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Northeastern grad launches vegan eBook to help college students

Madeline Heising prepares skillet spinach and chickpeas in her tiny kitchen.
Madeline Heising prepares skillet spinach and chickpeas in her tiny kitchen. (Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)

Madeline Heising’s debut cookbook is called “FIVE” for the modest number of ingredients required in all of her recipes, but a visit to the recent Northeastern University grad’s apartment reveals a significantly more impressive number: one.

That’s the length in feet of the counter space in her studio apartment kitchen — and ground zero for creating all 53 recipes for “The Collegiate Vegan Presents FIVE: 50+ Plant-Based Recipes, Five Ingredients or Less,” which launched as an eBook last month.

“I’m here to debunk all the myths,” says Heising, who graduated two weeks ago with a degree in health communications with a minor in food systems and sustainability. “I don’t see myself as a chef. I don’t want to make special food and serve it to someone. I’m just a good cook and I think food can be healthy, cheap, easy-to-make, quick-to-make, and delicious.”

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The project was an ambitious labor of love for Heising, who not only created the recipes, but designed the layout and took all of the photographs for the cookbook in her 250-square-foot apartment. The $2.99 digital cookbook, featuring selections such as avocado alfredo sauce and butternut squash curry soup, is available on her blog, The Collegiate Vegan (www.collegiatevegan.com/cookbook).

A vegetarian since she was 10, Heising started the blog at the beginning of her sophomore year after deciding with a friend to eat vegan for a week.

“It was a challenge to get the junk out of my body,” she recalls. “I wanted to lose weight, and from September [2012] to May [2013] I lost 35 pounds.”

The weight loss energized her, as did removing dairy and eggs from her diet. On The Collegiate Vegan, which has grown to 10,000 viewers per month, readers (lots of college students, some suburban moms) began asking advice: What’s a hot breakfast option that’s not oatmeal? Can you recommend snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated? Do you have a recipe for a vegan burger that doesn’t include soy?

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Heising’s pasta with avocado sauce.
Heising’s pasta with avocado sauce.(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)

“In the college lifestyle, you try and do everything and you’re super-stressed for time. If I can put these resources together for other people, I want to do it,” she says.

Some recipes from the blog appear in “FIVE,” but 30 are original to the book and the majority take less than 30 minutes to cook. The lemon basil chickpeas recipe was inspired by a more expensive version enjoyed at a friend’s birthday at a tapas restaurant. The protein-heavy dish is listed as under Snacks/Sides in “Five,” but Heising often eats it as an entree with a side of crusty bread.

“It’s a fun dish and it definitely doesn’t cost $10,” says Heising.

Expense is a top consideration for Heising, who counts pre-cut butternut squash among her few splurges or “cheats.”

“I’m bad at peeling it. It’s always an uphill battle. This is one of the shortcuts I stand behind,” says Heising.

Pumpkin maple hummus with cinnamon sugar chips.
Pumpkin maple hummus with cinnamon sugar chips.(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)
Slices of crusty bread go well with Heising’s vegan dishes.
Slices of crusty bread go well with Heising’s vegan dishes.(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)

Inside her cozy apartment, the 22-year-old tosses the squash into a Vitamix (which takes up half the counter space) to make soup. Unpretentious about her cooking, she sets the finished product on the table with pita chips toasted from store-bought tortillas.

The tight kitchen space doesn’t allow for a drawer or a microwave. Silverware is stored in coffee mugs and there’s a Costco-size jug of Dawn to compensate for the lack of dishwasher.

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Still, Heising calls the space “comfortable.” A slipcovered love seat sits in the middle of the room surrounded by shelves of books including “The Forks Over Knives Plan,” “War and Peace,” and “The Fault in Our Stars.”

The shabby-chic decor inspired most of the photographs for the cookbook, which Heising took herself. “I was a slave to the light of day,” she says, laughing.

The recipes in “FIVE” are all college-friendly servings for two, but she says that most can be easily multiplied to feed more.

Her confidence in the kitchen has made her popular among friends, but Heising also eats out a lot. Her favorite meals are the tasting menu at Ten Tables in Cambridge (a splurge) and the crispy noodle pad Thai at her favorite neighborhood haunt, Pho Basil.

“When you’re in your 20s, that’s what people do,” she says. “Even if my food is better.”


Jill Radsken can be reached at jill.radsken@gmail.com.