My Best Moment In…Columbus, Ohio

If you know, me, you know I have an obsession with life’s little moments. In fact, I’ve had a one-sentence diary for the better part of a decade where I write down my favorite moment of the day. It’s a good reminder that on crummy days, there’s always a silver lining (like that friendly M102 bus driver waiting for you in the pouring rain), and on your best days, it’s often the tiniest of interactions and/or feelings/sights/sounds that mean the most.

At the start of March, I spent a great week in Columbus, Ohio. I soaked in (the views of) crazy, awesome waterfalls spilling over snow-capped peaks. I took a trapeze class where I flipped upside down enough times to fill every ad page in an Amtrak magazine. I yoga-ed, museum-hopped, ate, drank, shopped, hiked and concert-attended my way through town. I even ran into a few no-neck body builders in town for The Arnold Classic.

My absolute favorite instant? Settling into a bar stool at Denmark on High, watching the elegant tango of a wildly talented bartender, smoke, muddle, shake and stir our cocktails to perfection. I may have only arrived five hours before, but New York City and my ever-expanding inbox already seemed but a fuzzy concept, ages away. The bar was alive with suited fellas mingling with organic cotton tote bag touting locals. Tourists exchanged eager conversation with retired locals (or was it a fellow conference attendee?) as the bar lit up with a happy, carefree din. I was buzzing on just three sips of my delicately-designed (local, obviously) whiskey libation. It was 4:47pm. On a Tuesday. FullSizeRender (3)

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A Not So Vegan (Or Sober) Time in Cabo

This past week (ahem, two months ago by the time I found a moment to publish this), I got back from an absolutely unforgettable time in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico where I probably had some of the best meals of my life at Hilton Los Cabos. From romantic beachside barbecues (no hot dogs and hammies here, folks) to elegant wine tasting dinners and tequila pairings with experts whose palates can detect things like tobacco, peach, and leather, leading me to believe that I’m the most unsophisticated food writer I’ve met, given that I only could detect the delicate nuances of, well, tequila-tasting tequila, every meal suddenly became the best meal yet.

When I’m home, I’m pretty strict about eating vegan: I don’t buy anything that’s not plant-based to cook with in my own home, I’ll eat dinner before going out to meet a friend if I know vegan pickings will be slim, and I’m  sometimes guilty of being that girl who asks the waiter “Were those string beans sauteed in olive oil or butter?” before ordering. On vacation, my rules (and belt buckle) loosen up a bit. I realize some (most?) vegans would probably gawk at this, saying I’m “not a real vegan” (I don’t claim to be) but I’ve been doing this for the better part of five years and it works for me, so oh well.

The trip had way too many highlights to recall (Just ask me about the time I put on a harness and zoomed across a zipline dangling thousands of feet above sea level between canyons…), but here are a few of my favorite edible memories and for good measure, dolphin photos.

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Okay I swear this post won’t be all dolphin photos. Enter: Food coma. Photos courtesy of me and Hilton Los Cabos, the swoonworthy resort where we stayed.

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Did I say food? Clearly I meant margaritas…back to food. I mean farm…

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to table…(AKA that time Jake ate an entire display table of sushi on ice…)

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Until next time I’m met with infinite margaritas and pools…

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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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Broats with Olive Oil

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Broats? You ask? Short for broccoli rabe oats. Thought it had a nice ring to it. You see, when it comes to food, I’m about as unpicky as you get. And yet, the one thing I really can’t be convinced to eat is oatmeal. Bland and blah, you’d think it’d be pretty inoffensive. But like a vegan at Peter Luger’s, it’s just not my thing.

Until…enter broccoli rabe. Peppery and slightly bitter, I stirred my leftover  broccoli rabe pesto into a packet of oatmeal and added a drizzle of olive oil and a generous crank of pepper. Suddenly, I became an oatmeal convert. And unlike everything else in my edible life, it didn’t even take crusty french bread and a bloody mary to convince me.

