Bucks County Chef Quietly Starts Instagram Account.. Shares Mind-blowing Delicious Vegan Food & Recipes 'like its No Big Thing'
From super nutritious smoothies to *perfect* crispy fried tofu, raw beet colored icing, pizza and more, Lots of Yums has shared some of the most eloquently made, delicious looking food we've ever seen.. yet you may not have yet heard about this account.
That's because this chef is not only uber-talented but also super humble. After seeing all the delicious (literally Lots of Yums) on this account, we wanted to learn more.. so we reached out and recently spoke with Aleks, seriously talented recipe creator, chef and cofounder of Lots of Yums to learn more.
One of the first things we learned is that this chef knows vegan food because she eats vegan food. Not only does chef Aleks know how to cook a top-notch dish, but she also very much loves to promote the many benefits of being vegan or adding more plant-based meals into your diet.
Read our interview with Chef Aleks below:
BCV: Can you tell us more about Lots of Yums, yourself and your fellow co-founder?
Chef Aleks: Hey hey, so my name is Aleks and I’ve been vegan for a few years and I started this Instagram because my best friend Brie and I cook every together every week (we’ve since then pulled more friends into it) and we always make such delicious vegan dishes and treats. I have kinda forced her along on this [Instagram] ride (she doesn’t post much on the feed/story) but she is such a huge inspiration for me, and a big push for me starting @lotsofyums. She has introduced me to new foods/cuisines and we both are very open minded when it comes to food (very few things either of us dislike), so it’s been such a fun journey trying out vegan dishes with her.
BCV: What are some of your personal favorite vegan foods?
Chef Aleks: Tacos are by far my favorite food because of their versatility — You can throw in any “base” you want, whether that be sweet potato black bean, crispy tofu, buffalo cauliflower, mushroom, fajita veggies. Next, you put on toppings: pickled red onions, cilantro, pico de gallo, guac, radishes. Then, add the sauce (and a lot of it): chipotle aioli, maple sriracha, avocado crema, chimichurri, sweet sour, pesto, “buttermilk” ranch. Gossshhh the possibilities for tacos are ENDLESS!
BCV: That sounds delicious! We think everybody should try that. ;)
BCV: How would you describe your cuisine?
Chef Aleks: Gosh, my cuisine is RANDOM! Onions and garlic are the start to every meal, I definitely have a Latin-inspired flair (mainly Tex-Mex & Guatemalan) along with a few Asian (mainly Korean & Thai) dishes here and there. I gravitate toward feel good food, whether that be typical comfort food like mac & cheese or a kale salad with a bomb dressing. Anything that makes the soul feel good works for me.
BCV: We can Really appreciate that! We believe that everyone can benefit from a plant-based diet but that there is not just one mix for everyone! It's great to vary cuisine up as there is something everyone can enjoy we say. We have benefitted from both your treat recipes and your savory and more raw whole foods bowls recipes and ideas so much.
BCV: What pantry items would you recommend someone pick up when they are starting out with cooking vegan (allergies permitting etc. of course)
Chef Aleks: Pantry (sometimes refrigerated) essentials definitely include tofu, canned/dried beans (black, kidney, lentils, garbanzo/chickpea), pastas, tortillas (because who doesn’t love tacos?!), nuts, dried fruits, nutritional yeast, curry paste, rice noodles, vegan mayo, plant-based milks and PEANUT BUTTER (or any nut butter for that matter).
BCV: Ok, that just about covers all of our most favorite foods ever. What a phenomenal pantry that would be for anyone starting out. Yum! Thank you for this awesome list. We love it.. and are now hungry. :)
BCV: What are some of the foods you would recommend someone start with if they are just starting out with adding more vegan meals into their diet?
Chef Aleks: I would say take your favorite meal and make it vegan. Before I started experimenting with fun plant-based dishes I just took what I knew and substituted the butter, cheese, meat for a vegan version. For example, if your favorite thing to eat is a BLT sandwich, make sure you buy vegan bread and vegan mayo, load on the lettuce and tomato, and make some mushroom or rice paper bacon! @edgyveg has an awesome rice paper bacon and @hotforfood has great mushroom bacon in her cookbook. The possibilities are endless with vegan food but it’s definitely overwhelming in the beginning, so stick to what you know and you’ll be happy. Unless your palate is ridiculously diverse and you’re very open-minded, I would shy away from trying foods that practically sound foreign, because chances are you won’t like it and then you’ll be discouraged in the future. Your taste buds will do a bit of adjusting over time, so maybe that recipe is something you can try down the road.
