Chroma Kitchen is getting renovated!

New counters, new paint, new name etc. 

Square Roots Mustard Greens.jpg


I know! I'm as surprised as you are. But change is good sometimes. 

For a while I've been feeling like the name "Chroma Kitchen" didn't fit the scope of the content I was creating. The word "kitchen" just stubbornly calls to mind a food blog, and I'm seeking to do something much broader (i.e. dispel the nutritional stigma around vegan food; spotlight veg-forward chefs, activists, and eaters; share my experience as a plant-based athlete).   

On a whim, I started an alias instagram account for the sake of noodling around in a low stakes environment. I named it Plant Nasty for kicks. And within a week, I knew I had stumbled onto my solution. 

Maybe it's because I love a Nasty Woman. Maybe it's because I used to train with a running club called East Nasty. Or because I just know that Plant Nasty will look amazing on a racing singlet one day in the distant future...or all of the above. In any event, the name just fit. When it's right, it's right. So I'm running with it. Literally, figuratively, grammatically, spiritually. 

What captivating reading will I find on Plant Nasty? 

  • Simple, colorful plant-based recipes 
  • Interviews with vegan and vegetable-enthusiastic chefs, entrepreneurs, and activists
  • Updates on plant-based marathon training (Chicago 2017, here I come!) 
  • Features on nifty vegan companies that everyone should check out
  • Deep insights into the meaning of life et ainsi de suite

Cool! How do I stay up-to-date?

I thought you'd never ask! You can subscribe to the Plant Nasty newsletter below, follow Plant Nasty on insta, like the facebook page, and of course check out! 

Red Quinoa Fruit Salad

i.e. how this fruit lover is celebrating Cinco de Mayo 

Full disclosure: this was meant to be a bizarre sweet twist on a taco recipe. However, I didn’t have the traditional small corn tortillas on hand. I tried to make it work with some gargantuan, floppy, chemical-tasting, low-carb (ugh) wheat tortillas from TJ’s. The outcome did not exceed—or even meet—expectations. So I pivoted!

Let me present to you instead a thoroughly tortilla-less mess of good flavors on a plate. 

Prep time: 30 minutes | Servings: 6


  • 2 cups red quinoa, cooked  
  • 2 cups mango, cubed
  • 2 cups blackberries  
  • 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 medium avocado, sliced or smashed
  • Pickled red cabbage to garnish (optional) 
  • Slivered almonds to garnish (NOT optional) 
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Cook the quinoa according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Fluff and let cool. 
  2. Combine quinoa, mango, blackberries, and chopped cilantro in a medium sized bowl. 
  3. Juice limes and mix lime juice with a pinch of salt. Dress the quinoa and fruit mixture. 
  4. Garnish with avocado, slivered almonds, and pickled red cabbage and serve. 


Serving Size: 1 cup serving or 1/6 recipe | Calories: 192 | Total Fat: 7g | Carbohydrate: 29g | Sugar: 10g | Dietary Fiber: 7g | Protein: 5g | Vitamin A: 15% | Vitamin C: 57% | Calcium: 4% | Iron: 8%

Let Us Wax Poetic About Quinoa

  • It has heart-healthy monounsaturated fats including omega-3 fatty acids (which are key to decreasing inflammation and protecting against many lifestyle related diseases).
  • Its high phytonutrient content also contributes to this anti-inflammatory effect. Phenolic acids, some forms of vitamin E, and cell wall polysaccharides make the shortlist of quinoa’s inflammation-fighting nutrients!
  • It is a high fiber food! Ninety-seven percent of Americans don’t get adequate fiber in their diet. That’s crazy! Be different. Three quarters of a cup of quinoa (185 grams) has 21 percent of your daily value of fiber. How awesome is that? 

Continue your study in quinoa here. 

Three Nut Milk

i.e. cashews, walnuts, and pepitas have a higher purpose 

Happy May 1st everyone! Rent is due. But on a happier note, Mother's Day is on the horizon! Chroma Kitchen is joining Simple Foods in its campaign to make May 14th "A Day for All Mothers" and encourage people to go dairy free for the day. Or maybe forever!! Humans are the only species that drink other animals' milk. Let's honor the bond between mother and child (or calf, or kid) this Mother's Day.   

Prep time: 8 hours 10 minutes | Servings: 4


  • ⅓ cup raw walnuts
  • ⅓ cup raw cashews
  • ⅓ cup raw shelled pepitas
  • 3-4 cups water*
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup** 
  • Pinch of sea salt


  1. Soak walnuts, cashews, and pepitas for eight hours. Drain and rinse. 
  2. Using a high speed blender, blend nuts, vanilla extract, sea salt, and maple syrup with water. 
  3. If it pleases you to do so, strain the nut milk through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer. This will give you a smooth, silky texture. (I prefer not to strain, however, because I like to keep all the fiber in.)  
  4. Chill and store for three or four days.  


*You can adjust the water content depending on how creamy you want the final product to be. 

**Super optional, but I prefer it slightly sweetened. 


Serving Size: 1 cup | Calories: 150 | Total Fat: 12g | Carbohydrate: 7g | Sugar: 1g | Dietary Fiber: 1g | Protein: 6g | Vitamin A: 0% | Vitamin C: 0% | Calcium: 1% | Iron: 4% 

Whenever veganism comes up, people invariably say, "I don't know how you do it. I could never give up cheese." In my experience, though, ditching dairy is not all that hard. After a few days, I barely missed it. 

It became even easier when I discovered that dairy consumption is linked to acne, type I diabetes, and breast cancer. Dairy is not a health food. Check out this Vox video to understand how advertising campaigns have shaped the way we perceive dairy.

Roasted Lemon & Broccolini Pizza

i.e. I'm about to convince you to eat the lemon peel

When my brother was a wee kiddo, for him, “too much” was synonymous with “a lot.”

This is a COMPLETELY logical syntactic conclusion for a four year old to come to. He was in the midst of piecing the rules of English together, and when he helped himself to a delightfully tall stack of Oreo cookies or three scoops of ice cream, he heard adults say, “Newton, that’s too much." He wanted a lot. Ergo, he wanted “too much."

To this day in the Allen family, when someone offers you something delicious and asks how much you want, the correct answer is: too much. 

There are two major takeaway from this anecdote: 

  1. My brother's name is Newton. (Yes, he is the coolest, smartest person in every room.)
  2. When it comes to roasted lemon & broccolini pizza, I want too much. 

Prep time: 35 minutes | Servings: 4


  • 2 lemons, sliced into ¼-⅛ inch thick medallions*
  • 1 bunch (180 g) broccolini
  • 5-6 (150 g) small radishes, sliced into ¼ -⅛ inch thick medallions
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary, coarsely chopped 
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced 
  • 4 whole wheat pitas
  • ⅓ cup (40 g) x 4 vegan mozzarella**


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Blanch lemons in boiling water for 3 minutes and then run under cold water. (This helps remove the bitterness from the rind.) Slice the lemons into ¼ inch medallions.
  3. Trim the ends of the broccolini, and cut any particularly robust stalks down the center lengthwise. This is also the moment to slice your radishes, mince your garlic, and chop your rosemary, if you’ve not already done so.
  4. Gently warm olive oil, minced garlic, and salt in a skillet over medium-low heat.  
  5. Toss radishes and broccolini in half of the warmed olive oil with coarsely chopped rosemary, a little more salt, and pepper. Spread the radishes and broccolini over two sheet pans.
  6. Gently coat lemon medallions in remaining oil and add them to the sheet pans.
  7. Roast this goodness for a brief 6 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, top pitas with vegan mozzarella (approximately 1/3 cup per pita) 
  9. Once your toppings are 6 minutes roasted, arrange them atop the vegan mozzarella, and place the pitas in the oven for another 7-10 minutes until the cheese is appropriately melty and wonderful, the lemons have caramelized, and the broccolini is the right kind of crispy. 
  10. Eat too much. 


*If you are able to purchase organic lemons, I would 100% recommend doing so. Conventionally grown lemons are frequently coated with a petroleum-based wax, which typically contains other troublesome compounds (e.g. solvent residues, milk casein, or ethanol). Although organic lemons are sometimes coated with wax as well, this wax will always be natural rather than petroleum-based. To remove the wax coating, scrub the lemon rind with a vegetable brush as you run it under cool water during the blanching process. 

**Vegan cheeses are pretty heavy on macronutrients and pretty skimpy on micronutrients, which is not really in the spirit of Chroma Kitchen. WITH THAT SAID...sometimes, needs must. 


Serving Size: 1 Pita | Calories: 330 | Total Fat: 17g | Carbohydrate: 46g | Sugar: 5g | Dietary Fiber: 10g | Protein: 11g | Vitamin A: 0% | Vitamin C: 119% | Calcium: 8% | Iron: 7% 

4 Reasons to Eat the Peel! 

As with many fruits, when it comes to lemons, the peel is a nutritional powerhouse. Here a four reasons to think twice before you throw it out!


Ninety-seven percent of Americans are deficient in fiber (other countries do better on this front than we do). Adequate fiber consumption is crucial for maintaining a healthy gut and protecting against many chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and some cancers. Lemon peels are about 48% fiber. Not a bad ratio at all. 

Vitamin C

Everyone loves vitamin C, but it’s sooooo much healthier to get it from your food than from a gummy bear or a fizzy drink powder. Lemon peel is off the charts when it comes to vitamin C. Six grams of lemon peel contain 13% your daily value. 

Potassium not just for bananas. Potassium is the critical counterpoint to sodium in your body. These work together to keep your heart, your muscles, and your digestive system in fine working order. (Does anyone else remember the sodium potassium pump from AP bio?? I. loved. that. class.) Guess what, lemons peels have a hearty potassium content.

Because You Can

Granted, this is not always home run argument, but when you discover that a food you’ve been eating since forever is twice as edible and nutritious as you thought...that's your cue to eat the peel, waste less food, and love your body! 

Raspberry Cacao Overnight Oats

i.e. How to Eat Dessert for Breakfast & Feel Great About Where Your Life Is Headed 

Hi, Spring! Everyone has hung up their coats and switched from hot coffee to cold brew, but that doesn't mean that oatmeal season has to end! Oats are not only delicious and wholesome, but they are oh so adaptable. You just have to swap out the stove top for the refrigerator. This recipe is painless and packed with fiber and antioxidants. 

Prep time: 10 minutes | Servings: 1


  • 1/2 cup (40 g) dry quick oats, gluten free
  • 1 banana 
  • 6 oz (170 g) raspberries* 
  • 1 tablespoon (14 mL) water
  • 1/4 (59 mL) cup almond milk 
  • 1 tablespoon (10 g) cacao nibs + more to garnish 
  • pinch of sea salt


  1. Blend banana, 4 oz raspberries, 1 tablespoon water, and pinch of sea salt together. Layer the bottom of a 12 oz jar with half of this fruit puree. 
  2. Mix the quick oats, cacao nibs, and almond milk into the other half of fruit puree & spoon into the jar. 
  3. Pop the oats into the fridge for the night. Place the other 2 oz of raspberries in the freezer. 
  4. In the AM, unseal the jar, garnish with frozen raspberries (plus extra cacao nibs, if you're feeling festive) and consume. 
  5. Go forth and conquer the day. 


*If you are able to purchase organic raspberries, these would be a good thing to prioritize buying organic. Wherefore? Raspberries (in fact all berries, broadly speaking) are fully exposed to the field throughout the cultivation process, so they tend to get more contaminated by chemical inputs than fruits that are protected by a peel. 


