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By Chere Di Boscio
Margaret Chapman thinks a lot about food. Not just what she wants for lunch or dinner, like most of us do, but also the provenance of food, its impact on our health, which combinations of flavours work best together, and how the growth and choice of foods affects the planet and the other animals living on it.
All of those foody thoughts get channeled into vegan recipes, which she’s placed with huge success on her blog, the Plant Philosophy. So amazing are Margaret’s recipes, they’ve attracted over 200k social media followers – who anxiously await new ideas for meals and desserts each week.
Here, we asked Margaret to share a bit more about her views on ethical food, vegan lifestyles and kitchen disasters with us in this exclusive interview.
What turned you on to veganism in the first place?
Originally I was actually a pescatarian. My sister inspired me to dig deeper and learn more about the lifestyle through countless documentaries on the meat and dairy industries. After many health issues, I finally made the plunge and never looked back. I’ve since then reversed my thyroid issues, lowered my blood pressure and gained a sense of self I never had. Even though my transition was brought on by a need to improve my health, I stay vegan for the animals and overall environmental impact this lifestyle has on the world.
What challenges do you face as a vegan today?
Acceptance is definitely the biggest struggle for me. Not so much with family, but society in general. I feel like the term “vegan” is still very taboo. People that aren’t educated on this lifestyle tend to write off vegans as being arrogant and picky. So many have this stereotypical mindset that we’re all very thin, pale and fragile. But it’s always been my goal to break that stereotype. It’s dangerous to categorize a lifestyle and shun anyone that chooses to follow it. I’ve definitely learned that keeping an open mind and having patience goes hand and hand with educating others and spreading a positive first impression of veganism.
When cooking, what are some innovative vegan substitutes you’ve come across?
Aquafaba! The water or brine leftover in a can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans. It’s a total game changer! You can use it to literally whip up vegan meringue or it works beautifully as an egg substitute. As well as adding the combination of ground flax to make what I call a “super egg”. It’s 1 tbsp of flax meal to 3 tbsp of aquafaba. You can use it as a binder for coating things in breadcrumbs or in baking with a combo of baking soda and apple cider vinegar to help it rise naturally.
There are a ton of substitutes that can really blow your mind when it comes to replicating traditional recipes that aren’t plant-based. It’s fun to experiment and see which substitutes work best for each dish.
Are you vegan in your kitchen, or does this carry over to grooming and fashion, too?
Being vegan is a lifestyle for me, so I carry that into my day to day life. Beyond my food choices. I love to use cruelty-free, vegan beauty products from Petit Voir and shop ethical clothing stores like The Tree Kisser and V Apparel. I think it’s important to really evaluate the products you’re using and determine whether or not they’re serving a purpose. If it is, what’s it made out of? I was shocked to discover the vast majority of the products I used contained animal byproducts and almost all were tested on animals.
It might seem like a daunting process and it does require a bit of research, but there are so many incredible resources available online to make that process way less daunting. I highly recommend LogicalHarmony.net – Tashina has a running list of cruelty-free and vegan brands that she tirelessly updates.
I understand it requires privilege to start over and purchase new everything. I spent a lot of time and money trying to find natural alternatives that worked for me. But in the long run, I’m now investing in quality over quantity and I have a clearer conscience supporting ethical brands.
If it does, tell us a bit about your beauty routine: what do you wash with, shampoo with, and use for makeup?
I like to try out new products as more vegan brands are popping up. Currently I’m using and swear by my Brush with Bamboo toothbrush in combo with Well Scent’s Watch Your Mouth essential oil blend. I love to wash my hair with EVOLVh’s shampoo and conditioner that I purchase directly from Petit Vour and the bulk of my makeup is from Pacifica. I also really love to use Meow Meow Tweet‘s deodorant cream, and most products from Cocokind for my everyday skincare routine (not everything they offer is vegan though).
Who are some of your favourite vegan fashion designers?
