Vanessa Romo is a former CRC student of mine who has since transferred to CSU Sacramento to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. Not only does she love to learn about nutrition and apply that knowledge to the food choices she makes, but searching for healthy recipes online to try is one of her favorite hobbies. She has inspired her family and friends to make better food choices and plans to pursue a career in nutrition so she help even more people. Vanessa explains, “I honestly think that without health, life is very limited. Being sick can hold back people from doing so many things they desire and nutrition plays such a critical role in experiencing optimal health.”
I asked Vanessa to share her experience with food and family, as well as becoming a bit more adventurous in the kitchen and her “Cook2Gethers.” In her own words…
No matter how old you are, what ethnic background you come from, or what religion you practice, food is one of those things that brings everyone together. When going to a party, meeting up with friends, or any social event, food is usually present. Unfortunately, with societal pressures and the way most of us pack our days, we end up with little time to cook meals. Slowly but surely, eating out (and feeling poorly) has become the norm for many people, while they have also become disconnected with the food they eat. One way to shake things up is to make it fun and do a “Cook2Gether!” I find that food tastes better when I make it myself, especially when I am in the kitchen with someone special. I feel a much deeper connection with the food, beginning the moment we start the preparation. My sister and I do “Cook2gethers” as often as we can and we like to try new recipes since we know that we always have a good time, even if the recipe doesn’t come out exactly as planned. My young nephews usually get involved, helping us by measuring ingredients, stirring and taste-testing. Cook2gethers can involve anyone and as many people as you like. Working together makes time fly, and the more hands involved, the faster you may finish!
Growing up as a Catholic, meat was not eaten on Fridays during lent. Before making the transition to a plant-based diet, I would always try to be very cautious not to forget and accidentally eat meat. Now, I have nothing to worry about because I do not eat meat. While seafood is a very common choice during lent, I made some cauliflower ceviche that was amazing! It is so simple to make, very delicious and so inexpensive! My niece was at my house when I got the craving for ceviche, so I invited her to do a “Cook2Gether.” While she has not been a big fan of vegetables, she usually likes my food, so I thought it would be a great opportunity. When she tried the ceviche, she loved it! I get super excited when picky eaters like my food! The recipe yielded a big bowl that easily made 20 ceviche tostadas and all for under 10 dollars. I thought I would have leftovers for the next day, but the ceviche was gone by night. Set up your own “Cook2Gether” and enjoy making this simple recipe with common ingredients that everyone will love!!
Vanessa’s Cauliflower Ceviche
1 cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 red bell pepper, diced small
1 small red onion, diced small
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, diced small
1 tomato, diced small
1 bunch of cilantro, cleaned and chopped finely
1 cucumber, diced small
1 medium carrot, grated
1 handful of spinach leaves, roughly chopped into strips
1-3 limes, squeezed for juice, depending on taste preference
Salt and pepper to taste
Toppings: avocado, salsa and/or hot sauce
- Steam* cauliflower until just tender, cool and then cut into tiny pieces and put into a large bowl.
- Add red bell pepper, onion, jalapeño, red onion, tomato, cucumber, grated carrot, cilantro and fresh spinach leaves. Vanessa’s Tip: Cutting the vegetables into small pieces makes every bite super delicious!
- Mix everything up and add as much lime juice as desired (Vanessa likes a lot), along with salt (optional) and pepper to taste. Top each serving with avocado, salsa and/or hot sauce.
*Timaree’s Cook Smart Tip: You can also make this recipe using raw cauliflower that you chop into very small pieces by pulsing in a food processor. If you can wait, try letting the finished ceviche marinate for several hours to soften the cauliflower.
Timaree Hagenburger, a registered dietitian and certified exercise physiologist with a master’s degree in public health, loves working with students like Vanessa, as a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College. Timaree also conducts corporate wellness work, has a regular segment on California Bountiful TV and published her first cookbook – The Foodie Bar Way: One meal. Lots of options. Everyone’s happy. Available at www.FoodieBars.com
This article was published in the Lodi News Sentinel.