She is working on a master's in nutrition and a registered dietitian license at Hunter College and lives in Massapequa.
How did you become interested in nutrition?
I took a summer class at Nassau Community College on the social and cultural aspects of food. I didn't even know how to cook, but I started teaching myself. I was 19. Then after I graduated with my bachelor's degree, I had the opportunity to go to South Korea to teach English in a private after-school English-language program.
How did that experience change your outlook on food?
I was always interested in different ethnic cuisines, but we found a couple vegetarian restaurants. Korean Buddhists don't eat meat, so we would eat "vegan temple cuisine" -- and they have very different vegetables than we have here.
Why did you become vegan?
I was reading a book called "The China Study" [by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II] every day when I was commuting to work in Korea. The authors gathered data on different rural populations that ate more plant-based diets and found that in those countries people were almost resistant to chronic diseases. So health is a huge factor, so is the environment and the ethical issue. On the flight home, my boyfriend and I decided to become vegan.
What's your cooking style?
I cook entirely vegan, mostly fresh whole foods but not processed soy foods. I cook whole grains. In the summertime, I use a lot of fresh veggies.
What are your special dishes?
Every year I go to HealthyPlanet, which is based in Huntington and has a huge turkey-free Thanksgiving, and the past two years I've won prizes. Once for Paradise Casserole in 2010; that's a casserole with millet, black beans, onions, cumin, a layer of kale and top layer of sweet potatoes. In 2011 I won for an entree called Autumn Millet Bake, a Mark Bittman recipe. It's millet with pumpkin or butternut squash and dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and sometimes hazelnuts, and sage -- the fresh herbs really make it -- at the end you drizzle it with maple syrup and olive oil. I also make a side dish of broccoli slaw with broccoli, carrots, pears, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds and a dressing of maple syrup, lime, a little red pepper and vegan-naise, a vegan mayonnaise with grapeseed oil and fresh mint. I like contrasting flavors and fresh herbs.
Where do you like to eat out?
We'll go once a week to Chipotle, where you can get pretty fresh food. We like Tula Kitchen in Bay Shore; and a vegan-friendly place called Three Brothers in Rockville Centre. Last year when I started getting into raw food, I was going to Live Island Cafe in Huntington.
THAI PEANUT "NOODLES''
For peanut sauce:
4 tablespoons natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic
1-inch ginger root, peeled
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons mellow white miso
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce)
Pinch cayenne pepper (or red pepper flakes)
Black pepper, to taste
1 large or 2 small zucchinis, spiralized or sliced with a vegetable peeler
1 carrot, spiralized or sliced into matchsticks
1/2 red pepper, seeded and sliced into matchsticks
1/2 cucumber, grated or sliced into matchsticks
Scallions, cilantro and peanuts for garnish
1. Combine peanut sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor until creamy and emulsified.
2. Toss raw vegetables together with 1/4 cup sauce, adding more if necessary. Garnish with scallions, cilantro and peanuts before serving. Makes 2 servings.