Eating vegan for the holidays

The holiday season is fast approaching and if you have recently transitioned to eating plant-based or will be hosting a holiday dinner that you want to offer a variety of vegan options, you may be trying to figure out what should be on the menu. Believe me when I say it is a lot easier than it may seem. Offering a lavish spread of plant-based dishes that are appetizing and filling is not mission impossible. It’s very doable but will involve a little creativity and a big imagination. All you will need to do is slow down, take a deep breath and follow these steps to ensure that you and your guests will have a memorable holiday celebration and feast.
My first recommendation, which usually works like a charm, even for my meat loving guests, is to serve meals in small portions. Breaking up the meal into small plates gives your guests the opportunity to savor and enjoy the serving of each entrée. It also allows your dinner guests to be more adventurous with the meal, trying many different dishes as well as giving them the flexibility and option to customize their meal. In addition to reducing food waste, preparing small plates can also give the chef more control over food quality and increase the number of dishes being served.
My second recommendation is given that the entire meal will be plant-based, considerations should be made to ensure that the dishes being offered complement each other, are balanced, and packed with the essential nutrients needed to maintain a healthy balanced diet. A balanced meal should contain these seven major groups, carbohydrates to provide energy, grains, potatoes, and fruits are excellent sources of carbohydrate; proteins to maintain and promote tissue growth, soybeans and green peas are rich in protein. One cup of soybean and green peas contains 17 g and 9 grams of protein, respectively. A balanced meal should also include fats that function as a form of energy storage and promote hormone production, excellent sources of fats include nuts, seeds and plant oils; fiber to regulate blood sugar levels and promote gut and bowel health, vegetables, brown rice and legumes are excellent sources of fiber; trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, found in a variety of vegetables, nuts and seeds, to regulate metabolism, aid in cell growth and other biochemical functions and water to maintain hydration.
The third recommendation is to get creative with your meal offerings. Ditch bland and boring meal options and wow your dinner guests with elegant, exquisite plant-based meals. Yes, it is true that many switch to a plant-based diet to follow a healthy lifestyle and reduce the risk of developing a host of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and strokes but this doesn’t mean that the food must taste like medicine! Be intentional about your food pairings, live on the wild side and explore the variety of flavors and textures that plant-based foods can offer. Your guests will thank you for their culinary experience later! There are many plant-based cookbooks available that will serve as a good source of fun plant-based recipes.
The fourth recommendation is to keep it simple. Enjoy the journey of preparing the meal and the venue for the celebration. Let the food be the focal point and everything else will fall into place. Do as much preparation ahead of time to reduce stress and keep you ahead of schedule. Make a list of each course and the respective ingredients to ensure that everything will be available and ready when it is time to start the meal preparation. Also, remember to be aware of your dinner guests’ allergies, so that no one falls ill during the festive season. Let their experience be a memorable one for the right reasons.
Now that you are equipped with all the right tools to pull off a successful plant-based holiday celebration, look at this sample menu that has several small plate offerings. Don’t forget to be creative and enjoy the journey! Happy cooking!


Holiday Menu – Small plates

  • Course 1- Light appetizer, Sweet potato chips with jackfruit ceviche
  • Course 2 – Soup, Thai red curry chickpeas soup
  • Course 3- Salad, Spinach salad with candied pecans, olives, raspberries and cranberry sorrel vinaigrette
  • Course 4 – Roasted brussels sprouts with maple syrup and balsamic glaze
  • Course 5 – Entree, Roasted acorn squash stuffed with lentils, mushrooms, pistachios and pomegranate
  • Course 6 – Entree, Creamy mushroom risotto
  • Course 7 – Dessert, Coconut cream crème brûlée
  • Course 8 – Drink, Carrot nog

Previously published on the on December 3, 2023.

Kitchen Vegan Chronicles – The Art of Bread Making


Bread making in North America became popular during the COVID pandemic. Droves of home chefs re-entered their kitchens to hone in on a skill that once seemed lost and made exclusive only to professional bakers. It was perhaps the calming aspect of bread making that popularized this culinary activity. The act of rolling, kneading, and mixing, all seemed to force presence of mind and being in the moment, helping disenfranchised individuals to manage and cope with the uncertainty of life and conjure up positive feelings that calmed the spirit. Besides, baking bread at home reduced the need to make trips to the grocery store, which became a stressful activity, during this season. In short, baking bread became a culinary therapeutic tool for the COVID pandemic life.

