When you’re immersed in the world of vegan blogging you come across the same bloggers quite frequently and can often form friendships with people via social networking and email. Such is the case with me and Annie Oliverio. Annie and I have never met in person, but I’ve known her for a couple of years now and I consider her a friend. Annie is the blogger behind An Unrefined Vegan, and she’s the organizer of the Virtual Vegan Potluck. She has a brand new cookbook that just hit bookshelves this month called Crave, Eat, Heal: Plant-based, Whole-food Recipes to Satisfy Every Appetite. I am super excited for Annie about her book, and I’m happy to have a recipe included in it. She’s here today to talk about veganism, food, and cravings
Chic Vegan: What motivated you to become vegan? Was it an overnight switch or more gradual shift?
Annie Oliverio: Up until my late 30s I ate a pretty terrible diet: lots of refined foods and tons of sugar. When you’re young, you can get away with that, but eventually, the bad stuff catches up. I knew I had to make changes and I started by giving up refined sugar. Then I watched Supersize Me shortly after it came out and it’s what got me to take a hard look at not only what I was eating, but at the food industry as well. Supersize Me led me to Eric Schlosser’s eye-opening book, Fast Food Nation and I became a vegetarian – literally overnight – after reading the chapter about the way cattle is processed to feed our unending appetite for meat.
But it took a PETA pamphlet (featuring chicken “farms,”) my brother’s diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, and The China Study – all converging around the same time – to convince me to stop consuming dairy. For the first time it hit home that the foods I put into my body had a direct relationship with how it functioned, how it healed, and how I felt. I also realized that I had the choice, simply by making food purchases, of condoning or condemning the treatment and slaughter of innocent animals. I’ve never missed meat, dairy, or seafood, and have never looked back with longing to my old way of eating.
AO: I typically get the “but it’s so difficult and complicated!” response. Because going vegan means spending 23 hours out of every day preparing food to eat – that also somehow ends up being a salad (cuz that’s all vegans eat, right?!). My response is that cooking/eating plant-based is as simple or as complicated as one wants it to be. Just like preparing omnivore meals.
CV: You’re known for your blog An Unrefined Vegan. What inspired you to start blogging, and where did the website’s name come from?
AO: Very simply, I decided to start An Unrefined Vegan because I was so in love with the way I was eating and feeling. I just had to write about it! At the time, I had another blog called Dough, Dirt, and Dye, which was focused on writing and making bread and gardening (and I’m a lousy gardener) but I wanted An Unrefined Vegan to be about food and veganism.
The name came from my fantasy vegan bakery. For a very brief, delusional moment, I wanted to devote myself to baking beautiful vegan loaves to sell to my tiny, very un-vegan community. A place where – even to save one’s life – it is impossible to find a decent loaf of whole grain bread! The name I came up with was Unrefined Bakery – because I would use only whole grains and no refined sweeteners.
CV: Tell me a little bit about your new book Crave Eat Heal and what inspired you to write it.
AO: Crave Eat Heal would never have come to be if I hadn’t been contacted by a wonderful young woman at Cedar Fort Publishers. She spotted my blog and wrote to me asking if I’d be interested in submitting a proposal for a vegan book that focused on foods that healed. I figured what the heck – but since I’m not trained in nutrition – I decided to focus on ways to satisfy cravings without feeling guilty afterwards, like you do after demolishing a bag of potato chips when you crave something salty. I know from my own experience that cravings are often associated with non-hungry needs – like being depressed, feeling lonely, anxious, or bored. Thankfully, there are guilt-free ways of taming those cravings. Crave Eat Heal is divided into types of cravings, such as Chocolate, Sweet, Tart, Spicy, Carbs, and so on. There are recipes for every meal of the day – but they’re categorized by craving rather than meal.
And the recipes in Crave Eat Heal are no-oil (or are low in oil or with oil-free options), use no refined sugars, and are gluten-free or with gluten-free options.
AO: I’m your typical chocoholic of longstanding. It really must be a part of my day – even if it’s in the form of a kale-rich smoothie, stevia-sweetened hot chocolate, a dark chocolate bar, or brownie.
On the other side of the spectrum, I love almost anything pickled.
CV: Do you have any favorite recipes from the book?
