Questions about the Vegan Cookie Fairy/Clem:
Who are you?
I’m an old cat lady hiding in the body of a twenty-one-year-old student. I love beautiful words and good food, preferably both together, and shared with agreeable company. I’m originally from Belgium, and I speak three and a half languages. You can read all about me in my About Me page.
What do you do?
My job as a copywriter pays for the baking ingredients.
Why did you become vegan?
You can ready my story on my About Me page.
What’s a typical day of eating like for you?
Breakfast I love to start my day with a green monster. What’s that? It’s a green smoothie (green because of the spinach! If you just pulled a face, let me explain: it turns green but doesn’t taste of spinach at all. Pinky promise) high in nutrients. It keeps me fuelled for hours. Sometimes I will make myself porridge with fruits, seeds and nut butter, or pancakes.
Lunch is usually a packed lunch: a fresh salad + carbs (couscous, quinoa, pasta or wholegrain bread) + protein (beans, lentils, pulses).
If I’m at home, it could be leftovers from dinner, a pasta and veg meal, or a big salad.
Dinner I love soup and chunky bread in the evenings; it’s my ultimate comfort food. I also like to have a curry (Thai is my favourite, as well as Indian thali). If I’m really tired or not too hungry, good ol’ beans on toast works fine.
Snacks Cake is a snack, right? I also love snacking on Nakd bars, vegan protein bars, trailmix, rice cakes with peanut butter. Guilty pleasure: dipping a piece (or five) of dark chocolate into a jar of peanut butter = instant peanut butter cup.
Dessert Or as I like to think of it, puddin’! That is, after all, what this blog is all about. I will eat whatever I bake for this blog. Naturally, I love chocolate, naturally, but also have a fondness for cake and cookies.
Tell us more about your cat!
Mali is a Bengal with some misshaped patterns, and I’ve been looking after him for the past 11 years and a bit, since I was twelve and he was two months old. He’s my baby.
Who’s that woman who always leaves a comment??
That’s my mum, my most fervent fan! 🙂
Questions about the Vegan Cookie Fairy/Clem:
When and why did you start The Vegan Cookie Fairy?
I created this blog in the summer of 2011. I loved baking for my friends, who then suggested I should start a blog. Who doesn’t have a blog these days, right? I gave it a go, though my beginnings were very amateurish. I deleted most of my early posts because it just makes me cringe to even think of them. I didn’t take it seriously as first, but blogging and experimenting with vegan cooking and baking became a passion,.
Any tips on how to customise a blog?
For a twenty-four-year-old, I’m rather technically challenged. Coding and fancy softwares don’t come naturally to me. It’s been a very slow learning process, and I have much more to learn still, but generally, I just Google something (as you do, these days) and research until I know what I need to know. My boyfriend created my header for me. The rest, I did myself. I had a friend put Adobe Photoshop and InDesign on my laptop and am slowly learning how to use these programmes.
Which camera do you use, and which equipment?
I use a Canon 550D (took me ages to save up for it!) and the lens that came with it, an 18-55mm. It’s a basic lens, but it works. Someday I hope to save enough to purchase a good macro lens and a decent flash. I have a tripod that cost me £8 at a car boot sale.
For my backgrounds I have a large piece of pretty fabric I got for £5 at a fabric shop, and some bed sheets. Sometimes I just smooth out the duvet on my bed and shoot a photo right there; usually I drape a light-coloured piece of fabric over my furniture so that it falls smooth onto the floor, and shoot the pictures there. I have a couple of pieces of painted cardboard (a white and a golden one) to reflect light. Aluminium foil works, too.
To learn more about photography techniques, Jamie Oliver has some helpful videos on his Youtube channel, Foodtube. I also have the book From Pixel to Plate, which is very helpful on all matters food photography.
