Podcast #36 – The Alternative Alternative

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One of my heroes in the vegan movement is someone who helped me learn about a whole new way of eating as a vegan. This New York vegan chef and cookbook author has offered not only podcasts, but also online support on forums, websites and on his own inspirational blog. Dino Sarma taught me some of the basics to using spices, legumes, and produce.  Dino’s cookbook, The Alternative Vegan, was recently released in a new edition. It is different than all the other cookbooks I love, for this one does not have the colorful photos or high gloss paper. This one is instead an introduction to eating straight from the produce aisle with an international flavor – no tofu, no seitan, no faux meats.

Dino and I recently got together for a chat and thought you might want to listen in. Maybe you will learn a thing or two, just as I did. This time, we talked about more than just food….

Chat with Dino Sarma

After our chat, I realized that we had really switched hats. Here was a vegan chef giving relationship advice to a retired therapist, and a retired therapist giving and sharing culinary ideas with a chef and cookbook author. As Dino said in a followup email about switching roles, “Here we are  from two (completely) different worlds, having come to the same conclusions. Life’s funny like that!”

That is why Dino Sarma is one of my vegan superheroes!  Thanks, Dino.

Gonna Fly Now, Rocky Theme

Alternative Vegan cookbook

Alternative Vegan blog

Sacred Chow Restaurant

Citizen Theater

Forks Over Knives by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr, MD

fokForks Over Knives is a book for human beings, aimed at helping them live healthier lives. It is about the heart disease, diabetes, and cancer that appear epidemic in our culture. It is about the curative power of a plant-based diet and the steps necessary to achieve one. Included are  brief bios of some of the major contributors to the film of the same name (Neal Barnard, MD of PCRM; Gene Bauer of Farm Sanctuary; Rip Esselstyn of The Engine 2 Diet, and many more).  There is nutritional information, a guide to reading food labels, a list of some of the problems with animal agriculture, and tips for transitioning to a new, healthier lifestyle.  It is also a book with over 125 vegan recipes to help you on your journey.

A Primer for Plant-Based Eating

This would be a good book for someone who is interested in a plant-based diet but lacks the needed information to achieve one. It only grazes over the plight of animals and does not go into any depth with environmental impacts, since this is, after all, about promoting a healthy lifestyle. However it is popularized, the book created by these two physicians has the ability to reach multitudes more people in impacting their purchasing and consuming behavior than do a myriad of grassroots activists; recent research appears to support the idea that more people may accept a plant-based diet for health reasons than any other. There is enough information about the torment of farmed animals, presented in a succinct manner, that some people are bound to learn enough to become concerned about the origins of their food. If that is not enough, there is a chapter, too, on the environmental impacts of our food choices. Again, these are a brief few pages, but it is enough to make the case that our current way of eating is not sustainable, is environmentally destructive, and needs to change. (It will be left for other authors to make the case for the cessation of human exceptionalism.)

Recipe For Change

There are recipes in many categories: breakfast, smoothies, appetizers, soups, salads and dressings, sauces and snacks, main dishes, side dishes and desserts. Most appealing to this reviewer were the many simple-to-make salad dressings, perfect for adding a bit more taste and zing to my raw food salads. There is the Quick Barbecued Tempeh which is incredibly easy and ready for the grill with only minutes of preparation (and an hour marinating). The Cherry Pineapple Cake is quick to assemble and has an interesting combination of tastes and textures. There are many contributors to the recipe section of the book, giving it a diverse view of the plant-based world of eating. Best of all, the recipes are designed to make transitioning to a plant based diet easy and healthful. However, this is not the glossy-paged colorful vegan cookbook like many that line my shelves; this book has a much wider purpose than that. Whether new to this type of diet, or a long-time vegan in search of something new,Forks Over Knives offers a healthy sampling of recipes for a better world and information for the journey to plant-based eating.

