Cakes of Biblical Proportions

Some cookbooks are more aspirational than inspirational. You know the sort; heavy, hard covers with glossy photos splashed across the pages. If not for the text, they could qualify as art projects, printed and bound for posterity. Laid out deliberately in plain view for guests to notice, appreciating your good taste, such things are pure beauty have plenty of value all the same.There’s a place on every well-appointed bookshelf for recipes dedicated to 10 minute meals and entirely unobtainable food porn.

On rare occasion, if you’re lucky, you’ll come across a cookbook that fits both descriptions. Filled with lofty pastry goals that look like the stuff of sweet dreams, yet written in such a way that you could genuinely recreate these edible sculptures in real life, Sara Kidd bridges that gap with her groundbreaking release of The Vegan Cake Bible.

Deserving of culinary worship, these are not your mom’s bake sale tray bakes. We’re talking Caramel Swirl Bundt with Nougatine, Almond Sponge with Caramelized Apple & Ginger Meringue Buttercream, Vanilla Malt Marshmallow Birthday Cake, and beyond. By including a full breakdown of each individual component, you can easily mix and match to create the unique combination you’re truly craving.

Roast Carrot Cardamom Cake

It’s not just a set of instructions, but a full education that could rival the popular virtual pastry courses offered by highly esteemed culinary schools. We’re talking about the nitty gritty behind food science, shedding light on why ingredients interact the way they do, creating unique textures and flavors to better harness that power. Sara won’t leave you hanging when it’s time to stack things up, with tips and tricks to build sound foundations for towering cakes, no matter how tall. Naturally, plenty of time is given to decorating skills that go beyond a basic piping bag, creating treats as beautiful as they are delicious. There’s even a chapter about transporting your cakes when it’s party time!

As a certified Old Vegan™, I wish I had such a complete guide when I was blindly mashing bananas into everything, hoping and praying the results would be reasonably edible. Never could I have even imagined these feats of cake mastery, made accessible to anyone bold enough to call themselves a Baker. Though initially daunting, I promise, these luscious, layered creations are within your reach.

What’s even more incredible is the unbelievable number of gluten-free options all throughout these colorful pages. Her Gluten-free Vegan Lemon Cake with Lemon Curd and American Buttercream is a case in point, which she generously granted me permission to reprint here. However, I don’t think my little recipe card could do it proper justice; there’s so much more description within her original post, that I must implore you to make that one extra click to get all the info.

While you’re over there, don’t miss Sara’s full archive of sweet recipes, videos, and even baking classes for hands-on experiences with the master herself. Anyone even remotely interested in sweets will relish such an indispensable resource. Treat yourself, or someone you love, to the gift of truly incredible vegan cakes today.

One Reuben to Rule Them All

Who the heck is Reuben, and how did he ever think to invent such a meaty masterpiece? Of course, like any good origin story, this one is full of controversy, hotly contested to this day. The two leading theories attribute the deli staple to restaurants in Omaha and New York, right around the same time in the early 1900s. Each one came about by making thrifty use of leftovers to satisfy a deep, gnawing hunger. Perhaps there’s a kernel of truth in both of these claims, but the world will never know for sure.

Urban legends and lore aside, there’s no questioning the fact that it’s a timeless classic that transcends all tastes. While often associated with Jewish delicatessens, the archetypal sandwich couldn’t be farther from kosher certification, as it flagrantly combines meat and dairy in one mouthful. Today, we have the technology to right this wrong. Abundant vegan alternatives make this classic easily accessible to everyone. In fact, I discovered no less than five wholly unique, completely plant-based Reuben renditions right here in Austin, TX. Each one takes a different approach to accomplish the same goal, demonstrating culinary creativity without making concessions for flavor.

I wouldn’t hesitate to order any and all of these sandwiches in a heartbeat. Each one fulfills a different craving, from reasonably wholesome to downright decadent.

Counter Culture puts a healthier spin on this otherwise gut-busting sandwich, employing whole foods that remain true to their earthy roots. Soft marbled rye flecked with caraway seeds cradles thick planks of marinated locally made tempeh, slathered with super gooey cheese sauce and a notably tomato-forward dressing. Crunchy red onion adds welcome textural contrast, cutting the subtly bitter edge of the fermented beans nicely. The sauerkraut is so soft that it seems to melt into the filling, blended with a few cucumber pickles for an extra fresh flavor.

Wheatsville is natural foods co-op, not a sit-down restaurant, but their made-to-order deli sandwiches put many proper eateries to shame. Although best known for their tofu po’boys, the vegan Reuben sandwich deserves just as much praise. Composed of bright pink corned seitan, sliced dairy-free Gouda cheese, thousand island dressing, and old fashioned sauerkraut, it’s a straightforward homage to tradition. I’ve seen confused patrons take their sandwiches back to the counter, uncertain if they actually ordered the vegan version or not. It’s a perfectly balanced savory composition that’s delicious and hits all the right notes.