For plates and other props, I use the cutlery and other kitchenware I got from my parents when I moved out of their house. I also have a few bits and pieces I got from charity shops, and some pretty plates and crockery I bought from Butlers. My dad made me a big blackboard when I was a teenager, so I could study better, and I’ve still got it; it’s now a background, a table, a wall, whatever I need it to be.
Questions about veganism:
What does “vegan” mean?
A vegan diet is a wholly plant-based, cruelty-free diet. It means one does not consume any animal by-products. No meat, no dairy, no eggs. If it comes from an animal, assume it does not fall within the requirements of a vegan diet.
For some, it ends with food – for others, that also includes other products such as clothing (leather and wool, for example), and even other every day items like candles (beeswax). You choose for yourself how strict you want this lifestyle to be.
Do you never consume any animal by-products? Isn’t it hard?
I know it’s impossible to be 100% vegan all of the time. I’m only human, and so I try my best. It was easy when I lived in London, where I was blessed with an abundance of supermarkets, independent local shops and food markets. If I needed something but couldn’t find it in one place, I could always look for it elsewhere (that includes online). It got tricky when I moved to Scotland because towns are far and few in-between, but there are health food stores and online shopping. You just have to be a bit more organised.
Vegan diets are becoming more widely accepted and are now catered for in most restaurants. So is it hard for me to be vegan on a day-to-day basis? No, not at all.
When I’m travelling, sometimes it’s a different matter. Not every country in the world makes it as easy to be vegan. For example: when I visit my dad in South Africa, I know it might be hard to avoid dairy in pre-packaged foods because out there, consuming animal products just isn’t a big issue. When I was travelling in India, I constantly had to ask if dishes contained egg or yogurt, and sometimes couldn’t avoid it all (the language barrier didn’t help). I give in to the occasional non-vegan chocolate. Like I said, nobody’s perfect, but we can try.
I also avoid buying wool and leather in clothing and furniture. There are more and more vegan clothing brands popping up every year; Beyond Skin is a great brand of shoes, for example, though they’re a little pricy so I look at them as an investment.
I’m thinking of switching to a vegan/plant-based diet, where do I start?
Check out the tips I have below, they will make your transition effortless.
First of all, I recommend doing your research. The worst thing you could do is dive headfirst into a new lifestyle without knowing what you’re getting yourself into. I recommend the following books and websites:
The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone
Veganist by Kathy Freston
Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn
Skinny Bitch (I’m a bit uncomfortable with the ttile of the book but it does present the cold hard facts of the meat and dairy industries and is very well-researched)
The China Study (a big scientific book, but again it presents the facts)
Some cookbooks I own and love:
The Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Moskowitz and Romero
Crazy Sexy Kitchen by the fabulous Kris Carr , with Chef Chad Sarno
Raw Food Essentials by Annie Phyo
Oh She Glows
Happy Healthy Life
This Rawsome Vegan Life
The Simple Veganista
Cooking with Lysa
http://www.kriscarr.com (Kris Carr’s website, author of Crazy Sexy Cancer, Crazy Sexy Juices & Smoothies, Crazy Sexy Kitchen)
Earthlings (warning: not for the faint-hearted)
Hungry For Change
Forks Over Knives (the first vegan documentary I ever saw — a must-see)
And this video by Gary Yourofsky will change your life.
I think it’s important to recognise you may get some resistance from friends, family and strangers, but don’t take it all too much to heart–they simply haven’t done the research you have. Try not to force all this new information down their throats; rather suggest some reading for them and try to calmly explain why you’re making this new move in your life. My family was worried at first, but that just shows they love me. My mum actually follows my blog religiously (as you may notice, she comments every. single. time) and is now very much in favour of my diet.
Once you try out a few recipes you can start adapting your old favourites. Experimenting in the kitchen is the most fun part of this lifestyle change — so enjoy it!
Have you got any tips for newbie vegans?
1. Keep it simple. I think most newbie vegans often struggle with the shift because they over-think their new lifestyle. Remember that being vegan is all about living a simpler lifestyle that supports the planet, its animals and inhabitants. No need to consumer lots of processed, albeit vegan products like faux-cheeses and faux-meats. All you need are fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, pulses, nuts and seeds. That’s it.
