FOOD

How to Make Plant-Based Mexican Food at Home with Jocelyn Ramirez

May 28th, 2020

Welcome to What I Eat in a Day, a blog series that showcases the daily lives and meals of Thrive Market members like you. Today, we’re talking with Jocelyn Ramirez, a plant-based chef, author, and founder of Todo Verde, a plant-based mexican restaurant in Los Angeles. She’s sharing about the role cooking plays in her life—and five easy recipes that we can all try.

How would you describe your eating philosophy or habits?

I’m a plant-based eater. I try my best to eat in a way that supports my health, the health of the planet and its ecosystems, and the well-being of animals. I do this beyond the food on my table and in my pantry, but also with the products I use topically, and the clothing and products I purchase.

Tell us about the role cooking plays in your life.

Cooking has always been a form of meditation for me. When I’m in the kitchen, I don’t always go off a specific recipe—I like to feel what my body is craving, while also considering what needs to get eaten first.

Why is healthy living important to you?

Healthy living places my life and habits back into the ecosystem that supports all of us. Eating a plant-based diet, gardening, cooking, composting food scraps, and using animal-friendly products means I am doing my best.

Which moments of your day bring you the most joy?

Lately, the most joy has come from my garden plot. I recently got a new plot at my local garden where I have been composting my food scraps for the last few years. I have been caring for another plot, but one became available where I am working on transferring my edible plants. The new plot requires mixing nutrients into its depleted soil, which is really hard work, but I’ve always loved getting my hands and feet into the dirt.

Describe how your life has changed while sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the shelter-in-place orders began to move across the state, I knew I needed to pause my business’s food production. My business caters everything from non-profit meetings to weddings, and all of our events have been postponed or cancelled. My father was also in the hospital for a major surgery, and as one of his caretakers, I didn’t have the capacity to pivot our business operation. It took me a few weeks to come to terms with the fact that things were going to be extremely different for the foreseeable future. I have since launched a series of online cooking classes, created company and brand partnerships to lead virtual workshops and cooking classes, and published a plant-based Mexican cookbook, La Vida Verde. I have had to adjust to an e-commerce and virtual services business.

What has been most difficult for you during this time?

The most difficult part of this situation is staying distanced from family. My parents have had a tough year so far, and it’s been really difficult to support them from a distance with calls, video calls, or talking through a window. It’s also been really difficult to think about all the people who are truly suffering during this pandemic due to health and economic reasons. They need the support from those of us who are able to help, now more than ever.

How are you getting through it?

Many of us are trying to do the best we can under these extremely difficult situations. What’s getting me through it is trying to do my part and support the people I am able to reach, whether it is purchasing groceries for them, donating to organizations helping our undocumented neighbors who won’t receive government aid, or offering my services on a pay-what-you-can basis (even if it’s $0).

Have you found anything to appreciate about this time?

This time has really grounded us in what’s most important, like taking care of our bodies by eating good, wholesome food, and taking care of people who need extra support. It’s also great to see so many people getting excited to try new recipes and embrace cooking even more.

Tell us about your new cookbook.

My new cookbook, La Vida Verde: Mexican Plant-Based Cooking with Authentic Flavor, is made up of 60 recipes that bring you back to my abuelita’s kitchen table for dinner. I wanted to create a plant-based book that felt accessible for home cooks who have been thinking about eating more plant-forward food, but hadn’t found a book that resonates with them or recipes that feel authentic. It also felt really important for me to take up some space as an author in this category.

When you reflect on all of your accomplishments, what makes you most proud?

I feel most proud of publishing my cookbook because my work has always been about how to reach and impact the most people. It leaves a bigger legacy than simply serving someone here in Los Angeles—I’ve received messages from people in different parts of the world who are trying plant-based recipes from the book and are so excited. I hope that the book helps to shift family traditions around meat-centered foods, and helps readers incorporate more plant-based options into their lifestyles.

Recipe round-up! What do you eat in a day?

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Breakfast: Wheatgrass Cashew Yogurt

When my mom immigrated to Los Angeles from Mexico, she found herself working in terrible conditions in sewing factories, and knew that she wanted a better working opportunity in the U.S. One day, a family friend told her she could get a production and factory job making yogurt with General Mills. My mom jumped at the opportunity because it was a full-time, great-paying job with benefits. She worked that job for over 30 years until she retired. Needless to say, we ate so much yogurt growing up, and it continues to be a staple I eat regularly. Except now, it’s plant based, and I flavor plain, unsweetened yogurt.

Ingredients:

1 cup plant-based yogurt
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon wheatgrass powder

1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon cacao nibs
1 tablespoon hemp hearts
1 tablespoon flax seeds
1 tablespoon golden raisins
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 tablespoon blueberries
1-2 strawberries

Instructions:

Add yogurt, maple syrup, and wheatgrass powder to a bowl and mix until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Decoratively top the yogurt with chia seeds, cacao nibs, hemp hearts, flax seeds, golden raisins, almond butter, blueberries, and strawberries.

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Snack: Pretzel sticks with cashew cream cheese

This is a quick and easy snack that is my go-to when I’m on a deadline and don’t have the time to prepare anything from scratch. If you’re based in Los Angeles, Blode Kuh’s Herbie Vore cultured cashew cheese is a perfect mixture of creamy fermented cashews with lots of fresh herbs. I love eating this snack with veggies like carrots and sweet peppers, and of course, pretzel sticks.

