BETTY'S VEGAN KITCHEN
Six days after my thirty-sixth birthday, I was up before dawn to drink coffee and settle in to my day of work in my pajamas, like I did every morning. Thirty-five was the year I tried to find a new job but didn't. Thirty-five was the year most of my friends moved to other cities all over the world. Thirty-five was the year we tried to have a baby but didn't. But thirty-five was also the year we threw ourselves into an ambitious project that was getting more attention than I had ever imagined possible.
Our little blog had been featured in Maclean's and on Jezebel.com and a bunch of other websites. The Virginian-Pilot had even done a human-interest story about us that was on the cover of the food section. We were getting emails from literary agents and publishers who wanted to work with us. I kept hearing that things in our lives were about to change ... but yet there I was, up before dawn, sitting down at my computer to watch hours of horrific animal-abuse footage online and trying to track down the IP addresses of the people who uploaded it so I could pester YouTube and the proper authorities and hopefully bring people to justice.
My career as an activist was a far cry from where it had been a few years previously, when I traveled around the world advocating for fur-free fashion. I went to New York, Paris, and London for Fashion Weeks and worked with celebrities and famous designers. I wore nice clothes! But I'd traded in those days for domestic bliss with the love of my life and my best friend—and a new job that was decidedly less glamorous. It was hard watching my friends and former peers in the movement moving past me professionally, but in the end I knew that I was truly happy for the first time in my life.
This brings us back to my life as an online cruelty caseworker ... but first I needed to type up "Come & Get It! Our Top 15 Favorite Vegan Recipes for Picnic & BBQ Season!" for the blog. Dan had already left for work at his own busy, important, glamorous job in the animal rights movement—and it was just me and the cats, writing our blog post for the day. If it were any other day, this would be the best half hour I'd have until Dan came home that night. But it wasn't any other day.
On May 27, 2011, I logged on to Blogger and noticed that five thousand people had visited our blog that morning. That wasn't that weird for us ... after we'd posted for the day and we had our lunchtime traffic rush. But it was really early, and the little bar on our analytics page was still rising. So I followed the link back to where all this traffic was coming from.
There we were, listed second in the "What We're Reading" section of the New York Times Diner's Journal blog. The next half hour is still a little bit of a blur. I know I sent Dan an email and asked him to log on to chat. Then I believe our chat went like this:
DAN: Good morning!
DAN: Holy s--t!
From there, a lot of things happened quickly. We got connected with a lovely, amazing literary agent. She hooked us up with a clever, supportive publisher. We signed a book deal. I quit my job. And just like that, I was a Really Real Professional Writer Person, working on a cookbook that was going to help make it easier for people to become and stay vegan. This was the career I always wanted—something that made the world a better place for animals, didn't give me nightmares or break my heart every day, and made me feel like I had something unique and valuable to contribute to the world. And I didn't have to give up finally being happy to get it.
But even before all this, being inspired by the icon that is Betty Crocker did more than just give me a creative outlet. It gave me a way to explore and share with the world more than twenty years of vegan cooking, culinary adventures, and experiments. I wasn't classically trained in Paris like Julia Child. Dan and I were just two normal people who are madly in love and who started an ambitious cooking project while working demanding full-time jobs and had a test kitchen about the size of a bathtub. We aren't millionaires, and we have only so much room in our fridge and pantry—so we have to shop and cook smart. You're probably no different.
You don't want to invest a lot of time and money hunting down rare and exotic ingredients, and then use them only once. This book uses a lot of the same ingredients for a wide variety of recipes, so if you're newly vegan and investing in these products for the first time, you'll end up with a fully functioning pantry, rather than a kitchen cluttered with one-hit wonders. This chapter highlights some of the basic ingredients and tools every person who wants to cook like Betty Crocker needs to not just make the recipes in this book, but also quickly whip up any creative five-course vegan meal.
These are some of the basic ingredients you'll be using; others can be found in "A Field Guide to Mock Meats" on page 157, "The Evolution of Vegan Cheese" on page 189, "Egg Replacers" on page 323, "Thanksgiving" on page 442, and a few other spots throughout the book.
If you're not fortunate enough to live near a Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, or decent health food store, you can always order these things online. Oftentimes you can even buy them in bulk and save on shipping. It's also nice to support local vegan businesses, such as Food Fight! in Portland, Oregon, and Pangea Vegan Store in Rockville, Maryland, so Google their websites if you need to order any of these ingredients online.
