Review: Minimalist Baker's Everyday Cooking

Minimalist Baker's Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious RecipesMinimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes by Dana Shultz

My rating: ★★★★★

When we visited friends in Scotland in April, they introduced me to a vegan cookbook called Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes. Because I am me, and have difficulty Calming Down and Just Enjoying Things in Small Amounts, I immediately checked it out from the library and have already made six recipes from the cookbook. (And one from the website.)

Carrot, Potato, & Chickpea Red Curry: The end result was so rich and well-seasoned that it belied how easy it was to make.

Thai Baked Sweet Potatoes: What a unique and tasty combination! The ginger-tahini sauce makes this a standout.

Butternut Squash Garlic Mac ‘n’ Cheese: Three things I love that combine perfectly in this quick-to-prepare recipe! I especially loved how fast the cubed butternut squash roasted up. Make sure you choose a solid gluten-free pasta for this one; unfortunately, the one I tried got a bit gummy when cooked.

Smoky BBQ Veggie Burgers: These are easily my favorite non-meat burgers, beating out even Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger. I used gluten-free breadcrumbs and they worked very well.

[caption id=“attachment_97792” align=“aligncenter” width=“3024”]de6638a4-b433-4738-81fa-05bac1f2d133 Smoky BBQ Veggie Burgers[/caption]

Pizza-Stuffed Mushrooms: While this is an appetizer recipe, it was a perfect light dinner after a late lunch. The homemade vegan “Parmesan” was especially impressive! Mushroom-averse, be warned: the mushrooms remain very mushroomy.

[caption id=“attachment_97794” align=“aligncenter” width=“4032”]img_8787 Pizza-Stuffed Mushrooms[/caption]

Creamy Golden Milk Smoothie: I subscribed to the Minimalist Baker website in my RSS reader and this recipe popped up. I’m a smoothie fan, and the turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon combination sounded like something FunkyPlaid and I might enjoy. It was! I added carrot juice for sweetness and chia seeds for fun.

[caption id=“attachment_97793” align=“aligncenter” width=“3024”]img_8789 Creamy Golden Milk Smoothie[/caption]

Cashew Soba Noodle Salad: I used rice noodles since I can’t eat soba noodles, but the deliciousness did not suffer. I’m glad I made a double batch.

[caption id=“attachment_97791” align=“aligncenter” width=“3024”]95f85c91-7850-496f-9a7b-8304dceefef7 Cashew Soba Noodle Salad (with rice noodles)[/caption]

While I do not adhere to a vegan diet, this cookbook has changed my mind on how easy it can be to prepare delicious vegan food that is also gluten-free. I will continue to work my way through this cookbook – quickly, before someone else at my library wants to check it out!

Day 354 of Project 365: Chicken and cornbread in the slow-cooker.

My immune system collapsed in the wee hours this morning, when I woke up to a coughing fit and severe sinus pain. I haven’t done much today except sleep, but I did manage to put a meal in the slow-cooker so I will have home-cooked lunches this week. I love this recipe for barbecued chicken and cornbread because the cornbread bakes on top of the barbecued chicken like some sort of food sorcery. This is my first attempt with my new favorite gluten-free store-bought barbecue sauce.

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Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: “This Christmas” by Mason Embry Trio from Spotify’s Christmas Peaceful Piano playlist.

Day 283 of Project 365: Slow-cooker curry.

This slow-cooker Thai curry recipe turned out great. Now I have lunches for half the week, too. It’s gluten-free but not vegetarian; I think it could be made vegetarian with a bit more eggplant and sweet potato instead of the chicken, plus a proper substitute for fish sauce.

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It’s disappointing not to be able to share the new-recipe victory with FunkyPlaid, but I’ll just have to make it again when he comes home.

I also made a small gif of the autumn leaves swirling about my home in Second Life.

Back to work in the morning! I hope this cold shoves off soon …

Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: freight trains in the distance.

Day 276 of Project 365: Sunday cooking.

