|Healthy Gourmet To-Go in the press:|
Vegan options for Thanksgiving abound at Saugerties shop (recipe, videos)
Roni Shapiro, ownder of The Healthy Gourmet to Go in Saugerties, holds up a tray of vegan quesadillas. (Daily Freeman photo by Tania Barricklo)
SAUGERTIES >> For Roni Shapiro, nothing could be more hypocritical than celebrating a day of thanks around a “cruelly slaughtered bird.”
The owner and chef of Healthy Gourmet To Go, a weekly meal delivery service based at 12 Market St. in the village, has plenty of avenues to share her beliefs this holiday season. She is expecting to be busy with plenty of orders as the biggest feast day of the year approaches.
“I’ve learned by being around food and being inspired by food,” she said.
Shapiro, a native of Long Island, joked that she was born vegan.
“At an early age, I didn’t feel right about eating animals,” she said. “I would either flush the meat down the toilet or feed it to our cat,” she said.
“Then, I learned more and more (about) how animals were treated in the food industry, so one by one, around my college years when I left home and had choices, I started letting go of different food groups that were animal-based.”
Shapiro began volunteering in 1988 at the Manhattan Center for Living, where plant-based meals were served to clients with “life-challenging” illnesses. She had also gotten acquainted with the work of Dr. Dean Ornish, a clinician who espouses the benefits of whole foods and plant-based diets as a way to prevent cardiovascular disease.
“That’s what inspired me to do my business, but, mostly, it was for the animals. My heart was for them,” she said.
Shapiro, who holds a Master’s degree in special education, taught at different elementary schools in Long Island before she launched her business. She began by renting space in commercial kitchens and delivering her meals to fellow vegans and those looking to learn about the lifestyle.
Her Market Street shop, which operates as a cafe on Mondays and Tuesdays and features take-out, is her first storefront. She also does catering with a delivery area stretching from Albany to New York City.
Customers can choose from her weekly online menus or customize an order.
One of Healthy Gourmet To Go’s best deals is the “Bag of Specials,” priced at $150, with enough food for about 15 meals.
Of course, Shapiro’s business has been driven by her own convictions and passion to share them with others. Like many other vegans, she has a moral aversion to animal abuse, particularly as it pertains to factory farm and slaughterhouse practices.
“I love having the storefront,” she said. “I get to connect with people and share information and inspire them to understand what they’re choosing to put into their mouths.”
Vegans, those who abstain from all animal products, make up about 2 percent of the population, according to a 2012 Gallup study.
“There’s so much more buzz about it these days,” Shapiro said. “Hopefully, it’s on the rise.”
When she first started her Healthy Gourmet To Go in Manhattan in the early 1990s, some had already embraced the meat-free lifestyle as mainstream, she said.
Even when she relocated to Saugerties in 2001, Shapiro insists it really was not a hard sell.
“At first, it was a lot of word of mouth, and people found me,” she said of her early days in Ulster County.
The Hudson Valley connection came while she was riding on the back of her ex-boyfriend’s motorcycle, traveling the roads of the region.
“We were stopped at a red light, and I turned my head and saw this cute little place, and thought, ‘I’d want to rent it,’ and I did.”
Shapiro had bought a house in West Hurley before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but she still was living in the city when it happened.
“I had a direct view of the towers and watched them come down,” she said. “I thought, ‘Gosh, I’m really grateful I’m moving.’”
Shapiro added that she is glad she opened her shop in Ulster County and has watched it grow to include many people outside of vegan circles.
“The people that love us the most are really busy moms who would rather have delicious, healthy meals in the fridge and have time to play with their kids,” she said.
“The world is such a busy place right now, so really, it’s just busy people in general who want to be more mindful of eating a healthier diet or a healthier and cruelty-free diet.”
Shapiro said she has also seen an uptick of people with digestive disorders, so her goal from day one was to meet their needs.
“I chose to go gluten-free when I … developed a really good gluten-free chocolate cake,” she laughed. “Then, it was like, ‘OK. We’re good now.’”
For Thanksgiving, she’s offering a spiced chocolate cake with pumpkin mousse for $55. It comes in a loaf size at $25 and is $7 per slice.
Shapiro said she’s more than happy to share her compassionate cuisine — not just during the holidays but throughout the year. Through it all, she said she hopes her customers will open their ears and consider her underlying message.
“I got it early on,” she said. “I can’t change the world. I’m doing what I can one meal at a time.”
“My hope and passion is to just inspire and educate whoever wants to listen or become more compassionate as a human being.”
