“Going vegan is abundant, fun, tasty, and satisfying. And I will prove it to you,” says cook Lauren Toyota, who with her partner John Diemer is on a mission to obliterate any excuses people might have for not leading plant-based lifestyles.
On their Youtube channel ‘hot for food’, which has over 200,000 subscribers, the couple have rustled up vegan versions of comfort foods from batter-coated cauliflower chicken wings with a spicy sauce, bacon using liquid smoke and the cassava plant, and peanut butter cups made from dark chocolate.
OK, those recipes might not sounds particularly appetising to a devout omnivore, but the YouTube comments below their videos speak for themselves.
“I’m not even vegan but I love your channel ,” wrote one user under the cauliflower wings recipe.
“I made these for my family and they were shocked that I had actually cooked something that was so good, they praised me for it all night,” wrote another.
Toyota admits that when she first went vegan in 2010 she did crave meat and dairy, but after a while that feeling subsided.
“I honestly don’t crave non-vegan foods. I often crave vegan versions of those foods. I crave vegan chicken, vegan cookies, vegan ice cream, vegan jerky. I don’t want to eat the versions with dairy, eggs, or meat at all.
So, what’s the secret to making vegan food not only delicious, but better than the “normal” version?
“Sauce and or fat,” Lauren Toyota tells The Independent. “Fat doesn’t mean only oil either. It could be avocado, tahini or nut butter or nuts and seeds. It’s a must. Fat is flavour and I’m so bored of the fat-free movement. Fat is not the enemy.
“And sauce up your food. I love making sauces. They’re the easiest thing to make at home from ingredients in your pantry and you can store them for the week to put on everything.”
“The main thing I can emphasise is you will not be missing out on anything,” she goes on. “I eat so much more variety as a vegan than I ever did as an omnivore and there are so many new innovations happening with plant-based foods that you can eat everything you ever crave whether that’s breakfast sandwiches, juicy burgers, fries and gravy, nachos. It can all be made vegan.”
But Toyota isn’t advocating a junk food vegan diet. She chose to go vegan for health reasons after watching the documentary Food Inc. and reading the book Kind Diet by actress Alicia Silverstone and Skinny Bitch by former model Kim Barnouin and former agent Rory Freedman.
“I didn’t feel good after eating, ever!” recalls Toyota. “Once I finally made the switch I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner,” she adds.
“I just couldn’t ignore the information I had learned.” When John and Lauren started dating in 2013, he decided to go vegan, too.
“He loved food and cooking so much so to him it didn’t make sense to make separate meals. He was really interested and curious about how to make his favourite foods vegan and that’s where hot for food really started the way you see it now. It was just a hobby blog I had a few years prior and basically let it go dormant while I worked in a different career. Experimenting to make John’s favourite foods vegan is really how we started getting excited to make food that we just weren’t finding otherwise.
“Originally we just saw a lot of recipes that were too healthy looking. They had no batter and hardly any sauce, or no fat or oil which we advise against, always! Basically just roasted cauliflower with hot sauce on it, so adding a nice batter that gives people something to bite and chew on I think was the key to that recipe working out so well.”
To date, their favourite recipe is the cauliflower buffalo wings.”It’s still our most popular recipe and to us it seems kind of old, but we notice people online still commenting that they’ve never heard of such a thing.”
So how does one see chicken wings in cauliflower? Some recipes take one or two tries to perfect, says Toyota, and a few take a few more tries to perfect.
“But honestly, churning out weekly YouTube content is a hustle and so admittedly we don’t have the luxury of time to really develop and test things a bunch of times,” she says.
“We find our audience is kind of doing that for us and luckily we know what we’re doing and things seem to turn out pretty spot on out of the gate.”
Now they are preparing a recipe book, the pair have the luxury of sending recipes to professional testers to ensure everything works and who send back detailed notes.
But as well as scoring a book deal, Toyota says going vegan has changed her life on a deeper level.
“It’s changed my life enormously in so many ways. At first it was just a physical change that I noticed. I felt better after eating. I wasn’t sick anymore. But then it started to change my life in other subtle ways emotionally and spiritually.
She adds: “When you are mindful of what you eat and listen to you body you realise there is a whole symbiotic relationship between everything. It just makes the most sense to me to be vegan.”
Read more at independent.co.uk