The vibrant vegan
Adopting a plant-based diet is good for you and the planet, says chef Julie Piatt. By Bonnie Bayley.
egan chef Julie Piatt, co-author of The Plantpower Way, is passionate about making plant-based food tasty, wholesome and easy to prepare. In her latest book, This Cheese Is Nuts!, she reveals how to make dairy-free versions of popular cheeses.
Here, she shares the benefits of going plant-based and how to do it. It has recipes for dairy-free, nut-based cheeses. You’ll discover how to make ‘cheeses’ – from camembert, brie and gorgonzola to coconut almond ricotta, gouda, provolone and sharp cheddar. I’ve also mastered burrata made with sprouted almonds and cured in coconut milk, and there’s a smoked almond cheddar spread you can make in 10 minutes in a food processor. I was raised in Alaska on game meat, eating moose tacos, reindeer stew and salmon! It wasn’t until I started practising yoga in my late 20s that eating meat ceased to be appealing.
Before the birth of my fourth child, I had a powerful experience that helped me explore the concept of food as medicine. I had a golf ball-sized cyst on my neck that came out of nowhere. Through a plant-based diet and Ayurvedic herbs, my body was able to repair itself and within a year and three months the cyst went away. Plant-based cooking is the most vibrant, delicious and
life-affirming way to eat! It makes you feel young – I’m 55 this year and leaner and stronger than I’ve ever been. It’s also compassionate: every single meal that you choose to eat that’s plant-based, you’ve saved an animal’s life and thousands of litres of water that are used in dairy and meat production. Every time you choose plants you’ve done something for your health and the environment, but it’s not a contest. There’s no right answer to this lifestyle and it can be your own unique process, so simply begin where you are. Focus on the meal in front of you now. Start by adding green juices and dark leafy greens into your diet. Once you do that, your body will make a shift and you’ll start craving different things. It actually shifts the population of the bacteria in your gut, which determines your cravings.
My tip for leafy greens is to sauté them in coconut oil, then sprinkle on some sea salt, tamari and fresh ginger root or a squeeze of lemon juice. Lemons, fresh ginger and turmeric root, miso paste, cacao powder and dates are handy. Also, lots of nuts, so cashews, macadamias, almonds and walnuts, as well as seeds like pumpkin, sunflower and chia seeds. I make fresh, hearty food that’s quick to prepare. I start my day with a cacao latte or a smoothie, followed by porridge made with oats, chia seeds, goji berries, dates and fresh coconut. For lunch, I’ll have a dairy-free cheese platter with olives, or a salad. In the afternoon I might whip up some peanut butter cookies, made with coconut sugar, natural peanut butter, flax seeds and dark chocolate. Dinner might be lasagne made with zucchini noodles, fresh tomato sauce, almond pesto and cashew ricotta. Instead of meat, add in satisfying foods like sweet potatoes, cooked potatoes, avocados and occasionally some tofu into the mix. Draw on the flavourings and marinades that meat often has, like balsamic reduction, browned onions, roasted olives, rosemary and mushroom gravy. You can add those toppings to potatoes to get the flavour or nuance of a meaty dish, without the meat. If you eat a big variety of vegetables and some fruit, and choose local and organic as much as possible, you’re going to be super-healthy. The only vitamin that’s missing from a plant-based diet is B12. Adding nutritional yeast flakes can help – use them as a condiment in salads, soups and stews. #