new year, new intentions

Hello there.  If you’ve been following this blog for a while or have checked out any of my old posts (back from when I first started this thing in January of 2016), you would know that my content and frequency of posts has changed dramatically.  That (and more) is what I’m going to talk about in this blog post.

I want to start with some basic 2018 reflections.  2018 was a huge year of growth and learning for me.  My first semester of 2018 (last winter) was probably the worst semester I’ve had in college.  I was incredibly busy, stressed out, did not have time to eat an adequate lunch many days of the week, and cried sometimes in the morning when I got up because I knew my day was going to be terrible.  I am a lot more resilient after that experience.

Throughout my life, I have always traveled a lot, and 2018 was no exception.  I took a couple of smaller trips, including one to Los Angelas in early January and another to Montreal in late August of last year.  My big trip last year was a study abroad experience through my university.  It was all about international food laws, and we went to London, Paris, Geneva, Florence, and Parma.  It was a three week trip, and it was awesome.  That said, I had very different interests than my peers (such as vegan food), so I did a lot of things on my own.  I rode the subway alone, went to all the incredible European vegan restaurant alone, visited the Centre Pompidou in Paris (which I have wanted to do since middle school) alone, and did many other things alone.  I also got pink eye, which, although extremely isolating since no one wanted to come within 10 feet of me for more than several days, was extremely fascinating because of my interactions with the medical system there.  I am a lot more independent and have a radically different perspective on health and healthcare after that whole experience.

I also worked full-time at a farm over the summer.  I’ve talked a lot about that place here on this blog (since even before I got a job there back in 2017), and being able to work there every day throughout the season was incredible.  I also took classes and was busier than ever.  But I was happy, and I will look back fondly on that summer for the rest of my life, despite some other difficult things that happened during that time.

Another big thing in my life that happened was finally changing my second major (Arts and Humanities is my first) from Food Science, which I hated, to Nutritional Science, which I like much better.  This was really hard for me, but I can actually see myself doing this sustainably for the rest of undergrad.  My first semester as a Nutritional Science major was great, and I am truly looking forward to all the classes I have to come.

Now that I’ve reflected a bit on all I’ve done in the last year, I am going to speak to all that I haven’t done here online in the last year.  I made two blog posts, uploaded one YouTube video, and have been sporadically active on Instagram.  Most people would agree that I have done next to nothing.  That said, I have been thinking a lot about my online presence.  What this blog started as (a vegan recipe blog) just isn’t what I want to do anymore.  I still love food and creating recipes, but I don’t have a kitchen, and anything I make in my dorm is not worth writing about.  On the other hand, I had no direction at all when I started YouTube, and, now, I’m not happy with over half of the content I have uploaded.  This year, I want to set some more serious intentions regarding these online platforms.  Some questions I’ve asked myself:  What do I want my online presence to be?  What do I have to contribute to the online community?  How can I be a positive light and not just one among the crowd?  Does my Instagram showcase my true self?  Does my YouTube improve people’s lives?  What about my life do I feel comfortable sharing online?

There are many more things I have asked myself than this, but these questions have been at the core of my reflections of the last year.  After some deliberations, I have decided on a couple of intentions I want to set for  Little Plant Person for the new year and indefinitely.

I want this blog to be nothing more than a platform for personal reflection.  I am not going to set out trying to reach people in this way.  My blog is for me.  Writing is what I like to do, and this is a perfect place to do more of it.  If I feel inspired to post recipes or projects like I used to, I will.  But I feel that those things are more suited for other platforms like YouTube and Instagram, where my ideas can more easily reach more people.  This blog, going forward, will be my journal.  For those who would care to know more about me personally, they can look here and read about it, but I do not want to be shoving my personal life into other people’s feeds.  If people really care to know me on a deeper level, as I said, they can read about it here.

YouTube is an online platform that I absolutely love.  There are so many things one can do with a YouTube channel, and I think that I have, up to this point, been overwhelmed with the possibilities.  I have tried a lot of different types of videos, but I have come to find that only certain types of videos are the ones I am most proud of, many of which are also my most popular.  That is what I want to do more of.  There is no point in sticking with types of videos I’m not good at and that no one wants to watch.  I want to create more informative, how-to or project-oriented videos, like I used to do here on the blog.  I like the way making recipes and doing other projects can come to life through film, and I think I will reach more people putting that type of content on YouTube.  Another thing: I also realized I feel quite uncomfortable putting more personal things like I do here on the blog out on YouTube.  I want my videos to truly help or inspire people to live better and do more, not entertain (or bore) them.  Helpful.  Inspiring.  Informative.  These are the words I am going to keep at the heart of my YouTube creations form now on.  If I am not inspired, informed, or putting out content that will add to the community in some way, I am not going to put out videos about that.

Finally, even though I made my Instagram in May of 2016, I still feel like such a noobie!  My vision for my Instagram is a little less concrete than those for this blog and for YouTube, but I have some thoughts.  When people visit my page, I want them to see me.  I want my true self to be reflected in my Instagram.  I want it to focus on aspects of my daily life, like it does now, but it needs to be more cohesive.  To achieve this, I want to do more this year to develop techniques to create a beautiful page that is a reflection of me.  Instagram is a very creative platform, which largely focuses on photography, but can also involve writing, visual arts, and more.  I have great ideas and an interesting life (at least I think so), but I am having a hard time finding the best way to showcase it through Instagram.  Instagram plans … TBD!!

In conclusion of this post, I’m going to bring it back to the rest of my life because, honestly, that’s what I do with the vast majority of my time, and I want to be open about that.  I am going to end with just some little resolutions I have for this year, which I can look back on in 2020 and see if I’ve achieved:  (1) drama free 2019 (nuff said?)  (2) pantry eat out (eat everything in my pantry – yes, including all that stuff from two years ago that we all seem to forget to eat)  (3) get to class on time or early (I can do it!).  There’s a little bit (or a lot, actually) more that I have planned for the year to come, so if you want to follow my life follow me @littleplantperson on Instagram.