I’m not big on fashion, that’s not a priority for me. I do really enjoy seeing the high fashion vegan products that are coming out but I don’t personally own anything from any vegan fashion designers. I do however love Vaute Couture. One day I’d probably invest in a jacket from them.
Have you ever had any kitchen disasters?
Too many to list. With age I’m becoming more and more accident prone. I like to say I’m a huge klutz, which is totally true. I’m guilty of cutting my fingers, burning my hands and dropping meals I’ve spent hours preparing. But I’ve learned each time not to do whatever it is/was that resulted in my pain. I highly recommend investing in cut proof gloves if you’re going to be doing a lot of prep work and always keep a first aid kit handy – no one likes to hurt themselves only to have nothing to bandage it up with. Which I’m also guilty of. But glue and duct tape are NOT Bandaid alternatives!
What are your go-to daily recipes?
Smoothies, spring rolls, salads and stir-fry bowls. I like to keep it super simple when it comes to my own nourishment. For breakfast I ideally blend up frozen fruit and greens to make a quick and easy meal that sustains me for a couple of hours. I’ll usually use leftovers to make lunch and snack on random foods throughout the day until dinner. Usually all are heavily vegetable-based with some sort of green and/or grain added. And of course, if you check out ThePlantPhilosophy.com you can find a ton of recipes that I love.
Which other vegan chefs do you admire/follow?
I truly adore Mary from Nom Yourself. As well as Jackie from Vegan Yack Attack, The Sarno Brothers from Wicked Healthy and Cobi from Veggietorials. All inspire me to push myself to become better at my passion and try new things in the kitchen. So much talent, this group of chefs truly blows me away.
And what about your favourite super-fancy recipes?
If I want to get really fancy, I’ll make everything from scratch. Like taco bowls with homemade cheese sauce, sour cream, marinated tofu, beans, greens, rice and sauteed veggies. I usually have a very simplified version of that if I’m not up for all the prep. Still just as delicious though! I also love to make homemade pizza, with the same concept of preparing a ton of toppings, sauces and the actual crust. But if I really want to pull out all the stops, I’ll make my pierogies with sour cream and caramelized onions.
If you could eat only 3 foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Well that’s a tough question. I’d have to say potatoes, bananas and rice. I love carbs and those 3 are a necessity for me. But if it was prepared foods, then it would be sushi, pizza and anything Thai. I don’t think I could live happily without all of those foods in my life on a regular basis.
Finally, what 5 things are always in your kitchen?
In terms of food I’d have to say: Bananas, potatoes, rice, nutritional yeast and lettuce. But if you’re talking about kitchen items, I’d say: A high-speed blender, cast iron skillet, food processor, white plates and wooden spoons. You can always find those 10 items in my kitchen.
Margaret’s Recipe Picks
My go-to crust recipe for a homemade pizza night. It also freezes really well if you decide to prep ahead the day before or want to make extras and store them for later.
The most raved about recipe on my site and one that I spent many months perfecting. I love to make this cake for any family get-together or when I’m needing something sweet. It can easily be made into cupcakes for smaller portions and then cake pops if you have leftovers!
Kicking it back to my upbringing, pierogies were a staple in my home growing up. I had to create a version I could make for myself that was free of gluten and dairy. This is probably my favorite comfort food meal ever. I love to make a big batch and freeze them for quick meals.
If you could only make one recipe from my site, I’d recommend these wings. Perfect for game day and satisfying a crispy craving. I make these all the time for my family, everyone loves mixing up their own sauces and dips, but I love my Zesty Ranch Dressing. Ranch is my life. Growing up in Texas, it’s practically a religion to dip any and everything into it. I LOVE my recipe, it’s the perfect amount of citrus and creaminess.
You can’t have a BLT without the bacon. This is the best alternative I’ve found and I swear by it. Super crispy with a little bit of chew, it’s worth trying out if bacon is something you could “never give up”.