School Daze

Summer has only just begun in earnest, which means school is probably the last thing on anyone’s mind right now. After such a grueling year in virtual and physical classrooms, this extended recess is a much deserved break from all that madness. I’m certainly not rushing you back to your desks, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared when that bell does begin to ring again. In fact, I have a very compelling incentive to get you started on back-to-school shopping a bit early.

Coming on August 31th, The Student Vegan Cookbook will arrive to solve all dorm room dining dilemmas! Besides, these recipes are pure gold well beyond the academic age. For anyone on a tight budget, a crazy-busy schedule, and limited kitchen equipment, you still can make amazing vegan snacks, treats, and meals.

Pre-order today to lock in your copy, and as an added bonus, you’ll get an EXCLUSIVE e-book with an additional trio of recipes, not otherwise available anywhere else! All you need to do is send proof of purchase to studentvegan@quarto.com at any time leading up to the official release date.

By simply ordering the book in advance, you can dig in right away with the recipes for Benevolent Bars, Cold Peanut Noodles, and Spring-a-Leek Soup. These staples will serve you well through graduation and beyond, so don’t delay! The school bell will start ringing again before you know it.

Peach of Perfection

The permanent nature of conventional cookbooks is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, there’s some wiggle room for updated editions with future editions, but once those first pages are printed, they’re set in place, bound together for life. Those original words will never change, no matter how many trends come and go. Sure, if the stars are aligned, you can pray for reprints to correct errors, though that’s the real extent of it. We’re not talking about massive renovations here.

Letting go of the project and officially marking it “finished” is a relief. As a freelancer who juggles scores of assignments at once, being able to put even one of those bouncing balls down is downright freeing. Finally, a bit of breathing room, more bandwidth for other ventures! Though daunting to relinquish that control, it does feel good to let loose a completed volume of recipes upon the world.

With every cookbook, inevitably, there’s something that doesn’t make the cut. When ideas keep flowing but deadlines loom, leftover recipes are unavoidable. Such is the case for Super Vegan Scoops! with these stunning Peachy Keen Nectarine Crème Brulees that simply showed up too late for the party.

Almost laughably simple in construction, the rich, deep flavors that result are dead serious. Employing melted ice cream in the custard, it’s a perfect example of the wacky and wonderful ways that the base of a frozen dessert reaches even loftier culinary heights outside of the churn.

Super Vegan Scoops! officially hits shelves tomorrow, but the fun doesn’t stop there. Stay tuned to the blog and social media for more fun extras, tweaks, and celebratory events!

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New School Vegan

Like a duck, placidly gliding across the water while paddling madly underneath the surface, I’ve been churning through a lot more than just ice cream in recent months. Super Vegan Scoops! is due to land in just over a month, but the real news I’ve come to share is that you have something else delicious to look forward to soon. Very soon, in fact.

The Student Vegan Cookbook is due to set the world on fire (figuratively speaking; we don’t want to break any dorm rules) this fall! Inventive, inspiring, and accessible recipes that anyone can accomplish on a shoestring budget, without sacrificing time, taste, or nutrition. Made with low-tech tools in mind, you don’t need a full kitchen to eat well, or even a full stove. Heck, you don’t even need to be a student to benefit from these easy ideas! I like to consider myself a lifelong learner, personally, which means that there’s no end to the wealth of knowledge I find even at the dinner table.

Don’t get complacent with mere TV dinners either, for that matter. I’ve got you covered from morning to midnight with fresh breakfasts that will have you racing out of bed, no matter how early your first classes start, to deeply satisfying midnight snacks when you’re studying into the dark of night.

Open up your palate to a world of new flavors. Go island-hopping with Greek Spaghetti Squash Boats, throw a fiesta with Crispy Cauliflower Tacos, and come back home for deeply comforting Stove Top Mac and Cheese, all before the school bell rings. Never take a gamble on cafeteria food again, or waste money on expensive takeout when cravings strike. Cooking pros and novices can all stand to learn something from these simple, satisfying recipes.

Pre-order your copy today, and get ready to level up your plant-based meal prep!

