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Nature’s basket > Viva Vegan
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Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey tried it for 3 weeks and became a fan. When are you planning to go the vegan way, asks Laju Nanwani

For those who think vegans and vegetarians are identical here is the point of separation- vegans do not consume milk, milk products not even honey. It is a way of life that avoids use of any kind of animal products and services that are based on the exploitation of animals.

If you think this restricts their food choices you are wrong. A vegan can consume raw fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts, whole grains, seitan and tofu, veggie hot dogs and veggie burgers, all lentils and beans, peanut butter, polenta and rice, and whole wheat bread.

If the impressive array of dishes does not coax you to convert to veganism then this bit of information certainly will. The many benefits of following a plant based vegan diet are clearer skin, weight loss, higher energy levels and smoother digestive function.

Still need some convincing to convert? Get some inspiration from these 4 vegan celebrities who are doing it in style!

1) Natalie Portman

This Academy Award winner needs no introduction. The lifelong vegetarian became a vegan a couple of years ago after reading Jonathan Foer’s book Eating Animals. She even teamed up with the New York label Té Casan to launch her own line of vegan-friendly footwear. What’s more? 5 percent of the no fur, no leather, no feather footwear range's profits are donated to charity every year. Christian Dior even designed special vegan shoes, free of leather, for the Black Swan actress. Natalie sure is one of those rare celebs who put their money where their mouth is.

2) Alicia Silverstone

This sexy actress made the men go wild in Aerosmith’s music video “Crazy”. Since then it’s been a mélange of movies and a string of endorsements for this leggy lass. She turned vegan when she was 21, and lost oodles of weight. At 32, she now looks younger than she did in her twenties! She also brought out a book on the benefits of a plant based diet aptly called ‘The Kind Diet’. Alicia follows The Kind Diet to show that having a meal without animal produce is not only healthy but is kind to animals and the planet we live on. The book is full of wonderful recipes and desserts to help you spice up your menu.

3) Bryan Adams

The ’18 till I die’ singer says “I became a vegan for my health 20 years ago. I abide by the rule that if it looks like it's going to clog your system, it probably will. It would be wonderful to convince people without having to say much. For example, I'm very slim due to my diet. When I see men and women my age with their guts hanging over their trousers I wish someone was able to explain the benefits of a vegan diet to them.”

The rock star starts his day with fruit juice and a mixed fruit salad. Dinner is salads or pasta or cooked veggies. Even on the sets where vegan food is not easily available he is known to stick to his diet with all earnestness. “My rider is just fruit and veggies and some nuts and dried fruits. An army doesn't march on an empty stomach,” says the soulful singer. Perhaps, this is what makes Bryan Adams the man that he is. Take a cue from him and treat your body to a vegan diet.

4) Ellen DeGeneres

The famed talk show host sure knows how to keep fit. At 53, she can easily pass off for 35. The queen of exquisite comic timing attributes her youthful looks to veganism. Newlyweds Portia De Rossi and Ellen became vegans because “they both loved animals so much”. Portia (who played the blonde bombshell in Ally McBeal) explains, "We just made that shift in our lives. The benefit of it is weight loss. Both of us are very happy. It feels like such a compassionate choice. We are such animal lovers, why stop short of cows and chickens? It didn't make any sense."

Portia admits she and her partner have been working towards becoming vegans since their very first date. She adds, "When Ellen and I first got together I was wearing fur and Ellen was wearing very expensive Italian calfskin leather. She was giving me a hard time about wearing the fur and I said, 'Why is a fox any more important than a cow? We took that idea and went all the way with it. We are doing what we can.

"Following a vegan diet seems to work for so many celebrities abroad. Although the phenomenon hasn’t caught up much in India, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be the first to try out this instantly beautifying diet.

Given below are some cool, easy, fun vegan recipes to motivate you into fitting into those old jeans!

Veggie and Tofu Soba (Enjoy the goodness of vegetables and walnuts in this tasty treat)

Preparation time: 35 minutes
Serves: 8 to 10


2 medium carrots, thinly sliced in 1/2" circles
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 cup butternut squash, cubed
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 medium eggplant, thinly sliced into strips
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 vegetable broth cube dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water

1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
12 ounce soba* noodles
1/4 cup Braggs liquid amino acids
1 cup chopped scallions
1 pound extra firm tofu, cubed
turmeric, cumin, salt and pepper to taste
* Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat and is synonymous with a type of thin noodles made from buckwheat flour


1) Heat olive oil in large pot. Add all veggies, including onions and walnuts. Season and cook stirring often. Add vegetable broth to the pot. Mix well and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes until veggies are tender but still maintain their shape and almost all liquid is evaporated. Add chopped parsley, mix and turn off heat. Set aside.

2) Boil salted water for soba noodles. Cook noodles for 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Strain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

3) Pat dry tofu. Place small amount of oil in skillet, add tofu and cook until golden. Add Bragg's, scallions and soba noodles. Mix well.

4) Mix the noodles with the vegetable mixture. Cook over low heat for 5 min. Serve garnished with parsley leaves.

Vegan Pad Thai (A delectable dish of stir fried rice noodles)

Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4


2 limes, one juiced and one cut into wedges or half moons

1/2 cup canned tamarind paste (look for "cooking tamarind" rather than sweet
tamarind) or 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate in 1/4 cup water and the juice of
one lime

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground dried chillies (more to taste)

2 shallots, minced

1/3 cup agavé syrup (use honey if you can’t locate agavé syrup in the market)

3 tablespoons tamari (Japanese soy sauce; you can use traditional soy sauce as well)

A packet of Thai rice noodles (1/4"-wide flat noodles)

2 tablespoons veg. oil

8 green onions, cut into ½’’ pieces

2 2/3 cups bean sprouts (half for cooking and half used for garnish)

1 large carrot, finely chopped

2 cups broccoli, cut small

8 ounces firm tofu, small cubes (optional)

1/3 cup chopped peanuts, toasted (best if you toast them yourself but pre-toasted will do)


1) Soak the rice noodles covered in a large bowl of warm water for about 20 minutes or until they are limp and white.

