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How to Cook Vegan for a BBQ

I love summer in Japan! It is the only season that I can feel truly comfortable with the weather – on most days, at least. On some days, the intense Japanese heat and humidity make me wish I had never left the Caribbean and it’s tropical marine climate. However, another reason I love summer, is because this is the time when everyone is having a barbeque – and I love a good barbeque! But, back in Jamaica, we had barbeques all year long.

Jamaican BBQs
To many Jamaicans, a BBQ is usually a professionally catered community event, where you pay for a packaged meal and enjoy live entertainment. But, when I was growing up, my parents would often bring us into the backyard to sit around the coal stove, a barbeque grill or my brother’s pan (the traditional Jamaican grill made from a repurposed steel drum) to grill up dinner. Sometimes we made popular dishes like roast fish, BBQ chicken or jerk pork. But most of the time we would just make a feast of roasted corn, sweet potatoes, yams and probably some frankfurters. On those days, my brother, sister and I never complained about what was for dinner! LOL. It was such a delight to watch the food cook on the mesh wire, then eat it under the open sky.

All About the Sides
Although most people focus primarily on what meats to serve when they are hosting a barbeque, what really makes a great barbeque menu are all the creative side dishes, refreshing drinks and lip-smacking desserts. So, if you’re hosting your first backyard grill-up, don’t forget to toss some fresh vegetables together for a quick salad: garden salads and coleslaw are popular. You can mash some potatoes to soak up all the BBQ sauces and gravy or mix some macaroni with mixed vegetables and raisins, for quick dishes to pair with your favourite entrées.

Snacks, Drinks & Desserts
Dinner rolls, hotdog and burger buns will balance out other side dishes like rice n’ peas, festival or roti; and fill a bowl with your favourite chips and dip to tackle the munchies while everyone gathers near the grill to fill their plates. Try to prep a platter of fruit to keep your guests cool and hydrated in the summer heat and don’t be shy to offer everyday delights like fried ripe plantain or steamed bammy when you spread your table. The key to a great BBQ menu is preparing a little bit of everything to fill everyone’s plate and appetite. If you choose to serve alcohol-based beverages, be sure to have lots of water, iced teas, and fruit juices as well, to help wash down the bickle. Then some slices of sweet potato pudding or a platter of chilled sugarcane sticks is sure to settle every craving after all the plates are empty.

The Main Dishes
With all of that yumminess up for grabs you’re probably wondering who will have space to eat anything else. But, you should try to put something on the grill, if you really want to call your linkup a ‘BBQ’. So, what do vegans throw onto the grill? Well, even after I had stopped eating flesh foods, my mother would still have barbeques in the backyard, and she never failed to cater to my new palate. She would buy frozen veggie burgers, cans of veggie links (hotdogs) and fill skewers with cubes of marinated tofu, pineapple chunks, onions and other veggies. Of course, we always had to make extras because my friends and relatives would happily fill up on the vegetarian goodies, as well.

Fire Up the Grill
If you’re looking to keep things simple, some of the most popular veggies to toss onto the grill are: corn on the cob, marinated mushrooms, asparagus, stuffed sweet peppers and slices of eggplant. Slabs of tofu, smothered in jerk seasoning, hold together well, if you firm them up in the toaster oven ahead of throwing them on the grill. You can also find simple recipes online for making bean burgers, veggie sausages and wheat gluten ribs for putting on the grill. If you’re not into ‘creative cooking’ then you can buy meatless burgers and other treats in the refrigerator section at major supermarkets. This list of plant-based grilled dishes isn’t extensive since non-grill entrées like baked beans, curried chickpeas, lentil patties (handpies) or ackee lasagna are also excellent choices for your barbeque.

Whether you’ve decided to stop eating meat and are worried about what to eat at your friend’s BBQ or you’re just trying to increase the amount of plant-based foods you pile onto your plate, you have plenty of easy and delicious dishes to choose from. So heat up the grill, fill up your glass and enjoy the heat and carefree spirit that comes with it.

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Walnut Meat & Other Nutty Adventures

So, one of the most frequently asked question about eating plant-based is, “What do you eat, then?” Many persons have gotten used to having animal flesh as the main feature of their meals and have a hard time imagining a tasty plate without meat. This is why meat substitutes are a major concern for most people considering switching to a plant-based diet. Yet, most people have never been exposed to the endless variety of animal-free foods that can satisfy their meat-loving palate. There are more options than you can imagine – some are great for the meat-lovers among us and others are treats for the gourmet fans.     

Vegan Meats (Source:
Vegan Meats (Source:

If you know anything about vegetarian diets, you will immediately think of fake meats or meat analogues like textured vegetable protein (TVP) – more popularly known as veggie chunks in Jamaica – or wheat gluten (also known as seitan, wheat meat, veggie steak). But, companies like Morning Star Farms, Quorn & Gardein have made it possible to pick up near duplicates of every kind of meat you can think of that are made from plants only. From burgers, nuggets and wings to sausages, bacon, and ribs, they have it all. In the early years, I tried many of them, but lately I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of processed foods I consume and I’m learning to make more whole food dishes just by stocking up on my legumes.


