When most people hear the name Betty Crocker, they probably think of the packaged baking mixes you can buy at the grocery store or of housewives in the ’50s taking meatloaf or pies out of the oven. They probably wouldn’t think of vegan cuisine. Luckily for you, Annie and Dan Shannon did.
The Shannons, who are Wesleyan alumni of the Class of 2001, created their own cookbook, “Betty Goes Vegan,” in order to recreate traditional recipes with a vegan twist. The over-500 recipes include “Baked Vegan Chicken and Easy Waffles,” “3-Alarm Vegan Bacon Cheeseburgers,” and “Salted Caramel Cheesecake.”
The 480-page cookbook presents recipes for all occasions, with recipes for breakfast and brunch, lunch, dinner, baked goods, appetizers, snacks, and even “holiday favorites.” Each recipe is introduced with a short blurb, adding some insight to the Shannons’ personal traditions with this dish or their rationale for choosing certain ingredients. The directions are clear and easy to follow, and every few pages gives way to beautiful photographs of the culinary creations.
For the most part, the necessary ingredients are easy to find at your local grocery store, and the majority of the shopping can even be done at Weshop. Some items, however, like Ener-G Egg Replacer, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, and Vegan Worcestershire Sauce, were slightly more challenging to procure, but It’s Only Natural Market and Whole Foods carry all of them. As is the dilemma with most college cooking, we also did not have all of the necessary appliances (called “wonderful toys” by the Shannons); however, replacements were easy to find.
With the help of some kitchen-savvy friends, I whipped up several recipes from “Betty Goes Vegan.” From the breakfast section, we made the “Blueberry Banana Bread Pancakes.” This recipe called for soymilk instead of cow’s milk, substituted whole-wheat flour for all-purpose most likely for nutritional reasons, and suggested spreading vegan butter like “Earth Balance” on the pancakes for those who like to cover them in butter. The pancakes were easy to make and came out delicious. The whole-wheat flour made them a little denser than the typical “fluffy, light pancake” but also made them heartier and more filling. The soymilk hardly had any effect on the taste of the dish. All in all, it was a delicious breakfast that we’re sure to make again.
From the lunch section, we made a Greek lemon soup. It used “Better than Bouillon” vegan chicken base instead of the meat variety and garbanzo beans to replace the chicken. Although the soup was slightly thinner than what we were used to, it was very flavorful. The parsley, lemon, artichoke, peppercorns, garlic, thyme, and turmeric made sure of that.
On the dinner front, we tried a recipe for sweet potato risotto. It was excellent. Like the Greek lemon soup, it used vegan chicken broth. It also required Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (a product that tastes similar to soy sauce but with significantly less sodium), liquid smoke, and vegan mozzarella cheese. My friend and I were impressed with the creaminess of the dish, which was partially due to the sweet potatoes. It was flavorful and filling—the ultimate comfort food for vegans and non-vegans alike.
We made two treats from the dessert section: raspberry chocolate chip scones and chai tea cashew ice cream. The scones, which for wet ingredients used margarine instead of butter, Ener-G egg replacer, apple sauce, and soy coffee creamer, were easy to make. They were sweet without being too much so, and we liked the soft pink color created by the frozen raspberries.
Our one complaint was that they didn’t actually seem like scones. Rather than telling you to separate them into wedges, the recipe asks that you put the whole mixture into a pan, so that when you take it out of the oven and serve them, they look more like raspberry chocolate chip bars. Because of this, they’re not quite the texture of scones either. They had a nice crunch on the outside that dissolved into a soft interior, but not to exactly the same extent that a scone would. That being said, we would probably make them again and call them raspberry chocolate chip bars instead of raspberry chocolate chip scones.
The chai cashew ice cream was wonderful. It used coconut milk instead of regular milk, which has a sweet, creamy flavor and added a fruity twist to the ice cream. The banana and chai flavors came out the strongest, and it was perfectly thick and indulgent.
If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just interested in alternative cooking, I highly suggest that you buy Annie and Dan Shannon’s “Betty Goes Vegan.” Given the variety and multitude of recipes offered, I’m sure that you won’t be disappointed.