2) Heat oil in a wok. Add the garlic and cook until golden. Add the carrots, broccoli and tofu and stir-fry for about 4 minutes.

3) Drain the noodles and add to the wok. Add bean sprouts, green onions, shallots, tamari, tamarind, agavé and chillies. Toss until the noodles and veggies are cooked. Take off heat and add lime juice.

4) Garnish with peanuts, bean sprouts and raw green onions and serve immediately with a slice of lime.

Vegan Salad (Healthy Mediterranean delight with the power of chickpeas)
Preparation time: 10 minutes Serves: 2


250 gms chickpeas (soaked overnight and boiled)
1 tomato, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 green onion, chopped

1 to 2 teaspoons chipotle spice blend, to taste *
1 to 2 tablespoons lime juice, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil


1) Rinse and drain chickpeas. In a bowl, combine chickpeas, tomato, avocado, and green onion.

2) In another bowl, whisk together chipotle spice blend, lime juice and oil for the dressing.

3) Pour dressing over the bean mixture; stir gently to coat. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use. Good served over spinach or rice.

*Chipotle spice mix generally includes chipotle powder, smoked paprika, and dried red pepper and is available in leading supermarkets or can be ordered online. Chipotle is a Chilean jalapeno

Vegan Pasta (This dish is best made in summer when tomatoes are ripe and smell delicious)


1 lb (0.5 kg) whole grain penne rigate pasta
1 small yellow banana pepper, julienned
5 ripe tomatoes, julienned
4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1/3 cup fresh basil, minced

Olive oil, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
8 oz. fake mozzarella cheese*
* 1 oz = 30 gms (approx.)


1) Cut the tomatoes and pepper into very tiny strips, julienne style. Crush and mince the garlic and basil. Combine the tomatoes, pepper, garlic, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

2) Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter to marinate for several hours. It's important not to put this in the fridge (unless it's very hot in the house) because the tomatoes will get mealy.

3) When you are ready to eat, cook the pasta, drain it, and pour over the top. If you are adding cheese, this is the time to do it. It will melt from the heat of the pasta.

Vegan Lasagne (Typical of the central cuisine of Italy, lasagne packs in a handful of health benefits)

Preparation Time: 2 ½ hours
Serves: 8


Mushroom sauce

• 1 ounce dried mushrooms
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley
• 2 tsp. fresh rosemary finely chopped
• 1 can (28 ounces) Italian plum tomatoes with basil
• salt and freshly ground pepper


• 2 cups firm tofu
• 1/4 cup soy/rice milk
• 1 1/2 cup vegan cheese freshly grated (parmesan flavour)
• fresh ground nutmeg, to taste
• salt and freshly ground pepper
• 6 cups lightly stemmed and thoroughly drained green vegetables:
chopped broccoli, thinly sliced artichoke hearts, sliced zucchini, chopped green beans, asparagus, scallions, julienned roasted green pepper
• 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley
• 10 lasagne noodles (preferably whole wheat)
• 2 tbsp canola oil


Mushroom sauce

1. In small bowl combine the mushrooms and 1 cup boiling water.
Set aside for 30 min.
Remove the mushrooms, and reserve the water.Trim the stems from the mushrooms and slice the caps.

2. In large skillet heat the oil over medium heat.
Add the onion and sauté until transparent, about 5 min.
Stir in the parsley, rosemary, and tomatoes; crush the tomatoes with the back of a fork.
Add the soaked mushrooms and reserved soaking liquid.
Simmer for 20 min, uncovered set aside.

Lasagna filling

1. In food processor, combine the parsley, basil and spinach leaves.
Process until finely minced.
Add tofu, vegan cheese and soy/rice milk.
Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste

2. Drain the prepared vegetables and combine them in large bowl.
Add the chopped parsley and set aside.

3. Pat the lasagne noodles dry and preheat oven to 350.
Lightly spray or wipe a 9x13 baking dish with canola oil.
Coat the dish with a thin layer of the mushroom sauce.
Place a layer of noodles over the sauce.

4. Combine the filling and the sauce when assembling the lasagne.
Evenly distribute half the vegetables over the noodles.
Repeat, layering with noodles, sauce plus remaining vegetables.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese substitute.

5. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 min.

Remove the foil and bake for 5 min more or until lasagne is heated thoroughly and sauce is starting to bubble. Do not overcook.

Let the lasagne stand for 5 min before serving.

Vegan in vogue  
If you are a vegan and feel you are lacking in company, here is a list to warm the cockles of your hearts. Feast your eyes on these celebrities and fellow vegans:

Alanis Morrissette, Brendan Brazier, Fiona Apple, Alec Baldwin, Woody Harrelson, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Mike Tyson, Russell Simmons, Robin Quivers, Brad Pitt, Prince, Joaquin Phoenix, Toby Maguire, Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea, Jason Mraz, Betty White, Anne Hathaway, Bob Harper, Ed Begley, Daryl Hannah, Moby, Lisa Edelstein, Casey Kasem, Heather Anne Mills, Petra Nemcova and Avril Lavigne. Legendary painter and inventor Leonardo da Vinci was also a vegan.
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