college clip: vegan dinner party in an on-campus kitchen

Asparagus Pizza

If you’re coming from my YouTube channel, welcome!  If not, check out my video that goes along with this post:

One of my goals for my second semester at college was to host a small dinner party for some of my friends.  Although I cooked a lot in my dorm room (videos and blog posts about this linked down below), I was always itching to cook in a real kitchen.  I also love cooking for other people, so a dinner party seemed like the perfect idea.

My friend Mia has a kitchen access at her dorm, the same place where we made cookies and pizza, so that’s where the gathering happened.

I began by planning a menu.  I decided I wanted to use as many seasonal and local ingredients as I could, so I based all of my recipes around local ingredients that would be available at that time (early May), such as greens, asparagus, and the remains of last year’s root vegetable crop.  Here is the Italian-inspired menu I decided on:

Sparkling Italian Soda (from Whole Foods)

Lemon Italian Ice
Green and Cannellini Bean Soup
Asparagus Pizza
Angel Hair Pasta with Arugula Pesto
Roasted Seasonal Vegetables
Mushroom Lentil Loaf – Making Thyme for Health
Lemon Italian Ice – Joy Filled Days

Because I did not have time to create and test every recipe, most of them are not my own.  Here’s what I did come up with:

Green and Cannellini Bean Soup
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 1 medium potato, cubed
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 vegan boullion cube
  • 14-oz can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh beet or radish greens, ripped into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cook the leek and shallots and together for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the potato and the water and bullion and bring to a boil, then cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in half of the cooked beans.
  4. Stir the greens into the soup and cook a few minutes until wilted, then blend the mixture.
  5. Add the remaining beans and heat.
  6. Stir in the plant milk and season the soup with salt and pepper if desired.  I served it with a little extra almond milk on top.

(loosely adapted from Sorrel & Bean Soup by Style At Home)

Green and Cannellini Bean Soup, Asparagus Pizza

Asparagus Pizza

  • Basic Vegan Pizza Dough – Vegan Richa
  • Béchamel Sauce (made with 6 oz firm, silken tofu instead of cauliflower) – Forks Over Knives The Cookbook
  • thin asparagus
  1. Roll out the pizza dough on parchment paper.
  2. Add thin layer of the béchamel sauce, and then a long row of whole asparagus (see picture).
  3. Bake for about 15 min & enjoy

Angel Hair Pasta with Arugula Pesto

  • 1-box angel hair pasta
  • Basil Pesto (made with half basil, half arugula) – Forks Over Knives The Cookbook
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Mix pesto into pasta – that’s it!
Roasted Seasonal Vegetables

Roasted Seasonal Vegetables

  • seasonal vegetable variety (I used beets, onions, garlic, carrots, and potatoes)
  • fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons of your favorite seasonings (I used salt, pepper, dried oregano and parsley)
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, if desired
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Chop vegetables to desired size.  Finely chop about 1-2 T of rosemary.
  3. Combine vegetables, rosemary, seasonings, and oil (if using) on a baking sheet.
  4. Cook for 20-35 min (depending on the size of your pieces) until a knife can be inserted fairly easily into all of the vegetables (you could also just taste it).
  5. Serve as is and enjoy.
Mushroom Lentil Loaf

After planning the menu and testing a couple of the recipes, I set the date: Tuesday May 2nd.  It was during finals week, but I knew it would be no problem since I only had one final on Monday and a paper due Wednesday, which I could have mostly completed before Tuesday.

Then came the concussion.  The Thursday before the dinner party, I fell, supposedly hit my head (I have no memory of this, but the doctors say it must have happened), and somehow got a concussion.  Of course, typical me decided to put off going to the doctor, power through finals, and go through with the dinner party which I had put so much time into planning.

Things never go as planned.  Having just had a concussion and being the physical and emotional wreck that comes with having a concussion, the dinner party was a massive struggle for me.  Headache.  Instead of biking to the kitchen, I ended up taking Uber because I knew I couldn’t make it on bike.  Motion sickness.  Then, the kitchen we wanted to use (the one with all the nice stuff – stand mixer, loaf pans, mixing bowls, plates, silverware, etc.), was being used for another event, and we had to use other one which did not have all those nice things.  Looming anxiety.  And finally, all the confusion about getting there, which kitchen we could use, and how I was going to get a few last minute ingredients pushed everything back about two hours, and there was no way I could cook all that food with so little time – my friends had finals the next morning!  Helplessness.

Angel Hair Pasta with Arugula Pesto, Mushroom Lentil Loaf, Roasted Seasonal Vegetables

Thankfully, my friends helped me out.  I had wanted to do all the cooking and cleaning myself to give my friends a nice relaxing time, but my concussion-induced overdrive was not helping anyone.  So, my friend Adam did a lot of the cooking alongside me, and everyone helped me clean up.  Although it wasn’t the evening I was expecting, all the food got made and eaten, and we still had a good time.  If/when I host another dinner party, I think I’ll be a little less ambitious with the menu, and plan for the unexpected.

