Behind the Scenes of Sharon Gannon’s New Cook Book: Simple Recipes for Joy

It was a Thursday night in October, and I had about fifteen minutes to waste before teaching a class, so I was playing in the boutique at Jivamukti. All of a sudden Sharon came out of the office looking for me and asked me to take a seat on the bench. I had no idea what she could have wanted. She started telling me about the long-awaited cookbook she had been working on and that it was just about finished. All that was left to do was photography of some of the dishes featured in the book. She knew about the cookie company that I own, and the vegan cooking that I do, and wanted to know if I would like to come up to Woodstock to help prepare the food for the photos.  We would head up to Woodstock on Tuesday morning, and come back to the city on Wednesday night. My heart just about leaped out of my chest! Of course I would love to help! I just had to ask my mentor, Gayatri, if it was ok if I missed our Basics class on Wednesday night because I was in the middle of my apprenticeship and had an assignment to teach.  And then Sharon said, “Oh, you already have a commitment.  You should stay with your mentor. If I have a commitment I stick to it– I would never back out of something I already said yes to. I’ll figure something else out.” And this is true – if Sharon says yes to something, she does it! It is a true testament to this cookbook and everything else she’s ever done! And with that, the most amazing opportunity was given to me, and then taken away from me in less than 5 minutes…

I told Gayatri what happened, and of course she would have allowed me to go! But I wasn’t going to say yes to Sharon, and then ask, in the case she said no! Gayatri said she would mention something to Sharon and see if it was still a possibility. Unfortunately Sharon said she already figured something else out, and that was the end of it.  Or so I thought…

Three days later, on Sunday, I was at my friend’s baby shower when my phone started to ring. I didn’t recognize the number, so I didn’t answer. A voicemail was left, so I decided to check it out. “Jai Sri Krishna, April, this is Sharon Gannon calling…” I almost dropped the phone, and had to listen to the voicemail a second time. I excused myself from the table and called back immediately! She said she could still use my help and she spoke to Gayatri asking if she could borrow me for a few days. Would I still like to come up to Woodstock to help out? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing (or that I was even talking to Sharon on the phone)! I said yes without a second thought – how could I say no to cooking along side Sharon! The plans changed slightly and I had to go up on Monday morning rather than Tuesday, so I left the baby shower early and spent a long night familiarizing myself with the recipes I’d be preparing.

I arrived in Woodstock Monday afternoon and met the team of people I’d be working with to help prep the food – there was a “food stylist” who would plate the food for the photos, her assistant, and myself. There was also the photography team, and a handful of other people to help out. The assistant, Anna, and I would do most of the cooking, and some by Sharon. We had a full schedule of the order of photos/recipes and started baking that night.

Over the next two days the team and I prepared about 30 different recipes – soups, appetizers, salads, main courses, desserts – anything you can imagine. I tried to help out in any way I could. Although when I tried to wash the dishes, I was told by Sharon that my job was to cook and cook only, and someone else would wash the dishes. (Fine by me – although I love to cook, washing the dishes after is not my favorite thing to do.)  Photos were taken throughout the house and the grounds outside, and although the temperature was starting to drop, the weather cooperated for the most part.

There wasn’t very much down time, but we would stop to have lunch and dinner, eating all of the food we had prepared for the photos. Sharon plated all of the food with great detail, and we would sit around the table listening to Sharon, David and Jules tell us stories about when Jivamukti first opened 30 years ago.  If I did get a break, I would spend time in the garden with David in the chilly October frost, or watch him feed the deer.

After the photo shoot, I thought my job was done, but over the next few weeks, every once in a while Sharon would email me a recipe, asking me to test it out to make sure the measurements were correct before they went to publishing. I tested recipes like her chocolate ice cream cake, pesto and cheesy dipping sauce. How could I resist! They are all so wonderful!

I spent two days with Sharon in a way I never could have imagined. It was one thing to take yoga classes with her and have her as a teacher, but to cook with her in her own kitchen was something special. She is an amazing vegan cook and takes great care with each of her recipes. For Sharon, and all true yogis, vegan food is yoga. They are one and the same, and Sharon is a great yogi. I am blessed to have been part of this project and can’t wait for the world to experience her recipes! Thank you Sharon for trusting me with them! (And to Gayatri for “lending me out” for three days.) You can pre-order Sharon’s cookbook, Simple Recipes for Joy on Amazon here:

Hari Om!

