This Spring was a bountiful season in new gorgeous cookbooks, and one that certainly didn’t go unnoticed is the Love & Lemons Cookbook: An Apple-to-Zucchini Celebration of Impromptu Cooking, by Jeanine Donofrio and her husband Jack Matthews from the popular blog Love & Lemons.
The book is visually stunning and is an absolute delight for the eye. It is the perfect extension of the Love & Lemons blog, featuring both their clean design and stunning photography. The book offers over 100 vegetarian recipes and is divided by produce, each chapter featuring a specific ingredient, from apple to zucchini. It also provides practical tips relating to storage, prep and shopping. But what I love the most about it is the lovely illustrated charts at the end of the book that show you how to build different variations of smoothie, guacamole, pesto or hummus. If you like vegetables and fruits as much as I do, or if you’re just looking for delicious, easy, approachable recipe inspiration, this is a cookbook you won’t want to miss.
I’ve had the privilege to meet and chat with Jeanine a couple weeks ago during her visit here in Toronto. She is just lovely and I’m super happy to share the little Q&A I had with her here today, along with a recipe from the book, vegan cherry french toast!
There’s also a giveaway at the end of the post, so make sure to scroll down and enter for a chance to win your copy of the cookbook!
Photo Credit: Jack Matthews
Interview with Jeanine Donofrio from Love & Lemons
For someone who’s not familiar with Love & Lemons, how would you describe your recipes and approach to cooking in a few words?
Simple, seasonal, fresh and healthy vegetable cooking. And things everybody can make. My recipes are not only for vegetarians. I think everybody can use new ideas for how to cook vegetables.
Your cookbook is a wonderful tribute to vegetables and fruits. If you had to pick one vegetable that you could live on for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That’s really hard (laughs). I’d say anything green. Kale and spinach. Ok, that’s not one, that’s two. So I’d say the leafy greens category.
What is your favourite recipe from the book? Or if you had to pick one sweet and one savoury, what would they be?
In the eggplant chapter, I love the eggplant meatballs that are made from eggplants, mushrooms and hemp seeds. They’re healthy and quite easy to make. On the sweet side, probably the chocolate avocado mousse. I make it all the time!
There’s a lot of pressure for food bloggers to be good at everything these days. What would be for you the one aspect of your job that’s the most challenging, or maybe something you wish you could delegate to someone else?
It’s challenging to keep up with the latest social media. I think I’m the last person who’s not on Snapchat. I have so many things already, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. Social media can be a huge distraction. I should probably get somebody to help out with that. Sometimes I just have to shut all of that off. I just started this thing where I try not to check social media. I’ll only check my instagram three times a day, and only if I’m at the doctor’s office or waiting somewhere. Otherwise I try to focus on my work and on creating recipes.
I’d love to hear you talk a bit about how you manage work-life balance. I’m sure writing the cookbook while keeping up with the blog was very challenging. What are your tips for staying healthy and sane?
I would like to know those tips too (laughs)! I tend to throw myself out at projects. I put everything I had into the cookbook. There was a lot of sleepless nights and it was a lot of work. I think knowing what I know now, if I were to do it again I would probably do it in a more balanced way.
Who is your all-time food hero?
Probably Heidi Swanson from the blog 101 Cookbooks. I stumbled upon her blog when I didn’t know that food blogs existed, and she was the one that inspired me to start my own food blog.
You are reading a lot of food blogs. Who is your current blog crush?
A blog that I love right now is Faring Well. Amongst a whole lot of others of course! It’s really hard to just name one, there are so many great blogs out there.
What is the one kitchen tool you couldn’t live without?
A really good knife. I have a Myabi Japanese knife. It’s the only one that I use.
I really love my Vitamix blender too. I make a lot of vegan foods, like creamy cashew sauces or nut milks and it makes a wonderful job.
What is the most intimidating/difficult thing for you to cook?
I wouldn’t say intimidating, but the recipes that take the longest to develop are usually baking recipes. Especially when I’m trying to make them vegan and/or gluten-free. It takes a lot of time, diligence and trials and errors.
How many times do you usually test a recipe?
It depends on the recipe. For the book I tested them a lot. For the blog, I’ll usually test them two or three times, unless it’s a very simple recipe like a salad or avocado toast. But if it’s a vegan brownie for example, it can take 10 trials before I get it right!
