Cooking Superstar

Alice In Cookingland

Cook along with Carissa from Alice In Cookingland

Carissa Cotner
Houston, TX
Public Relations

When did you first get in to cooking and do you remember the first recipe you tried?

All my life I have been surrounded by good cooks, from my grandmother and eventually my fiance who I met in high school. He wanted to become a chef, and for a while I was fine with others doing the cooking, and I would help out at the occasional Thanksgiving meal like preparing stuffing. It wasn't until college and I was REALLY on my own that I started venturing into the kitchen myself. I got pretty enthusiastic and started a personal blog one weekend, and I remember posting my first recipe for penne pasta with ricotta and fresh basil - then I was hooked. Since then my cooking has continued to evolve as I have tested more vegetarian and raw vegan recipes to balance my lifestyle and habits with more healthy eating.

What's your kitchen like and how do you keep organized when cooking?

Living with an actual trained chef, we pretty much own every gadget or tool you could imagine. Although our kitchen is fully stocked, a few tools can go a long way. You just need a good skillet, pot, wooden spoon, chef's knife, cutting board to start. I also love my immersion blender because it's so versatile. Also I keep using my spiralizer to make veggie noodles for pasta replacements.

We keep things organized while cooking by prepping and chopping everything in advance (thanks to my cooking teacher who preached the mis en place method) that way everything runs smoothly.

What tips would you give to someone wanting to become a better cook?

Just get in there and try a few things! Take it from someone who was intimidated to cook for years because I couldn't read a recipe or didn't know all the ingredients - that's what Google is for! Instead I sat and watched all the good chefs around me. What a silly reason to sit on the sidelines. So what if you make a mistake - that is how you learn. I can't tell you how many times I've screwed up, but it all eventually leads to something spectacular. Our culture is so centered around meals and dining, so nothing beats the ability to cook and entertain around holidays or just for the casual get together. People will love you no matter what food you serve them - it's the thought and process that counts!

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party and what would you cook for them?

My dinner party would be an eclectic group of people, with anyone from Blake Lively to Michelle Obama to Ree Drummmond and Ina Garten, and of course my friends and family. I would love to invite Thomas Kellar but that would be a bit intimidating. For dinner I would serve my vegan lasagna - with zucchini and eggplant layers, with cashew "ricotta" and homemade tomato sauce.

Do you do any other crafts and what are your hobbies?

I love to sew and scrapbook. I am all for a good DIY project. Traveling is one of my favorite hobbies. I also love to run and play soccer.

Which cooking blogs do you love to read?

The Pioneer Woman, Inspiralized, Oh She Glows, This Rawsome Vegan Life

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Carissa Cotner
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raw vegan

What's your favorite...

TV Show
Downton Abbey, Reign and Modern Family
Muse, Coldplay, HAIM
San Francisco/Napa Valley
She's the Man
Cook Book
My favorite cookbook is a cookbook passed down to me from my great-grandmother
Mediterranean, American - anything that is fresh, local, and veggie-focused
Spinach, quinoa, lentils. I love ground cauliflower as a rice substitute, and zucchini as a pasta noodle substitute
Kitchen Gadget
Immersion blender - so versatile, I use it for so many things like smoothies, soups, sauces, etc.