Calculating the Perfect Pie

Be it custard or fruit, mousse or chiffon, a pie is only as good as its crust. Drawing as much passion as it does ire, the art of crafting the perfect pastry is a contentious subject among bakers and eaters alike. Everyone has an opinion about this essential dessert foundation, ranging from the most minimalist approaches inspired by the sage advice of grandmothers the world over, to high-end culinary graduate specifications that require a firm grasp of the scientific intricacies of baking to appreciate. There’s more than one way to go about the circumference of the dough, but there is one important rule that must be obeyed: Never let the hype go to your head.

When you find a solid formula, stick with it. There will always be new suggestions to explore, such as the substitution of vodka instead of water, or coconut oil as the primary fat, but if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Since Pi Day, March 14th (3.14) is right around the corner, now has never been a better time to strengthen your pie making prowess. That all begins with the crust.

What follows is the crust that’s seen me through the stickiest of fillings, the most temperamental of ovens, and the hottest of summers. This “Old Reliable” is a baker’s best friend, capable of standing and delivering anything loaded into it. The ingredients are nothing noteworthy; it’s all a matter of how they’re combined for the magic to happen. Keep everything, including bowls and utensils, as cold as possible so as not to melt the fat. Though a point of contention, I do adhere firmly to the belief that an all-“butter” crust is best. You may lose a little bit of flakiness, but the added flavor and crisp texture is worth that small sacrifice. For a lighter texture, feel free to sub out half of the butter for pure vegetable shortening, and proceed as written otherwise. Do not be tempted to play around with coconut oil or any liquid oils in this one, as the structure simply isn’t built for that kind of tinkering.

Even when I’m planning to make a single-crusted pie, I always use the double-crust proportions, to make the most of my time. The extra disk of dough can be frozen for up to 6 months with no harm, as long as it’s thawed gradually in the fridge before use. That way, you’re always prepared to whip up a pie at a moment’s notice.

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User Friendly

Meet your new best friend: The Friendly Vegan Cookbook! No, that’s not a typo, despite how ubiquitous the term “vegan-friendly” has become in common parlance. Turning the phrase around makes it an all-encompassing embrace of the concept, rather than the outlying exception. Toni Okamoto and Michelle Cehn, two of my favorite people, have teamed up to create over 100 recipes that will serve you well, quite literally, from daybreak to sundown.

For the reluctant cook, the flexitarian, or the hungry health enthusiast, this one’s for you. Carefully curated with nostalgic fare like stuffed shells, pizza, and chickenless noodle soup, these glossy pages bring a taste of comfort to life in stunning full color, and flavor. It certainly helps that Michelle herself is an accomplished photographer, capturing lustrous still life scenes vibrant enough to warrant framing.

Naturally, I’m drawn to the dessert section of any cookbook first. Sweet and simple, the Fudge on page 204 is an easy win. You’ve gotta love a decadent homemade treat that you can make in minutes with seven ingredients (or only six, not counting the salt.) Even though my pantry was ill-prepared for such spur of the moment inspiration, I had just enough to pull off this small miracle. Ideal for a quick craving, unexpected guests, or holiday gifts, it’s hard to imagine anyone turning down these slow-melting nutty, chocolaty morsels.

Turning to more hearty meal options, the Mac ‘n’ Cheese on page 63 was calling to me from the moment we met. No packaged vegan cheese need apply to make this creamy, gooey goodness. I took some liberties to simplify mine, skipping the baking dish and extra vegetables to make a stove-top style, blue box dupe. Nutritional yeast, AKA vegan catnip, and a touch of soy sauce takes this one to boldly savory new heights.

Another reason to love this collection so much is that it truly represents a wide swath of the vegan community itself. Tapping other lauded cookbook authors for contributions, Stephanie’s Deviled Potatoes on page 141 comes from none other than Stephanie Dreyer. Plant-based meal planning expert and the founder of Batch Cooking Club, this unstoppable mother of three knows a thing or two about making foolproof recipes on the fly. Presented as finger food that’s party-ready, I’d argue these tender little potato bites are also ideal everyday snacks or sides. Protein-rich cannellini beans make the filling both balanced and substantial, brightened with the bite of mustard and black pepper.

