- Tell me about yourself. I live in Eli, Israel with my family, consisting of 3 kids, 3 cats, 1 dog, 1 bird and 1 husband.I am passionate about animals and technology. I’ve been very lucky to be able to combine these loves and create an animal website called The Pet Wiki (http://thepetwiki.com). I also have a tech blog called Rena Reich (http://renareich.com). As an occupational hazard of learning so much about animals, I’ve gone vegan and created a website called Vegan Start (http://veganstart.com). The main focus of Vegan Start is to give people, vegans and non-vegans alike, an alternative to using animal products in their cooking. I try to take normal recipes and veganize them.
- What do you remember about family meals and your mother’s cooking style when you were growing up? Growing up, the weekends were the only time that we really spent eating together as a family. Otherwise we would just help ourselves to anything in the fridge when we were hungry. I learned to cook with my mom at a very young age. She taught me everything I know about cooking.My mom was known around the neighborhood as “Mama Iris” because she made (and still makes) the best Italian food ever. My mom doesn’t cook. My mom overcooks. I can’t tell you how many times we forgot to serve bread on Thanksgiving. No one ever missed it.
- How is your cooking style different from your mother’s? My mom cooks. I bake. I can also cook and she can also bake, but we each enjoy taking on those roles when we need to put a special meal together. I think that I also experiment more with cooking than she does. I’ll throw together weird ingredients and make a few batches of something before I’m happy with it. She sticks to her tried and true recipes. What we make always plays off each other nicely.
- What is your favorite gadget? If you were to ask me the one thing that I couldn’t live without, I’d have to say my KitchenAid. I’ve had it forever and it works like a charm. It has a permanent place on my counter so what I can whip up any type of baked good in a jiffy.
- Do you entertain, and in what circumstances? What is the biggest party or meal you have hosted to date? We’ll often have company on the weekends and holidays. I think the biggest event that I hosted was a Thanksgiving dinner a few years back when I invited everyone from my office to my house. This was in my pre-vegan days and the meal was very traditional – Turkey, stuffing, sweet potato pie, cranberry crumble, and some other stuff that I can’t remember – the whole 9 yards. I finished it off with an assortment of pies, including lemon meringue, pecan and apple. It was so much fun.
- Can you share a typical daily menu? Weekly menu? Since my kids are in and out of the house, it’s hard to say what’s normal anymore. We have big weekend meals together and eat leftovers for a couple of meals after that (I got my mom’s overcooking gene). If I’m in a rush, breakfasts are cereal with soy milk. If I have more time, I’ll whip up a batch of pancakes. Quick meals are spaghetti with tomato or pesto sauce. I always keep lentil burgers in the house. I’ll also make a weekly batch of mock chop liver – it’s a great sandwich stuffer.
- How has your cooking style evolved over the years? The biggest change in my cooking style is that now that I don’t use animal products, I need to be a bit more inventive. It scares my kids when I cook, because, except when I’m writing a new blog post for Vegan Start, I don’t really measure anything. I feel free to play.
- Can you recommend any cookbooks, TV shows or websites that have inspired you? I love cookbooks. My favorite vegan cookbook has to be The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. It covers everything. My favorite baking cookbook is My Sweet Vegan by Hannah Laminsky. Totally yummy. What I really like about these books is the ingredients are easy to find and the recipes are easy to follow. http://VegWeb.com is an incredible resource for vegan recipes.
- What posts on CM have you enjoyed? I enjoy the posts where you share your technique of how you cook. You give some great tips. Another article that I enjoyed was Save Money by Eating Less Meat and More Vegetable Protein. I’m a vegan, OK, but I think that people can make a change for the better by just eating less meat. We can all make big changes by the little changes that we make every day.
- What is the most unusual dish you’ve ever made? I would have to say that Tofurkey (http://veganstart.com/mock-food/homemade-tofurkey/) is the strangest thing that I’ve made. I was looking for an alternative to turkey for this past Thanksgiving. I have to say that it was pretty successful.
- What is the oldest item in your kitchen? The newest? My KitchenAid is my oldest item in the kitchen. I’ve change plate and silver and cups, but my KitchenAid is still around and making really yummy stuff. The newest item in the kitchen is my bread machine. I have so much fun with it, making all sorts of yummy breads.
- What would you like to change about your cooking style in the coming year? I don’t think that there’s anything that I’d really like to change. I think that it’s more that I’d like to expand on what I’m doing already. I have to say that I really love having a vegan blog because it makes me really push what I’m doing in the kitchen.
- Please share a favorite recipe and cooking tips. My favorite thing to make is my vegan lasagna. It’s been a big hit with vegans and non-vegans alike.My tip would be that there are a lot of ways to substitute eggs in recipes. Depending on what you’re making, you can use ground flaxseeds, bananas, apple sauce or tofu. There are also great natural products like Ener-G that work really well. For a fuller list and amounts check out PETA’s website http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/egg-replacements.aspx
Readers may also enjoy:
Mark Bittman on Eating Meat