Lauri: Tell me a little about growing up in Minnesota.
Kristin: I grew up in Glencoe, a farming community in Minnesota (dairy land!) a town where my grandparents lived, my parents grew up and raised us and now my sister and her family are still living. Needless to say, not many people move away.
Growing up, my parents were always working on one home project or another. Before I was born, they built the house I grew up in from the ground up, not having much construction background. My family's business was a Goodyear Tire shop called Sam's Tire (my maiden name was Samuelson, and Sam was my grandfather's nickname and later on became mine when I was in the Army Reserves and throughout college). I believe since I grew up in that kind of home-renovation environment, it just became part of my DNA.
During my senior year of high school, I joined the Army Reserves, mainly as a way to afford my college education. Neither my parents, nor grandparents had gone to college and my family did not have the financial resources to pay for college. After my initial military basic and job training, I started college at Minnesota State University. I originally started taking business classes and realized I needed something more creative. I switched my minor to marketing and ended up graduating with a B.S. in Interior Design and Construction Management.
Lauri: And now you live in Siskiyou County. How did that happen?
Kristin: After college I moved to San Diego, because I swore I would "never live in a small town or anywhere it snows ever again!" (you can see how well that worked out, right?!). In San Diego I worked in Solana Beach for a custom furniture manufacturer and designed custom upholstered pieces, it was a very creative job and I loved working with people to design every aspect of a piece of furniture. After a little while, I wanted a change, and went to work for a large model home design firm. They did high end model home design all over Southern California and throughout the United States. It was a great job as well, but while living in San Diego, I had my first daughter and was getting tired of the commute and busyness, so when an opportunity came up to move to Dunsmuir and buy a house, my husband at the time (now ex) and I moved. I started at Edgewood Custom Interiors in 2005, less than a week after moving to Siskiyou County.
Lauri: How did you get the nick name The Blind Lady?
Kristin: My role at Edgewood has changed as the business has changed throughout the years. Originally, I was hired to sell furniture and be the in-house interior designer. A little over a year of starting at Edgewood, I started helping people with Hunter Douglas window coverings and filling in at our Mt Shasta store, ECI Flooring, working with people on floor coverings as well. Today, we no longer sell furniture, but I am still very active in every other aspect. Every so often someone jokingly calls me the "blind lady" when they see me out and about (like I've never heard that one before!).
Lauri: What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
Kristin: One of my favorite things is working with people in their homes and seeing their spaces. I find myself not only helping people with their window coverings, but giving them advice on paint colors and space planning. I love that a lot of my "clients" have become friends! There is something to be said for living in a small knit community. I know that if I would still be in San Diego, or another bigger city, I wouldn't create nearly as many connections as I do with people here in Siskiyou County.
Lauri: How is California eating different from how you grew up?
Kristin: Ok, getting onto food: Obviously, coming from MN, I grew up in a family that ate meat, potatoes and not much else! I think I ate dairy with every single meal. I was a cheese-aholic, loved the stuff! To give you an example of how little vegetables we ate, our salads were iceberg lettuce with Hidden Valley ranch dressing. Fruit was either canned peaches (on top of cottage cheese of course) or fruit cocktail. I'll never forget when my mom came to visit me in California, and I made a breakfast scramble with avocado and she freaked out because I was using a "raw" avocado, "aren't you going to cook that?!" Obviously, we never had avocado growing up!
Lauri: Now you've changed eating a plant-based or vegan diet?
Kristin: Yes, for me to change my diet about 4 years ago from a cheese-loving, meat-eating, not very vegetable-based way of eating, it was quite the change! I can't really say what facilitated the switch to a plant-based diet. I watched a few documentaries like Forks Over Knives and Vegucated. Those were a big eye opener, and as I began to educate myself on what I was putting in my body the foods I was used to eating were sounding less and less appealing. (I recommend What the Health and Cowspiracy as well!!!)
Lauri: What has been the hardest part about making this kind of change in what you eat?
Kristin: Cheese was the last big hold out for me, because I ate so much of it and it was such a big part of my diet. I mean, pizza, enchiladas, mac and cheese! But a funny thing happened and as I went without it for a couple weeks and then longer, I no longer craved it and I realized how much better I felt without eating it. A side effect of going vegan was the compassion for animals. I made the connection to what I was eating and realized that I can eat amazing foods without harming animals, and I haven't looked back. I joke that I'm a cow-hugging, tree-loving, kale-eating herbivore!
Nowadays, I am eating mostly a whole food plant-based diet, which means no oils, or processed foods as well as no meat, dairy, eggs or animal products of any kind. It is amazing what you can do with plants. I definitely do not deprive myself and this is not a "diet' for me as much as it is a lifestyle. I don't limit myself and count calories/carbs/fats. I just eat plants!
