Rachel Steenland, food photographer, recipe developer + blogger is an Australian living her best plant based life in San Diego. A long time friend of SB, we chatted to Rachel ahead of the Easter break to get her tips for getting started on a plant based diet, and her favourite vegan recipes for the holidays.
SB: We’re aware people ‘go vegan’ for a variety of reasons – the environment, the animals, personal health. Sometimes all three factors come into it. We’ve read that you first started your plant based food journey after experiencing some health issues – given you’re still firmly in the plant based cooking space (and doing an incredible job of it), this change must have had a positive impact. We know our community would love to hear what changes you’ve experienced to your overall health as a result?
RS: I first made the connection between food and animals when I was about 5 years old… when the duck (that I thought of as my ‘pet’ duck) that lived in the pond in our backyard became dinner one night! The seed was planted, but unfortunately it took me many years to fully remove animal products from my diet and lifestyle. I guess due to society and not being exposed to veganism until later in life.
As I got older and learned that we didn’t need to eat animals to be healthy, I slowly transitioned my diet by starting with a 30 day vegan challenge. It went well… but I went back to cheese here and there at the beginning but have been fully plant based for the past 6 years or so!
SB: For anyone experiencing similar health challenges, or simply wanting to boost their health, are there any tips you can offer to move towards a plant based diet?
RS: I guess the thing people need to focus on is eating a diet full of wholefoods, such as fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes. Find a few bloggers that you like and just start making their recipes! There’s vegan recipes available for all palates, and skill levels!
SB: Vegan food is becoming more mainstream in Australia, with plant based options readily available in supermarkets. How have you seen the vegan food scene evolve over the years you’ve been cooking + blogging?
RS: Yes there are more and more vegan items available all the time! It’s so exciting to see big brands introducing vegan products, and for plant based eating popping up in tv shows and movies. It’s definitely becoming more mainstream!
SB: Provenance + culture forms much of how we see food – how we were brought up, the food we ate as a family, how we socialise as adults, availability of ingredients. What are the cultural differences around food that you’ve observed as an Australian living in the US?
RS: There are definitely major differences between the way people eat all over the world, but I find that a lot of the food I eat living in southern California is similar to what I ate when I lived at the Gold Coast! Lots of salads, veggie sushi, pasta, burgers, burritos etc.
Increasingly I notice that people have less time to cook, so having access to fully plant based take-out and meal kits is popular in the US.
SB: The creation of meals for others is an act of generosity + often, love – what inspires you when you’re pulling a menu together?
RS: I love to cook for family and friends to show them how tasty plant based food is, and show them that they can experience a wide variety of flavour without the need for animal products.
SB: We adore your delicious looking IG grid – does life imitate art? Can you share with us your ‘day on a plate’?
RS: I try to eat healthy, colourful food everyday. Truth be told it doesn’t always look as pretty as my Instagram feed but it definitely always tastes delicious… unless I’m recipe testing and my recipe isn’t quite perfected yet … then I might be eating dry brownies or a not so tasty sauce… as a food photographer I eat a lot of cold or reheated food!
SB: Your favourite go-to recipe for guests that are hesitant about – or flat out resistant to! - vegan food?
RS: I love to make them a classic lasagne using Impossible or Beyond Meat, and a dairy-free cheese sauce. It’s delicious and people always come back for seconds!
SB: And finally, can you share a favourite holiday recipe with us?
We loved this conversation with Rachel - follow her on Instagram for delicious + creative plant based food inspiration, and while you're there, enter her giveaway to win a Sans Beast vegan bag + strap combo.
XO, Studio Sans Beast