Serving Size: 1 Recipe | Calories: 270 | Total Fat: 3 g | Carbohydrate: 56 g | Sugar: 21 g | Dietary Fiber: 15 g | Protein: 7 g | Vitamin A: 15% | Vitamin C: 72% | Calcium: 24% | Iron: 32% 

5 Reasons to Add Raspberries to Your Regimen

  1. A cup of raspberries contains 41% of your daily value of manganese (not to mention ample fiber, biotin, magnesium, folate, and potassium). 
  2. Raspberries are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients--in fact, they are nearly unparalleled among other fruits and vegetables in the diversity of these nutrients.
  3. As is typically the case for anti-inflammatory foods, raspberries show anti-cancer benefits since they are well equipped to help decrease oxidative stress in the body.
  4. Raspberries also appear to help regulate blood sugar, combat obesity, and manage type 2 diabetes.
  5. They are especially delectable. 

Do you need anymore reason to hop on the raspberry train? If you do, check out check out the George Mateljan Foundation's article on raspberries for a deep dive into the science of raspberry nutrition and preparation. 

A Stupidly Simple Way to Eat 6 oz of Spinach for Breakfast 

Mighty Mango Green Smoothie

Hi, hello!! It has been the longest moment. Forgive the Chroma Kitchen hiatus. I’ve been buried under the sundries of life and training for the Boston Marathon, which is now just a week away! 

In honor of the impending 26.2 miles, I’m sharing the recipe for the smoothie that I drink every morning to power my training runs. It uses a whole 6 oz bag of spinach, but it’s blissfully uncomplicated, and it’s packed with micronutrients and clean, green energy.


3 Reasons to Start Your Day with a Boatload of Spinach


Spinach is one of the best sources of magnesium, an under-appreciated mineral in our diets. Magnesium doesn't get the same attention that potassium, calcium, and iron do, but magnesium plays a critical supporting role in over 300 biochemical reactions in our bodies. It's key to maintaining bone health, facilitating energy production, stabilizing blood sugar, and controlling inflammation. 

Flavonoids & Carotenoids

These anti-inflammatory phytonutrients are uncommonly abundant in spinach, and spinach appears to have salutary effects on inflammation within the digestive tract. Chronic inflammation is looking increasingly culpable as a risk factor for many chronic diseases and types of cancers, so eating foods that decrease inflammation is a pretty nifty way to treat yourself to a healthier, happier body. 


Spinach is extremely low-fat (about 40% protein and 60% carbohydrate). However, it does contain some omega-3 fatty acids, which are generally in short supply in the standard American diet. Consuming omega-3s can help raise HDL cholesterol ("good cholesterol") while reducing triglycerides, blood pressure, and—once again— inflammation. In conclusion, eat up! 


This smoothie is the lovechild of breakfast and dessert: it's delicious but not quite decadent, sweet but not saccharine. The spinach makes it unbelievably creamy. I could (I do) drink it every morning. 

Prep time: 5 minutes | Servings: 1


  • 6 oz  (170 g) spinach*
  • 1 cup (236 ml) water
  • 1/4  cup (60ml) soy milk** 
  • 1 cup (140 g) frozen mango
  • Pinch of sea salt***


  1. Blend together spinach, water, soy milk until the consistency is altogether smooth and creamy. 
  2. Add frozen mango and salt. Blend again. 
  3. Sip and feel mighty. 


*On the spinach front, I opt for the Trader Joe’s organic baby spinach which is one of the most convenient and cost effective brands of bagged spinach. When I'm living my best life, though, the farmers’ market is the name of the game. 

**It’s worth paying attention to the ingredients list on your carton of soy milk—or other milk alternative. Most brands include carrageenan, a commonly used thickener and stabilizer, which can be rough on people’s stomachs and also potentially causes cancer. Many include canola oil as well. Not ideal. I like to use brands that have only two ingredients: water and whole soybeans (e.g. Organic Unsweetened Edensoy).  

***This pinch of sea salt brings out the sweetness of the mango, and this is key, since this smoothie is much less sweet than the average fruity blend. 


Serving Size: 1 Recipe | Calories: 150 | Total Fat: 1 g | Carbohydrate: 55 g | Sugar: 42 g | Dietary Fiber: 11 g | Protein: 8 g | Vitamin A: 162% | Vitamin C: 170% | Calcium: 24% | Iron: 36%


Jo-Anne McArthur

Photographer. Activist. Broccoli Fanatic. 

Jo-Anne McArthur is an award-winning photojournalist, author, educator, and animal activist. She is best known for her internationally celebrated archive We Animals, which documents our use and abuse of animals for food, experimentation, work, entertainment, slavery, and companionship. Jo-Anne and her work are also the focal point of the acclaimed documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine by Canadian filmmaker Liz Marshall. 

How did you come into this work? Were you a photographer or an activist first?

I was a photographer before I was an activist. And photographersespecially photojournalistsare always trying to find their story. It was as I was carving out a career in photography that I realized I saw animals differently than other people. 

There was a time when I was photographing a macaque monkey who was chained up. And other people were photographing the monkey because they thought it was cute, and they thought it was funny. But I was taking a picture because I thought it was cruel, that it was a problem, and that I wanted to show people what I was seeing. That’s when I realized that I really did see animals differently, and that my point of view was important. 

That was in '98, so it has been a long time now. 

Can you speak to what you see as the role of imagery in the animal rights movement? Why is good photography essential

You said it when you said the word “good.” We all know why visuals are important. But you said good photography, and that is what has changed within the animal rights movement in the past decade. 

To look at animal cruelty is to look at our complicity in that cruelty.

We used to rely on average or even very bad-looking investigative work by people who had a camera but who were not photographers. Most of the photos were shot from the human eye vantage point: pointing down, too far away, not engaging.

This has really changed in the last decade. It’s exciting to see incredible, professional, well-lit, engaging images. So that’s the difference: good photography. And we’re seeing that worldwide now. 

What is catalyzing that change?

The animal rights movement is growing up and becoming more professional. Now, we’re using our tools as effectively as we can, and the camera is an important part of that. 

We Animals Slaughter House.jpg

People are reluctant to witness suffering. No one wants to admit that they’re participating in such a cruel system.  How do you get viewers to engage? 

This is the key that we’re all looking for: how do you get people to look and not to turn away? It’s very hard. As you pointed out, to look at animal cruelty is to look at our complicity in that cruelty, which makes this a double-whammy. 

I wish that my images could convey the smell of these places. 

So, how do you get people to look? You have to meet your audience where they are. Often that means non-aggressive tactics and non-accusatory tactics. It means being helpful instead of condescending, and it means showing the right material. 

The images that I shoot are engaging. You might not want to look, because it’s sad subject matter; but you might be attracted to it because it’s an interesting, well-composed image.  

How does animal cruelty compare across the globe?

From the poorest to the richest countries, we treat animals as objects for profit. It's systemic, and it's international. These industries have been built to wring the most profit out of each individual.

From China to the US, Sweden, or Argentina, animals are crammed into factory farms. They're raised in extremely small spaces where they can’t even turn around. Sometimes, I specifically try to shoot these stories in the richer countries to show that it happens everywhere. 

I wish that my images could convey the smell of these places. There’s so much that we can’t understand from an image alone. 

What do you say to folks who ask how we can focus on animal rights when there are so many human rights violations all over the world? 

That’s part of the problem. Part of the reason the world has gone to hell is that we prioritize ourselves and our problems over everything—completely abusing animals, the environment, and anyone in our path. 

There are so many good reasons to be vegan: the animals, the planet, our health. 

But to that I will add that animal rights is not an exclusive club. This cause encompasses human rights and many other causes. Animal rights are labor rights: just look at the working conditions in slaughterhouses and factory farms. Animal rights are women’s rights. Animal rights are environmental rights.

It’s all interconnected. When we see those connections, we can make the world a better place for all. 

Can you speak to your current work, The Unbound Project, which hits on that intersection between women's rights and animal rights?

Women have been the major players in the animal rights movement since its inception in both the US and the UK, where the movement really started. Today, women are 60%-80% of the movement. That’s worth highlighting. That’s worth celebrating. And it’s also worth discussing since we all see men at the top of the organizations...why is that?

This is worth trying to understand. For instance, in the 1800s and more recently as well of course, there are examples of organizations founded by women who then felt they had to place a man as the organization's leader in order for it to gain more authority and credibility. Women were seen as "hysterical" and "overly emotional." 

The Unbound Project is about that. But really, mostly, it’s a celebration of the fantastic trailblazing that women have done all around the world. We know Gene Baur. We know Wayne Pacelle, but we should know more about the women. 

Vivisection Activist Helen Nelson

You have a book coming out in April called Captive that looks at animals in zoos and aquaria. Why did you choose this subject matter? 

I’m doing Captive because it’s timely, first and foremost. Captive animals in zoos and aquaria do not necessarily pose the most pressing issuefactory farming is a lot more oppressing in terms of sheer numbersbut events like the killing of Harambe the gorilla and the killing of Marius the giraffe have propelled zoo reform and zoo ethics into the mainstream conversation.

With Captive, I’m adding to that conversation by publishing a book that looks at how we see and how we fail to see animals in zoos. The book is being published by Lantern Books, and I’m working with the Born Free Foundation—I shot their EU Zoo Inquiry in 2016. I have over ten years of work documenting animals in zoos on five continents, so it’s a good way to use my archive as well. 

At the end of a long day, what’s your favorite meal? 

Oh god, I love food.

It’s an opportunity to be creative. It’s an opportunity to eat much better food.

My favorite vegetable is broccoli, so if something can include big piles of broccoli that is fantastic. Let’s sayat the end of a long daya big bowl of spaghetti with pesto, lots of broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and big chunks of roasted tofu. Oh god, that sounds like heaven. And you know, I would probably take a bunch of spinach, wilt it, and mix that in as well. 

And soups are the greatest thing in the worldso easy. Just roast up whatever you have in the fridge with some garlic, and then stick it in a pot with some bouillon. It’s always good. You can’t fail.  

What do you wish more people knew about veganism? 

That it’s a pleasure.

I had always thought that veganism was extreme. The reason that I went from vegetarian to vegan is that I was going to do an internship at Farm Sanctuary for a month, and they ask you to be vegan out of respect for the animals while you're on the property. My desire to do this internship outweighed my ideas about the extremism of veganism, so I thought I would just go vegan for the month and then go back to vegetarianism.

But after 24 hours of being vegan, I hadn’t harmed anyone: I hadn’t enslaved chickens in barns, and I hadn’t taken baby calves away from their moms so that I could drink milk. I’m saying that metaphorically, but it’s not even that metaphorical. That’s really what we’re doing when we consume these products.

So, after 24 hours of being vegan, I was so at peace, and I realized that that was a path I would continue on forever. It's especially easy in the big cities where many of us live now; we’re not at all deprived. You reshape your plate, and you eat in a much better way. It’s an opportunity to be creative. It’s an opportunity to eat much better food.

There are so many good reasons to be vegan: the animals, the planet, our health. It’s really long past time that we make those decisions. 

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

All photographs in this post are ©Jo-Anne McArthur.

Follow Jo-Anne at @weanimals on twitter. 

Turmeric Shortbread Cookies

Crystallized Ginger. Flaked Coconut. 

Y'all. Team. Happy Winter Solstice (+ a day)! 

