Lindsey Nixon is the face and voice behind the Happy Herbivore and the author of two Happy Herbivore cookbooks. Many of the recipes are gluten free, and most feature commonly found ingredients. Its proof that eating a plant based diet is not only easy but delicious, family and budget friendly. A native New Yorker, Nixon currently resides in a Colorado ski town where she finds her supermarkets and several restaurants to be vegan friendly. Nixon attended law school, but as with most of us, her life took quite a few twists and turns to become the Happy Herbivore!
I recently had a chance to chat with her about life, dogs, chocolate and most of all, great and easy recipes! Like Nixon, my son decided at a young age to not eat meat (his birth parents were vegan, and he was taught to never eat something with a face) and we, as a family, have been supportive of his decision. Her journey to a plant based lifestyle was a little different from Little Man’s. She explains, “I was a vegetarian for most of my life out of a love for animals. I saw a cow when I was eating a burger and that was it for me. I lapsed back into eating meat again in my teens from peer pressure and family pressure.”
Unfortunately, when she made the decision to become a vegetarian, her family was less than supportive. “(they) would often give me food that contained meat in it, and lie and say it was vegetarian, but because my stomach was not used to eating meat, I would then feel sick and throw up and not understand why. When I put it all together later in life (when you're 8 you just don't put these sorts of things together), it was crushing.” However, as time has gone on, her family is beginning to also adopt a meat free lifestyle. “My sister has been vegan for over a year, and my parents are working there way there, eating vegan 4 days a week. Same with my in-laws. They were less than thrilled when their son (my husband) adopted a plant-based diet, but now my mother-in-law tries keeps pretty close to a vegan diet and my father-in-law still eats fish he catches on occasion, but otherwise sticks to plants.”
Nixon has some great advice for parents whose children are making the choice to be vegetarian or vegan:
Support them. Even if it's not what you feel is right for you, or what you want, Support them because not supporting them will damage your relationship in the long run, and the damage could be permanent.
Throughout your child's life, they are going to make decisions you don't agree with. They will have dreams for themselves that may not align with the dreams you have for your child -- so the sooner you learn to support them, despite what you feel or want, the better.
"Love and respect" is such a valuable lesson and you can teach your child that by supporting them even when you don't agree with them.
Nixon is a self taught chef. (She states “Culinary school would have been cheaper.. and more useful!”) Most of her recipes evolved out of “trying to replicate recipes that I used to eat that were either not vegan or not healthy, I'll create something on the fly or I'll be inspired by an ingredient. For example I saw a beautiful bunch of chard I couldn't pass up so I took it home and created a recipe for it.” Like most cooks, she has had some successes and some epic fails. One of her biggest kitchen mistakes was when she “accidentally put cumin instead cinnamon in a baked good once == that was pretty gross”. One surprise was soy sauce on mashed potatoes. “Maybe I just like soy sauce too much”, she joked.
Like James Bond, cooks have their secret weapons. Nixon’s essential kitchen tool is a “really good knife.” Likewise, the food she can’t live without is kale and biggest guilty food pleasure is German chocolate (who knew it was vegan?). In addition to cooking for people, she also cooks for her pugs. “They're on a home cooked diet. There are plenty of great vegan dog foods on the market but I feel guilty giving them dried out, processed food when I refuse to eat anything but fresh, whole foods myself.”
Having lived a variety of places, Nixon has been able to maintain a plant based diet, whether its in New York City or backpacking across Europe and Africa. It was shocking when she mentioned that New York wasn’t as vegan friendly as one might think. “New York City, my home town, has this great reputation for being vegan-friendly, but I disagree. While there are a lot of vegan restaurants in NYC, they're condensed to a certain area and if you don't live or work there, it's not easy to get to them and all the restaurants in between don't have many options -- nothing on the menu, you have to adapt selections such as leaving cheese off, etc etc. I found it frustrating the last two times I was home.” Los Angeles was the most vegan friendly city she has lived in, saying that “produce was really cheap and just about EVERY restaurant had clearly marked vegan options on the menu. There were also many totally vegan and totally vegetarian restaurants.” Nixon spent the last year on a island in the Carribean where “no one knew the word vegan” before relocating to Colorado.
She offers some advice for families trying to adopt a more plant based lifestyle, “adopt meatless mondays. Have a meat-free night one or more nights a week. Replace meat with beans or tofu in family-favorite recipes.” These are all simple, do-able changes. Both of her cookbooks feature recipes that many carnivorous family members would not even guess where meat free, let alone vegan. In addition, there are weekly meal plans available for purchase at her website, www.happyherbivore.com. As she states, they are “designed around how I eat; there is a breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a small dessert and two snacks during the day.”
One dessert she has created is Chocolate Mug Cake, which is super easy and made in the microwave. My son had a blast making his own personal cake (unfortunately, he ate his so fast I couldn’t get a picture)!
Chocolate Mug Cake
Chocolate cake? check. Single-Serving? check. Made nearly instantly? Oh yeah! This whole-wheat chocolate cake goes from flour to in your mouth in under 5 minutes.
4 tbsp white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp nondairy milk
¼+ cup unsweetened applesauce
2-3 tbsp vegan chocolate chips
In a small bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and cinnamon together, set aside. For a really sweet cake, add more sugar. In another small bowl, whisk ¼ cup applesauce, nondairy milk, and a drop or two of vanilla extract together. Pour wet into dry, then add chips, stirring to combine. Add another 1-2 tbsp of applesauce, until the batter is wet and resembles regular cake batter. Pour batter into a coffee cup, and microwave for three minutes (at 1000 watts).
Per Serving: 276 Calories, 4.1g Fat, 59.3g Carbohydrates, 7.8g Fiber, 31.6g Sugar, 8.3g