This page is a little more about Olives for Dinner, and me, Erin, the recipe developer and food stylist here. That’s my husband Jeff who takes most of the photographs you see on this site. Together, we’re happy to share creative and innovative recipes that you’ll love to make as much as you enjoy eating them.
About Olives for Dinner and Erin
Welcome to Olives for Dinner! I’m so glad you’re here.
This is a a vegan food blog for those who love to cook and eat. I focus on vegan seafood dishes like carrot lox, vegan shrimp and crab cakes. I also love veganizing comfort food classics like vegan reubens, pasta with alfredo sauce and vegan New England chowder. Whether you are looking for a fresh salad, a deep-fried dish, or something in between, you’ll find it here!
How my cooking journey began
I remember the first time I tried to prepare tofu: I clumsily cracked open a package of it, cut it up into little cubes, rolled it into some cornmeal and attempted to dry-fry it over high heat. As I bit into the slightly charred and totally tasteless pieces of tofu, I felt nothing but disgust … who could possibly eat this and think it tasted good?
Before I learned to cook, I had an intense dislike for things like tofu and vegetables, because I thought that they were boring and tasteless, which can be partially true, depending on how you approach them. It wasn’t until I learned to prepare them properly—applying the correct methods and techniques, and pairing them with complimentary components and flavors—that I began to truly appreciate them.
My journey to becoming vegan
I’ve always been a vegan mentally—I just didn’t always know it. I ate meat up until high school and then altered between sporadically abstaining from and consuming it during college and my early twenties. Something wasn’t quite right with all this, but I could never put my finger on it. I was always trying to eliminate something from my diet, but lacked the insight to pinpoint exactly what that should be. Then, one day in my mid-twenties, I had an epiphany: if I told people I was a vegetarian, then I wouldn’t have to eat meat. Genius. Something just felt right about it.
But this feeling was short-lived and the urge to eliminate something else from my diet came back. It was gnawing and slightly annoying. One evening, I announced to my then-boyfriend, who is now my husband, “I’m going to go vegan.” He laughed, then said, “are you serious?” and then, “what is that again?”That was more than 15 years ago and, since then, I’ve felt a definitive and overwhelming peace, as well as a large sense of relief about my decision.
My cooking experience before I went vegan
When I first went vegan, I never really cooked or had any experience in the kitchen. In fact, I could barely boil water, found cookbooks to be amazingly boring and never watched a cooking show. My current diet reflected this and I was bored to death with figuring out what to eat. I slowly began to scour vegan blogs and cookbooks like Vegan with a Vengeance for ideas and found out that I could actually cook. After a few years of studying and replicating other vegan cooking ideas and methods I saw on other food blogs, I thought: I could totally do this myself, and created Olives for Dinner in January 2011.
My professional cooking experience
I’m a 2015 graduate of Rouxbe’s Plant-Based Professional Certification Course. You can follow my six-month journey through a series of posts I wrote while taking the course:
- Read my post about my thoughts on starting my journey.
- Check out some tasks I started to perform at the start of the course.
- Here are some more things I was doing six weeks into the course.
- Here’s my halfway point!
- This is a recap of the pasta portion of the course. I loved it!
- Here’s what I was doing five months into the course.
- I was so happy to graduate from this fantastic online course at the six-month mark. Everyone at Rouxbe was so super supportive and made the course fun, challenging and so memorable.
Rouxbe had a huge impact on my cooking experience, and I was able to implement better cooking techniques and think more like a chef in the kitchen.
What I mainly focus on here
On this blog, I specifically enjoy veganizing classic comfort food, with a focus on vegan seafood and East Asian-inspired dishes. A few things about my views towards vegan food in general and the recipes on this blog:
Most of them are not low-fat
In fact, I use lots of oils and nuts to introduce and impart a richness and depth of flavor into tofu and vegetables. Fat is good, fat is flavor.
Ethical veganism and dietary perfection are not the same thing
I am an ethical vegan. Ethical veganism (for me) is motivated by compassion and empathy, which is based on feelings and emotions—a gut reaction. This is completely opposite from dietary perfection, which is based on logic and sometimes fueled by anxiety, and is often and unfortunately perceived as the same thing. Veganism for me is about adding things to your diet, and enjoying flavors and cooking—without the use of animal products. Therefore, the recipes you’ll find on this blog may not always be 100% healthy, but they are all 100% vegan.