BCV: That's some Great advice! ..and we meant to add / ask you about that! You're always recommending such amazing fellow recipe creators and chefs! You are not at all closed off to your own Instagram account which we find so refreshingly unique and Helpful! You can tell you just really want all your viewers to have the best possible recipes and tools they can possibly have. You are truly an amazing chef, helper and educator. We just want to thank you so much for that! We've not only learned so much from your recipes and account but also from your expert recommendations!
BCV: What projects are you currently working on? We'd love to help get the word out about it.
Chef Aleks: I’m currently taking a step back from a few of my extra-curriculars to focus on what I love most: creating magic in the kitchen. I have thoughts about a cookbook brewing, so I would say creating recipes and connecting with the Instagram community right now is my main goal.
BCV: Ok, now that's super exciting. We'll keep our eyes open for that. That would be our dream Cookbook for sure. The way you mix and match and keep things exciting in the kitchen is so unique and like no other we've seen.
What are some easy swap outs for not-yet-veganized recipes that you love & recommend?
Ok I’ll go with a few easy swap outs..
Cream cheese: Miyokos cream cheese (wholesome organic ingredients)
Butter: Miyokos butter (wholesome organic ingredients)
Mozzarella: @schoolnightvegan mozzarella (10 minute prep)
Mayo: Sir Kensington’s Fabaneise
Egg: 1 tbsp ground flax + 2.5 tbsp water
Whipped cream: Coconut cream from a can whipped with some lemon juice and sugar
Burger: Beyond burger or homemade veg burger
Cream: soaked cashews + water (make it sweet with some vanilla + dates/maple syrup; make it savory with lemon juice + garlic + salt)
Milk: plant-based milk!! All work for different purposes! Coconut, almond, oat, hemp, walnut, cashew, soy, etc.
BCV: Ok, these are GOLDEN! When we interviewed you we didn't realize we were going to even get more than we bargained for and a great educational chart pretty much. We should have known. :) Keep this on hand, readers! (sunglass emoji!)
BCV: Ok, one last question! Favorite dishes for a party?
Chef Aleks: @hotforfood has awesome party dishes! Specifically the jalapeno poppers, yum. @itslivb also has some quick easy recipes, perfect for parties. I'm a huge fan of dips, like spinach & artichoke dip, rutabaga fondue (inspired by Vedge in philly), @edgyveg buffalo dip, stuffed mushrooms, empanadas, taquitos.
BCV: You have REALLY done the work trying and testing these recipes to all of our benefit. Thank you So much for the recommendations here. It has been way too long since we've had good jalapeno poppers!
BCV: Anything else you'd like to share?
Chef Aleks: Ask questions!! If you ever need to know anything, every vegan I’ve ever met has been so open to conversation and willing to share their advice based on their personal experiences and it is SO HELPFUL if you're just starting out or even if you've been a vegan for 10 years.
"I am such an open book and will give you honest reviews on vegan food brands I've tried, accounts to follow, recipes to modify, all of it! If you’re thinking about becoming vegan, do some research! Figure out your WHY. Once you identify your why, the food part becomes easy. Your why will just keep you going and encourage you. Once you become vegan, it’s 100% about the animals. No flavor or taste in your mouth will ever trump the value of an animal’s life. Remember that just because we grew up a certain way, doesn’t make it right <3"
BCV: We couldn't agree more. Thank you so much for doing this and sharing all that you share!
Follow Chef Aleks on Instagram
You can follow Chef Aleks and her co-creator Brie @LotsofYums on Instagram to keep posted for everything they have coming up!
Bucks County has its very own Vegan Taste Tester and she's saved us Time & Money shopping for our Favorite Things...Vegan Things! :)
What if you could save time, money and get to know some of the coolest new (and old) vegan products simply by following a local Instagram account? Thanks to The Vegan Taste Tester, it's possible. Well, at least we can say we've definitely saved time and learned of quite a few new foods because of The Vegan Taste Tester. Thanks to this account, we've been able to skip aimless grocery trips and avoid the folly of picking up too many products in the same category at once on more than one occasion.
