Key Takeaways:

Karen has taken 860 GetSetUp classes and also hosts Beginning Bridge. A year ago, she decided to follow a vegan diet and enjoys finding creative ways to eat plant-based meals. She submitted a recipe for vegan mac and cheese.

Karen, a retired New York City educator, has taken 860 GetSetUp classes, including technology, music, and of course, cooking. She is also is the Community Host for Beginning Bridge. A year ago, she decided to follow a vegan diet and enjoys finding creative ways to eat plant-based meals.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I started my career as an elementary school teacher and eventually became an assistant principal. In 1995, I became one of the first computer instructors in the New York City public school system. I went on to become an adjunct professor. After retirement, I moved to Las Vegas.

After the pandemic started, I couldn’t go anywhere. I was used to playing bridge every day, so I quickly got bored. That’s when I discovered GetSetUp. I usually take two classes a day. 

How did you become interested in cooking?

My mother exposed me to a broad spectrum of meals. She was interested in expanding her knowledge. I would watch her in the kitchen, where she introduced me to new vegetables like broccoli rabe.

Tell us a little about the dish you submitted.

I wanted to do a vegan mac and cheese. I tried it with vegan cheese, but I didn’t like it. I did some research and found that you can soak raw cashews and use them as a cheese substitute. I spice it up with red pepper and add air-fried mushroom to the top of the dish. My husband isn’t vegan, so I cut the recipe in half since I’m the only one eating it.  

Who is your cooking inspiration?

My mother was my inspiration. I like to diversify and currently have 175 recipes I’ve collected and would like to make. I also get inspiration from vegan websites. When I first started a vegan diet, I didn’t like a lot of the food. But, after watching Marlene’s and Quanda’s class Healthy Aging with a Holistic Plant-Based Lifestyle, I’ve learned to create delicious plant-based dishes.

In Marlene’s and Deb’s classes, I’ve learned to adapt recipes to fit my diet.

The Afro-Vegan Society has meatless soul food recipes. One of their recipes that I want to try is fried jackfruit that's supposed to taste like fried chicken.

What is one spice/ingredient you can’t do without?

I like hot food, so I use cayenne pepper and roasted chili peppers. Garlic, onion powder, and smoked paprika are also staples in my kitchen. Marlene taught a class on cooking greens without meat using liquid smoke.  

Do you have any favorite dishes or any favorite food memories from childhood? 

I loved barbecue spare ribs and chicken, shrimp, and lobster. I like to find substitutes for seafood, and I have a great recipe for crab cakes using hearts of palm instead of crab meat. 

What’s the most memorable meal that you’ve made?

I used to make a paella that everybody would die for. People also loved my potato salad which I still make by substituting mayonnaise with veganaise.  

What’s the importance of sharing a meal around the table?

It’s a way to meet new friends. Most people I know in Vegas aren’t originally from here, so with no family around, we’ll get together for holiday meals. We used to have big Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving get-togethers - I’d have 25 people at the house. But, we weren’t able to do that during the pandemic. I’m a very social person. I’ve made new friends on GetSetUp. They have so many programs which motivate me and give me something to look forward to. 

Join Karen as she co-hosts with Pam on Plant-Based Cookbook: Recipe Spotlight on Wednesday, March 9, where she’ll demonstrate how to make her recipe for Vegan Mac and Cheese. 

Jun 13, 2022
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Cooking & Nutrition
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