Rosemary-Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/8 cup dried cherries
TSP sea salt
1/2 onion, 1/2 moon cut
1 apple, diced
1/2 cup tempeh, crumbled
2 TB Extra virgin olive oil
1 TB fresh sage, chopped
2 acorn squash, 1/2, clean out seeds, season, bake 45 minutes cut side down at 350 till tender
Prepare squash as above. Rinse and drain quinoa. In pot, put quinoa, water, dried cherries, sea salt and pepper. Bring to a light boil. Simmer with almost covered lid 15 minutes. Turn off heat, cover fully for 10 minutes. Then fluff. Medium heat extra virgin olive oil. Add tempeh, saute 5 minutes. Add onions, saute 10 minutes more. Add apples, saute five minutes more until mixture is tender. Season with sea salt and pepper and add fresh herb.
In bowl mix quinoa and tempeh mixture together. Stuff into 4 squash halves. Drizzle w/extra virgin olive oil and/or vegan “cheeze.” Bake 15 minutes.
Healthy Gourmet To-Go
Roni Shapiro outside her new storefront on Market Street
Saugerties, NY —
Roni Shapiro, Healthy Gourmet To-Go • 12 Market Street, Saugerties, NY • (914) 388-2162 • HealthyGourmetToGo.com
What items and/or services do you offer?
What do you like most about your line of work, and what do you like least?
Briefly describe why you chose to begin this type of business? How long ago did you begin this endeavor?
What is your business address and contact information?
How have the people locally received your services?
More about Roni Shapiro:
NPR Radio Interview
Meal home delivery services from personal chefs
Text & Photos by Jennifer May
Personal-chef businesses are patterned after the house-cleaning industry, which began to flourish in the 1970s, says John Moore, executive director of the United States Personal Chef Association. He explains that most personal chefs assist busy families and people with dietary requirements to eat the healthy and delicious food they might otherwise not have time to cook for themselves. Unlike a private chef, who works exclusively for one client or family, a personal chef cooks for many. Some cook in the client's own kitchen, while others cook off-site and deliver a week's worth of packaged meals to the client's door...
Roni Shapiro of Healthy Gourmet to Go (HGTG) cooks off-site and delivers ready-to-eat packages to her clients' homes. Shapiro became a personal chef through her love of the vegan diet and began cooking with a goal of creating heart-healthy food. One of her clients, 85-year-old Harriet Blau of Manhattan, has been an HGTG regular for 10 years. Blau says, "The food is imaginative and delicious and it gives me energy. Nobody believes how old I am—when I tell the doctors, they laugh."
Shapiro's clients range from families to singles to new parents.
Shapiro says the new moms especially love the service. Food such as
curried tofu "egg salad" and shepherd's pie filled with
peas, mushrooms, beans, and rosemary-garlic smashed potatoes are all
easy to reheat in a stove or microwave and reduce the stress of those
first weeks of parenthood. Along with helping people to eat better,
Shapiro's aim is to make vegan food more delicious and convenient,
and to save animals in the process. Each week Shapiro e-mails a list
to her clients highlighting the upcoming menu so they know what to
expect and can alert her to special requests.
In a dizzying whirlwind of information, the words "What's for dinner?" can be regarded as a battle cry. Along with careers, child-rearing, exercise, and finding time for fun, healthful eating has become one more challenge. How refreshing to hear the words of personal chef Alexis Jette: "When a client asks me what I can make, I can honestly say, 'Whatever you want to eat.'" Jette is a recent graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, where she was immersed in world cuisines. She shops, cooks, labels, and packages meals for families and prides herself on leaving their kitchens spotless.
Having just cleaned my own kitchen of last night's dishes, the idea of another dinner looms ominously near. Then I remember that today is different: Tonight's dinner will be selected from Healthy Gourmet-to-Go's Bag of Specials. As arrival time draws near, I lick my lips in anticipation of the promised delicacies, including mushroom-barley soup and Japanese brown-rice sushi rolls with avocado and tamari dipping sauce. For the next few days my kitchen stays clean. This is a luxury to which I could easily adapt.
New York Spirit Magazine
June & July '03
Spirit Picks by Angela Stark
I have so many stipulations when it comes to my food-it has to be tasty but not too salty, organic, clean, healthy and vegan-that I don't usually trust others to cook for me. That changed when I discovered Healthy Gourmet To-Go, a vegetarian meal delivery and catering company. When I had a baby and no time to make my own food, they delivered a selection of freshly prepared meals, some of which could be frozen or refrigerated for future needs. It's all so good; I wish I had known about them when I was looking for a caterer for my wedding. My mouth waters just reading each week's menu. How about the "Indian inspired coconut jasmine rice casserole layered with cauliflower, portabello mushrooms, onions and topped with a creamy polenta" and "Fat free and amazingly delicious carrot cake with raisins, topped with tofu maple walnut whip topping." See www.carrottalk.com or call 212 561-0854.