Asparagus Pizza

If you are looking for more information on dorm room cooking, check out these three blog posts – 1, 2, 3 – or head over to my YouTube channel where I have several dorm room recipe videos.  My Instagram @littleplantperson is also full of quick dorm room recipe ideas and cooking tips.  More posts and videos on this subject are coming soon, so stay tuned!

college clip: pizza and cookies in a community kitchen

My residence hall at school doesn’t have a kitchen, so nearly all the cooking I do takes place in my dorm room with a rice cooker (see here, here, and here).  However, a friend of mine does have community kitchen access, so we cook there together from time to time.

This weekend, I wanted to try a new pizza dough recipe, and she wanted to make cookies.  She got the cookie ingredients, I got pizza stuff, and we set to work!

Here’s how it went:  We were lucky to snag some greens from the greenhouse behind her dorm.  We could not access the kitchen with the stand mixer and multiple baking sheets, so old pots were our stand-in mixing bowls and some of our cookies were baked in a mini cupcake tray.  The first batch of cookies was a little too oily, so we added more flour, and the next ones were perfect.  The pizza toppings we used came from the salad bar at the cafeteria, and we did Daiya-stuffed crust, which, needless to say, was amazing.  Our food turned out great.

None of the recipes we made were totally original, but here is the link to the dough recipe I used (and loved), and here is how I veganized the basic Toll House cookie recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookies:

  • 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt (we didn’t have any so can be made without)
  • 2 sticks vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups vegan chocolate chips (we mixed vegan white and dark chocolate chips)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.  Using less flour will yield flatter, crisper cookies that spread more but may be a little oily.  Using more flour will result in thicker, chewier cookies, and the flour in this recipe can be increased up to 3 cups if desired.
  3. Combine the cornstarch and water in another small bowl with a fork or whisk until fully combined.
  4. Mix butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl with a whisk) until creamy.  Add the sugars and vanilla extract, and continue to mix.  Then, add half the cornstarch/water mixture (which may need another quick stir), and combine.  Add the remaining cornstarch/water and mix, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary.
  5. Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture, and combine (switch to a spatula at this point if you are mixing by hand).  Then add about half of what is left, and combine that too.  Scrape the sides of the bowl, and mix in the remaining flour mixture.
  6. Mix in your add-ins.  This can be 2 cups regular chocolate chips, 1 cup dark chocolate chips + 1 cup white chocolate chips, 2 cups nuts, 1 cup of raisins + 1 cup peanuts, or whatever you like in a cookie.
  7. Drop 1 tablespoon mounds of cookie dough 2 inches apart on a baking sheet (you should be able to fit 12 or 15 depending on the size of your tray), and bake for 9-12 minutes until just starting to brown (check that bottoms are brown/cooked if unsure).  These will be very soft right out of the oven, but they will firm up a lot after cooling.  Enjoy your vegan treats!!

 

carrot and split pea soup

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A couple of weeks ago, I visited my university’s student-run organic farm.  It was something like a 4.3-mile bike ride, uphill almost the whole way, in 90-degree heat.  It was challenging for me, but it was so much fun.

There was only one person working that day, and he offered to show us (Patrick and me) around.  At the end of seeing everything there, he took us to a giant walk-in fridge inside their building, and inside were boxes upon boxes of harvested vegetables.  He showed me a few stacks of boxes from which, he said, I could take whatever I wanted…for FREE.  I ended up getting a huge bag of carrots, a shallot, and a bell pepper.  This was before I had any idea of how much I could actually make in my rice cooker/slow cooker, so I didn’t want to take too much stuff, in case I would not be able to use it.

The carrots I got were amazing.  They were the sweetest carrots I have ever tasted, and I used them to make soup.  The soup’s main ingredients are local carrots, local potatoes (from my CSA box back home), and local split peas (from my favorite stand at the farmer’s market).  I love using fresh, local ingredients, and I am so glad I was able to prepare them in my dorm.

If you try this recipe or are inspired by it to make something else, I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Here it is:

Carrot and Split Pea Soup:

  • 1 diced shallot
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 4 cups chopped carrots
  • 2 cups chopped potatoes
  • 1 cup dried split peas
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (or 4 cups vegetable broth, 4 cups water)
  • 2 tsp multi-purpose seasoning (I used Bragg Sprinkle Seasoning)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  1. Place all ingredients into slow cooker or rice cooker/multi-cooker, and stir everything together.
  2. For a slow cooker, cook on the “high” setting for 2 1/2 hours.  For a rice cooker/multi-cooker, cook on the “slow cook” setting for 2 1/2 hours.
  3. When the soup is done, give it a good mix, and serve with extra pepper.

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