What is the #1 quality someone needs to have to be a great home cook?
Curiosity. Just trying things. It’s ok to make mistakes, things don’t always turn out great. But keep experimenting and your cooking will improve.
What is the #1 quality someone needs to have to be a great food blogger?
These days you have to have so many qualities! I think that you need great photography to get noticed. But if you have great photos and your recipes don’t work, then there’s no trust.
Is there someone that you admire in the food styling and photography space?
I really love the photographer Nicole Franzen. She had a food blog when I was first starting with mine and she was one of my biggest inspirations. I also love Sprouted Kitchen and Green Kitchen Stories. Their style is quite different than mine but I really like them.
When you were first getting started with your blog, did you ever think it would become the success that it is today?
No, I thought only my mom would read it (laughs)! This being said, I put a lot of time working on it before I launched it. I designed it and my husband is a programmer, so we built it together. I didn’t know food photography at all, so I learned how to style food, I practiced photography a lot and created posts I never posted. I’m a little bit of a perfectionist and I didn’t want to put out there something that I wasn’t proud of.
Was is difficult for you to find your voice and style when you first started your blog?
Not really, because I was a graphic designer for 10 years before I started the food blog. As a graphic designer, you have to design lots of different styles for your various clients. So when I started planning and designing my blog, I already knew what I liked the most. I knew I was always drawn to black & white and yellow. I’m drawn to clean, simple things. And we have a marble countertop at home so it just happened this way. It felt natural to use it as a background for my photos and it fitted perfectly with the style I wanted to create.
For anyone who’s trying to find a style I would say try to pull out things that you like, create an inspiration board and don’t think about it too much. You’ll start to notice what all those things have in common and it’ll help you build your own style. It’s also a lot of trial and errors at the beginning. You need to try different things before figuring out what works for you.
If you could go back and have a conversation with yourself when you were first getting started with your blog, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
To keep having fun with it. When it becomes too stressful and too much work, it’s easy to fall into to trap of not having fun with it anymore. I always try to go back to why I started doing it in the first place. I do it because I love it and it’s my passion. And sometimes it means taking a break. Cooking something and not writing it down, for example. I think it’s important to take a step back and realize that this is really fun.
What can we expect from Love & Lemons in the next 2-3 years?
Wow, the next couple of years, I don’t know. I have a great recipe coming to the blog next week (laughs)! I have some projects in the works, and I’m not saying no to a second cookbook. We’ll see!
Enter to win your own copy of the Love & Lemons cookbook by Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Matthews by leaving a comment below telling me what produce (fruit, vegetable, herbs) are you most excited to cook with this spring/summer! Contest is open to Canada and US residents only and ends Thursday June 16nd at 11:59pm EST. Best of luck to everyone!!
Notes on the recipe: Jeanine’s original recipe calls for tart cherries but I could only find sweet cherries. She also recommends to top the french toasts with pomegranate seeds as well. I left them out here for a more summery version. As for the coconut cream, she uses powdered sugar, which I substituted for maple syrup and a hint of vanilla.
Vegan Cherry French Toast + Coconut Whipped Cream
For the french toast
- 1 1/3 cups almond milk
- 1/4 cup spelt flour
- 1 tbsp maple syrup plus more for serving
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 8 slices day-old ciabatta bread sliced about 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick - I used sourdough bread
- Coconut oil for cooking
For the coconut whipped cream
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk refrigerated overnight
- Few drops of vanilla extract
- 2 tsp maple syrup or to taste
For the french toast
In a small bowl, whisk together the almond milk, flour, maple syrup, almond butter, nutritional yeast, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
Place the bread in a shallow baking dish that's large enough to hold the bread in a single layer. Pour the almond milk mixture over the bread, then lift or flip the bread over to make sure both sides are evenly coated.
In a large skillet, heat a drizzle of coconut oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the bread slices in a single layer and cook for a few minutes per side, or until golden brown. Repeat with any remaining slices.
Serve with the coconut cream, cherries and maple syrup.
For the coconut whipped cream
Remove the coconut milk from the fridge and carefully scoop the thick solid part off the top. Save the watery part for another use.
Use an electric mixer to whip the coconut cream until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add vanilla and maple syrup and mix again. Taste and adjust vanilla and sweetener as desired.
“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”