Vegan at Times: 120+ Recipes for Every Day or Every So Often is the perfect book for anyone who wants to try eating vegan or plant-based but not commit to going all the way, every day. In it, Jessica Seinfeld reveals that she ate tofu and brown rice as a girl, when her mom made it, back before it was cool, but her daughter Sascha (her oldest of three kids with husband Jerry) turns up her nose at healthy foods, keeping Jessica “working hard” in the kitchen to find healthy, delicious, and sometimes vegan food that her kids and famous spouse will love.
This is Seinfeld’s fifth cookbook, and each of her cookbooks is a problem-solver in its own right, and this one (which is gorgeously photographed, from Gallery Books) is no different since it is helpful to anyone who wants to try vegan cuisine at least some of the time. “Humans love variety,” Seinfeld writes, “Sometimes we eat healthy and at times we don’t. At times we can commit to a marathon and at times we are content with walks in the park…” In other words, when it comes to wanting to go partly plant-based, she understands that it’s not a binary idea.
“These pages will not shame you, because as always to me there is nothing more annoying and self-important than food shaming.”
Seinfeld is more of a chef than she lets on, though she doesn’t require you to be, in order to succeed in making these recipes. Most recipes in the book don’t require advanced planning. The ingredients are easy to find, easy to make, and even budget-friendly!
It starts with easy breakfasts, includes lunches, snacks, and full-on delicious dinners such as Broccoli Quesadillas with Choptle Cashew Queso and desserts everyone will love like a chocolate sheet cake and Oatmeal Spice Cake with Coconut Icing.
We have her amazing Mac and Cheese, which we can’t wait to bake for the fam. Buy this book and you’ll use it for years, or give it as a gift to all of your health-minded friends who will appreciate your thinking of them — and their future joyful vegan cooking.
Jessica Seinfeld talks to Lucy Danziger, on The Beet, on being vegan at times:
Lucy Danziger: I love your book Vegan At Times, it takes the pressure off. Tell me about the idea and concept of your book.
Jessica Seinfeld: This idea that we have to be perfect at everything is obviously unattainable, and post-pandemic we’re all feeling really grateful for what we have and we’re very aware of what people don’t have.
Mental health has finally become a bigger topic, we’ve been able to talk about it more freely and that brings up the idea of shame and food. The way people talk to each other about food, people on social media are shaming each other about what they do and don’t eat.
So for the past few years, I’ve been on this exploration of plant-based eating for my health, the environment, and animals – so I started eating less meat, then less dairy, and I felt much better! But I knew I wouldn’t get my family on board so easily. I didn’t want to make any grand statements, so I would cook separate meals for me and my family and it all started that way.
Lucy Danziger: All of your recipes look so good. I think what’s so nice is that you make plant-based so accessible for everyone.
Jessica Seinfeld: Plant-based is intimidating and there have been these standards set. The approach many vegans have taken is so strict and it has turned many people off. My take on it is: If we’re all eating less meat and dairy and building the infrastructure for plant-based eating, our bodies will feel better, the environment will be better, and certainly, the animals will feel better. I think that there are people who are upset about the fact that the idea of veganism has been somewhat diluted but I don’t know in life what we have to be perfect at.
Lucy Danziger: Your book is so unique. You’re talking 120 recipes for everyday occasions and saying you can have these and they’re plant-based.
Jessica Seinfeld: Well, I knew I wouldn’t get my family on board with piles of greens. My kids and husband love traditional comfort foods. I just remake your family favorites into something that’s healthier, easier-to-make, and in this book, completely plant-based. I never thought I would like vegan mac and cheese more than regular mac and cheese but I do, because it makes me feel so much better.
Lucy Danziger: What do you eat in a day?
Jessica Seinfeld: In the morning I have coffee and I add MCT oil to it. For breakfast, I have oatmeal with oat milk and berries. I cook a lot of days so it’s really whatever we’re testing. Recently I’ve been getting the vegan crunch salad at Chopt [the Creative Salad Comany] something I just launched for them [for World Vegan Month]. It is so good and even my kids love it.
Lucy Danziger: How did you learn to cook?
Jessica Seinfeld: My mom and my grandmother and I worked in kitchens all throughout high school and I put myself through college working as a waitress.
Lucy Danziger: What advice do you have for someone who wants to eat more plant-based?
Jessica Seinfeld: Buy Vegan At Times because we have a great pantry guide and there are so many good resources online but my book is a great start. Also, don’t set yourself up for failure, unless you’re a cold turkey person. Start with a very reasonable guideline for yourself.
Lucy Danziger: What’s your mantra?
Jessica Seinfeld: I really have tried over the past couple of years to recognize that people are really struggling. The way people act towards you may be confusing, but it means they are struggling with something. So I don’t take anything personally. People are battling with internal and external struggles.
Recipe: Macaroni and Cheese from Vegan at Times by Jessica Seinfeld
I have served this many times to non-vegans and they always go for seconds. I use cashew or almond milk for their mild flavor, but you can always experiment with other plant-based milk.
Active: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Vegan Macaroni and Cheese
For the macaroni and cheese
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for pasta water
- 1 pound short pasta, such as cavatappi, elbows, or small shells
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4½ cups unsweetened cashew or almond milk
- 16 ounces (4 cups) shredded plant-based cheddar cheese (We like Violife)
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the breadcrumb topping
- 1 cup panko or coarse dried breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flatleaf parsley, for serving
- Position the oven rack about 8 inches from the top and heat the oven to 400°F.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then salt it. Add the pasta and cook until it’s a few minutes short of al dente (it will continue to cook in the oven). Drain into a colander and pass under cold running water to stop the cooking. Shake out any excess water.
- Meanwhile, to make the cheese sauce, in a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for about 3 minutes to cook out the raw flavor of the flour. Add 1 cup of the milk and whisk until it forms a smooth paste.
- Continue to whisk in the remaining milk a little at a time, at first, to avoid lumps. Let the mixture reach a simmer while whisking often, paying attention to the corners where the flour can collect.
- Remove from the heat and add the cheese, nutritional yeast, dry mustard, the ½ teaspoon salt, the black pepper, and the cayenne pepper. Whisk until creamy and smooth. Add the pasta and stir well to coat. Taste for salt; you may want to add a little more. Scrape the mixture into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
Make the breadcrumb topping:
- In a small bowl stir together the breadcrumbs, oil, salt, and pepper. Grate in the garlic and stir to combine.
- Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the macaroni and cheese. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. Then turn on the broiler and broil for 1 to 3 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving and sprinkle the top with the parsley.