Today I made vegetarian mole chili, cornbread, and raw chocolate chip cookie dough bites. Tonight I am full!


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In the wee hours of the morning, Zen heaved herself up the stairs not once but twice because FunkyPlaid and I were too asleep to pay attention to her. Goodness knows how long it took her to climb the stairs, but she did it. After accomplishing that feat, Zen shoved the bedroom door open and yowled at the top of her lungs.

That was a fun way to wake up.

Writing from: my study in Portland, Oregon. Listening to: Maria Bamford’s “Ask Me About My New God!”

Day 220 of Project 365: Gluten-free treats.

I’m feeling a bit ill tonight after a run of generally good health days. I sometimes forget how precarious that health can be, so tonight’s photo is of two gluten-free treats that make me happy. The guide was a gift from Courtney, and I’m looking forward to visiting all of the gluten-free restaurants and bakeries listed in it. The cookies are a fairly tasty find from Fred Meyer that are not only gluten-free but vegan too. It’s tough to do both well.

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Writing from: my study. Listening to: my stomach grumble.

Day 175 of Project 365: SunBasket magic.

Despite this being the least appealing food photograph I’ve ever taken, I was highly impressed by the meal I made from the SunBasket gift we received from my mom. This was a recipe for salmon with mango salsa, and it was easy to prepare and cook, a boon for this exhausted librarian at the end of a long day. I’ve got two more gluten-free meals waiting to be prepared this week, too!

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Writing from: my study. Listening to: BBC News. I did not see that coming.

Day 48 of Project 365: The gluten question.

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Yesterday I ordered a supposedly gluten-free dish from a menu of a local chain of Italian restaurants. We had never been to the restaurant before, so I relied on the menu and the server to be accurate. They weren’t. Today I felt miserable with all of the symptoms of accidental gluten ingestion, like coming down with a very short but intense flu.

Today I also read about how some conservative politician – a Presidential hopeful, natch – promised that he wouldn’t provide gluten-free MREs to the military.

After testing my digestive system with some certified gluten-free oatmeal, I determined that I could make it to a late dinner with friends at a restaurant I’ve eaten at several times before. On an extensive menu, there were still only a few choices for me, but I ordered something I knew would be safe for me to eat. “Safe” means that it will not cause me short-term discomfort or long-term physical damage. I even got to enjoy dessert, pictured above, and suffered no nasty side-effects.

I am lucky to have supportive family and friends who understand the medical necessity of my gluten-free diet, but some people don’t have the same support system. This is my periodic reminder that eating gluten-free is not a choice for many of us. (Considering how expensive gluten-free options can be, it is an expensive non-choice.) If someone tries to tell you that eating gluten-free is about losing weight or being politically correct, they are lying to you. Educate yourself.

Writing from: a no-longer-sick room in Marin. Listening to: my own irritated thoughts about that politician.

Day 362 of Project 365: Fall in Line

Before I went gluten-free, I was too intimidated to try making homemade lasagne. Even though I knew it was basically just layer-cake pasta – how hard can that be? – I avoided making it.

Post G-Day, one of the first recipes I learned how to make was polenta vegetable lasagne. Using pre-cooked polenta and jarred pasta sauce it is one of the easiest recipes I make.

But that’s just a little too easy. Feeling confident some months ago, I decided to purchase gluten-free lasagne noodles from Tesco. And promptly got intimidated again.

Today I’ve been feeling quite sassy. I sent that email and let go of a bunch of stress. Not all of it, but a lot of it. I even indulged in a mid-afternoon nap. So tonight I saw those noodles in the cupboard and decided what the hell.

So easy.

My favourite part, of course, was lining up all the partially-cooked lasagne noodles. I couldn’t trust them to behave at that point, though, so this is a ‘before’ photo. Look at how orderly!

Day 362 of Project 365: Fall in Line

gratitude: finishing the second sleeve of FunkyPlaid’s jumper · crossing off more items on my task list · that nap

Day 300 of Project 365: I Ate a Croissant

My 300th photo is of the first croissant I’ve eaten in four years.