Categories: Cooking, Recipes, Vegan, Yoga | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Yogi’s Nutritional Guide to a Clean Diet

Join myself and Donnalynn Civello at this amazing workshop! Details below!Yogi's Guide to Nutritional Diet

The Yogi’s Nutritional Guide to a Clean Diet
Tips on Eating Well and Cooking Better
Lecture, Cooking DEMO & Chef Tasting Menu
Saturday, April 20, 2013
3:00 pm – 6:00 pm

What is a clean diet? How do you know if you are eating the right foods? Why do certain foods drain you of your energy and negatively impact your emotions? Why is it so difficult to control your weight these days? Join Ayurvedic Nutritionist, Donnalynn Civello CHHC, AADP and April DeChagas, Vegan Chef as we explore and learn how to easily integrate cleansing and high vibrational foods into our diet. In this interactive workshop, we will learn simple ways to prepare some basic clean meals while learning about the role of food & mood (bad mood foods), acidic & alkaline balance (for maintaining healthy ph), the stress cycle & weight gain, natural healing with herbs & amino acids (natural anti-depressants, stimulants, etc..), organic foods, the merits of a vegan diet, principles of cleansing & detoxing, the world of raw & superfoods and the future of nutrition. Chef Tasting is included. Bring your appetite!

Chef April’s Tasting Menu: Raw Kale-Beet-Peach Salad • Watercress Quinoa Tabouli • Thai Tempeh • Devi Vegan Gluten-Free Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Cookies

SPACE IS LIMITED. Registration is required. Please reserve your space by calling Jivamukti directly at 212.353.0214. Registration deadline is April 18th. Cost: $70/person. Early-Bird special – $65/person by April 1st.

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Vive La France!

For January’s food swap, we have a French theme – recreating a french dish in a veg friendly way. My category was vegetables, and while I thought I was going to have a difficult time coming up with a dish and cookie for 8 with all this cookie madness I have going on, I found a quick and simple, yet super yummy dish in my new favorite cookbook, Vegan Eats World.

So without further ado…

Red Wine Braised Leeks and Mushrooms Red Wine Braised Leeks and Mushrooms

1 pound leeks

10 oz cremini mushrooms, brushed clean and tough ends of stems cut off

3 tbsp olive oil

2 cups dry red wine

1 tsp dried marjoram

1/2 tsp salt, plus additional for sprinkling

4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried

2 tbsp vegan margarine

a few twists of freshly ground pepper

1. Trip away most of the green stalks on the leeks, leaving about an inch near the white part.Slice away the tip of the root end, and slice each leek in half lengthwise. Slice again into sections about 2 1/2 inches long.

2. Slice the mushrooms into quarters. Over medium-high heat, sear the mushrooms in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Fry the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until both sides are browned and mushrooms look juicy, about 4 minutes. Remove from pan and transfer to an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle the mushrooms with a pinch of sea salt, cover with foil, and put in oven set t 250 to keep warm.

3. Heat the remaining olive oil and brown the leeks for 2-3 minutes, Pour in the wine, sprinkle with marjoram and salt, and tuck the thyme sprigs in to the wine. Increase the heat and bring the wine to an active simmer and cover the pan. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Uncover the pan, and using tongs, carefully lift the leeks and arrange on top of the mushrooms. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the juices in the pan to a rapid simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and swirl the margarine in to the juices. Use a wire whisk to continuously stir the sauce until smooth and lightly thickened. Drizzle a bit of sauce over each serving of leeks and mushrooms and serve immediately.

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December Food Swap – Hereditary Holidays!!!

For this month’s food swap, we were each supposed to make a traditional holiday dish from the country of our ancestry. My assignment was to cook a protein. Now while my ancestors from Austria were Jewish, I decided to go with a traditional Christmas meal. (To be honest, I’m kind of tired of potato latkes…)

While researching Austrian Christmas, I kept coming across fried carp as their traditional Christmas Eve dinner. I was not too keen on attempting a vegan fish meal, so decided to keep looking.  The next most popular Austrian holiday dish: wiener schnitzel. Most people think wiener schnitzel comes from Germany, but it is in fact Austrian. To go along with it, it seemed German potato salad was the best side dish, so to make it a bit more fun, healthy and colorful, I went with something else.


Vegan Schnitzel and Roasted Sweet Potato Salad!

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad Vegan Schnitzel

Vegan Schnitzel

  • 5 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 cups Soy Milk
  • 2 teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 1 teaspoons Pepper
  • 4 Tempeh Patties (4 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup Bread Crumbs unseasoned
  • 1/2 cup Organic Parsley chopped
  • Lemon slices to squeeze

Combine 2 tablespoons oil with the soy milk and half the salt and pepper. Marinate the tempeh in this mixture for 15 minutes.

Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining salt and pepper and mix well.

Remove the patties and dip in the bread crumbs until evenly coated on both sides.

Heat the remaining oil and sauté the patties 3 minutes per side until brown. Remove from heat, drain on paper towels, and serve.


