If you're a longtime vegan looking for some homey vegan recipes or just need to cook something vegan for a friend or relative for an upcoming holiday, the new cookbook Betty Goes Vegan is a great resource. The cookbook stems from the three-year journey of Annie and Dan Shannon, who worked their way through veganizing Betty Crocker's Big Red Cookbook on their blog MeetTheShannons.com. The Betty Crocker Project on the blog and the subsequent cookbook are filled with creative vegan conversions that keep the spirit of traditional family comfort foods intact.
Annie thought of the project while watching the movie Julie & Julia, based on the best-selling book of the same name. The movie's food blogger, Julie (Amy Adams), documents her journey through Julia Child's cookbook (Meryl Streep). The movie includes a crisis of conscience for Julie about boiling lobsters alive. While Julie overcomes the crisis by boiling the lobsters, Annie found herself thinking the world could use a food blogger with a more humane alternative. She even dedicates the cookbook, "For the lobsters."
Vegans are some of the most passionate foodies on the planet, says Annie. "We sit around talking about food like the gals on Sex and the City talk about orgasms," she relates in the cookbook. But accessibility is an issue with veganism. People don't always know how to veganize traditional recipes or even how to use vegan products in everyday cooking. So, the Shannons set out to prove that anything could be made vegan by using the pinnacle of training cookbooks for amateur cooks: Betty Crocker's Big Red Cookbook.
The more than 500 recipes---primarily veganized versions of Betty Crocker's recipes---aren't gourmet or pretentious, but rather are simple comfort foods with vegan adaptations. The book is a refreshing change from cookbooks filled with complex recipes. The Shannons' personal reflections on the dishes are relaxed and so is the mood of their recipes. It's just good home cooking with a vegan flair. A few favorites include vegan bacon cheeseburger hash, beefless stroganoff and vegan fried eggs. Those fried eggs (blocks of fried tofu) are filled with vegan cheesy sauce that emulates a dippable egg yolk (without the risk of salmonella). Yum. And for you fans of Julie & Julia who are wondering, yes, the Shannons even conquered coq au vin with their plant-based version: seitan coq au vin.
Annie's humor and accessibility are evident in every recipe. For those fancy vegan fried eggs, she even makes the somewhat creepy injector that you use to fill the tofu eggs with cheesy sauce seem fun. And when you're done, she encourages you to "call a friend and brag a bit about how much you rocked breakfast."
The book is organized in seven sections: pantry, breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, snacks and holiday favorites. The cookbook describes common vegan ingredients in the pantry section in a way that everyone can understand. Ingredients like agar-agar, a seaweed-based binding powder, which I've used but still didn't fully understand what it is. But Annie makes it simple, saying "[If] you're worried I'm pushing Frankenfoods on you, well, this one isn't one of them. It's a vegan 'gelatin' that, once you get the hang of it, will make you believe in miracles."
And my absolute favorite part? For many recipes, the Shannons include suggestions for homemade meat substitutes as well as the store-bought convenience variety. So you can have meatless comfort food and still eat healthy whole foods.
You can find Betty Goes Vegan on Amazon.
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Image courtesy Annie and Dan Shannon