Friday, May 8, 2020

Rouxbe Cooking School

I hope everyone is staying sane and safe during this weird Coronavirus time. I think there is a lot of good that can come out of what many consider to be bad and giving us all the space to slow down and take time for ourselves is one of those things. For me, I've enriched my life with many positive things like being able to spend more time with my boyfriend, taking an ethics course online, and taking cooking classes online.

Some of you know that I went to a cooking school in Boulder, Colorado and it was absolutely fantastic. That school also started an online program a few years after I completed my certificate and I thought, 'well, that can't be as good as the real thing,' and while I still somewhat believe that to be true, I recently took some online courses at the leading online culinary school, Rouxbe, and was really impressed.


The first course I took was the longest and most involved and that was the Plant-Based Cooking: An Introduction. It starts with a course platform tour that helped me understand how the platform works. The opening information about the course made the course seem accessible to all: "Switching to a plant-based diet is challenging, even for experienced cooks," which is totally true. They also introduce their Map of Cooking, which is the framework upon which the courses are based and is helpful in organizing information.

The courses follow a logical progression and are organized by units, lessons and tasks. I loved that it started with knife skills, which are really important for veg chefs. Each task has a combination of text to read, videos, and practice. Most things are demonstrated in a video that you can stop and play back as needed. I was amazed at how much I learned in this course.

I enjoyed refreshing my knife skill knowledge by practicing with scallions. There was also nutrition information that was spot-on! And immediately beneficial was the explanation of moist-heat vs. dry-heat cooking methods. While we all cook in some way, I'm not sure everyone understands why we do things in a certain order in a recipe. Rouxbe explains all of that. I really wanted to do some more roasting so I made the Roasted Cauliflower recipe and it turned out amazing.



Then, I was inspired to try the Roasted Eggplant recipe. It was much more involved than you would think, but in the end, I made the best roasted eggplant I've ever had and turned that into Baba Ganoush! I was so impressed with the end result!

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They go into the combination cooking methods as well like braising and stewing. Then, into vegetables and salad. Do you know the proper way to make vinaigrette? Do you know why we add acid during cooking and to which vegetables this enhances color? Do you know how to properly store salad? Do you know how to preserve vegetable pigments while cooking? All of this is covered. I also made the Kale Salad as a practice recipe. Delicious!


Juicing is covered as is how to properly cook grains, legumes, and rice. I really enjoyed the section on the different ways to cook rice. It shows that we can all learn and relearn these things over the years. Some of this stuff was a really nice reminder and some was new.

The practice recipes were really top-notch and there are still so many more I want to try. In addition to this course, there are lots of others. The ones I took and enjoyed were Art of the Wok: Stir-Frying, Food Safety, How to Cook & Make Pasta, and Cooking Vegetables. While there is definitely some overlap, I found I learned some important techniques in each of these courses.

I also liked that there is a self-assessment at the beginning of each course and practice quizzes before the final exam. At the end, you are given a certificate and sent on your way!

Rouxbe offers a free 30-day trial and is currently offering a special membership of only $59.99 for the year, which is well worth it in my opinion. To sign up, click here.

Full Disclosure: While I received a free two-month membership to Rouxbe, that did not influence my veracious opinion.

Monday, April 6, 2020

What the heck should I do all day? Version 2

For those of you holed up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all this free time could be driving you crazy. But, for those of us that have been lucky enough to stay healthy, the extra time we have on hand could be a blessing in disguise. It has allowed companies and individuals to think creatively and now you can even use this time to take that course online that you always wanted to take.

Here are 5 of my favorite things to do right now:

1. Netflix Party: By installing a Google Chrome extension, you can now watch Netflix shows and movies with your friends. You just log on to your Netflix account and once you find what you and your friends want to watch, then you click the NP extension in your browser and voila! you receive a link. Send that link to your friends and you are now watching it live together complete with a chat room on the side that you can use to discuss the series or movie.  Now you too can watch Tiger King with your friends! To download it, click here.


