"The Veganish Cookbook — Simple, Delicious Plant-Based Recipes & Resources for Everyone” by Nettye Johnson; NJ Publishing; 158 pages 

Nettye Johnson has a new cookbook with a simple message: Eat more plants.

"The Veganish Cookbook — Simple, Delicious Plant-Based Recipes & Resources for Everyone,” from NJ Publishing, is an eating guide designed to help improve your health through a fruit- and vegetable-rich diet. It's the second release by Johnson, a health educator from Denham Springs.

Johnson said 90% of adults in the U.S. do not include enough produce in their diets, a key to reducing the risk of or better managing chronic disease.

“One in 10 Americans do not eat a healthy diet, but we can change that, and we can change the stigma that to eat healthy, you have to sacrifice taste,” said Johnson. “'The Veganish Cookbook' provides more than 150 delicious recipes, full of produce, that will help change the way you think about healthy eating.”

Other frequent complaints about healthy eating often include the cost or the time involved in preparing healthy meals, Johnson said.

"We have answers for that, too! This cookbook includes simple recipes and money-saving tips for produce shopping," Johnson said. "This book does all the hard work for you and eliminates objections to healthy eating. Not everyone can or should be vegan, but just about everyone can be ‘veganish.’”

She said the cookbook is a resource for anyone looking to improve their health by including more whole plant-based foods into their diet.

Many of the recipes are southern, soul food and Creole-inspired, Johnson said.

Johnson is a wife, mother, marathoner, self-taught fit-foodie, a podcast host and a speaker and teacher, holding certifications and credentials from the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, the American Council on Exercise and the National Exercise Trainer’s Association.

The cookbook is available at veganish.today

Johnson will give a free online "Veganish Eating" workshop at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 23, in collaboration with the East Baton Rouge Parish Library. Register at ebrpl.com, click on events calendar, or call (225) 231-3750.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

This soup is creamy and vibrant with slight smoky and peppery notes. The pairing with crispy grilled cheese croutons makes it super special. Inspired by a recipe in Cooking Light magazine, my vegetarian version comes together quickly using a few pantry and refrigerator staples.

Makes 2 servings. Recipe by Nettye Johnson from "The Veganish Cookbook."

Prep. Time: 15 Minutes Cooking Time: 15 Minutes

Olive oil

¼ onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

14.5 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (Muir Glen Organic brand preferred)

1 cup vegetable stock

Kosher salt and cracked pepper

1-2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

2-4 tablespoons fresh basil leaves

1 slice rye bread, cut in half

Swiss cheese

1. In a small stockpot over medium-high heat, sauté onion in a touch of olive oil 'til translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring so it doesn’t burn.

2. Pour in diced tomatoes. Stir in vegetable stock. Salt and pepper to taste.

3. When the soup comes to a simmer, reduce heat to medium and simmer about 5 minutes. Stir in cream cheese and chopped fresh basil leaves. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

4. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

5. Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lightly brush the bread with olive oil. Cut in half, place one piece in the skillet (oil side down). Place a slice of Swiss cheese on top. Top with the other half of bread slice (oiled side up). Put a lid over the sandwich to tent the heat and lightly grill. When lightly browned on the bottom, flip the sandwich, recover and grill the other side. Cut the grilled cheese into cubes.

6. While the sandwich is cooking, pour the slightly cooled soup in a blender and carefully blend on low 'til creamy with the lid vented to release steam. Don’t over blend or it will get frothy.

7. Pour the soup into serving bowls and garnish with cracked pepper, a few fresh basil leaves, and the grilled cheese croutons.

Variations:

  • For a chunkier soup — only blend half the soup mixture.
  • For a spicier soup — use canned diced tomatoes with chilies instead of fire-roasted tomatoes and pepper jack on wheat for the croutons.
  • For a fab Italian-esque tomato soup — use canned diced San Marzano tomatoes instead of fire-roasted tomatoes, add dried oregano and thyme to the soup, and use mozzarella on focaccia for the croutons.
  • For a vegan soup, use cashew cream instead of cream cheese in the soup and vegan cheese in the croutons.