2. Adding, not eliminating: Most people oppose a vegan diet because they think you have to eliminate lots of food groups. That is not the case. Think of all that you are adding to your diet: think more fruits, more vegetables, more pulses, beans and nuts. Where you have a portion of meet or dairy on your plate, add a side salad or an extra portion of roasted vegetables. Instead of having yogurt for dessert, have a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts. You will never have to deprive yourself with this lifestyle — ever.
3. Share new recipes. When you tell people about new lifestyle or diet, they might try to persuade you otherwise simply because they’re unfamiliar with it. The best way to help your friends and family understand your new choice is to share it with them — bake a batch of biscuits, cookies, or make a cake, or a pasta dish. (Maybe not a salad — most people respond favourably to comfort foods 😉 Once they see that the food you eat is delicious, they will be more inclined to be understanding.
4. Be prepared to change your lifestyle. You cannot change your diet dramatically and still expect to be able to eat all your old comfort foods. Sure, you can replace real meat and dairy products with processed ‘faux’ meat and cheese alternatives, but that’s not really healthy. It’s ok to indulge in them on occasion, but definitely not as part of your every day diet. The whole point of a vegan diet is that with every bite of food you eat, you treat the planet, the animals and yourself better. This is a kind, compassionate diet — for you and for the rest of the world.
But isn’t it expensive to be vegan?
If you survive on prepackaged, processed vegan meals, yes, it absolutely is. But so is any diet.
If, however, you prepare most meals yourself with fresh, simple, local ingredients, it isn’t. I survive on £30 a week ($45.55). I try to eat as clean as possible — that means that I stick to unprocessed vegetables, fruits, lentils, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, with the occasional ready-made meal thrown in there when I’m really short of time.
Shopping at local markets helps loads. I notice that when I shop in supermarkets my bill is nearly always over-budget because everything is packaged, and that’s what you pay for. I now get my weekly fruit and veg delivered to my door. The produce is grown on a local Scottish organic farm, and only costs me £12. Yes, you read that right.
Questions about food/recipes:
Where do you do your grocery shopping?
You can read about where I used to shop for food when I lived in London here. As mentioned in the previous question, now that I live in Scotland I get my organic produce delivered to my door. The rest (grains, beans, flour, milk, chocolate, etc.) I buy from the local supermarket.
What’s a Green Monster?
This post explains it all! Basically a Green Monster is a green smoothie: green because it contains spinach, which is what gives it an alien colour. You can’t taste the ‘greenness’ though, pinky promise!
How do I substitute eggs in baking?
Eggs are kind of a magic ingredient. They act as binder, rising agent, thickener, they give colour. There are some things only eggs can do (think of pavlovas and meringues: you need egg whites for that). But it’s not impossible to bake and cook without eggs. These articles can help you: one, two. The number one thing you want to remember when replacing eggs in a recipe is to ask yourself what the egg does in the original recipe: is it added for moistness? As a binder? To bulk up the batter? To help the cake rise? Then you can decide how to alter your recipe.
Which blender/food processor do you use?
I have a Kenwood blender, which came as an attachment with my Kenwood Chef Classic. It works great as a blender, unfortunately I’ve been rather overzealous with it: sometimes I use it as many as three times a day, which is a bit too much for the poor fella. I’ve just purchased a Vitamix and love it. High-speed blenders make such a difference. I don’t have a food processor due to lack of counter top space.
Which juicer do you use?
I use the Andrew James Professional Juicer. I don’t juice too regularly, so for me it’s perfect: powerful enough and fairly easy to clean. I put a compost bag in the pulp container so I can easily toss the fruit and vegetable pulp into the compost bin.
If you have any questions, drop me a line! firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to hear from my readers, so if you’ve tried one of my recipes, take a picture and email it to me 🙂