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By C. Jayden Smith
In her latest venture, the founder of San Clemente’s Sugar Blossom Bake Shop is set to release her fourth cookbook, Easy Plant-Based Cooking for Two, in hopes of guiding more people to regularly eat better.
After the success Lei Shishak found with the Downtown San Clemente bakery led her to write her first cookbook in 2014 full of baking recipes, she found a passion that combines her interests.
“I love the experience of creating something from nothing, basically,” Shishak said. “I love creating in the kitchen and developing new recipes, and I really love writing, too.”
Sugar Blossom came into existence after a career as an executive pastry chef across Los Angeles and Orange County that saw Shishak work in Dana Point and gain familiarity with San Clemente.
When she saw a storefront that was open for lease next to BeachFire Bar & Grill on Avenida Del Mar, she jumped at the opportunity to fulfill her dream and open the bakery in 2010.
Shishak said she was excited to bring a new kind of business to downtown and was blessed by how the community welcomed her, adding that her love of creativity and sharing knowledge translates directly into writing cookbooks.
During her time at Sugar Blossom, which she sold in 2020, Shishak recalled that people would come in to order a cake with their own design ideas in mind, but also wanted her to add her spin.
“I don’t expect the people who buy my cookbooks to make the recipe exactly as written,” she said. “I mean, part of the joy of cooking is adding your own flair.”
No part of the process of learning to eat more plant-based foods should be restrictive, according to Shishak, as she said she also doesn’t expect a reader to immediately cut out all animal products from their diet.
“I get that it’s a process, and it’s a process for me, too,” said Shishak. “I’m not 100% meat-free, and I don’t know if I ever will be, and I think that’s personally fine.”
With more free time on her hands from March 2020 onward—after her 10-year lease on Del Mar ended and the pandemic spread—Shishak took six months to determine what she wanted to write about next. Once she concluded that she enjoyed cooking at home and eating healthy, she decided to expand her knowledge of incorporating more vegetables in her diet.
Shishak earned a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate online from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and started developing recipes that also fit her current lifestyle in a two-person household.
“There’s definitely a huge momentum towards plant-based eating and also a huge momentum towards limiting waste in the kitchen, and this cookbook really combines those two areas,” she said.
The number of plant-based options at restaurants that are solely vegan or vegetarian eateries, as well as meat alternatives at grocery stores throughout Southern California, is incredible, said Shishak, who added that it was “really nice” to see people so interested.
She has seen a societal shift toward attaining longevity through her efforts to stay updated on health trends, of which the shift has led people to continually gravitate to eating healthier.
“This book is really for the beginning plant-based eater,” said Shishak. “It doesn’t lecture you that you have to only eat plants. I’m very supportive of slowly incorporating more plants into your diet.”
The abundance of anti-inflammatory nutrients, improved heart health, decreased blood pressure, and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to Shishak, are all benefits that can be derived from plant-based eating.
She added that people can find frozen fruits and vegetables and buy bulk grains and nuts to help save on their grocery budgets.
“Ultimately, I have found that it’s cheaper,” Shishak said of plant-based eating. “When I was writing this cookbook, I really kept track of how much I was spending on buying the ingredients for the recipes, and I cut my grocery budget in half.”
She again encouraged readers to personalize their food experience, such as adding a soft-boiled egg or swapping vegan Parmesan cheese for cow’s milk Parmesan.
“My hope is that anyone who’s interested in just incorporating more plants into their diet would buy this book and not hesitate just because all the recipes happen to be vegan,” said Shishak.
Easy Plant-Based Cooking for Two: Delicious Vegan Recipes to Enjoy Together will be released on Oct. 18, and it is available for pre-order on amazon.com.
C. Jayden Smith
C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.