Preheat oven to 375°F and place coated tempeh on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes on each side.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons mango chutney
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt, cumin, and ginger directly on baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally, until sweet potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine vinegar, chutney, mustard, honey, garlic, and olive oil in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

Let potatoes cool slightly, then toss them with the cranberries, scallions and chutney dressing. Transfer to serving platter and scatter almonds over top. Serve warm or room temperature.

Categories: Cooking, Holidays, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Month’s Food Swap Theme: Squash It!

It’s squash season! So this month’s food swap theme was called “Squash it!” Each of us were assigned a different type of squash and a meal. My assignment: Delicata squash and dinner.

I wanted to go with something that is quite filling, suitable for a main course, or a stand-alone meal, and decided to go with a chickpea, spinach and squash gnocchi dish. I followed the recipe pretty closely, adding some chopped nuts to the dish as well. I had almonds in the house, but think walnuts would go really really well. I also think next time I make it, I might roast the squash first:



Chickpea, Spinach & Squash Gnocchi


  • 1 pound shelf-stable gnocchi
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced unpeeled delicata squash (1- to 2-inch-long slices) (can also use butternut squash)
  • 1/2 cup sliced shallots (1-2 medium)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 14 oz. vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons currants
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 8 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar reduction
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add gnocchi and cook, stirring often, until starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, squash, shallots and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in broth, currants, sage and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring, until the squash is almost cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Add spinach, chickpeas and the gnocchi and cook, gently stirring, until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes more. Serve drizzled with balsamic reduction.


Categories: Cooking, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Halloween Food Swap!

For the last two years some friends and I have been part of a monthly food swap. Each month we have a different theme, and each of us has a different assignment/category. The categories could be a type of food (i.e. vegetable, greens, proteins, grains or fruit), or sometimes a specific type of meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack – you get the idea). We make 2 portions of our dish for each person in the group to take home, and then we have meals already made for the rest of the week!

Our theme this month was called Monster Mash – we were each given a monster and a food category. My assignment was vampires and vegetables, so I made a roasted red pepper and tomato soup (so all the vampires would have some blood to drink) and decorated it with some MOMA type ghosts and witches and other creepy crawlies using vegan sour cream. (And while everyone’s dish looks amazing, and I can’t wait to eat them, special shout-out to Helen who made Zombie Brain stuffed tomatoes! Picture below!)

AND it was my turn to host, so I got to have some extra special Halloween fun! I did some research on the inter-webs and compiled a few fun and easy recipes, and veganized them where necessary. I had so much fun, I thought I’d share them in time to keep you busy during the “Frankenstorm” in case you get bored 😉

Pumpkin Krispie Treats – fresh4five

Ghostinis with Bloody Murder Sundried Tomato Tapenade – The Food Network

Asparagus Skeletons  – VegSpinz (I changed this one up a bit, using garlic hummus(to keep those vampires away) instead of garlic cream cheese – it was REALLY GOOD!)

Blueberry Rickety Eyeball Punch – The Food Network

And my food swap recipe:

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

4 large red peppers
6 1/2 cups red tomatoes
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup *creme fraiche (I used vegan sour cream)
4 tablespoons unsalted Earth Balance
1 tablespoon vegetable base
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
Sea salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste

In a medium-sized, heavy-bottom sauce pan, melt 1 teaspoon earth balance over medium heat. Add flour and combine well to create a roux. Reduce heat and cook the mixture until light tan in color and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside.

Grill the red peppers or expose to an open flame, turning frequently, until blackened all over. (I just stuck mine directly on the gas burners of my stove-top)

Place the warm, roasted peppers in a paper bag, seal and set aside for 3-4 minutes. Peel off the skin, gently wiping away any remaining black skin from the surface. Slice open the peppers and discard the seeds and any white membrane. Do not rinse the pepper.

If using fresh tomatoes, cut a small X shape into the bottom of each whole tomato. Add tomatoes to a pot of boiling water and cook uncovered for 2 minutes. Remove tomatoes from water using tongs. Peel off the skins and discard.

Using a blender, puree the peppers and tomatoes together until smooth. Use a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds and fiber.

Whisk 1/2 cup of the tomato-pepper mixture into the roux over medium heat and combine well. Working in several batches, add the remaining mixture to the saucepan, blending until smooth.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer covered for 5 minutes, then uncovered for 15 minutes.

Add 1/3 cup coconut milk, vegetable base, tomato paste, sugars. Continue to simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 2-3 minutes then gently whisk in the remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cool, the soup, transfer to a ceramic bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

The following day, heat the soup over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Top with vegan sour cream (as I mentioned, I attempted to make some fun designs, that starting out were supposed to be spider webs, but ended up going with a more artistic interpretation.)

Categories: Cooking, Halloween, Halloween Recipes, Recipes, Vegan, Vegan Halloween | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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