As I get older, I get more concerned with what I put in my body. Eating healthy is extremely important but leaving the planet in a healthy condition while avoiding toxins in my own body had become ever present in my mind. When I switched to eating to a mainly plant based diet, Gianna Ciaramello became my go-to gal for recipes and easy but healthy eating tips. I'm happy to say that today we happen to have an interview with the glowing vegan chef (plus a few recipes!).
What started your food revolution?
I grew up around food and I was taught at a young age that ingredients were special. Every Sunday my Mother, Nana and I would venture out to various butchers, delis and markets looking for specific items. For as long as I can remember I have been invested in eating quality food and that has only evolved over time. Upon moving to California I was now in charge of constructing the essentials for my own pantry and I made the conscious decision to transition to a plant based lifestyle.
Why is it so important?
The other day I had a person challenge my lifestyle. Upon discovering I was not a “meat eater” he asked me if I consume dairy. I simply replied with no, I choose to have almond milk over regular milk. This man was so taken back that he began to spew, what he considered to be truth, and lecture me on how I should be eating. I sat there, stunned at what he believed was “healthy” and simply said, “do YOU know how much water it takes to produce1 lb of beef?” The reason I bring this up is not to say “veganism is life, you must live this way” but simply to show how some people just truly do not know what is going on in the food industry. Where their food comes from, what is GMO, what are they consuming, feeding their children?
Why is this aspect of health so important?
Health and wellness plays a huge roll in my life, impacting my decisions on a daily basis. Do I get the fries, or do I get the oven roasted potatoes? How do I want to feel after I eat this meal? It is so important to be aware of the health & food revolution that is currently advancing right under our nose. I believe that if something tastes good, you will eat it, so I make that my mission with the foods I create. No matter what your lifestyle is, if you do not agree with mine, at the end of the day the food is good and who’s to argue on taste? And health is just an added bonus!
Wrap of choice, I personally used a pita like wrap
Broccoli rabe steamed & sautéed in garlic and olive oil
Kimchi (I use a brand called Matts Kimchi) http://www.mattskimchi.com/
Kimchi Mayo (Kimchi liquid mixed with mayo)
Spread your kimchi mayo and then lay out all of your other ingredients. Be careful not to over fill your wrap so that you are still able to roll it back up. Enjoy!
How has your life changed from eating a plant based diet?
I feel like I am alive. Prior to living this lifestyle I was so unaware of the world around me. Since transitioning to a plant based lifestyle I have discovered how my decisions not only affect my weight but how they directly impact the world around me. I have learned so much about the environment, about animals and I feel like I have become a much more empathetic and stronger person.
Being vegan isn't a fad. Tell me the difference between eating to fuel your body versus losing weight...
It is really important to understand what we need. Coming into this lifestyle not only gave me clarity but it provided me with a better understanding for my needs to feel my best each day. The most important thing to start is to learn what hunger truly is. Most of the time the “hunger” we are experiencing is actually thirst. I personally drink 1 gallon of water a day to help with my portions and stay full. This also helps with my skin and other things as well. I believe we need to “fuel our bodies” based off of what we actually need and knowing the difference between want and need is an important place to start. I wake up somedays craving refreshment, I respond to that by making something sweet, and hydrating such as watermelon juice. If our bodies crave salt, a great compensation is citrus, specifically lime. It takes time to understand what you want and need, reading a lot has helped me.
Where do you draw inspiration?
Kristina Buccaram. @fullyrawkristina She is the driving force that pushes me each day. Although I may never be able to be a raw vegan she inspires me each day to make more conscious decisions and to take responsibility for what I am eating. She promotes optimal health and runs multiple business while keeping on top of mental health as well.
What's one recipe you'd recommend to dedicated meat eaters?
I cannot say haha, a lot of times I make dishes and do not tell people they are plant based. There is definitely a certain stigma to this lifestyle. A lot of times I will say, “those are vegan brownies” and as soon as they hear vegan they cringe. I think what really makes a lot of dishes and sandwiches is the sauces, herbs, spices, seasoning. The essence of something would not be its meat, you wouldn’t call the dead and decaying flesh of an animal its “essence”. I guess if I would have to recommend one thing it would be BBQ jackfruit, I have a great recipe in my book! ; ]
You just finished your first cookbook. Tell me about the process of writing it...
This is a plant based book consisting of 103 plant based recipes, some of which stem from my childhood. I have loved food with all of my heart since I was a little girl & cooking has been part of me since a very young age. Some of my most cherished memories stem from the times I have spent in the kitchen with my Nana & my mom. The most difficult part in writing this book was making sure to write down the recipes! I generally work from my head. I make things from memory and taste and even though that may result in delicious food for the people eating it, it does not help for documentation purposes which prevents me from sharing the recipe. I think the hardest part, for me, was making sure to have a notebook with me at all times and to constantly write things down as I was going. This definitely slowed down my process but I wouldn’t have this book if I didn’t do it!
There's a quote I love that says, "when you do things from your soul, people really dig that shit." What is the core message you'd like people to take away from your work?
I have always wanted to help people. I studied Radiography prior to building a life around food and design. What changed my path was realizing that it takes a special kind of person to be in healthcare. There were also certain things I was being exposed to that conflicted with a lot of my own beliefs. Through helping myself I gained the ability to help others and my passion for helping has evolved into finding a way to spread health & positivity in the least intimidating way. I have found a way to harness my passion into something positive & that is why I wrote this book. I thrive on the world around me & making people happy & that's all I need. From the experience gained participating in the health food community I have noticed that terms like “plant based” & “vegan” have become controversial & emotionally charged topics for many people. My goal is to neutralize these stigmas & have plant based become synonymous with simply living a healthy life. I hope that by releasing this book my recipes will be replicated and respected for simply being delicious. I hope this encourages people to incorporate more plant based meals into their homes.