What better way to celebrate than with flakey, out-of-this-world delicious, celestial shortbread cookies! 

You can put them on a platter, in your mouth, on top of your Christmas tree, or all of the above, because this recipe makes about two dozen cookies. 

Yields roughly two dozen cookies


  •  3/4 lbs vegan butter (#worthit) 
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 Tbs H20
  • 1 Tbs turmeric 
  • 3 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 C crystallized ginger, minced
  • 1/4 C flaked coconut (unsweetened) 
  • 1/4 C confectioners' sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Combine sugar and room temperature vegan butter with a wooden spoon or pastry knife. Add tablespoon of water. 
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together turmeric, salt, and flour. Then slowly add the dry mixture to butter and sugar until the dough begins to form a beautiful bright yellow ball. 
  4. Incorporate minced crystallized ginger and flaked coconut. 
  5. Place dough on a well floured surface, shape into a flat disk, wrap in cellophane, and refrigerate for a half hour.
  6. Roll chilled dough out to 1/4 to 1/3 inch thickness, and cut out joyful cookie shapes. Place on an ungreased baking sheet.
    1. Please be strategic in your cookie cutter placement in order to use the dough surface area economically.
    2. Please also eat some dough to make sure it's as delicious as you suspect it is. 
  7. Bake cookies for 20-25 minutes. 
  8. Remove cookies from the oven when the edges start to brown. Let cool completely. 
  9. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve. 

tur·mer·ic | \ˈtərmərik\ 

noun: an Indian perennial herb of the ginger family with a large aromatic yellow rhizome

Are you already on the turmeric train? If not, allow me to usher you onboard. According to the George Mateljan Foundation...

  1. Turmeric is a magnificent source of manganese—one serving (two teaspoons) contains seventeen percent of your daily value.
  2. Iron is also in abundance! One serving offers ten percent daily value!  
  3. Consuming turmeric in a meal can help the body regulate blood fat levels after eating. 
  4. You don't need to eat a lot of turmeric to experience the benefits! As little as 50 milligrams (approximately 1/50th of a teaspoon) each day may be a boon to the body. 

Let's do be honest about the fact that this is a cookie recipe. It is zero percent healthy. However, if in the long run turmeric comes to be a staple in your diet—and it all began with star shaped shortbread—I'd say that's net positive. Eat well and lively kindly! Happy holidays etc! 

Leolin Bowen

Veggie Advocate & Plantain Enthusiast 

Leolin Bowen is an Outreach Coordinator for Food & Nutrition at The Humane Society of the United States. She is taking the cafeterias of Chicago and the midwest by storm. 

What does your work for HSUS look like? 

I work with organizations to help them add more plant-based meals to their menus. It’s definitely a new way to approach animal advocacy. We’re one of the few organizations focusing on institutional change, and we work with everyone from schools—K-12 and colleges—to hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and the military as well. The majority of the time I spend in one-on-one meetings with decision makers—food service directors, sustainability coordinators, or dieticians—talking to them about the benefits of eating plant-based, learning about their programs, and educating them about the resources that we have to offer. 

They're already motivated to provide healthier, more sustainable meals for their students. 

How do those conversations go? 

For me, it’s important to know what their goals are. I spend a lot of time learning about their program—figuring out if they’ve tried offering more plant-based options before and if the benefits of incorporating plant-based options have even been on their radar. At the end of the day, when I leave, they’re the ones who have to put it into effect, and I want to build solid relationships with them to assist them along the way. 

I've found that school food service directors in particular are really interested in offering nutritious meals for their students, but they may not have resources; they may not have the time, so they’re willing to at least hear me out and see the ways that we can assist them.  

If they want to add in just a few plant-based options a week, then we can plan for that. If they have plant-based options already, but nobody’s taking them, then maybe that’s an issue with marketing or education. If they want to launch a Meatless Monday campaign, then we can help them get that started. They’re already motivated to provide healthier, more sustainable meals, so it's a matter of menu planning, knowing how to cook vegetables, and getting students to try them.

If you cook it, they will come. Lead with the food and make your message fun and inviting. 

What are some of the most gratifying aspects of this work? 

We offer two-day advanced culinary trainings with professional chefs, and I love seeing them be surprised that plant-based food taste so good. We typically don’t use meat analogues, so it really is just purely plant-based. Witnessing their excitement that this food can taste so amazing and watching them realize that plant-based meals really are something that they can work into their service is so incredible.

What do you wish more people knew about plant-based eating and veganism in general?

Well for one, I’m a curvy woman, and people are often surprised to learn that I eat plant-based. There is a misconception that if you are vegan, you will look a certain way. People don’t realize that we come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. And of course, what shocks me still is that people don’t know how good the food tastes.

And how much vegans love food.

Haha yes, all my friends who are plant-based—all we do is talk about food.

Do you mostly kick it with other plant-based people or are you lonesome in a crowd?

A lot of my closest friends are plant-based. And that isn’t intentional, but the events that I go to and the work that I talk about just draws people to me who are much more conscious about their food. Either they already were plant-based when I met them or they’ve gone vegan since meeting me.

What is the black vegan community in Chicago like?

It’s great! And that’s another thing people are surprised by: black vegans do exist. A lot of my friends are people of color—so, not just black, but Latino and Asian as well. There are so many people of color who eat plant-based, and that is something I hope more people are becoming aware of.

The animal rights movement seems to lack diversity—is this perception accurate?

It would be great to see more diversity in the animal rights movement. When there is a lack of diversity in any social justice movement, communities and viewpoints are being missed. In general, black people are dealing with a lot of other issues: racism, financial insecurity, police brutality—all these other things that overshadow the also important issue of animal rights. But there are still numerous people of color who do care about the animal rights aspects of eating plant-based.

No one wants to be shamed into making a change, and if they do make a change based on shame, it's not going to be a long-term change.

For example, have you heard of David Carter, the 300 pound vegan? He focuses on both the animal rights and the health aspects of veganism, and he works in food deserts across the country, similar to the Westside and the Southside of Chicago, which are predominantly black or Latino neighborhoods. If you really want to reach a certain demographic, the message will come across better if you’re from their neighborhood or if you look like the people you're talking to. So it’s important to get more diversity in this movement, because we're missing a large group of people who could make a positive change for animals and who need healthier food—who could really benefit from this message.

Right, because there aren't enough folks who can deliver the message in a meaningful way.

And it’s not just this one issue: everything is blended together. It’s easy for us to say, “well, just eat more fruits and veggies,” but if you live in a neighborhood without a grocery store, where the only open store is a liquor store—and they only sell old apples and bananas—it’s not so simple.

At the end of the day, we're all trying to be compassionate people.

Do you have any thoughts about how the animals rights and the health movement can be more inclusive?

If you cook it, they will come.  Lead with the food, and make your message fun and inviting. No one wants to be shamed into making a change, and if they do make a change based on shame, it’s not going to be a long-term change. Draw them in with the good parts, because at the end of the day, we’re all trying to be compassionate people.

It’s also important to let people know that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, at least in my opinion. There are incremental steps that you can take that move you on a more compassionate path. I wouldn’t want anyone to get discouraged or not try it at all, because they feel like they would have to be perfect. No one is perfect.

Are there any resources that you like to point people to when they’re interested in exploring this?

We have a guide to meat-free meals on our website with tons of recipes. My colleague, Eddie Garza, just came out with a cookbook called ¡Salud! Vegan Mexican Cooking, and I’m so excited about it! That book is going to reach a demographic that might not otherwise see themselves represented in this movement.

I want him to know that there is a different way to eat. 

Speaking of how delicious plant-based food can taste, what is your favorite meal at the end of a long day?

My mom is from Belize, and my son is half-Colombian, so I love Latin foods. Rice, beans, avocado, veggies tamales...and I’ll always take plantains. I love that type of food. It’s cheap, quick, and easy, and it’s so comforting. It reminds me of being home with my mom.

Are you raising your son vegan? Are you letting him feel that out for himself?

He is six now, and for the first 2 1/2  years, he was raised 100% plant-based. Now, I co-parent with his dad, so my son eats plant-based when he’s with me. When he’s with his dad, he eats whatever they eat. And they’re veg-friendly, so that helps.

But I’m always trying to give him opportunities to try new foods. If we go to the grocery store, and he picks out some fruit or vegetable—even if it’s  $5/lbs cherries—I’ll buy it. I’ll cry a little at the price, but I’ll buy it for him, because as he gets older, I want him to know that there is a different way to eat.

What gives you hope in this movement? 

It’s working with kids and seeing them excited about trying veggies. I was just visiting Detroit public schools, and they do meatless days two times a week throughout the whole school district. They have a couple of green houses there, the kids are growing their own food, and the fruits and veggies taste really good. These kids are smart; they’re compassionate; they speak up. If they can do it, we can do it too, and we need to do it—to give them something to look up to, something to carry on.

You can find Leolin Bowen and links to her writing on Twitter at @leolinbowen. For more resources and information on HSUS’s work helping institutions create healthy sustainable menu options, check out

Black Sesame & Steamed Broccoli Salad

Zucchini Noodles. Edamame. Peanut Butter Sauce.  

Do you love broccoli as much as you should? 

Probably not. 

Here are 5 reasons to love it more: 

1. Broccoli does an exquisite detox job for our bodies. Its unique combination of phytonutrients (specifically glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiian, and glucobrassicin) enable you to better neutralize and eliminate toxins.   

2. On average, one cup of cooked broccoli has 245% of your daily value of vitamin K and 135% of vitamin C. 

3. Your digestive tracts adores broccoli. It is not only a high in fiber food, but it also contains glucosinolates which help protect the stomach lining from H pylori overgrowth. This is excellent news if you're not in the mood for a stomach ulcer.  

4. Broccoli supports heart health. Talk about loveable. 

5. All eyes are on broccoli as the ultimate anti-cancer vegetable--in fact over 300 research studies are devoted to just this topic. Why? Cancer seems to be caused by a combination of oxidative stress, chronic inflammation, and inadequate detox, and broccoli is brilliant at mitigating all three of these. 

Read more about the green goodness of broccoli at the George Mateljan Foundation's encyclopedia of nutrition. 

Serves a pair or else four moderately hungry folks. 


  • 1 head raw broccoli 
  • 1 raw zucchini 
  • 16 oz steamed edamame 
  • 2 Tbs black sesame seeds
  • 1/4 C peanutbutter 
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce or tamari 
  • 2 Tbs maple syrup


  1. Chop your broccoli head into small florets.
  2. Lightly steam florets until they are bright green and slightly tender, but still so very nice and crunchy. Set aside to cool. 
  3. In a small sauce pan, combine peanut butter, soy sauce (or tamari), and maple syrup over low heat until the peanut butter is fully incorporated/not longer looks stringy and gross. The sauce will thicken as it cools. This is fine. 
  4. Spiralize your zucchini. If you do not have a spiralizer, please know that this is totally acceptable since spiralizers are obscure & not unpretentious kitchen tools; feel free to chop up the zucchini any way that pleases you. If you do have a spiralizer, however, you are obligated to use it here and now, because why else did you buy it? 
  5. Combine broccoli, zucchini, and steamed edamame in a large bowl,  and mix in sauce until all green items are fully coated. The sauce will thin out with the moisture from the vegetables. 
  6. Sprinkle black sesame seeds atop your salad and serve. 

