[This post is part of an ongoing series of interviews with cookbook authors, bloggers, women entrepreneurs and home chefs whose work I enjoy and admire. If you’ve got someone in mind you’d like me to approach for an interview, please shoot me an email at email@example.com, or leave a comment here and let me know! And now, enjoy today’s installment!]
I’ve known Marni Wasserman, plant-based chef, cookbook author and healthy living advocate, for several years now. I first met Marni shortly after I graduated from nutrition school and began to teach cooking classes in my home, way back in 2005! Since then, I’ve watched with interest as her career in the holistic nutrition field has grown–and soared.
After offering private cooking classes for many years, Marni recently opened her expansive, beautiful Food Studio and Lifestyle Shop on Eglinton Avenue West in Toronto. From there, she’s able to reach more people, teach about healthy eating and living, and provide other resources for anyone looking to improve their diets with plant-based, healthy foods. Her recipes are filled with nutrition-dense superfoods, simple to prepare and sure to make a convert out of anyone waffling about whether or not a vegan diet can taste good and satisfy major appetites.
Q. You’ve been involved in healthy eating for quite some time. . .in fact, I remember when you came to my house for several of my cooking classes, back in the day! What prompted your interest in holistic nutrition, and how did you end up running a cooking studio?
A. I have always had a love for food and especially healthy food. When I first came to your cooking classes, I was loving the idea of going to classes and that prompted me to want to teach classes. I had taken a few around the city and then I made the decision to go to school for nutrition and then culinary school, and that became the next logical step for me, to open a cooking studio. It was just natural for me to share my passion for cooking and nutrition through classes, and now I have been doing it for almost seven years!
Q. You also seem to have endless energy—you published two books in the past year! Tell us about each of the books and how you came to write them.
A. I have no idea where this energy comes from. Must be all the good plant based food 🙂 My first book deal with Wiley came after I wrote an article in Chatelaine [magazine] about fermented foods. They contacted me to see if I was interested in being the author for that book title. When that was complete, we discussed doing the Plant-Based Diet book, which was a no brainer for me. I am not really sure how I wrote two books in a year but some how it all came together. I am just super excited to have the Plant-Based Diet book because it has so much amazing information that I just want to share with everyone.
Q. What’s your recommendation for an easy-to-make fermented food people can make at home? Do you have a recipe to recommend?
A. Most definitely sauerkraut! It is so simple to make. All you need is cabbage and salt! [see Marni’s Simple Sauerkraut recipe at the end of this post].
Q. I really enjoyed reading Plant-Based Diet for Dummies. You cover so many key points in a clear and easily approachable way. What would you say is the main stumbling block for people who may be curious but hesitant to bring more plant-based foods into their lives?
A. One of the biggest stumbling blocks I have come across is that people fear they will not get full or get enough protein on a plant based diet. It is an area that I have spent so much time on in my classes and with my clients. I have made sure to outline all the different sources of protein in the book, as well show people how to make balanced, filling plates so that they are nourished and not looking for more!
Q. What are your favorite three recipes from the book?
I love the banana bread, guacamole [see below] and the pesto pasta – but so hard to choose because I love them all!
Thanks so much, Marni! And thanks for sharing that guacamole recipe with RH readers–I got to try a sample at the book launch, and let me tell y’all, it’s spectacular. If you already love guacamole, Marni’s recipe takes it up a notch, adding extra protein and a subtle sweetness via the peas that is irresistible. If you’ve never had guacamole before, this is the perfect recipe to get you started!
Marni offers plant-based cooking classes and other information daily through her cooking studio in Toronto. She also appears at a variety of events and expos where she advocates a plant-based lifestyle for health. If you’d like to know more about Marni, check out her website, or follow her on Facebook, instagram, or twitter or Pinterest.
Sweet Pea Guacamole
used with permission from Plant-Based for Dummies by Marni Wasserman (Wiley)
This guacamole is smooth and flavorful, with a very subtle sweetness from the peas. A perfect combination of healthy fats and protein!
1 cup (240 ml) frozen organic green peas, or fresh when in season, blanched
4 green onions, cut into 2-inch (10 cm) slices
3-5 Tbsp (45-75 ml) freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) ground coriander
1/4 tsp (1 ml) powdered garlic, or 1 clove fresh garlic, peeled
8 sprigs parsley
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped, or 1/4 tsp (1 ml) hot sauce (optional)
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
2 large ripe avocados
3/4 cup (180 ml) chopped tomatoes
Put the peas, green onions, lemon or lime juice, cumin, coriander, garlic parsley, jalapeno (if desired) and salt in a food processor and process until well blended and smooth.
Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop out the flesh into a medium mixing bowl.
Mash the avocados and mix in the ingredients from the food processor.
Stir in the tomatoes and adjust the seasoning to taste.
Serve with organic corn tortilla chips, slices of jicama, or whole-grain crackers. Makes 10 servings.
Tip: For a flavor boost, top this dip off with an extra squirt of lime juice and a dash of fine sea salt.
Suitable for: ACD Stage 2 and beyond; sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free, nut free, yeast-free, vegan, low glycemic.
BONUS RECIPE! Simple Sauerkraut from Fermenting for Dummies (used with permission).
As Marni tells, us, “Lacto-fermentation is a natural biological process in which sugars and starches are converted into lactic acid. The presence of lactic acid makes it easier for foods to be absorbed in the digestive tract. In addition to enhancing digestibility and improving the bioavailability of nutrients and minerals, fermented foods also enhance the vitamin levels and produce helpful enzymes that act as catalysts to keep your body functioning optimally.”
[Photo of cultured vegetables I made in a similar way to the sauerkraut–this jar also contains carrot and daikon radish in addition to red cabbage.]
One head of cabbage
Peel off any damaged outer leaves and quarter the cabbage. Remove the hard core and shred the
remaining cabbage with a knife. You may also use a food processor.
Place cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle 2 – 4 tbsp. of salt over cabbage. Squeeze the cabbage
repeatedly or press firmly on the cabbage with a wooden utensil to bruise the cabbage and encourage it
to release its juice.
Transfer cabbage and liquid to sterile jar. Press down firmly on cabbage. Make sure there aren’t
any air bubbles! If you still don’t have enough natural brine to cover all of the cabbage, mix 1 tsp. of
salt in 1 cup of water and pour over the mixture until the cabbage is completely submerged.
If necessary, add a weight such as a water-filled jar or saucer to keep the cabbage under the brine.
Cover your jar with a lid.
Keep jar at room temperature for 3-4 weeks. Skim off any scum or mold you may see. This may be an
indication that there is too much air.
When you’ve achieved the desired tenderness and flavour, transfer cabbage to fridge. Serve as a
condiment or eat alone.
Suitable for: ACD all stages; sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free, nut free, yeast-free, vegan, low glycemic.
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