Haile Thomas is a 15-year-old "plant-powered teen chef" as she calls herself on her website, an advocate for healthy food and living, and spokesperson for Sweetleaf Stevia Sweeteners. Committed to spreading the word about the benefits of eating well, she founded the HAPPY organization in Tucson, Arizona, which addresses the need for low cost nutrition information for young people in underserved communities. We caught up the busy teenager to ask a few questions about her eating and cooking styles.
VT: What is your favorite dessert recipe these days?
I’ve been into perfecting vegan gluten-free desserts. Whether it’s cinnamon rolls, cookies, or donuts, I’m always looking for ways to use different flours and healthier ingredients, especially superfoods. I’m also into experimenting with adding veggies to my sweet recipes. Recently I made Purple Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls, and they were so delicious and of course nutritious! I love these types of recipes because I’m able to be super creative and find ways to make them tasty and healthful.
VT: What dish would you make for a non-vegan to show how great-tasting vegan food can be?
I believe that bold and bright flavors are the key to making anyone swoon over a vegan dish! But, I especially love to make my Jamaican Mushroom Curry over Garlic Polenta. It’s a perfect mix of bold and delicate spices, plus contrasting textures of chewiness and creaminess. The mushrooms have a meaty texture that can be pretty convincing too.
VT: What do you like about using stevia in recipes?
I like using SweetLeaf Stevia Sweeteners because they are super versatile and can be used in virtually any recipe that requires sugar. But because they are natural sweeteners, they're a much healthier alternative (& zero calorie!) to other highly processed artificial sweeteners with no health benefits.
VT: Any tips for swapping out sugar in recipes and using stevia instead?
When using stevia, I usually follow a couple guidelines to insure my recipe turns out the best it can!
1. Stevia isn’t a one-to-one conversion with sugar. It is 200 or 300 times sweeter than other sugars, so it’s important to find a balance. I like to use the Stevia Conversion Calculator on SweetLeaf’s website for a perfect ratio. http://sweetleaf.com/stevia-conversion-calculator/
2. Stevia on it’s own has a unique yet strong and sweet flavor, so combining it with other powerhouse flavors balances that flavor profile. I like to combine stevia with cinnamon or nutmeg in baking.
3. Trust your tastebuds! Remember, cooking is all about making meals that suit your liking. As you experiment with Stevia be sure to taste as you go and follow your judgement.