There’s been so much buzz about Betty Goes Vegan, that I had to sit down for awhile in a nice cozy bookstore coffee shop and page through it for myself.
First thing you should know, this is NOT a “Betty Crocker” cookbook. I think many vegans were overjoyed when this cookbook came out because it appeared Betty Crocker/General Mills was endorsing the vegan lifestyle. However, General Mills had nothing to do with this book! The book started as a blogging project by Dan and Annie Shannon on their blog Meet The Shannons.
Here’s what I liked about Betty Goes Vegan:
It’s a fun read. The Shannons are very entertaining with a great sense of humor, and each recipe starts off with a small story. After browsing this book you really will want to “Meet the Shannons.”
It’s very informative, especially for new vegans. Very helpful information on vegan-specific products to keep in your pantry and what cooking tools to use. The Shannons are undeniably experts on mock meats and cheeses – the detail they go into under “The Field Guide to Mock Meats” and “The Evolution of Vegan Cheese” is truly impressive.
Directions are incredibly detailed – paragraphs and paragraphs of step-by-step instruction.
There’s an impressive array of sauces and dressings and a huge “Baked Treats” section, which is probably the best part of the book. Cookies … Breads … Doughnuts & Turnovers …Whoopie Pies … Cakes & Cupcakes … Cheesecakes, Puddings, & Ice Creams … Crisps & Cobblers … Pies & Tarts … Frostings, Glazes, & Sauces. This was the only section of the cookbook that had recipes I really wanted to try.
Here’s what I didn’t like about Betty Goes Vegan …
I’m not a mock meat prude. I admit to making Harmony Valley veggie burgers at home, throwing “ground beef” crumbles into chili, and making Lightlife Gimme Lean Sausage patties to eat in biscuits. I admit to enjoying a Philly “Cheesesteak” or “Fried Chicken” wrap at Zizi’s. But the majority of the time I try to avoid processed foods – and that includes mock meats and cheeses. Most of the time I focus on beans, greens, whole grains, and vegetables. Probably a good 90% of the recipes outside of the “Baked Treats” section depend on name brand meat and cheese substitutes.
I’m fortunate enough to live in Charlotte, NC where I have the luxury of upscale Harris Teeters in addition to a couple of Earthfares and a Whole Foods. (Plus a couple of cool local stores like Healthy Home Market and Eco-Licious.) However, people living in smaller towns will probably have difficulty finding many of these faux meat items. Vegan shrimp? Mock duck in cans? Frozen chicken on skewers? Heck, I’d have difficulty finding these items.
Most of the recipes are expensive to make, given the quantity of name brand faux meats and Daiya cheese used.
This is NOT a cookbook for those who are gluten-sensitive. Most (if not all) name brand meat substitutes contain wheat. All Gardein products have wheat. All Tofurky products have wheat. All Lightlife products have wheat, except for tempeh and tofu pups. (Most mock meat products are also very high in sodium as well.)
The same six seasonings are used over and over, with four or more coming together in the same recipes:
- Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. Caution, this should not be used by anyone sensitive to MSG! It’s also very high in sodium – 160 mgs per half-teaspoon.
- Liquid Smoke. This is a natural product, obtained by condensing smoke vapors into liquid. However, it is another controversial ingredient, especially in Europe, as it contains mild carcinogens.
- Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base. The Shannons claim it is MSG free, but if you read the label it contains both hydrolized soy protein and autolyzed yeast extract. So Better Than Bouillon is another ingredient to be avoided by anyone sensitive to MSG.
- Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. Extremely high in sodium – 310 milligrams sodium per quarter teaspoon!
- Crushed Pink Himalayan Salt.
- Nutritional Yeast.
Name brands and flavors are specifically recommended, which was sometimes perplexing. For example, for a Reuben the Shannons recommended Peppered Tofurky slices dipped in (you guessed it) Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. Why not just use Yves Pastrami? For a French Dip it’s Oven Roasted Tofurky slices in Bragg’s Liquid Aminos … why not just use Tofurky Roast Beef slices?
And, I think most longtime vegans/vegetarians have already figured out we can veganize many recipes if we “substitute fake chicken for chicken, fake cheese for cheese.” We don’t need a book to tell us that.
Whether or not you will like this book depends on how comfortable you are cooking and eating processed fake meats and cheeses. (And how comfortable you are eating meat-like food in general – many vegans and vegetarians aren’t!)
The book is very friendly and detailed. It may be a very good cookbook for those new or transitioning to the vegan lifestyle, especially those who are having a hard time giving up meat.
More experienced vegans will probably be turned off by the very heavy reliance on processed faux meats and cheeses, as well as the related expense. However, some may still want to check out the impressive “Baked Treats” section.