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Vegan Cookbook Club: Cookbook author heals her health and heart

Bonnie Ambrosi1 / 4
Minneapolis native Becky Hunt was inspired to write a vegan cookbook as she recovered from cancer. Erin Benner / Angelicjewel Photography2 / 4
Hemp Parmesan, cilantro-avocado dressing, and Caesar dressing complement any salad. Courtesy of Emma Ambrosi3 / 4
Spread dill pickle hummus on a whole-grain tortilla. Courtesy of Emma Ambrosi4 / 4

One word describes Minneapolis native Becky Hunt: resilient.

Hunt is the author of the cookbook “Vegan Morning Noon & Night: 100+ Whole Food Gluten-Free Recipes” (published in 2018), and her story is one of tremendous resilience. In the past seven years, Hunt has experienced the trauma and grief of losing her first child, Gracie, who was born with a heart defect; the joy of having another daughter, Emilia; then the devastating diagnosis of stage 3 melanoma cancer. In addition, Hunt has had the health challenge of type 1 diabetes, with which she was diagnosed at age 13.

When the cancer diagnosis arrived, she “did endless amounts of research and knew the first thing I needed to do was to take out all animal products from my diet completely. Go vegan overnight.” As a result, Hunt writes, “Here I am three years later, thirty pounds down, healthier, more fit, and happier than I ever remember being. Not to mention, no cancer in sight!”

It’s impossible not to be inspired by Hunt’s courageous efforts to reclaim her health. “Vegan Morning Noon & Night” is a project born of Hunt’s return to wellness. In the dark days after losing Gracie, spending time in the kitchen was therapeutic for Hunt. As she healed, she found that she had a passion for creating healthful, delicious food and sharing it with others.

I asked Hunt a few questions recently via email:

Q: Tell me more about how your diet has supported your health.

A: I was diagnosed four years ago with stage 3a melanoma cancer, and went plant-based after hearing the news. I just had a PET CT scan in February 2019, and the scan was completely clear. Now, I can’t say that my diet alone has kept the “big C” away, but I do fully believe it had a hand in it. As for my type 1 diabetes: 100% yes, it has helped! The cool thing about a plant-based diet is that your insulin sensitivity improves dramatically with it!

Q: You went vegan overnight. Any tips for others who might be inspired to do it?

A: Find your why. You’ve got to be pretty determined. Preparation is also a key. Find some recipes that look really good to you, go to the store, get the ingredients, and be prepared, because if you’re not, chances are you’re not going to stick it out the first few weeks. For me, the hardest thing was cheese. That meant that I needed to come up with a replacement. Since I love to experiment in the kitchen, that took time. Now, for you (readers), it’s easy because the recipe is in my cookbook!”

Q: What was your goal in writing “Vegan Morning Noon & Night?

A: My most important goal for this cookbook was to create recipes that were super simple for things that pretty much every American loves, such as mac and cheese, pizza, nachos, ice cream, cookies, brownies, chicken nuggets. This cookbook is literally for everyone. If your goal is to take dairy out of your diet but still enjoy the things you love, like pizza, it’s for you! Or maybe you are a meat-lover and just want to incorporate more plants into your diet — it’s for you! This book is my heart and soul, and I wish it could be in every single kitchen in the world to enjoy!

In the introduction to her cookbook, Hunt quotes Dr. Mark Hyman: “The most powerful tool to change your health, environment and entire world is your fork.” She adds “Words to live by!” — and she does!

To purchase “Vegan Morning Noon & Night” in print or eBook, go to Hunt’s website. You can see more of her recipes with tutorials on her Youtube channel.

Avocado-Cilantro Dressing

1 ripe avocado

½ cup raw cashews

½ cup cilantro

Juice of 2 limes

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoons chili powder

¼-⅛ teaspoon cayenne

½-1 cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender, beginning with a smaller amount of water and adding more if needed. Blend on high until smooth and creamy.

Caesar Dressing

1 yellow, orange or red bell pepper, roughly chopped

½ cup hemp hearts

¼ cup unsweetened nut milk

Juice of half a lemon

3 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

5 kalamata olives

¼ teaspoon sea salt

Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth and creamy.

Dill Pickle Hummus

1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

3 tablespoons dill pickle juice

¼ cup tahini

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons fresh dill, or more

2-4 tablespoons water

¾ cup dill pickles, chopped

Combine all ingredients except pickles in a food processor and process until smooth. Add pickles and pulse briefly to chop and combine, or transfer hummus to a bowl and stir in the chopped pickles with a spatula.

Hemp “Parmesan”

1 cup hemp hearts

¼ cup nutritional yeast

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon pink himalayan salt (or sea salt)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until everything is mingled. Or just mix in a bowl if you don’t have a food processor. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Almond-Tahini Dressing or Dip

2 tablespoons almond butter

2 tablespoons tahini

2 tablespoons liquid aminos (or reduced-sodium gluten-free tamari)

⅛ teaspoon garlic powder

⅛ teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons (or more) water

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk with a fork until smooth. Hunt created this dressing for her Creamy Cabbage Slaw, which she says “is absolute perfection!” It also makes a great stir-fry sauce.

Creamy Cabbage Slaw

Serves 4

1 head napa cabbage, chopped

1 cup red cabbage, chopped

½ cup carrots, shredded

2 green onions, sliced

1 cup peas, fresh or frozen

3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Juice of ½ a lime

1 batch of Almond-Tahini Dressing

2 tablespoons chopped cashews or almonds for garnish

Simply combine all ingredients except garnish in a very large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours. The longer it marinates, the tastier it will be.

Did you know?

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, “Research shows that cancer survivors should follow the same diet recommendations as those for cancer prevention: a varied, plant-based diet.”