Vegan Watermelon Feta Balsamic Salad With Tofu Feta + Mint

Watermelon goes surprisingly well in salads. I still remember the first time I had watermelon in a lettuce salad. It was at LPQ right when I moved to NYC to start at NYU. It was served with arugula + feta + mint and seriously good balsamic.

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My mom and I adored this meal. To us, the flavor combo was new. Now, you see this stuff all over. But at the time, it seemed like a fun, wild treat to us. Something I totally would have Insta’d. But that was an age where people didn’t Insta their food. Strange to think about, I know.

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Anyways, when watermelon is in season, I have thrown it into salads ever since that day. I love it.

Now I’m plant-based mostly, and rarely have feta around. Even when I wasn’t plant-based, I rarely bought cheese because it was rare I’d use cheese for more than just a garnish. I was never a huge cheese eater.

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But it adds such a nice a lovely saltiness and a bit of staying power to the salad. So here we are. I used this homemade tofu feta, but you can totally use conventional feta or purchase a plant-based feta at the store.

Arugula provides a nice peppery green, but you can also use baby kale or whatever green you want.go together surprisingly well together. I also often add avocado to this salad. Because avocado. Duh.

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Also, it’s essential to use a good balsamic. I mean, really you don’t have to, but it will truly kick it up a notch. And if you haven’t experienced a really good balsamic yet in your life, you should. They are sweet and sticky and wonderful.

I used this one from Trader Joe’s, which I’d highly reccomend.

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Speaking of Trader Joe’s, I need to hit it up tomorrow. This week has been crazy busy. I started 2 new jobs, did a lot of freelance, and took a day trip to Chicago, which I’ll be sharing soon.

Stay tuned!

Tofu Feta

Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Servings: 1 as entree or 2 as side, easily doubled or tripled

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups arugula, baby kale, or spinach
  • 1 cup watermelon, cubed
  • 3/4 cup tofu feta or conventional feta, or plant-based store-bought feta
  • 1/2 large avocado, sliced (optional)
  • roughly 1/4th cup fresh mint
  • 4 tablespoons high quality balsamic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Assemble greens, avocado, watermelon, mint and tofu feta in a bowl. Drizzle with desired amount of balsamic and oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy.

 

 

Herby Tofu Feta

Feta: a cheese I never really purchased, but enjoyed when it was used as a seasoning. Tofu: something I have always adored plain and/or manipulated. Tofu feta: a fun experiment I simply had to try one day and have loved ever since.

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So here we are: Herby marinated tofu feta. Are you ready for this? I hope you’re ready for this.

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Simply to prepare, and full of flavor, this stuff is good on salads, pasta, pizza, sandwiches, avo toast — you pretty much can’t go wrong.

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Does it taste like authentic feta? No. And I’m not going to lie to you about that. This isn’t really a good substitute if you’re craving hardXcore cheese. For that I’d reccomend buying an aged plant-based cheese or actual feta.

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This IS a delicious, protein-packed, flavorful way to eat tofu and something I am going to be making regularly from now on.

I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute as a shortcut. If you’ve never had it, it is delicious. I add it to so.many.things: like vinaigrettes and roasted veggies. SO GOOD. If you don’t have it, I listed easy swaps.

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Make this and add it to your next salad or Greek salad. Then HMU on Insta and let me know what ya thought!

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Tofu Feta

Prep Time:  minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes, but at least 2-4 hours for chilling
Servings: about 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 12-16 ounce package tofu
  • juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Trader Joe’s 21 seasoning salute (or, 1/4 tablespoon) garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, and 1/2 tablespoon dried basil)
  • pinch sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. Drain and press tofu with a paper towel. You want to remove excess moisture.
  2. Cut tofu into small cubes.
  3. Combine lemon juice, water, vinegar, nutritional yeast, olive oil, oregano, sugar and sea salt.
  4. Place tofu into marinade and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours, or longer if desired.
  5. Serve on top of salads or with pasta. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Homemade Vegan Cheetos

There are so many great things about being a pet owner. I’m sure many of you can relate. But there are also many stressful things about being a pet owner. For example, occasionally (read: today) you get awoken by the sound of your little chiweenie puking all over your bedroom floor. Instantly, depsite the fact that it’s 1:40am and you’ve only gotten 2 hours asleep, you are awake with adrenaline pumping, wondering what on earth is happening to your wee little nugget of joy!

