There are so many ways to be a Vegan activist and educate people about compassionate food choices. Obviously cooking and sharing recipes is one of my favorite ways to make my Vegan voice heard.
A friend of mine, Gary Loewenthal, who is the co-founder of Compassion for Animals and founder of the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale, came up with the wonderful idea of veganizing recipes on non-vegan web sites and commenting on them (read an interview Our Hen House did with Gary about his idea here). I did this for a while on one of the recipe sites but then I found something I enjoy much more.
My favorite television cooking show, Cooking Channel’s Bitchin’ Kitchen, has a very active online community where fans of the show share recipes, photos, and friendship. Every week there is a Supperclub Challenge where fans are encouraged to make their version of host Nadia G’s recipes. So I thought why not make Vegan versions of the challenge dishes?
At first I was a bit worried because on the show (which is comedy as well as cooking), there is often gentle teasing about Vegans and Vegan food. But that only made me more determined to show them a different viewpoint about compassionate eating. So I started participating in the Supperclub Challenges and posting pictures of my own dishes on their Facebook page. Well, they could not have welcomed me more warmly!
The Bitchin’ Kitchen Crew, including Nadia G herself, compliment my dishes, ask questions about substitutions and have even defended me the rare times anyone on the page has made negative comments about Vegans (really, we are NOT all thin and pasty). Last summer, they held a nationwide contest for 5 winners to have their recipes included in Nadia G’s 2nd cookbook, Cookin’ For Trouble.
I remember smiling as I posted, “I think you should include my recipe because you do have Vegan fans and we let you make fun of us.”
So I entered the contest and much to my shock, I won!! My Tofu Piccata recipe was published in the Community Chapter of Nadia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen Cooking’ For Trouble. I was thrilled! My Vegan (and gluten-free) recipe was published in a mainstream cookbook for all the world to see and try! Even better was that the winning dishes were chosen for taste. As Nadia wrote, “…the competition was fierce!…But there could only be five winners and these next recipes rose to the top.” Honestly, I am still in shock and look at the cookbook at least once a day to gaze in wonderment at my name on the page…and in the index 🙂
But something else pleased me almost as much as having my recipe be part of Cookin’ For Trouble (and knowing that Nadia G knows who I am) and that was what felt to me like a shift in attitude towards Veganism in the book. Like in Nadia G’s first Bitchin’ Kitchen Cookbook: Rock Your Kitchen and Let the Boys Clean Up the Mess, there is a chapter dedicated to veggie dishes but there is so much more. Mine is not the only Vegan recipe in the book; there is a Vegan Dark Chocolate and Caramelized Banana Pie that is to die for. Nadia also debunks vegetarian myths and there is a lot less teasing.
On the Bitchin’ Kitchen Facebook page, there are several fans of the show who are vegetarian and Vegan and many who say they are trying to eat less meat and dairy. They ask about alternatives and show a lot of interest and enthusiasm about the dishes I post on the page. I share my recipes and love for Vegan food and I am always respectful of everyone in the community. After all, I am a guest on their page. I like to think that by being a friendly Vegan voice in such a fun mainstream environment, I may have played a small part in bringing about some awareness and acceptance of what was once the butt of many jokes.
Being part of the Bitchin’ Kitchen community has done a lot of good for me as well. Not only did my confidence get a Bitchin’ Boost when I won the contest but every week, my creativity and imagination get pushed as I attempt to Veganize (and deglutenize) the Supperclub Challenge. Some are tougher than others and I’ve done Vegan versions of chili, Borscht, pasta dishes, and some creepy Halloween treats.
One of my favorite Supperclub Challenges was Pumpkin Gnocchi. I had never made my own pasta before and I had to make it both Vegan and gluten-free. I also made my own Lemon Cashew Cream and a Spiced Butter Sauce to go with the gnocchi. I was surprised how easy it was to make! I’m so glad I learned this because Vegan gnocchi is hard enough to find but gluten-free, Vegan gnocchi is near impossible!
Being part of the Bitchin’ Kitchen community is such a joy to me. I am very grateful to Nadia G, the BK Crew (especially Angelique) and fans for welcoming my Vegan voice into their community. My Vegan and gluten-free version of Nadia G’s Pumpkin Gnocchi is so beautiful and delicious, it will impress everyone at your table. Delicious food, just like friendly, respectful activism, can bring people together and show that we are all more alike than we are different.
Gluten-Free Pumpkin Gnocchi in Spiced Butter Sauce with Lemon Cashew Cream
For the Lemon Cashew Cream
1 cup cashews, raw or roasted
¾ cup water
Juice and zest of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Mix until the cream is thickened and smooth. Set aside.
For the Pumpkin Gnocchi and Spiced Butter Sauce
2 Tbs. ground flaxseed in 6 Tbs. water
2 cups pumpkin puree
2 ½ cups brown rice flour
¼ cup potato starch
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1/3 cup vegan butter
2 Tbs. olive oil
¼ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated vegan parmesan
In a cup, combine the flaxseed and water. Mix into a loose paste. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, flour, potato starch, salt, flax gel and nutritional yeast. Mix until it forms a dough. Use your hands to mix the dough until all the ingredients are incorporated. The dough should stick to your fingers but not to the bowl.
Dust some flour on a flat surface. Divide the dough into sections and roll the sections into balls. Then roll each ball into a long tube, about ¾’ in diameter. Press the tines of a fork into the tube to form indentations in the dough.
Cut the tubes into gnocchi pieces.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Gently place the gnocchi into the water and cook for about 2 minutes. They will float to the top when ready. Remove from the water and drain.
In a large saucepan or skillet, melt the butter and olive oil. Add the spices. Add the gnocchi to the pan and coat with the butter sauce. Serve while hot over the Lemon Cashew Cream. Top with grated vegan parmesan, if desired. Enjoy!
The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.