Interview with Dianne Wenz of Dianne’s Vegan Kitchen

Dianne Wenze of Dianne's Kitchen
Roasted Beet Citrus Salad by Dianne Wenz - Recipe recreation and food photography by Anna Pelzer

This week, we welcome Dianne Wenz – Vegan Health and Lifestyle Coach, plant-based chef, and the editor-in-chief of ChicVegan.com.
She is passionate about guiding people to go vegan, as well as helping them improve their over-all health and wellbeing. She runs Montclair Vegans, a MeetUp group in her New Jersey community, and can often be found hosting a potluck, whipping up a new recipe in the kitchen, or taking pictures of her lunch. In addition to our interview with Dianne, she kindly shared her Roasted Beet Citrus Salad recipe.


You have a lot going on with Chic Vegan, consulting, blogging, social media, ebooks, coaching – tell us what a typical day is
like for you.

It’s funny, because people often say things like, “You’re so busy. I don’t know how you get it all done.” But the truth is that I’m not that busy. I typically work 9-5, just like I did when I had an office job. I have certain days that I work with health coaching clients, and certain days for marketing consulting clients. Neither of those two things takes up the entire day, so I fit in blogging and anything else I’m working on in the downtime.

I usually work with clients in the morning and then work on my blog or Chic Vegan in the afternoon. When I’m working on an extra project, like an e-book, I might have to spend some time on it in the evening or on weekends, but I try not to overextend myself, because I know that if I don’t get enough rest I’ll be ruined for the next day.

How did you get started in social media consulting?

It’s weird how that happened. My background is in design, and in 2009 I decided to become a health coach. People saw how I was promoting myself on social media, as well as how I as designing my own business cards and marketing materials, so they started asking me for help. And it snowballed from there!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to create their own vegan job?

I would say that it should be something you’re really passionate about. There are going to be times when you’re really, really busy, and times when you’re not, and if you’re not passionate about it, the chances of wanting to stick with it might be pretty slim.

Talk to us about your ebooks! How did you get started and how did you come up with the concept?

The inspiration came from two different places. First, I thought it might be something I should try after Vida Vegan Con in Austin in 2015. The whole conference was really inspirational. My friend Jenna and I spent the entire flight home discussing things we wanted to do with our new-found enthusiasm. E-books kept coming to mind for me.

Shortly after Vida Vegan Con, Kathy Hester, who I have admired for years, asked me to design her Halloween e-book The Ghoulish Gourmet because of my background in design. After working on that with her, I decided it was time to start working on my own e-books.

My blog has been around for a long time, and some of the recipes really needed revamping and rephotographing. Rather than doing all of that work on the blog, I decided to put the updated recipes into e-books. I separated them according to meal. So the first e-book is What’s for Dinner?, and the second is What’s for Lunch?. I’m sure you can guess what the next one will be!

Is there a process that you go to when you are
developing recipes?

I don’t really have a set process that I follow. I’m often inspired by a dish I had at a restaurant, something from my childhood, or non-vegan recipes in magazines. Sometimes they’re just inspired by the ingredients in my fridge! I usually type out my idea and then make it, taking notes along the way. If it’s no good, I’ll just keep tweaking it until I like it. If it is good, it goes up on the blog!

Do you have a client success story that has become an inspiration for new clients looking to live a healthier, more compassionate lifestyle?

I think I’m probably my own success story! When I was young, I was always sick with strep throat and sinus infections. I had terrible allergies and I would often get really debilitating headaches, too. Doctors were really no help, so I started researching my problems on my own as I got older.

The one thing I kept reading was that dairy products can cause lots of problems with allergies and sinuses. Around the same time I also learned about the conditions in the egg and dairy industry, so I decided to go vegan. (I was vegetarian for about nine years at that point.) I would say that after about two weeks as a vegan I felt a million times better! It felt like a miracle! People noticed that I looked great and was feeling better, and they started asking me for advice for themselves, which is what made me decide to go to school to become a health coach.

As a health coach, I’ve helped dozens of people improve their health with dietary changes. It’s always so rewarding to see!

Who were the vegans you looked up to or who inspired you when you were starting out?

That’s kind of a tough question! I went vegan in 2001, and there were only a few vegan books out at the time. There was no online vegan community like we have now.