A Vegan at the Market



The above photo is one trip to the local Kroger’s market.  As you can see, there is plenty of food there for the vegan cook. There were only two prepared items that were included: soymilk and tempeh.  I admittedly purchase bargains; I bought a huge amount of broccoli for $3 on special. Here is what was purchased for under $45:

  1. 8 lbs. navel oranges
  2. 5 lbs. russet potatoes
  3. collard greens
  4. kale
  5. 8 oz. wheat germ
  6. 1 cantaloupe
  7. 1 pineapple
  8. 1/2 gallon soymilk
  9. sweet peppers
  10. ginger root
  11. taro root
  12. red leaf lettuce
  13. bunch bananas (5)
  14. green onions
  15. 2 extra large bunches of brocolli
  16. head lettuce
  17. cucumber
  18. mushrooms
  19. 2 lbs. organic carrots
  20. 3 pack fresh garlic
  21. turnip
  22. tempeh
  23. 2 ears corn
  24. head cabbage
  25. 2 artichokes
  26. jicama
  27. avocado
  28. box of raisins

From the above, the following meals were made:*


Cantaloupe and whole grain toast

Blueberry banana smoothie

Wheat germ with granola and soymilk

Waffles and oranges

Cantaloupe and whole grain toast (2nd time)

Green tea, banana and wheat germ

Scones with orange slices


Broccoli and potato soup with bread

Pajeon Korean Pancakes with dipping sauce

Artichokes – 2

Broccoli and potato soup with Field Roast sandwich

Large mixed greens salad with mushrooms, peppers, sunflower seeds, jicama, and vinegar/oil dressing

Winter vegetable soup with onions, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and broccoli


Teriyaki Panini with grilled onions, mushrooms and sweet peppers and raw greens salad

Pajeon Korean Pancakes with dipping sauce

Vegan burrito with shredded vegetables, fresh avocado and salsa

Spicy Garlic Beans, corn on the cob, and kale

Winter vegetable soup with onions, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and broccoli with hearty sun dried tomato rolls

Wrap sandwich with greens, avocado, salsa, mushrooms, peppers with mixed veggies

Tempeh stir-fry with broccoli, ginger root, garlic, onions, peppers, and shredded cabbage with noodles






Raisins and raw cashews

Raw carrots

*previously purchased items also used

Having fresh produce available is a true luxury.  Along with legumes and grains, they provide everything one needs for a healthy diet. As the produce dwindles, a soup is made from vegetables remaining. When all the produce is gone, if payday has not yet arrived, a dal (legumes and rice with Indian spices) is made, which never gets tiresome but is always a treat. To make it even more elegant, try Alternative Vegan‘s Venn Pongal recipe – it includes cashews and a wonderful array of spices.  Happy shopping!

An Easy Vegan Kitchen

Whether you are just dabbling with veganism or are a confirmed advocate for the vegan lifestyle, living becomes much easier with a comfortable, well-equipped kitchen. Gathering items for your food preparation space may take place over a long period of time and can be quite economical if one is in no hurry.  Discount stores such as Ross and Marshall’s have been the source for some of my favorites kitchen gadgets.

Some preliminary essentials include:

  • Storage containers for bulk items
  • Good sharp knives
  • Garlic press
  • Grater for ginger and spices
  • Cutting boards
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Wooden or bamboo spoons

I use my large wok frequently and love it, although it was a very economical purchase from Ikea.  It has proven to be durable and functional.   There is a large variety of cookware types – find out what works for you.  I have added a few choice pieces by browsing at the discount stores as mentioned above.  I like to cook in bulk at times, so a large pot is a necessity for me.  And I like using small bowls for preparation of spices and small quantities of items for cooking so there is no mad dash as things begin simmering.

31zdcq4426l_ss420_-150x150One of my favorite kitchen utensils is my blender.  This was a bit of a splurge for me, but after a malfunction with may last one, it has proven to be worth every penny. It is useful for preparing salad dressings, sauces, and baking mixtures; it is wonderful for smoothies.  I particularly appreciate that the heavy plastic container which mounts on the motor is all in one piece – no worry about leaks from an untight ring.

You will also need some measuring tools.  A liquid measure (glass or plastic) which measures up to 4 cups is best.  A set of measuring cups and a set of measuring spoons (I like to keep two ready when I am really cooking up a storm) would be a good to have on hand.  I recently purchased some inexpensive magnetic soft plastic spoons – they are the bomb!  They click right in place so you do not have to go searching all over the drawer to find the size you need.

Most of the aforementioned items are probably already in your kitchen. If you are moving towards a whole foods plant diet, it is very helpful to have the tools on hand that will make cooking and storing staples enjoyable.  Plan to update with high quality kitchen tools as time goes on.  To have an easy time as a vegan, start with an easy vegan kitchen!