Bouldin Creek Cafe is another beloved establishment that couldn’t care less about passing trends, big name brands, or hyper-realistic mock meats. They do things their own way, from scratch, which means their Ruby Reuben is unapologetically made with bright red beets. In this sporadic lunch special, golden grilled rye bread stuffed with tender shredded beets and kale-cabbage kraut, while melted Follow Your Heart cheese slices act as the edible glue, sealing the deal. The subtly smoky Russian dressing creates an even greater depth of flavor, creating a prize-worthy Reuben like no other.

Rebel Cheese really puts their protein front and center, getting right down to the meat of the matter. Their “Gentle Reuben” stacks up with a tidy pile of thinly sliced meatless corned beef as the star of the show. For a shop best known for their homemade cheeses, I do wish it had more of a goo-factor, but that does make it a bit less messy to eat. The layer of sauerkraut is certainly not skimpy, lending a pleasantly salty, tangy character to every bite.

Brunch Bird lays claim to the one Reuben that could rule them all. I’ve seen grown men cry as they sink their teeth into this monstrous meal. The meatless corned beef is unassailable, thinly sliced and super smoky, piled up in tender shreds underneath a tangy blankets of sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, and melted cheese. It’s hard to hold if you don’t want to wear it, but worth the struggle. This is the sandwich that could win over staunch meat eaters without a fight.

Whether you go old school or nouveau, there’s no denying the appeal of a properly stacked Reuben. The interplay between umami, salty, sour, and subtly sweet flavors is what made it a top-seller for over a hundred years. In the next century, perhaps the Reuben revolution will make meat obsolete, once and for all. Which version are you picking up first?

DO Try This At Home

Home cooking has taken on greater importance over the past few years. Rising interest in food overall had already tipped the scales in favor of more homemade meals, and then the pandemic hit, making it a beacon of hope amid dwindling choices. For those with demanding schedules, tight budgets, tricky dietary restrictions, or limited experience, the shift has been anything but palatable.

Go ahead, take it easy. Laura Theodore is revitalizing comfort food as we know it, giving everyone the tools to create healthy, hearty, home cooked meals on their own terms. That means accessible ingredients, user-friendly instructions, and even low-impact clean up when it’s all said and done. If you’re craving a bite of nostalgia with better nutrition, Easy Vegan Home Cooking has exactly what you need.

BBQ Tempeh Triangles (p. 136)

Everything prepared in your own kitchen qualifies as “home cooking,” but there’s deeper meaning to the concept than such a basic definition can allow. Traditionally, the term implies comfort food, something made with intention, love, and care. It’s not fancy, and sometimes even downright ugly, but each bite feeds more than just the basic need for fuel. Takeout can never rise to such heights.


Laura’s Blueberry-Banana Smoothie (p. 41)

Easy Vegan Home Cooking includes over 125 cozy, comforting recipes that transform minimal ingredients into deeply satisfying meals. Bucking the conventional notion that soulful, crave-worthy cooking needs to make nutritional compromises, these dishes are notably low in added oil, salt, and sugar. Removing such cheap crutches lets fresh flavors do the talking instead.

Pumpkin Pie Spiced Butternut Squash Soup (p. 76)

You’ve gotta taste it to believe it. That’s why I’m excited to share this giveaway for a copy of Easy Vegan Home Cooking by Laura Theodore! To enter, let me know in the comment section below what “home cooking” means to you, and what your most essential home cooked meal is. Don’t forget to come back and register your entry in the giveaway widget, along with additional opportunities to win.

Easy Vegan Home Cooking by Laura Theodore

Kitchen Confidant

Don’t just veg out; veg UP your meals with Kitchen Pantry.

The only thing better than having a personal chef is having a personal sous chef. When someone else handles the arduous, repetitive, and time-consuming prep work, you’re free to simply create whenever inspiration (or hunger) strikes. That’s where Kitchen Pantry comes in, doing all the shopping, chopping, slicing, and dicing for you. Order raw, fresh ingredients that are ready to cook or eat right away, without any of the typical hassle. Pick from a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, sweet and savory, plus some kitchen staples and fully cooked snacks to satisfy the most urgent cravings.

Sometimes the ease of using such conveniences is the difference between eating a healthy dinner or resorting to a bag of potato chips. It’s one thing to buy four pounds of onions to make French onion soup, and another thing entirely to actually break them down, through tired, tear-filled eyes. There’s no shame in doing what it takes to get healthy food on the table.

It’s also a boon to those who have disabilities that would otherwise prevent them from cooking. Being able to nourish yourself should be a right, not a privilege. Having more options allows greater accessibility for everyone.

