Vegan in Pictures
Thoughts on healthy cooking and eating from Georgia’s hippest city.
Burgers for breakfast, sausage pizza for dinner and coconut carrot cake bites for dessert. Instagram sensation Eloise.Bean‘s latest photos are a beautifully composed depiction of home cooking, but you might not realize at first glance they’re healthy too. The Athens, Georgia, PhD student whose real name is Emily England is a vegetarian leaning toward vegan. That breakfast burger was a veggie one, the pizza contained Italian vegan sausage and a wheat crust, and the cake bites used local rainbow carrots.
Eloise.Bean was named one of the 10 Best Instagram Accounts in Athens last year and posts daily pics of delicious vegan meals — often featuring her dog Ella — that will make even the most avid meat-eater think twice. On Sundays, you’ll often find her prepping healthy meals for the week with ingredients from the local farmers market or co-op grocery store. If you’re starting to get intimidated, don’t be. She drinks beer and eats pasta too, proving that vegans can have fun.
As part of our focus on vegetables and healthy eating in 2015, we contacted England through her Instagram account to ask if she’d be willing to answer a few questions. Read on for her quick meal ideas, tips for weekly prepping, her favorite Athens restaurant and what she’s most looking forward to trying in the kitchen this year.
When did you go vegan and why?
Though I don’t call myself a vegan, I have been cooking primarily vegan, or plant-based, meals for eight years now. When my eyes were opened to the reality of animal (mis)care in factory farming operations, I couldn’t imagine myself contributing financially to these practices by purchasing animal products. After this, I became aware of the environmental impacts of meat production and was given even more reason to eat this way. I also have a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and feel comfortable in my knowledge that eating animals is not necessary for optimal health, especially in our current society where a wide variety of foods are readily available. Why support this detrimental system if we don’t need to?
Do you have a favorite go-to ingredient or dish?
I go through phases with this. Right now, I am hooked on Asian foods, especially spicy miso noodle soups, so you’d find noodles, miso paste, Sriracha and sesame oil in my kitchen at all times. Other than this current obsession, I typically always have oats, brown rice, noodles, tofu, tempeh, frozen black-eyed peas, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, kale, okra in the summer, frozen green beans and canned tomatoes lying around for a quick dish when I need it. As long as I have a starch, a protein and some veggies, I can put it all in a bowl with a quick pan sauce or easy homemade dressing and top with some crunchy toasted seeds. Bowls like this are always very satisfying to me.
On Instagram, you mention prepping meals on Sundays for the week ahead. Can you offer some tips for people who want to do this and have healthy go-to meals all week long?
The biggest help to me on this front has been pre-packaging food into ready-to-go containers. For example, for breakfasts I often have overnight oats (where you soak oats overnight so they don’t need to be cooked). On Sunday night, I will line up my jars (Mason jars, old condiment jars, whatever you have) and measure out all of the ingredients (ex: 1/3 cup oats, 1/4 cup raisins, 2 Tbsp. chia seeds, cinnamon to taste, 1 1/4 cup almond milk), then stir. Stick the jars in the refrigerator to thicken and just grab and go when you need them. These make working mornings a breeze.
The same goes for lunches and snacks. Sometimes I will prepare a large grain salad (ex: quinoa, chickpeas, chopped vegetables, greens and a dressing) and portion it into four or five servings. Dishes like this keep well and often are even better after a day or two when the flavors have time to marry. Portion out snacks such as chopped veggies, fruits or nuts on Sunday, and you’ll be much more likely to go for those during the week if you don’t have to stop and prepare them when you’re hungry. You need a good selection of Tupperware for this method, but it saves so much time during the week.
What do you say to people wary of straying from their meat main courses?
Why limit yourself? While the “meat and three” provides a decent template for a balanced meal, food can be a lot more interesting and creative when you learn to think outside of this box.
Can you share a few easy-to-prepare vegetables people should look for at their local farmers markets this winter and spring?
Around Athens we see a lot of greens, beets and radishes, cabbage, as well as some potatoes and mushrooms. Try a variety you’ve never had before! I love Lacinato kale (dinosaur kale) because of how easy it is to clean and its deep green color. If you’ve only had collards that have been cooked to death (and trust me I like those too), try them gently steamed as a wrap in place of a tortilla. This is a great idea for on the go because they don’t get soggy like starchy wraps and breads will. Only had cooked beets? Try them raw, sliced very thin on a salad. On my own list I am hoping to try some stuffed cabbage recipes this season, but when in doubt, slice the heads of cabbage thick and roast them in the oven with salt, pepper and caraway seeds.
Is there a food you want to eat/cook more of in 2015?
I would really like to start a home fermentation project this year and make my own kimchi and sauerkraut, among other fermentables. Fermented foods are so good for the gut and can be a source of vitamin B12 for vegetarians.
In general, why do you think Athens has developed a reputation as being a great place for vegans and vegetarians?
Being a college town, Athens is full of open-minded people. From young college students getting acquainted with the world outside of their parents and looking into vegetarianism for the first time, to an alternative townie cohort, a plethora of artists and musicians and liberally-minded college professors, and individuals who span several of these categories, Athenians want options and a lot of them, particularly ones that agree with their current worldview.
Do you have a favorite restaurant/market in the area?
My current favorite place to go for vegan food is HiLo Lounge. Run by some longtime Athenians, HiLo offers a great selection of vegan sandwiches and hot dogs, not to mention the best french fries in town. My favorites are the Oyster Mushroom PoBoy (battered and fried oyster mushrooms on a hoagie with lemon-caper aioli, Frank’s hot sauce and chopped lettuce) and the Tofurky Club (a double-decker sandwich with sliced house-made tofurky and smoky tempeh strips, served on Luna [local] white bread with mayo, tomato and lettuce). At HiLo you can get a whole heap of cruelty-free food and an adult beverage for a very reasonable price. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s located within walking distance from my house.
Photo credits (all photos by Eloise.Bean on Instagram), from top: Miso udon with nori, kale, black-eyed peas, lemon and Sriracha, topped with toasted sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds; late season local okra with lemon, garlic granules, nutritional yeast and salt and pepper with red potatoes with smoky spicy special sauce; and freshly-picked garden tomatoes on whole wheat toast with Vegenaise, spinach and hemp seeds with a side of sautéed freshly picked garden okra, mushrooms, red onion and more spinach, seasoned with turmeric, smoked paprika, thyme, salt and pepper, lemon and nutritional yeast.