Thank you for stopping by! This blog is full of recipes and information on how to eat a plant-based diet that is free of salt, oil and sugar. Recipes focus on the use of whole foods (still in their naturally grown state) except for a handful of minimally processed foods used for convenience (canned beans, frozen produce, non-dairy milks). Recipes are all vegan, meaning they don’t call for any animal foods or ingredients. Where applicable I note substitutions to lower fat and eliminate gluten. Recipes are easy to prepare and call for ingredients that are easy to find. For more information, read on!
Who is this blog for?
This blog is for you if (1) your health has been in the dumps for a while and you’re ready to try a new approach, (2) if you’re a parent who is concerned about raising your family in today’s world of overly engineered and processed foods, or (3) if you’ve been vegetarian or vegan for a while but want to clean up your diet even further.
What kind of vegan chef are you?
I consider myself a whole-foods vegan chef. This means that I do not use many of the packaged and processed foods you may have seen in some vegan cookbooks and restaurants, such as foods that look like meat but are soy- or wheat/gluten-based (like hotdogs, burgers, Tofurkey). I also avoid vegan mayonnaise, vegan cream cheese, and plant-based butters (made from soy and olive oil). These products are often stepping stones for people transitioning from the standard American diet to a vegan diet, but I don’t recommend them long-term since so many of them are highly processed and full of salt, sugar, oil and other unhealthy fats, chemicals, preservatives and/or other ingredients that do not promote health.
Do you have a cookbook?
I am working on a cookbook. To be notified of when the book is out, please subscribe to my mailing list in the upper left-hand corner of this page where it says “Subscribe to Our Newsletter.” I will keep folks on my mailing list updated as it gets closer to completion. If you have any requests or suggestions for the cookbook, feel free to leave a comment below. Thank you for your interest and support!
Do you ever eat unhealthy foods?
When I’m cooking for myself, at home or for others, I keep it as healthy as possible. When I go to a restaurant or function where there will be non-healthy food (which is a given), I will do my best to choose and order foods that align with my healthy way of eating (or eat before I go). I actually eat out a lot less than I used to, and I don’t miss it; I much prefer my own food. Once in a while I will eat something that I usually don’t, like a vegan baked good containing oil, flour, sugar and/or salt. But I do it consciously of how it will affect my body and make me feel afterwards. I never eat animal foods, however, because not only are animal foods health-harming to humans, they harm animals, obviously, and I don’t want to be a supporter of animal suffering in any way.
Why do you eat this way?
I and many others eat a whole foods, low-fat, plant-based diet because we have done our homework (boy, have we!) and have learned from our reading as well as our personal experiences that it can provide us with incredibly good health and vitality, and in a way that is delicious, sustainable and utterly enjoyable. If you are just starting out, you may be skeptical, but after a while your taste buds will adapt and you will be thoroughly excited about diving into a baked potato with hummus and steamed vegetables. Trust me!
Dismissing the connections between food and health has led our nation down a dangerous road, resulting in sickness and discomfort for so many. Our food choices took a turn during the 1950’s when food industrialists decided to manipulate whole foods from their natural forms. Corn became corn syrup, wheat became Wheaties, and potatoes became artery-clogging French fries.
We became increasingly sick and overweight as we ate more and more of these new, fast and fabulous foods. The more we ate, the more our bodies yelled at us, in the form of pain and discomfort, and the harder it was for us to pass up these unusually high-calorie, hyper-stimulating foods. When we give the human body its favorite whole foods—those that it has shown to run most effectively on, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and nuts/seeds—and leave out the things that aren’t health-promoting (animal foods, oil, sugar, salt, and other ingredients we often find on a food label), we are rewarded with vibrant physical health.
It’s easy to become deceived about the negative effects of food since we are able to eat most anything without immediate discomfort. But even if you cannot feel the negative effects of your diet right away, your body can, as it struggles to compensate for running on the wrong fuel. Imagine if you poured sand into your washing machine instead of laundry detergent; it would still go through the motions, but your clothes would not get very clean, and at some point the washing machine would plug up and make funny noises. Eventually it would stop working all together. Like the washing machine, your body will begin screaming at you in various ways (we call these “symptoms”), urging you to change something you’re doing that is making it hard for it to function correctly.
Most people wait until the screams get unbearable before they consider making dietary and lifestyle changes. Before this point, they may have tried medication to quell their body’s troubles. But while medication may calm things for a while, it does nothing to address the underlying cause or root of the problem, and most often introduces a whole new set of problems in the form of side-effects. Eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet can be your path to avoiding this misery and discomfort.
Have you ever been overweight?
