Interview with Steffi DeRobertis, Plus Her Favorite Mac-N’-Cheese Recipe

I found Steffi’s website while browsing online for vegan recipe sites. She has many amazing recipes on her blog that I are completely new territory for me, inlcluding Mom’s Goulash, Chocolate Coconut Quinoa Gluten Free Cookies, and Mac-and-Cheese (I never make mac and cheese at home, not even in pre-vegan days, but this one includes cashews and walnuts, so I’m going to try it! I’m sure my son will enjoy it.)

Name: Steffi Derobertis
Location: Southern California
Occupation: Full time working mom
Blog Name: Don’t Fear the Vegan
Facebook: Don’t Fear The Vegan
Twitter: @dontfearvegan

1. First off, please tell us a bit about yourself (where are you from, what do you do, etc.)

I am originally from Southern California. The town of Diamond Bar, 45 miles east of Los Angeles. I am a full time working mom of an energetic 9 year old girl, Anzia. My husband and I share the responsibility of home schooling Anzia and are both active in her social extra curricular activities like soccer and Girl Scouts. My outlet for stress has always been cooking which lead to starting Don’t Fear the Vegan.

2. How long have you been vegan and what was your motivation for going vegan?

Hubby and I went vegetarian in 2000. When Anzia was born with a dairy allergy in 2004 I began eating a plant-based diet, though when I was done nursing I went back to eating dairy. It made me extremely ill. The more reading I did, the more I realized I did not want to support the dairy industry. I have lived a complete vegan lifestyle for 5 years or so. Anzia has been vegan from day one.

3. What was the transition to all plant-based diet like? Was it long and difficult, or quick and easy? What was your greatest challenge?  Do you have any advice for people who are considering making the switch or who are still going through a transition?

Our house became completely vegan in 2004. The most difficult part for me was visiting places like my elderly grandparents, having them try their hardest to make me something I could eat, to find out that they added sour cream or mayonnaise. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I couldn’t eat it. Until I was able to get over this hurdle I did not call myself vegan. The food itself was pretty easy. Plus, it made coking an entirely new adventure.

4. Is your family vegan?  If yes, how did that happen? If not, what are they eating and how do your food choices affect them?

Yes, fortunately they are. I often wonder how people manage in households with different eating habits.

5. Do you have to deal with picky eaters?

Anzia is extremely picky. She prefers things raw and not mixed. A veggie tray and sliced uncooked tofu is her ideal meal. Though her favorite food is a somewhat odd choice… hearts of palm. I have learned to leave a little of all the elements of my creations out for her plates. If I am making a nut loaf, i give her the same nuts or bean by themselves, etc. Then she has to try a small portion of the finished meal. It works for us and it gives me the piece of mind that she is getting the nutrition she needs.

6. What are some of your – and your family’s – favorite foods/dishes?

My families favorite is Mac n “Cheese” and pea salad. Anzia can now prepare this on her own.

7. Can you perhaps share your favorite recipe, if it’s not a secret :-)?

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Vegan Mac n “Cheese” – find it here.

8. Do you drink green smoothies or green juices?

No matter how I try them I am not a fan. It may be psychological though. If I add beets or other things that change the color I am able to tolerate them much better. I definitely prefer juice over smoothies, the pulp in a smoothie makes it difficult to swallow.

9. People switching to mostly plant-based or vegan diet are often concerned about getting enough nutrients. How are you making sure that you and your family stay healthy and get all the nutrition you need?

We have spent a lot of time reading over the years and have learned a lot from Dr. McDougall. I take a D vitamin and mostly use nutritional yeast for my B vitamin. I give Anzia a vegan multi-vitamin for kids, just to make sure we aren’t missing anything.

10. What are your strategies and tips for eating out and dealing with social situations? Do you have any advice for new vegans?

We are extremely lucky living in Seattle and run into very few situations. When traveling Anzia and I are pretty adaptable and can usually make it work. When we are in unfamiliar territory I tend to look at the menu ahead of time and make sure it is going to work for him. If not, we eat ahead and enjoy the company. I carry a back pack of food when exploring new places.

11. Since I became vegan about a year ago, I found that this switch is about so much more than simply eliminating a few ingredients from your diet. I found that it affected so many other areas of my life, including social and professional. How does being vegan affect other areas of your life?

Social experience have become more stressful since Anzia has acquired more friends her age, which include more social functions. There have been some places that despite the fact that we have been attending functions since she was 4, still never accommodate her and even though we are paying for the pizza party we have to bring our own. That is not the norm though. Most of the people in our lives are super accommodating. Sometimes to the point where I feel bad that they have gone so far out of their way. The last three birthday parties she has attended the parents have made sure she was taken care of.

As far as professional, I work around a lot of foodies, and though I may have to endure some of the typical vegan jokes, I am always thought of at food gatherings. It is also odd that when people find out that I am vegan, they feel the need to explain why the participate in certain things, like why they are vegetarian and haven’t made the leap to being vegan. I just keep bringing them food to show how good it is.

12. Is there anything else that you would like to share?

This was awesome. It can be really difficult in the beginning, especially in areas where there are no other vegans around. I think people need to know that though some vegans just woke up one day and said “I am vegan,” there are just as many who struggled, but had their heart in the right place and eventually found their way. Telling our stories gives different people something to relate to and possibly find comfort in.

dontfearthevegan interview

Questions? Comments? Suggestions?

If you have a favorite recipe, why not submit it here in the comment section of this smoothie recipes blog for others to enjoy too!

I also welcome any comments, questions and suggestions. Thanks!


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