Holy Sheet! It’s a Book Release!

From pandemic pet project to printed and published, it’s been quite a journey bringing my ninth cookbook into the world. Born at a time when life came to a screeching halt, when the very future of cookbooks in general was in jeopardy, it seemed like the absolute stupidest thing to pursue.

Between supply chain issues, shortages, and grocery delivery mishaps, I couldn’t even count on having adequate ingredients to follow a simple recipe, let alone develop another hundred of my own. Let’s not forget that dinner parties were off the table, so there was little need for large format meals generally set to feed anywhere from 6 – 12 at a time.

The Everyday Vegan Cheat Sheet: A Plant-Based Guide to One-Pan Wonders

Still, I persisted. Not out of optimism that things would get better or some greater vision of the future, but for a lack of it. In a time of unprecedented tragedies one after another, this was all I knew how to do, the only thing that provided any modicum of comfort. By cooking, crafting photos, creating my own narrative, I could escape that reality just outside my kitchen door.

Chickpea Pan Pie

The Everyday Vegan Cheat Sheet is a genuine pandemic baby, venturing forth into the wilderness of civilization for the first time with wide eyes. For all the delays, near misses, gambles, and standard publishing frustrations, I think the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Now that we’re gathering together again to break bread, these are the recipes I subconsciously created as a victory lap. This book could only exist in this particular moment.

Low-Country Broil

Getting down to the brass tacks here, The Everyday Vegan Cheat Sheet is a down to earth guide for turning out complete plant-based meals using a standard, no-frills sheet pan. Blending nostalgia with a taste for adventure, wholesome ingredients with indulgent flavors, easy prep with stunning results, it’s everything I craved but couldn’t otherwise find. Veganism is finally taking off as a mainstream movement and sheet pan cooking is all the rage, but why had no one combined the two yet? I took that personally.

Nacho Mamma Loaded Tortilla Chips

Thank you for everyone that made this possible. Book #9 is every bit as incredible as book #1, given the particularly volatile nature of the publishing industry these days. Who knows if this will indeed be the last, but even so, I’m proud of everything inside these pages. I hope they can bring comfort and joy to your table, too.

Dashboard Cookie Confessional

Ever since I was a little kid, it’s something I wanted to do. Young and naive, I couldn’t wait to grow up to have such freedom and access. Now that I’m an adult, I’m finally making my inner child proud: I baked cookies inside my car.

As temperatures began to exceed 100℉ on a regular basis, I knew this was my time to shine. Finally, I have my own car, live in an environment that’s somewhere between the depths of hell and the surface of the sun, and am still crazy enough to do it. If you’ve always wanted to open up your car door and step into your own mobile oven, here’s what you need to know.

Use Protection

  • Metal baking sheets are the best conductors of heat, but that goes both ways. Place a kitchen towel, pot holder, or trivet underneath so it doesn’t melt or burn the interior of your car.
  • Line the baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent the cookies from sticking. A silicone baking mat will absorb too much heat to be effective, and aluminum will reflect too much and cause the edges to get too crispy.
  • Likewise, use a pot holder whenever moving the sheet because it will be hot.

Placement and Timing Are Important

  • Make sure you park your car in direct sun to maximize those UV rays.
  • Start baking when the sun is at its peak; usually around noon or 1:00pm.
  • While your cookies will bake in any position, I found it was most effective to place the baking sheet directly on the dashboard, as close to the windshield as possible. Barring that, the next best place is the trunk, as long as you have a glass window in back too.

Turn Up The Heat

  • Keep the windows rolled up and the doors closed. Any time you open them or break the seal, you’re letting the heat drop.
  • It needs to be at least 95℉ (35°C)outside to attempt this with any level of success.
  • Keep a thermometer inside your car to monitor the temperature, and place it somewhere that you can see it without getting into the car.
  • The interior needs to reach at least 160℉ (71°C) to “bake” effectively.
  • Cooking time will vary, since this isn’t a regulated heat source. Expect it take anywhere from 2 – 5 hours for the cookies to set. They may not brown as much as you’d normally expect, but should be firm enough to pick up and no longer shiny on top.

Recipe For Success

  • While any recipe can technically work, simple drop cookies are your best bet, since they’re more forgiving with variable times and temperatures. A cookie with a high butter to flour ratio is more likely to end up greasy, which means that chewy wins the battle over crunchy for this round.
  • Size does matter. My usual cookies use about 1/4 cup of dough, which took roughly 3 hours to bake while it was 104 degrees outside. You can expedite the process by making smaller cookies, especially if it’s not as hot in your neck of the woods.
  • Vegans have the added benefit of being able to eat semi-baked or even raw cookies without fear. Look ma, no raw eggs! That means every attempt is always successful, with or without an excessive heat warning in effect.

The beauty of car-baked cookies is that you’re using a completely renewable, entirely free energy source while saving electricity inside your home! No need to blast the AC after cranking up the oven, which can add up quickly.

The only thing better than sinking your teeth into warm, gooey, homemade cookies on a hot summer day is getting to enjoy that freshly baked aroma for weeks to come. Hope you don’t drive hungry!

