Interview with Cathy McLellan of Vegan on the GO!

cheese
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This week, we welcome Cathy McLellan, who is a blogger from Vancouver Island and creator of Vegan on the GO!  Following our interview, Cathy shares her recipe for Herbed Cheese, which can be customized using nuts and herbs of your choice.

Cathy has traveled extensively around Canada. She develops leaders and enhances teams for a national firm as a professional coach, trainer, and facilitator. When not working or traveling, Cathy is at home with her husband — and has four children, three grandchildren, a dog, and a cat. Cathy has lived on Vancouver Island for over 25 years and and loves to kayak, hike, swim, garden, camp, travel, cook and hang out with family and friends.

Since becoming vegan over seven years ago, Cathy developed a love and passion for cooking and loves to share vegan friendly food with her friends and family, and now with you!

For me, being vegan is the right thing to do. The vegan lifestyle allows you to rethink the way you eat and what you eat. It is a way of living a more conscious life. I love it!


Describe your journey to veganism

Well that has been quite a journey. Throughout my whole life I experimented with being a vegetarian on and off. I never felt right about eating animals.

Then my beautiful daughter Meagan came into my life and she became a vegetarian around the age of 10 and a vegan around 16. She never wavered from her commitment and strongly encouraged us to join her. Of course we wanted to eat together as a family and cooked many vegetarian and vegan friendly dishes alongside our regular diet. We also got really good at reading labels!

When I became a coach, my trainer encouraged me to be vegan, to be more spiritually clear by not participating in the harshness and cruelty when we kill to eat. I started with a 3 week program called the 21 Day Vegan Quickstart, introduced to me by my lovely friend Lisa Chell of modernveganfamily.com.

Three weeks turned into three months, a year, and now I am well into my eighth year of being vegan. I will always be vegan.

What impact has veganism had on your family?

My immediate family are all vegan/vegetarian now, my daughter, my son, my husband and myself! I love living in a home that cooks only vegan food. We always feel good about what we are eating and it is an important value for all of us. It’s a bond that we share. Yes, we still eat some junk food and my husband eats vegetarian sometimes…overall we eat healthy food and we are leaving a lighter footprint on the planet. That feels good.

How did you decide on the name Vegan on the GO! for your blog?

At first I was going to call it Forging for Food! I travel a lot for work and for the past few years it and it has been challenging to find interesting, healthy vegan friendly food.
I also travel internationally for fun and being a vegan around the world generally includes cooking most of your own food, being creative, and a lot of walking, checking out lots and lots of menus.

That’s when I picked Vegan On The Go! It represents my real life and I thought I could help people at home, in Canada and internationally with ideas of how to make it work. Being vegan happens every day, no matter where you are in the world.

What is one place you traveled recently that had excellent vegan food?

Well I have to share two!
The most recent was in Toronto, I had dinner at one of my all-time favourite vegan restaurants called Fresh.

Fresh was started by two women who are passionate about healthy food and the place is always packed with people that love their food and what they are doing. On my last visit I bought one of their cookbooks where they share their recipes from their restaurant with the world. How cool is that!

The second place was on our trip last winter to Vietnam. One of the places we stayed is a beautiful boutique hotel in the countryside just outside of Hoi An called the Green Boutique.

The manager of the hotel, who was also a professional chef, cooked my husband and I almost 30 unique vegan dishes over a one week stay. Each night he created 3-5 dishes just for us, each one delicious and beautifully presented. He had fun and we got to experience some awesome vegan friendly Vietnamese creations. What a treat!

What are three blogs or cookbooks that inspire you?

I love all things vegan! I’m always looking for vegan cookbooks and being inspired by other people’s creations. The cookbook I got from Fresh Restaurants is my new favourite.

I love poring over the pictures and dreaming about what I will make next. In terms of blogs, I absolutely love my beautiful friend Lisa Chell and what she is doing with Modern Vegan Family and her You Tube videos out of Chell’s Kitchen. Lisa is a powerhouse, a true authentic soul who lives her life with passion, and she is an inspiration to me as a friend, a fellow vegan and blogger.

Ok, the final one, that’s tricky because there are so many wonderful people sharing veganism and their food and stories. My third person is Kris Carr. I have been following Kris for a number of years and have many of her books. I love her enthusiasm for life and the wealth of knowledge about health and being vegan she shares with all of us. She is amazing.


What advice do you have readers who may be considering transitioning to veganism?

Start slow, give it time, be adventuresome, be kind to yourself…it’s a journey of discovery of who you are and what you stand for. Be strong and stay the course, eventually it will just be your life and one that you can live proudly knowing you are contributing to your health, the environment and a cruel free society. A beautiful thing to do.

How easy or difficult is it being vegan on Vancouver Island?