2. Free Online College Courses: Class Central has put together an amazing list of the top nearly 450 free online courses by Ivy League Colleges. I was surprised at how many free courses were available! And I'm currently taking The Ethics of Eating course by Cornell, which raises some interesting points about factory farming and its effects on...well everything. This course, however, is not pro-vegan, rather it states arguments from those who promote the eating of animals as well as those who do not and a lot more. I'm only in week two now, but I'd recommend it based on what I've seen. To see the list, go here.


3. Hamsters: You know they are cute. And how about spending just five minutes watching one of the coolest and cutest videos of all time?! A spine that allows a hamster to turn 360-degrees inside a small tube and cheeks that extend to their hips--there's so much to learn with the amazing videography and narration in this video.


4. Free Photography Courses: Nikon is offering free photography courses during the month of April. This is your chance to learn how to better photograph the landscape, people, pets, and much more. These classes run from 15 minutes to one hour in length and usually are available for a charge, but this month only, they are free. Access them by clicking here.


5. Virtual Vegan Happy Hour? Why not! Join the Vegetarian Society of DC for a Virtual Happy Hour tomorrow, April 7 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. Pour up a Quarantini and a cute vegan t-shirt and meet like-minded people online. Join here.


That's it for now! Stay tuned for more if the quarantine continues...

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Papa John's Now Offers Vegan Pizza Delivery

In these days and times, it is better to order food than to go pick it up. So why not order a pizza today?! Papa John's now offers vegan pizza delivered!

There was a time, in the not too distant past, when certain things were hard to come by. One important example: vegan pizza. Now it's yours for the asking, and you can even get it delivered to you. It's all part of the pizza revolution: pizza the way you want it, with nutritional ingredients, fresh onions, peppers, roma tomatoes, and mushrooms. To get a custom pizza without any animal products, you just have to build the pizza the way you like.
  • Start with original hand-tossed dough that contains no animal products
  • Add the original or BBQ sauce
  • Layer on an assortment of veggies such as peppers, spinach, pineapple, and onions
  • Throw on some seasonings or sauces to add flavor


There, as quick as that, you have veganized your pizza. For a complete meal, add a side such as original breadsticks and drinks and you are all set. In a few minutes, the pizza will be delivered to your door.

The Importance of Quality Ingredients
It is important and understandable that you want to know what goes into the food you are eating. Fortunately, now it's easier than ever to find out all of the nutritional info on your orders by looking online or asking a customer service representative. It can be comforting to know that the best gluten free pizza crust is yours for the asking. Made from ancient grains, including sorghum, teff, amaranth, and quinoa, the crust is thin and crispy and has a uniquely delicious flavor. This is all part of the "better ingredients, better pizza movement," with a simple goal: provide quality foods for customers. In 2016, this resulted in the removal of artificial flavors and synthetic colors from the food menu. Other enhancements include not using certain preservatives or flavor enhancers, partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup in any of the menu items. It's all about menu transparency and giving customers the needed tools to make informed choices.

The Importance of Affordability
It is always nice when the food you eat and love is good for you, and it's certainly helpful when you get a good deal. When it comes to the affordability scale, nearly everyone will agree that free pizza is about as good as it gets. With a robust rewards program, you can rack up points every time you order. Soon you will be rewarded with a pizza on the house. You can also look for exclusive offers, deals, promo codes, and discounts that make this already affordable choice of pizzas or Papadias even less expensive. This includes a vegan pizza or one with a gluten-free crust, as well as everything else on the menu. It's an affordable choice for treating the family to a night out, or bringing the meal to you with delivery. Eat well today and get your favorite pizza.



Full Disclosure: This is a sponsored post by Papa John's. Besides that, I love Papa John's pizza. :-)

Thursday, March 19, 2020

What the heck should I do all day? (In response to COVID-19 isolation)

Hello everyone! As you may have noticed, I've taken a break from blogging since I relocated to Switzerland in August of 2018.



What? Why did you do that?


