Interview Series #9: Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Today is a very special day, because it is the day I share with you all Isa Chandra Moskowitz's interview. It's been a long time coming, but it's finally here - so, sit back, grab a mug of fairly-traded coffee or tea, and bask in the glory of getting to read the words of a true vegan rock star! 

 Isa Chandra Moskowitz is the author of one of the very first vegan cookbooks I owned. My mother-in-law, in learning that I had gone vegan, decided to buy me a whole bunch of Isa's cookbooks to help get me started, and as I flipped through each quirky and wonderful book, I was head-over-heels in love. Veganomicon (which Isa co-wrote with her cooking partner Terry Hope Romero) was like a Julia Child cookbook, but with punch and style. Vegan with a Vengeance made vegan cooking look fun, hip, and easy. Don't even get me started on Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (also co-wrote with Romero)! Three words: Total cupcake bliss

The next year brought new books - Vegan Brunch, which taught me how to make vegan quiche (you really can make anything vegan!). Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (a final collaboration with Romero), which taught me that there is no limit to how many crazy awesome cookie recipes one can conjure up.

Isa was the person who started the seed of ideas in me to really master vegan cooking and baking. It's because of Isa that in the middle of my quarter life crisis last year I decided I would attend vegan cooking school and even start a vegan cupcake company. Did I end up going? No. BUT - the thought to even do it was because Isa makes food activism look attainable and attractive.

Food activism - the art of using one's culinary skills to promote compassion - is one of the most fun ways to really get people interested in vegan living. Who wouldn't want to make yummy food and open people's minds at the same time? I've heard and read about countless stories of people who cooked a delicious vegan meal for their family member/friend/husband/neighbor and really affected that person's view of vegan cooking. Well, Isa Chandra Moskowitz's recipes have helped many, many people inspire other people to try vegan cooking. Isa's recipes are so delicious, so easy, so fun to follow that you don't feel concerned to label them as "vegan" recipes, but rather, just, recipes.

In the introduction of Veganomicon, Isa and Terry Hope Romero write:  

Our mission in life is to prove that vegan food doesn't have to be repetitive, difficult or inaccessible... Tradition always starts somewhere, and we hope that something in these pages will inspire a few new seedlings of tradition to take root.
  
Well, I definitely feel Isa Chandra Moskowitz has achieved that feat, and even more. She has completely changed how I view and cultivate traditions in my own life, she has already inspired countless other vegans (and non-vegans alike), and I know that after reading her story, she will inspire you as well. Rock on!

Kiss Me, I'm Vegan: What was the turning point in your life that led you to veganism? Was it one huge moment, or a collective group of small moments that changed you?

Isa: It was over a period of time. I went vegan as a teenager, not really because of one single thing, but really because I loved animals and gradually began to understand that it was possible not to eat them or drink their milk, etc. I went back to vegetarian in my 20s, for a bunch of reasons, but not because I changed my mind about veganism, just lots of factors in my life at the time were making it difficult to stay vegan. I eventually transitioned back to living vegan and have been happy and healthy ever since.  

KMIV: What have been the greatest rewards of your vegan lifestyle? What have been the greatest challenges? 

Isa: I just love knowing that I'm doing something, however small, to help animals. I feel pretty healthy and look pretty good, so I don't know if I can attribute that to veganism, but what the hell, I will! 

The greatest challenges are definitely convenience issues, like travel and weddings. But it all gets worked out, so no biggie.  

KMIV: Tell me a little about Post Punk Kitchen. What inspired you to start the cooking show and website? 

Isa: I love cooking shows and I was always kind of doing one in my head. That was pretty much it - I just wanted to have fun and make a cooking show. And the website was just so I could share some of my recipes. There weren't any blogs back then, vegans weren't documenting their food like they do now, so I thought it was important.  

KMIV: You have a handful of awesome cookbooks out there (all of which I own!). What has the experience of creating these books been like for you?

Isa: Incredible! I feel so incredibly fortunate that this is now my life. I mean, how many people get to do what they love? Even when it's difficult it's still fun. I love the whole process, from dreaming up a dish to shopping for ingredients to cooking to sharing recipes with the testers and getting feedback. Okay, the one part I'm not crazy about is writing recipe directions, but it's a minor complaint. My favorite is finally holding the book in your hands. Wait, no, my favorite is signing people's used, beat-up, spilled-on books. I love seeing their notes and what they make and how they change it and stuff like that.   

KMIV: What advice would you give someone who is interested in veganism, but afraid of taking the leap?     

Isa: Perhaps start out slow, and just do what you're ready to do. I've seen people get turned off early on because they're trying to be perfect. Ease into it, make it a goal, but you don't have to do everything at once. 

There are different ways to transition - maybe start with cooking vegan dinners a few nights a week, or eating vegan a few days a week, or even just eliminating non-vegan ingredients one by one. Find a non-dairy milk you love, things like that. Do what you can, at your own pace, and have fun with it. Also, visit a farm animal sanctuary and learn more about who we're fighting for. And definitely try to find some nice non-judgmental vegans to help you out along the way.  

