Plant-based food gets a lot of attention these days, but blissful vegan chef, blogger and cookbook author Christy Morgan is quick to point out that “vegan does not always equal healthy.”

Morgan, who lives in Dallas, is in Portland this week to offer two classes, and at both events she will discuss how to make vegan meals that really are good for your health.

A book signing and recipe demonstration will take place at Whole Foods Market on Thursday. On Friday night, she will offer a full-blown cooking class at the Five Seasons Cooking School, where she’ll take attendees on a culinary world tour and show how to prepare Indian-spiced sweet potato cakes with mint coconut chutney, Moroccan vegetable tagine, tofu larb (a spicy Thai appetizer) and fruit-kissed ceviche.

One vegan pitfall that Morgan’s recipes can help people avoid is the lure of highly processed faux meats and cheeses.

“I think they’re great as a transition food for people going from a meat-centered diet to a plant-based diet, but I don’t thing they’re healthy,” said Morgan, 32. “I consider them an occasional food. They’re a convenience food, so they give people a free pass not to cook.”

And cooking is something Morgan thinks we all should be doing more of.

“Focusing more on whole foods and less on processed foods is the best advice I can give anyone,” she said. “Cook more meals at home. Eat more dark leafy greens at every single meal, even breakfast.”

Morgan says another big vegan stumbling block is sugary snacks and their tempting cousins beer, wine and cocktails.

In her cookbook “Blissful Bites,” Morgan writes, “Sugar and alcohol demineralize the body, weakening the immune system, which causes deficiencies and overly acidic blood. If you continue to eat sugar and drink alcohol after giving up animal foods, you will not reap the complete benefits of a healthy plant-based diet.”

Morgan adopted a vegan diet when she moved to Los Angeles nine years ago. Fresh from college with a degree in fashion design, she found work in the film industry. It was there that she met a number of vegetarians and vegans.

“We started having potlucks with other vegans, and I discovered I loved feeding people,” Morgan said. “I found a new passion.”

When a friend told her about the Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts in Austin, Texas, Morgan decided to enroll. She found the training to be extremely useful, because she grew up in a family where home cooking was a rarity.

While at the school, Morgan said, “I learned about cooking, I learned about Chinese medicine, I learned how food affects everything in your life. Going to that school set me on a path to true health. I have literally not been sick, not even a cold or the flu, in the last nine years.”

The Natural Epicurean Academy focuses on macrobiotic, classical vegetarian, vegan, ayurvedic and raw foods.

In Portland, Morgan will emphasize macrobiotic cooking. Her Friday class will be held at the macrobiotic Five Seasons Cooking School, and macrobiotics is a major focus of her “Blissful Bites” cookbook.

“Macrobiotic is a philosophy and a lifestyle and a diet,” Morgan said. “The food comes from a place of balance using whole foods, seasonal foods.”

While healing macrobiotic diets – which are crafted for people trying to overcome severe illnesses — do not include nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants) or tropical fruits, Morgan’s recipes include these ingredients in moderation.

But Morgan does recommend that people avoid milk, cheese and dairy products, and this reflects the macrobiotic style of eating.

“Dairy is not meant for humans, and it’s so acidic, it does the opposite of what we’ve been told,” Morgan said. “It’s so acidic, it’s leaching calcium and causing osteoporosis and hip fractures. Countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis and hip fractures have the highest dairy consumption.”

Another distinguishing characteristic of Morgan’s cooking is that most of her recipes steer clear of onions and garlic. This is not a tenet of macrobiotic cooking, but Morgan discovered her digestion was much more blissful when she omitted these members of the allium family.

But, she said, “there is no one-size-fits-all diet,” and she encourages people to explore what works best for them and brings the most health-filled bliss.

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila