BETTY GOES VEGAN: 500 Classic Recipes for the Modern Family by Brooklynites Annie & Dan Shannon (Grand Central Life & Style Hardcover; $26.99
After many years of being a vegetarian and my husband being sort of a vegetarian by default (at home anyway) we have recently decided, for a variety of reasons, to take a break from dairy. I’m not calling us vegans just yet; we’re just testing the waters… So I was excited when I was asked to check out a new vegan cookbook and try one of the recipes. It was perfect timing.
Surprisingly, we haven’t found it all that difficult to give up dairy; the cravings went away quickly. I think the idea of giving up dairy is much more difficult than the reality of it. But what has been a little tricky is revamping my old recipes that used to include cheese and trying to find new ingredients and food combinations that keep it all flavorful and filling. I enjoy food far too much to have salads and smoothies for all of my meals. (Which is what I think a lot of people envision when they hear “vegan”.)
Which is where this smart new cookbook called Betty Goes Vegan comes in. It was inspired by The Betty Crocker Cookbook and written by Annie and Dan Shannon. Their idea was to show people that you could take just about any recipe and recreate it to suit your specific diet, whether it is vegetarian or even vegan, and still have it be delicious and satisfying. Great idea, since even after 20 years of being a vegetarian, my own parents still ask “What do you eat?” and my sister declared years ago, “A meal without meat is just a snack”. They’ve got to read this cookbook.
I decided to try their Caesar Salad Burger. I thought, what could be more opposite of veganism than a good old-fashioned “cheeseburger”? Plus my husband used to really enjoy a good burger and while we’ve had our share of frozen veggie burgers over the years, I haven’t made them from scratch before. (Well, ok, I’ve tried a couple of times but I’ve never come up with anything good enough to make a second time…)
The first part of the recipe requires their homemade Caesar salad dressing, which is then mixed with the vegan ground beef. It was very different from other vegan Caesar dressings I’d seen so I was intrigued. I packed up my new, giant cookbook (it’s almost 500 pgs.) and was off to to the store.
While the Caesar salad dressing and the burger recipe both looked fairly simple and did not require tons of ingredients, I did have to hunt down some spices I don’t normally buy and didn’t have on hand. It was worth it though, the dressing is delicious and I will definitely be making it again. It calls for ground mustard seed, lemon pepper and nutritional yeast among other things. A lot of vegan recipes include nutritional yeast because it is loaded with B vitamins, particularly B12. It also helped to thicken up the dressing when it was whisked in with the other ingredients.
The recipe for the Caesar Salad Dressing is as follows:
1 clove of garlic
1/3 cup of olive oil
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
¼ Braggs liquid aminos
2 pinches of ground mustard seeds
½ teaspoon lemon pepper
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
Toss all the ingredients in a tight container, shake, and drizzle over your favorite salad stuff. (Their Kinder and Gentler Caesar Salad can be found in the cookbook as well.)
After tasting the Caesar dressing I was beginning to have some faith in these veggie burgers. The burger part of the recipe was pretty straightforward. It called for some vegetarian ground beef, available at any major grocery store. (I couldn’t find the Lightlife Gimmie Lean brand that they use, but I’ve had it in the past and I did find Yves brand ground beef at several stores here in town, so I just went with that, knowing it would be similar enough.)
The recipe from the book is as follows:
½ cup Caesar Salad Dressing
2-3 cups of vegan ground beef
2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh parsley
1 tablespoon of vegan Parmesan
¼ teaspoon lemon pepper
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
Red onion slices
Whole-wheat sandwich buns
4-6 tablespoons shredded Daiya vegan cheddar cheese or your favorite vegan cheese (I used Tofutti slices)
Romaine lettuce leaves, and tomato slices for toppings
Make the Caesar Salad Dressing.
In a large bowl, mix the vegan beef, parsley, began Parmesan, ¼ cup of Caesar salad dressing and the lemon pepper. You’ll want to mix this thoroughly with your hands, kneading it like bread. Form the burger mix into 4-6 patties and then place them in a shallow dish and pour the remaining ¼ cup dressing over the patties. Let them sit for less than a minute. Flip the burgers a few times to make sure they get an even coating.
In your favorite reliable cast-iron skillet or frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once your oil is hot, put your burgers in so they aren’t touching. You may need to do this in a few batches. (I made two at a time myself.)
Brown the burgers in the hot olive oil, flipping them a few times so they cook evenly. When the burgers look almost ready, lay the red onion rings on your burgers and let them cook until the onions are tender and your burgers are browned.
While the vegan burgers are cooking, put your burger buns on your trusted pizza stone, open and facedown, and place in the oven. Remove them when they’re slightly toasted.
Build your burger inside the toasty bun in this order: burger, vegan cheese, onions, lettuce and tomato.
I was convinced the burgers were going to come apart when I flipped them but they actually stayed together enough to flip and carefully slide onto the bun.
The one caveat for me is that I have a gluten allergy and all of the vegetarian “meats” that I know of contain wheat gluten, including the vegetarian ground beef used in this recipe. I knew this going in though, and I knew my husband would eat them and love the change of pace. What’s more old school, Betty Crocker than a classic American cheeseburger anyway? Better yet, a vegetarian cheeseburger… And after tasting the dressing and seeing how good the burger looked in the end, I did decide to have a couple of bites. The burger was delicious. You could really taste the dressing in there. It had a great flavor and texture.
I think Betty Goes Vegan is a great idea for a cookbook and a great way to show people that there is an enormous amount of variety in a vegan diet. While many of the recipes in the cookbook do contain gluten, it could still be a really useful resource for vegan recipes. If there’s anything a good vegetarian (or cook, or mother for that matter) knows it’s how to tweak a recipe to suit the various preferences, tastes, and food allergies of everyone in the family.
Today's guest blog is from Adrienne Schroeder who writes theveggiehouse.blogspot.com. Adrienne is a mother of three (vegetarian) children who loves to create simple, healthy meals for her family. She is also a local photographer whose work has been published in Montana Parent, Mothering and Parenting magazines and can be seen at www.adrienneschroederphotography.com.
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