A Quick Update That I’ve Somehow Been Sitting on For Two Months

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The past few months have proved themselves quite fun, with trips to Fort Lauderdale, erm, Lesterdale (Happy Bachelorette, dearest Shallon!), Park City (where the folks at Washington School House, dazzled me with an incredible vegan dinner, above), Boston, Portland (Maine, not the hipster-er one on the west coast), Bradley Beach, Washington (the one in Connecticut which you’ve never heard of), DC, Charleston and many more adventures spelunking around the grand ole USA.

I’ve taught healthy cooking classes to incredible kids with cancer at Camp Sunshine, seen way too many country music concerts (but sadly, not enough DMB shows) and sipped a bloody mary (or three) in pretty much every state I’ve visited.

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Heirloom local tomato bloody mary mix with pickled okra, bleu cheese stuffed olives, celery and a lime wedge with a paprika spice mix dusted rim. Charleston, you win.

Sadly, all this aforementioned spelunking and WORK (to quote Shallon “You’re the busiest unemployed person I know!”, and to quote my boyfriend “You’re self-employed, that’s awesome!” Que endless pile of work clothes, erm, pajamas slung over my couch) has left me with not much time to update this beloved blog.

I’ll get back to it. Or at least, I sure hope I will before the domain expires in December.

Meanwhile, feel free to check out some of my other work here, here and here. More updates to come, but in the time being, thanks for all the great emails, pitches and story requests, folks. I’ll try not to be so delinquent in checking my Vegan When Sober account. But I’ve been keeping pretty busy writing fun, plant-based stories for other bigger corners to the internet for most of you to even probably notice I was gone 🙂

The Secret Guacamole Ingredient Everyone Must Try

True life: I’m a guacamole addict. But there are worse things to be addicted to? Right? Right.

Lately, my I’ve gravitated towards a less is more cooking policy, and the easy guacamole pictured here only requires a handful of ingredients: Really ripe avocados, tomatoes, garlic, red onion and lime juice. (Oh and extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper but I’m hoping if you’re reading this, that’s a pantry staple for you). And behold, my back-pocket weapon: Grapes! They add a perfect fruity twist, without being overly sweet and if you squeeze a bit of the juice into the guac, it proves a nice complement for the tangy lime juice, blah blah blah…

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Here’s How You Make 5-Ingredient Guacamole That Isn’t Boring

So many reasons to love this perfect, chunky spread that happens to be naturally vegan. We all know it’s so blah blah blah healthy your gut microbiota does a happy dance, but it also happens to be the most delicious thing to meet sliced bread on a hot summer’s day that I can think of.

Recently, I’ve been recipe testing up a guacamole storm (In fact, I’ve got so much in my fridge, I’ve started using it on pasta in lieu of tomato sauce. Pretty tasty, who knew?) for Camp Sunshine, where I’ll be volunteering later this summer. I’m looking forward to cranking out a classic rendition of it in August with the kids, but a household lime-and-red-tomato shortage (the horror!) led me to stumble upon this fun riff on the classic.

Couldn’t be easier. Here goes:

Kumato-Basil Lemon Guacamole
2 ripe avocados
1 Kumato* tomato, small dice
A handful of washed, fresh basil leaves, stems removed and torn or chiffonaded (if you’re feeling fancy)
1 tablespoon olive oil
The juice from one medium-sized lemon, or to taste
We are not counting salt and pepper as ingredients because that will ruin the 5-ingredient wonder, but you can add these

*Pictured below, Kumato tomatoes are mildly sweet, crisp and juicy brown-red-green-purpley tomatoes that are worth checking out.FullSizeRender (7)

1. Scoop out avocados into bowl and combine with tomato, basil, olive oil and lemon juice. Mash with fork to desired consistency Add sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. A flip of cayenne pepper for heat. Serve immediately or store in fridge and squeeze lemon over it every few hours to keep from oxidizing. Or if you forget to do that, squeeze with lemon before serving and hope it de-browns.

 

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Meanwhile, like in life, one good thing leads to another (or an occasional bad decision) and four avocados later, I arrived at another hit.

