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What Happened When I Cooked Vegan and Vegetarian for a Night

If you’re anything like me, transitioning to apartment life is rather difficult. On top of cleaning my own apartment, I also have to feed myself (how adult). Since I work and attend class for most of the day, I’ve found it tough to squeeze in time to cook. Inspired by my vegan roommate, I wanted to try to cook meatless for a night. So I set out on my edible journey: making a vegan dish and a vegetarian dish from scratch. 

I chose my contenders based on what I had available in my fridge and freezer — not much, considering my go-to is mainly pasta. I cooked the two items simultaneously to save time, and although both were rather starchy, I ate them in one night so I could try them fresh (and I saved a lot of leftovers for the next day). 

First up: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon from The Food Network. It’s vegan because it uses olive oil instead of butter or other fats. 

The recipe called for four sweet potatoes but I used three because I don’t need to be eating sweet potatoes for days on end. I washed, peeled them and chopped them up into shallow cylinder shapes first. Then I cut them into about 1-inch cubes or triangles. 

I tried to adjust my proportions of the other ingredients to fit my three potatoes, but since the rest was mainly seasoning, I just winged it and estimated. After drizzling the honey, oil, cinnamon, salt and pepper, I put them in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. 

In the meantime, I began my vegetarian fried rice dish. I sautéed about six button mushrooms in butter until they were about 75 percent cooked. I added in some of my leftover white rice from the fridge and about 1/4 cup water for moisture, cranking up the heat to fry my rice on the bottom. I wanted it crispy. Soy sauce was sprinkled in for flavor.  

I boiled some water and heated up some frozen corn from my freezer. Yes, more starch, but I had broccoli for lunch so I was looking for a different veggie to add.

Back to my frying pan of rice, I made a well in the center and cracked an egg in for protein. With the stove on low heat and a lid on the pan, I waited for the little egg to fry. At the last minute, I turned the heat on high to give it a final crisp on the bottom of my dish. 

In one bowl, I layered some corn with my rice, mushrooms and egg on top. It was a sort of less colorful bibimbap — some carrots and greens would have been a nice addition. Regardless, the flavor was there and I liked the sweet crunch of the corn. 

Once my potatoes were done, I let them cool before eating a few pieces for dessert. They were not as sweet as I predicted, so I guess I needed more honey. However the honey I did add was burnt and blackened on the pan, so I felt like it wasn’t an efficient recipe. The texture was pleasant, thick but also soft and homey. My kitchen felt like fall with the heat and cinnamon smell. The taste of the cinnamon itself was good so that the dish wasn’t bland, but I also felt like it was too bitter at times. Make sure to sprinkle the cinnamon around evenly — I mixed it but to no avail.

And there you have it, I successfully made one vegan and one vegetarian dish in my new apartment. It wasn’t super difficult though it did take over an hour of my night. Next time I definitely will plan ahead so I have all the ingredients and a balanced meal instead of being overly starchy like the recipes I tried out. Good luck out there to all you collegiettes embarking on meal-prepping journey for the week.

Lindsay was the president/editor-in-chief of the UCLA chapter of Her Campus from 2015-2018. She was previously the Viral Section Editor at Her Campus and an Editorial Intern at the headquarters in Boston. Lindsay grew up in Washington state and transitioned to love the Southern California sunshine while studying communications and environmental science at UCLA. Twitter: @WeinbergLindsay.
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