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Friends Of GRAIN: Q&A With Gena Hamshaw

We were so excited to partner with Gena Hamshaw this week to giveaway two copies of her amazing new cookbook, Power Plates. Gena is the creator of The Full Helping, a blog that has been on the forefront of promoting a healthy plant-based lifestyle since the very early days of blogging. 

We took a moment to chat with Gena and ask her a few questions about food, blogging, and her new favourite app. Looking for two amazing plant-based recipes featured right here on the Journal? Head here for Gena's Vegan Black Bean Burger, and here for her delicious Sweet Potato Bowls.

Q&A with Gena Hamshaw of The Full Helping

You’ve been sharing plant-based wisdom since the early days of food blogging. How/Why did you start blogging?

It originally started as a way to share my considerable and newfound passion for vegan cooking. I was so excited about the stuff I was making, and I was a reader of vegan food blogs, so I felt tempted to be a part of the space. I didn't ever imagine it would become a professional path, but I'm so glad it did. 

What is the best piece of advice you would give someone who is new to a plant-based diet? 

Keep it simple, but approach it from an informed perspective. On the one hand, I think that plant-based eating can be incredibly intuitive and totally low key: pair grains and beans and vegetables and other vegan proteins together with a good sauce or two, and you're basically good to go. 

On the other hand, I do think that it's helpful to approach the transition to plant-based eating with a strong foundation of knowledge. Check out Ginny Messina's Vegan for Life, Brenda Davis' Becoming Vegan, or spend some time on the VRG. It's very helpful to have a working sense of how to source enough iron, calcium, and yes, protein on a vegan diet. Familiarizing yourself (or re-familiarizing yourself) with the basic dietary requirements can help you to feel more confident and, if necessary, communicate about your diet with friends, family, or healthcare providers. 

Most importantly, sourcing nutrients adequately means you'll feel nourished and supported by the lifestyle for years to come.

What three ingredients must always be stocked in your kitchen? 

Beans and grains (all kinds), and tahini.

What is the kitchen tool you absolutely can’t live without? 

At one point in time I'd have said my food processor, but these days—especially with a year of full-time clinical work stretching ahead of me—my slow cooker is a life saver.

What do you eat for breakfast?

Usually one of two things: breakfast tacos/tostadas with vegan refried black beans, tofu or another protein, and vegetables and/or rice, or hummus toast and with assorted toppings and plenty of fresh fruit. In the winter, I also eat a lot of savory or sweet oatmeal.

Favourite food city you’ve traveled to?

LA! So many incredible plant-based offerings.

Has anything surprised you about putting your work out there in the form of cookbooks?

The fact that the longer I write about food, the more I realize I don't know. I'm constantly reading and learning from cookbooks, picking up pieces of wisdom or guidance or techniques I didn't know about. It's humbling, and it's a lot of fun, too.

How are your three cookbooks different? 

All three are very different. My first book was focused on raw foods, which isn't a focus for me anymore, though I love the simplicity and ease of that book: it definitely reflects where I was in at the time in terms of adventurousness and comfort in the kitchen. 

Food52 Vegan was a wonderful project to work on and reflective of an expanded and more inclusive relationship with food. Still, it was a collaborative effort with a strong focus on accessibility, so there are some offbeat flavor combinations and recipes that I wasn't comfortable sharing in the collection, even if I love them.
Of all the books I've written so far, Power Plates feels the most like me. The meals are a very direct representation of how I plan my diet and what I love to eat. I wrote it during a very challenging period of my life, a time that was marked by loss and self-exploration, and I feel grateful that any creative work was possible at the time. I think the strongest part of me—the part that craves nourishment and self-expression—stayed alive and healthy through the process of writing it.

We are constantly looking for good life hacks. What is your favourite app right now?

Calm! I've struggled for so many years to meditate regularly, but I find classes and steady home practice to be really difficult. The app has short, guided meditations I can use on my commute or before bed, and as a result, I'm meditating much more often. 

Gena Hamshaw is the creator or The Full Helping, a plant-based resource and recipe blog. Gena is also the author of 3 vegan cookbooks.

Find Gena Hamshaw at The Full Helping or on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter