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Our contributor continues his year of food jobs and finds a sense of tranquility at a vegan eatery in Los Angeles
The Foodish Boy takes on the job of a cook in a vegan restaurant.
In trying to work 52 jobs in a year, I did expect a few hiccups along the way. Somewhere during the year, I was bound to receive a cancellation and end up looking for work at the last minute. Arriving in Los Angeles a few weeks back, that day came. The restaurant I was due to work at had shut up shop and flown to Copenhagen for the MAD culinary symposium. Jobless, I had no other option than to do what I had been secretly dreading — cold-calling restaurants for work.
After several botched attempts, my host for the week, Dan, suggested I call Café Gratitude, a nearby organic vegan restaurant. A few minutes later and armed with a heavy dose of Yorkshire charm, I had my secured my next job. From goat slaughtering to a vegan restaurant; I couldn’t have picked two more contrasting jobs in the space of a week.
Café Gratitude gives huge prominence to food that supports health and sustainability for both their community and the planet. The fascinating part, however, is their belief in "Sacred Commerce," a philosophy of "honest and transparent communication, and gratitude for the richness of our lives." All dishes are given affirmations such as "I am HUMBLE" or "I am FABULOUS," so clients "can practice affirming great qualities in themselves." Staff members also ask you a philosophical question when you order. But this was no shack bashing out bowls of quinoa to tie-dye hippies, this was a pristine marble-topped restaurant serving gourmet food to LA’s rich and famous. I wanted to find out more.
My time at Café Gratitude was split between two areas: the pastry section and cooking on the line. Having already worked at a patisserie, it was interesting to learn about the challenges faced when adapting traditionally dairy based recipes for the vegan market. Café Gratitude prides itself on offering some of the best vegan desserts around, and after stealing a few cheeky tasters, it was hard not to agree with them. "ADORING," a tiramisu with almond cake, espresso, and coconut cashew cream? "IRRESISTIBLE," a coconut cream pie with chocolate swirl and dark chocolate crust? Gratitude’s creativeness opened my mind to many different approaches to dessert-making.
What Happens To Your Body And Brain When You Go Vegan Or Vegetarian
Vegetarian and vegan diets are nothing new, but now that we’re facing meat shortages and COVID-19 is shining a bright light on the flaws and troubles of our nation’s commercial meat supply chain , more and more people are eating less meat these days, or at least thinking about it.
Many are ditching meat with other ethical, environmental and health reasons in mind, too. Meatless diets have been associated with increased nutrient intake and lower risk of some chronic diseases. And meat production ― particularly beef production ― isn’t doing any favors for the health of our planet. Greenhouse gas emissions from animal-based agriculture are actually so sizable that a report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year recommended reducing meat consumption in order to adapt to climate change.
But how exactly does a meat-free diet affect your body? We reached out to some experts to find out what happens when you adopt a plant-based diet so you can decide if it’s the right choice for you.
Before we get into that, an important note: When we say a vegetarian diet, we’re referring to a diet that’s free of any meat and fish. But vegetarianism has many variations ― some people still eat dairy and eggs (lacto-ovo vegetarians), some allow eggs but no dairy (ovo-vegetarians), and some allow fish and sometimes dairy and eggs (pescatarian). Vegan diets don’t include any of those items.
Here’s what you can expect when you go on a plant-based diet:
Your bowel habits will probably change.
Eating more plant-based foods like vegetables, beans and whole grains increases your fiber intake. This will help prevent constipation, improve bowel function and probably result in more regular bowel habits.
“Bowel regularity is beneficial for overall health and well-being,” said Colleen Chiariello, a registered dietitian and chief clinical dietitian at Northwell Health’s Syosset Hospital .
At the same time, you may become more bloated than usual, especially if you’ve recently upped your intake of vegetables or if you’re consistently filling up on brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and other vegetables that are known to produce excess gas.
When switching to a vegetarian diet, Chiariello advised incorporating a range of fruits and vegetables, not just the same ones. Staying hydrated is important too, as drinking more fluids can minimize gas from certain fruits and vegetables.
Keep in mind that if the gas is minimal, you probably don’t need to worry too much. “A little bit of gas is worth the benefit of colon health,” Chiariello said.
You’ll probably be consuming more nutrients.
