with author, Annie Oliverio about her vegan journey, lifestyle and especially, her new book!
I have personally struggled with overwhelming cravings for salty or sweet comfort foods on
many occasions, so I know how powerful that experience can be–as well as how important
it is to feed those cravings with healthy choices instead of junk food.
Whether you need something salty, sweet, spicy, comforting, crunchy, or chocolate–the recipes in
Crave Eat Heal are designed to help you indulge all your cravings and give your body the nutrition
With tantalizing whole food, vegan recipes, like Creamy Thai Carrot Coconut Soup, “Parmesan” Pita
Chips, and Chocolate-coated Key Lime Coconut Cream Pie, Crave Eat Heal gives you healthy options
while nourishing your body and satisfying your most demanding cravings.
All recipes are free of animal products, refined sugar, are low in oil (many contain no oil), and are
gluten‐free or have gluten‐free options.
Sounds good to me!
I first discovered Annie at her blog, An Unrefined Vegan, one of my favorite sources for healthy and
delectable vegan recipes and the home of the Virtual Vegan Potluck and like everyone she has an
Before escaping the mean city streets for the windy plains of Oklahoma, Annie was an administrative
assistant and office manager at a subscription fulfillment company in Boulder, a think-tank in Santa Monica,
a university in Cambridge, in the Green Zone in Baghdad, and a non-profit in D.C.
Now she spends most of her time roaming the pastures, baking bread, stirring pots, writing, reading,
trying to solve crossword puzzles (with a pen and a lot of Wite-Out), and blogging at An Unrefined Vegan
and Virtual Vegan Potluck.
Annie lives in blissful satellite–and cable-free isolation with her husband, Kel, and their only son, Ike
(part dachshund, part Labrador).
Urban Naturale: Thank you for agreeing to share with us.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Annie: You started with the toughest question there is!
I grew up in a small town in Ohio, a very shy, artsy bookworm with the unfortunate combination of curly
thick eyeglasses, and shiny metal braces (needless to say my teen years were rough!) I went on to earn
a bachelor’s degree in fine arts – which I put to absolutely no use whatsoever!
To make ends meet, I developed my computer and typing skills and became an office manager and
Don’t be fooled – this “career” path took me to places like Santa Monica, CA; Boulder, CO; Boston, MA;
Moscow, Russia; Yerevan, Armenia; Baghdad, Iraq, and Washington, DC! Not bad for a pencil-pusher, right?
And no, I don’t and didn’t work for the CIA!
I met my future husband in a gym in Washington, DC, and we both decided we’d had enough of big cities
and looked for places where we could get a big piece of unspoiled land for not a whole lot of money.
Oklahoma turned out to be that place. After settling in for a few years, I took up blogging to fill in some long,
hot summer hours.
That led to teaching myself to take better photos, which in turn led me to getting some paid gigs as a food
photographer for cookbook authors Somer McCowan, Kathy Hester, and Robin Robertson.
That and my blog, An Unrefined Vegan, are what I focus on each day.
Perhaps my proudest achievement, however, is having the best son in the world – a Lab/Dachshund
mix named Ike (after President Dwight Eisenhower) who wandered out of the woods one day and
straight into our hearts.
I’m a runner and occasional yogini who loves to do crossword puzzles, read non-fiction, and bake bread.
Urban Naturale: What motivated you to become vegan? Was it a quick switch or a
gradual transition? Tell us about your vegan journey?
Annie: Up until my late 30s I ate a pretty terrible diet: lots of refined foods and tons of sugar.
When one is young, one can get away with it, but in aging, bad habits have a way of catching up.
In an effort to lose what was becoming a “spare tire,” I stopped eating white sugar – and then for
some reason, I rented Supersize Me and it got me to take a long, hard look at not only what I was
eating, but at the food industry as well.
Supersize Me led me to Eric Schlosser’s eye-opening book, Fast Food Nation and I became vegetarian –
literally overnight – after reading the chapter about the way cattle is processed to feed our seemingly
unending appetite for meat.
But it took a PETA pamphlet, my brother’s diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, and The China Study
to convince me to stop consuming dairy.
For the first time it hit home that the foods I put into my body had a direct relationship with how it
functioned, how it healed, and how I felt.
I’ve never missed meat, dairy, or seafood, and have never looked back with longing to my old
way of eating.
Urban Naturale: How do you plan your vegan meals for the week? How do you make
sure to meet your nutritional needs?
Annie: I’m a list-maker and planner–one of those people who absolutely must have a detailed and
organized list before going to the grocery store.
(I actually divide my list into store sections: pantry/produce/baking/frozen/non-dairy/other so I
can get in and get out of the store quickly and without too much aimless wandering.)
So once a week, I sit down with a stack of cookbooks and write down what I need for about a week’s
worth of meals.
I don’t overthink the nutritional side of my diet; I just make sure to get a good balance of fresh
fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lots of beans, nuts & seeds, and of course fresh greens every
single day. Processed foods (other than tofu) have no place in my cupboards anymore.
