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PEAR RICOTTA CROSTINI 

Featured Article

The Vegan Mary

Mary Bishop, aka the Vegan Mary, talks veganism, her business — plus recipes!

Mary Bishop understands the hesitation surrounding the “V” word. But becoming vegan has been life-changing for her, and she wants to help others understand how to eat deliciously as a vegan. And no time like now -- after all, January is Veganuary.

The married mom of one launched the Vegan Mary (theveganmary.co) out of her home in Bloomfield Hills. “At its core, the Vegan Mary is a fun, trusted resource for vegans and non-vegans alike,” Bishop says. “No judgments, no preaching. Just tasty ideas, nifty advice and good vibes.” 

BIRMINGHAM CITY LIFESTYLE What does being vegan mean? 

MARY BISHOP There’s a wide range of definitions for vegan. I follow a vegan diet: I don’t consume anything associated with an animal, be it flesh or byproducts, like dairy or eggs. I do eat veggies, fruits, legumes, grains, and also vegan cookies, chips, ice cream and candy. (A plant-based diet refers to consuming whole foods only.) I’ve never felt better or stronger. Health benefits range from a stronger immune system to natural disease prevention — helping reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes and certain cancers. There are also many benefits to the earth, our environment and animal-kind. 

BCL What motivated you to become vegan?

MB I started eating vegan more than eight years ago. At the time, I didn’t even know another vegan! I had been suffering from lethargy and illness and decided to try something radical. I read the book Skinny Bitch and thought I would try vegan eating for 30 days. The 30 days came and went and I have never looked back. 

It’s been great for me and my health, and I never miss anything or any food. I have actually become more of a foodie as a vegan. I really love food and exploring different food cultures.

Remarkably, I grew up on meat and dairy, in a farm family. So I like to remind people that your roots shouldn’t stop you from progress and change. Plant-based is possible. One meal, one menu, at a time.

BIRMINGHAM CITY LIFESTYLE What does the Vegan Mary offer?

MB I have a master’s degree in international business and spent two decades as a marketing executive before leaving it all to follow my passion — vegan food. I have a certificate in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University and have been cooking exclusively plant-based for more than eight years.  

The Vegan Mary offers services ranging from corporate training to private dinners to professional recipe development. I love having my hands in different pots, pardon the pun. I work with restaurants and individuals to develop and integrate inspired plant-based dishes. Services also extend into corporate wellness training, vegan menu planning, private dinner parties, cooking demonstrations and culinary lessons. 

What makes the Vegan Mary different? We welcome all kinds! All of our consulting offerings can be customized, intended to support your personal (or business) goals. Whether you are a self-proclaimed omnivore-for-life looking for more sustainable fare or a veteran vegan seeking fresh ideas (or anyone in between), we can curate an experience for you.  

The simple goal of the Vegan Mary is to advocate and educate on all things vegan. We help everyone from newbies to veterans, carnivores, learning the benefits and joy of plant-based eating. Our approach is one of non-shaming and acceptance.

PEAR RICOTTA CROSTINI 

1 baguette 

Flaky salt 

For spiced nuts:

1 c. raw walnuts, chopped 

¼ c. water

1 t brown sugar

½ t cinnamon

½ t nutmeg   

For ricotta:

½ c. raw cashews, soaked overnight (or for 1 hour in hot water)

½ block firm tofu, pressed

2 t nutritional yeast 

2 t garlic, minced

2 T lemon juice

1 t white vinegar

Zest of ½ lemon

For pears:

5 Bartlett pears, quartered and sliced into ¼-inch slices

3 T plus 2 T maple syrup, divided

2 sprigs fresh thyme 

In small bowl, mix water and spices together. Pour mixture into skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to a bubble. Add in nuts, stir to coat completely. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant. The water should be evaporated. Spread nuts in a single layer onto a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut baguette into ¼-inch-thick slices. Brush one side with olive oil. Toast slices of baguette (oil-side down) in oven for 10 mins or until the slices are golden brown. Remove bread from oven and let cool.

Turn oven up to 425°F. Place sliced pears on parchment paper-lined sheet. Drizzle with 3T maple syrup. Sprinkle on leaves from thyme sprigs. Bake for 15 minutes.

While the pears are baking, prepare the ricotta. Press tofu (to remove excess water) in a tofu press, or simply wrap tofu block in paper towels. Press on all sides of tofu, changing paper towels as needed until they are no longer leaching water from the tofu. Pulse cashews and pressed tofu in high-speed blender.  Add in vinegar, nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon juice. Pulse again. Once mixture reaches desired consistency (thick and creamy), add in lemon zest. Pulse to mix. Set aside.

Place cooked nuts in a small bowl. Add 2 T maple syrup and give them a stir to coat nicely. For assembly, spoon about 1 T of ricotta onto each slice of bread. Top with pear slices. Finish off with about 1 t of your nut mixture. Sprinkle with flaky salt.  

VEGETABLE GALETTE

1 sheet puff pastry (we used Pepperidge Farm)

1 T breadcrumbs 

Apple cider grilling sauce (we used American Spoon) 

6 asparagus spears 

1 carrot, cut into thin spears 

½ c. cherry tomatoes, halved 

½ c. zucchini, sliced into half moon shape  

1 T olive oil for drizzle 

Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll out pastry (not too thin) on parchment paper, then place on a sheet pan. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on pastry (this helps prevent sogginess). Spoon sauce over center of pastry, leaving about 1 inch from each side. Place veggies over sauce. Drizzle veggies with olive oil. Fold the edges of the pastry in and then brush edges with water. Bake for 20-25 minutes until pastry is golden brown. 

  • VEGETABLE GALETTE
  • PEAR RICOTTA CROSTINI 
  • Mary Bishop in her kitchen