Men are getting busy in the kitchen. Between 1965 and 2007, the proportion of men who cook increased from 29% to 42%. Men are also more likely to shop for groceries. That’s true in my household: according to our bank statement, my husband spends a lot more money at Whole Foods than I do! Just four years ago, the New York Times even documented the frustration of men who cook who are tired of being portrayed as domestically challenged: “We do a lot more than barbecue,” noted one cooking dad. Vegan dads are no exception!
There are still more moms than dads who are embracing vegan cooking and deciding what’s for dinner, but men are increasingly doing their share of chopping. Thankfully, a growing number of vegan male role models are breaking down the traditional association between meat and masculinity. There are now many good men out of Hollywood’s spotlight who cook vegan food for their families. I chose to feature a few of those vegan dads who cook to celebrate Fathers’ Day in the Vegan Family Kitchen.
Meet one Happy Vegan Dad
I was thrilled to meet Joel, known on Instagram as Happy Vegan Dad.
Hi Joel! I’m so glad you accepted to meet with my readers. Tell me about your and your family’s vegan story.
My family and I officially went vegan in August of 2015. I had been dealing with horrible gastrointestinal issues when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. I was given the option of pharmaceuticals or surgery, or I would only get worse. I was not willing to go either route after my previous experience with the back surgeries. I promised myself “no more drugs and no more surgery” at that point. I did my own research and eventually the idea of a plant-based vegan diet came up in my search. After loads more research, and with support from my family, we started to remove meat, dairy, and eggs from our diet. For the first month, I tried the raw-till-4 plan where you eat raw fruit and veggies all day and have a nice hot meal at night. I noticed an immediate change in my symptoms and in my overall well-being. By August of 2015, we were 100% vegan as a family!
When we went vegan my son Bailey was 7 (now 10) and very open to the idea of our new lifestyle. We explained it to him in an honest but child-friendly way (using alot of the “Bite Size Vegan” videos!) and he made the decision himself to drop meat, dairy, and eggs for good. Sophia was 2 (4 now) and was just coming off breastfeeding at the time, so she has never had anything that wasn’t vegan. She doesn’t want to try it at this point in her life. Since then, we also brought our little Olive (now 2 years old) into this world and she is thriving as our first 100% vegan baby.
It’s so cool that this dietary change made such a wonderful difference in your life! How do you divide work in the kitchen these days?
Dividing work in the kitchen is pretty easy, My wife and I both love to be in the kitchen because we love to eat! While I’m at work my wife Alison takes care of the meals for the girls, and when I come home on weekdays we tend to split the task. A lot of the time, Alison will start the potatoes or rice, and then when I get home I finish off the rest. During the weekend is when I get most creative and spend a lot of time cooking! I like to think of myself as the chef and Alison as the baker…and a very talented one at that! (You can meet Alison on Instagram @HappyVeganMom.)
Do you plan meals every week? If so, how do you proceed?
We actually don’t plan meals every single week. We try to plan meals as much as possible to reduce over shopping and wasted food, but in all honesty we drop the ball on that alot! I do the grocery shopping for the household, so I normally take the girls with me to Whole Foods. I bring a list of the food we definitely need to have and then everything else is off the cuff. I tend to make the best meals when I’m working with whatever we have in the kitchen. I love to get creative and no one in the house tends to mind!
You take your kids with you grocery shopping? You are my hero! Tell me how you manage that feat!
I didn’t say it was always a breeze! I’m joking really. The girls get really excited about going grocery shopping with me and Whole Foods has a “kids’ club” which provides children with a free fruit of their choice while you shop. That keeps them entertained the first 10-15 minutes. Then I give Olive the list to hold while she sits in the cart and Sophia helps get things off the shelves and into the cart with as little breakage as possible. She is a very capable young lady, I must say!
Let’s talk about how you improvise meals. You say: “I tend to make the best food when I’m working with whatever we have in the kitchen.” Tell me more about your creative process.
From a very young age I wanted to be a chef. While other kids were out playing sports, I was watching Emeril Legasse and Alton Brown on the Food Network, learning how to cook. Sadly, my parents wouldn’t go out and just buy all the ingredient I wanted in order to follow a recipe! So I learned to use whatever was in the kitchen. Today, I usually end up starting with a starch or grain, and plan from there. I like to make a lot of gravies and sauces. My specialty is homemade tofu. But if I find something special in the store or at the farmers market, or when something seasonal comes around, I can plan a meal around that. I love to turn a simple vegetable into the star of the meal! (Brigitte’s note: the directions for homemade tofu are at the bottom of this post!)
