Emma Knight from The Greenhouse Juice Co talks to us about branching out and the release of plant based recipe book ‘The Greenhouse Cookbook’
Meet Emily Knight- Co-founder of a famous Canadian health juice brand- Greenhouse Juice Co. If you ever have the opportunity to set your sights on a Greenhouse drink, it might appear as your typical health juice sporting vibrant liquids in chic bottles, but for Emma Knight and her fellow co-founders it signifies the tale of something more. Behind their menu of beautifully nutritious juices and multiple Canadian Cafés is a story of a family of friends who had a vision and chased it. In fact, the idea of starting a cold-pressed juice company felt like a glint for most of them as they brought a beloved old peak-roofed bungalow to start their new business venture together back in late 2013.
Now four-years on they’ve opened over 10 Canadian-based juice cafes, an online store, built a prestigious blog and recently released their first cookbook. We spoke to Emma (one part of the Greenhouse Juice family and project leader of their new plant based cookbook) to learn more about her personal journey into veganism and how it has influenced the The Greenhouse Co. movement.
Congratulations on your new book. You’ve created a really vibrant and pure product, full of hearty but healthy plant-based plates (and juices) that are definitely Instagram-worthy.
Thank you so much for your extremely kind words, and for taking the time to chat with us!
Is this something that took a lot work or did you find it second nature having been part of The Greenhouse Juice Co.?
In the context of a 24/7 start-up, a 100-recipe cookbook was a big project to undertake. But the opportunity to combine our collective passions for cooking, eating, writing, and photography and to create something beautiful and delicious together was pretty exciting for all of us. So we found odds and ends of time, mostly at night and on weekends, and we made it work! From start to finish it took just over two years. I know it’s a cliché to say this, but it was truly a labour of love. And we ate every single morsel pictured in the book immediately after the photo was taken!
What cuisine influences you?
Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, and we have been fortunate to be exposed to a wide variety of cooking styles right here in our hometown. While we are quick to joke that Canadian cooking revolves around maple syrup, the truth is that our cuisine is like a pointillist painting. Each dot is a distinct culture with a rich history of cooking, living in close proximity with another dot with a distinct culture and a rich history of cooking. Zoom out and you’ll find an embarrassment of deliciousness, and I’m willing to brag in a very un-Canadian way that all of this together makes up Canadian cuisine. As such there are dishes in the book inspired by Japanese nasu dengaku (the Miso-Glazed Eggplant on p. 73); by Middle Eastern mujaddara (The Lentils and Brown Rice with Rainbow Chard, Roasted Carrots and Tahini on P. 79); by Filipino pancit (the Spaghetti Squash with Ginger Chili, Lime and Grilled Tofu on p. 70), as well as a French ratatouille, an Indian curry, and on and on it goes. You might also notice that when a sweetener is called for, we default to maple syrup.
Who inspires your cooking style in terms of chefs or bloggers?
Vegetable lovers and local produce enthusiasts we look to for inspiration include Jamie Kennedy, Deborah Madison, Mark Bittman, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Laura Wright, Angela Liddon, Dana Schultz, Ella Mills, and many more.
If someone was thinking of introducing juicing into their diet, are there any tips or benefits you’d like to highlight to them?
It’s all about recreational juicing! Recreational juicing is term that we made up, and we define it as drinking juice whenever the mood strikes, because it tastes good, because it makes you feel good, and because it’s good for you. By separating nutrient-dense juice from the plant solid, you are making it very efficient for your body to absorb the health benefits of a vast quantity of vegetables, without expending the energy required for digestion. So you get an almost immediate energy rush without a crash. However, we don’t believe you have to swear off solids to take advantage of the health benefits of juicing. We love eating! As opposed to replacing a full meal, the role that juice plays in our day is more like that of a snack or a coffee: we see it as a pick-me-up without a catch.
When you were compiling the book how did you decide what recipes were going to make the cut?
The first half of the book contains 50 recipes for plant based, gluten-free breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and treats that we developed just for the book. The second half of the book contains nearly all of the juice, smoothie, nut milk, and tonic recipes that we offer in our stores, adapted for home use. With a very few exceptions, these were not recipes that had been published on our blog, so we weren’t choosing from a pre-existing list; we were making up a collection of new recipes from scratch! Every recipe balances health with deliciousness. That’s our rule! We don’t believe in choosing between the two.
What are your favourite recipes in the book?
It would be impossible to choose! I have too many favourites. The Very Veggie Curry with Exploded Yellow Lentils (p. 87) is spicy and unique (try adding green peas for a touch of sweetness!). The Spiralized Courgette Mac and Cheese is a simple, plant-based version of a comfort food classic. The Raw Dark Chocolate Bars with Fig Base are wildly yummy. And as far as liquids go, my favourite juice is The Good and my favourite smoothies are Rococoa , Rio Deal, and Wild Oats.
If someone’s just started their journey into veganism and is finding the diet adaptations tricky- or boring, what cooking advice would you give them?
I would advise exercising caution when it comes to cashews! Many cheese and cream substitutes use cashews as a base, and if you’re doing this a lot, after a while there is a risk that everything will start to taste the same. Try using Brazil nuts (which are rich in selenium) or sunflower seeds (which are less expensive, typically) as alternatives. I would also recommend branching out from your go-to vegetables, herbs, and spices. We all have our favourites, but venturing outside your comfort zone to choose a daunting-looking winter squash instead of your usual sweet potato, say, or something texturally different like okra, helps to keep things interesting.
Have you ever tried to veganise an old classic into a juice or plant-based dish? If so, how did you approach it?
Yes! The Scottish Oatcakes (p. 107) are a good example. My mum and I worked on this one together, and initially we were both sceptical that we would be able to create a satisfactory oatcake texture without butter. The key to our success here was the discovery of dearomatised coconut oil—it has the same consistency as coconut oil without the coconut taste, which would have overpowered the oatcake and turned it into something else altogether.
Do you thinking opting for a healthy take on plant-based food is important if you are vegan or transitioning?
Absolutely! We believe in creating simple, delicious ways to savour the moment while looking out for a healthy future—ours and that of our planet.