Just as Substantial

One of my priorities with Vegan Serendib is to make sure that it was as substantial a book as Feast — I didn’t want the vegan edition to be a lesser version. So it’s roughly the same number of total recipes, the same page count, etc.

But as we’re making final decisions this week, one question that arose was whether to change the paper type. For Feast, we used Ingram’s standard 70/105, the mid-range paper. Not quite as heavy or as bright-printing as their premium paper, but still quite nice.

Unfortunately, printing and production costs have gone up, due the pandemic inflation and supply chain issues, so we were faced with a tough choice — if we kept the 70/105 paper, we’d need to bump the hardcover price up by $5 in order to actually make even a minimal profit. The hardcover was already $40, and we’d have to take it to $45.

I didn’t want to do that — it felt like I was charging vegans more for their version of the book, which seemed unfair (even though it was really a matter of timing).

But we got Ingram to send us some samples, and thankfully, I think their standard paper is going to be just fine for this. I can see and feel a slight difference when I have them side by side, but the standard still looks good and feels substantial. You don’t want cookbook pages that are going to rip easily, especially if people may be turning them with wet fingers!

But I think this is going to be fine, so we’re going to go with the standard paper, and that means we can keep the price at $40 for the hardcover, whew.

Indexing and copyediting is done now, I think — we’re going to have our cover designer adjust for the new paper (which affects the thickness of the book and therefore the layout of the cover), and then I think we’ll be ready to order a galley print copy of the hardcover? And then Stephanie will work on the design for the print paperback? Getting close, folks. Exciting!

I Can Taste It

We’re getting so close to finished with Vegan Serendib, I can taste it! (Taste it, see? It’s a food joke. Good thing I amuse myself…)

We have a cover, courtesy of our fabulous designer, Jeremy John Parker! Hoping to finalize indexing and copyediting this week, then final interior layout tweaks. Ordering print galleys next week, fingers crossed!


Very Easy, Very Pretty, Very Springtime

Last Easter pics. Roasted variegated carrots (toss in olive oil, salt and pepper, roast at 425 for 20 minutes) very easy, very pretty, very springtime.

And I got to break out our new grill for a party for the first time, and it worked really well! I had done some cooking in advance, but with the grill up on our back deck, I could just step out, turn it on to let it preheat, step back in, prep the salmon and asparagus (olive oil, salt, pepper), take them out, grill while chatting with people, serve.

I also did some chicken thighs (both plain and tikka), just to fill out the corners; I thought it would be good for making sure the kids got enough to eat.

LOVE the plumbed-in gas grill (belated gift for Kevin’s 50th birthday from me and his parents, though I admit, it’s at least as much a gift for me). No more hauling propane tanks, hooray!

Maybe eventually I’ll experiment with charcoal in a tray, or wood, but I’m really glad we went with this kind of grill, because I just have no time to futz with building a charcoal, etc. fire while I’m in party mode.

Thanks again to everyone who weighed in on my grill-buying decision last fall, even if I didn’t end up taking your suggestions. Sorry, Matt! 🙂

My Poor Trifle

My poor trifle really was a disaster — it was sort of a tasty fruity soup, but not anything you really wanted to eat a lot of. We ended up throwing most of it out, alas. Well, live and learn. Kevin also noted that he doesn’t really like jello in trifle, and usually he loves trifle, so I think my days of experimenting with jello in trifle are probably done. We’ll stick to jello in parfaits…

But thankfully, my guests brought plenty of desserts — including the 14-15 year olds, one of whom had baked a ton of yummy cookies, and another who baked this incredibly delicious cheesecake, as good as any I’ve ever had. So impressive!

Discovering a Love of Devilled Eggs

Kavi has discovered that she loves devilled eggs. She got a couple during the party, but they went fast, and after the party was over, she and I were lying on the couch watching Gilmore Girls together, and she said, pathetically, that she really wanted devilled eggs, and we didn’t have any. Tragedy!