Heart shaped tofu for dinner!!! Sophia is a big fan of heart shaped anything so I made some cute little heart shaped tofu with potato hash browns and gravy with corn and peas! It was amazing and now I’m going to have to make tofu nuggets with these hearts! I hope you all enjoyed your weekend as much as we did! ?✌️#heartshapedfood #homemadetofu #potatohashbrown #gravyoneverything #tofumaster . . . . Please check out our awesome vegan YouTube channel, the link is in my bio!✌️✌️✌️#vegans #veganaf #vegandad #rivegan #veganri #rhodeisland #bethechange #vegansofig #vegansofinstagram #plantbased #plantbaseddiet #vegandinner #tofu #veganfoodporn #veganfoodshare #whatveganseat
Do the adults and children eat the same thing?
Yes, they do. I think that’s important. We never make a completely separate meal for one of the kids. More often than not, if the kids don’t like something, I just won’t cook it, or I will cook it more as a side and have them try a bite or two. If they really don’t like it, we won’t force them to eat it. I know I didn’t enjoy that as a kid with onions and tomatoes! We are very lucky to not have very picky eaters so it’s easy for us!
Tell me a bit about your Instagram (@happyvegandad) and YouTube channel (My Happy Vegan Family). How did you decide to get started?
I started my Instagram and YouTube channels to try and get people to realize it isn’t impossible for a normal famly to eat a heathy vegan diet that is always exciting and new. It doesnt have to take over your entire schedule! There are more and more vegan options out there, making the move to veganism easier and easier. If I can help just a handful of people find their way, I will be thrilled!
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started cooking this way?
Oh, I have a couple of ideas! The first is the most underrated meat replacement ever. You need to try using textured vegetable protein (TVP) if you haven’t already. Its actually been around forever, but I have only just recently discovered its versatility! You can use it for taco meat, or in pasta sauce, We made a shepherds’ pie with it the other night and it was amazing!
The other thing I wish I had known was how to make a good gravy! I personally use Better than Boullion for most of my gravies now. But, more importantly, my two favorite thickeners are garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour and Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free baking mix. They make two very different gravies, so try them both and a mixture of the two!
Trick question to conclude: do you think there is anything you do differently in the kitchen as a Dad, compared to most moms?
I know the big difference between me, and my wife in the kitchen, is the mess that is created. I really do try to keep things in order while I’m cooking… but somehow it always looks like a bomb went off. But I will say: the bigger the mess, the better the food tastes! I like to think that I’m improving on that one though.
I warmly encourage you to visit Joel on Instagram (Happy Vegan Dad) and to subscribe to his family’s YouTube channel, My Happy Vegan Family.
More vegan dads spill the beans…
Shan V. from Perth, Australia
Who eats at your table? I cook for my family of 4: my wife Smitha (vegetarian), our 3-year-old son Josh (vegetarian) and our 4-year-old Labrador Lia (carnivore). Smitha gets easily bored with my concoctions while Josh tends to be pick. Lia inhales anything edible or non-edible!
What motivates you in the kitchen? I believe that our education systems have failed us when we no longer can distinguish between our needs and wants. My motivation is to be an example for young families around us and to prove that we can indeed keep our animal friends off our plate, while still being healthy, at all stages of life. I wish I knew about veganism and nutrition five years ago. We should learn to “eat the rainbow” early on.
What do you like to cook? My favorite thing to cook is dal and rice, and perhaps a simple pasta as well. I add veggies to my dal, such as sweet potato, beetroot and even mushrooms and walnuts. I cook in a pressure cooker. I mix multiple lentils in the same dish as well!
Your best tip for other home cooks. My nutritional tip with the pasta is to mix the pasta with tahini and pepper before serving with pasta sauce. My go-to-dish for our toddler is hummus, for which the Nutribullet is excellent!
