Simple Recipes for a Vegan Thanksgiving and Christmas

Russell Simmons whom some have proclaimed "The Godfather of Hip Hop" called Sharon Gannon "The Mother of Modern Yoga in America" when I interviewed him recently on a crisp autumn morning. This is a lofty statement amongst giants from the top of modern culture's Mt. Olympus. Ms. Gannon is the author of a new vegan cook book titled Simple Recipes for Joy. So for those who don't know, just who is Sharon Gannon? Why a cook book at this time?

Sharon Gannon along with David Life, is the co-founder of the Jivamukti School of Yoga. Now spanning the globe from British Columbia to New York, Berlin to Sydney, Jivamukti was founded in a New York East Village apartment in 1984 as part yoga studio, part political theatre artist community. Ms. Gannon has always used her spotlight to champion causes which she feels are important for the enlightenment of mankind, and the betterment of our planet. Not shy to step into the fray, but to be it's poster bearer leading the charge, Mr. Simmons also said to me "Sharon is at the nucleus of the compassionate eating movement."

The compassionate eating movement is an expanding trend toward becoming more selective in our food choices. It's not just what we eat, but how our food is raised, fertilized, farmed, packaged and shipped, and ultimately delivered to your plate. Simple Recipes for Joy is a collection of 200 vegan recipes Sharon Gannon has been serving up for years -- many of which are also served in the Jivamuktea Café at 841 Broadway.

The intention behind conscious eating is that by not eating animal or dairy products, we are not only being more compassionate and awakened to the suffering our food industry has inflicted with the slavery and killing of billions of animals, but it's also good for us: longer life, less disease, money saved, and ultimately conserving Earth resources. It's a win-win for the animals, the planet, and for humanity.

The book is an impressionistic work of art that could be found in a museum book shop, as much as it is primarily a cook book. From it's elegant choice of paper, beautiful fonts, dollops of ink which burst into water colors like flowers in a spring garden. We see the photo of a monarch butterfly perched on purple flowers across the page from a paragraph about the recommended daily allowance of protein. On another page, a bear and a cat jointly eyeing a dessert tray. The beauty and whimsy of these pages unfold to make them a nourishing and satisfying read, as well as a culinary text. It's a perfect gift for the upcoming holiday season, or for someone interested in conscious eating yet needs direction to embark upon the conscious eating path.

In my interview with Sharon Gannon, I asked her what are her personal favorite recipes. She mentioned raw green soup, toast with tomato, and spirulina millet as her favorites. Sharon also brought to my attention that there is a mistake in the millet recipe which somehow got lost in translation and ended up in the book. The recipe calls for one cup of uncooked millet, not one cup of cooked millet.

Simple Recipes for Joy begins with what a well stocked kitchen should have: utensils, pots, and pans wise, measuring conversions, types of oils, and spices to have on hand. The book then dives into 200 recipes from soups, pastas, salads, dressings, grains, breads, vegetables, potatoes, toasts, sandwiches, desserts, smoothies, and even 30 sample menus combinations for lunch and dinner.

"Sharon's message about veganism and healthy eating appeals to a wide audience " says Gwen Burton, the publisher and editor of Brown Rice Magazine which published an interview featuring Sharon in it's latest issue. She also says, "Sharon has been a huge influence as a role model, chef, and business woman."

Heather Lilleston, an early graduate of the Jivamukti teacher training program, and who has since moved on to teach elsewhere, explained to me why the spirulina millet is her favorite recipe. "Spirulina by itself can taste quite bitter, but somehow the way Sharon has invented this recipe by combining with millet, it's a delicious and nutritious treat."

My own favorites are the creamy wild mushroom soup and the BLT. The creamy wild mushroom soup is remarkably similar to it's dairy laden cousin but without all the sugar, salt, cream, and butter. The BLT is a fine sandwich as well; it is an animal free version of the sandwich with tempeh bacon instead of pork.

Russell, according to Sharon, is often found eating the Rosemary Seitan, and Spicy Tempeh at the Jivamuktea Cafe. Both would make excellent side dishes next to a tasty tofurkey this Thanksgiving, instead of the traditional gluten-laden stuffed bird.

Taken all together, compassionate eating is fuel for the 21st century. You will feel full yet clear, revitalized, and awake after a big meal.

200 recipes, Penguin Random House c 2014