Fernanda Capobianco, owner of baked goods store The Vegan Divas in NYC, is a Brazilian ex-pat with a lifelong sweet tooth and a passion for healthy cooking. Now, she is sharing her favorite recipes in the new The Vegan Divas Cookbook: Delicious Desserts, Plates and Treats from the Famed New York City Bakery. TLK caught up with Fernanda, who told us all about her vegan lifestyle, her easy pantry must-haves and how she incorporates Brazilian flavors into her cooking. As a bonus, she shared her recipes for Mango Pineapple Cake and Spicy Carrot Cake with Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting.
Can you explain what being vegan means for someone who maybe has never heard of the term?
Vegan means someone who doesn’t eat any animal products or any food that comes from any animal product. Any dairy, or honey, or white sugar, or cheese. White sugar, they say that has shark bones, and that is not considered vegan and not too many people know that. For people who are normally vegan, it is very strict. It is a very big deal. That is why you have be very careful.
How long have you actually been vegan?
Twenty years. When I was a kid, I never liked meat but, if I went to a doctor or nutritionist, they would say "you need the animal protein", so I started reading and learning by myself and I realized that we really don’t need the animal protein. We can have that protein in plant based foods as well, you don’t need to eat meat or dairy. People say yeah, you need protein, but how come the horse and the cow are so strong when they just eat grass? So it’s something that really doesn’t make sense.
If someone wanted to go vegan, where do you think is a good place to start?
It's not just about being vegan. You really should start to eat more foods that are natural, like non-processed foods. No GMOs, just natural, because if you eat all of this processed food, it’s not good for you either. I think you need to eat as much natural as you can.
So, you’re not a big fan of tofu turkey?
No, I hate that. I don’t eat that. I don’t like foods where I don’t know what is inside, vegan or not. I think that if you eat natural or cook your own meals, it’s better for you.
Next up, Fernanda shares her go-to ingredients...