Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Introducing... Home Grown Tomatoes!

We're starting a weekly column here called Home Grown Tomatoes, written by my wonderful cousin and food lover Giovanina Bucci. My love of food, cooking, and health is well documented on here and I thought Giovanina's experiences as a vegan and kitchen experimenter would give all of us some great insight every week. She has proven over and over again in her dishes that you really can make an entire dinner out of healthy vegetable-based ingredients without sacrificing flavor or fullness. Additionally, her dishes are very adaptable and she'll be giving tips on how to change dishes to make them vegetarian instead of vegan, vice versa, and even where you meat lovers can throw in some bacon or chicken if you really need it.

I'm personally excited for Giovanina's recipes because whenever B and I try to eat a vegetarian meal, it's not that we don't like the ingredients, but that we don't have enough ideas of how to cook with them to have an interesting dish. Hopefully Home Grown Tomatoes will help us overcome that problem. Now let's get to know Giovanina!

So, let's just get the dirty laundry out there.. you're a VEGAN. AHHH! I would venture to guess that almost none of our readers are vegan, though some are probably vegetarian, and most are interested in food and their health. Can you tell us how Vegan & Vegetarian recipes can benefit those of us who aren't as strict with our diets?

First off, I completely understand the initial shock people have when I tell them I am a vegan. No cheese? How do you possibly live without cheese? That’s usually the biggest concern. Being that I am Italian, I think my dad nearly fainted when I told him of my choice to become vegan, about two years ago. I think it's some sort of unofficial sin, ridding mozzarella and meatballs from an Italian's diet.

Prior to becoming a vegan, I was a "not so healthy" vegetarian for five years. So in the last seven years, I have been on all ends of the Vegan/Vegetarian spectrum. Healthy, unhealthy, fish, no fish, cheese, no cheese, eggs, no eggs, etc. At this point, however, I feel like I am eating the most conscious and healthful I have ever eaten in my entire life thanks to becoming vegan.

Vegan/Vegetarian recipes have benefited not only my health, but they have also sparked my creativity and they have inspired a whole new passion for cooking. I think, most obviously, vegetables can get boring and therefore completely unappealing to eat and to prepare. Seeing a steamed bowl of once-frozen broccoli on the dinner table doesn't exactly make one jump for joy. The bottom line is, as most of you know, our bodies need vegetables (fresh ones), particularly greens. Not only are they a huge source of nutrients, but much less harsh on our digestive systems.

And although not my sole reasoning for being vegan, enjoying this way of eating has helped significantly in maintaining a much healthier body weight. Frankly put, I’m stubborn. I refuse to eat salads for the rest of my life for the sake of being able to call myself a vegan. Instead I am committed to finding, researching, and creating recipes on this journey to being a happy, full, healthy vegan.

Why was it that you started to dive so passionately into creating your own vegan/vegetarian recipes as opposed to just using what already exists?

When I actually began cooking I followed recipes like it was my job. Most of all, because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing in the kitchen and in order to forgo too much embarrassment, I relied heavily on the knowledge of others. And thank God I did! Truly, cookbooks have been my culinary education, along with tips from friends and family, and the tolerance and willingness of my partner to try everything!

I’m passionate about creating my own recipes for a few different reasons. First and foremost, I don’t want to have to be reliant on someone or something else to help me prepare a dinner. I enjoy being able to go into my kitchen, work with what I have, and create something delicious and hopefully memorable. Secondly, I find in being a vegan, variety is part of the key to success (as cheesy as that sounds). Personally, I believe that’s why many people find this diet so incredibly challenging – just like an egg; you must find 100 different ways to have squash. Once you take all those different options for foods and combine it with the complete abundance of various fruits and vegetables we have in this world, possibilities become endless!

Finally, I love taking what exists in a carnivore’s world and altering it into a vegetarian or vegan friendly dish. There are millions upon millions of fantastic recipes out there that have an abundance of flavor and character that are far from vegan. Flavors, spices, herbs, and marinades are transferable components of these meaty recipes. Why not take them and run?? You can take the BBQ out of the chicken, my friends.

What has been the biggest culinary lesson that you've learned as you've been creating and tweaking recipes for the last few years?

You mean I can only name one? I am being long winded, aren’t I??!! Most importantly, I’ve learned the complete and utter value in having patience. It has taken many culinary mishaps to get to this point, and I continue to endure mistakes in the kitchen on a daily basis. It’s just one of those things that you might as well get over, it’s inevitable. Often, I think we forget about enjoying the process of doing things, not just in cooking. We constantly focus on the outcome, and with food, the outcome is usually gone in about 20 minutes – so enjoy the art of preparation!

What is one ingredient that non-vegans/vegetarians may not know about that would improve their kitchen pantry?

Ah yes, Bragg’s Liquid Amino’s. Unbelievable ingredient. Essentially it is a soy sauce with about 1/10 of the sodium as regular soy sauces. And no, it doesn’t make everything taste like Chinese Food. Many of you may notice that I rarely use salt in my recipes. Bragg’s gives a punch of salty, fabulous flavor without making everything taste salty. I use it in everything from stir-fry’s to dips, soups to dressings. You only need to use a tiny amount – so for me, it has become a cost effective “go to” ingredient.

1 comment:

Food For Tots said...

I am not a vegan but do enjoy eating vegan/ vegetarian food. Btw, tks for dropping by at my blog. ;)

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