Book Report: Blissful Basil + Bonus Recipe

BlissfulBasil_FrontCover copy.jpgI love how many new vegan, plant powered cookbooks are coming out! And this new book, Blissful Basil: Over 100 Plant-Powered Recipes to Unearth Vibrancy, Health & Happiness by Ashley Melillo, which is coming out on December 20th, is an excellent entry!

Ashley Melillo is a school psychologist by day and the voice behind the Blissful Basil blog by night. This is her first cookbook and I have to say it is right up my alley. Ashley first tells her story – it is personal, relatable, and inspiring. I’ll save that for you for when you get the book. Then Ashley describes her “blissful” kitchen which includes what’s in her pantry and what equipment she uses. Well, I think I found a kindred spirit in Ashley because I pretty much have the same pantry items and equipment.

From grains like oats, brown and wild rice, quinoa, and millet to lentils, cacao powder, and nuts and seeds like cashews, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, hemp seeds, and flax. And other important staples like frozen bananas, apple cider vinegar, tofu, nooch and tamari. Any reader of my blog who cooks my recipes will recognize these ingredients and will be excited to know that many of the recipes in this book are already in the pantry!

Ashley offers detailed descriptions of each item, why it is a great plant-based staple item, where to find it and how to use it. And, then she offers super helpful symbols throughout the book that are color coded for easy reference as to what is gluten-free, grain-free, soy-free, nut-free, oil-free, refined sugar-free and raw. I am guessing that Ashley’s academic background prepared her for organizing such a thoughtful system.

And then the recipes! The book is broken down into sections for breakfast and brunch, smoothies and juices, snacks and appetizers, soups and salads, power bowls, sandwiches, tacos and pizza, pasta (my favorite chapter!), veggie-centric mains , sweets and treats, and homemade staples (my second favorite chapter!) Many  of these recipes are easy to put together. They are well thought out and creative. I am loving the caramelized banana upside-down oatmeal bake, garlic mushroom tacos, kale, artichoke and leek mac ‘n cheese (because no vegan cookbook is complete without a vegan mac recipe!) and the baked mostaccioli with walnut bolognese and cashew mozzarella! And probably my favorite recipe, the cosmically fudgy cacao-tahini brownies! That tahini raises the brownie game and will be appearing in some of my sweet recipes soon!

This book makes a great holiday gift and addition to any kitchen. We will be doing a cook along from Blissful Basil in February on Instagram! If you want to join, just ping me here or on IG. In the meantime, for inspiration, I got permission from the publisher to post Ashley’s Blueberry Muffin Energy bites! Enjoy.

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Makes 12 energy bites | 15 minutes or less

When I was a teenager, I had a thing for those oversized packaged blueberry muffins sold in school cafeterias. I convinced myself I was making a healthy choice because I opted for the muffins flecked with blueberries (if that’s what they were) over the ones dotted with chocolate chips. I’d diligently pick off bits of the muffin stump and protectively preserve the muffin top until the very end, saving the best for last. In retrospect, those muffins probably weren’t doing much for me other than fueling my hormone-charged adolescent cravings. So I did what any oversized-muffin-lover-turned-wellness-enthusiast would: I made blueberry muffin energy bites! These energy bites pack a rich blueberry flavor, lively sweetness, and playful caramel notes. Their flavor takes me back to my giant blueberry muffin moments, minus the junk and plus a boost of plant-pure goodness with real blueberries, to boot.

1 cup pitted and packed Medjool dates
1/2 cup dried mulberries
1/2 cup raw almonds*
2 tablespoons shelled hemp seeds*
1/8 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/2–3/4 cup dried wild blueberries

In a food processor, combine the Medjool dates, mulberries, almonds, hemp seeds, and sea salt. Pulse a few times and then process until the mixture begins to clump together as it moves around the blade. You want a crumbly but sticky mixture that holds together when pressed between your fingers. If needed, add a few more pitted dates to stick all that goodness together. Then, add the dried blueberries and pulse 10–15 times to chop and incorporate.

Using a 1 1/2-tablespoon cookie scoop or spoon, scoop out a tightly packed mound, roll into a ball, and drop into an airtight container. Repeat with the remaining mixture. You should have 12 energy bites. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

No Nuts? No Problem | To make this nut-free, swap out the raw almonds for raw shelled sunflower seeds.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia! | Feel free to swap out the hemp seeds for chia seeds. They offer a lovely little crunch as well as a detoxifying boost.

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