I said, well, it would only take about 5 minutes to make some, since we had some hard-boiled eggs left in the Easter bread, and Kavi looked at me with big pleading eyes, so I laughed and got off the couch and made her some devilled eggs. 🙂

(The ham was super-easy — it’s pre-cooked and sliced, so it’s just heat in the oven, then cut off slices and serve. I like this little trio of glass jars; I decanted three ham accompaniments into them, so easy.)

Lamb with Homemade Mint Sauce

Lamb with homemade mint sauce (the vinegar kind, that cuts so nicely through the richness of the lamb). This is a dish I really love, and I only have maybe twice a year? So it’s very satisfying when I do.

Kind of funny how me and my Irish friend were super-enthusiastic about this dish, and all the Americans were fine with it, but didn’t understand why we liked it so much. 🙂

Mint sauce: https://www.thespruceeats.com/real-british-mint-sauce…

Roast leg of lamb: https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-roast-a-leg-of-lamb…

Easter Crown Bread

Easter crown bread was both easy and surprisingly impressive — Kavi was impressed, and one of the little kids asked me how I made it, and I got to say “Magic.” 🙂 Very tasty slathered with Irish butter. The eggs were dyed raw, and they cook through while the bread is baking.

If you haven’t made yeasted bread before, it’s really not hard — my main note is that just to be aware that it takes 4-6 hours, so start it early enough. There’s very little actual hands-on cooking in there, and if you have a mixer with a dough hook, the mixing / kneading part is very easy.

As you can see in the last photo, my eggs tipped over a little while baking, but it was easy enough to lift and reset them. Do it right out of the oven if you need to; after the bread cools, the eggshells do adhere to them a bit.

Recipe here (I skipped her drizzle and sprinkles, mostly because I ran out of time, though the bread doesn’t need it for taste, and I pulled the strands a little longer so I could shape it into a crown): https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/…/easter-bread-recipe/

Last Stage of the Trifle O’Doom

Yes, having learned that not cooling your custard sauce and pouring it over jello will melt the jello, I said what the heck, I’ll do it AGAIN with the orange jello layer. So everything is very swirly, and even though the whipped cream + berries on the top makes it look not TOO awful, it’s definitely not what I intended.

It’ll taste delicious, I’m pretty sure, but still. Sigh. Oh well. The sauce had set more after chilling overnight, and while it’s not setting to solid, I think that’s fine; you want to be able to pour it over the trifle. I just shouldn’t have poured it warm over the jello.

I still think the concept is good, but if I’m going to experiment with three different new elements:

• adding jello to my trifle, which I don’t normally do
• adding passionfruit to my custard sauce
• making the sauce from scratch, without cornstarch, instead of using Bird’s custard powder

….I should maybe not try it when I’m tired and likely to take short-cuts. Sigh.

Trifle Failure

I tried it last time with passionfruit curd, and that was too rich and thick for trifle, in my opinion. (A thin layer of curd might’ve been all right, but I had much too much.) Instead, I went back to my usual plan, to make custard, but I was out of the Bird’s custard powder I usually use. So I tried making a traditional English custard sauce, and I poked around until I found one without cornstarch, because I didn’t think it should need it.


And it’s a great sauce, but I think I messed up. I was very tired when I was making it, finishing up around 11 p.m. last night, which is always a mistake for me, because I get impatient and then I make mistakes. I should’ve made the trifle first thing in the morning yesterday, so I could take my time, and it’d have a day to set. But no.

So I’m not sure I quite got it up to temp — it was thinly coating the back of a spatula, but just barely, I probably should’ve let it go another 5-10 minutes. Especially since I then added 1/2 c. of passionfruit puree to it, which made a delicious custard, but also maybe retarded it setting? Either because it was too liquidy or because the acid affected it? Or maybe I was just too impatient…

…because I barely let it cool at all (I really should’ve stuck it in the fridge and waited ’til morning to finish assembling) before I tried to pour it over the trifle ingredients, and as you can see, it immediately started melting the jello. Gah. I wanted clear, distinct layers, and instead, I got a swirly, goopy result.

It got worse when I immediately added the next layer, because apparently, when I am making bad decisions, I like to COMMIT to them…