Flour with A-Peel

Did you know that it’s possible to make flour out of America’s favorite fruit? That means it’s naturally gluten-free, grain-free, paleo, and keto-friendly. Now that’s bananas- Literally!

Green banana flour has been slow to take off in the US but has a ton of potential waiting to be unlocked. I was fortunate enough to get a sample of the stuff years ago, so I’ve been experimenting and learning through those trials, finally arriving at foolproof recipes worth sharing. It’s quite different from wheat, so don’t try just swapping it out 1-for-1.

Case in point; this early attempt was supposed to be a classic loaf of banana bread. The darned brick refused to rise, remaining as dry as a desert, condensed into a single bite.

How can you substitute banana flour for wheat flour?

Since banana flour has such a high starch content, you can use 25 – 30% less banana flour than wheat flour if adapting more conventional recipes. Otherwise, you’ll want to increase the liquid accordingly.Made from unripe, green bananas, this flour is high in starch which makes it very absorptive.

What does banana flour taste like?

It has a fairly neutral flavor, so it won’t taste like sweet, ripe bananas by itself. It’s ground very finely to create a smooth, almost silky texture when thickening liquids, and dense, regular crumb in baked goods.

With the right balance of liquid, fat, leavening, and a good dose of patience, the best, most banana-filled bread is absolutely within reach! Learning from my mistakes, I was able to craft a rich, moist, and tender bundt filled with every form of bananas I could get; banana flour, banana chips, and of course, fresh bananas. Each slice is sweet but not sugary, brightened with ginger and zesty orange juice for an invigorating finish.

Consider banana flour as an alternative to coconut flour or cassava flour, two other tropical, starchy powders with textural properties. It can be eaten raw, blended into smoothies in small doses, but is much more enjoyable when cooked, if you ask me.

I’ve also found banana flour to be an incredible ingredient for more savory preparations… But I’ll have to tease you with that idea for the time being. Stay tuned for part two of my banana flour exploration.

Banana flour can still be challenging to find in some parts of the US. If you can’t get it locally, you’ve got plenty of options online. It’s worth seeking out to make such tasty treats that can accommodate almost any dietary restrictions.

Continue reading “Flour with A-Peel”

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.

Coming Up Roses

Time after time, across the years for decades, if not centuries, surveys have shown that recipients always prefer sweets over flowers on Mother’s Day. No contest here; whether we’re talking about a classic box of chocolate or a more elaborate dessert, appetites tend to win over aesthetics.

What if there was a way to get the best of both worlds? Give your mother and all the maternal figures in your life an edible bouquet this year, even if you’ve been sleeping on the event. These quick treats will have you seeing the situation through rose-tinted glasses. Simply wrap up apple slices infused in blushing beet syrup with flaky puff pasty for a beautiful treat that will blossom in the oven.

Versatile enough to present as a breakfast in bed, surprise midday snack, or nightcap to end the day on a high note. Just a little bit of effort goes a long way, in both baking and family relations.

Continue reading “Coming Up Roses”

Bamboozled Cup Noodles

Few things are as consistent and predictable as ramen noodles. Dried, impervious to outside conditions for years, those shelf-stable strands taste the same on day one as they do on day one thousand. Tender and slippery, always salty, the savory flavor is a simple pleasure that everyone can appreciate. It’s a universal experience that seems to feed a hunger that isn’t always just a physical need. That’s the definition of comfort food; providing satisfaction on an emotional level.

Glistening as they float to the top of the cup, each glossy curl beckons, invoking a primal hunger even for those otherwise lacking an appetite. Such a familiar, nostalgic flavor promises the same instant gratification every single time. Before plunging in a fork, spoon or set of chopsticks, you already know exactly what you’re getting.

But wait, what is this trickery? Giving way like softly whipped cream, the seemingly plump noodles are not long and starchy at all! Beneath, where the should be soup, something more substantial awaits. Solid rather than liquid, this base seems to be fluffy, golden, and…

Cake? Make no mistake, this is definitely a sweet yellow cake, fragrant with notes of vanilla sugar, topped with silky cream cheese frosting!

April Fool’s!

As one who’s been burned a few times too many by ill-conceived and borderline malicious jokes, this is the only type of trick I’ll pull. I doubt anyone would actually be fooled, which makes it better, if you ask me. It’s a gentle trompe l’oeil, designed to delight rather than disgust. The ceramic cup noodle mug is what makes it more compelling, but it’s far from mandatory to get in on the fun.

You can easily make your own ramen cupcake by baking your favorite batter in any small oven-safe mug or bowl. Fill it only about halfway, since it will rise, and you still want space on top to add “noodles.” Baking time can vary greatly depending on the size, shape, and thickness of your vessel, so to make sure the cake is cooked all the way through, keep a close eye on your oven and test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center. When removed, there should only be a few moist crumbs clinging to the sides at most, and no raw batter.

Cool completely and apply your favorite white, beige, or light tan frosting using a piping bag fitted with a multi hole piping tip. For the finish touch, add a few tiny pieces of peeled and diced kiwi along with pomegranate arils to stand in for the token vegetables on top.

You don’t need a wicked sense of humor to appreciate such a harmless prank. Like ramen, cake of any kind is welcome on my table at all times.