Talk about motivated. Haile Thomas, a 19-year-old vegan, nonprofit founder, certified health coach, and activist, gets more done by lunch than many of us get done in a day. Mature beyond her years, she graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach at age 16.
The motivational speaker was born a foodie, she says, but became attuned to the connection between health and diet around age eight, when her father was diagnosed with type II diabetes. Haile’s Mom started investigating the nutrition connection with diabetes, and an academic, very personal obsession was born. Because of her nutritional training, Haile is supremely well-informed, and her book is packed with tips like “frozen fruit is just as good for you as fresh!” (Nice money-saver, there.) And her vegan recipes are excellent, from cashew “cheesecake” bars to cauliflower steaks. She never skimping on tasty elements like coconut milk, homemade BBQ sauce, and maple syrup. (Three of our favorite recipes are below!)
Nowadays Haile counts Michelle Obama among her admirers. We reached out to talk about her debut vegan cookbook and inspiring story, Living Lively: 80 Plant-Based Recipes to Activate Your Power & Feed Your Potential.
This is an unusual cookbook; how would you explain it?
I would describe Living Lively as an empowerment cookbook. So, essentially really bridging the gap between the ways that we nourish our physical bodies through food and movement and how we nourish our minds and our spirits through our relationships or the ways that we activate our creativity and engage in community service, the ways that we get educated, all of those things are featured in the book. It’s really a book that calls people to really dive into introspection but also dive into the joys of plant-based foods and cooking, making your body feel good and your taste buds happy, as well.
What does “living lively” mean to you?
When I was working on the book and had the concept for it I was racking my brain over what really captured the experience that comes from really engaging in all the different elements that are presented in the book. Essentially it just kind of came to me as something that really captured what it’s like to nurture yourself in the fullest capacity. “Living lively” is accepting all you are and all that you will be. I think to me it was something that was just such a positive perspective on a holistic wellness journey and something you could aspire to do without having to be perfect within that process.
When did health become such a centerpiece in your life?
Before [my Dad’s diabetes diagnosis] I was a foodie already and loved cooking, but the health and wellness aspect really didn’t come into play until his diagnosis and until we started to look into food and how it works. That’s how I got exposed to all that’s going on in our food system and how it’s impacting my generation and kids even younger as well.
How do you stick with a healthy lifestyle?
I think it’s a combination of really just seeing the effects of a healthier lifestyle on your body and mind and even how it affects your energy and vitality and… handle different challenges. Having that grounded sense in your body is really great. Also, for me it was the education piece. I’m the type of person that if I learn the truth about something, it’s very hard for me to ignore that truth and do something that may not be as beneficial. That doesn’t mean that I don’t even have things that are “unhealthy” but having that knowledge creates a balance I’m comfortable with and overall prioritizes my well-being.
Do you have a morning routine?
When I am able to keep it up—it’s something that’s always fluctuating—it’s something I want to work on embedding into my life, I’m trying for sure. When things are going well, it’s doing a morning meditation, gratitude journaling, doing some type of movement like yoga or pilates. Even going for a walk. Taking my vitamins, washing my face, doing my skincare routine, and then just kind of reflecting on the day and setting my intention for the day and getting started on anything I have planned. It’s pretty simple, I would say, but having that routine and stability each morning knowing I’m doing something that’s preparing me for my day and grounding my energy is really nice. I also love trying to read for 30 minutes just to disconnect before jumping into everything I have to do that day.
Which of your “seven points of power” resonates the most with you and why?
Probably “thoughts and mind-set” because all of them are really essential but I think that in terms of how we perceive our life experiences, and how we handle them and react to them, it’s the foundation of us collectively building a world in which we can all thrive. If we’re able to look into what we’re thinking about ourselves and others and we’re able to be mindful about that process and also accept others accept our emotions and thoughts even if they’re imperfect, I think that allows us to have compassion for others who are also struggling with that, and I feel like a lot of the disturbances that we’re seeing in our society is just through ignored emotions and suppressed thoughts & feelings so to be able to dive into that on an individual level opens the door for that collective healing. So definitely “thoughts and mind-set.”