Every other year I get a blood workup from my doctor to find out how my D3 and B12 levels are.
Right now I’m working on getting my D up, so I’ve been taking a raw multivitamin and additional
Urban Naturale: What do you eat/drink for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks
in a typical day?
Annie: I don’t want to think too much in the morning, so on weekdays the menu is a green smoothie
(with a rotating list of ingredients depending on what I have and what’s fresh–my favorite is pineapple/
mango/banana/kale) plus a bowl of overnight oats and/or other whole grains topped with dried fruit
Saturday and Sunday are special days in our household.
On Saturday we have whole grain pancakes and on Sunday, whole grain waffles.
Always topped with nut butter, sliced bananas, and cacao nibs.
Lunches are usually leftovers–right now from meals prepared for a cookbook photography job I’m
completing–but if not, I’ll cook up a quick bean-based soup and add veggies from the refrigerator.
I could live on soup!
I’m a big proponent of tea-time.
At about 3 each afternoon, my husband and I stop what we are doing and meet over a cup of tea and
usually toast with peanut butter, or apple quarters dressed in…you guessed it, nut butter.
I like to keep dinner fairly light and right now we are eating giant salads (we are lucky to be able to
grow our own greens) loaded with chopped veggies, spicy marinated tofu, and beans followed by a
bowl of mixed fruit – usually orange, berries, kiwi, grapes–for dessert.
Urban Naturale: What have been your greatest challenges as a vegan? How do you handle
Annie: In many ways my own parents have been the biggest challenge (though of course there are lots
of little challenges like finding places to eat out or trying to explain to someone what you don’t eat and why).
While they are proud of what I’ve accomplished since changing the way that I eat, I think that they have
difficulty understanding why I did it and why I continue to do it.
The connection between food, health, and animal welfare that is so clear to me, is not so to them.
I have a feeling part of it is that they feel that my choices are a judgment about their choices –
which it absolutely is not.
Although I would love for my parents (and the whole world!) to go vegan, I understand that
the reality is that for many, my choices seem extreme and maybe even a bit militant.
I don’t want to distance them by preaching.
After all, I came to veganism in my own way and time and I need to respect the right for everyone
else to do the same – or to not do the same.
Urban Naturale: Is your family vegan as well? If not, how do you juggle the dietary
preferences of family members?
Annie: I’m married, but don’t have kids–and my husband went vegetarian and then vegan right
along with me.
I feel so lucky to have a partner who trusted the changes I suggested, was encouraging and supportive,
and now is as passionate about veganism and plant-based eating as am I.
It really made for a painless transition.
I can’t imagine living in a split household or making separate meals!
That would be really hard.
Urban Naturale: When you want to dine out, what are your favorite vegan
or vegan-friendly restaurants?
Annie: I need to first set this up a bit. My husband and I live on a 160-acre ranch in the middle
of rural Oklahoma.
One major city is 90 minutes away; the other is 2 hours away.
In our small town there are 2 BBQ joints, 4 diners, and several fast food places.
So, living where we do, the best place to eat is…our own home!
However, when we do go into one of the cities there are vegan options, though one has to do
Indian restaurants have good options, as do Thai and Middle Eastern places.
Sometimes we just go to the food bar at Whole Foods.
The environment is changing slowly here – with nut milks being offered at most coffee shops,
vegan items showing up on menus, plentiful options at various “health food” markets (Oklahoma
now boasts 3 Whole Foods; when I moved here 8 years ago there were none) and advocacy groups
that are active and thriving.
Q. What is your professional mission/vision? What are you hoping to achieve?
Annie: I’ve never been career-oriented.
I kind of go where the wind blows – and right now the wind is blowing towards work as a food
I’d like to see this part of my life grow.
But I’m also okay if it doesn’t.
I’m lucky to be in a situation where I can work from home and call most of my time my own.
And, on a personal level, I’d love to learn how to slow down, relax, and enjoy the beautiful,
small moments that happen during each day.
As I get older, I realize that life really is short and that we spend too much of it looking forward
to the next thing instead of savoring what we have.
I’m nearing the half-century mark of my life and I haven’t really figured out how to balance
what was, what is, and what is coming!
Urban Naturale: Congratulations on your new
Crave Eat Heal cookbook!
What motivated you to develop this book?
Annie: Thank you, Deborah! It’s been an incredibly good and an incredibly stressful experience!
I feel very fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to write a book and see it come to print.
Writing a cookbook was never part of my plan, but I was approached by a publishing company
about the possibility and after some hashing out, we came to an agreement and I got to work.
Because of my brother’s condition that I mentioned above and the effects it had on my own life
and way of eating, they asked me to develop a cookbook that focused on healthy and healing foods.
The idea of cravings and satisfying them in a healthful way came to me because I am–like many
of your readers, probably–often subject to intense longings for something sweet or tart or spicy
Although we recognize that those cravings are usually about something other than being hungry,
it’s possible to quiet those intense “needs” with food that nourishes rather than with over-processed,
over-sweetened, fatty, or salty junk.
