Greetings faithful readers, and welcome to Nashvegan’s first ever cookbook review, author interview, and giveaway! Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you’ve probably heard of Lindsay Nixon, better known as Happy Herbivore. Nixon is a prolific author and blogger who advocates for a plant-based diet that includes no added oils and only a few added fats from nuts and avocados. Her cookbooks Happy Herbivore and Everyday Happy Herbivore shot up the bestselling ranks on Amazon.com and now her newest installment, Happy Herbivore Abroad, is doing the same. Her publishers were kind enough to send me a review copy and they’d like to send one of you a copy as well! Details on the giveaway are at the end of this post.
First things first: let’s meet Happy Herbivore! Nixon was kind enough to answer a whole bunch of my deeply probing questions about her life and her work. Here’s what she had to say:
Nashvegan: There seems to be a current trend towards global vegan cookbooks (yours, Terry Hope Romero’s Vegan Eats World spring to mind) – why do you think that is?
Happy Herbivore: I’m not sure. When I finished writing Everyday Happy Herbivore, I left for a long trip to Europe. While I was there I decided to write a cookbook that combined my lifestyle (my love of travel) with food from the places I’ve traveled too — it was about me and celebrating my passions (food + travel) together. I haven’t seen Romero’s book, but I imagine it’s quite different.
NV: How does Happy Herbivore Abroad (HHA) stand out both from your other offerings and from other vegan cookbooks in general?
HH: HHA is international themed and has a lot of me in it — personal stories and such. You won’t find that in my other books. This book is so personal, and I really love that about it…
My cookbooks (all of them) focus on being low fat, no oil — using whole foods, and basic ingredients, which makes them stand out from the vast majority of other vegan cookbooks on the market.
NV: How are you handling life after Earth Balance? For many, it may feel like “life after cheese” syndrome all over again!
HH: I never really got into Earth Balance. I wasn’t much of a margarine or butter person before I was plant-based and a huge motivation for my dietary change was health… Earth Balance isn’t exactly a health food :) I also adopted the no oil/low fat whole foods approach early into my plant-based change, so it was something I just passed up.
NV: What inspired you to come up with the idea of offering your plant-based meal plans?
HH: Fan requests :)
NV: What are your favorite plant-based “convenience foods” for people trying to live a low- to no-fat plant-based lifestyle? Basically, what would you recommend for vegans who need something grab and go, perhaps in a gas station?
HH: Gas stations usually have fresh fruit and oatmeal :)
NV: Give us your top three favorite recipes from HHA.
HH: Asking a chef to pick a favorite recipe is like asking a parent to pick their favorite kid :)
NV: After your previous career as a lawyer (this is a personal question for me because I have my J.D.), how did you make the transition from lawyer to plant-based cookbook author? What sorts of practical challenges (student loan debt, etc.) did you deal with before your success, and how did you manage those challenges?
HH: I was never happy as a lawyer. Not to say the profession is a bad one, it just wasn’t for me. I’d been working as a lawyer for a few years (miserably) when the opportunity to write my first cookbook came along. I knew there was no way I could work as a lawyer AND write a cookbook, so it was one or the other. I decided to take a big chance, quit being a lawyer and work on my cookbook while also doing various freelance assignments to pay the bills. My husband and I also had to do some major downsizing to make it happen — selling our cars, moving from a large apartment to a teeny, tiny studio, etc. (I’m so glad he was up for it!)
I still have a mound of student loan debt crushing me — some $120,000 is left. I joke that it’s my summer home, since my law education costs more than what a friend recently paid for her house.
The book business is not lucrative — even when you’re a best seller so we continue to live with less “glitter” than we had when I was a lawyer, but I’m so much happier and I’ve really come to love the minimalist lifestyle.
NV: Why Los Angeles? How did you end up there? How do you like it?
HH: My husband’s work brought us here, but we’ll be leaving again soon for Tahoe. I love snowboarding more than anything and you can’t really do that in LA :)
This is the second time we’ve lived in Los Angeles. You can’t beat the weather or the casual, California lifestyle but the traffic is ridiculous. LA without the traffic would be perfection.
NV: I know a lot of my readers like to try to eat seasonally and locally. Is this an issue that you’ve given much thought? Have you considered writing a seasonal cookbook?
