Debbie Kay of Kelso learned the tricks of feeding people well from her grandfather, who operated a deli in Ohio.
His specialty was hamburgers. And he prepped them days in advance, Kay said.
“He would bake five or six hams over the weekend and then, before the burgers came off the grill, they would get a little slather of his secret ingredient: the gel that had cooked off the hams,” she said.
Hearty, comforting eats were the way of the times — the late 1950s and early 1960s. What Kay’s grandfather didn’t know was that the things he loved — eggs, bacon and burgers with the secret sauce — were lethal for someone with diabetes.
“Grandpa loved food,” Kay said. “He died of a heart attack before he got to be my age. It was 1969, the weekend the astronauts landed on the moon.”
The connection between food and health was sealed in Kay’s young mind and later guided her to a life decision as her own health declined. Eat plants, not meat and dairy.
In the 12 years since she and her husband, Scott, changed their lifestyle, Kay has gone from learning and applying her knowledge at home to offering demonstrations of vegan cooking.
At a recent class was at Country Village Nutrition Shoppe, Kay blended and whirred up a variety of vegan foods, including a dairy- and gluten-free macaroni and cheese designed to fool the palate.
Kay was introduced to vegetarian cooking in the 1980s, she said, and loved it. She went on to develop a vegan chili recipe that has won four chili cook off contests and was published in a vegan cookbook.
She and Scott dabbled with vegetarian eating until early 2000. They realized they wanted to go all the way.
“We put our foot down and said, forget it, we’re not taking anymore chances,” Kay said.
She registered for a five-day immersion vegan cooking course and went with the idea that she was not going to give up eggs or cheese.
“But I was turned on immediately,” Kay said. “I didn’t know that I could bake without eggs or milk. Plus I didn’t know that it could be so much fun.”
She joined Northwest Veg, a Portland-based organization dedicated to helping people learn about plant-based eating.
The group has a 10-week master course “like the master gardener program, so I took that,” Kay said.
She volunteered at Portland Vegfest and, this year, served as head of the chef’s kitchen, working with seven cooks from around the country.
“Each one of them put out a minimum of 200 samples,” Kay said. “We did 1,800 plates of food in two days.”
Kay, who has worked in the accounting field for 25 years, currently works as finance analyst for the Western timberlands division of Weyerhaeuser.
She took a two-day vegan world fusion cuisine class from the author of one of her favorite cookbooks, Mark Reinfeld, and he told her about his teacher training classes. Her recent class at Country Village was her third.
“I am amazed when I have them that they are always full,” Kay said.
She tries to give people options for transitioning slowly to a plant-based diet.
“We’ve been trained to take a chicken or burger out of the freezer,” she said. “I had a nurse tell me once that vegan is very dangerous, and it is: French fries, Pepsi and potato chips are all vegan.”
“I don’t think it’s a smart idea to wake up one day and say, ‘I’m going to be vegan today,’” she said. “You go out and buy $300 worth of vegetables and put them in your refrigerator, and they’re going to rot because you don’t know what to do with this.”
She suggested that a day-at-a-time approach is best.
“Have a meatless Monday,” she said. “Change little things at a time. If you don’t like vegetables, then start with the ones that you like, and bring others in a little bit at a time.”
And what if your family balks at the idea? Make meals that they recognize and don’t tell them what’s in it.
“One of the secrets is to not tell them it’s vegan,” Kay said.
Kay, who teaches private lessons, helped start a vegetarian-vegan potluck held at Youth and Family Link, with speakers from Northwest Veg and the medical field. She hopes to offer longer classes this summer.
“Every person on my maternal side of my family has been diagnosed with diabetes except me,” she said. “I eat too much, and I don’t exercise enough, but I’m 57 years old and am on no medications at all.”
The proof, Kay said, is in the pudding. Or whatever other goodie she offers to skeptics.
“I can talk about this,” she said. “But you’re not going to believe me unless I put a cookie in your hand.”
QUICK CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
- 2 avocados
- 2 bananas
- About 1/4 cup nondairy vanilla milk (almond, soy, hemp or coconut milk can be used)
- 4 tablespoons chocolate hazelnut hot cocoa mix (dairy-free)
- 1 tablespoon mint sauce (fresh mint and agave syrup thickened in the freezer)
Combine all ingredients and puree in the food processor for three or four minutes, or until smooth and creamy. Scrape sides of bowl occasionally. Transfer to bowls and serve immediately.
DEB KAY’S VEGAN CHILI
- 3 medium onions, sliced in rings
- 3 Anaheim peppers, seeds removed and sliced thinly
- 3 stalks of celery, sliced thin
- 2 or 3 jalapeno peppers (based on how hot you like it), seeds removed and sliced thinly
- 28-ounce can of tomatoes (diced, crushed or whole)
- 4 or 5 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon crushed basil
- 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder or regular chili powder
- Dash chili sauce or Tabasco sauce
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon each sea salt and pepper (or to taste)
- 6 cups of beans (3 cups white, great northern or pinto beans and 3 cups black beans or kidney beans)
- Water enough to cover the beans
- 3/4 cup raw cashews
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Saute the onions, celery and peppers until tender. Add the garlic, basil, chili powder and salt and pepper and saute for a couple of minutes more. Add the tomatoes, chili sauce and vinegar and cook for about three to five minutes. Add the beans and water and simmer on a low setting for about an hour or until the beans are tender (if using dried beans that have been soaked for about four or five hours). If using canned beans, then simmer for about 30 minutes instead.
Add the cashews, parsley and raisins and simmer until the cashews are tender, usually about 15 to 20 minutes.
Serve with a garnish of sliced green onions.
* Kay notes that if using canned beans, you can use the water in the cans and decrease the amount of tap water added. Chili can be served over a little bulgar wheat for more depth; beer adds an interesting flavor.
This recipe is from the cookbook, “The 30 Minute Vegan” by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray
- 1 large bunch curly-leafed kale
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use your hands to rip small pieces of the leaves off the stems of the kale. Arrange them on a baking sheet in a single layer, using two baking sheets if necessary. When the oven is ready, bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until your desired crispiness is achieved.
Remove from the oven and transfer the kale to a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with the nutritional yeast and sea salt and toss gently with your hands until all the kale is covered. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature. Do not refrigerate.
This is recipe from Debbie Kay’s blog is by Allison Rivers Samson.
VEGAN MACARONI AND CHEESE
- 4 quarts water
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 8 ounces macaroni
- 4 slices of bread, torn into large pieces
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup non-hydrogenated margarine
- 2 tablespoons shallots, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup red or yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1/4 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1/3 cup onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup raw cashews (soak in water for about an hour)
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
In a large pot, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until al dente. In a colander, drain pasta and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
In a food processor, make bread crumbs by pulverizing the bread and 2 tablespoons margarine to a medium-fine texture. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, add shallots, potatoes, carrots, onion, and water, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.
In a blender, process the cashews, salt, garlic, 1/3 cup margarine, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne. Add softened vegetables and cooking water to the blender and process until perfectly smooth.
In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta and blended “cheese” sauce until completely coated. Spread mixture into a 9 x 12 casserole dish, sprinkle with prepared bread crumbs, and dust with paprika. Bake for 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the top has turned golden brown. I sprinkled some dried sage on top after it came out of the oven.