Spring offers a cheerful energy of renewal and rebirth, with new blooms in oceanfront gardens, fresh herbs in coastal kitchens and delicious recipes for entertaining that celebrate the vivaciousness of the season.

In her first cookbook, Blissful Basil, Chicago-based author Ashley Melillo does just that. A high school psychologist by day and vegan food blogger by night, Melillo offers more than 100 plant-powered recipes designed to promote vibrancy, health and happiness.

Melillo went vegan in 2014 (after going vegetarian    in 2010) for ethical reasons, and found the benefits included more energy and a sense of personal calm.   But she also understands this lifestyle choice is not     for everyone – including her husband and most of       her family and friends.

This is why she created a cookbook with recipes – many of which are also free of gluten, soy and refined sugar – which even omnivores can enjoy and use to entertain.

“Healthy eating isn’t about deprivation. It is about adding more vibrant foods to your plate,” says Melillo.  “I want to make vegan dishes more accessible to people who aren’t necessarily vegan.”

Indeed, all of her chosen recipes had to be meat-eater approved before making the final cut.

The cookbook focuses on creative combinations of whole foods that cover all meal essentials, from breakfast and snacks to veggie-centric main courses and desserts. It also features a helpful list of recommended vegan pantry items, such as sorghum and arrowroot flour.

 Some of Melillo’s favorite recipes include: the Pretty in Pink Quinoa Confetti Salad that she calls “refreshing yet satisfying”; a Flourishing Fiesta Power Bowl with taco crumbles, pico de gallo, guacamole and shiitake bacon, which she says is “so filling and just packed with fresh vegetables, flavors and textures”; and her Blackberry-Sunflower Crisp for a delicious seasonal dessert.

Her unusual concoctions from the Smoothies & Juices chapter, like the Energizing Carrot-Cake and Electric Turmeric-Lemonade, are perfect for a spring brunch.

The author’s advice for those looking to cook vegan for the first time is to take it slowly. “Get familiar with a couple of new ingredients, add more vegetables to the plate and don’t overcomplicate things,” she says.


Electric Turmeric-Lemonade Smoothie

Makes 1 (24 ounce) or 2 (12 ounce) smoothies

1½ cups peeled and diced ripe fresh mango (1 large mango)

1/2 cup seedless green grapes

1/2 to 1 cup ice

1/2 cup coconut water or filtered water

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 to 2 Medjool dates, pitted (optional, to sweeten)

Add all the ingredients to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth


Blissful Basil is published by BenBella Books, rrp $21.95, available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Target and other bookstores.

For more information, visit blissfulbasil.com/the-book.



Image Credits: Photograph Courtesy of blissfulbasil.com.