Cardamom Cranberry Sauce

A Five-Minute Recipe from Mary C. Stevens

This recipe came to me from Mary C. Stevens, mother of Henry Gottfried. The Gottfried-Stevens family has a robust cranberry sauce tradition, so you know this recipe is solid Thanksgiving gold: raw cranberries, tart dried cherries, light brown sugar, and cardamom.  Blitz these together in a food processor and let sit in the fridge for a day so the juices can get to know each other. Easy as that. 


  • 12 oz raw cranberries
  • 1 C tart dried cherries
  • 1 C packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom


  1. Combine cranberries, cherries, brown sugar, and cardamom in a bowl. (Finger through the cherries to make sure there are no pits in there.)
  2. Dump half into a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Repeat with the other half. 
  3. Store tightly covered for at least one day. 
  4. Bring to room temperature before serving alongside your vegan stuffing

Mary Stevens credits this recipe to Rozanne Gold, who is famous for her three ingredient recipes and a series of "1-2-3" cookbooks. 

Henry Gottfried on Cranberry Sauce

excerpted from Henry's interview with Chroma Kitchen

Cranberry sauce is very important in my house: my dad has could call it an obsession with the Ocean Spray canned stuff. It is an absolute non negotiable. So we always have the Ocean Spray, and for many years now we would also have the cranberry sauce that we would make—strained through an old school food mill so that it has got the nice smooth consistency. And then we would do a whole berry cranberry sauce, or a cranberry relish, or a raw one with horseradish. You can’t have too many cranberry sauces. And let me also say that I have enjoyed a few post-Thanksgiving meals of just cranberry sauce with a spoon.

What do you miss most about childhood in your mom's kitchen or your mom's cooking? I miss cooking with my mom, and I always want to do it when I’m home. She seems to me to be this infinite wealth of practical cooking knowledge. She has an amazing cookbook library, and she knows some stuff. But it’s less about crazy techniques and more just that she has practical answers for pretty much every kitchen quandary.

It’s a totally relaxed oral tradition. Cooking with her seems like something from a bygone era. It’s not fussy. It’s always tasty, and it’s just a little bit low stakes. I love learning from her in the kitchen, because it feels like such a fundamental way for a parent and child to connect.

Are there any maxims or phrases that you live by (food related or otherwise?) This comes from my mother, which is fitting: "You're only young once, but you can be immature forever."

Michelle Carrera

Activist & Founder of Chilis on Wheels

This Thanksgiving Michelle is feeding a thousand hungry people in Tompkins Square Park. She is the founder of Chilis on Wheels, a nonprofit that provides vegan chili to people in need of a warm meal. As a passionate animal rights, environmental, and social justice activist, Michelle shared her thoughts on community and compassion with Chroma Kitchen.

How did Chilis on Wheels get started?

The first day was Thanksgiving of 2014. It started with 15 meals that I just made in my kitchen. It was so harrowing outsidethe first snow of the season, and something in me was saying, “You gotta do this. Even if it’s just once a year. Do.”

And from there, I thought, “I have to do this once a month.” And then after that, “Every week.” So this is where we are now. Every Saturday at 1:00, here at Tompkins Square Park, we give out 100 to 200 meals.

Why is it important to have a vegan option available to the community that you serve?  

We serve people who are vegetarian, pescatarian, or even vegan for diverse reasons: religious, ethical, health...We have a lot of people who come every week, and they tell me how glad they are that we’re here, because no other soup kitchens have vegan options. They tell me even the salads will have some kind of dressing that makes them not vegan. 

We're all one community, so we all eat together, and we all give thanks together. 

Veganism often gets written off as an elitist diet. What’s your perspective on that conversation?

I’ve been vegan for 15 years. I’m from Puerto Rico. I’m low income. A lot of emphasis is put on mock meats and all these new products that are coming out, which do make it pricey. Necessarily so, because they’re small companies & they don’t get any government subsidies. (Non-vegan food is less expensivenot necessarily because it is cheaper to makebut because it is heavily subsidized.) So, a way to get around that is just not to consume all those super processed products.

My diet tends to consist of whole foods: beans, rice, vegetables. So that’s what I try to bring in to these meals, and that’s what I’ve exposed a lot of people to, here in our community: how to be vegan on a low budget, and how to be vegan without sacrificing your cultural identity.

In Puerto Rico, it’s a meat-heavy culture, but the animal that people are eating is not what makes their food cultural. It’s really the flavors and the combinations of vegetables. So you can keep the staples. Keep the sofrito. Keep the flavorsthose are the things that make the food cultural.

What do you have planned for this Thanksgiving?

Right now, we’re organizing our Thanksgiving feast, where we hope to feed 1000 people on Thanksgiving day from 12:00 to 2:00. At this point, all donations are going towards the supplies: catering trays, sterno cans, that sort of stuff. We’ve received donations from several vegan restaurants that are supporting us and from several companies like Tofurky, Field Roast, and Hampton’s Creek.

We’re making it potluck style as well, so people can bring a vegan dish or eat vegan dish. It’s all about removing the sense of “us” and “them”who is serving, who is taking. We’re all one community, so we all eat together, and we all give thanks together.

Chilis on Wheels started as a way for me to teach my son, Ollie, about compassion towards people. 

Why did you begin eating a vegan diet? For animal rights? For health reasons? For the environment?

Primarily out of compassion for animals. We are a vegan family, and then Chilis on Wheels started as a way for me to teach my son, Ollie, about compassion towards people. It just all ties together.

What are the challenges of raising a kid on a plant-based diet in our non-vegan world?

Kids are naturally compassionate people; they have that instinct to try and protect others, to be friendly and nice. The hardest part of navigating the non-vegan world is when it comes to family members that aren't vegan—explaining they’re not “bad guys.” Your grandma is not a bad person, she just hasn’t made this connection yet. You know, kids see things as very black and white. It’s hard to teach the grays.

You’ve been vegan for 15 years. In that time, how have you seen the landscape around veganism change?

This is another era. When I went vegan, I had never even heard the word. Ever. Never. I had never heard the word "vegan" at all.

And now, you go into a bookstore and there will be two bookcases filled with vegan cookbooks. It’s great. New York Cityyou can’t go more than two or three blocks without seeing a vegan restaurant, which is amazing. Coffee shops have soy milk! Also the cheeses...let’s be real. Vegan cheeses 15 years ago were not very good, and they just keep getting better and better.

At the end of the longest day, what do you crave?

I am Puerto Rican, so at the end of a long day: rice and beans with plantains and stir fried tofu, some sofrito...that sounds so good.

For me, everything is about compassion, and empowerment, and community. 

What are the ways that you would like to expand Chilis on Wheels? 

I never have a chance to make sweets, because I’m always making the chili, but having a sweet component would be really great. People go crazy when we have cake, things like that. So that would be really nice.

Our dream of dreams is to find a brick and mortar place, where we can actually have a kitchen and serve there as well. That way people can feel safer and we can have a lot more volunteer opportunities.

We actually have an announcement coming up on Thanksgiving day of our next steps. 

You've previously worked in adult literacy, immigration rights, and reproductive rights. How does that experience inform the work you do here?

For me, everything is about compassion, and empowerment, and community. All these other issues are the same thing: immigration, hunger, poverty. You name it. It all comes down to coming together as a community and having respect and compassion for everyoneincluding animals. There may be other people who can better articulate the political nuances and overlaps, but for me, it’s a simple as that.



Vegan Pumpkin Risotto

Mac and Cheese Gets a Makeover

I kid you not: This tastes like childhood + thyme. 

Taking my first bite of this pumpkin risotto was like stepping back in time. The warm, creamy, savory forkful of perfectly seasoned rice transported me to my pre-vegan days of enthusiastic macaroni consumption. Although more elegant and far healthier, this dish scratched a velveeta shells and cheese itch that I didn't even know I had. You'll forgive me the mixed metaphor when you try it for yourself. 


  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (low sodium)*
  • 1/2-1 cup water
  • 16 oz canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp sea salt*
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste) 

*I am aware that it is slightly ridiculous to call for low sodium veggie broth and then ask you to add sea salt six ingredients later. But trust me, it's better this way. 


  1. Combine vegetable broth and 1/2 C water in a medium pot, and bring to a simmer on the stove top. Continue to simmer while preparing the rest of the recipe. 
  2. In a large pot (or in a deep and meaningful skillet), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until they begin to soften (about 5 minutes).  
  3. Stir in the rice until it is well coated in oil, lightly toasted (1-2 minutes), and heated through. Be careful not to burn it please. Thank you. 
  4. Slowly add the white wine (it should sizzle when it hits the pan) and cook until the wine has evaporated. 
  5. Add 1/2 C simmering vegetable broth to the rice, and stir until the moisture has cooked off. Add another 1/2 C simmering vegetable broth to the rice and repeat this process until kingdom come, stirring frequently. 
  6. Once all of the vegetable broth has been added and the rice is almost fully cooked, add in the canned pumpkin, ginger, thyme, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast.  
  7. Stir stir stir until everything is heated all the way through and the rice is happily cooked. 
  8. Garnish with thyme. Spoon into bowls. Serve with love. 

Elements of a Brilliant Risotto

The Right Rice 

Arborio rice, the short grain Italian rice traditionally used for risotto, has the ideal starch composition for creating a creamy dish with just the right amount of chew. (For my fellow nerds out there, arborio rice has a higher percentage of amylopectin, which is the kind of starch that gelatinizes when heatedhence the classic creaminess.) In my humble but strong opinion, arborio rice is the heart and soul of a good risotto. Don't skimp. Don't sub. 

Generous Stirring 

Risotto requires constant love, so be sure you're in the mood to hang out by your stove for a while. Give it whirl with your wooden spoon at least every 30 seconds to a minute. Continuous stirring helps release the starches, which is key for acquiring maximum creaminess. This dish demands commitment and requires attention, but it's SO worth the investment of time and elbow motion. 

Patience & Heat

Keep the veggie broth simmering on the stove alongside your risotto-to-be. This will enable you to eschew rapidly cooling down the rice each time you add another 1/2 C dose of broth. Add your broth only a little (1/2 C) at a timethis too helps the starches release to create that requisite risotto cream factor.

3 Hauntingly Healthy (Vegan) Treats for Halloween

These eerily easy ideas for a plant-based Halloween are devilishly delicious—pretty much to die for. 

Frozen BOOnanas

Banana + Peanut Butter + Chocolate = Bone-chillingly good.

Ingredients + Tools

  • 3 bananas
  • ¼ C chocolate chips
  • 1 Tbs peanut butter
  • ¼ C shredded coconut (optional)
  • 6 popsicle sticks OR fancy paper party straws left over from your roommate's birthday party (pictured)


  1. Cut each banana in half.
  2. Gently apply popsicle sticks to bananas' innards.
  3. Affix chocolate eyes and drizzle peanut butter in the approximate location of a mouth. Feel free to take artistic liberties: There is no limit to the number of eyes and mouths that a BOOnana may possess. 
  4. If in the mood for coconut, sprinkle shredded coconut on peanut butter.
  5. Freeze for 1 hour.
  6. Serve frozen with extra peanut butter, chocolate chips, and shredded coconut on the side for dipping. 

Trick or Turkish Apricots

It would be a dirty trick to claim that this is a "recipe." This is just cuteness and deliciousness. 

