Can you have a favourite favourite?  Is that fair?  I mean, you’re all my favourites but there is one vegan who stands out and that is Lisa of Vegan Culinary Crusade.

I met Lisa at a blogger meet-up back in October and she is someone truly special!  Brilliant, talented, compassionate and always willing to share information or a kind word.

Lisa recently completed her Level 1 Chef Certification from the prestigious 105 Academy, a raw food culinary school in Oklahoma City.  As well, she is an active member of the Toronto Vegetarian Association, oh and manages to have a full-time job and active social life.  See, I told you she is awesome.

When/how did you become vegan?

I have not eaten animal products for a very long time. When I was little (less than 2 years old) my Mom started to notice that I was sensitive to eggs and dairy. Eating meat made me ill immediately. After lots of tests, doctors discovered that my body can’t digest animal protein. I was given the option to take enzymes everyday – I decided to eat vegan instead. Eliminating animal foods changed my life. All of a sudden I was full of energy and the daily stomach aches disappeared.

When I started reading labels and researching the food industry (so that I wouldn’t get sick from cross-contamination) I learned a lot. The truth about the way our society uses animals is disturbing and once you are faced with the reality it is hard to ignore. The more I read, the more overwhelmed I felt. I knew I couldn’t change the system but I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t doing anything to support it. Veganism is powerful activism at a personal level.

What is your favourite vegan meal?

At home, I love to eat a big salad full of interesting ingredients. My salads often contain various vegetables (kale, asparagus, fennel, snap peas), fresh fruit (avocado, blackberries, pear, apple), nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews), seeds (pumpkin, hemp, sunflower) and sprouts (broccoli, sunflower). My passion for creating a truly satisfying salad means I’m rarely happy with the iceberg lettuce bowls most restaurants serve.

When I’m going out to eat I prefer to choose cuisines with traditional vegan dishes like Ethiopian (oh, how I love Ethiopian food!), Indian, Peruvian, Thai, Japanese and Mexican. I feel very lucky to live in a multicultural city where the options for fantastic, flavourful vegan meals are endless.

What does “vegan” and being vegan mean to you?

For me, being vegan means making lifestyle choices with the impact in mind. I know there are lots of things in this world outside of my control – but, when I have a choice, I try to pick the option that has the most positive impact on the world around me.

So, in a practical sense, I don’t eat, wear or buy anything that comes from an animal. I try my best to support companies that are socially responsible. I want the people and the planet to thrive. I don’t mind doing a little research  or looking around locally to feel confident about where I spend my money and the individuals it supports.

Your favourite kitchen staples (ie ingredients, tools and gadgets etc)

Gadgets:

I have been asking for kitchen gadgets for my birthday and Christmas since high school. I have quite a collection, but, you definitely don’t need a lot of tools or gadgets to eat a well-balanced, delicious vegan diet. A sharp knife and a big cutting board is really all you need. But…I also love:

1. My blender – it makes beautiful, creamy smoothies from greens and frozen fruit. Nut milks take seconds and freshly ground flours are simple. Sometimes I feel like I live with a magician!

2. My food processer – for a girl who doesn’t eat processed food I use this tool an awful lot. If you have a food processor and don’t use it to whip up nut butters, hummus and banana soft-serve than you’re wasting its powers.

3. My microplane grater – I love fresh ginger. Love. A microplane grater makes adding love to everything easy.

Ingredients:

1. Fresh herbs – adding fresh herbs to a dish really elevates the flavour. I like to have herbs like cilantro, basil, mint and thyme on hand so that I can toss them into a salad, a quick dip or a flavourful sauce. If you have a few simple staple recipes, you can really mix them up with the addition of a few herbs.

2. Kale – a nutrition powerhouse. Not everyone is enamoured with the strong flavour of kale, but I’m a huge fan. I eat kale for breakfast in a smoothie, for lunch in a massaged salad, for snacks as crispy chips and for dinner mashed with sweet potato, but not for dessert.

3. Flax – another ingredient with an amazing nutrition profile but I love flax for its versatility. The binding property of flax makes for an amazing egg-replacer in baked goods. In raw crepes, breads and crackers, flax provides the perfect texture.

Top 3-5 favourite resources (ie books, websites, blogs, people)

This is really tough because I love the vegan community. I have met the most amazing people at vegetarian conferences, through blogs and forums. I often test recipes for vegan authors and review vegan cookbooks so I have a pretty huge library. But I will try to narrow down my list to a few favourites:

Cookbooks:

I would suggest anything written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope Romero, Ani Phyo or Dreena Burton.

Websites:

Happycow.net – will help you find places to eat and shop anywhere in the world

vegnews.com – is a great hub for information, events, recipes and reviews

ohsheglows.com – Angela’s amazing recipes would inspire anyone to cook, bake and eat vegan.

Compassionatecooks.com – Colleen Patrick Goudreau tackles all of the tough questions about veganism with joy and grace.

veg.ca – the Toronto Vegetarian Association is a great organization to get involved with if you live in the GTA. They host the annual Vegetarian Food Fair and publish the Vegetarian Directory – two things I am incredibly grateful for.

Any advice to vegans or those thinking of transitioning to a vegan lifestyle?

I would say, give it a try and see how you feel. Start with one meal, or one day. Find foods you love and celebrate the great choices you are making for your health and the health of the world. Have fun discovering new ingredients, dishes and restaurants.

Talk to other people who are vegan – ask them to share favourite recipes, products and books.

Attend events, read blogs, get involved. 

Pick up a copy of Becoming Vegan – it is the vegan nutrition bible.

xoVeganLisa

Follow Lisa on her blog and Twitter.

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