Frequently Asked Questions



Q:  Why “Brand New Vegan”
I chose the name “Brand New Vegan” because at the time…”I” was a brand new vegan myself, and wanted a place to share everything I was learning, including a place to store my recipes.


Q:  Is Vegan and Plant Based the same thing?
A:  Sometimes, but not necessarily…..and this can be confusing, especially for the new folks.

  • The #1 priority of vegans is to do no harm to animals.    So as long as it’s not an animal product, it’s fair game as far as food is concerned, regardless of how unhealthy it might be.  And it’s not just about eating,  Vegans do not wear, buy, or utilize animal products either.  Veganism is not a diet – it’s a stance against animal cruelty.


  • The #1 priority for plant-based folks is their health.  These folks try to eat as closely to nature as they can, meaning whole, unprocessed foods., which are naturally full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.   It’s important to note that many plant-based folks do NOT consider themselves Vegan, so will still wear leather products, eat honey, etc.   There is a difference.


Q:  So are you Plant Based or Vegan?  It says Brand New Vegan…
A.  I started BNV following a Plant Based Diet, thinking at the time that’s what ‘vegan’ was all about.  The plant based movement had not really started yet, and I simply didn’t know any different.  Today, I don’t draw a line between the two.  I’m doing this for my health AND the health of our animals friends and our planet.


Q:  So who are you?  
A:  I’m Chuck Underwood and I grew up on the eastside of Indianapolis, Indiana.  I’m married and have 4 children and 4 grandchildren.   My career path has always found me in Semiconductors, working in Fabs like Texas Instruments and Intel.  I just recently retired so I can blog full time.   I currently live in the Pacific Northwest.


Q:  What is your background?
A:  I mentioned I have always worked in Semiconductors – so my career background has always been High Tech.

I am NOT a doctor, dietician, or a certified nutritionalist ….. if that is what you are asking.

I am however a graduate of T. Colin Campbell’s Plant Based Nutrition Course from Cornell University, and also have some experience as a certified Emergency First Responder.


Q:  Why did you start a blog?
A:  Several reasons.  One reason is I love helping people.  I had an older blog years ago, and was able to really, really help someone.  And I’ll tell you, the feeling you get from making someone’s life even a little better is indescribable.  When I get an email or comment telling me I have helped someone lose weight, or helped their husband get off a med….that means SO much more to me than making some corporate company another record quarter….

I also love being on the Internet and chatting with people I meet.  I have friends now all over the world and have met a few of them face to face.

And finally, years ago when one of my old employers decided to downsize, I realized that if I got laid off I would have to look for another job, and at my age that might have been difficult.  So I started BNV in November of 2013, hoping that one day it might allow me to stay at home and do what I love, without having to worry about permanent employment.

And that is exactly what I am doing now.


Q: Where do you get your recipe ideas?
A.  I have had a variety of influences when it comes to food in my life.  My mom was a true southern gal who was raised in the backwoods of Kentucky.  I remember a lot of recipes that her and grandma used to make.  I also lived in Texas for 5 years, so I learned to appreciate good Tex-Mex.  From Texas I moved to New Mexico and spent the next 10 years learning to love authentic New Mexican foods , especially their Green and Red Chile.  And finally I ended up here in the Pacific Northwest.  So I get my recipe ideas from the comfort foods I have always loved.


Q:  What kind of recipes will I find on BNV?
A:  I follow a whole food, plant based diet as recommended by doctors like Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Neil Barnard, and Dr. Dean Ornish.  Which means I try to use as many whole foods in my recipes as I can, with very little processed.  The majority of my recipes are also oil-free.


Q:  What are your most popular recipes?
A:  Easy, my Oven Baked French Fries are extremely popular, and so is my Vegetable Stew, my Cheese Sauce, my Cauliflower Tacos, and my Chili.  In fact, my Best Damn Vegan Chili Ever Recipe has won 2 different Chili Cookoffs – with one being in Texas against 9 other NON-vegan entries.  That’s something.


Q:  What’s wrong with oil?  
A:  Oil – no matter which plant it came from (coconut, olive, corn, peanut, etc) is highly processed.  It is no longer a ‘whole’ food, as the majority of nutrients and fiber have been stripped away.  All that’s left is pretty much pure fat – and at 120 calories per tablespoon, it is THE most calorie dense food we can eat.  It’s basically empty calories.


Q:  What about protein?
A:  I don’t personally worry about protein. There is protein in just about everything we eat, including potatoes. As long as you are getting enough calories, rest assured you’re getting plenty of protein.  There has never been a recorded case of protein deficiency, ever.


Q:  Do you take Vitamins?
A:  I take Vitamin B12.  That’s it.


Q:  Are any of your recipes Gluten Free?
A:  Some are, many are not.  But I have had many people take my recipes and make them GF by experimenting with different flours.


Q:  What about Sugar?
A:  Technically, since it is polished with animal bone char – it should not be considered vegan.  And I am always looking for ways to substitute the more processed sugars out of my recipes, as I do have a few that use brown sugar or maple syrup.

But I also think a lot of people are afraid of sugar, and the way I see it – we should be afraid of the fats.   I have had people swear by their olive oil or coconut oil  (but it’s a healthy fat) and yell at me for using brown sugar, but I think they have it backwards.

Dr. Neil Barnard, Dr. Michael Greger, and Dr Garth Davis all have good discussions on their websites about the causes of Type 2 Diabetes, and here’s a hint – it’s not the sugar. 


Q: But how do you cook without oil?
A:  Easy, just don’t use it.  I sauté and stir-fry ALL of my veggies in either vegetable broth or just plain water.  Nothing sticks, nothing burns.  Many foods, like mushrooms for example, release their own liquids, so you won’t even need that.


Q:  Where do you shop?
A:  My favorite Grocery Store is a Kroger chain called Fred Meyer.  They carry all of the ‘vegan’ type foods I use regularly in my recipes, like Tofu, Miso, and Nutritional Yeast.  If I need something a little more exotic, I am within an hour’s drive to our local Whole Foods.


Q:  Do you buy Organic?
A:  Sometimes, but not always.   If it’s a deal breaker for you between buying ANY vegetable vs not being able to afford to…..then buy what you can.  Just keep in mind there ARE certain vegetables you SHOULD try to buy organically if you can.

Click here to see the list of the Environmental Working Groups’s Dirty Dozen. 


Q:  What makes Brand New vegan different?
A:  I guess it’s because I’m just a regular guy who happens to like to cook.   I don’t have any formal training as a chef, or as a blogger, or as a photographer, so chances are you won’t see any fancy recipes, or strange ingredients, or magazine quality photos.

Just the food that an average guy like me, who happens to be Vegan, likes to eat.

Comfort foods I grew up with.

Foods us guys like to eat….tacos, burritos, burgers, chili, biscuits n gravy…..stuff like that.