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Chickpea Flour Does It AllWhile regular American eaters might only be familiar with chickpeas being used in hummus, us vegans have been fawning over chickpea flour for a while now. I’ve experimented with it most in the form of omelets from other cookbooks in my collection… but omelets are usually as far as these books go. I’d rarely seen recipes using chickpea flour in any other ways. So what else could it do, I wondered. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but this book totally blew even those non-expectations out of the water. Chickpea flour really does do it all. Yes, it makes omelets, but would you have thought it could make pasta, waffles, and pizza crust? That it can help thicken soups and sauces, and give some nutrition to brownies, cakes, cookies, and more?

Flatbread with Harissa, Kale, and (Kalamata) Olives

Classy pizza: Flatbread with Harissa, Kale, and (Kalamata) Olives

What first struck me with this book is that these are classy recipes. If when I said pizza, you were picturing a Tofurky pepperoni pizza on a chickpea crust, you would be mistaken. (That’s not classy, that’s just good.) Classy is a Chickpea Pizza with Asparagus and Pea Tangle, or Flatbread with Harissa, Kale, and Gaeta Olives. (WTF are Gaeta olives, anyway? I couldn’t tell you… I just used Kalamata.) If you’re familiar with My New Roots (which I’ve blogged about before), these two books have a decidedly similar feel. Which is to say: gourmet, earthy recipes, with a farmhouse flair.

Since this is a vegan blog, I should mention outright that this is not a vegan book. It’s vegetarian and dairy-free, but there are eggs (lots of eggs). While I think the use of eggs in these recipes is unnecessary, I saw a review on Amazon that angrily proclaimed this book useless for vegans, and I completely disagree. It’s disappointing that the author doesn’t offer any substitutions, but eggs are mostly used as binding or leavening agents (rarely as the star of the show), and can easily be replaced with something as simple as flax seed. There may be one or two recipes in here that would not be easily veganized, such as a quiche with six eggs (though it is possible if you are savvy enough). So if you’re vegan like me, don’t let those eggs scare you off of this book completely. With a little know-how and wherewithal, 99% of this book can still be used (quite easily, no less) by vegans.

Cauliflower

Grilled Harissa Cauliflower with Quinoa Toss

Chapters are laid out by seasons and months, which I really enjoy in cookbooks. I’ve mentioned before how books that are organized like this have a way of continuing to feel fresh all year long, rather than burning yourself out all at once. The first thing I made, the Grilled Harissa Cauliflower with Quinoa Toss is an April recipe that I made in March (so sue me). It uses a chickpea flour batter on the cauliflower, which you then grill (as opposed to more traditionally frying), and serve with a Mediterranean quinoa salad (full of olives, currants, and mint). It was phenomenal. But okay, so chickpea flour wasn’t a major star in that show, just a part of the batter. Let’s see what else it can do…

I’d never made homemade pasta before, but the recipe for Chickpea Noodles with Miso-Kale Pesto looked pretty simple. Is homemade pasta really that easy? Yes. Yes, it is. The pasta dough came together in a flash, and aside from letting it rest for 30 minutes, it was merely minutes before it morphed into noodle form and cooked into pasta perfection. And it was almost entirely made of chickpea flour. So chickpea flour got some game, after all.

Homemade pasta!

Homemade pasta!

I’m pretty sure I rave about savory breakfast recipes in every review I write, but they are the way to my heart. From breakfast salad to savory waffles, Cupid’s arrows are striking me hard with this one. One of the first things I made was the Collard Wraps with Turmeric Scramble. But while I love me a savory breakfast recipe, I’m also a rule breaker… so I made these for a light dinner. All I need to see is the word “collard” and I’m sold. Add an eggless eggy scramble with avocado and cilantro, and I’m in heaven.

The Breakfast Sweet Potato Cakes and Baby Arugula required some thinking ahead (which I rarely do), but was worth any extra effort. I made the potato cake mixture the night before (it’s supposed to rest in the fridge for several hours, though I honestly think it doesn’t matter), so that come morning, I only had to wait as long as it took to roll them into little balls, pan fry them, and toss together some arugula and dressing. My thoughts on this recipe can be summed up with these words: Salad for breakfast, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?