Jerked Walnut Taco "Meat" served on a bed of dark-green leafy veggies (tatsoi, mustard greens and lettuce) and carrots. Dressed with homemade cashew sour cream. (Source: Facebook)
Jerked Walnut Taco “Meat” served on a bed of dark-green leafy veggies (tatsoi, mustard greens and lettuce) and carrots. Dressed with homemade cashew sour cream. (Source: Facebook)

My gourmet-diva, sister-friend, Cheryl (of CherButters of Jamaica) is always creating some work of mouthwatering art in her kitchen. She uses a lot of nuts, seeds and other legumes to replace the animal flesh in popular dishes and always gets rave reviews. We don’t need ground beef for tacos when you have spicy walnut meat! She goes all out to make her dishes authentic and never missed the opportunity to blend up sour cream from cashew nuts. Cheryl’s tasty treats include lentils to make ‘meat’ loaves or ‘meat’ balls and even jackfruit seeds get transformed into ‘cheese’ for delicious vegan pizzas or veggies wraps. Lets just say that your tastebuds won’t ever be bored and her blenders and food processor are well-used. 

While it’s great to recreate all our favourite and more familiar dishes using meat analogues, variety is the spice of life. So, it is always a great idea to try some new recipes and get adventurous in the kitchen. As such, I want to give you some ideas. Below are some recipes I like. Check them out and try them all, then let me know how you like them.

Walnut Taco ‘Meat’

Classic Cashew ‘Cheese’

Chickpea Veggie Nuggets

Lentil ‘Meat’ Loaf

That’s four different recipes! Try even one a week, and see if you want to make them regular features in your diet. These are just more baby steps for you as you transition to more vibrant health.

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3 Sneaky Ways To Pile Your Plate High For Vibrant Health

We have all heard it: we should eat smaller portions, eat fewer meals and snacks and watch our calories. But that is extremely difficult when the food tastes really good! Not to mention when you’ve eaten they recommend portions and still don’t feel full. Well, I’ve checked in with the dietitians and nutritional experts, on your behalf. So, I’m excited to show you a few tricks you can use to get away with eating big portions, and as often as you want, and still achieve vibrant health!


Before we get into the sneaky stuff, let’s take a look at why “eat less” is such a common mantra. The calories we’re told to reduce come from the carbs, fats and proteins in foods that are usually sweet and greasy. But, while we’re being told to cut back on the calorie-dense sugary drinks and oily meats, we’re being encouraged to fill up on the nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables that are full of healing amino acids and protective phytochemicals. That’s why food researchers and nutrition scientists have been publishing eating guidelines in the form of food groups, pyramids and plates to help get us eating a balanced diet. Most of them (like the USDA’s MyPlate and Harvard School of Public Health’s Healthy Eating Plate) are plant-based. This means that majority of the food we eat come from plants, e.g. fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. However, I love the dietary guidelines of The Plant Based Dietician, Julieanna Hever, which serve up low calories and high nutrients in every meal. To follow a plant-based diet based on her guidelines, we’d eat our fill of Leafy Green Vegetables, High-fat Whole Foods (like nuts and avocado pears), Richly coloured & Starchy Vegetables, Whole Grains, Legumes and Fruit. That’s all! There is absolutely no need for seafood, meat, poultry, eggs nor dairy. This whole food, plant-based diet is the secret to eating all you want.


“Cholesterol has been called the animals’ revenge because the animals you eat leave a little bit of themselves behind in your arteries every time you eat them.” ~Anonymous


The thing is, that meat, dairy and eggs are deficient in vitamin C and essential fats (omega 3 and omega 6), and they have no dietary fibre nor any energy-giving carbohydrates. Meat and eggs lack calcium, while dairy lacks iron. But, all these animal foods are high in protein and fat – saturated fat and cholesterol. This makes them high in calories without being filling; our bodies run down on energy just to digest these animal foods (which is why you feel sleepy at the end of a big lunch).

On the other hand, there are tonnes of benefits to gain from piling our plates high with plant foods. For one, fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains are cholesterol free! Plant foods are low in calories, but high in both macronutrients (Carbohydrates, Protein, Fat & Water) and micronutrients (Vitamins, Minerals, Phytochemicals & Antioxidants). As such, they are proven to reduce our risk of developing chronic diseases (like heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes) and are key to strengthening our immune systems. Plants are the only source of dietary fibre, so they are the best for feeling full without the lethargy, since they also boost our energy levels.


So, now that you know what to pile your plates with, and why, let’s dive into the 3 ways you can make the veggie binge easy:

1. Soups
An amazing habit to pick up is having a vegetable-based soup with your meals. It’s a great filler and you will be sure of getting in your best nutrients before you dive into the other dishes.

