The Week That Changed My Perspective: Veganism, Compassion, and Mindfulness

By Lauren Ash | special recipe contributions by Jenné Claiborne

Photography by Zakkiyyah Najeebah

On our trip out to New York City, we (Lauren and Zakkiyyah) were enormously blessed to be able to spend most of our week with one of the kindest souls we’ve ever encountered: Jenné Claiborne, Founder of Sweet Potato Soul a vegan-oriented lifestyle brand (inclusive of an amazing and inspiring YouTube channel) which inspires women to live healthier and more delicious lives. Staying with Jenne, and planning our Food Church soulfood gathering with her, we gained incredible insights into what veganism meant, what a vegan lifestyle truly looked like, and who could be vegan. I feel so excited about my revelations and knew I had to share some of them with all of you! Read on, and be inspired.

Far Rockaway Beach: Vegan Snacks and Mindfulness 

On Monday, we got lucky! We were invited to Far Rockaway Beach with Jenné, and Millana Snow, the Founder of women’s oriented wellness community SERENE Social. Before heading out, Jenne cooked up some delicious vegan treats in under an hourincluding the time it took us to go to the grocery store! Not going to lie: I was impressed. This was just one misconception that was set straight early on during our week of awareness around what veganism meant and what a vegan lifestyle truly looked like: vegan food doesn’t have to take forever to prepare! 

Here’s just one of the tasty dishes we brought to the beach. Prepare yourselves, people. It. Is. Tasty. (Scroll through the photos at the top of the page to get a look at this tasty dish.) 

Refreshing Cucumber and Avocado Salad

By Jenné Claiborne (click here to see just why Jenné loves this salad so, so much!

If you plan to use this salad as a topping for veggie burgers, or in a falafel wrap (yum!!), dice the cucumber even smaller (about ½ centimeter cubes). To seed a cucumber scoop out the seeds and membranes with a spoon. I usually cut the already peeled cucumber in quarters, once lengthwise, once widthwise, so it is easier to handle. 

Author: Jenné | Serves: 4

Ingredients

2 large cucumbers, peeled and seeds removed, and diced into ¾ centimeter thick cubes

1 ripe peach, diced like the cucumber (keeping or removing the peel is up to you. I leave it)

1 ripe avocado, flesh diced like the cucumber

¼ cup red onion, minced

¼ cup fresh dill, chopped

½ tbsp apple cider vinegar (plus a splash for good measure)

1 tbsp lemon juice

¾ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Instructions

Place all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl, and stir well to combine with a large spoon.

Season to taste with a dash more sea salt, vinegar, or lemon juice if necessary.

At Home with Jenné

Okay, so you might be thinking: veganism is cute and all, but what do you eat when you’re just eating for yourself? When there’s no audience around to make something impressive like cucumber avocado salad? Well, we asked Jenné just what she eats at home and got her to fill us in a bit, as well. Our favorite at-home recipe? Her Everyday Buddha Bowl, a tasty, savory, and (bonus) easy protein-rich meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Everyday Buddha Bowl (the colors in this Buddha Bowl really make you want to eat it)

By Jenné Claiborne

The big key to making this Buddha bowl quickly is cooking your grains, legumes, and veggies ahead of time. I do this about twice a week, so that it only takes me 5 minutes tops to have this delicious bowl. The sauce is really great, so you may want to double my recipe ;)

Author: Jenné | Serves: 4

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes, cubed & roasted

2 cups cooked brown rice or quinoa

2 heads broccoli, chopped and steamed or roasted

2-3 cups cooked black beans (or 1-2 14-oz cans)

1-2 cups kimchi or sauerkraut

fennel seeds, black sesame seeds, and chili flakes

Tahini Miso Sauce

1 tbsp light or yellow miso

¼ cup tahini

juice from ½ a lemon

3-5 tbsp water

dash of cayenne pepper

Instructions

Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl, and stir until smooth and creamy. Add more water to thin if you like.

Place the sweet potatoes, rice, broccoli, lentils, and kimchi in bowls. Top with tahini miso sauce, fennel seeds, black sesame seeds, and chili flakes.

Take a picture and post your photo to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter using #sweetpotatosoul ;)

Lauren again! Thankfully, Jenné has also started coming out with fantastic “What I Eat in a Day” videos on her YouTube channel. Check them out!

Food Church NYC

Drumroll, please. This was such a moving gathering with some fantastic women in the room who joined us to discuss mindfulness, a holistic vegan lifestyle (what’s that?) and...to eat some bomb vegan soulfood. Conversations like this are important to me because after my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, I know that I need to make some changes in my diet to be preventative with my health. Not only do I want to eliminate all processed sugars and most, if not all, meats, but a plant-based diet really appeals to me for so many reasons! 

To answer the question I posed in the previous sentence: a holistic vegan lifestyle is one that truly encompasses all aspects of your life. I’m not just talking about food here. I’m talking about a complete paradigm shift. An anecdote: Zakkiyyah complimented Jenné on some cute shoes earlier in the week. Jenné said “aw, thank you, it’s so hard to find them!” It was then that I remembered: oh, yeah. Veganism extends into your wardrobe, too.

When sharing more of her story for the “why” behind her holistic vegan lifestyle, it became very clear to me that Jenné’s choice of adopting veganism was because of her compassion for all living things. For me, I saw a concept embraced in yoga in Jenné’s practices: ahimsa, or nonviolence toward all living things. Jenné is one of relatively few people who I can say with certainty cultivates this mindfully each and every day. Here is one of the tasty dishes we mindfully created with Jenné for the Food Church gathering I’ll remember forever. This dish is what I'm ending with, but stay tuned for more on my vegan adventure (that's what I'm calling it)! This is only the beginning. 

Vegan Crabcakes

By Jenné Claiborne

My favorite dish from [My Little Harlem Kitchen Vegan Brunch] are the “crab” cakes. Made with hearts of palm, chickpeas, and Old Bay seasoning these cakes are a hit with everyone I’ve served them to. The secret to making these delicious and authentic is the Old Bay and hearts of palm. Hearts of palm has a texture very similar to crab meat, soooo… And Old Bay is a seafood seasoning! Seriously delicious.

Author: Jenné | Serves 4

1 can chickpeas

1 can hearts of palm, chopped into large pieces

1 jalepeño, seeded and minced

¼ cup vegan mayonnaise (I prefer Just Mayo)

2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning

1 tsp ume plum vinegar

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 cup panko bread crumbs + ½ cup for coating

Place the chickpeas, hearts of palm and corn into a food processor and pulse to combine and mash. Don’t over process it though, you still want some crabby texture. 

Scoop the chickpea mixture into a large bowl and add the other ingredients. Stir well to combine.

Place the remaining ½ cup of panko in a shallow dish.

Heat an oil coated skillet. Form the “crab” mixture into small patties–making sure to pack the mixture tightly, and then coat in the panko in the shallow dish. Pan fry for 3 minutes on each side.

Do this with the remaining batter. I usually fit 5 patties on the skillet at a time. When they are cooked, transfer them to a plate covered with paper towel.

Serve with a dollop of vegan mayo and fresh greens.