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Why a flexible kitchen makes healthier, tastier plant-based meals

We hate to reinforce any kind of stereotype here at Around the House, but we’re afraid we have to agree with flexitarian friendly Susan Hoy that vegans can be a teensy-weensy bit aggressive in the defence of their plant-based meals. Understandably so, of course. Because no doubt they occupy higher moral ground. But while I am really enjoying plant-forward cooking, no vegan will ever convinced me that chick pea water can be whipped cream.

Flexitarian eating is user-friendly

“Absolutely vegans are known to be exclusive, “ suggests Hoy. “If you don’t do it perfectly, you are not welcome.”

Hoy has a more relaxed attitude to food, partly acquired after almost twenty years of cooking for high-end bistros, private catering, and personal chef services. Then, burnt out by the high-stress industry, the Canadian Chef de Cuisine decided to retrain an agrologist—a soil, vegetation, and water specialist.

The career detour, she says, was rooted in a lifelong love of gardens, vegetation, hiking, and getting her hands dirty in fresh soil—along with a sense of the connection between healthy soil and human health.

Hoy uses gentle persuasion to advocate for plant-based meals. Pic; Cabico&Co

Today, Hoy’s generous, flexitarian approach to healthy cooking and food defines Flora Foods, one of a handful of innovators in plant-based meals that’s changing the way food is produced, prepared, and brought to our homes. Hoy, along with business partner Sheryl Anderson, is bringing both areas of knowledge to the new venture.

Together, they invite everyone to their table: plant-based curious, lifelong vegans, those concerned for the environment, folks who want to eat a little healthier, and busy types who love the convenience of a meal delivery service.

The career swerve makes sense, in retrospect.

“When you look at it in the rear-view mirror, it all lines up, and it’s all rooted in me knowing the impact of poor soil on nutrition.”

In her own words

Of plant-based cooking, Hoy says “the more people taste it, the more the realize ‘oh the flavour is the same, the texture is the same, and I am not hungry in a half an hour because I ate lettuce for dinner’. It helps people feel better, and that gives me goose bumps.

Flora Foods currently makes about 400 plant-based meals for delivery each Monday to Calgary-area homes. There are also a few pick-up points. Food is prepared in a ghost kitchen—just before delivery, Hoy points out—and packed in reusable glass containers.

I’ve been using the Breville Joule to explore new methods for flexitarian and plant-based meals.

The business is successful enough that a retail space for meals and house-brand specialties will open soon. The boutique market will sell items like house-made plant-based fish and Worcester sauces because ”the ones that are  on the market have so much stuff that people don’t want in their food anymore.”

Menus rotate every twelve weeks, with six dishes each week. “That opens up a lot of choice for people as well as room for my chefs to stay fresh and create,” says Hoy, adding that crowd favourites—like meatloaf—pop up on twice a season.

Pantry goods like lentil burgers are a tasty alternative to fast food or take out.  If you have a sweet tooth, you can stock on strawberry streusel squares and chocolate sesame brownie bites. Other staples, like vegan Caesar Salad dressing make it quick and easy to add a hearty salad to any meal.

A welcoming approach to vegan eating

Hoy’s flexitarian approach to plant-based diets is gently encouraging, “No-one needs anyone barking at them,” says Hoy. She’d rather make room for people who want to cut down on grocery spending, are looking into it for health or ethical reasons, and those who are simply curious, adventurous eaters.

Using a delivery service is a good way to dip your toe into plant-based eating, suggests Hoy. “The first impression for a lot of people is that it’s all going to be processed foods and made with weird things that they are not familiar with. But they’re not. They are made with beans and lentils and pulses that have been recreated to imitate and mimic that conventional dish.”

P.S. I thought the menu sounded so delicious that I got a gift card for one of my beloved girls, who lives in Calgary. I’ll report back soon!


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