After months of enjoying her recipes, product reviews and more, we finally caught up with Lindsay, founder and creator of The Vegan Taste Tester to hear more. Check out our 20-ish questions with The Vegan Taste Tester below - favorite ice creams are mentioned - wink wink! (and give Lindsay a follow on Instagram. You won't be sorry you did.)
AN INTERVIEW WITH LINDSAY, FOUNDER OF THE VEGAN TASTE TESTER
How would you describe The Vegan Taste Tester?
I describe the Vegan Taste Tester as a place people can go to get real and honest reviews and realistic recipes- I am sure some have noticed, I am not the most "professional" with my reviews. Nor do I review the healthiest of products. I want to show people that veganism has a wide range of things to eat from healthy to junk food and that it is fun as well. I have great range I think of ages that follow me- quite a bit of college students to older adults. A lot of my followers are also Philly based as well.
What made you want to get started when it comes to posting your reviews?
It was actually last year in January when the product "Just Egg" had recently came out, and I tried it. I was like, "People need to know how good this is." So, that is when I started The Vegan Taste Tester.
When did you get started / how long have you been doing this?
Fun fact is that I actually had a vegan Instagram in 2015-2016. I didn't post reviews though, just meal ideas and desserts I would make. I started The Vegan Taste Tester in January 2019. Over this past year or so I feel as though I have evolved in the products I review as well as now I post recipes and things to eat at restaurants.
Obviously Vegan Taste Tester posts reviews of vegan products specifically. Is there a turning point or event that made you want to consider switching your own purchases to vegan?
I wouldn't say there was a specific turning point in making the decision to switch all of my purchases over to vegan, but back in 2015 I used to watch vegan Youtubers like Kalel (not vegan anymore, but she was my favorite) and product reviews all the time. I have a chronic stomach condition and can't really eat any meat or dairy in general- so those videos would help me find things to eat. It all took off from there. And the most important thing to me was that I could be even one tiny part of stopping animal cruelty.
What misconceptions or fears do you think people might have about trying some of these new foods?
Simply, I think people believe vegan food will taste really bad. Yes, sometimes it could taste different than what especially non-vegans are used to- but a huge majority of the time it does not taste bad- or, it tastes pretty much exactly like the non-vegan version. Something that is "different" can make people skeptical as well.
How do you usually learn about a new product / how do you decide which new products to try? What is your process like?
I tend to see on Instagram actually a bunch of new products. I love VegNews- great source for new products. I get so excited when I see something new come out, especially if it is from a brand I love. Basically, if I see a product I want to try, I do my best to find it. Usually, I find other products then that look very interesting too along the way.
What would be your advice for someone just starting out and trying to improve their shopping list to make their kitchen more vegan or vegan-friendly?
I would tackle it step by step. Changing up your entire kitchen from non-vegan to fully vegan can be a bit of a shock to the system sometimes. Some people can handle it, but most can't, and that's fine. I would start off simply with milk. Get rid of all your cow's milk and switch to unsweetened soy for savory and oat or almond for sweet. I would also add on a vegan meat to try- I would start off with a Gardein chicken product.
If you had to choose, what are the top products that you would recommend someone tries first when newly trying out vegan items at the grocery store? (of course allergies permitting etc!)
I would recommend a few staples- Gardein meatless products, Ben & Jerry's vegan ice cream, Impossible/Beyond Meat burgers, and Amy's frozen meals-the vegan ones. As well as non-dairy milk and yogurts. Kite Hill, So Delicious and Chobani make great ones. Honestly, starting off I wouldn't recommend cheese. Vegan cheese I find can be a bit of an acquired taste you have to accustom yourself to. If you want to try it, try making a grilled cheese with Chao cheese. I know these options are not the healthiest- but they'll show you vegan food can taste great. I also very much recommend experimenting with soups and smoothies. Pinterest has many great recipes.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in and around the Bucks County area?
I absolutely love Sprig & Vine in New Hope and Luhv Bistro in Hatboro. Harvest Season Bar and Grill in Newtown has some great vegan options. In terms of on the go I love a good rice and veggie bowl from Chipotle. Oishi in Newtown has great vegetable sushi.
