The title is a nod to a lesson her grandmother taught her when she was first learning to cook.
"When I learned to cook, I was in my early 20s, and my granny and my mom and my aunt would have to tell me over the phone how to do certain things because I didn't know how to cook," says Brown. "They would just say, 'Look, just put enough in there to where you feel like it's all right, because that's your spirit.' You've got to trust your spirit."
That's why Brown chose not to include too many measurements in the book. She wants people to learn what works for them and go with their gut.
She says this framing is about more than just cooking.
"I always tell people, if you need a recipe with measurements every single time you cook, you don't trust yourself," she says. "So this book is to help you learn to trust yourself more in the kitchen so that you can also trust yourself more in your life."
For easy-t0-make, veggie-forward recipes, Brown's first choices are tacos and avocado toasts. And when she's in the mood for something heavier, she makes her vegan meatloaf, which she says is among her favorite recipes.
Here are a few selections from Cooking from the Spirit:
Spicy Caribbean-Style Jackfruit Tacos
Two 20-ounce cans young green jackfruit packed in brine or water, drained
Salt-free Caribbean seasoning (I like my Sunshine All-Purpose Seasoning from McCormick)
Salt-free garlic and herb seasoning (I like McCormick)
Soft or hard taco shells (or use butter lettuce leaves to make wraps if you're watching the carbs)
Guacamole (see below)
Chopped fresh cilantro
Minced fresh jalapeño (optional)
Salsa or your favorite taco sauce
Further drain the liquid out of the jackfruit by squeezing each piece in your hand.
Heat a bit of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the jackfruit and the Caribbean and garlic and herb seasonings and sauté until the jackfruit starts to brown and some pieces get a little crispy in texture, 12 to 15 minutes. As the jackfruit cooks and softens, use a spoon or spatula to shred and break it up until it resembles shredded pork or chicken. Turn the heat down if it begins to burn.
Use whichever shell you prefer and load it up with that jack, guacamole, cilantro, tomato, onion, jalapeño (if you want extra spice), and salsa! Say a good lil prayer and honey, go to work!!!
Two 1-pound packs vegan ground meat substitute, such as Beyond, Impossible, or Lightlife (you can use just one pack if you don't want leftovers)
Chopped sweet onion
Chopped red bell pepper
Chopped green bell pepper
Salt-free multi-spice seasoning
About 2 teaspoons ground flaxseed
Coconut aminos, liquid aminos, or soy sauce
For the topping (I do it all from the spirit, but let's say about:
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Put your ground meat substitute in a large bowl. Add some onion and bell peppers.
Sprinkle on some multi-spice seasoning and garlic powder and add a handful of bread crumbs, the ground flaxseed, and 2 to 3 tablespoons water.
Drizzle in some coconut aminos, squeeze the mustard on, and add a handful of brown sugar.
Use a spoon or your hands to mix all the ingredients together. Evenly pat the mixture into a deep 9- or 10-inch square baking pan.
Make the topping: In a small bowl, mix the topping ingredients until well combined. Pour the topping over the loaf and smooth out the top.
Bake for 1 hour, until the meatloaf is firm and the edges are slightly browned. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.
Sweet Potato Avocado Toast
Sweet potato, scrubbed
Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Everything bagel seasoning* (I like McCormick)
Kelly's Lemon Pepper Parm or other seasoning
Fresh lime juice
Pico de Gallo (see below), for serving, if you'd like
*Remember — when using any seasoning that contains salt, don't be heavy-handed!
You can use a toaster oven or regular oven for these. If you're going to use the regular oven, preheat it to 350°F.
Fill a pot that's just big enough to hold your sweet potato(es) with enough water to cover the sweet potato by about an inch. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.
Add the sweet potato and boil for about 5 minutes so it softens just a little bit. Remove the pot from the heat and let the sweet potato sit in the water for another 5 minutes or so — you want it a little soft, but not too soft.
Take the sweet potato out of the water and cut it lengthwise into slices that resemble a slice of bread.
Set a toaster oven to 350°F and toast the slices for about 6 minutes. (If you're using the oven, put the slices on a sheet pan and toast them in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.) Poke one side of the slices all over with a fork to make sure they're cooked enough and to let some of whatever you're putting on top spread on down into the sweet potato. If the slices are not soft enough, toast or bake again for a few minutes until they are.
Place some avocado slices on top of each sweet potato slice, smooshing them down with a fork a little if you want to. Add some tomato slices, pumpkin seeds, everything bagel seasoning, lemon pepper parm, and a sprinkle of lime juice. And of course you can always top it with a little pico de gallo or something like that, if you'd like. Eat with a fork or right out of your hand. Yes, Lord.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered and host of the Consider This Saturday podcast, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
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