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.

menu

FullSizeRender (3)

FullSizeRender (1)

 

FullSizeRender (4)

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

tempeh sandwich

 

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.

FullSizeRender

This is What a Snack Looks Like When You’re in Culinary School

 

vegan spring snack
vegan spring snack

…Because it’s impossible to not feel guilty if you just want a goddamn handful of pretzels. Oh well, the red chile  pepper flake-studded focaccia with avocado, snow peas, pickled radishes, asparagus, frisee, cherry tomatoes and various other leftovers salvaged from Friday Night Dinner at school (ditto for the pretty tulips) only took me twenty-five minutes to put together. And yes, I may have just eaten that entire pecan-crusted berry tart. But hey, agar is a sea vegetable so it’s good for you…am I right? 😉

vegan spring snack
vegan spring snack

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.

5 Things to Buy for the First Week of Culinary School

So you got your knife kit, now what? Before you’re poached pear-ing and artichoking (or in my case, just choking because you have no idea what you’re doing…) here are a few key assets I wish I knew to buy before the first week of culinary school.

1. 6-Inch Ruler

It will come in handy more than you ever dreamed. No excuses. It’ll probably cost you 75 cents at a hardware store. Unless you’re me and go to a hardware store that doesn’t sell it, than head off in a blizzard to Michael’s, an art supply and crafts store that also doesn’t carry it, and finally wind up at Staples that sells a pack of 2 for $3, but you subsequently lose the first set without even using them, and have to trek back to buy another set. So let’s just say it ranges from 75 cents to $6 (and a whole lot of frustration). Pro-tip: Don’t ask your significant other if he has one you can borrow.

2. Duck Tape

Remember that aforementioned  super-expensive knife kit? You don’t want to be the idiot who gets their knives stolen, or, even more likely, confuses it with the mayhem of 20 other knives floating around the kitchen from your classmates and then grabbing the one with the dull edge…right before the exam. I jazzed mine up with glittery looking tape, but any old tape will do.

3. Knife diorama kit

banana knives

As if that $300 knife kit wasn’t enough, just suck it up and pay the $15 at your school’s front desk or online for one of those nifty kits. It comes with 3-D cut-outs of the widlly impossible cuts you still won’t understand how to accomplish (Tourné, anyone?). Your knife skills practical exam will be thanking you.

4. A lock

You’ll have more knives, hand towels, and pastry thing-a-ma-bobs than you know what to do with, which you’ll probably cry over if they go missing. Not to mention your cell and wallet. Do yourself a favor and show up with a lock on day one, ready to go.

5. Shoe Insoles

Remember those super expensive pairs of ugly clogs you bought? Couple that with the insane amount of hours you’ll be standing on your feet all day. Now: make those shoes worth it by spending the extra dollars on insoles so the comfort level goes from “Meh, why did I spend $90 on these” to “Kind of walking on air.”

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.

IMG_0198

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).
FullSizeRender (1)

Swirl This Surprising Ingredient Into Butternut Squash

Apparently, I’m on a mashed non-potatoes kick.

When I found some organic butternut squash in my freezer, I went to work. And by work, I mean, boiled water, dumped the squash in, put a lid on it, waited five minutes, and then strained out the water and added the squash to a bowl and mashed it with my fork.

So what’s this magical go-to? Mild yellow miso paste. Just a dollop, but this umami-rich paste complements the natural sweetness of the squash. while lending a palate-popping savoriness. With a sprinkle of smoked paprika, this three ingredient lunch is as simple as it is gobble-worthy. I’m totally not on my third bowl. Totally.

Vegan Greek Salad with Oregano-Dijon Vinaigrette

Crusty french bread. It’s my downfall. I basically spend 41% of each day attempting to figure out, “What meal can I create that create a delicious vestibule to dip crusty french bread?” The answer, unfortunately for my carbohydrates intake, is pretty much everything.

Thankfully, this healthy Greek Salad leaves me full enough that my baguette-a-day addiction has dissipated.

IMG_0107

Ingredients
(serves 2)

Salad:

1/4 package kale
1/4 package herb salad mix (preferably with dill in it) or lettuce of choice
6 grape leaves, crumbled
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 cucumber, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 orange pepper, chopped
10 baby carrots, chopped
optional: 1/4 onion, chopped

Dressing:

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard.
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes
Hearty sprinkle nutritional yeast (yay B12!)
salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

FullSizeRender

1. Mix all salad ingredient in bowl. Add dressing and coat evenly.
2. If possible, refrigerate for an hour to let dressing soak in. Eat!
3. Yes, it’s okay to sop up the extra dressing with crusty french bread.

How to Eat Vegan on A Norwegian Cruise Ship

photo 1

If you’re gearing up for a cruise ship vacation, or even just toying with the idea, you’re probably thinking “There’s no way I can eat vegan on an all-you-can-eat cruise extravaganza.” And while that may be true, you can most definitely eat vegan when sober. Here’s how I did it:

1. These ships are typically equipped with about 20+ restaurants. Seek out the ethnic ones like Japanese (ours had its very own version of a knife-tossing, action-packed Benihana), Chinese and Indian (and at the buffets, steer clear of the never-ending options of carved meats and look for the abundance of international stations). Even the Italian spots should be able to dole out a simple pasta with veggies and olive oil or pasta with tomato sauce and freshly cracked black pepper.

Dinner at Benihana-knockoff:photo (2)

 Makeshift-dinner plate round two created from some international buffet stations like Indian and Japanese:photo 5

2. Explore the high seas in comfort by raiding the breakfast buffet for mini boxes of vegan-friendly cereal and fruit. Snack on them throughout the day to keep you fueled between meals.  Craving a bagel for breakfast? I regret to inform you, tofu cream cheese won’t be on any of the 29389283 decks. Instead DIY a boring bagel with the friendly help of a toaster, capers, onions, tomatoes, olive oil and vinegar and whatever other vegan-friendly options your heart desires.

FullSizeRender

3. Just ask! You’ve spent lord knows how much money to be there (and don’t forget that $12 service fee per day per person. Thanks for the heads up, guys) so don’t be shy about speaking up to your waiter. See an eggplant dish on the dinner menu that looks intriguing but is doused in mozzarella? See if they can make you a special version sans cheese. See a salad that looks delectable but is topped off with slivers of tuna? Just ask if they can leave off the fish from yours.

photo 2

4. Anchors and…condiments away! Befriend toppings and sauces. Seriously. With the help of sriracha and toppings from the grill station like caramelized onions, mushrooms and horseradish, you can turn any blah meal into something quite tasty.  Yes, sometimes you have to think a bit creatively to make a full vegan meal in the main dining hall but its totally doable. At buffet style meals, I often utilized various stations to make a meal come together that otherwise wouldn’t stand on its own (i.e., for the pasta pictured below, I got ziti with tomato sauce, onions and mushrooms from the pasta area, and then headed over to the salad bar for flavor-boosters like olives and peppers and protein doses from chickpeas and peas. Then over to the pizza bar for red chile pepper flakes. Done!)

photo 4

5. Don’t get drunk and raid the soft serve machine. You’ll thank me later. But don’t worry about getting drunk and bingeing on veggie burgers loaded with guacamole, horseradish, jalapenos, spicy mustard, onions and waffle fries. It’ll make those $9 Dirty Shirley’s (it’s a thing! I thought I brilliantly reinvented this childhood favorite into a booze-infused libation myself but alcoholic Shirley Temples are a thing, who knew?!)

burger