Cookbook author Ilene Godofsky Moreno reveals how colourful plant based cooking doesn’t need to be complicated
For New York-based Ilene Godofsky Moreno, twenty years of suffering from severe allergies and stomach issues, prompted her to look beyond prescription medications and to start thinking about her own diet in relation to health.
After spending too much time following complicated plant based recipes and spending too much money on exotic ingredients. A blog has now turned into a cookbook, with Ilene determined to share her enthusiasm for colourful, plant based cooking and to show how fun and easy it can be.
Congratulations on the release of your new cookbook. Can you tell us a little about your own plant based journey?
I was simply tired of feeling sick all the time. I had heard of the macrobiotic diet as a magical cure-all and I was desperate so I decided to give it a shot. I was already a vegetarian but my diet mostly consisted of faux ‘chicken’ nuggets and grilled cheese so the whole foods in the macrobiotic cookbook I bought were totally foreign to me.
I started making all my own food, eating whole grains, and fresh produce and staying away from dairy and processed food. The results were practically instant — my allergies let up, my stomach problems disappeared and after a month I was able to go off all my medications.
Why did you decide to release The Colorful Kitchen?
My background is in textile design so I started looking at cooking the same way I approached my design work — by utilizing elements like colour, texture and balance to come up with recipes that are ‘colourful, not complicated’.
I wanted to create the kind of cookbook that I wish I had had ten years ago when I decided to start eating more plants and less junk. The recipes all call for familiar ingredients, without requiring any crazy kitchen gadgets or hard-to-find superfoods.
I see many of the recipes in the book as starting points or templates, where readers can swap in their favourite ingredients and really make the recipes their own.
How did you learn to cook great, plant based food?
I became interested in plant based food when I was in college and had my own apartment and kitchen to start experimenting in, so I basically learned to cook by trial and error and making a huge a mess!
I really love cookbooks, so most of my education came from trying out recipes from different kinds of cookbooks, then putting my own spin on them. There were definitely some major flops along the way!
What is your signature dish?
Sweet Potato & Greens Mac n’ Cheese. We have this for dinner at least once a week in my house because it’s the ultimate comfort food. It’s been a big hit on my blog as well, and many readers have told me that they’ve made it for family members who are usually sceptical of anything labelled “vegan” and they love it too.
What recipes are your favourites from the book?
I love the Peachy Tahini Sunshine Smoothie. I wrote most of the book while I was pregnant with my daughter, and this recipe was born out of pregnant lady cravings. It has peaches, carrots, tahini and dates in it and the unanimous response from my recipes was that they were surprised how delicious the combination was because the ingredient list sounded so weird.
For dessert, the No-Bake Strawberry Macaroons are one of my favourite recipes. They’re very simple to make, plus they’re only sweetened with maple syrup so you could eat them for breakfast!
How do you approach ‘veganising’ a classic dish?
Whenever I set out to ‘veganise’ a dish I used to eat before I was vegan, I start by remembering what I liked about it. For example, there’s a Creamy Baked Kale and Artichoke Dip in my book and for that recipe I thought about classic artichoke dip being super creamy, savoury and salty. To replicate those qualities, I blended coconut milk and white beans to make a creamy base and used lemon juice, nutritional yeast, onion and garlic to make it salty and savoury.
Many people believe eating plant based means eating healthily. What are your thoughts on this?
By making plants the centre of your diet, you’re guaranteeing that you’re putting a variety of nutrients on your plate. Different coloured fruits and vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals, so when you fill your plate with a rainbow of colour, you’re getting a plate full of goodness!
Plant based implies that you’re eating your vegetables and that’s always a good thing! You can definitely avoid plants and follow a vegan diet by relying heavily on processed foods (I did it for a few years!) but I think you’re truly missing out. Even if your only vegetable for the day is a handful of spinach in a smoothie that’s still a great start.
What is the best thing about being plant based?
I never get bored! There are so many ways to get creative with plants and so many different varieties of fruits, vegetables and grains, etc. Focusing on plant based food has really opened my eyes to wonders of seasonal produce and eating with the seasons. Shopping at the farmer’s market is the highlight of my week because there’s always something new coming into peak season and I love seeing all the colours!
If somebody is starting out trying to move to a plant based diet, what would your advice be?
Start small! It can be so overwhelming to try and overhaul your diet overnight. I recommend starting with one meal a day — or per week even! A great place to start is with a green smoothie for breakfast (like the Go-To Green Smoothie in my book). If you find a recipe that you love and you feel great after drinking it that shows that you’re on to something good! Stick with that smoothie recipe and try swapping in different nut butters or greens until you’re comfortable with a few new ingredients and ready to experiment with another meal.
If you’re new to cooking or to the world of plant-based foods, invite a friend over for a cooking party! When I first started experimenting in the kitchen, I loved to throw dinner parties so I could try out my creations with friends. If the recipes were a flop we had something to laugh about and if they were great they tasted even better in good company!
- The Colorful Kitchen: Simple, Plant-based Recipes for Vibrancy, Inside and Out by Ilene Godofsky Moreno is set to be released this December 2017.