When you stop eating meat and switch to a vegan or vegetarian diet, you may be eating a lot more nutrient-rich foods.
“This increases the intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber in the diet,” said Kim Rose , a registered dietitian based in Florida. “Fiber is not only an important part of a healthy digestive system it has the potential to improve cholesterol, make you feel full for a longer period of time, give the body energy, and assist in the prevention of constipation and diarrhea.”
Unhealthy eating behaviors can develop if you’re not mindful of them.
A plant-focused diet has many potential benefits, but it’s not necessarily healthier than a non-vegetarian or non-vegan diet ― especially if you’re eating a ton of processed foods.
“It really all depends on the foods chosen and the individual nutrition needs of the person who is going vegetarian,” said Emily Hamm, a registered dietitian at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. “Research shows that there are multiple health benefits to going vegetarian if the vegetarian diet is rich in plant-based whole foods rather than just the reduction or absence of animal-based foods.”
Tim Radak , a registered dietitian in North Carolina and an academic coordinator for Walden University’s PhD in Public Health program, recommended carefully planning any dietary change in order to avoid nutritional deficiencies and other negative effects.
For example, “a soda and cheese pizza are vegetarian, but certainly do not promote health,” he said.
For some people, a diet that’s restrictive in any way can be hard to maintain and can even be associated with disordered eating patterns.
“Consider the reason ― is it for ethical reasons like animal rights? Or is it because you feel it will be a healthier lifestyle?” said Rachel Fine, a registered dietitian in New York.
Instead of fully avoiding any one type of food, she recommended making decisions and choices based on how certain foods make you feel physically, emotionally and ethically.
You probably won’t have any trouble getting enough protein.
Many people fear plant-based diets, thinking they won’t be able to get enough protein without meat. But the truth is, lots of these foods are high in protein. It’s good to be mindful of protein intake, but you probably won’t struggle to consume enough protein if you’re being mindful.
“A variety of nuts and seeds — such as pistachios and quinoa, beans and peas, and soy-based products — such as tofu and tempeh, are good sources of protein that also contain an array of vitamins and minerals that will properly nourish,” Rose said.
But there is a caveat here: You’ll want to pay attention to the source of the protein you reach for since many of the meat-replacement products some vegetarians rely on are heavily processed and can be high in sodium.
You may need to take dietary supplements.
While you might consume a lot more nutrients than usual after transitioning to a vegetarian diet, you still may need to take dietary supplements to avoid certain nutrient deficiencies.
Many vegetarians or vegans take supplements for vitamin B12, which is available mostly in animal products and only in a small number of plant-based foods . Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause fatigue, weakness, neurological disorders and other problems. Other supplements common among vegetarians or vegans are iron, vitamin D and calcium. But this all depends on your individual body and diet.
“Check with your dietitian and health care provider if you are concerned about your vitamin or mineral status and tell your health care providers if you follow any dietary restrictions,” Hamm said. “Lab work and a nutrition-focused physical assessment will reveal if there are deficiencies.”
Your heart health may improve.
“Much of the fiber found in produce is soluble, which has been shown to improve cholesterol,” Fine said. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and binds with cholesterol in the small intestine so that the cholesterol leaves the body through your feces rather than being absorbed into your bloodstream, where it can contribute to plaque build-up in the arteries.
A lot of foods consumed in a plant-focused diet are beneficial to heart health, too. Fine pointed out that flax seeds and canola oil are good sources of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. And olive oil, avocado, almonds, peanuts and other nuts are good sources of healthy fats that protect your heart.
You may have a reduced risk of cancer.
Plant-based foods contain phytochemicals — naturally occurring chemical compounds that not only contribute to the color, taste and smell of plants but also protect human health and help our bodies fight off disease. Some research shows that these phytochemicals may protect against certain types of cancer .
The bottom line: A vegetarian diet can have a lot of positive benefits to your overall health, especially if you’re loading up on nutrient-dense, plant-based, whole foods. But it all depends on what you’re eating ― swapping meat with highly processed food isn’t the best option. Take some time to examine if it’s best for you, and if you’re ever unsure, you should always chat with your doctor.