KMIV: Okay -  you're stuck on a desert island with three vegan food items - what are they?

Isa: Soybeans, strawberries and B12 supplements. I mean, I can make tempeh, tofu, and soymilk with the soybeans, so I'm pretty set!  

A Big P.S.:

If the interview wasn't enough, I am sharing one of my favorite Isa recipes below! Give it a try, and see if it doesn't inspire you...

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows
from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar
makes 2 dozen cookies


Chocolate and peanut butter fans will totally stalk you once they get a bite of these classic chocolately cookies with a heart of sweet and salty peanut butter. We can’t deny impatience is rewarded here: these cookies when eaten warm just a few minutes out of the oven are dynamite. We use black cocoa powder because we happen to have it, but dutch processed or even regular cocoa powder would be A-OK.

Chocolate dough:

1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons non-dairy milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened dutch processed cocoa powder
2 tablespoons black unsweetened cocoa or more dutch processed unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling:

3/4 cup natural salted peanut butter, crunchy or creamy style
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons soy creamer or non-dairy milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl combine oil, sugar, maple syrup, non-dairy milk and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Sift in flour, cocoa powder, black cocoa if using, baking soda and salt. Mix to form a moist dough.

Make the filling. In another mixing bowl beat together peanut butter, confectioner’s sugar, 2 tablespoons of soy creamer and vanilla extract to form a moist but firm dough. If peanut butter dough is too dry (as different natural peanut butters have different moisture content), stir in remaining tablespoon of non-dairy milk. If dough is too wet knead in a little extra powdered sugar.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line bakings sheet with parchment paper.

Shape the cookies. Create the centers of the cookies by rolling the peanut butter dough into 24 balls. Scoop a generous tablespoon of chocolate dough, flatten into a disc and place a peanut butter ball in the center. Fold the sides of the chocolate dough up and around the peanut butter center and roll the chocolate ball into an smooth ball between your palms. Place on a sheet of waxed paper and repeat with remaining doughs. If desired gently flatten cookies a little, but this is not necessary.

Place dough balls on lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart and bake for 10 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and let cookies for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack to complete cooling. Store cookies in tightly covered container. If desired warm cookies in a microwave for 10 to 12 seconds before serving.

(recipe courtesy of Post Punk Kitchen)

Endless thanks to Isa for taking time out of her crazy busy schedule to answer this little vegan blogger's questions. For more information about Isa, check out her rockin' website, www.theppk.com.

Comments

Stephanie said…
This is such a great post, Lindsey! I also l-o-v-e- Isa and every single book she's written. They're my vegan cooking bibles! Thanks for the interview...keep em coming =)
Moo Something said…
Great, way to make me even more anxious for 5 o'clock. I'm so going to the grocery store to make the Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows. That is going to make my day MUCH better.
Amazing post, thanks for the insights!!!
JACQUELYNN said…
What a yummy interview... and yummy-looking recipe!!! I am excited to make these cookies... I actually think I might be able to handle it (and find all the ingredients down here in the islands... not always an easy task) :)

Great job, Lindsay!
Aw this is a lovely interview! When I bought 'Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World' it pretty much changed my life! I haven't baked a non-vegan cake since (this was about 18mths ago) and I eat mainly vegan food now. (Any dairy is extreeemely minimal & no eggs).
Isa and Terry are total legends and I love that all the way over here in Ireland they are inspiring people :)
Aoife
shelly said…
i love it! thanks for such a great post :) Isa's pistachio rosewater cupcakes seriously rock my world!
Myra Wolf said…
Shelly, I love pistachios. Love, Love them (I have to make that recipe now :)).
The cookie you have is one of two cookies we integrated into Christmas cookie traditions this past Holiday :) The other one is..The Chocolate Bottom Coconut Macaroon! Love, Love them!!
What a story and I am just thrilled that she has shared part of her life with all of us! You have such an interest in people's lives Lindsay and I get so excited to read your interviews and get to read parts of another person's life...no matter how small. Wonderful interview of a very special lady and cook!
I like the statement.."don't try to be perfect". She is so right on with that..for all of us.
Love it honey..love you (forever) xoxo
CurlyLocks said…
Lindsay, I am so excited to read Isa's great interview!

Back in 2008, when I was researching the best vegan cookbooks for you, I discovered Isa Chandra Moskowitz. (At the time, I knew little about vegan cooking and baking...but, I wanted you to have tasty, healthy recipes.) I came to truly admire Isa, and I so enjoyed reading about her in your blog. She is an amazing, inspiring lady!
Those pillows look lovely. The interview is so fun. I like how she says to start out slowly. That's good advice to start off with.

Thanks again for yet another AWESOME interview post.
Nikki said…
I made the Chickpeas Romesco from page 123 of Veganomicon tonight for dinner- super yummy! And I love Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. And the recipes are so fun to read too! She makes the whole process enjoyable:)
Jaspreet said…
Wonderful interview! I have the Cheater Baked Beans from Veganomicon in the oven right now! I really like Isa Chandra Moskowitz's sass and wit that comes through in her writing and sharing of tasty food.