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I made this dish last night for a few friends and everyone really enjoyed it. It is a perfect dish when making dinner for friends because it is so quick & doesn’t take much effort at all. I will warn you though, it is kind of a strange recipe because it almost feels like you are making french toast, well with out the eggs. Anyway, you will understand once you read the recipe. I love the creaminess of the pasta without the need to add a lot of dairy that makes you feel like you are in a food coma after dinner.

.:Ingredients:.

1 box of Orecchiette pasta

1 to 2 slices of bread, crusts removed

1/2 cup milk, or enough for bread to soak up; I used hemp milk

1/2 cup walnuts

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 clove garlic

2 to 3 Tsp olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

1. Start by cooking pasta according to package directions. Orecchiette usually takes about 8-10 minutes to cook which is about how long this dish takes to prepare in total.

2. While pasta is cooking, toast the walnuts on medium heat for about 3 minutes or until you can smell a nutty aroma. Be carful not to burn them!

3. After the walnuts have toasted, put the bread in a bowl and cover with milk. Make sure the bread is soggy and has soaked up most of the milk.

4. In a food processor or blender add walnuts, garlic, soaked bread, and parmesan. Blend until creamy.

5. After walnut cream is blended, add olive oil, salt & pepper to taste. I also like to add a little sage at this point, but a pinch of any herb you like works too.

6. Once pasta is done, drain, but reserve some of the pasta water to thin out the walnut sauce a little.

7. Put cooked pasta into a large bowl and mix in the walnut creme. If sauce is too thick just add a little of the reserved pasta water until you reach the consistency you like.

8. Top with a few toasted walnuts and freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve.

Enjoy ūüôā

So this evening my lovely roommate Rhae and I made a delicious and easy meal. It is a perfect dish for summer and can be prepared in about 10 minutes. Just prepare everything while the pasta is cooking. And if you don’t have all of the ingredients on hand, just swap them out for whatever you have that is fresh and won’t take long to cook. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

3/4 box of fettuccine pasta

1 spring onion (use white part for cooking and green for garnish)

1 clove of garlic

handful of cherry tomatoes halved

1 can of chickpeas

4 or so Tsp of olive oil

juice of 1/2 a lemon

salt n pepper

any amount of fresh/dried herbs you desire (we used dried rosemary & mint)

1. cook the pasta for about 7-10 minutes depending on how well cooked you prefer

2. put a Tsp or so of olive oil in a medium sized pan and add the chopped spring onion and garlic

3. add chickpeas and let them cook for about 5 minutes

4. then add the cherry tomatoes and let cook for another 5 minutes just until the tomatoes are tender

5. once the pasta is done drain and add it to the tomatoes and chickpeas

6. add a little s&p, fresh lemon juice and any herbs you like then toss everything together

7. serve warm or cold with a glass of shiraz ūüôā

A lot of weird things have been happening to me recently. Okay, maybe not so much weird as they are coincidences, but it just seems like the “Universe” is trying to give me little signs here and there. For instance, I got this amazing book at the library called “Food Not Lawns” which shows you how to change yourself and your community (and eventually the world!) by making gardens anywhere you can, especially in your front yard! This got me thinking about all of the perfectly good land we are wasting on turf grass and ornamental plants when we could be using that same land to grow delicious food. I mean for Christ’s sake there are people who can’t even afford fresh produce and we are wasting these resources on grass you can’t even walk on because it kills the grass!!!!

Driving around that day I started to see vacant land as potential community garden sites full of green leafy kale, red oak leaf lettuce, carrots, ripe red tomatoes, sweet peas, cabbage, swiss chard and fragrant herbs.

Okay, back to the whole coincidence thing. The very next day Brave New Traveler had an article about guerilla gardening in Chicago. The name might sound kind of radical, but really guerilla gardening is about beautifying the community by planting flower and vegetable gardens which aim to create an appreciation of place and educate communities about the importance of local food. Guerilla gardening doesn’t have to be organized, just get a few people together and plant some seeds in places that look like they could use some greenery!

This got me thinking back to the Food Not Lawns book and how I could apply both of these ideas in my own community. I was inspired to plant a little garden of kale, lettuce, onions, carrots, and bok choy in an empty flower bed in my front yard. None of the neighbors seem to notice yet, but I’m sure they will when my veggies start getting bigger.

I was also inspired to start a guerilla gardening group. I know a lot of my friends have been talking about doing something like this for a while, but now I think it is actually going to happen! I want to do this as soon as we can because the Spring is slipping away and it will start getting too hot for some plants to grow.

I have a few ideas of where to start:

– vacant lot across the street from UCF

– random plots of grass on the UCF campus

– grassy park in my neighborhood

– vacant lots downtown

– grass near any sidewalk

If you have any ideas or any places you would like to see a garden LET ME KNOW! It would be so cool to see this get off the ground and grow (no pun intended) into a community movement to actually show people how to grow their own food and not be dependent on the industrialized food system that is killing us and the planet.