2. Salads
It’s a great idea to have a large vegetable salad at the beginning of your meals. Use as many different kinds of produce as possible and make it as colourful as you can. Toss in nuts, seeds and legumes for extra protein and to vary the texture and flavours. Just changing the salad dressing can add even more variety to your veggie routine.

3. Smoothies
Always begin your day with a green smoothie, green juice or a fruit plate.


So, let’s start a new healthy binge together – piling our plates high with fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes for vibrant health and tummy happiness 😉



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The Plant-Based Cooking Demo & Lunch

Having shared with you some of the foods I eat on a regular basis, I found this video of reggae artiste, Macka B, singing about the vegan diet:

I really liked this song because of the variety of foods that Macka B lists and the fact that he displays a wealth of knowledge about proper nutrition and knows what essential nutrients he needs to get from his meals.

For some people, even after watching a video, reading an article or meeting someone who eats plant-based, and being convinced that this is the way to go, they still remain confused about what to eat and how to prepare it. This fact has been displayed in the many requests I have had (emails, SMS, instant messages, in-person) for recipes and, more so, a live demonstration of how I prepare these meat-free, egg-free, and dairy-free dishes.

Over time, I soon realised that I had promised quite a few friends that I’d make the time to come by their kitchens and give them a guiding hand in their exploration of the world of plant-based cooking. So, these promises were piling up and my ‘available’ time wasn’t. So, one morning (one of those when your mind is clear and bursting with ideas and strategies), I decided to drop a few lines, inviting a select few – on very short notice – to join me for a plant-based lunch and cooking demo.

Following some initial indications of interest, I scratched out the following menu for our foodie event:

Cream of Pumpkin Soup
Curried Ackee Wraps

Mini Burgers
Escoveitched Tofu with Bammy
Garden Salad with Tofu Bites
Cool Potato Salad
Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
Soy Ice Cream
Pine-Ting Smoothies

Now, I could easily launch my own review of the experience, but my friend, Monique, did a great job in her blog post on (I love the fruit and veggie banner that she has!). Please click on the link to share in the event (pics included): Vegetarian for a day….or at least…a meal

All I can say is, everyone had their favourite dishes and I look forward to another demo sometime soon.

Stay Earth Strong!

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So, what do you eat?

On those occasions when my plant-based eating habits are observed, the persons enquiring usually seek consolation for the elimination of meat from my diet, by asking, “But, you eat fish, right?!” The expressions of horror that usually follow my denial often accompany the exclamation, “So, what do you eat?”

I have found it strange that so many persons believe the only food options available to us are: chicken, fish, pork, beef, mutton and fish, with the ever-faithful ‘side’ dishes of rice, ground provisions, bread and vegetables. Capitalist-driven affluence and the misguided pursuit of it, has resulted in voluntary amnesia for many persons. I say this because many people fail to remember that in our traditional diet, chicken was the Sunday dinner ‘main dish’, fish may have been a treat on Friday, and a little salt meat (beef or pork) would have accented the Saturday Pumpkin or Red Peas soup. Very few persons want to be reminded that most of our ‘back-in-the-day’ dishes were plant-based and things like (the choice cuts of) pork, beef and mutton, were reserved for family events such as weddings, funerals, and birthday parties. Instead, they wrongly associate meat-consumption with wealth and vegetable-consumption with poverty. (There is so much more that I could say about that… but, that will be addressed at another time.) However, in the interest of our health and the sustenance of our economy, we may all want to consider returning to the ‘country-style’ eating habits by increasing our consumption of the treasures we reap from soil and decreasing, if not eliminating, our consumption of animal foods.

Below you will find a sample menu of what I may eat on an average day:

  Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Breakfast Oats Porridge with Raisins Steamed Callaloo with baked beans Cornmeal Porridge
  Toasted bread with peanut butter Boiled bananas, yam and potatoes Fried Plantain with bread
  Orange and banana Melon and banana Mango and Pineapple
Lunch Sweet n Sour Veggie Chunks Soy patty with lettuce and tomato Vegetable Chow Mein
  Rice and Peas Meatless Red Peas Soup Arranged Vegetable Salad
  Tossed Vegetable Salad
Dinner Curried Ackee Cabbage and Veggie Mince Barbecued Tofu
  Roasted Breadfruit Spaghetti Brown Rice
  Avocado Pear Slices Arranged Vegetable Salad Steamed Carrots & String Beans
Snack Sugarcane June Plum Coconut Drops
Dessert Pineaple Upside Down Cake Sweet Potato Pudding Soy Ice Cream
These items were not selected with any particular dietary needs in mind. They are simply delicious, easy to prepare and readily available. If you have never prepared any of the meat substitutes e.g. veggie chunks, veggie mince, or tofu before, there are many easy tutorials and recipes available online. Or you may pick up these dishes from a vegetarian restaurant nearby.
Therefore, you have no reason to limit yourself. Try to eat something more traditional and plant-based today.
Stay Earth Strong!