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No vegetable left behind

(article, Liz Crain)

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Thirteen years ago, Susan Voisin went vegan and became a staunch supporter of animal-product-free, low-fat foods. In January 2006, Voisin started her blog, FatFree Vegan Kitchen, out of a desire to share vegan recipes with readers around the world. 
 
Voisin claims that she does not actively seek to persuade readers to become vegan, but several of her readers have switched from vegetarianism to veganism. And Voisin's husband stopped eating meat within the first year of their romantic relationship.

[%image voisin float=left credit="Photo courtesy Susan Voisin" caption="Susan Voisin"]
 
p(blue). Blog: FatFree Vegan Kitchen
Average posts per month: 12
Blogger: Susan Voisin
Age: 46
Blog place of origin: Jackson, Mississippi
 
By using such ingredients as yogurt and applesauce to hydrate dairy-free baked goods, incorporating homemade meat substitutes like seitan pepperoni and vegan corned beef, and sourcing from a small but beloved vegetable garden, Voisin manages to elevate vegan fare to fine fodder.
 
In July, Voisin attended the annual BlogHer Conference in Chicago. 
 
What did you learn at the BlogHer Conference?
Being at BlogHer was a powerful experience for me not only because I met some of the food bloggers I admire, but also because it reminded me of how much variety there is in the blogging world — a whole world of intelligent and creative women blogging. I came home with a stack of business cards about an inch high, and I'm going through them one by one, checking them all out.

[%image reference-image width=350 float=right credit="Photo courtesy Susan Voisin" caption="Voisin's homemade soy yogurt with berries."]
 
What's your professional background?
I was a college English instructor for 15 years before I "retired" to stay home with my daughter when she was two years old. Around that time I took some online classes from a local community college to learn Web design and graphics, and I started doing a little freelance Web design for nonprofit groups and people on a budget. 
 
For the past couple of years, I've devoted all of my time to my own projects, the blog, and my two vegan websites, FatFree Vegan Recipes and FatFree Vegan Board.
 
What's the hardest part of being vegan?
Eating at someone else's house. I hate feeling like I'm asking people to go to extra trouble for me. Even though I'm easily satisfied with simple fruits and vegetables, a lot of people have the impression that they have to go out of their way to prepare something vegan, when all I really want to do is relax and enjoy the company.
 
Many processed staples — tofu, seitan, soy/rice milk — are associated with vegan and vegetarian diets. Do you use these? Do you make your own?
I try to avoid processed foods, and the only one I use regularly is soy milk. When I have time, I enjoy making it myself and using it to make tofu and yogurt. Homemade tofu is a million times better than packaged. But I have to admit that lately I've been buying it more often than making it.  
 
I always make my own seitan because it's easy to make it the way we like it, and of course it's much cheaper than store-bought. I never buy vegan "cheeses" and always make my own cheesy-tasting sauces instead. The one product I can think of that I haven't made is tempeh, so I'll have to consider making my own some day.

[%image promo-image width=350 float=left credit="Photo courtesy Susan Voisin" caption="Vegan Gumbo z'Herbes with Cajun Tempeh Bacon."]
 
Earlier this year you mentioned a cookbook project to me. Are you still helping out with the recipe testing and food photography for that?
No, because it's done! It was a huge honor to be asked by veteran cookbook writer Nava Atlas to take the photos for her new book, [%bookLink code=076792617X "Vegan Express"]. The photos are in the hands of the editor and publisher, so my only role now is to sit back and wait. It's scheduled to be released next spring. 
 
Are you still planning your own cookbook?
Planning, yes. Actually getting around to writing it is harder than I expected. I pour so much energy into the blog that it's been hard for me to switch gears and cook and write for the book. But I promise I'll finish it eventually.  
 
How long have you kept a vegetable garden?
When I was growing up in rural Louisiana, my parents kept a garden and I weeded it and picked the vegetables. In return, my father let my sister and me set up a little business selling tomatoes. Later, when I was in high school, I worked at the university agricultural station as a farm worker and really got my hands dirty. 
 
Since college, I've put in small garden plots everywhere I've lived — even the rental properties. My dream is to one day have an acre or so that I can plow up and garden, but until then, a couple of vegetable patches in my suburban yard will have to suffice.
 
Does your daughter cook?
She enjoys cooking, and I've found that she will actually eat things she thinks she hates (like eggplant) as long as she has a hand in cooking them.

[[block(sidebar).

h1. Liz's favorite posts

[[block(smalltext).

1. Making Soy Yogurt
2. Gumbo z'Herbes with Cajun Tempeh Bacon
3. Chickpea Soup With Moghrabieh

]]
]]

Do you have a favorite vegetable?
There are so many that it's hard to choose, but the one that I like best on its own is asparagus. I could probably live on asparagus roasted with a little olive oil and salt. 
 
The vegetable that I think is the most versatile, however, is eggplant. It's great in vegan cooking because it has a firm texture that can be almost "meaty," with that little bit of bite or resistance that most vegetables don't have. And though it's bland, it accepts the flavors of whatever sauce it's cooked in. That's why there are currently 25 different eggplant recipes on my blog, a number that increases weekly now that it's eggplant season.
 
Name some of your favorite vegan dishes for holidays.
I have simple tastes when it comes to holiday dishes. For Thanksgiving, I make a great big casserole dish full of cornbread dressing and serve it with pan-fried tofu cutlets, green-bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Dessert is always either pumpkin pie or sweet-potato casserole or both. No one ever goes away hungry — not even the meat eaters.

p(bio). Liz Crain is a writer based in Portland, Oregon.

Elsewhere on Culinate: A review of two vegan cookbooks.


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