Irie Vegan Culinary Academy was invited to Valencia College – West to present a series of cooking demos to its student body. This was a part of the month-long focus on Environmentalism put on by the college’s Wellness Ambassadors and championed by student leader, Alex Rivera.
Valencia’s Wellness Ambassadors seek to promote a culture of health and wellness through education and awareness to support students in achieving their educational and personal goals. I got an opportunity to see the group at work and firmly believe this is something every college would greatly benefit from having.
In April, the group’s focus was on Environmentalism. Recognizing that raising animals for meat is extremely taxing on the environment, the Wellness Ambassadors sought to encourage the student body to implement more plant-based meals in their diet. That’s where we came in. We were tasked with creating 3 delicious plant-based dishes that were flavorful, easy-to-prepare, inexpensive, and can be prepared in 15 minutes tops. In essence, plant-powered meals that would appeal to the tastes and budget of college students who are short on time. Challenge accepted!
- Easy Tofu Tacos
- Quick Vegetable Fried Rice and
- Sausage Pesto Penne Pasta
We started out with the Easy Tofu Tacos. Chef Jenn demystified tofu, which is simply soy milk with a coagulant, and showed the students how easily tofu absorbed the taco seasoning and spices. By adding tamari sauce and then browning the tofu, we were able to mimic the taste of ground beef, without the damaging effects of meat. The students ate samples of what was prepared, with a new group of students being rotated in for each of the 6 demos.
We continued with Quick Vegetable Fried Rice and finished with Sausage Pesto Penne Pasta. The students were amazed at how quickly the fried rice came together using pre-cooked rice. Freezing a batch of left over rice the next time you cook will provide the basis for your next delicious meal. Add frozen vegetables sauteed in non-dairy butter with garlic and fresh ginger for bright flavors. The nutty, toasty flavor of sesame oil added at the end quickly added an extra layer of flavor to the dish.
Chef Jenn also demonstrated how quickly you can make a flavorful pasta dish with the herbaceous, robust flavors of pesto. Adding plant-based Field Roast sausage made for a hearty dish the students were able to sample that had all the meatiness of a traditional meat-based pasta dish.
It was such an honor sharing with the students of Valencia College. It was a great opportunity to share some of the many benefits of being vegan. I am excited to announce I’ve been invited back to Valencia. I am looking forward to doing another series of demos in October 2016. See you soon!