Ingredients + Tools

  • 7 oz Turkish Apricots
  • 2 Tbs peanut/almond/cashew butter
  • 1 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 1 bunch mint leaves
  • 1 small Ziploc bag
  • 1 pair o’ scissors


  1. In the smallest bowl you can find, mix peanut butter and cocoa powder until the cocoa powder is fully incorporated and the peanut butter is very dark and spooky looking.
  2. Spoon chocolate-peanut butter mixture into the corner of a small Ziploc bag. Cut off the very corner-tip of the bag to create a peanut butter piping apparatus.
  3. Pipe pumpkin faces onto dried apricots.
  4. Tear mint leaves into more reasonable sizes and fasten to the back of each apricot using peanut butter as glue.
  5. Serve immediately and solicit compliments on your handiwork. 

Double Chocolate Spookie Dough

This vegan double chocolate cookie dough is pretty much to die for. 

Ingredients + Tools 

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ C whole wheat flour 
  • ½ C + 2 Tbs peanut butter/almond butter/cashew butter 
  • ½-1 C brown sugar or palm sugar*
  • ¼  C + 1 Tbs cocoa powder*
  • ¼  C soy milk, almond milk, or coffee  
  • ¼  tsp salt
  • ½ C chocolate chips*
  • ¼  C whole cacao beans, smashed
  • ¼  C coconut flakes 
  • 2 sheets (vegan) graham crackers
  • 6 4 oz mason jars 
  • 1 small Ziploc bag

*In the spirit of Goosebumps, you should choose your own adventure with regards to these ingredients: Adjust these measurements with respect to your sweet tooth and/or cocoa tooth. Make R.L. Stine proud. 


  1. Use an immersion blender to combine chickpeas, soy/almond milk (or coffee) and ½ C peanut butter. Note: it is best not to blenderize your index finger while doing this. In the event that you do blenderize your finger, do so only when your roommate is home and has Bandaids and Neosporin on hand. 
  2. Once all wet ingredients are happily homogenous, fold in flour, sugar, ¼ C cocoa powder, and salt. Then add chocolate chips.
  3. Now spoon mixture into 4 oz mason jars, all the way up to the brim.
  4. Break graham cracker sheets into quarters and round the corners on one end of each to create headstones. 
  5. In the smallest bowl you can find, mix 2 Tbs peanut butter and 1 Tbs cocoa powder until the cocoa powder is fully incorporated and the peanut butter is very dark and spooky looking.
  6. Spoon chocolate-peanut butter mixture into the corner of a small ziploc bag. Cut the very corner-tip of the bag off to create a peanut butter piping apparatus.
  7. Pipe "RIP" or any other message of your choosing (e.g. IOU, WTF, G2G, ETC.) onto the graham cracker headstones. 
  8. Place headstones into cookie dough dirt, adorn graves with smash cocoa beans and coconut flakes, and call it a day. 


Vegan Chocolate Sorbet

Chocolate. Cocoa. Sugar. Salt.

This recipe was originally published in Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream by Laura O'Neill, Ben Van Leeuwen, and Pete Van Leeuwen with Olga Massov.

It's so good! It's so simple. (And it's effortlessly vegan.) As Ben Van Leeuwen will tell you, this sorbet is all about the ingredients: If you put exquisite chocolate in, you will get exquisite sorbet out. 

A Bit of History


At the start of the summer of 1997, I wrote the the ice cream man a letter. I requested that he pleas driv down our stret mor offin this sumer. Thank You!! Lov MARY

Clearly, the ice cream man received my epistle, because he did drive down Byron Avenue more often. In fact, he came every single day: It was a glorious season of Chocolate Eclair Bars, Flintstones Push Pops, and Fudgsicles. 

Adoration of ice cream has always been a family affair. Summers kicked off with a flurry of flavor inventing. The rhythmic churning of our ice cream cranker on the back patio punctuated witheringly hot Nashville afternoons as we readied spoons to sample the latest iteration of "Mocha Brownie Avalanche" or "Mango Madness."

Each summer we entered our newest flavor into the annual Ice Cream Crankin' flavor competition, and we came away with our fair share of blue ribbons over the years. Winning the city-wide Crankin' meant the regional dairy company would produce your flavor commercially. 

This was a rite of passage in our household. Seeing pints of my own Graham Ole Opry and Nutt'ee Relations in the grocery stores was more of a landmark for me than high school and college graduation put together. In the Allen family, we settled debates with ice cream. We settled debts. We settled stomachs. 


At the start of the summer of 2015, I gently broke it to my parents that I was choosing to eat, henceforth, only plant-based food. Their first concern—their only valid concern—was that I would no longer be able to share in this central family tradition. 

But they hadn't been to Brooklyn yet. And I hadn't taken them to Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream yet.  

Ben Van Leeuwen is a new kind of ice cream man. After a summer of steering a Good Humor ice cream truck around the neighborhoods of his hometown in Connecticut and selling conventional ice cream with dubiously long ingredient lists, he figured folks might appreciate ice cream that wasn't full of artificial flavors, preservatives, dyes, and stabilizers. It turns out he was on to something.

In 2008, before gourmet ice cream was trending, before food trucks were tweeting, Ben and his co-founders, Pete Van Leeuwen and Laura O'Neill, established an artisan ice cream company with a pair of retrofitted postal trucks. 

Eight years later, Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream boasts a fleet of yellow ice cream trucks, as well as eight retail shops around New York and L.A. Not to mention that you can find Van Leeuwen pints in grocery stores across both cities

In 2014, they added their first vegan flavors to the menu. Having sampled all—and I do mean all—the vegan ice cream brands on the shelves of Brooklyn's too-bougie health food stores, I can tell you: No one is making vegan ice cream like the Van Leeuwen team.

You can read more about that HERE. And once you have, try your hand at this simple but divine chocolate sorbet recipe from their cookbook, Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream


  • 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (274 grams) sugar 
  • 4 1/2 ounces (127 grams) unsweetened chocolate (99% cacao), preferably Michel Cluizel
  • 3/4 cup (60 grams) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt


1. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and 2 cups water and stir over low heat until the sugar is fully coated. Stir in the chocolate, cocoa powder, and salt until combined. Cook, stirring until the liquid is uniform, the chocolate has melted, and the sugar and cocoa powder have dissolved completely. Transfer the sorbet base to a quart-sized container, cover, and refrigerate until fully cold, about 3 hours. 

2. Pour chilled sorbet base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Place the container in which you refrigerated the sorbet base in the freezer so you can use it to store the finished sorbet. Churn the sorbet until it resembles Italian ice. Transfer the sorbet to the chilled storage container and freeze until hardened to your desired consistency. The sorbet will keep, frozen, for up to 7 days. 

(makes about 1 quart)

Chocolate: Eight Things Worth Knowing

  1. Chocolate is a fermented food. (Like wine! Like kimchi! Like kombucha!) The process of fermentation is what unlocks all the magic flavor from what would otherwise be a bitter seed.1
  2. Cocoa has 800 flavor compounds, which is more than any other food!2 (It is more complex than wine. More delicious too? Mayhaps.)
  3. Good chocolate has a high-gloss finish and a solid snap but will melt in your hand in less than a minute.3
  4. Cacao pods are filled with a sweet & sometimes tart ivory colored pulp called baba that surrounds the seeds. Baba tastes more like a gummy bear or lemonade than like chocolate.
  5. On a commercial plantation, only three out of every thousand cultivated cacao flowers are successfully pollinated. In the forest, they have a much better shot: five in a hundred are sucessfully pollinated and are thus able to produce cocoa pods. 4
  6. Cacao trees can only grow within 20 degrees north or south of the equator. 5
  7. It's estimated that the demand for chocolate will increase by two-fold by the year 2050.6
  8. If we want amazing chocolate to still exist in 2050, we need to be willing to pay for the true cost of cacao.

"I don't eat expensive chocolate to be fancy or waste money; I eat it because I want to support the chocolate makers dedicated to sustaining diverse and delicious chocolate." —Preeti Simran Sethi, author of Bread, Wine, and Chocolate

In their quest to find the most unbelievably delectable chocolate for their ice cream, Ben, Laura, and Pete have happened upon two of the most admirable and socially responsible chocolate making operations in the market: Michel Cluizel and Askinosie.

Both Michel Cluizel and Askinosie source their cocoa beans from farms with ecologically responsible farming practices free of chemicals and pesticides. They maintain direct trade relationships with their farms and pay their farmers significantly more than even "Fair Trade" market price; Askinosie even has a profit share system in place with its farms.

An ethically and sustainably produced crop is not only the healthiest crop for the land, farmers, consumers, it's also the most delicious. Paying a fair price for chocolate enables farmers to plant the regional varieties of cacao that make delicious, complex chocolate (e.g. Nacional, Curary, Criollo, Guiana) rather than opting for the more reliably productive clone CCN-51, a variety which produces flavor generally likened to "acidic dirt." This is what a Hershey's, Mars, and Nestlé  are buying. Paying a fair price also enables farmers to harvest and ferment their beans properly, protecting the quality of their cocoa.

A $10 chocolate bar may feel like a decadent purchase, but it's chocolate! It should be decadent. It should be a splurge. How much would you spend on fine wine or a craft beer? When you spend $10 on artisanal Askinosie or Michel Cluizel chocolate, not only are you now the proud (if momentary) owner of a remarkable chocolate bar, but you are casting your consumer ballot for a fair market; for sustainable, responsible farming practices; for a better life for the people who labored to bring that chocolate to you; and for the continued existence of incredible cacao. 


1 Josh Cohen, "Fermentation for Dummies," Tasting Table, April 21, 2015.

2 Sethi, Simran. Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2016. Loc 1507. Electronic.

3 Weinzweig, Ari. "Chocolate." Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating: How to Choose the Best Bread, Cheeses, Olive Oil, Pasta, Chocolate, and Much More. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003. 404-405. Print.

4 United States. National Park Service. "Pollinators." National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

5 "Growing Cocoa Beans," World Agroforestry Centre, accessed October 2, 2016.

6 Bisseleua, D.H.B., Missoup, A.D., Vidal, S. (2009). Biodiversity Conservation, Ecosystem Functioning, and Economic Incentives under Cocoa Agroforestry Intensification. Conservation Biology, 23(5), 1176-1184.

Ben Van Leeuwen

Founder & CEO of Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream

Ben and 190 kg of coconut oil at the Van Leeuwen factory in Greenpoint

Ben Van Leeuwen may use chickpea water to make vegan meringues, but you'll never hear him throw out the buzzword "aquafaba." Ben is emphatically not a foodie; he's just devoted to creating amazing ice creamand amazing vegan ice creamfrom world class ingredients. Whether it's Sicilian pistachios from the slopes of Mount Etna or ceylon cinnamon from Sri Lanka, Ben and his partners, Laura O'Neill and Peter Van Leeuwen, have sourced the finest ingredients for every flavor on their menu. Ben gave Chroma Kitchen the literal inside scoop.

What was the root of your interest in adding vegan flavors to the Van Leeuwen menu?

Initially, the interest rose from customer demand. Not as much from vegans saying, “We want vegan ice cream,” but more from lactose intolerant people not wanting to eat dairy. Combined with that, Laura’s mother and sister are vegan, and we’re all kind of pescatarians.

We were one of the first artisanal ice cream makers, and we were one of the first food trucks. With vegan ice cream, we weren’t one of the first—but we are definitely the best. And I’m surprised, because it’s not particularly difficult to make: I’m a passionate guy, and I love food, but I’m not a genius. Making incredible beer and wine is really hard. Making incredible ice cream, it’s not very hard.

Van Leeuwen's Vegan Coffee Bean

This is bad PR, but it's interesting. It's cool for people to know. 