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You stand up. And watch your dog (clearly embarrassed) try to hide under the bed to conceal the fact that she is, in fact, puking piles of foamy chunky goo onto your carpet. Isn’t this an appetizing intro to a food blog post? Thought so. Anyways, if you’re like me, your dog puking on your carpet (followed closely by stuff coming out the other end) results in staying up for the remainder of the night/morning carefully watching and overanalyzing every move of your pup.

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So yes, that was my morning. Dog poop and vomit on the floor. Fun stuff. The wee morning hours crept by, and around 5:15am, I made some peanut butter and banana oatmeal while watching the Duggars. I love the Duggars. Anyways, as I reached for my cinnamon shaker, I reached right past the nutritional yeast in the cabinet. I’ve always thought nutritional yeast to look like Cheetos Dust. I mean, doesn’t it? It totally does. So sometime between cinnamon shaking and JimBob fixing his combover, I decided I was going to make vegan Cheetos today.

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And so I did. Here’s the recipe. They don’t taste exactly like Cheetos, which in my opinion is a good thing. They do, however, taste like cheesy straw-like crackers with cheesy dust. And really, it’s all about the dust. If you don’t have nutritional yeast, well then I suggest you buy some. A ~*~complete*~* protein with all 18 amino acids and all the B vitamins including B12 which is hard for a lot of veggies to get, it’s probably one of the most nutritious things you can add to your diet. Also it tastes good. It’s nutty and cheesy and after a while you just sort of start to crave it and put it on errything. Like these Cheetos. Which are also much better for you than regular Cheetos. They have nothing fake in them (!!) at all. They’re also whole wheat. How do you like them apples, erm…or Cheetos.

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Anyways, I now sit in my kitchen, delusional from lack of sleep, and I hereby present to you my recipe for homemade whole-grain vegan Cheetos. Eat on, homies! And have a nice weekend. #cheetodust

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Level: Easy

Ingredients – Cheetos:

  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 6 oz non-dairy cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard (can substitute with 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Ingredients – Dust:

  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • dash salt
  • dash cayenne pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.In a large bowl, mix together the corn meal, flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cayenne pepper, and cream of tartar. If you’re using mustard powder toss it in here, too. Mix well.

3. Cube cheese and place in a food processor. Grind until a doughy cheesy paste forms. Add mustard. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the cheese blend, about 1/4 cup at a time, pulsing to combine after each addition. Add oil and continue to pulse until a cheesy putty dough forms. If it’s a bit dry, add a teaspoon or so more oil or water.

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4. Remove from food processor, and roll out dough into long tubes. Break apart with fingers in about 2-3 inch pieces, to resemble cheetos. They don’t have to look perfect, mind you, cheetos do not.

5. Place in the oven and bake on a lower rack for 12-15 minutes until the bottoms become a bit crispy and brown and the Cheetos are hollow sounding if you pick one up and tap it on the pan.

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6. Allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk dust ingredients, and sprinkle all over your Cheetos. Cheeto Dust = lol. Link your phalanges. Eat Cheetos. Contemplate life. Eat more Cheetos.

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Watermelon Arugula Feta Salad with Mint

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This just might be my favorite salad of all times. Which is a bold statement, considering I eat and love a lot of salads.

If while reading the title of the recipe you felt a slight bit of skepticism, I don’t blame you. The first time I saw this on a menu at my beloved Le Pain Quotidian,  I was a bit hesitant to order it myself. Would the feta and watermelon work together? And with balsamic? I wondered. It seemed like a rather odd mash up of flavors. Luckily, my curiosity over-rid my timidness, and I selected the salad as my lunch entree.

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From the first forkful of watermelon and feta together, I couldn’t get enough of the pairing. Watermelon, sweet and lusciousness, physically and literally attracts dry, tangy, crumbly feta, and the two stick together to deliver a wild flavor explosion to the senses. What is extreme in each is balanced beautifully by the other, and the addition of peppery arugula, and a surprise element of fresh mint, add add up to a salad that with each bit leaves you eager for another, desperate for a change to figure out what dance of flavors is going on in your mouth.

Easy to assemble, this is a perfect summer salad for entertaining, even for a hesitant guest. Best made in summer when watermelon is in season, I served this at my sister’s bachelorette brunch this Saturday, but it makes a welcome and bold addition to any summer gathering, or a perfect solo lunch dish.