My new favorite thing to make, or shall I say bake, is a sweet potato! They are really cheap right now and are packed with nutrients such as vitamin A and C which help the body fight free radicals. I like to eat a sweet potato in the morning with smart balance butter, cinnamon, and honey drizzled on top. Its a satisfying meal that will stay with you throughout the morning. And since I still had kale left over from the garden I decided to make it a side dish for the sweet potato because they go amazingly well together!

Baked Sweet Potato with Garlicky Kale

1 sweet potato

1 tbsp of olive oil

1 clove of garlic, chopped

handful of kale

cinnamon, local honey,

1 tbsp vegan butter

– Preheat the oven to 450, then poke holes around the sweet potato so it will cook faster and coat the sweet potato with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil so the skin will not burn (cook for 20- 30 minutes depending on size of SP)

– once the sweet potato is done, take it out of the oven to cool and start heating up a small saute pan for the garlic and kale

– once pan in hot, add 1/2 tbsp of remaining olive oil then add the chopped garlic

– let the garlic cook for about 2 minutes or until it is slightly golden, then add the chopped kale

– once kale has cooked for about 3 minutes and turns bright green, season with S&P or any herb of your choice

– finally, add butter, cinnamon, and honey to the sweet potato and enjoy!

Last week at work, my friend Anica asked me if I could teach her how to cook more vegetarian meals. So I was thinking, what better way to give people recipes and ideas then by adding a “daily eats” section to my blog. It is also great way to show people how easy making delicious and healthy meals can be as well as sourcing fresh local ingredients. So I hope you will enjoy this new section and will be inspired to create these meals on your own.

Daily Eats Recipe #1: Kale, Potato, and Chickpea Soup

So today I made a super easy and quick veggie bean soup because I was feeling a little under the weather. I had kale from the UCF garden which tasted amazing and is great to help me stay healthy!

Kale, Chickpea, and Potato Soup
2 tbsp of olive oil
1/2 large onion
1 potato
splash of sherry
1 box of vegetable stock
handful or so of kale
handful or so of cabbage
2-3 cloves of garlic
fennel, parsley, sage or any herbs you like!

-start by putting a large pot on medium heat and adding the olive oil so it gets nice and hot for the onions
– add the onions (I like a rough chop) & let them cook for a couple of minutes until soft then add the potato (tip on the potatoes: the smaller you chop them the faster they will cook)
– once those start to brown a little, add the garlic and a splash of sherry which will help all of the caramelized goodness come off the bottom of the pot
– next, add the veggie stock and chickpeas
– this is when I like to add a little salt & pepper and the sage and let the soup cook for about 5 minutes or so
– once the soup has cooked for a bit, I add the kale and cabbage, which don’t take very long to get tender
– let the soup cook for another 5 minutes and add in the remaining herbs of your choice
– once soup is done serve with warm pita bread or corn bread or any other bread you like and enjoy!

* this recipe is super easy and can be changed to fit whatever ingredients you like. so get creative and experiment with different veggies, beans and herbs, because you really can’t go wrong with this soup!

Real Food is cool…

I hope everyone ¬†had a lovely holiday season. Winter break was pretty relaxing just hanging out with family and friends and being able to slow down a bit. Now its back to school, actually my last semester as an undergrad at UCF, and there are so many great things taking place—-more of that later. ¬†But, one of my favorite things about being back home is getting to eat my mother’s amazing meals. Not only is she a great cook but she is really supportive of my vegetarian diet and my efforts to eat more locally grown food. Unfortunately, being back home also has its downsides, like the fact that Brooksville is not the most progressive city when it comes to conscious eating. On the other hand, it has helped me to appreciate Orlando’s local food movement even more.

Right now, Downtown Orlando is the mecca for local, sustainable food fare. With vegetarian options around almost every corner, eating more ethically is easier now more than ever. Unfortunately, not every part of Orlando caters to those who are looking for better food options especially around the UCF area where more and more students are learning about the importance of eating ethically. This year the Student Sustainability Alliance (SSA) and the Body of Animal Rights Campaigners (BARC) will be trying our darndest to get more sustainable and ethical food options for students on campus. We already have an organic community garden on campus and with all of the experience and knowledge we have gained from watching the seeds we’ve planted grow into wonderful herbs and veggies, and all of the steps in between, we want to educate other students about how much better local food is for you and how easy it is to do it yourself.

This past fall we found out about the Real Food Challenge happening on a number of campuses across the country. It is a campaign that focuses on “uniting students for just and sustainable food.” I think this quote from their website ¬†describes exactly what “Real Food” is all about:

“We’re talking about food that is ethically produced, with fair treatment of workers, equitable relationships with farmers (locally and abroad), and humanely treated animals. It’s food that is environmentally sustainable, grown without chemical pesticides, large-scale mono-cropping, or huge carbon footprints. Real Food is food that is healthy, tastes good, builds community, and has the potential to inspire broad-scale social change.”

So keep an eye out for Real Food on the UCF campus! And if you would like to be involved or have any ideas or know anyone that would have ideas,  please let me know! Changing the way the 4th largest university in the nation eats will be a big task, to say the least, and we need all the help we can get. Plus, building relationships and working with others in the community is half the fun of  taking on a project like this!

