Friday, September 12, 2014

Easy Peasy Vegan Cooking Class

This week I had the pleasure of teaching a seasonal cooking class featuring recipes from my new cookbook, Easy Peasy Vegan Eats.  This was for the North Branford Adult Education program, which is part of the Connecticut Shoreline adult education system ERACE.

Nine students gathered with me in the school's cafeteria to learn about vegan cooking, where to get your protein, iron and calcium, and how to make quick and easy recipes that everyone will enjoy. I was happy to hear that most everyone was familiar with the health benefits of a plant-based diet and had come to the class wanting to learn more about what to eat to reverse conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure and diverticulitis.  I think everyone was also pleasantly surprised to learn that healthy food could also be pretty darn tasty, too!

The menu featured recipes made with fresh local ingredients I picked up from the City Seed farmers market in Edgewood Park.  The gorgeous heirloom tomatoes were from Rosedale Farm in Simsbury and the luscious peaches were from Rose's Berry Farm in Glastonbury.  Using these fruits and vegetables when they're at their peak provides the most nutrients and flavor.

For our main dish I made Three Sisters Stew which incorporates squash, corn and beans into a tomato based broth seasoned with cumin and oregano.  The dish was served on top of creamy polenta and garnished with a drizzle of parsley pistou and a sprinkling of toasted spiced pepitas.

The colors, tastes and textures create a culinary balance that leaves one feeling satisfied.

For dessert I modified a recipe for Gooey Toffee Apple Crisp from my cookbook, substituting peaches for the apples because they just looked so tempting.  They soften up in the oven and meld nicely with the crunchy topping.  A dollop of vegan coconut milk ice cream would be the perfect accompaniment, but this was a nice refreshingly sweet ending to the meal on its own.

Thank you to Pat Cardozza and ERACE for inviting me to give this class and for everyone who attended.  I will be creating more meals like this in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned for more Easy Peasy classes and events!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My First Vegan Meal

One of my perks for teaching at Gateway Community College for the past 5 years is that I qualify to take 1 class for free each semester that I teach. So this semester I saw a "Food Writing" class that looked interesting and thought, hey, why not, it always helps to get more practice writing and be inspired by other foodies. During our first class meeting the instructor asked us to write briefly about a vivid food memory and then share our stories with the class. Out of 11 students, 4 shared stories about growing up and watching some family member kill an animal and then eat it for dinner. 

New directions, new adventures

Over the summer I've been fortunate to travel widely in support of my new cookbook, Easy Peasy Vegan Eats.  It's been a fun adventure being on the road, visiting new locations, sampling local cuisine, and meeting new people.  During this time, I've also been doing a lot of thinking about my vegan personal chef business as well as this blog.  Most of my entries focus on the food I've been cooking, the classes I've been teaching and restaurants I've been eating in.  I enjoy getting to share all of this with you, but there are times when I feel like I want to be saying so much more.  After all, the reason I do what I do is because of the animals. That has always been my purpose, but I feel like this sometimes gets overlooked in the busy day to day activities of running a food service business.

This has recently come to the forefront of attention since I just started taking a food writing class at my local college.  The aim of the class is to help students learn to write restaurant reviews, food blogs and cookbooks.  While these are all worthy aspirations, something about those goals felt inadequate to me, like I was selling myself short.  Sure, there is always room for improvement in all of those areas and I will gladly accept critique of my work in order to become a better writer and blogger.  But I'm much more of an activist than a food writer, an ethical epicure if you will, and I want to communicate from that perspective.  So, from time to time, and maybe eventually more often than not, you will see blog posts featuring animal issues and the ethics of eating vegan.  It matters more to me than a pretty photo or a tasty new recipe.  But don't worry; you'll still get plenty of those, too!

I look forward to expanding the content of this blog and hope you will enjoy taking the journey with me.

For the animals.