Vegan chef Nadira Jenkins-El pays homage to classic, soul food staples in “Vegan Soul Food Cookbook: Plant-Based, No-Fuss Southern Favorites.” Her goal: create healthier versions of the cuisine without compromising flavor or harming animals. She does so by adding what she calls SOUL – seasonal, organic, unprocessed, local. The holistic nutritionist also presents the material with ease.
This paperback cookbook features 101 recipes to excite the palate. They include serving size, prep time, and cook time for those who plan their meals. I like that they also note gluten-free, nut-free and soy-free when applicable.
Unfortunately, images only exist for the nine-chapter dividers. Still, the matte finish pics make the select few foods look appetizing. The ingredients list contains items mostly found in local grocery stores. The instructions seem straightforward and relatively short. Jenkins-El also uses jackfruit and banana blossoms in a few recipes. Cooks might have to search for them at specialty stores or order them online.
I love the familiarity in the meal selections like the chicken and dumplings, butternut squash mac ’n’ cheese, Caribbean coconut greens, Caribbean johnnycakes, acorn squash stuffed cornbread stuffing and the sweet rolls. The thought makes me hungry.
Now, imagine my surprise when I read Jenkins-El prefers the butternut squash pie over sweet potato, pumpkin or bean pie. I don’t know about you, but I plan to prepare this dessert. I’m curious.
Back to Her Roots
Jenkins-El grew up in a vegetarian household where her family ate natural whole foods and excluded sugar. Her parents were Moorish-American, an Islamic faith. They did not consume pork, red meat and shellfish.
She was taught to make plant-based meals that included tofu and texturized vegetable protein. During the summer months and special occasions, she would visit her nana who was considered the soul food queen on her block in West Philadelphia. There, she learned to cook soulful dishes. In 2009, she opened a catering business specializing in soul food and on weekends, she adopted nana’s Sunday soul food tradition. She cooked dinners heavy on meats and dairy for family and friends.
At the age of 35, she was diagnosed with hypertension and borderline type 2 diabetes. She conducted research to find out how she could heal herself. She was amazed at the results of eliminating meat and dairy from her diet. Within 30 days, her blood sugar and blood pressure levels were back to normal. She no longer had to take medication daily. In 2014, she founded Global Fusion, a home-based vegan and gluten-free bakery and confectionery.
Chef Jenkins-El also co-owns and operates The Cutting Board Bakery and Café in Mesa, Arizona. Her background, experiences, and family influences are evident throughout the “Vegan Soul Food.” It’s like passing the torch to others. I think it’s worth adding to your cookbook collection.
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