Bread making in ancient times was also significant. It represented a pivotal time in the evolution of man as it emerged during the period when humans were no longer nomads but started to settle down in specific regions and focused on growing a variety of crops to sustain life. Wheat and grains became one such crop, which consequently became domesticated and a staple. Once there was a large variety and availability in abundance, these grains were milled into flour as a form of preservation and subsequently used to make bread. 

There is extensive evidence of breadmaking activities in antiquity in the form of artistic depictions on ancient structures that are still standing and stories documented in ancient books, such as the bible, that details the consumption of bread as a focus. The most common bread of ancient times was leavened bread. Leavened bread is simply bread made with a leavening agent, or an ingredient that will make the bread rise. The use of such an agent gives the bread volume, a lighter, airier texture, and a crumb factor. Examples of leavening agents include yeast, baking powder, baking soda and air. It is interesting to note that the leavening agent used in antiquity consisted of day-old bread dough mixed with sugar and water or a fermented paste made from grape must (freshly crushed grape juice containing the skin, seeds, and stems of the grape) and flour. These flour-based mixtures became the precursors of the modern-day sourdough starter.

There is a large variety of breads that use raising agents. Examples of such leavened breads include sourdough bread, a bread with ancient roots made by a long fermentation process using yeast; corn bread, an American bread originating in the South and made with cornmeal, wheat flour and milk; naan, a flatbread heavily incorporated into Indian cuisine and made of flour and yeast; ciabatta, an Italian bread that is light and airy with a chewy crust and made with high-gluten flour, yeast and water; baguette, an iconic French bread known for its long narrow shape and made of  whole wheat flour; challah, a traditional Jewish bread that is distinguished by its three-strand braid, eaten during special occasions  and made of flour, sugar, oil, eggs and yeast; soda bread, originating in Ireland, classified as a quick bread because it doesn’t require any rising time and is typically made with wheat flour, buttermilk and baking soda; and pumpernickel bread, a dark dense German rye bread that has an intense flavor and a unique taste because of the rye flour used to make it.

Unleavened breads are typically any bread that is made without using a leavening agent. For this type of bread, the dough is not allowed to rise, resulting in a flat and more dense bread. Unleavened breads are eaten in a variety of cultures and utilized in many traditional religious practices. Examples of unleavened breads include tortilla, a thin flatbread typically made of corn  or wheat and considered a staple in South and Central American cultures; roti, a round flatbread made from whole wheat flour and utilized in a variety of South Asian dishes; chapati, a bread originating in India but now heavily incorporated in Middle Eastern and African cuisines and typically prepared using wheat flour, sugar and water; and Lavash, a cracker like flatbread with culture roots in Armenia, Iran and the Middle East.

Breads have become a staple on the tables of just about every culture in the world today. The variety of flavors and tastes add dimensions to the unique dishes that they are typically paired with. The awesome thing about breads is that most are naturally vegan, with the exception of a few that contain eggs. These can be easily remedied to veganize them by utilizing plant-based substitutes. This week I am sharing a recipe of one of family’s favorite breads, which is also an all-time Southern favorite, vegan cornbread. This recipe gives you light, fluffy cornbread that comes out perfect every single time. Happy cooking!

Golden Vegan Cornbread 


  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3 cup avocado oil


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and lightly grease an 8” x 8” pan, 9” round cake pan, or, 12-count muffin pan. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon powder, nutmeg and stir. Pour in the milk, vanilla and avocado oil. Stir until well combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. For muffins, reduce bake time to 15-18 minutes. Pair with your favorite stew or chili and enjoy!

Previously published on Sunday October 9, 2023 in the

Vegetarianism vs Veganism

Jackfruit rundown with steamed plantain dumpling (photo: courtesy of Jerainne Johnson-Heywood)

Vegetarianism vs Veganism

 The diet of prehistoric man consisted primarily of fruits, berries, seeds, nuts, roots, tubers, leaves, and herbs. It was not until about 2.6 million years ago, that the first evidence of meat and bone marrow consumption, through butchery marks on fossilized bones, was observed. This marked the beginning of a significant change in early man’s diet and this change still impacts us to this day! Although man’s dietary evolution allowed him to develop into an omnivore, the history of his origins is rooted in his DNA and still has a strong influence on his food choices in the modern day.