You've Got Kale!
Truffled parsnip pasta with lemon-sage cream. Butter lettuce with baby arugula, radicchio, fine herbs, shallots, lemon, and olive oil. One is from a raw food restaurant, the other isn't. Which is which? And what is raw food anyway?
The raw food diet is an organic, vegan cuisine where nothing is processed, pasteurized, or heated above 104 to 118 degrees (depending upon whose philosophy you subscribe to). Also called live food, living cuisine, and sun food, the premise is that heat destroys the live, beneficial enzymes.
Proponents of raw foods credit Ann Wigmore with pioneering the modern-day regime and bringing the benefits of wheatgrass juice into the public consciousness. Wigmore, a Lithuanian-born nutritionist, recounts in Why Suffer? How I Overcame Illness & Pain Naturally that Western eating habits had ruined her health by the age of 50. Once Wigmore developed what she calls the living foods lifestyle, it took her three years to regain her health--she claims to have healed herself of colon cancer--and ultimately change her life.
In a nutshell, Wigmore's thesis states that there are two main causes of illness--nutritional deficiency and toxicity. Nutritional deficiencies come from people's inabilities to digest and draw nourishment from cooked foods, and toxicity is linked to improper elimination of cooked foods from the body. Wigmore was an energetic educator until her death in 1994 at the age of 83.
Cornbleet stressed that eating raw is not the culinary equivalent of jumping off a cliff. "It's important for people to realize that eating raw foods doesn't need to be an all-or-nothing thing," she explains. "A small percentage of people do eat 100 percent or nearly 100 percent raw foods, and it is possible to be healthy doing so, but this isn't practical for most people. Eating even 50 to 75 percent raw can improve one's health and vitality. Just because something is 'raw' doesn't mean it's the healthiest thing. Living on all the raw desserts out there certainly isn't healthier than eating steamed vegetables.
Manna from Heaven
Since nothing is heated above 118 degrees, a dehydrator is frequently used to "cook" foods.
Seems straightforward enough. Except that manna bread isn't something you can run to the corner deli and pick up. It's a dense, slightly chewy bread that is risen at very low heat. It's found in the freezer section at selected health food stores.
Commercially made nut milks aren't used, because heat is involved in their processing. To make raw-nut milk at home, one can soak raw nuts for four hours or more and put them in a high-speed blender like a Vita-Mix or a food processor with filtered water, agave nectar, and sea salt. Or you can try making 30-Second Nut Milk, using raw nut butter, water, agave, vanilla extract, sea salt, and coconut butter. Either way it's another procedure, and if you're doing the soaking, it adds at least four hours to the preparation time.
After the nut milk is made, you soak the bread for an hour. Then you dehydrate it for about four to six hours on one side, flip it over, and dehydrate it for four more hours on the other side until it's slightly crispy.
That's at least 10 hours of dehydration time and nut milk preparation. If you're serving it with candied walnuts, those also need to be dehydrated, for at least 12 hours. In total, that's 22 hours of dehydration time. The rest of the prep is generally blending different nut milks and soaking or chopping nuts.
Many of the recipes in Kenney and Melngailis's cookbook, as well as some of the other popular raw food books like Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein's Raw and Matt Amsden's RAWvolution call for long lists of exotic ingredients and expensive equipment. It does the home cook well to remember that these books feature five-star food that happens to be made at home. While it's fun if you're feeling ambitious, raw food need not be so complicated and not all recipes require such devotion; Raw Food, Real World includes an arugula salad with pear, spiced pumpkin seeds, and Meyer lemon dressing that can be prepared in a matter of minutes if you leave out the pumpkin seeds.
"We've had the juice bar the entire time," says Matthew Ballister. "My father spent winters in the Yucatan and they had liquado stands there. He enjoyed the mangos, papayas, and avocados and wanted to sell them. He special-ordered mangos, and in the beginning could barely get through a case, so he created the Mango Crema [one of Sunfrost's smoothies] to move excess product. The Papaya Maya was created the same way. We're talking about live food, separating out the unnecessary part, the pulp. What remains is sweet, sipped, social, and pretty."
Supposing you want to try making raw food. You'll need a blender. Devotees swear by the Vita-Mix. It's the Harley-Davidson of blenders--goes forward, reverse, and vroom, vroom, vroom. You can crush ice, coffee beans, and probably beer cans with it. But you'll never get as fine a puree with a home blender as you will at a juice bar, so you may not want to drop $400 on a Vita-Mix. And you'll also need a juicer or access to fresh juice, plus a dehydrator if you're really going full-throttle.
