This week’s favourite vegan is Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs.  She is a true renaissance woman and a lady after my own heart.   Besides being a Natural Nutritionist and vegan cook extraordinaire, she is also the mother to these adorable fur babies:

When/how did you become vegan?

I have always had a natural inclination toward veganism, even before I knew what “vegan” meant. Although I grew up in a family that ate meat every day (my dad was a butcher), as soon as I moved out of the house to go to university, I almost immediately stopped eating meat. I was still vegetarian (eggs and dairy), but when I finally moved out of residence and to my own apartment, I rarely used any animal products and ate what was basically a vegan diet. I have always preferred vegan food, and I feel best when I eat vegan food. I continued along that way until I became quite ill in my early 40s; by then, I had been vegan for about 15 years. My doctor told me that my blood albumen was very low and I had to go back to eating meat to acquire “good” protein. I went out and ate a steak that evening—and felt heavier than I had in years! I tried to keep up with that way of eating for a couple of years, but it just wasn’t what I wanted and never felt right. Eventually, I returned to a vegan diet, this time armed with my knowledge as a holistic nutritionist (I had studied nutrition in the meantime). I’ve never looked back!

What is your favourite vegan meal?

This is such a tough question, because I love food so much that I have several favourites! I adore a meal that we call “Almond Curry Stir-Fry.” It’s a veggie and tofu stir-fry in a curry-almond sauce over brown basmati rice. I also love homemade gluten free vegan tortière, but don’t eat it often because it’s quite a bit of work. My favourite quick meal is a pasta dish with soba noodles, chard, walnuts, and ginger, but I also love Vegan Pasta Carbonara. And of course I adore any type of breakfast—pancakes with tofu scramble, tempeh bacon, and a big cup of tea tops the list.

What does "vegan" and being vegan mean to you?

I came to veganism because of taste preference and, later, health reasons; I have never been very political and still believe that people should not be made to feel guilty or evil for their choices. Having said that, as I continue along with veganism, I have slowly begun to shift to a vegan approach in other aspects of my life (clothing, accessories, healthcare products) and find myself more and more aware of how everything we do affects the animals with whom we share the planet. I see veganism as a way to honor every living thing on the earth, to coexist peacefully with both other humans and our animal neighbors. And of course the improvements to my overall health and weight are certainly a happy byproduct. J

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

Our kitchen is never without steel cut oats, avocados, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, unsweetened chocolate, coconut oil, olive oil, greens of all kinds (but never, ever without kale), apples, berries (either fresh or frozen), fresh garlic, ginger, lemons, limes. Because I make everything from scratch, I have to have a lot of food on hand at all times! I also use my VitaMix and my food processor pretty much every day. Really good knives are also a staple.

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

Another tough question, as I’m sure there are more than 5! I thought Becoming Vegan was a fabulous book that covered pretty much all the basics for anyone who’s starting out. Vegan blogs and websites I count on for great info, inspiration and recipes include Choosing Raw, Crazy Sexy Life, This Dish is Veg, Vegan Culinary Crusade, and Oh She Glows. I also love my vegan cookbooks! I use the Moosewood books a lot (vegetarian, but lots of vegan options) as well as Vegan Brunch and any of Dreena Burton’s books. People I rely on are my naturopath, fellow nutritionists I met while in school, and fellow bloggers who share ideas and recipes (they know who they are!) This list barely scratches the surface, though—I have almost 300 blogs in my Google Reader, so I couldn’t possibly mention every resource that I like!

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

It’s so much easier than you think! There are so many delicious, appealing vegan foods you can eat. While I am not a fan of processed fake “meats” or other faux foods, I think they can be useful if someone is having trouble and really missing their cheese or meat in the beginning. On the other hand, I much prefer an approach that uses real food ingredients without trying to reproduce meat (even though I do have some “meaty” recipes on my blog). Be open to experimenting with new foods, and you’ll find that your tastes change and you’ll begin to crave things like green vegetables just as much as you used to crave a Big Mac. I’ve heard other vegans say this, and it’s true of me, too: I eat a much more varied diet now than I did as an omnivore, and I’m much more adventurous with the foods I’ll try now that I eat a vegan diet.

I think it’s also worth noting that, eating this way, you’ll begin to feel so good physically that you’ll realize you’re not giving up anything to follow a vegan diet—on the contrary, you’ll be gaining vibrant health and energy.

If you’re interested in adopting a vegan lifestyle, I’d also suggest becoming as informed as possible to ensure that you’re getting all the important nutrients your body needs; you’ll also be more aware of hidden sources of animal products that way.

Visit Ricki’s blog and find her on Facebook and Twitter.