Whether you’re a friendly vegan or still just vegan-friendly, you can’t go wrong with The Friendly Vegan Cookbook. If you don’t take my word for it, try it yourself: Enter your details in the form below for a chance to win a copy of your own! Tell me in the comment section about your go-to best friend in the kitchen. Is it a certain seasoning, special equipment, or an actual human helper? There are no wrong answers, as long as you respond in the first place!

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Power Play

Anything meat can do, plants can do better.

This is the rallying cry behind Plant-Powered Protein, the latest and greatest release from the prolific, esteemed cookbook author, Nava Atlas. Today’s innovative alternative proteins prove that you don’t have to sacrifice flavor, texture, or nutrition to enjoy a fully plant-based diet. It seems as though there’s a new option appearing on the market every day; the paradox of choice can be paralyzing, whether you’ve been vegan since the era of TVP, or are just testing the waters now.

Not all proteins are created equal. Where does one start with such a diverse palate of new ingredients? Aside from picking out the best brands, what can you actually make with these mystery meats once you get them into the kitchen? Never fear, Nava is here. In Plant-Powered Protein, she’ll guide you through familiar family favorites, from nostalgic classics to bold global fare, with dishes that are kinder to the earth and animals, not to mention much better for you.

It’s both with personal bias and my honest opinion that I share this book as a top recommendation, since I’ve had the pleasure of working with Ms. Atlas regularly for over a decade now, including this fresh trove of recipes. I couldn’t be more proud to have my photos lend the visual voice to such a compelling collection. Just imagine: Having created all of the meals pictured within, finding not a single failure, and experiencing the instant gratification of such easy instruction first hand. More than a mere armchair reviewer, my endorsement comes from a truly genuine place.

Wrapped up in these glossy pages, complete with recipes for making your own alternatives and suggestions for incorporating them into simple, everyday meals, you’ll get over 125 recipes that would thrill even the consummate carnivore. Bridging the divide between the conventional comfort food and a whole food plant-based approach, there’s something in here for everyone.

How can one possibly pick a handful of favorites from over a hundred tried-and-true winners? Truth be told, I can only go by my favorite photos at this point, since the flavors are all on point, instructions are easy to understand, and standard preparations couldn’t be quicker. All you need to do is figure out what you’re in the mood for. Breakfast for dinner? It’s hard to beat those biscuits with sausage gravy, or a spicy chorizo scramble. In need of a warming stew on a cold day? Set a pot of New England clamless chowder on the stove to simmer, and ease into a big bowlful of comfort.

You’ve also got plenty of lighter options like spinach salad with apples and bacon, or a clean, crisp deconstructed sushi salad that’s also great for a grab-and-go lunch. Flavors span the globe with inspirations that range from Korean, Mongolian, Thai, Mexican, and more. For the adventurous eater, you’ve got a ticket to any delicious destination in these pages.

For special occasions, look no further than the carne asada fries, an indulgent entree that you can totally justify as a balanced meal. You’ve got your starch, plenty of vegetables, healthy fats from avocado, and of course plenty of protein. What more can you ask for? The same can be said of the classic meaty pizza, dotted with spicy meatless pepperoni that puts the conventional rendition to greasy shame. It’s natural to make comparisons, but these recipes are simply unrivaled in flavor AND nutrition.

All that said, don’t just take my word for it. Get into the kitchen and taste these creations for yourself. Everyone should be so fortunate as to enjoy such a comprehensive, compelling guide through the world of meatless options. To that end, I’m thrilled to GIVE AWAY THREE COPIES of Plant-Powered Protein. Yes, three lucky winners will be able to cook up a storm, enjoying Nava Atlas’ delicious wisdom as I have for so many years now.

To enter, leave me a comment below about your favorite meatless entree. Do you use a homemade protein, or do you have a favorite store-bought brand? There are no wrong answers as long as you keep cooking! 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.

Let’s make 2021 the year that “Where do you get your protein?” becomes a question only suitable for omnivores. Plant-powered is the way to be!

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