I use hot sauces liberally and frequently
Nothing is better than the taste of sriracha, fresh habanero or chili flakes.
Recipes on this blog are not representative of how I eat all of the time
Most days of the week I am eating plainly prepared fresh kale and tofu, beans, smoothies, oatmeal and tea. While this blog has many practical recipes for everyday use, others represent fun and creative ideas that pop into my head during the week.
I can’t stress enough how important pressing is when preparing tofu. Read all about it.
I use, create and love mock meat and cheeses
People often ask me why I continue to create and eat things that taste like meat and dairy if my diet, by definition, excludes them. I didn’t become vegan because I hated the taste of these things—I removed them from my diet because consuming “the real thing” did not sit well with me.
It’s all about balance
I try to keep a balance here of “quick and easy” or weeknight recipes that utilize common ingredients and easy techniques with more elaborate and time-consuming recipes that utilize harder-to-find and more difficult techniques. Embracing both enables me to challenge myself in different ways and allows me (and perhaps you!) to be more creative and daring in the kitchen.
I believe that presentation is as important as taste
I love arranging and plating pretty food. My husband is a fantastic photographer who really understands light and composition, and makes the photos you see on this site possible.
I realize that a vegan diet isn’t for everyone; however, I would like to debunk the myth that vegan food is tasteless, boring and inaccessible. I hope that my blog doesn’t just tell you this, but shows you this, and proves to be easy to replicate in any kitchen with any pantry items, at all levels of cooking abilities and within various time intervals.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my dry-fried cornmeal tofu catastrophe marked the beginning of my culinary journey. Since then, I’ve transformed that disgust into delight, and have thoroughly enjoyed every step along the way. I hope that my blog and recipes can inspire you in your own journey, in the same way other vegan blogs have inspired mine.
Questions? Contact me!
Are you, by chance, creating a cookbook? I love being able to peruse a book and have the recipes on a more reliable basis
Betty Mankiller says
My culinary journey is nearly identical to yours! The first time I ate tofu it was so bland and repugnant, that I felt like it was an insult to my taste buds. Now, I am a chef and create unique vegan food with an Italian-Hispanic- Middle Easten flare. I’ve found that since having gone vegan that I eat/create/serve/share far more interesting and unique foods in comparison to the standard American fare. Your insight and recipes (which I admittedly have never followed to the letter) have provided endless amounts of inspiration and excitement. I thoroughly enjoy your perspective, taste and beautiful food porn! Thank you for doing what you do. If you’re ever in Orange County, California, I’d love to work with you to create something truly unique and memorable. Cheers!
Betty, thanks for your comment! I love hearing that you also don’t follow recipes to the letter (I find I enjoy cooking the most when I’m not forced to write every step and measurement down, or follow exact steps either) and I love that it’s provided inspiration to you. We were recently in California (South Bay) for 3 years, but moved back to Boston half a year ago. I definitely miss the food scene and people there — the vegan food options were insane there!
I read quite a few food blogs but yours is by far the most gourmet. I get excited every time I see your email. I too stopped eating animals because of the utter cruelty they face every single day. All the more reason I so enjoy your recipes.
Thank you for always sharing!
Lauren Bellon says
Erin I am trying to email you with the address online but it is not working. This is Lauren from the Fillo Factory. Can you email me and I’ll respond? Thanks!
My husband and I are just started our Vegan Journey. Your blog is just what we were looking for. We have so many questions and I have found many answers on your blog. If you can recommend the basics for our pantry that would be very helpful. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for your comment — I’m so happy to hear that! I don’t have a list of pantry recommendations, but these cookbooks have great pantry standard sections to get you started:
But I Could Never Go Vegan! by Kristy Turner
Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
Veganize It! by Robin Robertson (it shows you how to make your own pantry staples!)
For more cookbooks with relevant info, check out my resource page (scroll all the way towards the bottom) — they all have great guidance there as well: https://olivesfordinner.com/resources