All the ingredients we use in this book are, of course, vegan. But there are two things to keep in mind. One: some products come in different varieties, like Bisquick mix; there are vegan and nonvegan versions; we obviously recommend using the vegan versions. Two: sometimes products change their formulations, and something that used to be vegan isn't anymore. The day that happens is a tragic day. So just make sure to double-check the label if you're buying something for the first time.
Agar-Agar I hesitate to tell you that this wonder-product is made from seaweed—but it is. So 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.
Agave Nectar I'll be the first to admit that one of the most frustrating parts of being vegan is trying to make products with weird and icky names sound as delicious as they are (read: Tofurky). Agave nectar is not one of those. To me, agave nectar sounds like something British hummingbirds enjoy with their tea. This natural sweetener actually comes from Mexican cacti and is one of our favorite ways to replace both honey and sugar.
Almond Milk I love it in coffee, smoothies, and baked goods. It's not as easy to bake with and doesn't behave quite like soy milk, but once you get the hang of it, it's a great way to diversify your diet.
Applesauce Whether you love chickens or you're just trying to eat healthier, replacing eggs with applesauce is a great way to do both. We use it in our recipes as much as possible because it's an ingredient you can find in every grocery store. Heck, you can find it at some gas stations. So no matter where you live, vegan baking is possible.
Arrowroot This might sound like something from a witch's brew, but really it's a wonderful light powder used for thickening a sauce or for binding in baked goods.
Better Than Bouillon Not all of these bouillons are vegan, but they do have a faux beef and faux chicken broth that are. They also are fat-, MSG-, and GMO-free and contain a third less sodium than other bouillons. We can't recommend this product enough and suggest you locate a jar of it as soon as you finish reading this.
Bisquick Mix Yes, several Bisquick mix varieties are vegan, and they'll save you time and money. At this point I'm going to refer you to the incredibly well-written story behind Bisquick mix, "We've Got a Mix for That," on page 317.
Bragg's Liquid Aminos What is this brown number that looks and tastes quite a bit like soy sauce? It's a liquid protein concentrate, derived from healthy non-GMO soybeans, that contains the sixteen naturally occurring essential and nonessential amino acids. We use it all the time to replace salt and to add a rich "beefy" flavor to soups, sauces, and just about everything. Cows all over the world want you to combine this with liquid smoke and a Gardein veggie burger and serve it to your not-yet-vegan friends and family ASAP.
Coconut Milk Using coconut milk to replace heavy cream is one of the oldest tricks in the vegan-baking playbook and still one of the very best.
Earth Balance There are a lot of vegan "buttery" spreads and shortenings to choose from, but Earth Balance is hands down our favorite. Their margarine is the best, both for baking and on toast. It won't just make you forget about butter, it'll make you wonder why it even exists to begin with! For those who are trying to avoid palm oil because of the deforestation and the hunting of orangutans, Earth Balance should not be a problem. Thirty percent of their palm oil comes from Brazil, where orangutans are not native and the Brazilian palm industry does not adversely impact their well-being. The remaining 70 percent of their palm oil comes from peninsular Malaysia, which is also not a native orangutan habitat, from farmers who are all members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). I encourage you to check out their website to learn more about this group, which is working to bring sustainable and animal-friendly farming back into this industry.
Ener-G Egg Replacer This combination of starches and leavening agents can be used instead of eggs to bind your baked goods. We often use it in a recipe in its original powder form, rather than mixing it with water per the instructions on the package.
Flaxseeds They don't just contain protein and fiber. Flaxseeds are one of the richest sources of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that protects against heart disease and stroke. Flaxseeds are also great for replacing eggs in baked goods. You'll want to buy your flaxseeds whole and grind them into a fine powder in a coffee grinder.
Liquid Smoke Once you've had mock meat cooked with liquid smoke, you'll never go back. Most liquid smoke isn't a synthetic chemical city; it's made by liquefying the flavor of real wood smoke using steam.
Miso A lot of us have had it as soup, but it can also make a great sauce or marinade. There are several different kinds. Maybe I'm crazy, but it was fun figuring out which one I like best. Enjoy your taste testing!
Nutritional Yeast This will quickly become one of your favorite pantry items despite its terrible name. These nutty and savory flakes can add a "cheesy" flavor to almost anything and are a great source of B vitamins (something vegans need to make sure we get enough of).
