Even though Dana Shultz was raised by what she describes as “voracious, meat-eating hunters,” she rarely, if ever, eats meat anymore. Instead, the co-creator of the popular plant-based-food blog Minimalist Baker seeks out creative ways to replace it.
“I find it way more fulfilling to figure out how to make a chickpea burger than the millionth beef burger,” says Shultz, 29. “There’s a lot of room for exploration within plant-based cooking, and that’s where I enjoy digging in and experimenting.”
Last month, the Portland, Ore.-based writer released her first cookbook, “Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking.” As the title suggests, Shultz wants to show how plant-based (aka vegan) eating can be easy, approachable and part of your everyday routine.
Her experiments (and her lactose intolerance) have led her to create dishes that will make you forget there’s no meat or dairy products. But it wasn’t always that way. Co-founded in 2012 with her husband, John, Minimalist Baker began with a different mission: simple recipes that require 10 ingredients or fewer, one bowl or pot, or no more than 30 minutes to prepare. (If you dip into the archives, you can still find recipes with meat and cheese.)
“My husband has been both vegetarian and vegan and, over time, we’ve evolved into eating more that way,” Shultz says. “Although we’re not entirely plant-based, we thought, ‘This is what the blog is becoming,’ and people were rallying around that. And it’s honestly just the way I’m interested in cooking.”
For those who are vegan, vegetarian or allergic to dairy or gluten, Shultz’s recipes can be a godsend: butternut squash and garlic mac and cheese; spinach and artichoke dip; kale Caesar salad; tiramisu cake. For everyone else, they’re a not-so-intimidating way to dip your toes into plant-based eating.
For a starter recipe, Shultz recommends the book’s Trashy Vegan Sandwich, a surprisingly filling combination of peppers, hummus, caramelized onions, sprouts and avocado. Her pastas — thanks in part to a cashew- and nutritional yeast-based Parmesan cheese substitute — might fool even the biggest cheese eater.
Shultz has multiple reasons for eating a mostly plant-based diet.
“It’s way more likely that you’re going to be eating more produce, because you have to fill up more with plant-based eating,” she says. “You’re getting more antioxidants and fiber and, hopefully, more lean protein sources since chickpeas, beans and lentils are very low in fat as opposed to red meat.”
But one of her reasons has nothing to do with health or dietary restrictions.
“I notice I’m generally eating a higher quantity of food, which is great for me because I love to eat more.”
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