Welcome to Sustainable Fairfield’s first sustainable cooking spotlight! Each month, we will spotlight a local vegan recipe along with an interview of the person who created it so we can learn about the inspiration behind their culinary creation, how our food choices affect the planet, and how much fun and easy vegan cooking can be!
This week, I’m THRILLED to introduce you to Sneha Sunder, a 16 year old student right here in Fairfield, CT, who has concocted a delicious green goddess salad recipe. Sneha Sunder is a rising senior at Fairfield Warde High School. She is passionate about healthy cooking and vegetarianism. She also plays the violin and piano. In her spare time, she loves going to the beach and travelling the world.
Keep scrolling to read the full interview, or click the button below to skip to the recipe. And don’t forget to follow Sneha on Instagram! @VegOutCooking
What inspired you to create your Instagram, @VegOutCooking?
I’ve always loved to cook, bake, and eat! When I was little, I would watch Food Network with my mom and always wanted to cook what I saw on TV. As I became older and started cooking on my own, I loved sharing my creations with friends and family. I started filming recipe videos during the lockdown in March of 2020 just for fun, and would send them to my grandparents and cousins. Eventually, I started posting them on Instagram so that more people would watch them. Instagram is a great platform to reach a wide audience, particularly teenagers, and inspire them to learn how to cook healthy meals for their families and adopt more plant-based eating habits.
Do you aspire to cook professionally one day?
I don’t really see myself becoming a chef, but cooking will always be something I do as a hobby. However, I like to keep my options open… maybe someday you just might see me hosting a Food Network show!
Do you have a favorite ingredient in your dishes that might surprise some people?
I don’t really have one special ingredient. I love sneaking healthy ingredients into baking though. One of my favorite tips is to use applesauce as a substitute for half or all of the oil in a cake recipe. The final outcome will still be very moist and tender, but have much less fat. I’d definitely recommend giving it a try. I actually used applesauce in my recent lemon-blueberry Bundt cake recipe video and the result was delicious!
Why is it important to you that your recipes are mostly plant-based and many can be substituted with vegan options?
I am very passionate about plant-based eating, as it is better for both the environment and one’s own health. The meat industry has immense negative consequences on our planet, ranging from the land bulldozed to create room for livestock farms, the food and water required just to feed these livestock, the waste they produce, and the greenhouse gases they emit. While we all know that cars pollute the environment, the meat industry is actually worse than the transportation sector because the methane produced by cows is more potent than the CO2 produced by cars.
Furthermore, plant-based eating has a positive effect on one’s own health. Studies have linked vegetarianism to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and other illnesses. I have been a lifelong vegetarian. I know that being vegan is even better for the environment and for animal wellbeing. For this reason, I try to offer vegan options for many of my recipes to encourage people and myself to eat vegan whenever possible. I think it’s most important that people realize that good food can be good for the planet, too!
What are some of your favorite restaurants in or around Fairfield that have plant-based offerings?
We are so lucky to have many places in Fairfield with plant-based offerings and I love trying new things. Recently, my favorite spot has been The Stand, a vegan cafe in the Sportsplex. I’ve also been loving the vegetarian choices at Malibu Taco and Geronimo’s Southwest Grill.
What would you say to someone who is interested in reducing their meat consumption but afraid of possibly changing up their meal routine?
I’d say to just take small steps. Rather than have an all-or-nothing approach, try going vegetarian or vegan just once a week. Try cooking some plant-based recipes at home, or pick the vegetarian/vegan option next time you go to a restaurant. I never feel like I am “missing out” on anything, because I know that plant-based food can be absolutely delicious! In time, I hope that you too will discover how good plant-based food can be.
Your recipes and videos are really simple and easy to follow. Was this by design?
Yes! My goal was to present healthy, vegetarian food in an accessible way. As a teenager myself, I hope to inspire other teenagers or beginners in the kitchen to cook healthy, vegetarian recipes. I think that watching me create a dish from start to finish in each of my videos on Instagram demonstrates that cooking is not as stressful as it can sometimes seem.
What is your process like for choosing a new recipe to post on Instagram? Do you keep a running list or does something specific come to mind?
Honestly I don’t really keep a running list; usually, I just experiment when something comes to mind. Maybe I’ll try to recreate one of my favorite dishes in a healthier way, or a recipe idea will blossom from random ingredients I have at home. I guess I start by just cooking what I’m hungry for, and the actual written recipes grow from there.
Your videos and dishes look very appetizing on Instagram. But how long does it typically take to put together the whole recipe and video from beginning to end?
It is definitely a process! In all, it probably takes a few hours per video. The cooking itself takes some time since I have to film every step, but I try to keep it to around an hour because my hungry family is usually hovering nearby!
The editing takes a while because I don’t usually do it all in one sitting. I’ll just do a little on my phone whenever I have time. During the school year, I would do some editing here and there when I was on the school bus or just procrastinating doing homework.
I try not to feel pressured to post new recipe videos often and just work on them when I have time so that it is something I enjoy, instead of a source of stress.
Do you have any advice for someone like you who is passionate about food and wants to share their own recipes with the world?
I’d say just go for it! I think that social media is a great platform to share what you’re passionate about with your friends and the world. I have also realized that there is a great community of food accounts on Instagram that all support and inspire each other!
What is your favorite cuisine and why?
I don’t really have just one favorite cuisine; I just really love international flavors overall. I’ve always loved Italian food, and I’ve grown up eating Indian foods and spices because both my parents are from India. Overall, I just really love fusing together international flavors.
Green Goddess Pasta Salad
Veg Out Cooking Original Recipe
For the avocado-herb dressing:
- 1 medium ripe avocado
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- ¼ cup fresh basil, lightly packed
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, lightly packed
- ¼ cup fresh dill, lightly packed
- ½ tsp salt
- 2-3 tbsp water
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 8 oz pasta of choice, cooked and cooled
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 cup baby arugula, lightly packed
- In a blender jar, combine the avocado flesh, lemon zest, lemon juice, basil, parsley, dill, salt, and water. Blend to break up the herbs. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while blending on low speed until the dressing reaches a thick and creamy consistency.
- Add the cooked pasta to a large bowl and pour on the avocado-herb dressing. Toss to coat the pasta in the dressing, then add the peas and arugula. Use tongs to toss the pasta salad until just combined, then transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
Scan the QR code below using your smartphone camera to watch the video recipe on Sneha’s Instagram:
Don’t forget to follow Sneha on Instagram @VegOutCooking