Good question! As many of you know, in addition to being a vegan blogger, I'm also an extreme sports athlete. Having started with drag racing at the tender age of 22, it seemed only logical that I someday get into skydiving and BASE jumping (jumping off of buildings, antennas, bridges, and mountains with a parachute). I've been participating in skydiving regularly since 2016 and BASE jumping since 2018. My BASE jumping "career" almost ended abruptly in my first year when I had a terrible accident in Norway in 2009 that resulted in me shattering my heel bone and breaking my ankle. It was during this time of reflection that I started this blog.

Now let's fast forward to November 9, 2016, which is the day that Trump was elected president. I do not want to turn this into a political blog and appreciate all of my followers regardless of which party they identify with, but, for me, this was equivalent to the end of the world. In 2017, I called the German Embassy to see if I might have been born a dual citizen as my mother was born in Germany and come to find out that the law changed the year I was born, so I was born a dual citizen even though my older brother was not. So I could actually leave the country? It started as a joke, but ended up changing my life. I went to the German embassy in Washington, DC in 2017 and picked up my passport, then moved to Switzerland in August 2018 where I've been happily BASE jumping since!


Again fast forwarding...this time to today and here we are in a crisis. Here in Switzerland, everything has closed except for pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations, etc. We are supposed to stay inside, but that's driving everyone crazy. And I have a personal crisis in that I ruptured my ACL and tore my meniscus in a skiing accident, so I've been recovering inside since December 30! This experience has made me grateful for all that I have and now I'd like to give back to my community. So, I thought I'd share some resources that may help brighten your day. Instead of overwhelming you with lots of resources, I'm going to highlight just five to begin.

1. Rouxbe Cooking School: They call themselves the leading online culinary school and while I'm currently taking their classes and planning to review them, from what I've seen, they are very high quality classes. They have just announced a 30-day FREE membership providing access to 75 lessons, hundreds of chef-created recipes and more than 12 courses ranging from pasta to knife skills. Everything is available to members 24/7 and can be streamed on any device. With restaurants being closed in many areas, it's the perfect time to hone your cooking skills! To sign up, visit https://rouxbe.com/trial.


2. The Dailey Method Meditation: This FREE 21-Day Meditation Challenge is perfect for those who don't feel like they have time for meditation. I've been doing it from Day 1 and it starts with just 5-minute long meditations and progresses up to a 13-minute long meditation (so far). I find it cleansing to clear my mind and be present a few minutes per day. They started on March 2 and are scheduled to continue through March 22, so be sure to access them soon. I imagine they'll be online a bit longer than the last scheduled day. You can access the meditations at https://thedaileymethod.com/Online/browse/class-format/dailey-meditation/21-day-meditation-challenge/.



3. DuoLingo: Learn a new language for FREE! Using DuoLingo's platform, you can begin learning a new language right away. They make it fun and interactive and some languages allow you to access "stories" to chat with a bot. If nothing else, it's entertaining and you are bound to learn a thing or two. To join, go to https://www.duolingo.com/.

4.  Yoga District: DC's leading yoga studios is offering live online classes in yoga and meditation. This studio employs top-notch instructors and offers high quality instruction. Full Disclosure: I used to teach yoga there as well. :-) To see the class offerings, go to https://www.yogadistrict.com/.


5. Tour a Museum (Virtually): Travel and Leisure Magazine put together links for 12 museums that offer online interactive or video tours and they are really cool! Who said you couldn't become more cultured sitting at home? To view, go to https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours.


So that's it for today. I hope you enjoy these resources and I hope to be back with more soon. Let me know if you know of some I can share with others!


Monday, January 7, 2019

An Announcement and Review of Campaign Monitor Services

Hi All! I have some very exciting news--I have relocated to Switzerland! More on this later!!

For now, I had an exciting opportunity to announce this using an email marketing platform provider called, "Campaign Monitor," that allows you to send emails to your subscribers. If you are on my subscriber list, you would have received this announcement over the weekend. If not, please sign up now by clicking this link.