- 1 medium avocado
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 1 stem of basil (8 leaves)
- 1 sprig of dill
- 1½ cups sprouts
- 2 large carrots
- 1 large head romaine lettuce (4½ cups total)
- 1 large red onion
- 1 medium white onion
- 2 large red bell peppers
- 7 cups raw kale
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 4 cups spinach
- 1 small ginger root
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 head broccoli
- 2 (12-oz.) packages cauliflower rice, frozen
- 1½ cups shelled edamame, fresh or frozen
- 1 head garlic
Dry and Canned Goods
- 1 loaf whole-grain bread
- 2½ cups pre-cooked quinoa or (about 1 cup dry quinoa)
- 1 (15-oz.) can black beans
- 3 (15-oz.) cans chickpeas
- 1 (15-oz.) can lite coconut milk
- ¾ cup precooked brown rice (or ¼ cup dry brown rice)
- 1 (8-oz.) jar no sugar added pickles
- 1 (15-oz.) can corn
- Balsamic vinegar
- Peanut butter
- Olive oil
- Red pepper flakes
- Raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- Coconut oil
- Red curry paste
- Sesame oil
- Soy sauce
Strawberry & Cream Croissant French Toast For Your Weekend Brunch
Those with a creative eye know firsthand that inspiration is all around us. Whether you're energized by the earth tones of nature, a color-filled walk through a local farmer's market, or even by a quick scroll through Instagram, you never know what might spark a new creative project.
In the spirit of inspiring your next masterpiece, we're excited to partner with Bounty to fuel the next generation of artists and designers forward by launching a national design competition. We're calling on graphic designers to apply for a chance to see their work featured on a new Brit + Co and Bounty paper towel collection, set to launch in 2022.
Aside from the incredible exposure of having your illustrations on paper towels that'll be in stores across America next year, you'll also receive $5,000 for your art a scholarship for Selfmade, our 10-week entrepreneurship accelerator to take your design career to the next level (valued at $2,000) and a stand alone feature on Brit + Co spotlighting your artistry as a creator.
The Creatively You Design Competition launches Friday, May 21, 2021 and will be accepting submissions through Monday, June 7, 2021.
Who Should Apply: Women-identifying graphic designers and illustrators. (Due to medium limitations, we're not currently accepting design submissions from photographers or painters.)
What We're Looking For: Digital print and pattern designs that reflect your design aesthetic. Think optimistic, hopeful, bright — something you'd want to see inside your home.
How To Enter: Apply here, where you'll be asked to submit 2x original design files you own the rights to for consideration. Acceptable file formats include: .PNG, .JPG, .GIF, .SVG, .PSD, and .TIFF. Max file size 5GB. We'll also ask about your design inspiration and your personal info so we can keep in touch.
Artist Selection Process: Panelists from Brit + Co and P&G Bounty's creative teams will judge the submissions and select 50 finalists on June 11, 2021 who will receive a Selfmade scholarship for our summer 2021 session. Then, up to 8 artists will be selected from the finalists and notified on June 18, 2021. The chosen designers will be announced publicly in 2022 ahead of the product launch.
For any outstanding contest Qs, please see our main competition page. Good luck & happy creating!
Key Ingredients for Homemade Minestrone Soup
- Bacon (or pancetta): Six sliced diced add a ton of rich, pork flavor to the soup and give the vegetables something flavorful to sauté in before adding the liquid components. This is a crucial step in building flavors for your homemade minestrone. You can also use cubed pancetta.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: To prevent the bacon and veggies from burning. Also a vital component to any Italian dish!
- Diced Veggies: In total you’ll use one medium onion, two stalks celery , a half of a cup of carrots , and one medium sized zucchini. You’ll also use two cloves of smashed and finely chopped garlic, as well as a half of a small head of cabbage or 6 cups spinach , shredded. (I used Savoy cabbage)
- Beans: Minestrone wouldn’t be complete without cannelloni beans or white navy beans, if you prefer. The use of white beans is traditional.
- Tomatoes: You’ll use one 15-oz can of can tomato sauce and one 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes (San Marzano or Muir Glen preferred).
- Chicken Broth: As always, homemade is best (and easy to make!), but store-bought is fine if you’re out or in a pinch. Just opt for low-sodium so you can better control the amount of salt in your vegetable soup.