For the salad (below serves one as an entree; double for four people as a side dish)

  • 2 cups arugula
  • 3/4 cup watermelon, cubed
  • 1/4 cup feta
  • handful of fresh mint
  • optional: a quarter of a thinly sliced cucumber
  • optional: half a sliced heirloom tomato

Getting dressed:

  • one part (2-3 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
  • one part balsamic
  • salt and peper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine arugula and watermelon cubes. Crumble feta over the two.
  2. Chop fresh mint, mix.
  3. If adding cucumber and tomato, chop and add to salad.
  4. Mix olive oil and balsamic in small separate bowl. Pour over salad.
  5. Add salt and cracked pepper to taste.
  6. Go to flavor heaven.

Simple as that. Serve among chewy fresh bread and enjoy what is to be your favorite summer dish.

xoxo,

-KBakes

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that one time i lived in paris.

Exactly a year ago, I was working hard to cross things off my Paris-bucklet list as I savored my last few days in France. I spent six weeks nestled in a story-book-like schoolhouse in the Latin Quarter, commuting to French class 4 days a week at the quant NYU Paris campus through NYU Study abroad.

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goofin off en Paris!

I’m not really even sure where to start with Paris. It was almost surreal and when I reflect on it, part of me can’t believe that I lived it. Undoubtably, it was probably one of the best – if not the best – experience of my life.

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This is in retrospect, though. At the time I didn’t really realize how fucking lucky I was to be there. I was battling home-sickness and New York-sickness, as well as constant stomach problems brought on by the change in cuisine. I actually had a countdown on my wall, and happily crossed off the days until I headed home. The thought of this countdown disgusts me now, and looking back my only regret is that I would have been more open-minded, lived in the moment more, and tried harder to enjoy myself instead of wallowing in self-pity. Change in environment and food and culture and routine certainly let my anxiety creep over and control me a bit, but all that said, I still had the most amazing time and will never ever forget those beautiful six weeks.

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I got to do so much. I met the most amazing people, whom I’m still quite close with (in fact, the girl I’m lucky enough to call “roommate” for the upcoming year was someone I met in Paris). What I love most about my “Paris friends” (as I call them) is that we’re all incredibly different. We had different majors, interests, backgrounds – but somehow we all sort of clicked as a mini group. If we hadn’t all been tossed into Paris together hat summer, I’m not sure I would have found any of them or even if I had, gone out of my way to be friends with them. But I love them. They provided comfort, laughs, emotional support, and adventure buddyship I needed to get through study abroad. And even though some of them have since graduated college and even live in different parts of the world, we’re still connected. We still talk, and we still hang out. And that’s a bit miraculous to me. They became and remained some of my closest friends, which is something I never expected to gain from the trip.

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Not only did I make friends, I learned SO much. Likely more in six weeks than I normally do over a year. I learned a lot about France, the language, and French culture, of course, but less obviously I learned so damn much about myself I felt like I grew up 10 years mentally and emotionally. While I was there I realized how set I can be in my ways. Lesson learned – I’m now more open and more flexible, and try to appreciate things and humans for the way they are. And I’m happy about this. I also realized how much I am absolutely in love with New York. I’m having withdrawals this summer, as well. Anytime I leave for an extended period of time, I crave it. Life just makes more sense there to me. Where else can you get any kind of food delivered to your door at any hour of the day? I love not having to rely on a car, and adore how – although it sounds paradoxical to some – walking alone at 3am in the big city somehow feels totally safe. I love that in a 30 minute walk I can be in several neighborhoods and feel how their cultures make each very distinct and as if its its own city. I love that I can have access to basically anything at any hour of the day. 24 hour restaurants, pharmacies, office supplies stores, Best Buys – man we are SPOILED in the city. And now every other city just feels kind of limiting. So I guess, in Paris, I learned I’m becoming a New Yorker- and possibly a lifelong one.

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Speaking of spoiled, New York tainted my ability to appreciate French cuisine. Well aware that I’m likely making many people doubt my ability to know/love good food – I gotta say – I did not think the cuisine in Paris was all that great. This is totally personal, and probably has a lot to do with the fact that I do not like meat, which a lot of classic French cuisine includes. Aside from that, I found a lot of dishes over-buttered and under-seasoned. Often times I would eat an omelet or a side of cooked vegetables and taste only butter. I’m sorry – I’m Italian – I’m all about olive oil, and using it only to enhance (rather than overpower) the flavors of food. As someone who has never craved grease in my life, I found a lot of French entrees to be just a bit too rich for my taste.