 

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Behold:  Spicy Caper-Spiked Kumato-Basil Guacamole

2 ripe avocados
1 Kumato tomato, small dice
A handful of washed, fresh basil leaves, stems removed and torn or chiffonaded (if you’re feeling fancy)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon capers
The juice from one medium-sized lemon, or to taste
Cayenne and paprika, to taste (I used a dash of each)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Splash Balsamic vinegar (optional)

1. Follow the same directions as above but with this set of ingredients. I’m pretty sure you know how to make guacamole. This rendition works particularly well spread on toast or, if you’re note feeling vegan, spread out as a bed for a plan of grilled salmon.

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2 Refreshing Cocktails for Summer Sipping

Summertime is not the time to wonder the right type of conditioner for your hair type. It’s also not the time to wonder. It’s also not the time to wonder about why you still haven’t managed to clean your closet (you’ve got next spring for that). It is, however, time to wonder about the easiest ways to amp up your cocktail game. That’s why when these two fruity cognac sippers were sent my way, I could practically here the clinking glasses beckoning…


Cognac Peach Julep
2 oz Cognac
0.5 oz Peach Syrup
8-10 mint leaves
Add mint to julep cup or old fashioned glass, gently press leaves. Add remaining ingredients. Add pellet or crushed ice and swizzle until outside of glass has frosted. Garnish with mint sprigs, berries, orange slices and a straw.


Roffignac Highball
The Roffignac cocktail is an old and somewhat obscure New Orleans classic cognac highball that uses a raspberry shrub instead of a simple raspberry syrup (a shrub is a syrup, usually fruit based, that uses vinegar instead of water.)
Supposedly the drink was eponymously named by its creator the Frenchman Count Louis Philippe de Roffignac (sometimes spelled ‘Rouffignac’).
1 oz Raspberry Shrub
1 ¾ oz cognac (VS preferred or VSOP)
Club Soda

 

Measure Shrub and Cognac into 10 oz Highball glass. Fill glass with ice. Top with chilled club soda and stir well.Garnish with two skewered Raspberries

Raspberry Shrub:
1 cup red-wine vinegar
1 1/2 quarts freshly picked raspberries
Sugar

 

In a nonreactive bowl, combine the vinegar and raspberries. Cover, refrigerate and let macerate for 3 days.
After 3 days: Mash the raspberries in the bowl, then strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. To every 1 cup of juice, add ½ pound of sugar (1¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon). Combine the juice and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer (gently!) for 15 minutes until the sugar dissolves.Let cool, then bottle. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 months.

Our Final Culinary School Dinner: Put Some South in Yo’ Mouth

Nope, not your average meat and three or butter and cheese-loaded mac and cheese and cornbread-fest. Given my penchant for anything southern and involving glazed pecans, it’ll come as no surprise that my six-person culinary-cohort settled on a southern themed epicurean paradise.  And this past Friday night (times two because I wrote it two weeks ago and forgot) was the culmination of my chef’s training program at the Natural Gourmet Institute: a three course vegan meal for 100 people.

Also of note, my amazing boyfriend who could subsist (ew did I just say amazing boyfriend? I hate people who wax poetic about that kind of stuff) on eggs and lean chicken breast alone with a wild aversion to all things plant-based, offered rave reviews of the bean and mushroom stout pot pie (even more miraculously, he hates both beans and mushrooms) and probably tried about five new vegetables in the appetizer alone.

After countless hours of chiffonading greens (because, hey, I can kind of do that now), supreming oranges (which, hey, I can also do) and arguing for spiralized beet “noodles” over roasted pickled beets, we managed to pull it all off. Behold, a few favorite photos from the feast.

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This is The Sandwich I Will Be Eating Again and Again Forever

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I think it’s safe to say this is all I will be eating for the next month and a half. Rainbow slaw with snow peas, purple cabbage and radish with pan seared-breaded tempeh and some kind of vinegar-y drizzle I can’t even remember because I was so fixated on shoving the next bite down my throat.

In other news, I finish culinary school in two weeks (!!!) which means perhaps I’ll finally stop eating chickpeas and tempeh all miso-infused umeboshi this all the damn time.

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