Benoît A. from Montréal, Quebec
Who eats at your table? I cook mainly for my partner, two of her kids, sometimes 3 or 4 of them, and for my little girl when she is here. Both adults are vegan, the younger kids are mostly vegetarian, although my girlfriend’s children will eat meat with their dad and my little girl also does it with her mom. They are a little picky, especially since we went full vegan, but they are getting used to it and will at least try what I have cooked. They really love my pizza and also my spaghetti sauce.
What motivates you in the kitchen? We became vegan for health reasons (after watching What the Health among other things) and also for spiritual reasons (cleansing of the chakras and removing bad vibes from the spiritual body). We are trying to get the kids to be vegan too, but it’s a choice they’ll have to make on their own with the proper information, rather than indoctrination from us.
Do you have any tip, trick or technique you wish you knew 5 years ago? I have spent most of my working life in restaurants kitchens, so the meal planning and using as much as I can from the products has always been a big thing for me. I do wish I had know that vegan and vegetarian food was this tasty and easy to make, as I might have turned vegan earlier! I have always enjoyed cooking, regardless of the food.
What is your favorite thing to cook (that your family will eat)? My personnal favorite is a ramen recipe from Vegan Richa but for they kids it’s my vegan burgers, carrot dogs and pasta sauce. Actually, my pasta sauce was vegan quite a while before I was! You just need to replace the ground beef with green and orange lentils and quinoa, and a bit more water, of course. I really like making sushi, too! In general, I always try to cook the dishes that I liked when I wasn’t vegan, so my go-to recipes are quite traditional. Except for carrot dogs! That was something quite surprising that we found on the Internet. You basically marinate some carrots in olive oil, soy sauce, miso paste, dried garlic and onions, maple syrup, paprika and a dash of liquid smoke, before cooking them. The texture and taste are almost exactly the same as a “real” hot-dogs, but with carrots. The kids love them!
Homemade tofu – Happy Vegan Dad’s process
His recipe is based on dry soy beans.
- Soak 5 cups of soy beans in water for 18-24 hours.
- In a blender, blend equal parts water and soybeans until you have blended all the mixture.
- Strain the mixture through cheese cloth and collect the soymilk that drains out of the bottom.
- Place the fresh soy milk on the stove and bring almost to a boil then turn down the heat to medium and stir in the juice from 2-3 lemons.
- Turn off the heat and let sit for 20 minutes. After 20 mins it should be curdled.
- Place the curds into more cheese cloth and strain. Place between two cutting boards and add weight until it is your desired firmness.”
See the results for yourself!
Homemade tofu round three! This block came out amazing! It’s so creamy and firm! I have really been reading up on the science behind tofu and have created my own coagulant that works amazing! Now I just need a good press and bigger pots because i have to make it in batches. It never lasts long enough so I need to figure out a way to make it in bulk! This has become such a fulfilling journey learning to make tofu and I have only just started! #toinfinityandbeyond #tofumaster #homemadetofu #tofufromscratch #soybeans #artisantofu . . . . Please check out our awesome vegan YouTube channel, the link is in my bio!✌️✌️✌️#vegansofinstagram #eattofu #tofutime #tofulover #veganaf #vegandad #whatveganseat #veganfoodshare #tofulife #plantbased #plantbaseddad #plantbaseddiet #rivegan #rhodeisland #bethechange #govegan #gratitude #tofujourney #instavegan #tofuartist #tofuisgood #moretofu #tofumaker #vegantofu
When I make tofu from scratch, I always cut the round ends off the block and use it as a quick snack or meal. This time I cooked it up quick in a really hot pan with some liquid aminos and a little teriyaki sauce. The kids were quite literally fighting over the last few pieces of this! I have a house full of little tofu addicts! ?✌️#homemadetofu #tofufromscratch #tofumaster #veganfoodporn #besttofuever . . . . Please check out our awesome vegan YouTube channel, the link is in my bio!✌️✌️✌️#tofulover #tofu #eattofu #moretofu #veganfood #vegandad #vegansofig #vegansofinstagram #rivegan #veganri #rhodeisland #plantbased #plantbaseddiet #plantbaseddad #bethechange #tofuislife #soybeantofu #freshtofu #tofumaking #makingtofu
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Great post! It’s nice to see other dads out there cooking vegan foods for their families. The cooking split between Joel & Allison (he’s the chef, she’s the baker) sounds so much like that between my wife & I.