What improvements have you seen in Bucks County Area grocery stores or restaurants in the last year if any?
I have seen many improvements. More and more restaurants are adding vegan options to their menus. Stores are getting tons more vegan food in their aisles. Sometimes you have to really look for it or even ask- but it's definitely getting there. Vegan food is becoming much more accessible.
What improvements would you still like to see made in Bucks County area restaurants and stores?
Everyone loves getting ice cream, especially in the summer. Unfortunately, myself and many others cannot partake because there are barely any vegan ice cream options. I would encourage each ice cream shop to add in at least one vegan flavor. It would do wonders, I promise.
We would imagine you get a lot of feedback and questions when it comes to the items you post. What is one of your favorite (or favorite kind of) question or piece of feedback that you've received?
I love it when people ask me how I can use a certain product in a recipe, or when they suggest other products similar to it or from the same brand. I want people to ask me as many questions about vegan food as they want- I am always happy to help.
Do you like to meal plan or put together meals on the fly?
A bit of both. Honestly, most of the time I'll start out making something and then it turns into something completely different most of the time. I tend to mess up recipes a lot- but create something new. But there are plenty of posts on my Instagram where I followed an exact recipe. In terms of how I eat during the day, it's usually always on the fly.
What are your personal favorite go-to resources or blogs etc and who are they helpful for?
As I mentioned before, I think VegNews is great. Honestly, so many people that I follow are a great source for finding new products, reviews, and recipes. I will say, Bucks County Vegan has been a wonderful source for me! (BCV: Thank you!! We really appreciate this!)
What do you think is one of the main obstacles people face when making purchasing changes? is there any advice you can offer them based on your experience?
The cost, for sure. It's just a fact that vegan food is overall more expensive. You'll see ice cream on my Instagram that costs 6 dollars a pint. When it comes to every day vegan shopping, go for the basics. Grains, lots of vegetables, pasta, fruit, tofu, etc...and sure, buy those things I suggest as well- but those aren't necessarily your every day items. I more so intend for my posts to be treats. But you can get so much flavor with simplicity as well.
Are there any specific stores you would recommend on or offline to locals wanting to try more vegan foods?
I love Organnons in Wrightstown. Also, of course, Trader Joes, Wegman's, and Whole Foods. But you would be surprised at how much you can find at Giant. There are tons of vegan options. I once went to the Giant in New Hope and found SO many vegan items. In terms of online, Thrive Market is a great site.
What positives have you personally experienced through this journey into trying all of these new foods / products?
My eyes have been opened so wide to all of the options there are in terms of vegan food. One may think vegan food is limiting- but it is truly not. For every non-vegan thing you can't eat, there is a new vegan food you can. On this journey I have found so many new restaurants as well, especially in Philly. It really does change how you want to eat and amps up your creativity when cooking.
What grocery item or brand have you been most pleasantly surprised by lately?
I've been really pleased with Ben & Jerry's- they are creating more and more vegan ice cream flavors. I cannot wait to get my hands on the new flavors made with sunflower butter. Also Gardein- I know they're planning on launching more products and they have, I think the new breakfast bowls are delicious. In terms of a specific product, I just tried these bars from the Good Pop- they were cookies & cream flavor, and amazing.
What is the plan for Vegan Taste Tester in the future? How can people follow and support your work?
I just want to keep on posting more and more products- new, and older. I really would like to start posting more recipes as well. A plan for myself is to also travel more and post the food from the different places I try. I would like to also post more vegan alcohol and cocktails. There is so much I want to do. There are so many possibilities for The Vegan Taste Tester.
Imagine knowing exactly what you're looking for when you go out to the grocery store for a new item or treat. Pretty cool, right? The Vegan Taste Tester has taken away plenty of guesswork for us this way! You can follow the work of The Vegan Taste Tester on Instagram! (Well worth it!)
BUCKS COUNTY Vegan
Exploring & sharing delicious veg' friendly foods in & around Bucks County PA. 🌱Bucks County Pennsylvania is centrally located between Philadelphia & NYC. ☕️Follow us on Instagram @buckscountyvegan. Twitter @BucksVegan.