Welcome Webmistress Melissa!
In 2009, when I acquired VegWeb.com from its brilliant founder, Yvette Ehler, it took me about half a second to figure out whom I wanted to manage the site. I had heard a lot about a local writer/social media whiz named Laura Beck (co-founder, Vegansaurus.com), and I knew she'd be perfect for the job. Laura and I met for lunch, instantly connected, and the rest is history. For the next five years, Laura ran VegWeb.com with her signature humor and passion for food.
Laura has recently landed her dream TV writing job in Los Angeles, so has made the difficult decision to step down as Webmistress Laura. You will be missed by all, wonderful Laura! But she's leaving the site in great hands, with San Francisco-based Melissa Nguyen ready to take the reigns. Melissa is obsessed with food, eating, cooking, and meeting like-minded people from around the world—and I know you're going to love her.
So, ladies and gentlemen, I am thrilled to announce the addition of Webmistress Melissa to the VegWeb team! I sat down with Melissa to chat about all-things food, and here's what she had to say. Be sure to drop her a line to say hello, and let her know if there is anything you need! xox, Webmaven Colleen
Webmaven Colleen: What are you most excited about in your role as Webmistress Melissa?
Webmistress Melissa: The food. I love food. I think a big misconception people have about vegans is that they must hate food and limit themselves––but in fact, we love food. We love it so much that we know that there are way more choices and better options than just meat or dairy. I get so excited to share new foods and recipes with folks, so the best part about being Webmistress of VegWeb is access to the thousands of recipes plus all the new ones that come through daily!
WC: What's your favorite VegWeb recipe?
WM: The Tiramisu. This insanely simple recipe has been on my radar for a while now. It only has eight ingredients and five steps, and 11 of our VegWebbers had nothing but good things to say––I'm going to make it in a few weeks for some friends.
WC: What's your go-to weeknight meal?
WM: Baked spaghetti squash with olive oil, salt, pepper, and diced tomatoes! So very simple and tasty, and reminiscent of conventional spaghetti but with way less calories or preservatives.
WC: What's your favorite ethnic cuisine?
WM: Vietnamese food because it's what I grew up eating. My grandmother was Buddhist and so we always had veganized versions of Vietnamese dishes. And though I am not religious, I loved going to temple because of the vegan food they served after each service.
WC: What's your favorite kitchen appliance?
WM: For some this may not count, but for fellow coffee-addicts––they will understand. I am absolutely obsessed with my latte frothing wand from William Sonoma. I just stick it into a warm glass of almond milk each morning, turn it on, and am able to pour the softest, frothiest topping into my coffee (way cheaper than stopping by a coffee shop each morning!).
WC: What are your must-have kitchen condiments?
WM: Parma!! And nooch (nutritional yeast), Sriracha, and Furikake (a Japanese dried seaweed and sesame seed mix; check labels though, some mixes have fish or shrimp). If I'm in a real hurry, I'll place a whole butternut squash in the oven for 45 minutes at 370 degrees. Slice in half once it's done, sprinkle Furikake on it, and eat right out of the squash peel with a spoon! YUM.
WC: What's your favorite veg restaurant?
WM: In Austin, TX (where I went to college), there's this unassuming little hut of a place on Guadalupe Street (known as "The Drag" to locals) called Veggie Heaven that makes the best EVERYTHING. My absolute favorite dish there is the 5 Stars––crispy bean curd wrapped in seaweed and stewed in fresh veggies!
WC: What's your must-make meal when cooking for omnivores?
WM: I really think vegan baking is an easy way to win folks over because who doesn't love a good cupcake, but for meals, Asian food is the way to go. Tofu and vegetables are natural stars in Asian cuisine, so most people are already comfortable with the focus of an Asian dish being the veggies. Kimchi stew with vegetable broth, mushrooms, soft tofu, and heaps and heaps of fresh kimchi is often a crowd pleaser or veggie spring rolls because they're fun to hold and eat!
WC: What's your non-dairy milk of choice?
WM: This is such a funny question for me because every roommate I have ever had will tell you that my fridge always has at least three to four different non-dairy milks in it. I like plain, reduced sugar soymilk to accompany my cake or dunk my cookies in; vanilla almond milk to drink as a nice sweet treat; french vanilla soy creamer for coffee; and Pearl's coffee-flavored soymilk for when I need a quick iced coffee pick me up!
WC: How would you describe your food philosophy?
WM: Eat what makes you happy and feel good. I naturally eat the way that I eat (my K9 teeth never came in, and my school classmates teased me that I was always meant to be a plant eater), so it's not difficult for me. I never felt like I was restricting myself or not allowing myself to eat something. For those who really want to eat plant-based but find themselves craving meat or dairy, I think crowding out those dishes is the way to go. Every meal, try a new ingredient or dish until you've got so many new favorite vegan foods that you no longer miss meat. Try quinoa, farro, buckwheat, kale, arugula, raw almonds, raw cashews, hummus, or edamame––these are all basic plant foods that not many have heard of!