When we received model-turned-photographer Jessica Milan‘s new book in the mail—Lookbook Cookbook—our jaws kind of dropped. “Cool” isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind when you think of a cookbook, but this isn’t your ordinary stock photography.
The 192-page book has basically done the impossible: Managed to make gluten-free vegan recipes look achingly hip thanks to the fact that they’re being photographed alongside some of the coolest real girls we’ve ever seen. Seriously: If Nasty Gal and Instagram got together to write a cookbook, this would be it.
It’s a smart move—fashion and food are more intertwined than ever right now—and this book absolutely nails it. We barely made it halfway through before dog-earing pages that not only featured brunch recipes we’re planning to make, but cool outfit ideas (and nail colors and hair styles) we’ll absolutely be trying, too.
We caught up with Milan—who did all the photography and wrote Lookbook Cookbook as an extension of her blog by the same name—to talk about why she thinks the fashion crowd is so enamored with the food world, as well as showcase four recipes from the book (which, FYI, would make a killer hostess gift if you’re staying at anyone’s house this summer!)
Why do you think fashion and food are at such an intersection right now?
What we eat and what we wear are a pretty important part of our day. They’re also both very creative outlets as well. And now with social media, we all want to not only see what everyone else is wearing, but what they’re eating too.
How did you get the idea for your blog?
I wanted to share my love of vegan food, and because I’m a photographer, I’m used to always shooting models for everything, so I thought it would be a fun twist to include some of my friends in the shots.
Who are all these fabulous girls in the cookbook?!
They’re models, artists, entrepreneurs, musicians and all-around cool girls. Many of them are friends or girls I’ve shot before, and quite a few of them I’ve made friends with through Instagram.
What’s your absolute favorite food?
Anything Mexican – especially tacos.
What’s the biggest misconception about eating vegan?
That is isn’t exciting! When done right, vegan food is fresh, full of flavor, tons of fun to eat, and leaves you feeling amazing after.
What’s your favorite summer drink?
Definitely freshly cracked coconut water—and preferably on a beach!
SWEET POTATO CHILI
With hearty red beans, sweet potato and chili powder, this one will be sure to warm you up. Garnish with nachos for some extra fun.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium or large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½” cubes
2 cups red onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cumin
A pinch of cayenne pepper
4 medium tomatoes, diced
1½ cups cooked red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups purified water
Add the olive oil to a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the sweet potato, onions and garlic. Mix to coat in the oil. Cook for around 5 minutes before adding the chili powder, salt, cumin and cayenne. Give another quick mix and add the tomatoes and beans.
Allow to cook for around 10 minutes, until liquids begin to form at the bottom of the pan. Add the water, increase heat and bring to a boil. Once it begins to boil, give it a stir, turn the heat down to low and allow to gently simmer for around 45 minutes or until desired thickness is reached. This will thicken up a little bit after it has cooled. Makes 4 bowls.
CHAI LATTE CUPCAKES
Perfectly fluffy and moist, these babies have a hint of chai paired with a mouth-watering dark chocolate frosting. Sold? Make sure you use a quality all-purpose gluten-free flour mix and add xanthan gum if the flour calls for it.
1 cup purified water
4 chai tea bags
2 cups gluten-free flour
1 cup organic cane sugar
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp sea salt
½ cup grapeseed oil
1½ tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup organic dark chocolate
¼ cup vegan milk
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
Boil the water in a small saucepan. When it begins to bubble, add the tea bags and allow them to steep for 15 minutes or so. Use a spoon to push on the bags to help them steep more. When ready, remove from the pot, and once again use the spoon to press them against the side of the pot to remove all of the liquid. Measure out the liquid again and add more water so it equals 1 cup.
While the tea is steeping, preheat the oven to 350°F . Line a muffin tray with 12 liners. Add the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and sea salt to a large mixing bowl and sift well with a fork. Add the tea-soaked water, grapeseed oil, apple cider vinegar and vanilla. Mix once more until a dough forms.
Put ¼ cup scoops of batter into each cupcake liner. There may be a little bit left over, don’t fill the liners to the top. Put in the oven to bake for 17–21 minutes. Keep a close eye on them near the end as all gluten-free flours can give different results. You know they’re ready when the cupcakes are slightly golden on top and a toothpick or fork can be poked through the center and comes out clean
To make the frosting, heat all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, using a rubber spatula to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Once the chocolate is melted, transfer mixture to a small bowl and set aside until the cupcakes have cooled. Frost the cupcakes when ready to eat. Makes 12.
SUN-DRIED TOMATO PASTA PESTO
I’m a sucker for anything with fresh basil— and even more so if that basil is on pasta. And if sun-dried tomatoes are involved as well? Then it’s really on. Make sure you use sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil for this one, they make for a better sauce.
2–2¼ cups uncooked gluten-free pasta
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Basil leaves, for garnish
¼ cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
2 cups packed fresh basil
⅓ cup olive oil
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 tsp sea salt
Cook the pasta according to its directions. To make the pesto, add the sunflower seeds to your food processor and blend them into a coarse powder. Add the basil, olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes and sea salt. Blend until a paste forms, occasionally stopping to scrape down the sides of the processor with a rubber spatula. Set aside until the pasta is ready.
When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and be sure to rinse it before putting it back in the pot. Throw in the cherry tomatoes, and add desired amount of pesto. I like to use all of it because I like it extra saucy. Garnish with basil leaves and enjoy! Serves 2.
This creamy strawberry cake tastes much more decadent than you think it would, considering how easy it is to make. Simplicity wins again! If you don’t have shredded coconut, just use extra almond meal instead
¾ cup dates
½ cup almond meal
¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
¼ cup extra-virgin coconut oil, melted or softened
Pinch sea salt
2 cups raw unsalted cashews
½ cup extra-virgin coconut oil, melted or softened
⅓ cup blonde coconut nectar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp natural vanilla extract
2 tbsp purified water
½ cup fresh strawberries
4 or 5 strawberries, stems removed and cut in half
Fresh mint, optional
Coconut Whipped Cream (found in book), optional
Add the dates, almond meal and shredded coconut to your food processor and blend until the dates break down to small chunks. Add the coconut oil and salt and blend until a dough forms. You may need to scrape down the sides of your food processor on occasion with a rubber spatula. Remove mixture from the food processor and place in the bottom of a 9-inch (23 cm) pie or casserole dish. Use your fingers to even it out.
To make the filling, add the cashews to the processor and blend into a coarse powder. Add the coconut oil, coconut nectar, lemon juice, vanilla and water and blend into a cream. Once again, you may need to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Add the strawberries and blend once more until there are no chunks left. Pour on top of the crust (fits a 9-inch pie dish) and use the spatula to even it out. Put in the freezer for 2 hours to harden. Cut into slices and store in the freezer or refrigerator until ready to serve. Garnish with strawberries, Coconut Whipped Cream and mint, if you please.