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we found healthy food at Le Pain Quotidian – a Belgium place with a French name that was familiar to us as they have many locations in NYC (this is one of my favorite spots for any meal)

That said there were some things France knocked out of the park. What stands out most clearly in my memory was the fruit and the cheese. Fruit in France is all grown more or less organically – there are way fewer pesticides and nothing is genetically modified. And you can tell! The strawberries are all tiny, but pack much sweeter, deeper flavors than the large commercial ones you see in American grocery stores. In fact, all the fruit tastes sweeter. I’m not sure if its the water or the soil, but every piece of fruit was as satisfying to me as candy – and I have a raging sweet tooth. I also fell in love with donut peaches and fresh apricots in France – I ate so so many of these. And the pink lady apples were tarter, crisper, and sweeter – just overall more intense – than any I’ve been able to find here.

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Regarding true sweets, France did have delicious pasteries. They used almonds, coconut, pistachio and nutella (all things I love) in many of their desserts, and did it quite well. I had a soft spot for coconut and almond croissants, as well as macaroons and absolutely anything filled with pastry cream. I’d like to say these stood out to me more than American pastries, but sadly they didn’t. I’ve been very spoiled by excellent bakeries in New York and Milwaukee, and France’s pastries, while delicious, where simply among (not ahead of) others I’ve had. That said, I loved their use of many ingredients in dessert that are often overlooked in the United States, and I left inspired as a baker.

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MMMmmm but all that sweetness needs something to balance it – this is perhaps why cheese is often or after served among dessert or fruit in france. And yes, the rumors are true. France knows and loves its cheese. It sits on a Parisienne pedestal and for good reason. I had a LOT of kinds of cheese, but goat has always been my favorite. And the goat cheese I had there (and I ate it a lot – salad chèvre was my go-to dish at a lot of restaurants) perfectly tangy and creamy. It was absolutely blissful to eat dipped with some chewy French baguette.

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salad with goat cheese…a favorite dish of mine in france

Speaking of grains, both my digestive system and I, truly missed whole grains while in France. My body is so used to consuming whole grain 90% of the time (because I truly prefer the taste), so the lack of fiber and sudden influx of refined flour wrecked havoc on my intestines. An overshare, perhaps, but this prevented me from enjoying a lot of food/experiences while in France.

All this talk of food makes me thirsty. So let’s move on to another France no-brainer: WINE. I was not a wine drinker before France. I was convinced I didn’t like it. Now I love it. Thanks you France! I kid you not, in some grocery stores, you could buy (cheap) wine for less than soda, some full sized bottles cashing in at a mere Euro (about $1.30 USD). I was even lucky enough to go on an NYU-sponsored all-expenses-paid field trip to Bordeux, where in addition to boat tours and excessive wining and dining, we were lucky enough to tour a winery. That weekend remains one of the most cherished of my entire life. I felt like I was living in a painting or a dream. It remains surreal, even as a memory.

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I’m going to finish my France food post with something I know and love: ice cream. More specifically, gelato. In Paris I fell deeply in love. With Armorino Gelato. A Paris born chain started by two Italian men (because Italians do everything best), Amorino was on every corner to satisfy my ice cream addition. Expensive, yes, but well worth the money. It is clearly  made from real, quality ingredients (think – actual fruit, high quality chocolate, real cherries and coconut, etc) and they let you layer as many flavors into a beautiful flower as you could fit. This gelato was perfection. Creamy, but not too creamy, it boasted a a balance that was never too rich nor too sweet to overpower the star ingredient of each flavor. I became quite partial to the Speculoos, pistachio, coconut, mango, and amaretto (almond with cherry chunks). It was one of my favorite treats in France, and by some lucky miracle, the only Amorino in the US is within walking distance to my apartment in New York City, so I haven’t had to give it up. I go there from time to time, not only because it’s incredible, but because every bite is laced with nostalgia. And let’s be honest – food that can wash you with warm memories and fuzzy feelings always becomes a favorite.