HH: I too like to eat seasonally and locally (and living in Southern California makes that easy!) but it’s not really practical for a cookbook since what’s local (and seasonal) varies so much from place to place and I try to write books that are accessible to everyone — no matter where they live. That’s one thing that really frustrated me when I first changed my diet. The vegan cookbooks I bought used bizarre ingredients that didn’t exist where I lived or they were way outside of my price range. I think that’s why I try so hard to use “supermarket” ingredients. You shouldn’t have to live in LA or NYC to be able to cook up a good meal!
So I’m sure now you want to know about the food. Well, wouldn’t you know it, I happened to cook some. I cooked two meals from HHA, totaling six recipes. I went on a Tour of Europe and then took a trip South of the Border.
TOUR OF EUROPE
Who needs a Eurorail pass when you have HHA? This menu consisted of Swedish Meatballs, Irish Colcannon, and French Savory Glazed Carrots.
Getting ready to cook
One of the things I love most about Nixon’s cookbooks (I have them all) is that they all use “normal” ingredients and are easy to prepare. These recipes were all easy to follow, a breeze to prepare (if you don’t count all the time I spent chopping things), and of course turned out delicious. I cheated a little with the meatball recipe, which called for mixing the gravy with chunks of tempeh, and used Trader Joe’s frozen meatless balls instead (THE HORROR).
Swedish Meatballs, Colcannon, Savory Glazed Carrots
First, I am a doofus and was so eager to get this on the plate and INTO MY MOUTH that I neglected to toss the meatballs with the gravy and instead just poured it over them. Following recipe fail. Whatever, they were still incredible. I am serious, this food was so good I could eat it every day. I couldn’t believe how much I loved the colcannon. As a person who believes that all foods are better when slathered with Earth Balance, I thought there was no way I was going to like mashed potatoes that were fat free. But guess what I INHALED THEM. And they’re full of freaking KALE. Talk about a nutritional powerhouse! In your face, margarine! The carrots had a great flavor but in my impatience I undercooked them a little.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER
Ole! For my trip to Mexico I made AJ’s Pico de Gallo, Drunken Beans, and Migas.
AJ’s Pico de Gallo
Despite my obsession with pico, I’ve never actually made it from scratch, mostly due to laziness. This recipe was easier than I thought it was going to be and I loved that it used shallots instead of regular onions because, let’s face it, shallots make everything fancier. I made this early in the day and then let it sit in the fridge until it was time for dinner so the flavors could marry and this was definitely the way to go. It tasted a lot better later.
I’ve never heard of migas so I knew I had to make it. Migas is traditionally an egg-based dish with corn tortilla strips and veggies. I added nutritional yeast because I couldn’t make what was essentially a Mexican tofu scramble without nooch and I thought it added a nice depth of flavor. I’ve also never actually bought a poblano pepper, which this recipe called for. That worked out fine, too. Turns out they sell them in the produce department. Who knew. Anyway, on to the booze. Drunken beans are awesome. They taste like beer. I like beer. I like beans. I like beer and beans together. Seriously though, the smoked paprika really made this dish for me. Don’t skimp and just use regular paprika or you’ll be seriously missing out.
Migas, Drunken Beans, Pico de Gallo
Happy Herbivore Abroad is a really solid cookbook and it’s definitely going to be on heavy rotation in my kitchen. The recipes (and beautiful food photos) are interspersed with Nixon’s travelogue and personal stories. Everything is plant-based and low- or no-fat. Everything is made from “normal” ingredients that you can pick up in pretty much any grocery store, and there are no overly complicated cooking techniques. This book is accessible, flavorful, and not too shabby to look at. I highly recommend it.
After all that, I bet you want to get your mitts on a copy of this book. Well now it’s giveaway time! All you need to do to enter is leave a comment telling me about the best vegan thing you ever ate on vacation. But what’s that you say? You want to earn additional entries? Of course you do. Here’s how:
1. Share this post on Facebook and be sure to tag Nashvegan. Leave a comment telling me you did this.
2. Share this post on Twitter using the hashtag #HHATour and mentioning @NashveganBlog. Leave a comment telling me you did this.
3. Be my special friend on Facebook and “like” Nashvegan. Leave a comment telling me you did this (or that you already liked me because duh we go way back).
4. Follow @NashveganBlog on Twitter. Leave a comment telling me you did this.
So if you do everything you can get a total of five entries. FUN.
Be sure to include a real email address when you comment so I have a way to tell you that you won. The contest closes at 11:59 PM CST on December 31. I will use a random number generator to select the winner. The winner will be announced on January 1, 2013, so long as the world does not end before that time. If I email you and you don’t get back to me within 72 hours, I’ll give the prize to someone else, so there.