cooks at home

POP-UP PAIR

Phillip and Danea Horn turn vegan passion into enterprise.

WRITTEN BY JORDAN VENEMA
PHOTOS BY CLEBER BONATO

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Danea and Phillip Horn prepare Hearty Vegan Lasagna in their Sacramento home

Some people are natural-born chefs, working wonders with whatever three or four ingredients are at hand. The rest of us require an arsenal of ingredients even to imagine the most basic dishes. Therein perhaps lies the real fear of a vegetarian or vegan diet: not the loss of meat or cheese, but the loss of the possibility, the loss of convenience.

But according to Phillip Horn, vice president of sales and service for the Sacramento Kings, and wife, Danea Horn, veganism really isn’t that difficult.

The Horns kept a vegetarian diet for 12 years, then a vegan one for nearly six, but they admit the two-year transition between the two required some planning.

“I said, ‘OK, I’ll do this, but I need to recreate all our favorite meals,’” Danea says. “So I just started dabbling in the kitchen, and I figured out a macaroni and cheese and tacos so that we still had a diet that was nostalgic and comforting but also healthy and in line with the move we wanted to make.”

She’s even been able to recreate her grandmother’s Thanksgiving meal, “and it’s pretty close,” she says with a laugh.

A delicious lie

The Horns gave up meat and dairy, but thanks to an evolving industry, they say it’s difficult to tell.

“[Companies] have created [vegan] butter, cream cheese, things like that, so that it’s much easier to recreate flavors,” Danea says. “I‘ve certainly become a more creative chef.”

Phillip adds that vegan products are far more common than they were even two or three years ago.

“And now meat or dairy replacements you can buy today are so close that I don’t really miss anything, and we’ve worked to combine the right flavors and sauces and ingredients to make it even closer,” he says.

The couple laughs at many people thinking they’re strictly living off salads.

“We’re making pizzas, lasagnas, ranch chicken salads with biscuits, tacos, and burritos,” Danea says.

The truth is, it’s easier to create a vegan burger than to dispel the stereotypes about meatless diets. People often say of vegan diets, “You can’t get enough protein,” or “The diet isn’t healthy,” but Danea, who lives with chronic kidney disease, says even her doctor endorsed her diet.

“It’s not only for hippies, people living this bohemian lifestyle,” Phillip says. “People think it’s slow and complicated, difficult to produce, expensive. But those are all things we’re trying to remedy.”

“We’re not doctors,” he continues, “but for us it’s been incredibly healthy, and the myth about not getting enough protein isn’t substantiated. We can eat as much protein as if we were on a meat diet. That’s one reason we wanted to start Burger Patch. We wanted to open up people’s eyes to that.”

From kitchen to quick-serve

Phillip used to eat two or three burgers a day, and while he doesn’t miss the meat, he does miss the convenience.

“And I started thinking, it’s too bad there aren’t more places where I could just drive through that offer the type of diet we’re looking for,” he says.

After six years’ experience recreating vegan comfort food recipes at home, the Horns decided to bring vegan quick-serve to others. They opened Burger Patch, a pop-up eatery serving vegan burgers, fries, and even shakes.

“We think of it as a gateway product, and for those who are veg curious, they’ll come in and have a burger and realize, ‘Wow, I can totally do this, and I don’t have to sacrifice anything,” Phillip says.

“People think going vegan means, ‘Oh, I’m going to go plant based so I’ll just have to eat salads,’” Danea adds. “No! If you want to eat burgers, fries, and shakes, you can.”

Burger Patch currently operates as a pop-up eatery, but the Horns hope to open a permanent brick-and-mortar location by the end of the year, proving to others the comfort, convenience, and flavors of a vegan diet they discovered at home.

Freelance writer Jordan Venema is a fan of wild stories, impetuous traveling, loud music, and food … but mostly of his son, Cassian, the greatest storyteller this side of the Prime Meridian.

Recipe

Hearty Vegan Lasagna
(courtesy Danea and Phillip Horn, co-owners, Burger Patch in Sacramento. Serves 6)

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Make sauce, tofu ricotta, and cashew mozzarella before preparing lasagna.

For sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 Beyond Meat Beyond Burger patties (1 pound), or other meat substitute
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1, 42-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon agave syrup
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Heat vegetable oil in heavy-bottomed pot, then add crumbled Beyond Meat Beyond Burger patties until brown. Remove meat substitute and add carrot and onion. Sauté vegetables 3 minutes, then add tomato paste, stirring for 1 minute. Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, parsley, garlic, agave, salt, and pepper. Scrape bottom of pot while bringing sauce to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Return meat substitute and simmer 15 minutes.

While sauce simmers, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease 8-by-11-inch baking dish with vegetable oil.

For tofu ricotta

15½ ounces firm tofu
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Drain tofu and place in bowl. Mash tofu until texture resembles ricotta cheese, then add all other tofu ricotta ingredients. Additionally season to taste. Set aside.

For cashew mozzarella

1 cup raw cashew pieces
¾ cup water
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove
1½ teaspoons tapioca starch
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1½ teaspoons salt

Place cashews in small saucepan and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring to boil and simmer cashews 10 minutes, then drain and rinse. Blend cashews and remaining cashew mozzarella ingredients until smooth. Return blended mixture to saucepan, and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, until texture resembles melted cheese. Set aside.

For lasagna

12 vegan lasagna noodles (may substitute regular noodles if desired)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Ladle 1 cup sauce into baking dish, and cover with 4 lasagna noodles. Spread ½ the tofu ricotta over noodles. Ladle ⅓ remaining sauce on ricotta and spread evenly. Repeat layers: 4 lasagna noodles, remaining tofu ricotta, ½ remaining sauce. Place remaining 4 lasagna noodles, then ladle remaining sauce on top. Dollop cashew mozzarella over top, covering sauce evenly.

Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes or until heated through. Remove from oven, let cool, and serve.

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