Everyday Cooking with Minimalist Baker’s Dana Shultz
You may not recognize the name Dana Shultz, but chances are good you’ve enjoyed one of her recipes. On her hugely popular health blog, Minimalist Baker, Shultz crafts tantalizing dishes that are as simple as they are delicious—each recipe requires 10 or fewer ingredients, takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, or can be made in a single bowl. In recent years, recipes have also been plant-based and largely gluten-free, but don’t let that scare you off—unless you’re afraid of peanut butter cup pie or garlic mac & cheese!
April 26 marks the debut of Shultz’s first print cookbook, Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-Based, Mostly-Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes. We chatted with Shultz about the new book, how Portland has influenced her recipes, and how to make the best vegan enchiladas.
Prior to Minimalist Baker, did you have experience in photography, food, or writing?
I grew up in the Wichita, Kansas area, and went to college at Wichita State University, where I studied communications with an emphasis in journalism. Ironically, the year I graduated (2008) was the year newspapers were laying off most of their staff, so I switched gears and got a job in marketing instead.
Since then I’ve worked in a variety of roles: PR for a university, web and print writing for a company in Kansas, barista, house cleaner, blogger. The most recent job I had before starting Minimalist Baker was a web writer and photographer for a health website based in Kansas.
Minimalist Baker stands out in part for its very specific concept. How did you develop that concept and identity?
We adapted a minimalist lifestyle in 2011 when life wasn’t going our way. We were accruing a lot of school debt, I couldn't find a job, and we weren’t able to travel because of an extremely tight budget. We just felt trapped. So we started simplifying our life in order to be more lean so we could pivot and switch directions. Our favorite example of this switch is selling most of our living room furniture to invest in a nice digital camera so I could take blogging more seriously. Our goals and ambitions became more important than our possessions, which ended up saving us and being the best investment we could’ve made.
From there, Minimalist Baker was born out of a desire to make simple cooking available to the everyday cook—like me. I would go and look at recipes on blogs and was generally evaluating whether or not I’d make the recipes based on how much time, equipment, and number of ingredients they required. I wanted simple, and it wasn’t there.
Do you ever face reluctance from omnivores to try your gluten-free vegan recipes?
Not at all, at least as far I can tell. I don’t think it takes much convincing when people actually try the food. Plus, good photos don’t hurt! I recently heard from a few friends that when they made their meat-eating boyfriends or spouses my vegan gluten free mac ‘n’ cheese, they didn’t even realize it was without gluten and dairy! That’s my goal—to prove that plant-based eating doesn’t have to mean sacrificing on fullness or flavor.
Which recipes are you most proud of in your new cookbook, Everyday Cooking?
I’m most proud of the Coconut Sugar Caramel Sauce, Vegan Tiramisu Cake, and the Hearty Cocoa Black Bean Burgers, because they were concepts that took a lot of working through and experimenting in order to get the final result I had envisioned. I think people will really enjoy these recipes because they each offer something different and unique in the realm of plant-based cooking.
What brought you to Portland, and why do you choose to live here?
Let me count the ways. We moved to Portland shortly after getting married because we were ready for a new adventure and both longed for the West Coast. We choose to live in Portland for the picture-perfect summers and the temperate winters, for the gorgeous surroundings—mountains, rivers, ocean, waterfalls, hikes—for the outrageously delicious and affordable food and coffee, for the laid-back vibes, and for the way people here seem to understand the celebrate the importance of individuality. I feel like I could be anyone I want to be here, and people would rally around that and cheer me on. I can’t say that about anywhere else I’ve lived.
Where are your favorite spots to eat in Portland? Are any of your recipes inspired by Portland meals?
We list our favorites in our Portland Dining Guide, but a few favorites include Barista for coffee, Salt & Straw for dairy-free ice cream, Bijou or Besaw’s for brunch, Por Que No? for tacos and all-things Mexican (see photo above), Lucky Lab for laid-back vibes and amazing beer and cider, Thai Peacock for fresh and delicious Thai food, and Swagat for Indian takeout.
Several recipes have been inspired by Portland meals!
