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!
I love this! I became a vegan purely for ethical reasons, and whenever searching for vegan recipes I am frustrated by the fact they are so often gluten free, oil free, or in some other way trying to be healthy. Also, I love(d) the taste of animal products and am always looking for ways to make mock versions of them. That’s why I am so excited about your blog. Thank you for sharing!
Lynda Sandora says
Hi Erin, I stumbled on your website as I was completing my Plant Based Diet through Rouxbe! I was so fortunate to win 3 of their courses by playing Monopoly at Safeway. They had 3 to try so I did Knife Skills, Plant Based & Cook’s Roadmap .On the Cook’s Roadmap, I just have the last 4 course dinner to prepare, but I am still in the process of remodeling our Kitchen/house so I am waiting until I can use my kitchen in it’s entirety! I absolutely love the Rouxbe classes & the structure as well. I am on task #170 of the Plant Based Diet with only 4 more tasks to complete. Congratulations on them waiving their fee for your blog & your husband does amazing photography!
Hi! I JUST now found your site! So happy 🙂 I was searching for a Ramen recipe (I’ve never made it before) and stumbled here.
I have just (barely) started a blog/website but I still have no idea what I am doing- it’s all new to me and I’m not really sure why I am doing it… kinda fun and I love food and drink I suppose.
I plan on trying out lots of your recipes!
I wish my husband was the photographer too.. instead, he bought me a camera haha
Marian Cottle says
I have been following you on Instagram, and today I decided to investigate you more. What a lovely surprise! Thank you for your immense creativity as well as your generous sharing!
Thanks for visiting and your very kind comment … I’m so happy that you like what you see!
Gio Love,Thyme and Honey says
Thank you for sharing your story! Your path into a vegan diet and cooking is truly inspiring.