Seaweed or Sea Kelp Dried sea vegetables such as nori, dulse, and wakame have a unique sea-salty flavor or brininess that when added to a sauce, soup, or marinade can help replace seafood in your diet. They're also excellent sources of iron and vitamin C.
Silk Soy Coffee Creamer This a creamier, thicker version of soy milk that you can use to replace heavier creams when you want to avoid any trace of coconut flavor or when you're cooking for someone with allergies.
Tahini This sauce is made from ground sesame seeds and has a lovely nutty flavor that you're going to fall in love with, both as a condiment and as an ingredient.
Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning Julia Child was convinced that she must be secretly French because of her innate love for the food and culture. This is how I feel about Cajun and Creole food. I adore veganizing it all, and although personally I like to create my own spice blends, Tony Chachere's products offer a way to skip several steps, save a few dollars, and add kick by the teaspoon.
Vegan Worcestershire Sauce Worcestershire sauce is one of the world's most beloved cooking ingredients, but sadly it contains anchovies in its original form. There are a few fish-free versions of this popular sauce on the market today that you can use in your sauces and stews, including the Wizard's and Annie's (no relation).
Vegenaise Invented in the seventies, Vegenaise is one of the founding fathers of vegan products. It can replace mayonnaise in any recipe, sandwich, or burger. I've heard a lot of people say that even though they never liked real mayo, they can't get enough Vegenaise.
WHERE DO THEY GET THOSE WONDERFUL TOYS?
This is our collection of all-star kitchen tools that have recurring roles throughout this book, and a few random gadgets you might have been wondering about. We've included some tips for how to use and care for some of these old friends. There might even be a few new friends in here that you could give a good home.
Blender I'm pretty sure we all know that blenders liquefy and mix ingredients. They're the star of any margarita party or fast-paced morning. Every day, my husband makes me a smoothie while he watches The Daily Show from the night before on his laptop. To learn more about this, check out "The Smoothie Renaissance" on page 50. Even the best blenders aren't terribly expensive and are well worth the money. It's an investment in a multipurpose tool that can even take the place of a full-fledged food processor.
Bread Knife A bread knife has a serrated blade that's ideal for cutting through bagels and bread crusts. You'll get a much cleaner slice with a bread knife than with any other, and you won't end up shredding your bread or looking at a pile of crumbs when you're done.
Casserole Dish This covered or uncovered cookware is great for baking and serving food straight from the oven. These dishes can be made of glass or oven-safe ceramics. We have a few different kinds and have used each and every one of them. If you like lasagnas, enchiladas, and macaroni and cheese, you need a casserole dish.
Cast-Iron Grill Pan Imagine a cast-iron skillet with raised ridges to create grill marks on vegetables, tofu, and mock meat. We use ours all the time, and not just because it's pretty—well, mostly because it's pretty—but also because unlike those meatier eaters, vegans don't have to worry about draining saturated fat from their mock meats.
Cast-Iron Skillet We use our cast-iron skillet every day for everything. I've used it to make tofu scramble and veggie burgers. I've even baked a cake in it. The key is having a well-seasoned skillet; once you reach the point where your foods glide right off, you'll never go back to those Teflon monstrosities again. A well-seasoned cast-iron pan will only get better with age and will last a lifetime. If you don't own a cast-iron skillet, it's well worth the time and money to invest in one. If you've had bad experiences with cast-iron skillets in the past, it probably came down to one of two things: you were cooking at a heat that was too high or your skillet wasn't seasoned yet.
Not sure how to season your skillet? It's actually a pretty easy, but long-term, project. You're creating a coating of baked-on oil that will act like a nonstick surface and protect your skillet from getting rusted or messing up your favorite food. Between each use preheat the oven too 400°F, rub a little olive oil on your skillet in a thin coating, and let it soak in a little. If your skillet is glistening, you've used too much. Bake your skillet for 5 minutes. Turn your oven off and let your skillet cool in the oven. Do this the first five times you use your skillet. If your skillet smokes, that's okay. You also might notice that your skillet is discolored, but it will only stay like that until you start using it regularly. The more you use your skillet, the more your seasoning will bake in and create that smooth surface you're hoping for.
Excerpted from Betty Goes Vegan by Dan Shannon, Annie Shannon. Copyright © 2013 Dan Shannon Annie Shannon. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
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