AO: The very first recipe I developed for the book was a knock-off of my absolute favorite cookie as a pre-teen: Mystic Mints, which are no longer made. They were Oreos with a mint filling, thickly coated in dark chocolate. I was addicted. My idea of a great Friday or Saturday night was hanging out with my nerd posse, watching The Love Boat and demolishing a box of Mystic Mints. My mom would even mail boxes of them to me at college.
I call my version Mystical Mint Cookies and they’re a whole lot healthier: the cookies are raw, the filling is flavored with real mint, and the chocolate the cookies are coated in contains no sugar.
Beyond that – I’m really happy and honored to have recipes from uber-talented bloggers I admire and call friends. Their recipes really rounded out the book.
AO: Oh boy, do I. But I’ll keep it short!
Think long and hard before signing a contract or even undertaking publishing on your own. Understand that for a year or more, your life will be totally consumed. You will have sleepless nights as your head spins with recipe ideas, looming deadlines, and the comments of recipe testers who have very, very bad news about one of your favorite recipes. Every single meal you make for yourself or your family comes under intense scrutiny. Your life becomes all about creating recipes, recipe testing, writing, taking photos (if you’re doing them yourself), editing, volleys of emails between you and your publisher, more editing, promoting and promoting and promoting. At times, all the enjoyment one gets from cooking evaporates and you dread going into the kitchen. Sound like fun?
Writing a cookbook is a HUGE commitment – for you and your family. Go in with your eyes wide open – and know what you want out of the process. Experience? Fame? Your own cooking show on the Food Network? Fat paychecks? You have to be realistic and you may want to start by creating a short e-book just to get your feet wet.
CV: You also created The Virtual Vegan Potluck, an online event that links vegan blogs from all over the world. What motivated you start it?
AO: A blogger friend wrote a comment on a post about how fun it would be if we could get together one day and my brain started working on that thought. How could a bunch of us from different parts of the globe “get together” to share a huge plant-based meal? At about that same time I had been participating – via my other blog – in something called “blog hops” where one blog links to another and so on, so that there’s this kind of virtual chain. Why not do something similar, but set it up so that the chain starts with appetizers and ends with dessert? We’d end up with a huge “tableful” of food – just like at a real potluck. Downside, of course, is that we can’t actually eat anything on that table – but through visiting each other’s blogs and commenting, it would be almost like sharing a meal together.
Happily, a bunch of other bloggers loved the idea and joined in. The great thing about it is that the Potluck welcomes non-vegan bloggers, too. It’s a non-threatening way to challenge omnivores to create a plant-based recipe, and it invites them to learn about veganism and realize how much variety and deliciousness there can be on a plant-based table.
CV: What vegan product could you not live without?
AO: Of course, there are so many that I love and use if not every day, then at least several times a week. But I have to go with Bragg Liquid Aminos. Despite my initial reluctance to try it – I mean, what the heck are liquid aminos? – I really can’t live without it. I use it all of the time: in salad dressings, to give saltiness to soups and stews, in dips/sauces, to marinate tofu and tempeh – it’s just got great flavor.
AO: My wildest dreams are pretty simple, but I’ve learned that even simple dreams are sometimes difficult to see through. I would love to be settled into my completely off-the-grid dream home – one that my husband and I design and tailor to our unique requirements on a large piece of open land. We’ve talked and sketched and researched now for over 10 years and, well, we are really no closer to making it a reality. We ain’t getting any younger! So perhaps it is a wild dream! Wish us luck in making it happen!
Thank you so much for inviting me to share the news of my first cookbook and my thoughts on Chic Vegan!
A signed copy of ONE of the following from Jazzy Vegetarian:
- Jazzy Vegetarian Classics Cookbook
- China Study All-Stars Cookbook
- Best of Jazzy Vegetarian DVD set
One 1/2 pound bag of Todd’s Seeds Sprouting Seeds Mix
All of the following NuNaturals products:
- 1 bottle of Peppermint-Flavored Stevia Liquid
- 1 bottle of plain NuStevia Liquid
- 1 50-packet box of NuStevia No Carbs Stevia Powder
- 1 bottle of Cocoa Syrup
- Bonus product
A copy of Annie’s e-book, Crave. Eat. Heal. Outtakes.