Jana Kramer on ‘Dancing’ Through Painful Past Year

Jana Kramer
Jana Kramer with Colgate Optic White smile

To say it’s been a year of highs and lows for Jana Kramer would pretty much be the understatement of the year. In January, she welcomed her first child, daughter Jolie Rae. And after just a short time off, she resumed touring as both fan and critical acclaim poured in for songs released from her Thirty One album, including the touching love song, “Circles.” She joined the cast of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, and became a fan favorite by the very first episode of the season.

Read the full story on Rolling Stone Country here.

The Joy of Not Cooking

Perri and Su’s pasta primevera a la minute and butter lettuce with toasted pine nuts

I’ve spent the past several months writing so.much.about.food, that lamentably, my actual kitchen time has been, well, limited to “shoot I have a potluck and I’m the girl who graduated culinary school so there are high expectations and I can’t just show up with a bottle of wine” and “how am I going to turn my leftovers from lunch into dinner?”

Nights have been filled with holiday dinners, catching up with old friends and internal monologues of “Well, I have this thing Thursday night anyways so what’s the point in going grocery shopping for the two meals I’ll be in this week?” Jake, wanna go to Mole for dinner? Guilty.

For sure, it’s made me really sad. And I’ve often worried that like anything that takes a lot of patience and practice (Hey, 30 days of Bikram yoga…), when I pick up a knife next, I won’t even know how to small dice my way through a carrot (Did I ever?). But happily, like returning to the gym after a few months of, say, Bikram yoga, you realize, you still know how to work the elliptical, you still know how to do lunges, and yes, you can still hold a plank for about 20 seconds longer than you want to.

Last week, when cooking dinner at Aunt Su’s, I realized there’s something really nice about not cooking for a couple of weeks. You’re flooded with a sense of relief and happiness when you realize you still, in fact, know how to make a red pepper coulis, you still remember the proper washing technique for tackling leeks, and like anything in life, you still know how to fuck a few things up and rebound from it.

It’s like taking a few months off from listening to your favorite band. The moment one of their songs pop up on shuffle, it always feels like coming home. You’re right back where you left off and suddenly remember why you fell in love in the first place. And now you get to do it all over again. And really, what could be better than that?

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8 Instagram Feeds That Dish Up Fit Food

Your Instagram account may be a secret weapon in hitting your healthy eating ball out of the park in 2015. With stunning photos and inspiring words, crush cravings for junk and learn simple nutrition tips and cooking secrets to help you in the kitchen. That banana-chia-almond-butter-cacao-nibs shake never looked so good…

Hummusapien

This blogger and registered dietician spotlights nutrient-rich meals from festive winter salads to decadent desserts that you can feel good about indulging in. Gingerbread made with chickpeas, anyone?

Vegan When Sober

Exactly what it sounds like.  Oh and, yes this is me. Clean, healthy eats 90% of the time, along with healthy eating advice, and the occasional guilt-free splurge. Because, hey, you’ve got an 8:00am spin class tomorrow that will crush any remnants of that peanut butter chocolate bourbon caramel monkey bread pie.

Natural Gourmet Institute

Live vicariously through the life of a culinary school student that reminds you that eating healthy is anything but bland and boring. This unique health-supportive cooking school is all about whole foods, unrefined ingredients and taking charge of your health through what you eat and gives you no shortage of tantalizing dishes to heart. Now, if you’ll excuse us, that carrot, parsnip and ginger soup with flax crackers is beckoning.

The Healthy Apple

What do cranberry-quinoa burgers and white bean and chai coconut salads have in common? Two meals you never dreamed you wanted until you see them on this account and make a mad dash to the supermarket. Her ever-sunny PMA (that’s army speak for Positive Mental Attitude, will brighten your day, while her swoon-worthy food photos will keep you hungry for more.

Miss Naturally Ashley

Calling all smoothie aficionados! Drool over fresh, simple smoothie and juices with empowering and motivating affirmations sprinkled throughout. P.S. Date-orade. Who knew?!

Raw Vegan Blonde

Fruits, vegetables and raw vegan delights never looked so appetizing. The vibrant arrangements of nature’s bounty will have you craving a colorful coleslaw or raw vegan “spaghetti bolognese like never before.”

Craving Thirty

What time is it? You guessed right. From veggie stir fries to butternut squash soup, you’ll be lusting over plant-based delights with the occasional inspiring mantra or meditative scene sprinkled in throughout.