Campaign Monitor is this awesome, easy-to-use platform to send emails to your subscriber list or customer base that can feature an important announcement, distribute a newsletter, send deals or offers on products you sell, obtain feedback, announce events, or confirm an action taken on your website like a hotel booking. It's really cool! It has beautiful templates that you can work with so that even those who are not that tech savvy (like myself!) can create gorgeous, eye-catching emails in very little time.


So, I designed an email to announce my move to Switzerland. Here's how it worked:

First, I answered some questions about my business. I indicated that my contacts were stored in a csv file that I was able to pull from Feedburner and I indicated that I was the only person using this account. Done.

Then, you have the option to watch a five-minute video on how to get started, which I did. I thought it went a bit too fast as I wasn't able to catch everything, but it was a nice quick overview to show me that this process would not be too difficult.

Then, you must choose your plan. For just $9 per month, you can send 2,500 emails across campaigns, receive customer support via email, access all core email marketing features, and have access to the insights analytics suite. That sounded sufficient to me! There are other options for $29 and $149 per month that offered features I truly didn't need.




Once I signed up and paid the $9 fee, I was able to sign up for a 30-minute webinar that is offered once a week. That sounded great, but the next webinar was scheduled in five days and I was anxious to get this email out, so I skipped signing up for that.

To begin, you choose who you would like the email to come from, i.e., which email address, what the subject line will be, and whether you'd like the subject line to include your subscribers' first names.

Next, you choose a starting point by choosing a design. I chose an Announcements design and was shown many cool templates.



Once I double clicked the template, I was able to start customizing it. I was amazed at how easy it was. You can keep all the predefined fields in the design if you like or you can swap them out for other types of content. For example, you can keep a text box as text or change it to a picture.

You have a bunch of options on the left-hand side that allow you to customize as you wish.



I used mostly text and picture buttons. I had to play around with the text options to get the look I wanted. There are lots of options for fonts and colors.

For the pictures, you could resize them within a limited range. I was surprised that you could crop images, but not rotate them as one of my images was accidentally taken upside down and I couldn't use it because I could not flip it right-side up. 


I had a little trouble sizing two pictures at the bottom of the announcement as they were set up to be next to each other in one row, but they were different sized pictures, so when I made one the same size as the other, there was a lot of white space remaining in the picture box surrounding the picture itself. I figured out how to change the background of this white space to gray and then it looked a lot better.



I also thought this would be a great way to collect feedback from my subscribers on what they like about my blog and any suggestions for improvement, so I inserted a feedback survey. Campaign Monitor partners with getfeedback to allow you to create a simple survey for free. For more robust options, you must pay. So, I created a four-question survey as well and linked to it in my email.


In the end, after fully designing a simple email announcement, the only thing I couldn't figure out how to do was change the color of the top header and bottom footer, which I wanted to do. Oh, well.

The header serves as the place you can put your logo. The footer allows you to link to all your social media accounts using the nice little logos--looks very professional. I loved this feature.

Once completed, you can preview your campaign to see how it will look via email and mobile. This is another great feature.




Even after previewing it, I sent myself a test email and then I saw what really needed to be changed.

Once I was sure I was ready, I went to the Define Recipients screen. I uploaded my csv file with no issues. Then, I got to choose to send the campaign now or schedule it to be sent in the future. I just went ahead and sent it Now!

Then, I waited. There are two more things I wanted to do following this campaign:
  1. Check my insights to see how many people opened my email
  2. Check the results of my survey on gofeedback
The next day, I checked my Insights on Campaign Monitor. This is great information. It showed that 26.5% opened the email, 3.23% clicked the links and 10% bounced. The information is displayed in a really easy to understand format.



I also check my gofeedback page, but no one had completed the survey yet. I completed it myself, then reviewed the results and it looked like an easy-to-understand format. Very basic for the free version.