Genius, a wonderful local company, makes gluten-free croissants. I do not know what sorcery they use to make the croissants so good, and I do not care. I only care that I can eat croissants again because the croissant dreams have been increasing in frequency lately. These dreams involve me sitting in a sidewalk café in Paris, eating a croissant for what feels like hours. I can still taste the flaky crumbs on my lips when I wake up. That is how much I have missed croissants. So it was a little crazy here earlier when I warmed one up and tore into it.

Day 300 of Project 365: I Ate a Croissant

Look at that buttery beauty.

Three things I am grateful for today:

  1. Genius, for making the delicious gluten-free croissant I ate today.
  2. My willpower, for saving the other croissant for tomorrow.
  3. My lack of willpower, for also buying a pack of gluten-free pain au chocolat.

Gluten-free sucks.

I am bitter in this post, but I won’t apologize for it. I’m done apologizing for it.

Gluten-free is not a choice for me. It is a medical necessity. I get very sick when I eat gluten. Nowadays I am sometimes sick even when I don’t, which means I need to eliminate something else from my diet, although I am not sure what yet.

Going gluten-free has been an incredibly isolating experience for me. I used to love going out to dinner, and now I have to consider menus deeply before a nice meal out is even a possibility. I used to love to bake, but all of my recipes were based on wheat flour, and the gluten-free baking I have done leaves me really depressed because the texture and density are all wrong.

I hate imposing on the people around me, but I can’t just “cheat” anymore. I admit to some cheating at the beginning, and there is no excuse for it. I was angry and sad and wanted to eat whatever I wanted to eat. One of these times was in 2008 when I was in Scotland, and I had a bagel. It was magnificent and it didn’t make me sick. I don’t have an explanation for that. In a way, that fluke was worse, because it made all of this seem very arbitrary.

But it is not arbitrary. When I am lazy and don’t double-check when ordering food, I get sick. Now that I am actively avoiding gluten, when I ingest it I get extremely sick. It is awful. Not only do I have extreme gastrointestinal symptoms, but I am lost in this brain-fog. Work is barely possible from the fog; attempting to do homework is just comical. I get headaches that don’t go away for days. I have trouble sleeping. I get an incredibly itchy rash on my arms and legs – think chicken pox, that level of itchiness, the kind that requires active thought to avoid scratching.

The worst part is not getting sick but controlling every aspect of my food intake so that I never fully enjoy eating anymore. I am always conscious that even when gluten is not supposed to be in something I am eating, it could be, unless I prepare it myself from whole ingredients. I probably should do more of this. I know there are many wonderful blogs and cookbooks about gluten-free cooking. Sometimes I don’t want to think about cooking every meal for myself. Sometimes I just want take-out like a normal fucking person.

These days I wish I didn’t have to eat anything. Eating used to be one of my favorite things to do, and now I hate it. I used to love to share meals with people, to discuss every little aspect of flavor and preparation. Now I feel guilt for only being able to accompany people to certain restaurants, and resentment for only being able to order certain things.

This isn’t a poor-me post. This is full disclosure. This is an explanation of why my feelings get hurt when it seems like this all is some fad diet of mine, or even a diet that I chose because I wanted to be healthier. I didn’t choose this. It chose me, and I hate it. I hate it every day and I will never get used to it. I don’t want a pat on the back and I don’t want to hear about how gluten-free is better for me anyway. It is a prison sentence for a crime I didn’t commit. I don’t want to decorate my cell with handmade doilies. I just want out.

gluten-free favorites

Because you asked … here are my favorite gluten-free recipes. I take absolutely no credit for any part of their deliciousness; I merely looked for recipes that sounded good, and then followed their instructions.

This Friday, I am attempting a gluten-free fried chicken recipe in the crock-pot. It sounds crazy, which is why I want to try it. Let’s hope I don’t poison our dinner guests!