Almonds and Avocados

Two awesome superfoods make for one awesome healthy eating destination on this curated selection of healthy eats. Broaden your culinary horizons –millet, nutritional yeast and panang curry, oh my!–and give yourself a laugh break with her humorous quotes like “I just want to make enough money to never have to think twice about adding guacamole.” So true.

7 Things They Won’t Tell You About Day 1 of Culinary School

Hello, Toto, we’re not in our cozy test kitchen anymore.  And man, has it been an incredibly humbling experience thus far. To be honest, my main takeaways from day numero uno pretty much boil down to (oh hey, I’m probably doing that wrong, too): I really have no clue how to cut an onion. Or a carrot. And I sure as hell don’t know how to cut a potato. Or parsley for that matter. Even better, I have no idea how to sharpen your knife properly to ensure that after incorrectly attempting the aforementioned you at least keep your knife in good shape so you can keep trying. Which, by God, I will!

1. Nobody cares about your fancy job title or your ivy league degree. In fact, you’re probably way cooler if you went to vocational high school for cooking and took a spot on the line for two years fresh out of senior year.  Garde Manger  >>> Manager du Hedge Fund // Culinary Arts  >>>  Liberal Arts.

2. Those years of French you took in high school that you thought would never come in handy (or your dad miserably laments as total “merde”) suddenly becomes way more handy than you ever imagined. Mise en place! Garde Manger! Déglacer! You’ll suddenly derive great pleasure from breaking down these terms into their literal translation and smiling smugly to yourself because you’ll probably score 8.3 points higher than you would have otherwise on the kitchen terms ID quiz next month due to your ability to breakdown words to their roots. Even concassé makes total sense! With breakage. Brilliant!

3. You don’t have to wash your hair! No, really! All it does is stay tucked up in a super tight bun under a big hat all day. What’s the point?

4. A chef’s handshake is like his coat of armor. If someone says “Oh yeah, I’m a cook,” you can pretty much tell whether or not that’s the truth by shaking hands with them. You suddenly find yourself desperately searching for colorful stories for all the calluses, scars and nicks on your hands. A little julienne war wound? Obviously from your trail at Chez Panisse. That Brunoise bruise? Clearly from your stint at French Laundry. Totally not, you know, from lifting weights at the gym or that glass you accidentally smashed on your hand in high school.  Totally.

5. Don’t go grocery shopping the day before class starts. Les whoops. You’ll go home with more baggies of chopped veggies than could be converted into feed at a chicken farm in upstate New York (which coincidentally, your school sends its compost to) and enough minced garlic to have bad breath for nine years.

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6. People will ask you “So, what did you cook?” GUYS I haven’t cooked anything. But did I mention I have a 9lb bag of poorly diagonal-slanted-cut (shoot, what’s that called again?) carrots in my fridge?

7. You will arrive at a dinner party so starving (and not to mention tired from standing on your feet all day), that you will somehow confuse the below spread for one of the 120 types of produce you identified.  Honeycrisp Ham and Fuji Filet Mignon, am I right? (You’ll also wonder how you survived twenty six years of your life without tasting a pummelo).
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Food Blog Hero Q&A with Holy Cow Vegan: Vegan Indian Food You Didn’t Know You Crave

The real title of this blog should be “Food Blog Hero Q&A with Holy Cow Vegan: Vegan Indian Food You Didn’t Know You Crave…But Must Tackle Immediately.”

Recently, I was lucky enough to pick the brain of one of my favorite food bloggers, Vaishali of Holy Cow Vegan. Her tantalizing vegan recipes (many of them Indian) run the spectrum from signature Bombay street food, Misal (If you’re not familiar, heck, even if you are, run, don’t walk) to banana coffee cake with chocolate streusel (both pictured below, courtesy of author). Her blog makes pulling off seemingly-complicated dishes approachable and fun, and her recipes never fail to introduce me to a brilliant flavor-pairing (zucchini for dessert, who knew?) or clever ways to spike a dish with not-your-average-spice-rack spices.

Misal

Banana Coffee Cake

Banana Chocolate Coffee Cake

1. What’s your favorite vegetable to cook with and why? Is there a secret-weapon veggie you use to slip into salads or soups or entrees that makes it super special? 

“I love cooking with most vegetables, but mushrooms are definitely one of my favorites. Although they’ve not been part of traditional Indian cooking, mushrooms go with virtually anything — I’ve tried them in curries, dals, sabzis (Indian side dishes) and even stuffed them in a paratha. I also love how mushrooms of all kinds contribute rich textures to vegan cooking. And they’re super-good for you, which is a huge bonus.”