Why do you say making incredible ice cream isn't difficult?

There are very few points in the production where you need to make subjective decisions. Formulating ice creamcoming up with the recipe—that takes some subjective decision making, but once you have the recipe, it’s simple. You’re just heating it up and cooling it down.

You mentioned that you're all "kind of pescatarians." What is the impetus to cut back on meat?

Mainly, we just feel bad. Killing animals seems like a mean thing to do. Particularly if you don’t really need to. It seems like the cost-benefit...if you look at these two living beings, and one wants to be alive, and one enjoys the taste of something—why kill something just because you enjoy the taste? People argue that it’s tradition, but things change. We can make new traditions.

On top of all of that, it seems like a good idea to eat fewer animal products, both for your health and for the health of the planet: if there were only 20 million people on the earth, we could all eat meat and dairy, and it would be fine. But with 6 billion, to create a lot of dairy and to use a lot of animal products is much more environmentally intensive.

For example, we only use organic eggs, but even for most organic eggs, the feed is grown and shipped from China. The chickens eat it, and the farms create so much chicken shit that they have to dump it in the ocean, which acidifies the ocean. So how would we really do it right? We’d use eggs from farms where the chickens are running around and their excrement is just fertilizing the land without having to move it.

Our company is not so big that we couldn’t get enough of those eggs, but it would increase our costs too much: We can’t charge $15.00 for a cone. It’s already expensive, and as it is, we’re operating on thin margins between the number of eggs we use and the cost of the other ingredients. This is bad PR, but it’s interesting. It’s cool for people to know.

Vegan Mint Chip | made with small batch, direct trade Askinosie chocolate

People just absolutely go crazy about anything with cakes and chunks, and people love colors too. 


What does the creative process behind new flavors look like?

The creative process is asking, “What are people going to love? And how does it fit into the menu? Are we creating a balanced menu with enough fruit, enough chocolate, enough cookies, enough cakes?” 

In August, our specials were more subtle than usual. There was less going on with them, because we were developing them during a heat wave, and so we were more averse to chunks and cakes. We wanted to do really simple flavors. We did a cantaloupe sorbet, because we wanted to use fruit that’s local and in-season. I don’t really love cantaloupe, because it has no acid. So we added a little bit of lime juice, a little bit of ginger juice. Really simple. But nice for the heat.

And then I wanted to do a really satisfying, unctuous flavor that would also be good for the heat: Chocolate sorbet is amazing for that. It’s basically like eating a chocolate bar, and ours is great...actually, it’s mind-blowing. It’s so good. It’s just Askinosie 70% single plantation chocolate, filtered water, and cane sugar. No other ingredients. It’s insanely creamy—even though there’s no cream or milk, because there’s a lot of cocoa butter in the chocolate. It’s just pure chocolate.

Chocolate Sorbet | made with Askinosie chocolate

And people just absolutely go crazy about anything with cakes and chunks, and people love colors too. Last month our specials included vegan turmeric ice cream with chunks of palm sugar shortbread and coffee caramel, and that was bright yellow. Really nice. If we’re doing anything a little weird, we want to have one familiar element, because then people will buy it. It if was just turmeric ice cream, I don’t think people would get it. But when we add the palm sugar shortbread with caramel, and they’re like, “Ooooo, yeah. We love it.”

Why palm sugar?

Palm sugar is more flavorful than cane sugar. It tastes a lot like maple syrup, because they cook it down. We get our palm sugar from Big Tree Farms in Bali. Turmeric is used in Balinese cooking and Southeast Asian cooking a lot, so combining palm sugar with turmeric has some relevance. 

And do you ever bring any of the special flavors back?

Yeah, the really popular ones—we’re adding the vegan turmeric to the permanent menu in September.

Vegan Turmeric with Palm Sugar Cookies and Coffee Caramel | made with palm sugar from Big Tree Farms

I'm waiting for someone to make something even close to us—or maybe better. But it hasn't happened yet.


What advice would you have for someone who was trying to adapt classic flavors to a vegan base?

Basically, you just need spreadsheets. You need to make sure your fats and solids are matching up, and you'll see how vegan fats are different from butterfats, so you need to make adjustments based on that. And then it depends on the flavor. Banana for some reason is great to make. It doesn’t taste at all vegan-y. With chocolate—even though it is such a strong flavoryou really taste the coconut. The mint extract in our mint chip hides everything well though. 

Where did you learn most of what you know about food chemistry and food science?

Just through making ice cream. I cooked a lot before, but I didn’t think much about smoke points of oil or melting points. I just sort of cooked. But then, founding Van Leeuwen, I started trying to figure out how to make really great ice cream, and that has to do with solids, fat, sugar, and finding that balance. And salt. We use a lot of salt in our vegan ice cream.

Banana Nut | made with roasted bananas

Why salt?

I don’t know. It needs it. I think it’s because dairy has some natural salinity, but no one else uses salt. At least the other vegan brands I’ve tasted don't. Our vegan ice cream, it’s hands down the best.  I’m waiting for someone to make something even close to usor maybe better. But it hasn’t happened yet.

Most vegan ice creams use only coconut milk for the base, but Van Leeuwen's recipes always include cashew milk as wellis that why your vegan ice cream is so much more delicious? 

The cashew-coconut combination is part of it, but we also use cocoa butter, which gives the vegan ice cream a lot of chew. Cocoa butter also has a little bit of this umami-ish taste. Adding that to the vegan gives you a little more depth of flavor too, which is cool.

Yeah, just the combination of those fats, and then the quality of the ingredients. Nobody is doing vegan ice cream the way that we are; some people that are making regular ice creamnot selling pints in grocery stores, but that have ice cream shopsare using really great ingredients like us. But nobody is doing that with vegan. Some vegan ice cream brands are organic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the ingredients are high quality.

Van Leeuwen's new vegan pints on display in the walk-in freezer

I started trying to figure out how to make really great ice cream, and that has to do with solids, fat, sugar, and finding that balance.

And salt. 


Ven Leeuwen’s Sicilian pistachios, your Michel Cluizel chocolate, and your ceylon cinnamon get a lot of press. Are there other ingredients near and dear to your heart?

Our berries are really really good. They taste so great. We need to be able to consistently buy huge quantities of really good berries, so we buy them directly from a farm in Oregon that freezes their berriesso they have a supply year-round. Normally, berries are picked when they're really unripe so that they’ll still be good by the time they get to the grocery stores one to three weeks later. But because this farm freezes everything, they can wait and actually pick the berries when they’re ripe. Frozen stuff is awesome.

Haha, so said the ice cream maker! 

The cookbook is so meticulous and lovingly authored: Did you have any reservations about giving the public your trade secrets?

None. Zero reservations. It’s really easy making ice cream. It’s really just about the ingredients and the ratios of those ingredients. A handful of other little shops, like Carmela in LA or Smitten in San Francisco, are making ice cream the way we do, but they’re still small. No one who makes ice cream the way we do is selling pints wholesale, because they wouldn’t make money.

Most of our competitors are making so much more at wholesale, because they spend $3.00 per pound chocolate from Guittard instead of $11.50 per pound from Askinosie or Michel Cluizel. They use fewerand non-organicegg yolks. They don’t make their own add-ins. It’s very very unusual for larger scale productions to be unwavering in their quality of ingredients.

Vegan Green Tea Ice Cream

Sometimes, in moments of despair, I'll wonder, "Jeez, what's the point? Why do we even do any of this?" But then I'll taste it, and I'll remember...oh yeah...this is really great. 


Do you feel any sense of purpose or mission behind the fact that by purchasing such high quality ingredients and creating demand for these products, you are supporting small, ethical producers? 

Sometimes, at certain moments. And then other times, it just feels like we’re too small to make any sort of difference...I guess it’s just about what you want in your community. If there isn’t a demand for all these awesome ingredients, nobody would make them; it would just be the giant producers. But sometimes, in moments of despair, I’ll wonder, “Jeez, what’s the point? Why do we even do any of this?” But then I’ll taste it, and I’ll remember...oh yeah...this is really great. And it’s unique. There is good ice cream everywhere (because I think Häagen-Dazs is goodthey don't use any stabilizers or anything. I get them on road trips), but there’s great ice cream like almost nowhere. 

What’s your goal for Van Leeuwen? 

It’s to be everywhere. To see if people would be willing to pay a couple bucks more for really amazing ice cream, and eventually get the price down a little as we scale up. We want to do that through wholesale and by opening more stores, reason being: our ice cream is really the best. We use the best ingredients, so it seems better that we’re everywhere rather than anyone else.

Ben displaying the new Van Leeuwen pint design

All Van Leeuwen ice cream is made from scratch in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Find Van Leeuwen scoops at any of their five New York locations or three L.A. locations. Keep tabs on the Van Leeuwen trucks via twitter.  And 100% definitely invest in the Van Leeuwen cookbook. Then turn to page 160. 

Sweet Pea Salad

Radish. Dill. Shallots. Whole Grain Mustard. 

Before this weekend, I hadn't eaten a pea since I escaped the tyranny of the familial plate. Just kidding. Love you, Mom! However, Nani D., our resident PhD candidate at Chroma Kitchen, sent this recipe to me, and I am now fully on the pea wagon. Trust me. It's all in the dill. 

Serves one hungry girl three lunches and a mid-afternoon snack OR serves as the perfect dish to bring to a potluck, especially when accompanied by hummus, carrots, and a winning smile.


Salad Proper

  • 16 oz peas, frozen*
  • 1 bunch radishes, chopped
  • 3 or 4 shallots, sliced
  • 1/4 or 1/2 C dill, chopped + 5-6 dill sprigs for garnish

Salad Dressing

  • 1/4 C whole grain mustard
  • 1/4 C apple cider vinegar  
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • salt, as you like it
  • pepper, as you like it 

*To the clever person who bookmarks this recipe to make in April: Bravo! And, yes, please do use fresh, in-season peas from a farmer's market. For the rest of us, however: no one is mad about a frozen pea. 


  1. Thaw/prepare peas according to the instructions on the package. Under no conditions are you permitted to overcook them. Allow peas to cool.
  2. Wash and chop radishes. If you have a mandolin slicer on hand, this is the moment you've been waiting for.
  3. Peel and slice shallots. 
  4. Rinse and dry dill. Remove small stems with dilly tops from the large, thick stems. Discard the thick stems and chop what remains until you have approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cups. I do not dissuade you from using a full 1/2 cup and beyond. 
  5. Combine peas, radishes, shallots, and dill in a big bowl. 
  6. Mix mustard, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil in a separate small bowl. Add salt and pepper to your taste. 
  7. Dress your pea and radish salad with mustard vinaigrette. Garnish with remaining dill sprigs and serve. 

Reasons to Love Peas

  1. Even though they're sweet and delicious, peas have a delightfully low glycemic load of only 4.1
  2. Green pea and legume consumption is strongly correlated to lower risk of type two diabetes. This may be due to their unique profile of phenolic acids and flavanols, in addition to their superlative fiber content. 2
  3. Green peas contain a polyphenol called coumestrol, which seems to protect against stomach cancer. Never a bad thing. 3
  4. Despite being a very low-fat food, peas are a good source of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This small amount of high quality fat enables them to provide valuable fat-soluble nutrients like beta-carotene and vitamin E.4
  5. Peas are a nitrogen-fixing crop! With the help of bacteria called Rhizobia, they replenish soil nutrients by converting nitrogen gas from the air to a more usable form of nitrogen in the soil, which other crops require to grow.5

Peas and legumes are not only amazingly healthy foods (the USDA recommends getting at least 3 cups in per week), but these crops are a very important part of sustainable farming systems. We can do our part as consumers by keeping up the demand for this wunderplants!