 Post prehistoric man, the first records of self-proclaimed vegetarians, present around the 6th century, were the Pythagoreans, followers of the Greek philosopher, mathematician, and the father of ethical vegetarianism, Pythagoras. They believed that vegetarianism was key in preserving peaceful human coexistence. Early Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism also encouraged vegetarianism. Their philosophies taught non-violence, respect, and compassion for all living creatures.

 Fast forward to today, if you scroll the pages of any social media platform, you will find an array of pages and accounts boasting quick meal recipes, videos, reels, and tutorials packed with a host of healthy plant-based ingredients. Many of these food influencers also classify themselves as vegetarian or vegan. But aren’t they the same? What really is the difference? Do both varieties incorporate a high consumption of fruits and vegetables? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a vegan vs a vegetarian and how does this compare to being an omnivore?

Chikin fried cauliflower with butternut squash waffles (photo: courtesy of Jerainne Johnson Heywood)

 While vegans are a subset of vegetarians the two are not the same. Vegetarians do not eat animal flesh. That is, there is no consumption of pork, chicken, beef, mutton, fish, shellfish and the likes of any flesh or meat derived from an animal. Like prehistoric man, vegetarians feast on a host of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and herbs. But there is an exception. Vegetarians, in general, do consume animal by-products such as honey, eggs, animal-based milk, cheese, butter and yogurt.

 Although vegans and vegetarians have the shared philosophy of not eating meat, their differences are highlighted in the fact that vegans do not consume animal by-products. So, no sweet honey, savory cheeses, or eggs for this group! Instead, they utilize alternatives that are all plant-based and in extreme cases, vegans do not utilize any product that is animal-based!

So, what are the pros and cons of adopting a vegetarian and/or vegan lifestyle vs that of an omnivore? Although the list can be quite extensive, let’s focus on a few.

Following a vegetarian/vegan diet may lower the risk for certain types of diseases. Consuming high amounts of nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other plant-based foods introduces a host of health protective vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber into your diet. This combination of super foods is one of the optimal recipes for promoting a healthy heart, lowering the risk of diabetes, obesity and certain types of cancers. To take it a step further, eliminating dairy from one’s diet reduces inflammation, maintains balanced pH levels, and improves digestion.

Summer squash noodles with cauliflower Alfredo sauce (photo: courtesy of Jerainne Johnson-Heywood)

 Although vegetarianism/veganism promotes the consumption of a relatively healthy, balanced diet, the disadvantage of such a diet is the low protein and fat content, especially for vegans. Low protein consumption may lead to a loss of muscle mass and an increased risk of bone fractures due bone weakening. The utilization of protein supplements in a vegetarian diet can assist in ensuring that the daily protein requirements are met to maintain a healthy balance.

 Another advantage of adopting a vegetarian/vegan diet is the high intake of fiber. The increased consumption of dietary fiber contributes significantly to the health of the gastrointestinal tract. Specifically, fiber helps to regulate bowel movement, lowers cholesterol levels, boosts metabolic rates, controls blood sugar levels, and reduces the risk of colon cancer.

Conversely, these high-fiber vegetarian/vegan diets can be nutrient deficient, excluding essential nutrients, such as vitamins B12, Vitamins D, calcium, iron, zinc, iodine, and omega-3. Deficiencies of these essential vitamins and minerals can lead to weakness, tiredness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, thyroid performance irregularity, increased risk of bone and joint pain, bone fractures, muscle pain, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, and anemia.

Vegan cauliflower bake with cucumber berry salad (photo: courtesy of Jerainne Johnson-Heywood)

To ensure these deficiencies are kept at bay, consuming foods that include fortified cereals, plant-based milks, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, soy, greens, broccoli, and beans will guarantee nutritional balance in your everyday meals.

The obtain the most benefits from a vegetarian/vegan diet, the best course of action is to consider your protein intake.  Combine different plant-based protein foods to ensure that you are getting the daily recommended amounts of proteins.  Be aware of the nutritional deficiencies associated with this diet and ensure that your diet is supplemented adequately. Be focused on your desired dietary journey and enjoy!

So which diet, vegetarian or vegan, is the right one for you? Choose what suits your goals and lifestyle best. And when transitioning, consider consulting with a registered dietitian to help guide you and give you helpful tips to ensure that all your nutrition needs are being met.

No matter what you end up choosing, adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet will increase the nutritional quality of your diet as well as enhance your overall health.  

Previously published on the on April 30, 2023.

