Review: Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking

Minimalist Baker's Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious RecipesMinimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes by Dana Shultz

My rating: ★★★★★

When we visited friends in Scotland in April, they introduced me to a vegan cookbook called Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes. Because I am me, and have difficulty Calming Down and Just Enjoying Things in Small Amounts, I immediately checked it out from the library and have already made six recipes from the cookbook. (And one from the website.)

Carrot, Potato, & Chickpea Red Curry: The end result was so rich and well-seasoned that it belied how easy it was to make.

Thai Baked Sweet Potatoes: What a unique and tasty combination! The ginger-tahini sauce makes this a standout.

Butternut Squash Garlic Mac ‘n’ Cheese: Three things I love that combine perfectly in this quick-to-prepare recipe! I especially loved how fast the cubed butternut squash roasted up. Make sure you choose a solid gluten-free pasta for this one; unfortunately, the one I tried got a bit gummy when cooked.

Smoky BBQ Veggie Burgers: These are easily my favorite non-meat burgers, beating out even Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger. I used gluten-free breadcrumbs and they worked very well.

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Smoky BBQ Veggie Burgers

Pizza-Stuffed Mushrooms: While this is an appetizer recipe, it was a perfect light dinner after a late lunch. The homemade vegan “Parmesan” was especially impressive! Mushroom-averse, be warned: the mushrooms remain very mushroomy.

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Pizza-Stuffed Mushrooms

Creamy Golden Milk Smoothie: I subscribed to the Minimalist Baker website in my RSS reader and this recipe popped up. I’m a smoothie fan, and the turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon combination sounded like something FunkyPlaid and I might enjoy. It was! I added carrot juice for sweetness and chia seeds for fun.

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Creamy Golden Milk Smoothie

Cashew Soba Noodle Salad: I used rice noodles since I can’t eat soba noodles, but the deliciousness did not suffer. I’m glad I made a double batch.

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Cashew Soba Noodle Salad (with rice noodles)

While I do not adhere to a vegan diet, this cookbook has changed my mind on how easy it can be to prepare delicious vegan food that is also gluten-free. I will continue to work my way through this cookbook — quickly, before someone else at my library wants to check it out!

Avoid, embrace meal planning.

As mentioned in my previous post, I am attempting to exhaustion-proof my kitchen by planning meals out in advance and stocking up on healthy snacks and lunches. I have been resistant to meal-planning because I avoid creating additional structure around my diet so I can act like I still have a little freedom despite the gluten-free stuff. This makes the topic a good candidate for my next “Avoid, Embrace”. So here we go …

There are two main issues to address. The first is that while I often want to cook dinner I am also often rushed and/or exhausted. That also impacts my lunchtime and snacking habits; if I am pressed for time and have nothing on hand, I’ll either not eat (and then gobble too much for dinner later) or eat something unhealthy that I can find on the go.

Yesterday I created a meal plan for the week in Evernote so I can access it on my iPhone while I am at the store. I wrote down the evenings we will be at home together around dinnertime — only three this week — and then paged through some cookbooks for inspiration. I decided on:

I chose Monday’s and Saturday’s meals because I hadn’t tried the recipes before and I adore my slow-cooker. Also, on Saturday night we need something quick to eat before we head out to our friend’s party, so this will be all ready to go when FunkyPlaid gets home from work. Friday’s meal is an old stand-by, my mom’s recipe for meatloaf that is an occasional indulgence of ours.

After adding the ingredients for the week’s meals to my grocery list, I then added some items for my healthy snacks and lunches this week: carrots, grapes, bananas, almonds, eggs (to hard-boil), hummus, yogurt, Pamela’s gluten-free bread mix, and curry kale chips. This last snack blew my mind a little bit. I had eaten kale chips before, but not ones that made me want to make my own.

Last night, I hard-boiled some eggs and made a loaf of bread. I also packed my lunch before going to bed, a trick I had known since I was old enough to pack a lunch, but had somehow forgotten along the way, causing every morning to be a sad little rumble around the kitchen, opening and shutting cupboards ineffectually, leaving with a protein bar in my hand that is somehow magically supposed to turn into two meals.

Some progress has been made. The next step is to kill my Starbucks habit, because I have been pretending that a green tea latte counts as breakfast. Tomorrow I will bring my tea set to work!

the sprouts of despair

Angsomnia: when, due to angst, one cannot sleep.

I should have had a perfectly lovely evening. Before that, I should have had a perfectly lovely day. All of my problems were no more than minor irritations in actuality, logistical tangles to untie quickly and cleanly.

Why, then, do I only fumble them?

The dish I promised to make for tonight’s pot-luck supper has a time-intensive component: shredding 2 pounds of brussels sprouts by hand because we don’t yet own a food processor. I decided to buy all of the ingredients Thursday night so I could easily make the recipe Friday night, then send it to work with FunkyPlaid on Saturday morning so I didn’t have to carry it on the bus.

By the time Friday night cooking time rolled around, I wasn’t in the mood to cook. Cooking even straightforward recipes like this one is still a challenge for me, and my week had already been an 8 out of 10 on the “challenging” scale. (Note to self: do not plan on cooking to relax until cooking is relaxing.)

Long story medium: the brussels sprouts were wormy and unable to be salvaged, thus turning my Saturday into a car-less quest for brussels sprouts, which — as I realize I should have already known — aren’t in season anyway, so I have no business making the dish. (This last is difficult for me to internalize because I love the dish and it’s something I can do consistently well. Still, second note to self: cook seasonally.)

My Saturdays are strange creatures. I look forward to them throughout the week as if they are gold-plated unicorns of sheer delight. They are all mine, because FunkyPlaid is at work, so I have complete autonomy over them. That is in theory only, because when they roll around, I mull over completing any number of a hundred different things I think I should be doing with my time off, and I end up getting nothing done and feeling guilty for it.

A few times I have hit that lovely “I can do what I want and I want to do nothing” stride, but on most Saturdays my to-do list and I get into a stare-eyes contest and, despite it not actually having eyes, the list always wins.

Anyway, this Saturday I spent entirely on the brussels sprouts, up until the moment I hopped in the shower to get ready for the two-hour public transit adventure that is getting to the middle of Marin County. By the time I arrived, the brussels sprouts had taken on legendary status for me; I was merely a support system for the brussels sprouts, the imperfect vessel by which their greatness would be conveyed.

Okay, not really, but you get the idea. I had obsessed so much over how I considered this stupid side-dish to be inconveniencing me that I missed the entire point of cooking, or at least what I consider to be its point: to savor and share good food with good people.

Because I am me, I did not have a “silly me” moment. I had a full-on self-loathing “stupid, stupid me” moment. More like a collection of moments, organized into hours. It is hours later and I am still upset with myself. And then I say, “Why am I still upset with myself? That’s so stupid.”

… and we begin again.

This is the point at which a normal person says, “Hey! Snap out of it!” and I hear, “Hey! Stop being stupid!” I have no idea how to stop being stupid so I just sit there, wings flapping uselessly. Flap flap flap they go, and people wander off because watching sad little wingflaps is pointless and kind of pathetic and there is nothing more for them to do anyway.

So, third and final note to self: learn how to snap out of it. There are probably whole self-help books devoted entirely to learning how to snap out of it. I would be surprised if Oprah herself did not have a treatise on the snapping out. If only I knew of a place filled with books that I could browse for free!

Yes, I see my wings are still flapping. At least everyone ate all the brussels sprouts.

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