Q&A with Vegan Restaurateur Pamela Elizabeth

Today is World Vegan Day. We just learned that this day was established in 1994 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the terms vegan and veganism. This means that this year it will be the 72nd anniversary of those terms. Pretty cool!
We recently got the opportunity to nosh at Urban Vegan Kitchen (see our food + mocktail here) and to chat with the vegan restaurateur Pamela Elizabeth. So, we thought that World Vegan Day was the perfect time to share the interview with you guys. Pamela operates the largest vegan fast-food brand in the country, the Blossom brands. Urban Vegan Kitchen is her newest restaurant and its goal is to break the stereotypes associated with vegan food. It’s a pretty great space and even has an R&B, hip hop, and reggae lounge in the basement (That’s where we lounged and ate when we visited).  
So, whether you’re vegan, totally not vegan, or trying to eat more plant based meals (raises hand while typing), we think you will love the energy that Pamela brings to the food world. Oh, and she shared two of her favorite recipes with us so you can try them out in your own (vegan or not vegan kitchen!)
pamela-elizabeth
Pamela Elizabeth, restaurateur, entrepreneur, and vegan expert
[Willow & Steph]: How did you decide to open a restaurant?
[Pamela Elizabeth]: Honestly, I never had any interest in the food industry or restaurant business. My passion has always been about helping animals in some way. The first Blossom Vegan Restaurant stemmed from that desire, thinking and hoping that people would make a connection to what they are or aren’t eating, and how this choice is affecting so many animals’ lives.
 
W&S: Has the managerial side of running such a successful brand come naturally for you? Do you enjoy that aspect of your business?
PE: I do, for the most part, but it’s a complicated business! It helps being passion driven primarily, because it helps to stay focused on the end goal, which is to inspire and educate.
W&S: What’s been your proudest moment?
PE: I had the vision of opening a vegan fast food chain for awhile before Blossom Du Jour actually took on life. The goal has been to spread the vegan food message to as many people as possible, and quick serve restaurants seemed like a way to accomplish this. This is definitely my proudest moment to date.
W&S: What’s been your biggest challenge?

PE: There are many, but I would have to say one of the biggest challenges is building the right team. This is something that takes time, sometimes years, and no restaurant can run well without it. Have a clear goal, have patience, be open to listening to others, and try your best to surround yourself with people who really care about your well being.  Make sure to eat and sleep well.

W&S: What does National Vegan Day mean to you?

PE: To me, it means the world is changing in a positive way.  Five years ago the word “vegan” wasn’t familiar to most, but today it’s practically a household word with great meaning.  World vegan day means that together, we are making and can continue to make a difference in the world for animals and our own health.
W&S: What kitchen staples do you always have in your home’s fridge/pantry?
PE: Beans, miso, garlic, greens, and raw nuts of all kinds!
W&S: Would you share a favorite recipe with us?
PE: I’ll share two!
Veggie-loaded lasagna!
Veggie-loaded lasagna!

Urban Vegan Kitchen’s GF Veggie Lasagna

This is Urban Vegan Kitchen’s signature sunflower tofu ricotta lasagna made with brown rice noodles, marinara, carrots, kale, zucchini, numu mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes.

Serves 8-10

Tofu ‘Ricotta’:
2 cups cashews
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
5 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup miso
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 cup basil
1.5 tsp oregano
1.5 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Filling:
3.5 cups extra firm crumbled tofu
3 diced onions and 20 cloves of garlic blended in a food processor
3 tablespoons olive oil

Noodle layer/toppings:
10-ounce box rice lasagna noodles (here are some options), cooked according to instructions
1 1/2 large carrots, thinly sliced
1 1/2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2, 25-ounce jars of your favorite marinara sauce
2-3 cups shredded vegan mozzarella (adjust to your preference)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

Directions:
1. Pre-heat oven to 450F.
2. Blend the tofu ricotta ingredients (cashews through garlic powder) until smooth. Stir in the crumbled tofu.
3. Sautee onions and garlic in olive oil until caramelized, add a pinch of salt. Set aside.
4. Spread enough marinara sauce over the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish to cover it with a thin layer. Add a single layer of noodles and top with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, spreading it evenly over the noodles. Top with another layer of noodles, 1/4 of the remaining marinara, the sliced carrots, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Add another layer of noodles, marinara, and ricotta, the sliced zucchini, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Top with a third layer of noodles, marinara, and ricotta, then the onion and garlic mixture, another (final) layer of noodles and the final layer of marinara.
5. Sprinkle the top with mozzarella and nutritional yeast. Cover with foil.
6. Bake at 450F until soft and bubbly, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the foil during the last 30 minutes of baking so the top browns.

Vegan waffles topped with coconut whipped cream and strawberries... *drool*
Vegan waffles topped with coconut whipped cream and strawberries… *drool*

Urban Vegan Kitchen Crispy Waffles with Coconut Whipped Cream, Strawberries, and Maple Syrup

This is Urban Vegan Kitchen’s signature Crispy Belgian Waffle recipe with coconut whipped cream,  strawberries, and maple syrup.

Makes 12-14 waffles (recipe can be easily halved or even quartered)

Ingredients:
4 3/4 cups soy milk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup olive oil
3.5 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt
3.5 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 tsp nutmeg

*Coconut whipped cream recipe found here.

Directions:
1. Whisk the milk, vinegar, vanilla, and olive oil together in a large bowl.
2. Add the remaining ingredients (flour through nutmeg) and whisk until smooth.
3. Cook in a waffle maker, following manufacturer’s instructions.
4. Top with a dollop of coconut whipped cream and fruit.

*Note: Leftover batter will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days and cooked waffles can be frozen and reheated as a great super-fast breakfast option.

 
 

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