A common question I get when I’m teaching is, “Have you ever been overweight?” It’s a valid question for a skinny cooking teacher I suppose. I think people are hoping I’ll reply, “Yes, very, and now look at me!” But the unexciting truth is I’ve never been overweight. I attribute this to my dad’s tall and lanky genes; growing up with a mom who rarely allowed junk food; and usually being involved in some physical activity, mainly dancing. I’m 5’7” and went from 135 lbs “pre-healthy, non-vegan” to 120 lbs today. I don’t own a scale, but when I’m at my parents’ house I weigh myself, and my weight rarely fluctuates. I’m surprised, especially since I eat a lot of food. This is where my body wants me to be so it can provide me with optimum health. Everyone’s healthy weight will be different. I did not get into this way of eating for weight-loss reasons, but because I am very sensitive to dairy foods. When I discovered that alternatives existed, my health changed immediately, and as I continued to learn and incorporate healthier eating into my life, the small weight-loss that I experienced was a very natural by-product of these actions.
What motivates you to stick with a healthy diet?
For many people, after exploring the link between food and nutrition, their reading and interest in plant-based eating naturally leads them to the discovery of how animals suffer to become our food, whether they are cows raised for beef or dairy, pigs, chickens, ducks, goats or fish. Most live a very unnatural existence of separation: from their natural diet and environment, from their animal families and communities, and from any possibility of living a happy life free of exploitation. As an animal lover, learning the painful truth about what animals go through to become our food was heartbreaking to me. While I had obviously known that bacon came from pigs and steak from cows, I rarely gave the farm animals, and their lives before they were killed, much thought. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since, and I no longer buy animal foods or products, which is one of the most powerful ways that we can all stand up to animal cruelty. If you would like to learn more about farm animals and how they are raised, I recommend a film called Peaceable Kingdom.
After learning how our food choices could so negatively affect humans and animals, I also discovered how industrialized farming has taken a tremendous toll on our natural environment. Earth’s precious forestlands are being clear-cut on a daily basis to make room for cattle grazing, which is absurd since many more people could be fed and fewer resources used by growing and harvesting plants instead of animals. Additionally, our oceans are in peril due to pollution and over-fishing.
Whether you are led to eating a plant-based diet because of your health, because you love animals, or because you value the environment—or all three—it is important to understand that how we eat affects everything. And like a delicate spider’s web, it is all connected, with the whole at its best when the pieces are in harmony. How we choose to live our lives creates a ripple effect: after touching us, our choices impact those around us, and ultimately shapes our communities and the entire planet.
How did you become a plant-based chef?
In my classes and conversations, I am often asked what led me to eating a plant-based diet. As is the case with many other people, it was my health, specifically my intolerance to dairy foods, which caused me painful stomach aches as a kid and into adulthood. Once I determined that dairy foods were the culprit, I became very interested in the relationship between food and health, which snowballed into a full-blown hobby as I devoured books, DVDs, and websites, and attended lectures and cooking classes. I also took a 10-month-long course on nutrition and eventually got jobs working at two nearby health facilities that advocated a plant-based diet. I am a self-taught chef who has learned through extensive reading, watching other vegan chefs, and most importantly, just jumping in an cooking in my own kitchen. For a more detailed read about my professional path to becoming a plant-based chef, click here.
Where did the name “Straight Up Food” come from?
When I was finishing up my nutrition certification, our final project required us to come up with a fictitious business and I came up with “Straight Up Food” as my business name. To me, it meant presenting food information that was honest, open, clearly stated, and easy to understand, with recipes that were easy to make. Also, it sounded grabby and different. When it came time to choose a domain name for my website, I thoroughly brainstormed names that sounded more professional and mainstream; but I couldn’t come up with anything I liked better than “Straight Up Food.”
What will I receive as a subscriber to your newsletter/mailing list?
I send out a newsletter periodically, sharing my latest recipes and articles, and other news that’s going on with me and StraightUpFood.com. Here is an example of my newsletter.
What do you do when you’re not creating new recipes?
In addition to my blog, I work part-time for two health facilities in Santa Rosa, CA: the McDougall Program (me pictured at right with Dr. John and Mary McDougall), and TrueNorth Health Center, headed by Dr. Alan Goldhamer. I teach plant-based cooking classes and assist during health education events. I also work as a freelance writer and editor. When I’m not working, I am happiest taking photographs, reading and learning new things, cooking, and being outside. I have three cats, Rosie, Miles and Leo, who keep me on my toes, and who also eat a nutritious diet. As a native Californian, I thoroughly enjoy being surrounded by the sun, the trees, the mountains, and the abundance of delicious, organic produce. One of my goals is to be a guest chef on the Ellen Show someday, as she is a big supporter of animals and a plant-based diet, and is such a kind-hearted and compassionate person.
Thank you for reading the blog and for your support! I appreciate it so much, and love hearing from everyone around the world! Thank you!