In the end, I'm really excited about Campaign Monitor and may continue to use it going forward. I think it's a great platform, is easy to use and user-friendly, and offers great insights to understand the effectiveness of your campaigns. To learn more, click here.

Full Disclosure: Although I was compensated to review Campaign Monitor, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

St. Regis, Atlanta

I recently had the pleasure of staying at the St. Regis in Atlanta, a 5-star hotel. I'll start by saying that this hotel is amazing. It is definitely one of the nicest places I have ever stayed and the service was beyond belief.


I was there for an event that my company was putting on so all of my food experience was from in-room dining and special catering by the hotel. On my first morning there, I ordered the McCann's Irish Oatmeal. These steel cut oats were topped with banana brulee and served with raisins and brown sugar. I paired this with a freshly squeezed orange juice. For $33, it was the most expensive oatmeal and orange juice of my life, but also the best. It was like they torched the bananas with that sweet topping and there were oh so good.


For my lunches there, the good new is they had a vegan meal on the menu. The bad news is that there was just one vegan meal and little did I know, they planned to serve me the same meal every day for four days. On day one, I thought the Quinoa and Kale Power Bowl was great--chickpeas, black eyed peas, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, edamame, sweet potato, and miso vinaigrette with alfalfa sprouts and avocado. It's so much goodness in one bowl. But, by day four, I had to walk across the street to Whole Foods to get something different.


One morning, they served me potatoes sauteed with greens and mushrooms and it was fantastic!


Bowls of fresh fruit were served as my dessert.


And at our reception, there were lots of vegan options including hummus, olives, grilled asparagus and carrots, tabbouleh, and artichoke hearts.


But, back to the service--it really couldn't have been better. This is a five-star hotel with five-star employees. They were attentive to my every need during our reception, event, and in my room. I really have nothing but great things to say about the St. Regis. And for the television in my mirror in the bathroom--I never knew I needed this until now. ;)

St. Regis
88 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta, GA 30305
(404) 563-7900

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

R. Thomas' Deluxe Grill

My good friend in Atlanta has been raving about this diner that is open 24 hours and is vegan friendly for a long time. Since I had a whole week in Atlanta, I finally got to check out the R. Thomas Deluxe Grill!

Now this place is a funky place. It was quite dark on this weekday night, but what I could see was eclecticism! Holiday lights, pinwheels, plastic flamingos, and plants all graced the outside of this restaurant. On the way in there were caged birds like Toucans that were apparently all rescued birds. They were sleeping so we didn't mess with them, but I was curious as to the story behind the birds as an animal activist myself.


Inside, the funkiness continued with brightly colored tablecloths and a green floor within the tent that shielded us from the outside. The menu was extensive and hard to navigate as nothing was labeled vegan. As soon as I asked though, the server said that many things are vegan and began to list them as he was apologizing for a menu that he said hadn't been updated in decades. Wow!


I started with a fresh juice, the Champ, made with organic carrot, apple, and ginger. Yummy.


For our started, we chose the Raw Walnut Sunflower Pate and Raw Guacamole. Our server said the cashew cheese was better than the sunflower pate so we subbed that out. It showed up with Flackers flax chips and carrots and other veggies. Both spreads were fantastic. We were very pleased.


I asked what the server recommended as a vegan entree and he said The Southern Vegetarian was vegan, so I went with that. This hearty meal had layers of millet corn casserole, collard greens, smashed potatoes, and shiitake mushroom gravy surrounded by butternut squash and a salad with chili flax dressing. It was simple and delicious.


For dessert, we got a massive slice of caramel cake. The cake tasted like it had been frozen and was a bit too cold, hard, and perhaps stale. It had good flavor, but wasn't as fresh as it could have been.


Prices here were pretty reasonable at $15 for the entree and $10 for the raw appetizer. The service was great, the decor and environment fun, and the food was good. I give this old school 24/7 diner two thumbs up!

R. Thomas Deluxe Grill
1812 Peachtree Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30309
(404) 881-0246

R. Thomas Deluxe Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato