What happens when Betty Goes Vegan? Pull out the Aqua Net and your best pair of Silver Lake stilettos. Brooklyn-based authors Annie and Dan Shannon are serving up vegan bacon cheeseburger hash, Greek sliders (with vegan ground beef), “faux cassoulet” (beans, vegan beef broth, Tofurky sausages), spinach Waldorf salad dressing (Vegenaise), and “soy nog” cheesecake. These are American (Betty Crocker?) classics that have been “converted” to the vegan lifestyle. Vegan or not, we have to admit those vegan glazed and powdered sugar doughnuts are looking pretty great right around the morning coffee rush.

Yes, the book was inspired by Julie and Julia. Only here, not the blog, but the scene in the movie when a lobster was boiled alive. Annie, a PETA staffer, was reportedly upset by the scene, hence the tweaking of classic recipes. With so many vegan cookbook promising to wow us with uncharted chef and farmers market creations, it's refreshing to see a new vegan take on on comfort food. And really, don't we all have nights when we can't shake those cravings for a bowl of “beefless Stroganoff”?

Chapters are arranged in the classic 1950s three squares: Breakfast/Brunch, Lunch, Dinner, with snacks, desserts and a “Holiday Favorites” section (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Passover, Easter). Many of the recipes, we are told in a press release, were directly inspired by The Betty Crocker Cookbook, including the couple's “approachable and helpful advice.” Here, that “advice” is less in the form of the general cooking tips that the original Betty and her fabricated colleagues like Prudence Penny and Marian Manners doled out. This is a cookbook of personal reflections, a blog-like vision of the couple's own vegan experiences. “Here's how you know that vegan shrimp is a great replica of the real deal: Dan hates it,” begins the recipe header for a vegan shrimp po'boys; he hated shrimp when he was a meat eater as well. (We wish we could say the same of the vegan sausages that we've tried.)

Caesar Burger; Credit: Betty Goes Vegan/ Grand Central Publishing

Caesar Burger; Credit: Betty Goes Vegan/ Grand Central Publishing

What's in vegan Betty's pantry? The usual vegan suspects like almond and coconut milk, flaxseed, and nut butters. But also those 1950s well-stocked panty staples in vegan form like Better Than Bouillon veggie cubes and even Bisquick mix, a Betty Crocker brand (“Yes, several Bisquick mix varieties are vegan, and they'll save you time and money”). The couple even offers up their own homemade Bisquick blend (recipe below).

We've never thought adding a leavening agent and salt to flour was the most time consuming process of making biscuits and cornbread, nor terribly expensive. But hey, if it helps you get those beer, faux bacon and “pepperjack” biscuits on the table in a jiffy, we're guessing the “real” corporate Betty Crocker would probably approve.

One note for vegan Betty Crocker fans: our book copy had some intense page hacking in the salad section (cropped pages stuck together and difficult to pry apart). Maybe it's a printing error, or maybe it's a new form of cookbook activism, a battle cry for a “kinder and gentler chicken Caesar salad” (recipe p. 97). “There's an outdated stereotype that vegans live on salads alone,” the Shannons begin in the mutilated “Salads” section. “We may appreciate a good salad more than our omnivorous colleagues, but I'd bet that has more to do with our enhanced appreciation for food than with any particular affinity for salads.” Do we smell a bacon spinach salad (p. 100) taste-off challenge? Game on.

DIY Bisquick

From: Betty Goes Vegan

Makes: 2 cups

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon crushed pink Himalayan salt

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

1. In your favorite food processor, blend all the ingredients and substitute in any recipe calling for 2 cups Bisquick mix.

And in somewhat related news:

Top 10 Famous Vegans, 2012 Edition

Adventures in Veganism: The Vegan Joint

Localita & The Badasserie: Vegans Among Us

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