I was hired by a hotel in St. Maarten to create vegan menus for all four of their restaurants and yesterday was my first day in the kitchen!

All I have to say about that is: Top Chef? Hells Kitchen? Child's play! Try working in a busy kitchen when you don't speak the language!

But in all seriousness, I had a great time. It felt like I was cooking on steroids (and if I keep this up, I'm going to have to take steroids to be able to pick up the industrial-sized pots and pans!), but I enjoyed it. Plus the Executive Chef is amazing and I love cooking with him, even if we can't communicate beyond head shakes and grunts.

Anyway, I created a lovely Celery Root Soup (pretty much my HH recipe, but with added Cajun seasonings, smoked paprika and fresh parsley garnish); a wild mushroom ravioli with sun-dried tomato cashew cream sauce and I recycled the carrot soup recipe from my cookbook by using fresh ginger and a splash of citrus (you can see the recipe now using Amazons "look inside" feature).

Then, just as I was just about to leave, the Director of Food & Bev tells me that a certain (mega!) A List vegetarian celebrity is coming to the hotel. I nearly screamed---a celebrity is going to eat MY FOOD?!

But it gets better: The hotel also wanted me to create a special Holiday (Christmas) menu for the celebrity and his/her family.

I'm preparing an A List celebrities Christmas dinner?

(I'm still slapping myself in the face---surely this is all a dream!) I can't believe it!

[Wednesday update: I met with the entourage yesterday (on Tuesday) and I'm getting to make all sorts of neat foods, plus vegan chocolate cake as requested by the celeb's kid! I like this kid already!]

Anyway, these were the possible menus I presented to the celebrity client's entourage... I hope you can draw some holiday inspiration from it!

  • acorn squash & apple soup (starter)
  • chestnut bisque (starter)
  • curried sweet potato bisque (starter)
  • pumpkin sage ravioli in a light cashew cream sauce
  • barbecued pomegranate tofu w. garlic greens and potatoes
  • "meatloaf" w. wild rice stuffing + green beans
  • miniature green bean casserole
  • butternut squash risotto
  • acorn squash stuffed w. cranberries, pecans and grains
  • pecan-crusted seitan w. asparagus and mashed sweet potatoes
  • maple-glazed vegetables over grains (kids option)
  • miniature winter vegetable pot pie (kids option)

If you need help developing any of these recipes or have a question about one of the menu ideas --- please leave a comment.

[Image credit]

Vegan Paleo Diet

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQ

My review of the Four Hour Body sparked an interesting discussion about the Paleo diet on Twitter and Facebook--particularly about whether vegans can follow this diet (and I believe they can).

As a disclaimer, I am not supporting or encouraging the Paleo diet (even in a vegan form), but I wanted to provide information for individuals, who after doing their own research, have decided a vegan-paleo diet is best for them.

The Paleo diet, if you are unfamiliar, is an approach to eating that follows the presumed diet of "cavemen" (pre-agriculture). On this "diet" meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, roots and nuts are allowed (Paleo foods) but all grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar and processed oils are not allowed. In short, the Paleo diet is essentially the newest form of Atkins--it is a high protein, low carb diet that causes ketosis

Proponents of the diet claim that cavemen didn't have disease because of this "diet" (thereby suggesting it should be followed to prevent and reverse modern diseases and illnesses) -- but this claim is quite controversial amongst nutritionists and anthropologists alike, many of whom disagree with it sharply, not only because there isn't enough evidence to truly determine how cavemen ate, but because it's widely accepted academically that cavemen were free from disease due to their societal structure and not the macronutrient characteristics of their diet. If anything, historial data suggests the near opposite: that humans are naturally vegetarian and people eating vegetarian, Mediterranean and Asian diets (which are primarily plant-based, high in grain, low in meat) have less disease and greater longevity... but I digress. 

Can you be vegan and follow the Paleo diet?

In theory, yes. Most raw foodists and fruitarians (80/10/10 diet) are inadvertently following a "Paleo" diet. [My good friend Ricki, also essentially follows a paleo-vegan diet as part of her ACD Diet regimen.]