The Transformation of Culinary Habits during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Transformation of Culinary Habits during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a revived culture to the modern family. It is the culture of home cooks. The era of convenience had come to a screeching halt, and everyone was now forced to be quarantined at home, with restricted access to grocery stores and a tight schedule that required juggling a hefty work agenda, being a surrogate teacher for kids that were now homeschooled and keeping a household from falling apart. The upside to this experience was that families got endless opportunities to spend solid hours bonding and creating lifetime memories, especially in the kitchen. This pandemic had a significant impact on the culinary practices of many. It changed the way we shopped for groceries, planned for meals, and ate. The COVID-19 pandemic was a culinary life changer. It changed me!

 With the implementation of global lockdowns, there was restricted access to the grocery store. Shoppers were no longer able to visit a variety of grocery stores to gather specialized items on their grocery lists. Instead, they had to shop at one store and make do with what they could find. There was also a substantial growth in the purchase of shelf-stable groceries, since weekly grocery store runs now extended to bi-weekly or even monthly. Food shoppers were now choosing to buy more frozen, canned, and dried foods since these came with extended shelf lives. There was even a bakers’ movement that involved intentional focus on making the heartiest and tastiest breads and baked goods, from scratch, at home. I remember spending countless evenings on WhatsApp with one of my cousins in Jamaica helping her to perfect several bread recipes. Others became more in-tuned with nature and started home gardens filled with fresh produce and a host of herbs. I became a true believer in my home garden during the pandemic and my garden flourished. I had several harvests of okras, tomatoes, egg plants, greens, a variety of squashes, peppers and beans, watermelons, mint, thyme, and scallion. From that point on I have looked forward to every gardening season, with promises of bountiful harvests like those experienced during the pandemic years.

Drastic changes in shopping habits and food availability made meal planning and meal preparation a big deal. The self -proclaimed at-home chefs and food enthusiasts were forced to think outside the box, step outside of their comfort zones to find creative ways of making meals more appetizing and appealing with new and/or missing ingredients. This made it extremely challenging for those who were on strict diets like myself, who had recently embarked on a plant-based journey, months prior to the pandemic making its grand entrance. Luckily, social media came to my rescue and became one of my sources of inspiration as I explored and experimented with a host of fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and mushroom combinations. I became a pioneer in my own right with the goal of veganizing my favorite Jamaican meals first and other cultural cuisines later, as my time spent in the kitchen became longer and my confidence in creating plant-based meals grew. My experience was not unique, and this is reflected in the uptick in viewership of thousands of cooking tutorials, videos and reels that trended on various social media platforms during this time.

These changes also impacted how we ate, as the spread of COVID exposed the fragility of our humanity. COVID-19 was partial to no one as we saw the young, old, healthy and the health compromised being equally impacted. With the threat of our humanity fresh on our minds, we were forced to reassess the state of our socialization, physical health, and mental well-being, and these all influenced how we cooked and how we ate. The convenience of fast-food and eating out became a thing of the past as individuals became mindful of protecting themselves and their loved ones from becoming ill. People, now stuck at home, became more open to trying new recipes, new seasonings and became masters of making meals from scratch! They also became more intentional about making healthy food choices and incorporated more foods that contained natural ingredients to boost their immunity and overall health in their meals. So, more homemade meals were plant-based, contained more natural ingredients, and were packed with produce that was locally grown and sourced, with little to no hormones, preservatives, or pesticides.

Although the days of lockdowns, quarantines and rationed food items are almost 2 years behind us, the impact of COVID-19 in the home kitchen still lingers on today. Many families are still choosing to prepare and eat most of their meals at home, they have stuck to or even expanded on the inclusion of more healthy options at the dinner table, and they have been intentional about making their children more self-sufficient and aware in the kitchen. As for me and my family, I am about 4 years strong along my plant-based journey and prepare from-scratch plant-based meals 3 to 4 times weekly for my family. My girls have slowly joined in on the fun. They are enthused about exploring, preparing, and indulging in healthy meal options.

 How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you think about food?


Previously published on the on April 16, 2023.

Vegetable Ramen

Who said Ramen is just for college students? With a few veggie choices, this college student staple can become a full meal, even for picky eaters! Lunch, dinner, supper, you choose! Paired with the perfect tomato grilled cheese sandwiches this duo is definitely a crown pleaser! Quick, simple, delicious and still healthy! It must be the pots!