Friday, 18 March 2011

My Interview with the authour of The Happy Herbivore, Lindsay Nixon 

Lindsay S. Nixon is a rising star in the culinary world, praised for her ability to use everyday ingredients to create healthy, low fat recipes that taste just as delicious as they are nutritious. Lindsay's recipes have been featured in Vegetarian Times, Women's Health Magazine and on The Huffington Post. Lindsay is also a consulting chef at La Samanna, a luxury resort and four-star restaurant in the French West Indies. You can learn more about Lindsay and sample some of her recipes at

 How long have you been cooking for?

You know, I'm not entirely sure. I was always drawn to cooking in a way, but I was never all that good at it -- at least when I was an omnivore. In college the two meals I tried to make were so bad my roommate nearly broke her teeth eating one. Then when Scott and I were first together, he did all of the cooking because I was so intimidated by it. However, once I went vegan, I realized if I wanted to eat, I'd have to make it myself. That forced my hand, and in the process, I really fell in love with the culinary arts. I was always such a picky eater as an omnivore, that no one was more surprised than me when I turned into a foodie as a vegan.

Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?

It's sort of a mix of trying to find ways to recreate foods I used to love, responding to fan requests and inherent inspiration. For example, I might notice I've totally neglected a certain food, like say kidney beans, so I'll try to develop a recipe that uses them.
(That’s how the Rajma Masala in the cookbook was born!)

 Is cooking a full time job for you or do you work outside of the home as well?

It's a full-time job right now. When I'm writing cookbooks, I can't work because I need a lot of time to create, test, develop and photograph recipes. When I'm not writing I consult for magazines, and a restaurant locally, and work for an online company (my "day job") which is really great about letting me take time off to write. I'd love to one day only focus on cooking.

I have recently heard a lot of news that soy is unhealthy due to high levels of phyto-estrogens. What do you think about this? Do you use many soy products in your cooking?

I think it's important to remember that people have been eating soy for a really long time, and those cultures don't have a medical crisis on their hands the way we do in the U.S. Not that I think soy is a "miracle food" or anything; I just don't buy into a lot of the negativity.

Of course, I do think that excess is probably bad; no one should eat tons of soy and I think that edamame, soymilk, tofu and tempeh are way healthier than processed soy foods, which probably should be avoided anyway.

What a lot of people don't realize, though, is that soy is in a lot of food, particularly convenience foods and processed foods. Even people who swear off soymilk and tempeh, are probably eating a lot of soy unknowingly.

Half of my cookbook is soy-free (there is an icon for it) and of the recipes that do use soy, most of them use a tablespoon of soy sauce or miso paste. I have very few tofu recipes, one recipe for edamame and one for tempeh.

There is more and more publicity about vegetarianism and veganism, it seems like every week a different CEO or celebrity is becoming a vegan. What are your thoughts on this? Is veganism just a trend?

I think veganism is trendy right now, but I don't think it's a trend like a fad diet or hammer pants. I think that all the efforts people have been putting forth over the years to get the word out there, are finally paying off. I think more and more people are seeing the benefits of a vegan diet, are becoming more educated about it, and are getting on board with it. I understand the argument why all this buzz is not great, but personally I think it's wonderful. The more coverage the better. The more we talk about it, the more people can learn. A lot of lives can be saved.

 Many opponents to the vegan lifestyle claim a vegan diet is unhealthy because it is lacking nutrients that only meat can provide? How do you ensure your diet is nutritionally complete?

What people often fail to realize is that if someone, regardless if they are vegan, omnivore or vegetarian, doesn't eat a well balanced diet, they will run into health problems from nutrient deficiency. I had an omnivore friend who kept having low iron, but when she went vegetarian, she "cured" herself with diet alone. I currently have two friends that have Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 deficiencies and they are meat eaters. (B12 is the vitamin most people use to argue against veganism). Anytime a meateater asks me where I get my protien, I ask them where they get their fiber and water-soluble vitamins. ;-)

I eat a varied diet, and I do eat some foods that are fortified, and thankfully, I've never had any sort of deficiency. I know a lot of vegans and omnivores who take multivitamins, and that's probably a good practice for most people.

 What is next for The Happy Herbivore? TV show? New cookbook?

I just signed on two write two more cookbooks, but I still want my own show!

Recipe from The Happy Herbivore

Red Lentil Dal (serves 4) - Dals are essentially thick stews made with lentils and traditional Indian spices. This dal is easy, delicious and cheap. Make it once and it will never leave your regular rotation, I promise.
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp turmeric 
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 c dried red lentils
2 c vegetable broth
1 tomato, chopped (save juices)
3 ounces tomato paste (5 tbsp)
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp garam masala
salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
Line a medium pot with 1/4 cup of water and cook onions and garlic until translucent. Add turmeric, cumin, paprika, and ginger, and cook for another for another 2 minutes, adding water if necessary to prevent sticking and burning. Add lentils, broth, tomato, tomato paste, and coriander, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until lentils are cooked and orange-ish. Add garam masala, stirring to combine, and let rest for 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.
Note: if tomatoes are out of season, use 1/4 cup tomato sauce or two peeled canned tomatoes.

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