In preparation for this article I did a lot of research--I read 100s of boards, forums and "paleo-community" webpages. Not surprising, any time someone asked if they could be vegan or vegetarian and follow paleo, the masses replied with their mundane protein paranoia, (for which I wanted to upload this image): 

(I'm truly amazed at how many people think protein is only found in eggs and meat!!). 

There was also a huge misconception that all vegetarians relied heavily on soybeans for their protein---which the paleo followers were quick to point out: soy is off-limits... but here is something interesting to consider regarding that:

Through the forums I realized, rather quickly, that the majority of paleo-omnivores "cheat." Most of them still use oil (lots of oil!) and many more still consume dairy products (sometimes raw dairy, but mostly pasteurized) and quinoa. I also found several small groups of omni-paleos who were regularly eating legumes! So, perhaps true paleo isn't possible for anyone? Or perhaps this suggests you can be vegan-paleo and "cheat" with legumes and quinoa like everyone else if you want to...

Perhaps what I found most interesting, though, was that a huge and widely-admired omnivore-paleo "caveman" named Grok went raw paleo-vegan as an experiment this summer and along the way, decided to stay with it! As of his last video post a few days ago, Grok is still vegan (he's a fruitarian, actually) and a super triathlete! 

With all that being said (phew!) Here are some resources for those of you who showed an interest in vegan-paleo:

Life and Beyond: Go Vegan Paleo by Maria Rainier
CrossFit: Vegan-Paleo Forum(best forum I found on the topic)
EliotBurdett: He tried vegan-paleo for 30 days (conclusion)
Paleo Vegan Recipes
Diet, Dessert & Dogs (Ricki's website--many vegan paleo recipes)

Lastly, I'm curious to hear YOUR thoughts--about Paleo and diets that eschew grains, fruitarianism and any hodgepodge in between. 

I'm sure we can all agree that a healthy diet is one that focuses on whole, natural foods--but where and at what point do we draw line?


UPDATE: (12/29/10 via CNN) Study: Neanderthals cooked, ate vegetables

UPDATE: (10/27/11 via NPR)The Paleo-Diet: Not the Way to a Healthy Future written by a biological archeologist

Also there is this post reflecting on Paleo by Jeff Novick, MS RD

A great, in-depth article by Dr. McDougall The Paleo Diet Is Uncivilized (And Unhealthy and Untrue)

Fat-Free (Chocolate) Holiday Cupcakes (Vegan)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Recipe

Hi Herbies! Thanks so much for all the support and congratulations yesterday! I was touched by all of the comments left on this blog, facebook--and that were sent in through twitter. It really does mean the world to me to have your love and support!

In case you missed the update: The Director of Food & Beverage, the Executive Chef and the Sous Chef all really enjoyed the food I provided and approved my menus!!

Now--on to the cupcakes!

These cupcakes come from my cookbook and I just love making them around the Holidays. Since they're chocolate cupcakes, they're a natural crowd pleaser, despite being a healthy option. 

That's right my friends! These cupcakes have no added fat--and they're whole wheat!

I had hoped to make some yesterday myself--but I ran out of time (they're on the agenda for today, though!) so I snatched some pictures from Google Images. Do a search for "Christmas Cupcakes" and be inspired by gorgeous cupcake artwork! 

Me? I usually make mine look like this: 

Low Fat Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/2 c. raw sugar
1 c. chocolate nondairy milk (or plain)
1 tsp mint extract (or vanilla)
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease muffin tin or spray paper liners with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine applesauce, sugar, nondairy milk and extract. In another bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt together. Add flour mixture to wet mixture in 3 to 4 batches, until almost combined. Add chips and stir until just combined. Spoon batter into cups 3/4 full and bake 15-25 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the icing. Combine 1 cup confectioners sugar with a few drops of food coloring, 1/4 tsp vanilla or mint extract and a splash of plain nondairy milk or water, and mix until a nice paste-like icing results. (Add more sugar for thickness, more liquid to thin it out) Adjust food coloring. Once cupcakes are cool, slather icing and garnish with holiday candy.

[Images from Bakerella and The Cake List]