This is Nani, PhD Candidate in Victorian Literature and the brains behind this recipe. In addition to peas, she enjoys a savory oat dish. 

This is Nani, PhD Candidate in Victorian Literature and the brains behind this recipe. In addition to peas, she enjoys a savory oat dish. 


1 "Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods." Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

2 "Green Peas." The World's Healthiest Foods. George Mateljan Foundation, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

3 Hernandez-Ramirez R, Galvan-Portillo M, Ward M et al. Dietary intake of polyphenols, nitrate and nitrite and gastric cancer risk in Mexico City. Int J Cancer. 2009 September 15; 125(6): 1424-1430. 2009.

4"Green Peas." The World's Healthiest Foods. George Mateljan Foundation, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

5 Bradtke, Birgit. "Nitrogen Fixing Bacteria - Rhizobia." Tropical Permaculture. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

Clare Farrow

Activist. Organizer. Snap Pea Lover. 

Clare Farrow is the New York City Grassroots Director for The Humane League, a farmed animal protection nonprofit. After joining THL as a summer intern in 2014, she went on to intern at and volunteer with multiple other major animal rights organizations, including Mercy for Animals and Farm Sanctuary. Clare has since returned to THL's team to help launch their NYC Grassroots office. She shared her broad perspective on the animal rights movement and her love of pad thai with me over a cup of tea in Brooklyn.

How do you respond to the argument that we shouldn't worry about animal rights until we’ve rectified the many human rights violations in this world? How do you engage with that line of reasoning?

I think many people don’t realize that the way that we raise animals for food today is detrimental to humans as well: factory farm workers face some of the most dangerous working conditions of any profession. For example, an Oxfam report came out a few months ago revealing that poultry workers are wearing diapers because they’re not allowed bathroom breaks. It’s pretty horrific, and that's just on a very small scale.

On the local level, these farms emit an unbelievable amount of toxins from animal waste into the surrounding communities. It gets in the water supply; it even gets into the air, because the animals produce so much poop—the farmers have to put it somewhere, so they literally spray it into the air. 

And then on a broad spectrum, factory farming is simply not sustainable. The land, water, and energy usage for farmed meat is astronomical. If all the resources used to grow food to feed animals were used to grow food to feed humans directly, they would go a lot farther.  

Water Input of Various Foods | Image Source:

Factory farming is simply not sustainable. The land, water, and energy usage for farmed meat is astronomical. 

What was the root of your interest in farmed animal protection?

I saw a video of a factory worker holding up a baby piglet and slamming the piglet's head into the concrete to kill him/her, and that was it for me. My passion was sparked by that shock. I could not believe what was going on. The way that we raise animals for food right now is one of the biggest issues that our generation and our world is facing: an extraordinary number of animals are suffering—not to mention the disastrous environmental and health consequences of our meat consumption. Because of the scale of what’s going on in this industrial system, I feel like I can make the biggest impact by working for change within the farmed animal sector.

How does THL incorporate data and social research into its activist efforts? 

Factory farming is a giant industry; they have a tremendous amount of money; they’re great at marketing; and—in the U.S. at least—they’re subsidized by the government. We’re really facing a challenge here, and there are lives at stake. THL has a research wing called The Humane League Labs that runs tests on how we can most effectively perform outreach. For example, we give out a lot of literature to educate as many people as we possible can, and we’ll test the verbiage we put out to make sure that the messaging in the literature gets the most done for animals as possible. For instance, we’ve found asking people to “cut out or cut back on” meat is more effective than asking people to go “vegetarian” or “vegan.” The goal, of course, is for everyone to go vegan; but we'll use the most effective verbiage, because every animal that’s spared makes a difference. 

The way that we raise animals for food right now is one of the biggest issues that our generation and our world is facing. 

What do you do as a grassroots director?

I organize leafleting (passing out booklets to target demographics)—the people I want to reach are women in their late teens and early twenties, because studies have shown that they’re more likely to be willing to change. I also table at events: If there are any veg-related events throughout the city, I will be there. And I give Humane Ed presentations to high school and college students.

Additionally, I do a lot of community building, and I host social events. We recently held the NYC Grassroots office launch party, and it was such an amazing success. I was floored. We had only been in the city three weeks, we announced it one week ahead of time, and we had 50 strangers show up.

What has the New York experience been like so far? How is doing this work in New York different than it has been for you in North Carolina or Philly?

The New York experience has only been positive so far. To see so many people come out for our launch was absolutely inspiring. Totally heartwarming. However, New York is a challenging place in that people here are really busy. People have a lot going on, and people are used to saying “no.” When I’m leafleting out on the street, the take rate in New York is unbelievably low compared to North Carolina, where the take rate was 95%. But it’s just part of the culture. With that said, because there's already such a strong vegetarian & vegan community to build on—and because New York is such an influential city—I feel like it holds a lot of opportunity for this movement. 

Grand Central Terminal Time Lapse

What are some things you’ve learned? What has surprised you?

These are just little things, but I’ve found that when I’m leafleting if I give someone a compliment, they’re way more likely to take the leaflet. And figuring out what messaging appeals to people the most is really key: for youth, the animal suffering messaging inspires them the most, followed by the environmental messaging, and then finally health. They don’t generally care about health. But maybe in New York city, people do care more about health—so that’s definitely something that I’m going to have to figure out.

Do you find that for adults, it’s the inverse? Health, environment, then animal suffering?

Hmmm I don’t know off the top of my head. In my personal experience, that’s kind of what I’ve found: adults definitely care about their health more than the animal suffering aspect. I’m not sure where the environment fits into that. I think that just depends.

How do you make sure that the messages you’re sending out on social media escape the echo chamber and make it beyond the circle of people who already care about animal rights?

One of the most valuable things you can do on social media is create a variety of content—maybe you have a picture of delicious food one day and then a cute video of a pig and a cat cuddling the next day: those two things appeal to very different audiences but each person that “likes” that content will start to see our stuff in their feed in the future. So having a variety ensures that you're hitting as many people with different interests as possible.

Another aspect of that is thanking your volunteers publicly. It’s important that they know that they’re appreciated. So If I have someone come out to leaflet, I will post a picture of them on our Facebook page, tag them in it, thank them in it—and then all their friends are going to see it.

How did you first get involved in animal advocacy?

I went vegan in college at Elon, after seeing the pig video that I mentioned. I was looking for a community that felt similarly. I didn’t find it on the campus; I didn’t find it in the surrounding area. But my family is from outside Philadelphia, so when I went home on a break, I bought a student ticket for the The Humane League's winter gala in Philly. It was the first time I had ever been around that many vegans or veg-friendly people. They had some speakers there who were leaders in the animal rights movement, and I saw for the first time that there’s more you can do for animals than just not eat them. The next day, I applied to intern.

How has the activist community shaped your experience in this work? 

Community is everything. It has been the backbone of every social justice movement we’ve seen to date; it can be a huge driver of change. We’re working with a grim reality. Having that community support is what keeps people going: it’s tremendously helpful for people’s personal health—for both professional activists who are working with animal cruelty every day and for volunteers. Having other people who understand your emotional tie to this work is so big in preventing burn out. A strong community also helps reduce recidivism for people who are trying to eat less meat. 

I saw for the first time that there’s more you can do for animals than just not eat them.

Speaking of the grim work that you’re doing and the challenges before you, what keeps you optimistic?

I’ve only been in this movement for less than three years, and the change that I’ve seen in that time has been tremendous. One of the things that’s so great about doing this work with THL and other organizations is that you see tangible results right in front of you.

For example, in June, the United Egg Producers came out with a statement that they're going to end the culling of male chicks (which is when male chicks are ground alive because they can’t produce eggs) because of their work with the humane league.

Before my time, a lot of people were lobbying to abolish the use of gestation crates in pig farming, and now in a lot of states, that practice is illegal.

Can you explain what gestation crates are?

They are crates maybe two inches bigger than a pig on each side where a mother pig will spend essentially her whole life, unable to even turn around. She essentially can’t move at all. A lot of the pigs in this situation literally go crazy and chew on the metal enclosure until their teeth crack, or head-butt against the bars, or become depressed and never move. So seeing pork producers transition away from gestation crates is incredible. 

Gestation Crates | Image Source:

We’re working with a grim reality. Having that community support is what keeps people going. 

And then generally, it seems like it has become much more normalized now to want to eat less meat—that’s something that even two years ago, I could never say. There is still a stigma, but it’s so much better. I studied psych in undergrad, and something that has stuck with me is this principal in social psychology that explains that for people to consider making any kind of change, that thing has to be normalized. And to normalize something, people have to hear about it at least seven different times before they even consider changing. When I think about the work that I do, every pamphlet I hand out is one out of seven. Every conversation that I have with an individual is one out of seven. Every photo of delicious vegan food that I share is one out of seven.

Speaking of delicious plant-based food, is there a recipe that you’d like to share with Chroma?

Yes! It’s a Lighter recipe—pad thai. I love asian foods, and this one is SO simple and easy to make. I usually add a few things: This has tahini in the recipe, and I usually swap it for peanut butter, and then I add peanuts or cashews—just something crunchy—and then snap peas. Snap peas are my favorite vegetable.

What have been the most gratifying experiences for you in this work so far?

Professionally speaking, coming to New York to launch the grassroots office has been really rewarding. This is my dream job, and I think this city has so much potential—in its size and in that there is already so much to build off of. There are already so many veg-restaurants and veg-groups, not to mention that there are a lot of powerful people here.

In my personal life, what gets to me most is when friends and family reach out to me, and say, “Hey okay, I’ve been seeing your stuff; I kind of get what you’re saying now, and I’d be interested in giving this a try. Can you help me out?” That feeling cannot be beat.

Caribbean Curry Tacos

Coconut Chickpea Curry. Crispy Tofu. Shiitake Bacon. 

 Recipe courtesy of Chef Naliaka Wakhisi

“I feel like people don’t believe me when I say I eat tacos every day...but I do.” This is one of the first things I learned about vegan chef and founder of NYC Vegans of Color Naliaka Wakhisi, as we stood together before a pile of corn tortillas, curry spices, and kale in a sunlit Brooklyn kitchen. The Miami-born taco aficionado knows no limits when it comes to reinventing or glorifying this traditional Mexican dish. After working as a server in several small, family-owned Jamaican restaurants for many years, Naliaka has blended her passion for the bright, savory flavors of Caribbean cuisine with her everlasting love of the taco in this dish. Delicious, simple, and expertly crafted, this recipe is one to put in your files.

Serves a crowd. Eat with your favorite people. 


Coconut Curry Taco Filling

  • 1 pkg firm organic tofu
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 shallot
  • 1 can organic chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • 1 can organic coconut milk
  • 1 Tbs curry powder
  • 1 bunch of kale, chopped with stems removed 
  • 2-3 Tbs coconut oil + 1/2 cup for frying
  • 10 small corn tortillas 
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt + more to taste
  • crushed black pepper (optional)

Shiitake Bacon

  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
  • 1-2 Tbs coconut oil
  • salt, as you like it


  • 1 avocado
  • 2 limes
  • 1 small bunch cilantro


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

  2. Drain and press tofu. Leave tofu under pressure for at least 15 minutes.

  3. Heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and let simmer for about 1 minute (do not brown). Sprinkle roughly 1 tsp salt and then add coconut milk and curry powder. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to medium low. Add chickpeas and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes.  Add more salt to taste. After 20 - 30 minutes, toss in kale and simmer for an additional 3 - 5 minutes. (Do not overcook kale!)