The book that opened my eyes to the problems with the egg and dairy industry was something I picked up from the bargain table at Barnes and Noble for a couple of dollars. It was The Perfectly Contented Meat-Eater’s Guide to Vegetarianism by Mark Warren Reinhardt. I thought that reading it would give me some advice on dealing with my family, who were still giving me a hard time about my vegetarian diet, even though I’d been following it for years. I went vegan after reading it.

After reading that, I bought any book on veganism that I could find. I had books by Carol J. Adams and Joanne Stepaniak, and cookbooks by Miyoko Schinner and Nava Atlas, so I would say that those ladies all inspired me.

Do you have any methods you use for getting into creative mode when starting a new project?

When it comes to graphic design or cooking, it’s pretty much the same type of process. I like to look through books and magazines, or go to stores to look at different products. I often websurf and look around on Pinterest. I’ll clip pictures or magazine pages and keep them in a folder for inspiration.

What are your top three most versatile ingredients?

Cashews, because they can be turned into cream or cheese, and they can be eaten on their own as a snack!

Mushrooms, because they are delicious, and they can be used to replace meat in just about any dish.

Chickpeas, because they’re so tasty, and they can be used in just about any type of dish. They can be mashed and made into patties, roasted for a snack, smashed and made into a mock chicken-salad for sandwiches, and they’re a great addition to anything from salads to stir-fries. Plus, hummus!

If you could travel anywhere in the world to experience the food, where would you go?

That’s a tough one! I went to Vida Vegan Con in Portland in 2013, but I didn’t get to spend as much time exploring the different vegan restaurants as I wanted, so I’d love to go back there. If I were to leave the country, I might want to go to Italy, because I’ve heard such things about the vegan food there.

 

Thank you so much to Dianne for answering our questions. To our readers who want to see more of her creations visit her website at diannesvegankitchen.com, follow her on instagram @diannewenz or on twitter @diannewenz

 

Dianne Wenz's Roasted Beet Citrus Salad

 

Shrute Farms–Inspired Roasted Beet and Citrus Salad

  Makes 2 to 4 servings

 

The Office ended its nine year run in 2013, and I stuck with it to the bitter end. I felt a special connection to the show, as I was the art director for a paper company for six and a half years. We sold scrapbooking supplies and stationery rather than copier paper, but there were enough similarities to keep me and my coworkers amused.

I went to a viewing party for The Office finale at a friend’s house, and everyone made a special dish to commemorate the show and to commiserate its end. Some menu ideas that came up were: Jan’s Three-Hour Osso Buco; Shove It Down Your Gullet Hot Dogs; Kevin’s On-The-Floor Chili; and, of course, a stapler encased in Jell-O for dessert. While this Roasted Beet and Citrus Salad isn’t exactly taken from an episode of The Office, I made it as an homage to Dwight’s beloved beet farm.

 

For the Beets

  • 8 medium beets
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 medium oranges

For the Salad

  • 1/4 cup orange juice 1⁄4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Serving

  • 6 cups arugula
  • 
2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup toasted pistachios, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves

Make the Beets

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scrub the beets and pat them dry. Rub them with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. Place on the baking sheet and bake for about an hour, or until they are tender when pierced with a knife. Set aside and allow to cool.
  2. Peel the beets (the skin should peel or rub off pretty easily) and then slice into 1/2 to 1-inch cubes. Supreme the oranges by trimming the tops and bottoms off the oranges and then carving off the peels and white pith. Carefully slice the orange segments away from the membrane, cutting as close as possible to avoid wasting too much of the orange. Cut the slices into 1/2 to 1-inch pieces.

Make the Salad

  1. Add the orange juice, lime juice, and vinegar to a large bowl and mix together. Slowly add the olive oil to the bowl while whisking the mixture. Add beets to the bowl, toss to coat, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently fold in the orange slices. Cover the bowl and let sit for about an hour to allow the flavors to mingle.
  2. When ready to serve, toss the arugula into a bowl along with the dressed beets and oranges. Top with the scallions, pistachios, and parsley.

 

What's for Lunch? Vegan cookbook by Dianne Wenz

Recipe reprinted with permission from  What’s for Lunch? Lunchtime Favorites from Dianne’s Vegan Kitchen.

©2016 Dianne Wenz. Download your copy of the e-book here: diannesvegankitchen.com

 

GIVEAWAY:  Dianne has offered to give away a free copy of her ebook, What’s for Lunch!
Watch for our Instagram contest details here.

Take me to Instagram!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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