2. What are your tips for ordering vegan Indian food when out? It can get tricky sometime! Is non-vegan? Any tips for decoding a menu or how to ask a waiter to make a non-vegan dish (say a stew made with ghee or dairy) vegan-friendly? Any vegan desserts on menus when eating out?

“I am not one of those vegans who will quiz a waiter about every last ingredient, especially when I am eating out with friends. The reason is that I don’t want to make a vegan lifestyle appear ridiculously unattainable to others. I usually ask the waiter if there is any ghee or cream in a vegetarian dish like a dal and if they say no, I will eat it. You might not always get dishes like dals and stews made to order because the ghee is part of the base when the dish is cooked, but with breads you have a little more leeway, since they will most often make them fresh for you and the ghee, in most cases, goes on the bread at the very end. It’s a little tough to get vegan Indian desserts in restaurants since Indian sweets are almost always milk-based, but jalebis are an option, if available. They are swirly yellow sweets made of chickpea flour and dunked in sugar syrup. They are delicious.”

3. What’s your favorite vegan Indian dish that anyone can (and should!) add to their repertoire of dinner options?

“Most vegans are really into dals when it comes to Indian foods, but I’d encourage them to try more curries made with vegetables and often a coconut and spice base, like My Dad’s Not-Mutton Mushroom Curry. While dals are wonderful for adding protein into your meal, curries like this one really perk up the taste buds and are a great introduction to the rich, varied cuisine of India.”

4. What advice would you offer to aspiring food bloggers?

“I’d advise them to blog with love. There are a zillion food blogs out there today, each one better looking than the next and SEO’d to the eyeballs, but when I think of great food blogging I always hark back to the early days when bloggers wrote about foods they cooked at home for the people they loved and why they created them, rather than just cook and post the hottest thing on Google Trends. I might be old-fashioned, but I think blogs that really engage you and have a personality are the ones that pull in and retain a loyal following. And here’s one more piece of advice: Check your grammar before you hit “publish.” 🙂 You don’t have to be a great writer, but there’s nothing as off-putting as a post with spelling and grammatical errors.”

*proofreads three times*

If I had to pick, Vaishali’s grain dishes are probably some of my favorites, and she’s been kind enough to let me share the photo of one of my favorites, Tawa Pulao. A serious treat for your senses and time-saver on weeknights. Get the recipe here.

Tawa Pulao

9 Genius Tricks for Ordering Chinese Take-out

You know those nights when you don’t want to cook? Yeah, I don’t really either. But on those rare nights where nothing will hit the spot quite like greasy Chinese food, here are some simple but brilliant tips for keeping it vegan.

1. Scallion pancakes. Enough said.

2. Ask what’s in their brown sauce or garlic sauce. Both can have oyster sauce or other animal products.

3. If the other sauces aren’t vegan friendly, here’s a simple swap: Ask for the “clear sauce” instead. This simple corn-starch based sauce (sometimes studded with scallions) is vegan.

4. A great entree option (that’s super healthy too) is mixed steamed veggies with brown rice and clear sauce (on the side, if you like). Extra hungry? Have tofu added (some menus already have this included) for some filling protein.

5. Sharing with multiple folks? If they’re getting tasty vegan options like baby eggplant, veggie trios, stir-fried crispy tofu with chile and cumin, braised assorted fresh mushrooms, mixed veggies and tofu, etc. (hungry yet?) ask for the sauce on the side, you can avoid those that aren’t vegan. And things like cold sesame peanut noodles, veggie dumplings, etc. you don’t have to worry about asking the sauce issue because it either comes on the side or is vegan.

6. Ask if they have any vegan soups. (or vegetarian, I’ve never heard of a Chinese restaurant that adds dairy to soups, or uses any kind of dairy for that matter. When was the last time you heard of chicken Teriyaki with melted cheese?)

7. Ask if they can omit egg from your veggie fried rice.

8. Don’t stress too much. If you accidentally ingest an ounce of brown sauce with animal products in it or inadvertently have a bite of something glazed with fish sauce, don’t sweat it. You want to show people how simple and delicious it is to be vegan, so don’t get too caught up in “rules” and worrying if your tofu was grilled on the same hot top as salmon was. You’ll drive yourself crazy, and your missing the bigger picture of kind and conscious eating.

9. Get your takeout out of those sad looking containers and into pretty bowls. Not only does this make for a happier looking meal, but it’ll help with portion control (ever notice how massive those Tupperwares are filled?) Nothing spells sad and pathetic pig out fest list eating your way through 2/3rds of your main course and that dinky white paper rice box and then figuring “Screw it, I’m almost done, I might as well finish it all.” And then your significant other being mad at you because they find you passed out in the bed five minutes later.