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Lunch: Ceviche

I grew up eating ceviche regularly—my parents would drive the family down to the port of San Pedro for a seafood feast a few times a year. We’d also make ceviche often at home using fresh fish or shrimp, and sometimes using canned tuna. This quick recipe reminds me of those warm summer afternoons. In this case, I’m using Good Catch’s Fish Free Tuna (Mediterranean flavor).

Ingredients:

1 3.3oz pouch Good Catch Fish Free Tuna
½ lemon
1 jalapeño, minced deseeded and destemmed
1 globe tomato, ¼ inch dice
½ avocado, 1/4 inch dice
1 persian cucumber, ¼ inch dice
¼ bunch cilantro, minced
1-2 tsp hotsauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Add the tuna to a bowl with the juice of half a lemon and mix together. Add the jalapeño, tomato, avocado, cucumber, cilantro, hotsauce, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with cilantro, and serve with tortilla chips.

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Dinner: Jackfruit en Pipian Rojo tacos

Jackfruit is one of my favorite plant-based ingredients to use in the kitchen because it’s not a processed ingredient, it has a meaty texture, and it’s so versatile. For dinner, I’m using jackfruit as an alternative for chicken, coated in my abuelita’s traditional pipian rojo made with toasted pepitas and guajillo chile peppers. It’s a perfect taco filling, and I love serving it with a side of beans. These mayocoba or peruano beans are tossed in a quick dressing of cilantro, pepitas, olive oil, lemon juice, chili flakes, and salt.

Ingredients:

For the Jackfruit
2 (20-ounce) cans jackfruit, drained, rinsed, squeezed dry
2 tablespoons ground cumin
3⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1⁄3 cup cooking oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Pipián Sauce
1⁄2 cup pepitas
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 whole cloves garlic
1⁄4 yellow onion, peeled
6 guajillo chiles, destemmed and deseeded
2 cups vegetable broth
Salt, to taste

For Serving
Tortillas hechas a mano
Cilantro sprigs, to garnish

Instructions:

To make the jackfruit, remove the non-shreddable core from the shreddable part of the jackfruit with a knife. Remove any seed pods from the shreddable parts and add them to the pile of cores. Add the shreddable jackfruit to a medium bowl. Mince the cores and seed pods with a knife until they are a similar texture to the shreddable jackfruit. Shred the jackfruit in the bowl and add the minced jackfruit. Add the cumin, crushed red pepper flakes, oil, salt, and pepper to the bowl and mix until fully incorporated. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the jackfruit. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until it is seared and brown on all sides. You may need to add more oil as the jackfruit cooks. The skillet should have enough oil to help sear and brown the jackfruit.

For the pipián sauce, preheat a dry sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pepitas to the pan and stir continuously for 4 to 5 minutes until evenly toasted and slightly inflated. Remove the seeds from the pan and set aside.

Coat the bottom of the same hot pan with the oil, and add the garlic cloves, onion, and guajillo chiles to pan fry until slightly blackened on both sides. The chiles will cook much faster than the garlic and onion. Once the chiles are blackened and fragrant, place them into a mixing bowl with vegetable broth to rehydrate for about 10 minutes. Place another mixing bowl over the chiles to keep them submerged.

Add the rehydrated chiles, roasted garlic, roasted onion, toasted pepitas (reserve a few for garnish), salt and the retained vegetable broth to a blender. Blend until the mixture is smooth, and add additional broth or water necessary to create a smooth sauce consistency that coats the back of a spoon. If the sauce is too thick, you can add more of the rehydrating liquid, and if it is too thin, you can blend and add a cooked and slightly charred tortilla.

Add the sauce to the skillet with the jackfruit. Mix until the pipián fully coats the jackfruit and warms through. Serve with freshly made tortillas, and top with the reserved toasted pumpkin seeds and sprigs of cilantro.

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Dessert: Raw Cacao Banana Ice Cream

I love to freeze spotted overripe bananas for smoothies or quick and easy desserts like this ice cream. It’s easy to toss everything in a high-power blender until smooth and creamy, then mix in crunchy ingredients. It’s a perfect end to any meal.

Ingredients:

2 large bananas, frozen
2 tablespoons raw cacao
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
½ cup coconut milk

¼ cup walnuts, rough chopped
1 tablespoon hemp hearts
1 tablespoon cacao nibs

Instructions:

Blend the bananas, cacao, maple syrup, and coconut milk until smooth. Mix in the walnuts, and garnish with hemp hearts and cacao nibs. You can store the ice cream in the freezer for a couple of hours if you want a firmer texture.

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Drink: Infused Red Wine

I’m not very much of a drinker, but when I do have a glass of red wine, I infuse it with fresh mint, strawberries, golden nuggets, blueberries and any other ingredients in my garden. A non-alcoholic alternative would be agua de jamaica infused with all the same ingredients.

For sharing her experience, we’re gifting Jocelyn Thrive Cash to shop healthy essentials at ThriveMarket.com. Interested in sharing your story? We’d love to hear from you! Please email blog@thrivemarket.com with your name and occupation.

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Lily CombaLily Comba has never met a baked good she didn't like. When she's not baking, you'll find her writing, taking a Pilates class, or collaborating with the editorial and social team as a Senior Content Writer at Thrive Market.