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amorino gelato

So there you have it. A really unorganized food-laced reflection on France. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it. But my Paris experience has never left me. My friends are still very present, and it has inspired me to be more open-minded and embracing of life. Most invaluably, I try harder to explore my world around me. Milwaukee, New York – Paris taught me to take advantage of my surroundings and see what the world has to offer. It’s important to experience life and not post up in your room. The world is meant for seeing. Every site, sound, and bite you take helps you grow up. Merci, Paris, for teaching me much more than how to ask someone, “où sont les salles de bains?”

my super simple go-to dinner: delicious && nutritious

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This meal is better than a lot of crap from restaurants that charge a lot of money for nothing special. Best part? Took 15 minutes total to prepare. This is a cheap, easy, go-to for me.

I love eggs. And adding some chopped onion takes about 30 seconds and adds so much flavor and an interesting texture contrast. I also advice adding some cheese (I used Laughing Cow Cheese Garlic and Herb) while the eggs are cooking. And some avocado chunks, which give it bouts of richness and a buttery texture.Other than that, add whatever veggies are in your fridge to give the eggs a nutritional and flavorful boost.

I also love sweet potatoes. One of my favorite foods, and a very healthy source of complex carbohydrates. I love them for breakfast (with cinnamon), or as a side for lunch and dinner. And organic are worth the extra money; they boast far more flavor.

Hope to inspire some similar eats:

Dinner:

eggs with chopped onions, arugula, cherry tomatoes, laughing cow cheese garlic and herb (broken into eggs while cooking), and avocado

arugula salad with lemon juice & olive oil. salt.

sweet potato microwaved for 8 minutes, topped (post photo) with curry catsup (mix curry powder with catsup – so good!)

also great on sweet potatoes: greek yogurt. 

brains n food

I haven’t posted in a few days as i have been fortune enough to participate in a Human Brain and Spinal Cord dissection! The course was all day every day and was exhausting but exhilarating. You could even say it was mind-blowing, although that seems a bit crass given the circumstances.

Photographs were obviously prohibited for HIPPA reasons and out of pure respect, but I do have this one crappy iphone photo, which depicts my morning ritual of bagels and brains:

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The good life.

What an opportunity to be able to partake in such a humbling experience. I was nearly speechless (a rarity for a chatty Kathy as myself) when I was presented with a human brain. It’s something I’ve studied for years and there it was, in front of me. While I can’t do the experience justice, I can tell you that it is one thing to learn about the brain on paper but it is quite another to explore it with your own two hands. I am still in awe of those few days. Peering into the interconnectivity of the brain, not to mention the vasculature and vast complexity, I was shocked that any of us work at all. Your body is freakin’ amazing –undoubtably the most fine-tuned machine on earth. This course was a good reminder of this, and really shifted many things in my life into perspective.

The course also included some great lectures and classes. I learned a lot, and some of it I will be blogging about soon – particularly an interesting seminar about the brain and your body and what you put into it.

Speaking of food, since this is a food blog, I must mention the following aspects of the course reminded me of food so foodies may get a better grip on the experience:

  • A lot of the brain pulls apart like string cheese. #onwisconsin
  • Speaking of cheese, when the brain is sliced by a large knife (we literally used kitchen knives for this – see below) it gives as if it was a hard provolone.
  • When you peel apart parts of the cerebellum, it looks like clementine wedges connected by the stringy things that pull apart when playing with turkey.
  • The scent a bone saw produces on the skull: burning doritos (VOM)
  • Dissecting is much like pastry work: using your hands and fine tools to shape and carve. It’s a bit satisfying.

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The course has now ended and I must admit, throwing away the shreds of cerebral cortex among others – felt a little sad. Someone’s whole life, all of their memories and stories and knowledge had been reduced to shredded piles on my dissection tray. I am so thankful for people who donate their bodies to science so people like me can benefit from learning from them!! Big shout out.

Short, random post, yes, but the take home here is:

GIVE YOUR BODY A HUG. It’s doing amazing things for you! Take care of yourself. Go eat a piece of fruit or drink some water or floss your teeth or do some yoga or something. Appreciate the millions of processes going on inside you.

I, for one, am totally inspired at the moment. Which will hopefully bring some more food posts very shortly.

#namaste everyone.

-kbakes

PS – A HUGE thank you to all of the Biomedical Sciences staff at Marquette University for letting me be a part of it!