  4. Toss sliced shiitakes in 1 - 2 Tbs of coconut oil, add salt to taste, and roast in oven until shiitakes are altogether crispy and delicious (approximately 15-20 minutes).

  5. Cut pressed tofu into into 1/2 inch cubes and pan-fry in 1/2 cup coconut oil until crispy. Place crispy tofu on paper towel and immediately drizzle sea salt while still hot. Save excess oil for crisping tortillas! Set aside.

  6. For garnish, wash and chop cilantro, slice avocado, and half the limes.

  7. Crisp tacos by adding a drizzle of leftover coconut oil to a pan over medium to high heat. Place 2 - 3 tortillas (depending on size of pan) in a single layer, and cook until crispy then flip. (Alternatively, drizzle coconut oil over the tortillas and heat in the oven at  425 until desired crispiness is achieved)

  8. Assemble the tacos: tortilla + coconut curry filling + crispy tofu + cilantro & avocado + shiitake bacon + squeeze of lime.

  9. Assemble the masses (and feast)!


Reasons to Love

The impressive fiber content of chickpeas and kale makes these tacos a home run in my book. Insoluble fiber is metabolized by bacteria in the gut to produce short chain fatty acids, which in turn feed the cells lining the intestinal wall. The more fiber you eat, the more you nourish that barrier between you and the toxins in your gut! A healthier gut lining makes for a stronger and healthier you! High dietary fiber intake from whole foods is associated with: 

  • better blood sugar regulation
  • reduced risk of heart disease
  • improved weight management
  • lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • healthy digestion 

More than enough reason to step up your fiber game--especially since only 3% of Americans meet the recommended minimum adequate intake of fiber. (Dr. Michael Greger has the fiber facts.) In conclusion, have a second taco. 

Naliaka Chickpeas.jpg


Chef. Educator. Taco Lover. 

Naliaka Wakhisi is the Brooklyn-based founder of NYC Vegans of Color. She works as a chef assistant at the Natural Gourmet Institute, and her own plant-based cuisine is available through Homemade.  When she isn't cooking, she works with youth at the nonprofit PRY SAFE, teaches entrepreneurship to middle schoolers, and runs a group fitness class at her local gym. She describes herself as a dancer, educator, chef, artist, and organizer. Naliaka sat down with me to talk cuisine, culture, and health. 


Why did you start the Meetup group NYC Vegans of Color?

I think being vegan is a form of resistance: you’re making a choice, and you’re paying attention to what is in your food. I think that it’s a very positive kind of resistance that can uplift a community and get us back to eating food from the earth. I started NYC Vegans of Color, because I wanted to be around other people like me, who are vegan, and not have to deal with the cultural barriers of black people saying, “Black people don’t do that.” And I wanted to meet other people of color, like Latinos and Asian people who are going through the same thing in their lives.

Are most of the events food-centric?

They’re all different! We’ll go out to eat a lot. We’ll probably do at least one potluck a month. But we’ve done game nights. We’ve done karaoke. I do things that I would normally do by myself, but I just invite these other vegan people. We just hang out. 

Since you founded it in 2014, how have you seen the group grow?

When I started the group, I thought it was only gonna be sixteen of us, and we were just going to have to be real cool with each other. But within the first month, we had 380 members. And it kept growing: 400, 500, 600. A thousand. People who aren’t even vegan join, because we look like we’re having a good time. It’s year two, and there are 1,700 in the Meetup group now. Maybe more. I need to check. 

That’s huge!!

Yeah, I don’t even know. It’s too many people.


I think that it’s a very positive kind of resistance that can uplift a community and get us back to eating food from the earth. 

As a vegan chef and as the founder of NYC vegans of color, you spend a lot of time focused on vegan activities. However, when you were describing yourself earlier, “vegan” did not make your list. Do you prefer to avoid that label when in conversation with the wider community?

It’s very rare that I choose to announce that I’m vegan. I’m used to being shut down or marginalized automatically: “Oh you’re one of those.” People automatically think, “Oops, can’t do anything with her, because she’s vegan.” And I get the stigma. I used to feel that way too.

And veganism is not a diet; it’s a lifestyle change, but because I’m a new vegan, I’m still learning about all of those things. For instance, I own things that are leather--and when you say you’re vegan you do open up that larger conversation. So maybe I’m more “plant-based” than “vegan.” I just don’t want to have to explain myself all the time, and I don’t want people to feel any type of way around me.


Food culture is so steeped in tradition and in the economic realities of which foods are subsidized in this country that it can extremely be difficult to talk about nutrition with friends and family who haven’t decided to make it a priority for themselves. Do you ever engage in those conversations? 

I’m an action person, so I use social media a lot to try to show people how I live my life: I’m a regular girl, just like you; who goes to the bodega, just like you; who has high-ass rent, just like you. And I’m still able to buy vegan, organic food. I’ll post a picture of a sweet potato, quinoa, and beans. And I’ll point out that the full recipe cost me $7.00. Funds are low. I went to the store and bought sweet potatoes. I got a can of organic beans for $0.89. I got some quinoa for $4.00. And this will last three or four meals! If I had a family, I could feed the entire family. I don't shove it in people's faces. I just show people.

I got so much resistance, especially from like the black community. I think they see it as a luxury to be vegan and to eat organic. They see it as an elitist diet. I hear people say, “I don’t have time,” but nobody can look me in the face and say that they don’t have time. If you’re sitting in front of me, then you best believe I’ve canceled something just to see you. I have zero time. There is no time in my day. I have four jobs. I work seven days a week. No one can sit here and tell me, “I don’t have time to be healthy.” I don’t have time to be sick!

Why do you prioritize healthy food?

I want to have this energy and this mind when I’m older. I don’t want to be have arthritis, and osteoporosis, and cancer. Learning about what a trap processed food is has made me start to pay attention and realize that I need to start now, because it’s my generation that’s feeling this.

In my grandparents’ generation and my mom’s generation, there wasn’t highly processed food on the scale that there is now. We are the generation that is suffering. So many of my friends--young friends--are pre-diabetic, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol...but I think it’s better to share recipes and to show people constantly so that they can have resources instead of having an argument.

Quinoa & Black Bean Stuffed Sweet Potato with Vegan Sour Cream | Image by Naliaka Wakhisi via Instagram

Quinoa & Black Bean Stuffed Sweet Potato with Vegan Sour Cream | Image by Naliaka Wakhisi via Instagram

No one can sit here and tell me, "I don't have time to be healthy." I don't have time to be sick!  

As an educator, you have a unique opportunity to address this with the next generation too--do you ever share recipes with your students?

I’ll do cooking days with my students, which has nothing to do with the curriculum--this is just how I want to make change in the world, because my students are coming in everyday with hot chips and a beef patty wrapped in bread. They’ll say, “You don’t get it. This is cultural.” No. I do get it, but I think it needs to change. Like chitlins--do you know what chitlins are?

Fried somethin’...

It’s the pig’s intestines. It’s literally the crap of the pig. People say, “It’s cultural!” But it’s cultural because we were slaves, and we weren’t allowed to eat the food from the land. I think if people start to understand the history behind their food, they’d realize why the culture has evolved to this. We either need to find a healthier way to eat these foods or we need to start learning about foods outside our culture. To me, it’s not insulting. It’s uplifting.  


Were you a chef first or a vegan first?

I’ve been cooking since I was seven or eight--probably before that even. My mom would give me cookbooks and teach me how to make stuff. I was so picky that I always had to make my own version of what she was cooking. So I had always wanted to go to culinary school, but when I became vegan, I thought , “Oh no, now that I’m vegan, it’s going to be extra hard to go to culinary school.” But someone gave me a Bryant Terry book, and I thought, “Well, he’s vegan. And he’s black. And he’s a chef. So where did he go to culinary school?” And that's how I found the Natural Gourmet Institute.

When I realized NGI was in New York, I immediately went to an open house. I knew I couldn’t afford it, but I remembered being in that space saying these words: I said, “I have to be here. I have to be here.” I walked out, and I emailed somebody and asked if they had any type of work-study program. They didn’t. It turned out that they had just canceled one, so I went on living my life.

About a month later, though, they emailed me, saying that they were starting a new program, where I could get trained and then work for NGI as a chef assistant. They just needed 25 hours of my life a week.

I thought, “Crap, I don’t have 25 hours,” and then I turned down a high-paying, full-time teaching job because that opened up that door for me to work a NGI. My culinary skills have gone from 0 to 100 so fast. As a chef assistant, I get to do so much: I do private events. I do charity events. I do bachelorette parties. I’ve cooked for book signings. It pays very little, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. NGI is the best place on earth. It changed my life.


I remembered being in that space saying these words: I said, “I have to be here. I have to be here.”

What is the origin story of your veganism?

It’s really not a huge story. My brother asked me if I wanted to do raw foods for like a month, and I told him,  “Uhhhhhhh nobody wants to do that.” But then I agreed. I guess I thought it would make me healthier. But I didn’t want to start a raw food diet and have my body still be processing dairy and meat--I wanted to get it all the way out. So I did three months vegan to prepare for this month of raw foods, and then I did a month of raw foods, and I felt great.

After those four months, it was time for me to go back to my regular diet--I had been pescatarian for 10 years. I had some salmon and rice. It hurt. I tried to eat a slice of pizza. It hurt. My body just didn’t feel good. So I remember wondering, “Why am I trying to go back to unhealthy ways? I guess I’ll just stay vegan.” And that was it.

What resources did you find helpful when you first started eating plant-based?

There’s a documentary called Vegucated, where a woman in New York teaches three people to eat vegan over six weeks. They were from different cultural backgrounds, so the things they were going through were the things I was going through. I related to it. Some documentaries really guilt you--you have to be vegan or else you’re dumb and evil. This one didn’t guilt you. It just talked about what it’s like to become vegan and be around your friends and family.


How has your perception of the meaning and value of food shifted?

I don’t like to create anything or share anything that doesn’t benefit the body. It’s very rare that--unless I’m really desperate or having a really broke week--I will eat something that’s not going to benefit me somehow. I used to just be interested in making food that makes people feel good. Now I’m interested in making food that makes people feel good and that is also good for their body.

What is your favorite food?

I feel like people don’t believe me when I say I eat tacos every day...but I do. It’s really hard for me not to make some kind of taco every day. I bought chili ingredients the other day, and I can’t imagine going through the week without that chili becoming a chili taco. I can tell it’s just going to come.


I used to just be interested in making food that makes people feel good. Now I'm interested in making food that makes people feel good and that is also good for their body. 

What can you tell us about the taco recipe you’ve prepared for Chroma Kitchen today?

I feel like because I grew up grew up in Miami, I’m really connected to Latin flavors--the spiciness and the depth of flavor is just so good to me. And then through college and after college, I worked as a server at a lot of small, family-owned Jamaican restaurants, where I was able to be in the kitchen and to learn from the chefs. That’s where I learned how to make the curry that I use in these tacos: I’ve taken my love of the Caribbean flavors that I learned to make while I working at all these restaurants and combined it with my love of Latin and Mexican food. That is how this taco was born.


Check out Naliaka's Caribbean Curry Taco recipe!