- Salt and Pepper: To taste.
- Fresh Basil: One handful chopped, for garnish.
- To serve:
You can also add rice or pasta like orzo Ditalini, if you prefer.
What is Étouffée?
Étouffée is steeped in Cajun tradition. A rich almost buttery stew with a name that literally means "smothered" or "suffocated" in French. Suffocated is apt although less dramatically the term is used here to denote a style of cooking. Seafood, crawfish or shrimp, is smothered in vegetables and a tomato sauce creating a stew-like dish. My vegetable étouffée may defy the laws of traditional Creole cuisine but it is seriously yum so perhaps a justifiable culinary crime. Buttery, spicy and tinged with a taste of the sea, this vegetable étouffée is a vegan trip down the bayou.
Étouffée is the girl in the Counting Crows song Mr Jones dances with. While Adam Duritz is checking out a beautiful Dutch blonde, Mr Jones dances with a dark haired flamenco dancer and low and behold, she's suddenly beautiful. What a fickle pickle you are, Adam. Étouffée is not a beautiful looking dish. Truth be told I had a devil of a time finding its best angle while photographing it. But as with all truly beautiful things, it's beauty is on the inside. Sure it might appear to be a mish-mash of indistinguishable elements but those elements have integrity. Each ingredient in this vegetable étouffée adds to the rich complexity of the dish. It has a purpose and the dish would suffer without each one. So, while no-one is ever going to confuse vegetable étouffée with a prettily perfect Dutch speculaa, make no mistake, it is beautiful. A beautiful, rich and spicy bowl of yum.
I based this recipe on Emeril Lagasse's Shrimp Étouffée . Two things to note, one, adding tomato makes this étouffée more Creole than Cajun and two, and I'm sorry, there is a fair amount of chopping. See how I used misdirection there? Wow look over there at that interesting historical factoid while your ceaselessly chopping. If your food processor is working, the chopping is not a problem. If, like me, your processor's lid jumped from your hands in a fit of pique, there is manual labour. Sorry.
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Making the pastry creams (vanilla and chocolate)
The process to make the vanilla and the chocolate pastry creams is quite similar and so to save time and space, only the chocolate version is shown.
Keep in mind that you’ll repeat this process again and omit the cocoa powder and add vanilla extra instead for your second filling.
The ingredients (chocolate pastry cream):
- Note that the heavy cream gets whipped separatelyand is added to the cream AFTER the pastry cream has been cooked and cooled. I do this just before I”m getting ready to assemble the cake.
- In a small bowl, add egg yolks and cornstarch. Whisk to blend and set aside
- In a medium saucepan, add milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla or chocolate (depending on if you are making the chocolate or the vanilla cream) heat until small bubbles form (scalded) and remove from heat.
- Temper eggs by adding small amounts (about ½ cup/4 ounces) of the hot milk mixture, a little at a time, while whisking very QUICKLY to prevent the eggs from curdling.
- After all of the milk mixture has been added into the eggs/cornstarch, return everything to the saucepan and cook over medium heat and stir constantly until thickened.
- The mixture can thickens quickly (depending on the heat)!! Stir fast and furious with whisk!
- Keep stirring until you see that it has stopped thickening or the thickening has slowed down.
- Cool the pastry cream and refrigerate until ready to use (this is when you do the last step below, adding the whipped cream).
- When ready to assemble the cake, whip heavy cream until soft peaks form (overbeating will cause it to turn to butter) and then fold together with cooled pastry cream (rewhip the pastry cream first if it has been refrigerated and/or it has firmed up a lot).
Charring the eggplant
After thickly slicing the eggplant into rounds, you will salt it and let it sit over a paper towel lined cooking sheet or a wire rack for about 30 minutes. Then start frying. Now according to the recipe, you must really blacken the eggplant to the point where it is charred/burned. As you can see, I didn’t quite reach that point but I’ll be more adventurous next time.
In the book with the original recipe , the cooked eggplant slices are blaaaaack. The eggplant was sliced a little thicker than I sliced mine so most of the eggplant (ie, the interior) is not charred. Since I sliced mine thinner, charring to the point of blackening would have left me with too much burnt eggplant. So, if you are gonna go for the black, make sure your eggplant slices are ½ inch or so.