Let’s not forget how it helps prevent food waste, too! Cooking for one can be a barrier to investing in fresh produce. Buying a jumbo head of broccoli can be a daunting commitment when you only want a few florets. When you buy only what you need, you get exactly that, and nothing that you don’t. Plus, with all the prep work done for you, there are no unwanted peels, cores, stems, or seeds to contend with.

Make home cooking faster than ordering takeout by starting with perfectly diced mirepoix that’s ready when you are. No measuring needed for those who prefer to rely on instinct rather than written recipes, without any risk of going too far astray.

If you’re more of an all-day grazer, you’ve got lots of crudites and snackable options at your disposal, too. If you want more than immaculate cuts of carrots or cucumbers for dipping into your favorite creamy hummus, here’s another quick fix: Take two seconds to toss together a package of diced tomatoes and tri-color bell peppers, plus a spoonful of minced serranos and garlic. Top with scallions, and just like that, you’ve got instant salsa fresca, fresher and more flavorful that anything you’d find at the grocery store.

Don’t think that the snack selection ends with fresh produce. Kitchen Pantry really strives to fill your whole kitchen with quick, healthy, universally appealing options. Featuring local brands and their less common flavors that may not be widely available, this carefully curated selection is a great way to discover more small businesses. From gourmet popcorn to award-winning olive oil, small-batch tea blends to cocktail mixers, you can easily cut down trips to the store thanks to this expansive assortment.

Unlike other meal delivery solutions, there are no hidden fees and no subscription required for Kitchen Pantry. Additionally, the packaging is fully recyclable, with plans of switching to compostable materials with future funding. What you see is truly what you get: Produce is kept fresh by removing excess oxygen and overnight shipping, not with preservatives or any additives (like salt, acids, or chemicals.)

Kitchen Pantry partners with UPS to reach most of Texas, with plans to drastically expand distribution in response to growing demand. If you’re within range, jump in and start building your cart now. No one has ever regretted getting more fresh, healthy food in their lives.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with Kitchen Pantry. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Nog-Off, 2021

Eggnog is to Christmas what pumpkin spice is to autumn; the flavor that embodies a moment in time, lingering as a taste memory inextricably linked to merriment, lingering with sweet resonance long after the cup has been drained. Originating sometime around the Middle Ages, it was an opulent indicator of wealth, being so laden with expensive spices, sugar, and rich dairy products. Today, as the popularity of eggnog continues to rise, it’s become a widely available indulgence for everyone to enjoy. Greater demand means more options, which follow perfectly in step with an explosive profusion in eggless, milkless nogs.

Oat milk has forever changed the dairy-free landscape which means that this year, we have more vegan options than ever to raise a glass with. Clearly, we’re due for another Nog-Off.

For this fiercely festive showdown between heavyweights, we have fourteen contenders in the ring. Both the bottom and top selections from the previous round have bowed out, setting the scene for a fierce battle on a level playing field.

I soon found myself drowning in a sea of nog. Mercifully, there are no complete losers in this game, and I wouldn’t be upset to have any of these cartons in my fridge again. Different situations call for different drinks, however, so I thought it would be best to break it down accordingly.

Probably the Same Product: Natural By Nature Oat Nog and Sprouts Oatmilk Nog. I noticed after judging, they both had the same lurid yellow color which was notable by itself. Flipping them over to compare labels, the nutritional facts matched exactly, as did the ingredients. Oops. The only difference? Sprouts’ costs $1.50 less.

Most Like Coffee Creamer: Milkadamia Veggnog. The only commercial macadamia nut nog in existence, it’s exceptionally smooth and rich but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was drinking French Vanilla coffee creamer. There’s not a hint of spices nor eggy flavor to speak of. You could doctor them with an extra pinch of nutmeg for an instant fix, but they’re not winning awards straight out of the container. Strikingly, I found this more suitable than the actual coffee creamer made by Nutpods, which is unsweetened and flat out bland.

Most Natural: Fronks Vegan Eggnog. If you want every ingredient to count, you can absolutely taste it in this blend of whole foods. Cashews, almonds, and dates are the foundation, lightly kissed by a touch of cinnamon and cardamom, for a more nuanced spice blend. It tastes pure and fresh because it is! Made by hand in small batches for local distribution, it’s the closest you can get to homemade without pulling out a blender.

Best for Sipping Solo: Califia Holiday Nog Almondmilk. Light but not watery, rich yet low in calories, I could drink this one all day long without any trouble. Thank goodness it also happens to come in the largest bottle of all, with a total of twelve half-cup servings.

Best with Booze: Chobani Oat Nog. Coming from a long line of oat milks and creamers, it should come as no surprise that this thick oat blend is perfectly engineered to balance out the bold, sometimes harsh edge of rum, bourbon, or brandy without tasting watered down. Also, it has a notable malted, toasted, earthy flavor that would harmonize beautifully with additional spirits.