Thanks for reading this incredibly long post.  Have a happy new year and great 2019!!

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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dorm-friendly sweet cinnamon rice

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I am a college student now.  At my university, I am required to live on campus for my first year, which, of course, means no private kitchen.  I have heard about a community kitchen nearby, but it isn’t like I am going to make the trek over there, arms piled with ingredients and cooking supplies, every time I feel like whipping up a quick meal.

Lucky for me, a lot of the people around me have been really supportive of me cooking in my dorm and have gifted me some super cool gadgets solely for that purpose.  If any one of the people who contributed to my collection is reading this, you know who you are, so thank you.

The tool I use in today’s recipe is my Aroma Professional Rice Cooker.  I have just started experimenting with cooking soups, pastas, and other dorm-friendly meals, so today’s recipe is a simple one that only cooks rice.

Before I get to the recipe, I would like to note that I am not just eating in my dorm.  My cafeteria has a lot of vegan salad options, soups, and starches, and I go there once, usually twice, and sometimes three times a day.  I could easily eat vegan at the cafeteria, but I certainly prefer to cook my own foods, at least some of the time.  Not only is what I make usually healthier, but it is also fun for me, and I hope to have more college dorm creations to share with you guys this school year.

Now, onto the recipe…

Dorm-Friendly Sweet Cinnamon Rice:

  • 2 rice cooker cups uncooked rice (1 1/2 standard cups)
  • water
  • 1-3 teaspoons maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
  • a couple sprinkles of cinnamon
  • rasins (optional)
  1. Place rice into rice cooker container, and rinse the rice.  To do this, fill the container (with rice already in it) with water, mix with your hand, and drain, being careful not to dump out any rice.  Repeat until the water is relatively clear.
  2. Add water to 2 cup line and cook according to rice cooker directions.  The water added will be about 4 rice cooker cups or 3 standard cups.
  3. When the rice is done, divide it between 2 bowls, and add maple syrup, cinnamon, and raisins to taste.

Let me know in the comments what you think about this recipe!

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rice stuffed summer squash with vegetarian gravy

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Every week, I get a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box that is filled with delicious, local, non-GMO veggies, sustainably grown only 15 minutes from my house.  We get loads of kale, collard greens, tomatoes, garlic, summer squash, and, sometimes, fruit, like cherries, peaches, and strawberries.  I love that my family supports this program that is good for the community, the environment, and the health of those who are able to partake in eating the beautiful produce.

This summer, I have received some particularly interesting squash, one of which was one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth: Tromboncino squash.  It has a wonderful, almost buttery flavor, and I would highly recommend trying it if you get the chance, even if it looks a little funny (like giant green sausage).

Today’s recipe, however, focuses around more common summer squash.  I have used both large zucchini (shown above) and patty pan squash (shown below) for this recipe.  It is the perfect end-of-summer, beginning-of-fall dish, topped with my favorite vegetarian (vegan) gravy.  This gravy is especially delicious if made with homemade mushroom broth.

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Wild or Brown Rice Stuffed Summer Squash:

  • 2 cups uncooked wild or brown riceIMG_2848
  • 1 very large or 2 medium summer squash
  • 1 onion
  • handful fresh thyme
  • handful fresh rosemary
  • 2 heaping cups mushrooms
  • pepper
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  1. Cook the rice according to package directions.
  2. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. Cut the squash as is most appropriate for filling (see pictures below and above), and IMG_3065scoop out the seedy flesh and set aside.  Leave about 1/4-1/2″ of squash under the skin on all sides.
  4. Bake the squash for 20 minutes until about half-cooked.
  5. Chop the onion, mushrooms, and herbs separately.
  6. Saute the onion until soft, then add the thyme, rosemary, and mushrooms.
  7. When the mushrooms begin to release their juices, add the dried cranberries, a pinch of pepper, and the squash insides (chopped to smaller pieces if necessary).  Cook until the squash pieces are done.
  8. Mix in 2-3 cups of cooked rice.
  9. When the squash in the oven is half-cooked, fill it with the rice mixture.  Make sure to really press the mixture down to fit in as much filling as possible.  Any that does not fit in the squash can go on the tray around the squash to get crisp in the oven.  If making gravy, leave the pan that the mixture was cooked in, and don’t worry about scraping out every last bit.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes until the squash is fully cooked.  I prepare the gravy during this time.
  11. Serve with vegetarian gravy.  I also like to eat this with potatoes and a green vegetable.

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Vegetarian Gravy:

  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • small handful rosemary
  • 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch or flour
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Marmite (optional)
  • pepper
  1. Chop the onion and cook it in the used pan of what it will be served with, in this case, the pan of the squash filling.
  2. Mince the garlic and rosemary, and add it to the onion.  Add a little vegetable broth to the pan to prevent sticking.
  3. Whisk in the flour or cornstarch, adding more vegetable broth as needed.
  4. When the mixture is smooth (no cornstarch chunks), whisk in the rest of the 3 cups vegetable broth (at this point it will be about 2 cups), soy sauce, and Marmite, if using.  Season with pepper to taste.
  5. Let the mixture simmer on low for about 5 minutes.
  6. Puree the gravy with a blender, food processor, or immersion blender.  If a thicker consistency is desired, return gravy to pan and continue to cook on the stove, mixing frequently.  For a thinner gravy, add more vegetable broth or water.
  7. Enjoy on stuffed squash, mashed potatoes, or literally anything your heart desires.

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