This month, I am so pleased to introduce Heather Bell and Jenny Engle who are the Spork Food sisters. Heather and Jenny live in LA and I am in NYC, but we run into each other regularly at food shows and other events, as the sisters are food ambassadors for several of my favorite food companies. If you are in the LA area, or planning a trip, do try to book a class at their super cooking school in West Hollywood. Also check out their newest cookbook, Vegan 101. I am so happy that these super talented women have taken the time out of their very busy lives to be this month’s Interesting Woman in Vegan Food. Read about Heather and Jenny, find a recipe, and enter the giveaway to win a copy of their wonderful new cookbook. Thank you Heather and Jenny!
Hello! We’re Heather and Jenny, sisters and co-owners of Spork Foods. We own a vegan cooking school in Los Angeles, and we’ve been vegan for close to 20 years – we love it! We also love Fran, so were excited to be working on this guest blog.
We know the holidays can be tough for many of you that are vegan, and may not have a ton of vegan friends or family to share food (and camaraderie) with during the holidays. We want to help you navigate these waters! Let’s use this challenge as a teaching experience, gently informing family and friends about easy swaps and such to make this a Thanksgiving everyone can enjoy.
1. Talk to your family beforehand – especially the cook and offer some easy swaps that will make the meal more vegan friendly. Even if they’re not into making the whole family a Tofurkey, at least these swaps can help the sides be something you can enjoy!
- Try Earth Balance Buttery Spread and Wildwood Soymilk Creamer instead of butter and cream in your mashed potatoes. They’re going to be so rich and buttery, no one will ever know they’re void of dairy.
- For stuffing, just look for bread with no dairy products like whey, and use that handy tub of Earth Balance, and you’re on your way to an easy, delicious vegan alternative.
- Try Imagine brand Vegetarian “No Chicken” Broth. This stuff works wonders in soups, gravy, marinades, and stuffing. It has a great garlic and onion flavor, so it’s a 1 to 1 replacement for chicken broth.
- For salad dressings, try Vegenaise instead of egg-based mayonnaise. It’s creamy and rich, and many restaurants use it instead of regular mayonnaise because no one can tell it’s vegan.
2. Make a dish that will wow your crowd! It’s very important that the vegan dish that you share with your friends and family during the holidays is so good people start to understand that this way of life can be even more delicious than they thought. Sorry to put the pressure on, but we know you can handle it. If you love desserts, just peek around Fran’s site and find that one special treat you know your family will love. If you enjoy savory dishes, try our Velvety Kale Soup with Cashew Cream from our book Vegan 101. It’s rich, full of nutrients, and goes over well with any crowd. Be sure to make enough to share with your family, because everyone will want to try it.
3. Be proud of your values, and at the same time, be understanding of the fact that your non-vegan family members may not be exposed to all of your knowledge of veganism, or why you live this lifestyle. When you immerse yourself in this world of compassion, and then have to surround yourself with people who aren’t on the same page, it can be frustrating. Try to remember that you don’t have to use the main Thanksgiving meal as a platform to make your vegan pitch. What’s helped us in the past is finding a more quiet time with your open-minded family members who are really willing to engage in an open conversation.
We want to share this recipe for Velvety Kale Soup with a Cashew Cream with you. It makes for a great starter, plus we’re sneaking greens into everyone at the table.
Velvety Kale Soup with Cashew Cream
For the Soup
- 1 bulb garlic, top sliced off to expose the cloves
- ¼ teaspoon neutral-tasting oil
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt, plus pinch, divided
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus pinch, divided
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 large potato, peeled and diced (about ¾ cup)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 large bunch kale, stemmed and chopped (about 3 loose cups)
- 1 bunch spinach, coarsely chopped (about 3 loose cups)
- 2½ cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
- ¼ cup Marsala wine
- 1 cup soy milk creamer
For the Cashew Cream
- 1/3 cup unsalted raw cashews
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup soy milk creamer or almond milk
- Pinch garlic powder
- Pinch sea salt
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Place garlic bulb cut-side down in a heatproof ramekin. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with pinch sea salt and pepper. Roast for 35 minutes, or until cloves are soft.
Heat a large stockpot over medium heat. Add butter and onion. Remove 4 or 5 cloves roasted garlic from the bulb and use the blade of a knife to squeeze flesh out of skin into the pot. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add potato, bay leaf, and remaining ¾ teaspoon sea salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
Add kale and spinach and sauté for about 3 more minutes to wilt.
Add broth, wine, and creamer. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for about 18 minutes, or until potatoes are very tender. Discard bay leaf.
Using an immersion blender, purée soup. Alternately, blend soup mixture in a blender, with middle of lid removed, covered in a clean kitchen towel. Only fill blender halfway at a time, to prevent spillage. Season with more sea salt and pepper, if desired.
To Make The Cashew Cream
In a high-powered blender or food processor, combine cashews, lemon juice, creamer or almond milk, garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper and blend until smooth. Ladle soup into bowls and drizzle each portion with cashew cream.
Los Angeles-based Spork Foods (sporkfoods.com) is a gourmet vegan food company owned and operated by sisters Heather Bell and Jenny Engel. They offer vegan organic cooking classes, chef trainings, recipe development and private chef work in Los Angeles and worldwide. Their cookbook, Spork-Fed, is currently in stores, with a foreword by fellow fans, actors and sisters, Emily and Zooey Deschanel. Their second cookbook, Vegan 101 just launched and can be found online and in bookstores.
Heather and Jenny have a copy of their new book Vegan 101 for one lucky winner. Follow the instructions below to enter. U.S. residents only, please. Contest ends at midnight eastern time on November 29th. Good luck!