- Butternut Squash Veggie Pizza (inspired by Hotlips)
- Sea Salt Caramel Coconut Ice Cream (inspired by Salt & Straw)
- 1 Bowl Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins (inspired by Bijou Cafe)
- Masala Spiced Tofu Scramble (inspired by Bijou Cafe)
- Crispy Garlic Brussels Sprouts with Sriracha Aioli (inspired by Lardo)
- Kumquat Kale Salad with Tahini Dressing (inspired by Lardo)
- Blueberry Muffin Breakfast Cookies (inspired by Coffee People)
What’s one little-known fact we should know about you?
Here’s one: I once told [husband and business partner] John that recipe development wasn’t my strong suit. Ha! I doubted my abilities early on, but I think he saw my potential and always encouraged me. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you have a good cheerleader at your side.
What are your plans for the future? (And how can we convince you to open a pop-up restaurant?)
Ha! You’re not the first person to request a Minimalist Baker restaurant or food cart. We’re flattered, but for the time being I don’t see a physical restaurant in our future, though I do daydream about it sometimes. Our plans include continuing to perfect and improve what we already do on Minimalist Baker, which is to provide simple, plant-based recipes that are mind-blowingly delicious. If we can keep doing that, I think there will always be a place for us in the internet world and beyond. And who knows? Maybe another cookbook? Stay tuned.
Ready to get cooking? Everyday Cooking is available for purchase via Powell's City of Books and many other retailers. As a bonus, enjoy Minimalist Baker's recipe for "The Best Vegan Enchiladas" below.
The Best Vegan Enchiladas
The perfect vegan enchiladas have eluded me for years, but this version nails it. Corn tortillas remain tender with slightly crisp edges, a refried bean and poblano filling is hearty and simple, and the homemade enchilada sauce is rich and subtly spiced. Serve these to a crowd, or freeze any unbaked leftovers for quick, weeknight meals.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
1 Tbsp (15 ml) avocado, grape seed or coconut oil
1/2 large white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce (425 g) can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
1 chipotle in adobo (canned) + 1 tsp adobo sauce (more or less depending on preferred spice)
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable stock
1-2 Tbsp (15-30 ml) maple syrup (or coconut sugar)
Sea salt + pepper to taste
8-10 small white or yellow corn tortillas
1 poblano pepper, seeds removed, diced
1/2 large white onion, diced
1 15-ounce (425 g) can vegetarian refried beans (or pinto beans, well drained)
Sea salt + pepper to taste
1/3 cup enchilada sauce (recipe above)
Sliced ripe avocado
Diced white or green onion
Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
Once hot, add 1 Tbsp oil, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and slightly browned and translucent - 3 minutes.
Add tomato sauce, diced chipotle, adobo sauce, and stock. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, covered (to prevent splattering).
Transfer sauce to a blender (optional) and blend well. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more adobo sauce for heat, salt for savoriness, and maple syrup or coconut sugar for sweetness.
Rinse skillet slightly and place over medium heat. Also preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Once skillet is hot, add a bit more oil and onion and poblano pepper. Season with a pinch each salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until onions are translucent and peppers have a bit of color.
Add refried beans and stir/mash to combine. Add 1/3 cup of the enchilada sauce for extra flavor. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Remove from heat and set aside.
Wrap your tortillas in a damp paper or cloth towel and microwave to warm for 30 seconds. Alternatively, can place them in the hot oven wrapped in the towel for 1-2 minutes.
Pour a bit of sauce into the bottom of a 9x13-inch (3 quart) baking dish and spread to coat.
Take one corn tortilla and lay it down in the dish. Fill with a modest amount of filling (keeping in mind you need to have enough for 8-10 tortillas), then roll it up.
Place seam side down at one end of the dish. Continue until all tortillas are filled and wrapped, adding more sauce as needed as you go.
Pour the remaining amount of sauce over the top of the enchiladas in a stripe down the middle. Optional: brush/spray the edges with oil for extra moisture.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until warmed through. Top with desired toppings and serve.
I highly recommend fresh lime juice, red onion, avocado and cilantro, but they are delicious on their own! Leftovers will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to a few days, though best when fresh.