One key raw juice ingredient is agave syrup, a natural sweetener extracted from the same munificent cactus that gives us tequila. Like maple syrup, agave comes in light and dark versions. It has a lower glycemic index than sugar or honey, which means you don't have the blood sugar peaks and valleys.
Organic Nectars, started by former marketing consultant Lisa Protter and former TV sound engineer Steve Trecasse, sells both light and dark agave as well as raw cacao powder, dried goji berries, and chocoagave syrup, an unctuous, pure chocolate, one-way ticket to nirvana. It's roughly 50 calories per tablespoon and full of antioxidants. Banana slices or strawberries dipped in chocoagave make an effortless dessert. Milk from young Thai coconuts, the kind with the pointy tops, are used to make smoothies and soups, while the flesh is used for noodles, "ice cream," puddings, and other dishes. Nama Shoyu, an unpasteurized soy sauce, is also a staple.
Shapiro hands me a glass with water and goji berries in it. Goji berries resemble small, reddish prunes. The antioxidant darling of the Himalayas, goji berries are allegedly responsible for everything from eternal youth to high sperm count. Even Dole has jumped on the goji berry bandwagon, distributing Tibetan sun-dried goji berries.
"No one food is everything," Shapiro says. "But goji berries are one of the fun things that the raw foods movement has hooked into and found to have all of these neat benefits."
She hands me a plate of dessert treats: raw chocolate macaroons, candied walnuts, and dehydrated bananas. I ask her how long she's been raw. (In raw food argot, you don't eat raw, you are raw.) She tells me she had been so for about eight months, but then started eating cooked food in the cold weather.
The dehydrated bananas are chewy, with a concentrated banana flavor. They'd make a great on-the-go snack. The macaroons are fudgy and dense.
As I continue massaging the kale, I watch its silvery-green leaves soften and turn a vibrant dark green, as though it had been steamed.
"Massaging the oil in starts the kale's so-called "cooking," Shapiro explains. "It helps break down the cellulose. Slicing it really thin also does that."
While the kale is absorbing the oil and sea salt, we get to work on the main course, "Fettucine" Pomodoro with Pine Parmesan "Cheese."
Shapiro hands me a vegetable peeler and tells me to make zucchini noodles by peeling off long strips. "You can get some really expensive equipment like a mandoline, but you can also use a vegetable peeler without a huge commitment," she says.
Shapiro is making the pomodoro sauce, which is comprised of sun-dried tomatoes and their soaking liquid, sea salt, black pepper, a fresh tomato, basil, and Kalamata olives. Except for the soaking time, this meal is ready in the time it takes to prep the zucchini, about 10 minutes.
Shapiro has plated our food: Kale Salad with Tahini Ginger Dressing, and the Fettucine Pomodoro with Pine Parmesan Cheese. She prepared the "cheese"--made from pine nuts that have been soaked, rinsed, and sprouted, then dehydrated for 24 hours--in advance.
So now it's just me and the kale. I look at my nemesis and say a prayer to the vegetable gods, asking that I not embarrass myself. My hand speeds toward my mouth with a forkful of kale.
"It's utterly delicious," I tell Shapiro, surprising us both.
Roni Shapiro owns Healthy Gourmet To Go. You can choose from her weekly online menus, or customize an order. (www.carrottalk.com) Shapiro has one of the best deals going in the Valley -- her "Bag of Specials" which is $93.50 and has enough food for 6-8 meals. This is an incredible bargain. Shapiro's food is 100%, and much of it is raw.
Having cooked and eaten with her, I'd order a "Bag of Specials" in a heartbeat. And I'm not vegan.
You can also try Shapiro's recipes. Here are the two that we made.
Raw Kale Salad with Tahini Ginger Dressing (adapted from Roni Shapiro)
Wash, dry and stem the kale. Salt and massage with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The longer you massage the kale, the more tender it will become.
Blend the remaining ingredients, adding a little more oil and/or less water to adjust the thickness of the dressing. Serve.
Raw "Fettucine" Pomodoro
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zucchini into "noodles." It doesn't matter if they're all the same size. Keep peeling until you get to the seeds -- rough chop the rest and set it aside to put in your Pomodoro Sauce. Rub 1 tbs. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil into the zucchini "noodles", toss them well with either your hands or a pair of tongs, and set aside.
To make the sauce: Pulse the remaining ingredients in a food processor. Use as much or as little of the soaking liquid as you want to thin it. Serve immediately.
I made this on a very cold night. It was incredibly easy, and as satisfying as a bowl of pasta with meat sauce. Just sayin'.
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