Yes, her grain bowls might look a little tastier or her smoothies a bit more vibrant than what you’re whipping up in a frenzy at 6:00 a.m. But don’t let the Instagram filter (or her 61k—and counting—followers) fool you: Alexandra Dawson, a nutritionist and the writer/photographer behind buzzy food blog In My Bowl, deals with many of the same headaches we all face when it comes to cooking.
Like, working with a super-small kitchen. “The rest of my apartment is really sunny, but unfortunately my kitchen is in the very back, and it’s this awkward hallway thing—it’s the least ideal kitchen,” she laments.
But Dawson has learned how to turn imperfection into motivation: The Washington, D.C.-based blogger and avid yogi, who got her start recipe testing for New York City’s influential vegan destinations Pure Food and Wine and One Lucky Duck (RIP), comes up with the sort of rib-sticking plant-based creations that even a lifelong meat eater would crave. “Sneaking in the healthy is how I try to look at everything that I do,” Dawson says.
Since space is tight, the vegan turns to her local farmers’ market for inspiration (cooking with seasonal ingredients is a biggie for Dawson), supplementing her weekly produce trips with pantry items from Whole Foods. “My website is a full-time job—it’s a Monday through Sunday type of thing—so my husband and I do most of our cooking on Sunday,” she says.
That almost always includes a big batch of overnight oats, a stew for lunch, and then another stew for dinner to last them through most of the week. (The meal prep also aligns well with being budget-savvy, which the nutritionist is also all about—hence In My Bowl recipes like her “three dollar curry in a hurry.”)
Dawson invited us inside her (cramped) kitchen to share her fridge staples—and prove that you don’t need a perfect set-up to make delicious food.
Is that soup in the plastic take-out containers on the top shelf?
It’s my absolute favorite soup: tomato farro minestrone. I made a huge batch of it and have it for lunch over the course of the week—it goes three quarts back! Summer, winter…there’s always soup in my fridge.
What about all of those containers on the second shelf?
Those are Modern Oats oatmeal cups. I usually make a big batch of overnight oats on Sunday, with raw gluten-free rolled oats, a plant-based protein powder, any sort of raw nut butter (right now I have hazelnut butter), and homemade almond milk. Then we shake it and let it sit.
What’s your homemade almond milk recipe?
You soak almonds for up to 24 hours, rinse off the water you soaked them in, and then for every one cup of almonds you add three-and-a-half cups of filtered water. I’ll also add maple syrup or dates, a bit of cinnamon, and then just blend, blend, blend.
You’ve got lots of supplements and powders in your fridge; what are your standbys?
I love wheat grass—it’s not as potent when it’s dried, but if I’m traveling or find myself out of spinach or kale, I love adding it to smoothies for that extra boost of green. I love spirulina—it has B12 vitamins, which I like to supplement as a vegan—and E3 Live, which I’ve been using for years. It’s really good in grapefruit juice and coconut water if you shake it up.
It looks like you’ve got a drawer full of cheese… is it vegan?
My husband’s not vegan, so there is some cheese in there. But also Kite Hill yogurt, which is my favorite, and almond milk brie. I tend to buy everything in bulk, and individual cups of yogurt felt like a waste of plastic, so I actually just started making my own vegan yogurt. You can’t see it in the photo, but it’s made with one can of full fat coconut milk and then two probiotic capsules. You let it sit for two days, and can add coconut sugar to taste.
Are you big into gut-friendly foods?
I eat a lot of fermented foods: I love ginger kombucha—it not only tastes awesome but is also so settling on your digestive system—and there’s sauerkraut too. For lunch I either eat soup or do a brown rice macro bowl, and I love adding kraut, hummus, steamed greens, avocado, raw nuts, and hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds for texture and nutrition. [The bowl] is usually just bits of what I have in my fridge.
Your freezer is very organized—I’m impressed!
I always have a bag of frozen bananas, plus frozen berries, frozen greens, and there’s usually more soup in there but right now I have vegetable stock. And then I keep all of my nuts and seeds in the freezer, because they last longer in the freezer. I always have frozen berries because it’s illogical to order fresh this time of year; they’re expensive and don’t taste great. I try to cook as in-season as I can—plus, I’m budget-conscious—so in winter much of my pantry lives outside of my fridge. You don’t see the mountain of bananas, or jars of beans or grains in my cupboard!
Take a peek inside the refrigerators of more of our favorite foodies: This magazine editor loves her fermented foods too, while this ultra-marathoner is all about the apple cider vinegar and tasty, refueling snacks.
(Photos: Alexandra Dawson)