Oklahoma chef's vegan cookbook shows living on a plant-based diet doesn't mean giving up comfort foods 

click to enlarge Nicole Asal shows her vegan recipes from her book The Millennials Guide to Plant-Based Diets, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Nicole Asal shows her vegan recipes from her book The Millennials Guide to Plant-Based Diets, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017.

Nobody cares if it’s vegan so long as it tastes good.

That’s the principle driving local chef Nicole Asali to create Millennial’s Guide to Plant-Based Diets, a cookbook she’s crowdfunding through Indiegogo.com.

Asali owns Health Koncious, 730 NE 42nd St., a startup business introducing communities to plant-based diets.

She has been a chef for seven years, and she started exploring veganism after her best friend was diagnosed with lupus.

“I started reading up on plant-based diets as a holistic way of helping,” she said.

Her friend died, but Asali’s hunger for knowledge led her to become a vegetarian and then a vegan before transitioning to a wholly plant-based diet.

“It’s really the proteins that make a difference,” she said. “You can make it taste as good as your average comfort food.”

Millennial’s Guide to Plant-Based Diets will include recipes, but its main focus is translating nutrition information for an audience that might not know much about healthier eating.

Asali said she isn’t evangelizing for veganism. She presents information and lets people make their own choices.

“When people are educated, they make better decisions,” she said.

Cooking comfort

One reason people don’t consider becoming vegan is that they’re afraid they’ll have to give up their favorite foods, she said.

But vegetables can be transformed using different cooking methods and spices to fulfill those cravings.

Asali frequently creates dishes that astound meat-eaters, including a vegan fried chicken made from vital wheat gluten.

“You pull the starch and build a dough,” she said. “Then it’s boiled in vegetable stock.”

The end result is a “fried chicken” with a meaty texture and flavor.

Though Asali is more interested in worldly cuisines, she said the way to introduce a vegan lifestyle to Oklahomans is through comfort food.

“I do Italian food and Cajun food with New Orleans spicing,” she said. “But everyone wants comfort food.”

Her specialties include a vegan macaroni and cheese that is creamy and flavorful and nachos covered in vegan chili. Her challenge now is making her dishes more accessible.

“I’m working on ways to prepackage some of the foods,” she said.

Asali plans to add meal prep and manufacturing to her business by 2018. Her mission is to create an affordable, accessible and functional plant-based product for people regardless of income. And that takes funding.

click to enlarge Nicole Asal shows her vegan recipes from her book The Millennials Guide to Plant-Based Diets, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Nicole Asal shows her vegan recipes from her book The Millennials Guide to Plant-Based Diets, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017.

Money matters

Asali hopes to raise $15,000 via her Indiegogo campaign, which will fund the cookbook’s publication and help her begin manufacturing specialty foods that will make vegan comfort dishes easier to create for the community.

She wants to sell protein powders, dairy-free cheese sauce and seitan — the wheat gluten chicken substitute.

Asali has spent years working in the community with Health Koncious, hosting demonstrations and events to give people a taste of how satisfying plant-based cooking can be.

Her next event is Koncious Bites and Kanvases 6-10 pm. April 22 at Nault Fine Art, 816 N. Walker Ave. Tickets are $85 on eventbrite.com or free with a $75 donation to her Indiegogo campaign.

“If we can get people on this, they can open up to more things,” she said. “Then we can start loving vegetables again.”

Print headline: Vegan venture; Chef Nicole Asali crowdfunds a cookbook focused on plant-based diets.

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