Urban Naturale: Tell us about the types of recipes you included? How did you choose
the recipes to include in this book?
Annie: The cookbook is broken down into typical cravings (Crunchy, Carbs, Sweet, Tart, Spicy,
Chocolate, Comforting, and so on) so each chapter includes both sweet and savory recipes.
It is 100% plant-based and the focus is on whole, unprocessed foods.
Many of the recipes contain no added oil and are gluten-free – and all of them have no-oil and
I use only maple syrup, stevia, dates, and other fruits as sweeteners.
Once I identified which cravings to include, I went about creating recipes that satisfied them.
Recipes testers (and my husband) helped me to weed out those that just weren’t working and
to fine-tune those that were.
Happily, I had 100% freedom from my publisher when it came to writing the text and the recipes.
Urban Naturale: What are your favorite features of this book of the book, and why?
Annie: I have to say I was kind of pleased that the publisher loved the idea of the book being
broken down into cravings. I was afraid that they would want me to sort it in a conventional way,
and that freedom really allowed me to get creative.
I’m also proud that all of the photographs are mine – and that I learned so, so much about photo-
graphy during this project.
Finally, I brought along a bunch of friends to help me with recipes!
Several of my friends each contributed one of their recipes and their unique takes on vegan food
really helped round out the cookbook.
I’m grateful for their generosity and support.
Urban Naturale: We would love for you to select a sample recipe to share with us.
Annie: As I mentioned above, we eat oats or grains every weekday morning and sometimes we
have to change things up.
This easy recipe uses steel-cut oats which have such a nice chew.
If you soak them overnight, they cook up in less than 10 minutes.
And these oats contain my favorite food: nut butter!
Baked Almond Butter & Apricot Oatmeal
The origins of this recipe come from my month-long peanut butter and jelly blog posts in honor
of Vegan Month of Food–a yearly blogging event where vegans from all over the world commit
to sharing at least 20 vegan-centric recipes, articles, information, and commentary during the
month of September.
Based on feedback from my recipe testers, I made a few small but important changes to the original recipe.
Gluten-free, Oil-free, Easy
Baked Almond Butter & Apricot Oatmeal
1 cup uncooked gluten-free steel-cut oats
2 cups water
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated or minced
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. dried ginger
1/3 cup smooth or chunky natural almond butter
Zest of 1/2 an orange
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
Slivered almonds for garnish, optional
Combine the steel-cut oats and 2 cups water in a medium-sized saucepan and
let sit for several hours or overnight.
Place 4 ramekins on a small baking pan and preheat oven to 350-degrees.
You can also use an 8-inch x 8-inch baking dish.
Bring the oats/water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until
oats are tender, about 10 minutes.
Add more water if the mixture becomes too dry.
Stir in the ginger, apricots, cinnamon, almond butter, salt, and orange zest.
When the almond butter is fully incorporated, remove the oats from the heat and
stir in the milk and orange juice.
Divide the oat mixture between the 4 ramekins or scrape into the baking dish
and bake for 10 minutes.
Sprinkle oatmeal with slivered almonds, if using.
Prep time: 8-12 hours soaking
Cook time: 20 minutes
For extra fruitiness, top the oatmeal with spoonfuls of your favorite fruit-sweetened jam
or jelly, or sprinkle on fresh berries.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Annie Oliverio and Front Table Books.
Urban Naturale: What tips or advice do you have for people who want to transition to a plant-
based diet, who are worried that it will be difficult to give up their favorite foods?
Annie: I think the first step is to have an honest conversation with one’s self about why they
are considering making this dietary and lifestyle shift.
Is it for animal welfare?
Or is the goal to lose weight, it’s the latest fad, or because someone famous is doing it?
To make veganism and plant-based eating “stick,” one has to be truly committed to the reason why–
and the why needs to be something real and personally meaningful.
Otherwise it’s going to be impossible to stay with it.
I know that for some people, making a 180-degree change overnight is not only possible, it’s ideal
That’s totally cool. But for the rest of us, I think that it’s important to make changes at one’s own pace.
This not only takes the scariness out of change, but helps make that change a lasting one.
And, finally, it’s vital to be realistic about one’s self and to drop the self-guilt.
Many people have expressed to me that they feel guilty that they haven’t gone 100% vegan “overnight,”
that they still eat cheese or they “slipped up” and ate some ice cream when out with friends.
Moving to and becoming a vegan should feel good and positive, not negative.
Urban Naturale: How can our readers contact you?
Annie: I’d love to hear from them!
Please visit my website at anunrefinedvegan.com and leave a comment on a post or shoot me an
email at firstname.lastname@example.org to say hello!
Deborah, thank you so much for being a part of the virtual book tour for Crave Eat Heal.
You asked some really thoughtful and thought-provoking questions and I had a lot of fun responding.
I admire you and your blog and it’s an honor to be “here” today!
Thank you so much for sharing with us, Annie. I appreciate it!
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