Handmade is cool…

I’m very excited about Grandma Party this Sunday at Stardust downtown! No, this isn’t a day out from the nursing home for grammies around Orlando. It’s a bazaar of handmade crafts, art, clothing, jewelry and other “fantastic odds and ends!” There will also be live music all day and something called a “magical sheet fort” — we’ll have to wait and see what that is. Come out and pick up some last minute gifts for the holidays that you cannot get anywhere else.

Here’s a description from the facebook event for more info:

Over 40 local arts and crafters, musicians and independent businesses will transform the parking lot in front of Stardust Video and Coffee into a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) extravaganza at the Grandma Party Bazaar. The event will feature work from local fashion designers, bookbinders, painters, knitters, silversmiths, vintage dealers, bakers and print makers, as well as live art, custom songs written and recorded while you wait and more! WPRK 91.5 FM presents live music throughout the day. Local artist Doug Rhodehamel will create something magically spectacular for the event, while Justin Luper will create a large scale sheet-fort installation indoors for tarot readings and a special surprise after dark.

Just in case you haven’t been to Stardust Video and Coffee here is the address and time of Grandma Party:

1842 East Winter Park Road Orlando, FL 32803

10 am – Sundown!

Leaves and RootsToday I went to this AMAZING shop off Colonial Dr. called Leaves and Roots. My friend Tina told me about it a while back and now I am kicking myself for not going sooner because this place is great. Basically, Leaves and Roots sells herbs, spices, incense, soaps and essential oils. But what makes this place even better is that all of the herbs, oils and spices can be combined into capsules or teas to treat different ailments. They even have traditional herb formulas ready to go in capsules and powders that treat anything from acne to respiratory problems.

Unfortunately, because modern medicine focuses on pharmaceutical companies’ profit margin and “magical pills” rather than what we are eating and relying on plants that have been studied for thousands of years for their medicinal properties, Leaves and Roots is “legally restricted from answering your health related questions.” Good news: you can do research on your own by checking out medicinal herb and plant books or using books right in the store.

My first visit resulted in getting some spices to make my own chai masala from a recipe I found on the Matador website along with the most delicious smelling curry powder. I also picked up 2 ready made herb tea formulas; one for the sniffles and the other for sore throats just in case I start coming down with something this holiday season.

I am really excited to learn more about medicinal herbs and spices so that I can start treating myself naturally when I begin to feel “under the weather” or just ¬†to promote all around good health. It is empowering to not have to rely blindly on doctors that only treat symptoms and who are not concerned with holistic health. Knowledge really is power when it comes to your health.

a twist on traditional holiday foodSo its been a minute since my last post, but you will have to forgive my lack of multitasking abilities during Finals. Thankfully, finals are over and I can spend some much needed time surfing my favorite sites on the “inter-web.” For starters I came across this amazing recipe on VegWeb for (as evidenced by the title) African sweet potato and peanut soup!

Another super easy and delicious recipe my friend Summer and I tried today was date coconut balls. These would be a great addition to any holiday party or even as a sweet treat for someone special.

VegWeb also has an entire section of Holiday foods that transform traditional recipes into easy vegan delights! I will definitely be trying some of these recipes out for my family and friends. Enjoy!

Going veg is cool…

This morning I came across a helpful article about 10 essentials to keep on hand in your kitchen when making the transformation to a vegan diet on this travel website BraveNewTraveler that is also connected with the  Matador Network.  I love their articles so much I made BNT my homepage! 

Since I became a vegetarian my freshmen year of college and have recently been on the path to veganism, people always ask me, “So like what do you eat? Salad?” At first I found that question to be a bit loaded and rude and I would get angry when asked, but now I think its comical because I eat better than most people I know. When you decide to change towards a vegan diet, you will learn very quickly how important it is to cook. Not only because its easier on the wallet than buying Amy’s frozen dinners, but also because it gives you freedom of creativity and confidence in the kitchen.¬†

Another popular question I am asked is, “Isn’t it like totally hard to eat the way you do?” Of course to some people cooking may seem intimidating, but I think thats because our generation has forgotten how. Learning to cook is vital to sustain our existence and sanity. I find it relaxing to chop vegetables and season dishes with herbs and see all of the ingredients come together to create a meal that nourishes my body.

And another good reason to get in the kitchen and start cooking is to avoid all of the mystery ingredients in pre-made products. Most of the items in the grocery store are genetically modified and lack the nutrients our bodies need. Along with that, producing these genetically modified organisms (GMOs) causes a slew of problems such as loss of  plant biodiversity, soil erosion, water and air pollution, loss of small farms, and social injustice. 

My favorite website to find easy and delicious vegan recipes is VegWeb. You can find everything from homemade bread to lasagna. Most recipes even have pictures that gets your taste buds going and your mouth watering! 

Even if your not vegan or vegetarian but are just looking for a healthier or easier way to eat, check out VegWeb and I promise you will not be disappointed. 

Happy cooking : )