Being on Vancouver Island certainly makes it easier to be a vegan. The west coast in general is open to alternative lifestyles and supports them a bit more than other places in Canada or around the world.

We have access to lots of fresh veggies, healthy alternatives for protein and quite a few awesome vegan friendly restaurants for when we want to dine out. On the island, you are not such an anomaly. For example I was at a restaurant in Thunder Bay recently and the server told me I was the first vegan he had ever met! I was surprised and yet this has happened many times in my travels.

What are your top five must-have vegan pantry items?

Well that is a tricky question, I love so many types of food!

Here goes, top of my list would be avocado, we eat avocado several times a week, avocado adds flavour and texture to what could sometimes be a middle of the road dish. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies. At our house we start most days with a smoothie that is created based on what fruit and veggies we have in the house. Always different and always a great way to start the day.

I love cheese, so my third is some type of vegan cheese, whether my homemade vegan Parmesan, other homemade vegan cheese or some of the excellent vegan friendly cheese that is available in the grocery store. Daiya, Chau and Tofutti cream cheese to name a couple good brands.

Nutritional yeast would have to be in my top five. I love popcorn and nutritional yeast is delicious on popcorn. I add it to many dishes to give the dish a cheesy flavour, on my kale chips, in a tofu scramble or in vegan pasta sauce.

Nuts and seeds are big in our house too. Anything from making a sweet or savoury cashew cream sauce to putting together some trail mix for a kayak trip or for a trip away from home.

How do you like to get creative with your vegan dishes?

One of my main ways to get creative is to follow other vegans on Instagram. When I see something tasty I start to think of how I would make it. Or I go to the farmer’s market and get some yummy veggies and start to think of all the ways we can incorporate them into our meals.

I love to look at cookbooks and search online for ideas and then create my own version of whatever inspires me. It was one of the reasons I started my blog and IG accounts, to inspire others to try vegan food.

As they say a picture tells a thousand words.

What plans do you have for Vegan on the Go in the future?

When I started Vegan On The GO! I just wanted to share great vegan food ideas, inspiration and information on being a vegan. That was my plan.

As this experience has evolved over the past year and a bit, I have a clearer vision of where I want to go and am more passionate than ever to spread the good news.
Keep in mind I do have a full time job and this is done off the side of my desk as I travel and live my life. I will continue to post pictures of my life and food on IG @veganonthego and hopefully continue to expand my following. At the same time I will continue to post on my blog and slowly build what I hope will be a good resource for those who are vegan, vegan curious or want to know how to get started.

Next year I would love to take the online Culinary Plant Based Certification program offered by Rouxbe.
I believe this program will ground me in the fundamentals of plant-based cooking techniques and this will round out my natural ability with technical skill. The program we help me create even more delicious vegan food and recipes for my family, friends and followers. After that maybe a cookbook, a retreat….lots of ideas floating through my head. So much to do!

Thank you so much to Cathy for answering our questions and sharing her cheese recipe. To our readers who want to learn more about Vegan on the GO! visit her website at veganonthego.net | Instagram | Twitter

 

Herbed cheese by Vegan on the Go

 

Herbed Cheese

Makes: 1 large or 2 small cheese logs

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw cashews or macadamia nuts, soaked for 4 hours or more, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp pro-biotic powder (You can get this from your local health food store.  Take the powder out of the caps.  Keep the extra caps in the fridge.)
  • 1/4 cup filtered water
  • 1-1.5 Tbsp miso
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4-1/3 cup coconut butter, warm up till it is liquid (coconut butter contains all the coconut and oil)
  • 1-2 tsp chopped herbs (optional) any combination of basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, chives

Preparation

  1. Soak the raw nuts in lots of water for a minimum of 4 hours up to overnight
  2. Rinse and drain the soaked nuts and add them to your blender (high speed preferred)
  3. Add in the pro-biotic powder (remove from the capsules), filtered water, and miso and blend until smooth.
  4. Pour into a bowl, cover and place in a warm spot that’s about 70°F. Let sit overnight.
  5. Taste the cheese, it should be a bit tangy.
  6. Place the fermented cheese into your food processor and add in the sea salt, coconut butter and blend some more.
  7. Pour the mixture into a bowl.
  8. Add in the finely chopped herbs and mix into the cheese.
  9. Put the cheese in the freezer for about 10 minutes.
  10. Take the cheese out of the freezer and put in on some plastic wrap and using the plastic wrap cover and shape the cheese into a wheel and wrap tightly.
  11. Place it in the fridge for a few hours.

 

Enjoy your delicious cheese with crackers, on a sandwich, in a wrap. Whatever you desire. 
Cheese and crackers ready to share with your guests!

I placed about half of my finished product in plastic wrap and put in the freezer for another day. That way it will be fresh and won’t go to waste.

 

Have any comments or questions? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

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