Once I overheard someone talking about eating great fruit, with the accent on “great”. I realized a few sentences in that he said “grapefruit” but it never tasted like grapes to me, so greatfruit it is.

Today’s surprise treat from a coworker is a greatfruit and prawn salad with peanuts, almonds, onions, dried baby shrimp, Vietnamese mint, and cassava chips on the side. It is sweet, tangy, spicy, and every bit as delicious as it sounds.  I am once again indebted to this very good cook who knows so many gluten-free dishes.

I am bouncing back from the stomach bug, and bouncing indeed as I catch up with work that crouches in wait around every corner. Boing, boing, boing. I love being busy.

The rest of it is a disorganized crowd. People dissatisfied this soon with Obama as President should ask themselves how long it has taken them to acclimate to a new job. I wonder if Prop 8 will be overturned. I read that the 38-Geary spends more time stopped than it does in transit. We are almost done watching the third season of “Battlestar Galactica” and I have no idea where it is going. I won a goldfish at a fair once and named him Fred. I still haven’t finished that short story because I don’t know what happens next. Anything could happen.

Today the light in the library is subdued silver.

I like the word “microfiche” too much.

Lunch has ended.

the state of the gut

Since I am currently struggling with a stomach bug, and quickly approaching my first gluten-free anniversary, a “state of the gut” address seemed appropriate. On 23 March 2008, I began a gluten-free diet to alleviate gluten intolerance, possibly Celiac Disease. (I say “possibly” because I have not yet been able to go back on gluten so I can be formally tested.  Ingesting gluten for a month would certainly mean more sick days than I can take right now.)

Due to my diet, I have rediscovered my love of cooking, though grocery shopping – while less confusing and overwhelming – is still frustrating. I have lost the taste for cookies and cakes, but still yearn for dishes like biscuits and gravy from Boogaloo’s and focaccia from Arizmendi. Despite how much I disliked Whole Foods before this whole thing started, it has been a place of gluten-free miracles.  Trader Joe’s has been excellent as well; tonight, FunkyPlaid stopped by one on his way home and brought me all sorts of gluten-free goodies.

While in Scotland last autumn, I feasted on Sainsbury’s “Freefrom” line of breads, and am baffled that no American grocery stores carry a line of gluten-free baguettes, naan, and English muffins. Bob’s Red Mill has a tasty line of bread mixes, however, many of which I have baked and enjoyed. Amy’s Kitchen has some tasty gluten-free frozen pizzas, and Mariposa Baking makes the best biscotti I have ever eaten.  Nothing comes close to Freefrom, though.

Dining out is still enjoyable, but not the experience it once was. Everything on each menu must be scrutinized, and at first I was fairly embarrassed about being That Kind of diner, asking all sorts of questions about what I used to regard as magicians’ secrets.  No longer can I glimpse an ingredient or a sauce and order solely on whim.  Brunch is a particular wheat-laden obstacle I avoid whenever possible.

Now to the good news: with the exception of a compromised immune system, I am physically and emotionally healthier than I have been in years.  While I still have headaches from time to time, I no longer have migraines.  My moods swing normally … or as normal as I get, anyway.  Insomnia is the exception instead of the rule.  The gluten-free diet is not the only source of my newfound health: each day, I take a multivitamin, a calcium supplement, and an iron tonic called Floravital recommended to me by my friend Kirsten that has done wonders.  Just today I started taking PhytoPharmica’s Probiotic Pearls in order to boost the useful bacteria in my gut. I feel great when I exercise, but struggle to keep a routine when I fall ill.

I have a ways to go with this new life, but as I write this I realize how far I have come.  Luckily, I have an incredibly supportive partner, family, friends, and coworkers, so I know I am not doing this all alone. The Internet has been a great resource for me over the past year, not only to educate myself on medical issues but also to learn from people living with Celiac Disease. I owe a great deal to Shauna of Gluten-Free Girl and Kelly of The Spunky Coconut, whose positivity and innovation inspire me to rise above the day-to-day setbacks.  I aspire to gain grace and peace about this part of my life.

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