Lauri: I love your passion about 'just eating plants'. It sounds like you have figure it out for you and you family.
Kristin: I make a mean cashew-based cheese sauce and buffalo cauliflower poppers that would rival anything you'd find at a sports bar! Really, it's been a learning experience and having to educate myself on a new way of cooking. I have such a passion for this way of eating and I am looking to share it with others. I'm not quite sure what direction I will take, whether it is helping people individually by teaching them how to cook plant-based meals or if it will be just creating nutritious foods for my family. I did recently receive my Certification in Plant Based Nutrition from eCornell's T. Colin Campbell's Center for Nutrition Studies.
Lauri: I know there are options for eating out for vegetarians and vegans. What are your favorite local eatery?
Kristin: Eating out locally has been interesting. I have my few go to restaurants where I know I will be able to order something plant based. It really isn't that difficult, but the funny thing is - I don't like salads!!! I tend to go for a heartier meal when I'm going out to eat, so I love The Wheelhouse in Dunsmuir. Link here to read The Bill Plate review of The Wheelhouse. They have a vegan BLT that is made with tempeh bacon that is out of this world!
Also, Mexican restaurants are usually easy for me to find something. Casa Ramos (Link here to read The Bill Plate review of Casa Ramos.) has their Enchilada Espinaca (spinach and mushroom enchilada), but I have to make a few tweaks, like no cheese or sour cream, also, no refried beans since theirs are made with lard, and cilantro rice instead of their Mexican rice (which uses chicken broth). My absolute favorite breakfast dish is Seven Suns Veggie burrito, substitute tofu for the eggs and nix the cheese. And even though I said I don't like salads, I make an exception for the Signature Salad (again omit the blue cheese) at Jefferson's RoadHouse. It is absolutely amazing!!! Link here to read The Bill Plate Review of Jefferson's Roadhouse.
Creamy Vegan Wild Rice Soup
Lauri: What's one of your favorite comfort foods? One you are willing to share the recipe with our readers?
Kristin: Below is the recipe for one of my favorite dishes Creamy Vegan Wild Rice Soup. It isn't my recipe - it's from one of the many blogs I follow Life Is No Yoke. Growing up in Minnesota, Chicken Wild Rice Soup was a staple so I searched everywhere for a vegan plant-based version and this one is as good if not better than the original. Typically, Chicken Wild Rice Soup has (of course) chicken and chicken broth, but also heavy cream, butter and sometimes vegetable oil, all of which I don't eat anymore! So to find a recipe that actually tasted like what I had growing up, but a much healthier version was so difficult. The key to cooking without cream or milk when making cream based soups is soaked cashews and white beans! It sounds strange, but I've used it in cheese based sauces, alfredo pasta sauce and in this recipe and it is amazing! I did upgrade to a Vitamix Blender a couple of years ago because as you can imagine, blending cashews to a smooth and not gritty consistency is key if you want a creamy sauce. It was definitely a splurge, but I highly recommend it for anyone transitioning to a plant based diet. I'm a texture person and if I had to eat something that was grainy or had a gritty texture, I probably would have had a hard time with this way of eating. I typically serve this soup with a heated up loaf of sourdough bread and it is the ultimate comfort food. Especially on cold fall or winter days, it is like a hug in a bowl! I eat WAY more than one serving and sometimes even make a double batch so I have leftovers for lunches!
Creamy Vegan Wild Rice Soup
wild rice - 1 cup (160 g)
vegetable broth - 64 oz (2 L)
bay leaves - 2 whole
dried thyme* - to your taste (we use 1 Tbsp. (4.3 g))
salt - 2 tsp. (5.69 g) + more to taste
celery - 4 ribs chopped
carrots - 1 cup chopped (128 g)
onion - 1/2 whole chopped
garlic - 4-6 cloves chopped
mushrooms - 8 oz chopped (225 g)
cashews (raw/unsalted) - 1 cup soaked (125 g)
cannellini (white kidney) beans - 15 oz can (425 g)
Soak cashews overnight if possible
If not, soak in boiling water as soon as you see this, the longer the better
Pour 1 cup (8 oz) of broth in a small bowl to the side
Heat the rest of the vegetable broth in large pot on medium heat
Rinse and drain your wild rice
Add wild rice, thyme, bay leaves, and salt to your hot vegetable broth
Place lid on pot and set a 30 min timer
Chop celery, carrots, onion, and garlic
Put in pot w/broth, replace lid
Chop mushrooms, reserve on side
Drain soaked cashews and the liquid from the cannellini beans
Place cashews & beans in Vitamix container
Add reserved cup of vegetable broth
Blend on high for 1-2 minutes until smooth
When your timer goes off, add the creamy Vitamix mixture to your pot
Add the chopped mushrooms
Set timer for 15 more min
When timer goes off, check if wild rice is done (should be a bit chewy)
Remove bay leaves