Most innovative: Good Karma Holiday Nog. Allergens, who? Made with cold-pressed organic flax, this is the nog for everyone. No nuts, no soy, no funny business. While it doesn’t carry the same weight as genuine eggnog, for that same reason, it’s exceptionally drinkable and even refreshing.

Best for Baking: So Delicious Coconut Milk Holiday Nog. The last remaining coconut option on the list, this nog has a powerful, candy-like sweetness that puts it squarely in dessert territory. Strong seasonings ensure that it won’t just fall into the background like any other non-dairy milk if employed to make festive cupcakes, cheesecakes, and more.

Best on a Budget: Trader Joe’s O’Nog. The most affordable option on this list, one generous quart will only set you back $2.99. Every dollar counts when budgeting for holiday gifts, and the most expensive option on this list, by contrast, will set you back $12.99 for a pint.

Best for Most People: Good & Gather Oatmilk Holiday Nog. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if there was only one nog I could celebrate the holidays with, to take back home to my family and impress the widest range of palates, after much deliberation, I think it has to be… The Target house brand. I’m still struggling with such a shocking outcome. It’s not the best of all categories, as is made clear above, but those mad food scientists managed to hit the ideal balance that could appeal to the widest audience. Spiced gently, sweet but not sugary, rich but not cloying, it stands out by virtue of… Not standing out.

It’s both a relief and a disappointment that there’s no clear winner, standing tall above all the noise. I wish it was such an easy judgement, but that means it’s hard to go wrong. Where ever you are, whatever you have access to, you can pour yourself a glass of holiday cheer. Isn’t that the real meaning of a Nog-Off?

When all else fails, don’t forget, it’s not so hard to make your own from scratch, too.

What is your personal favorite here? Is there a local specialty in your neck of the woods that would have swept the floor with these national brands? Leave me a comment, and maybe next year, they’ll make it into the rematch!

Viva Vegetariana

Fledgling vegans are spoiled for choice, without ever realizing it. Beyond the obvious conveniences of readily available meatless meals in both restaurants and grocery stores, newbies might not know that the entire cookbook section has been turned upside down in the past decade. In fact, that distinct lack of vegan baking books is what motivated me to write My Sweet Vegan to begin with.

Compared to Nava Atlas, however, I was still late to the party. Truly a pioneer in the culinary world, activism, literature, and art, Vegetariana first hit bookshelves in 1984, before I was even born. It’s unbelievable how far we’ve come since then, thanks in no small part to such bold moves. Now, 37 years later, Nava’s premier work encompassing recipes, food lore, and imaginative illustrations has been reborn for a whole new generation of compassionate cooks.


Reprinted with permission from Vegetariana by Nava Atlas

While I’ve often flippantly declared that I could never use a cookbook without photos, Vegetariana has made me eat those words, along with a wide assortment of sweet and savory delights. Nava brings these recipes to life with her incredibly artful drawings and stories, giving them even greater presence on the page than a mere snapshot could allow.

These recipes have truly stood the test of time. Tested and tasted again and again, over the course of nearly four decades, they’ve been polished like diamonds, each one a culinary jewel. I’ve had the great fortune of working with Nava for a mere quarter of this book’s lifetime and can easily attest to this fact. Not once have I hit a single dud through the course of our collaborations.

Given such extensive experience with Nava’s work, it’s hard to pick even a dozen favorites from the bunch. Tofu Rancheros make eggs obsolete in this upgraded Tex-Mex standard. Perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, there’s no time I would ever turn down a heaping helping.

Sweet & Sour Cabbage Soup could soothe the soul better than any scrawny chicken. Tangy and tart, sweet and soft, every spoonful is bright, full of vibrant flavors the belie such a simple preparation. Humble, affordable, and accessible ingredients are transformed into exquisite creations with minimal effort.

Speaking of fast favorites, Quinoa Sloppy Joe or Taco Filling is the all-purpose meatless stuffing for any lonely bun, bread, or tortilla you’ve got on hand. Made for one or an unexpected hoard of visitors, it scales easily, keeps beautifully, and reheats like a champ.


Reprinted with permission from Vegetariana by Nava Atlas

Prepare to add a whole new collection of instant hits to your standard recipe arsenal. Nava Atlas has been so generous to kick-start that inspiration by giving away three copies of Vegetariana to those hungry for comfort food, and food for thought.

To enter, leave me a comment below about your favorite go-to recipe. What’s the dish that you’ve made a hundred times, and could easily make a hundred times more? Don’t forget to come back and fill out the entry form to log your submission, and unlock a number of additional methods to rack up extra entries.

Vegetariana: A Rich Harvest of Wit, Lore, and Recipes by Nava Atlas