ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Going vegan does not mean resorting to “rabbit food” and people considering the diet can experience it during the Albuquerque Vegan Jazz Brunch.
The brunch on Sunday, Feb. 2, is hosted by Dr. Ruby Lathon, a vegan chef and holistic nutritionist. It will feature a menu full of flavorful vegan courses
prepared by chefs Neema Pickett and Brenda Hollingsworth-Marley, with assistance from Lathon’s brother Marcus Lathon. A mimosa bar and entertainment by the John Rangel Trio also will be part of the event.
“As a nutritionist I help people successfully transition into a plant-based diet so they can stick with it and not feel deprived of their favorites,” Lathon said. “I help them veganize all of those yummy recipes that are healthier and taste just as good.”
Lathon said, “So for people who may not have tried a vegan diet or a vegan menu this is an opportunity to jump in and know that you’re going to have really good food and a really good experience with it and it’s not the cliché rabbit food.”
Courses on the menu include Buffalo fried cauliflower; garlicky yellow grits with wild mushrooms; strawberry waffles; Sriracha sweet potato, kale & black bean scramble; roasted asparagus with hollandaise and mango kale salad.
“Cauliflower has gotten really popular the last year or two, and I think back about telling people about Buffalo cauliflower bites or Buffalo cauliflower wings which always raises an eye, but it’s also a favorite because you get some crunchiness and batter of Buffalo cauliflower chicken without the calories or the fat,” Lathon said. “It’s really good. It’s like the guilt-free decadent dish, but you’re eating cauliflower so you can have your heart’s content of that.”
Some of the items on the menu may not seem vegan-friendly but Lathon has researched and found ways around recipes that require dairy, eggs and more.
“What we use instead of regular dairy is coconut milk,” Lathon said. “Anywhere there is cow’s milk (in a recipe) you can use coconut milk. If you are looking for a thicker consistency you use full-fat coconut milk. Anytime there is a dish where there is condensed milk we just use low-fat coconut milk. It works perfectly. And then instead of egg, we use other binders. It just depends on the recipe. So that can be anything from adding flax seeds. Something called a flax egg. We’re using brown flax seed and water and you just whip it together and it has a very sticky consistency and light consistency and that you use as a binder and in a lot of recipes like that. And then you use baking powder, apple cider vinegar, to help things rise instead of an egg. So there’s a lot of ways to do it.”
The transition to a vegan diet was a life changer for Lathon who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2007. She opted for natural treatments and began research on a completely plant-based diet.
“I switched to that diet and healed myself in about a year with just going plant-based and learning about supplementation and how to do that so I’ve been an advocate every year,” Lathon said.
“I changed my career. I worked at Sandia Labs and I switched to become a nutritionist. It was a big deal for me to be able to heal myself with food and lifestyle changes.”
Lathon educated herself how to cook vegan and continues to pass along her knowledge around the country through seminars, workshops, plant-based cooking classes and nutrition coaching.
“It wasn’t until I educated myself on all the easy recipes to veganize things I thought this is not hard at all you just have to learn the methods,” she said.
“You have to learn to make cream sauces with cashews and learn how to make a hollandaise with grape seed oil and almond milk. That was my introduction as to why I went vegan and love it. Let’s make this accessible to everyone because so many people would jump on board and reap the benefits of it if they thought it would still be enjoyable and that’s what the brunch is about.”