Red-Hot Roasted Cauliflower Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce
Knowing how to season and roast a good cauliflower steak is essential in my house, so I’m passing this favorite recipe of mine on to you! Because of cauliflower’s neutral flavor, it’s a great canvas for spices and sauces that really pop. Serve with your favorite veggies and grains.
For the roasted cauliflower:
- 1 Tbs. garlic powder
- 1 Tbs. paprika
- 1 Tbs. dried thyme
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt
- 1 medium head cauliflower, cut through the core into about 4 slices, each 1/2 inch thick
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
For the chimichurri sauce:
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems
- 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves and stems
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- Kosher salt
To roast the cauliflower, preheat an oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the garlic powder, paprika, thyme, cayenne and salt to taste.
Arrange the cauliflower steaks on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle them with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Evenly sprinkle the spice mixture over both sides of each cauliflower steak. Drizzle with the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil.
Roast until the cauliflower is golden and crisp on top, 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the chimichurri sauce: In a food processor, combine the cilantro, parsley, basil, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and salt to taste and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Drizzle the steaks with chimichurri sauce and serve. Serves 4.
Islander Lively Bowl
Both of my parents are from the Caribbean, so I’ve grown up appreciating the magic that happens when sweet and savory ingredients come together. The combination of smoky mushrooms, sweet pineapple salsa, coconut undertones, and savory pops of flavor is what makes this bowl so divine. And don’t you dare skip out on the cilantro aioli—it is cooling, creamy and simply the real deal.
For the shiitake mushrooms:
- 1/2 cup tamari
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 Tbs. sriracha
- 5 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 13 oz.)
- 1 Tbs. coconut oil
For the pineapple salsa:
- 1 1/2 cups finely diced fresh pineapple
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
- 3/4 cup diced cherry tomatoes
- 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and minced
- 2 tsp. fresh lime juice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the cilantro aioli:
- 3/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
- Grated zest of 1 lime
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 to 4 cups cooked brown rice
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
Pickled red onions
To prepare the shiitake mushrooms, in a large bowl, whisk together the tamari, sesame oil, maple syrup and sriracha. Add the mushrooms and toss to combine, making sure all of the mushrooms are coated with the marinade. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
To make the pineapple salsa, in a medium bowl, combine the pineapple, cilantro, onion, tomatoes, jalapeño and lime juice, and toss to mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To make the cilantro aioli, in a small blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy. Adjust the seasonings as desired. Cover and refrigerate in an airtight glass container for up to 1 week.
Drain the mushrooms and discard the marinade. In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the coconut oil. Add the mushrooms and sear on one side, without stirring, until crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the mushrooms with a spatula and cook until the mushrooms are crisp on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes.
To assemble, in each of four bowls, spoon 1/2 to 1 cup cooked rice, one-quarter of the mushrooms, and a scoop of pineapple salsa. Add a dollop of cilantro aioli on top. Divide the avocado and pickled onions among the bowls. Enjoy the harmonious smoky-savory sweetness of this bowl! Serves 4.
Tahini + cookies = pure happiness. I love mixing tahini in with sweet and fruity ingredients. Its rich and roasty flavor pairs so well with the tanginess of the strawberries and deep nuttiness of the coconut sugar and flakes. It’s delightful with a little bit of crunch on the outside and all the soft, melt-in-your-mouth goodness on the inside.
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, at room temperature, with a creamy and soft texture
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 cup unsweetened oat milk, or other plant milk of your choice
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour or other 1:1 gluten-free flour
- 1 Tbs. cornstarch
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 cup diced strawberries
- 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl and using a hand mixer), beat the coconut oil, tahini and coconut sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes, adjusting the speed as necessary so you get a smooth and creamy mixture. Add the oat milk and vanilla and mix until combined, about 1 minute.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder.
Add the flour mixture to the tahini mixture and, using the flat beater attachment, mix on low speed until just fully incorporated. Fold in the diced strawberries and coconut flakes. Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop the dough into 12 chunky balls. Place them 2 to 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake until the cookies have risen and are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and Immediately sprinkle a pinch of flaky salt on top of each cookie.
Let the cookies cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack and/or place the cooled cookies in the fridge for at least 15 minutes until they are firmed up. (Because the cookies are gluten-free, they’ll be a little delicate at first.) Devour these cookies and try not to be obsessed! Makes 12 hunky cookies.