Even more savory breakfast came in the form of Chickpea Waffle Avocado Toast. It’s the stuff weekend dreams are made of. Topped with hemp seeds, lemon juice, and chives, it definitely qualifies as #stuffontoast.

Savory breakfasts!

Savory breakfasts!

And another fave was the Alfredo with Watercress and Chives. The sauce is outstanding, and now that I’ve got watercress growing in my garden, this is a meal I can make anytime I need something fast, easy, and delicious (since I have a Vitamix, I don’t soak cashews anymore, and this sauce comes together in a flash)! Best of all, now you can make it too, because here’s the recipe! Huzzah!

ALFREDO WITH WATERCRESS AND CHIVES

Serves 4

  • 16 ounces (454 g) gluten-free and vegan pasta (or pasta of choice)
  • ¼ cup (40 g) plus 1 tablespoon cashews, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup (240 ml) water
  • ¼ cup (30 g) chickpea flour
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives, plus chive flowers for garnish
  • 1 cup (34 g) packed watercress
  • Freshly ground nutmeg, to taste

1. Begin cooking the pasta, according to instructions on the bag. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce.

2. Place the soaked cashews in an upright high-speed blender; add the oil, yeast, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper to taste; set aside.

3. In a small saucepan, whisk together the water and flour, turn the heat to medium and continue to whisk for 6 to 7 minutes, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of a roux. Gently and carefully pour the mixture into the blender. Blend on high for 1 minute, until creamy and smooth. Taste and adjust any seasonings, if needed. Add 1 tablespoon of chives and blend on medium for about 30 seconds.

4. In the last 30 seconds of cooking the pasta to al dente, add the watercress and cook until wilted. Drain the pasta and watercress and quickly rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking.

5. Transfer the pasta and watercress to a serving bowl; pour the sauce over the pasta and mix. Taste and adjust salt, if needed. Serve hot with remaining 1 tablespoon of chives, chive flowers, and nutmeg.

Recipe from Chickpea Flour Does It All: Glluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegetarian Recipes for Every Taste and Season ©Lindsey S. Love, 2016. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.  theexperimentpublishing.com


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own, and despite the eggs, I still really, REALLY enjoyed this one.

As the parent of a toddler, I face a dilemma every single day. No, it’s not how to keep myself from cutting off my ears listening to Norman’s voice on Fireman Sam, as my daughter wants to watch it for the ten millionth time, nor is it changing a diaper full of pee only to have her take a crap in the new one five minutes later. Rather, it’s how to balance my desire for her to love cooking and share the kitchen with me, while simultaneously keeping her the hell away from me during my much-needed “me time.” Cooking is my daily therapy, stress relief, and meditation. My zen. A toddler demanding to “help” with everything, and moving chairs across the kitchen so she can stand on them next to a hot burner does not exactly encourage the zen. It interrupts the qi, and throws a funk in the feng shui. So how then am I to keep my sanity when I let this little tornado into my meditation room? This is the dilemma.

Thankfully, this book is the answer.

My daughter knows how much I adore my cookbooks. At least once a week, I can be found sitting on the floor in front of my bookshelf, pouring over pages as I choose recipes for the week. When this book arrived and I told her it was her very own, she hugged it and immediately starting asking if we could make this, that, or OOOH, THAT! It lives on the shelf with all of mine, and she regularly pulls it off (and all the others), asking what we can make next. It makes me so happy to see her excited about cooking. And because I’m an exhausted mother, it makes me even happier that all these recipes are so brutally simple that I can usually oblige her when she wants to make something. See, these recipes are beyond easy. You might even scoff at how simple some are.

The very first thing we made? Water. Not just any water, but pink Bright Water. Ingredients? Water and a couple beet slices (told you it was easy). Put them both in a jar, shake, remove beets, and voila! I can’t even tell you how excited she was to drink pink water. Despite my best efforts to not have my daughter obsessed with the color pink (including not telling anyone she was a girl before she was born so that we wouldn’t get any pink clothes), she gravitates to pink like a moth to the light. (My guess is this will not be the last time she rebels against my desires.) So yeah, we made pink water, and it was awesome (so awesome that we made green water the next day, thanks to a sprinkle of spirulina). Because pink is the way to her heart, the first real recipe we made was the Pink Couscous, because duh. She was a little unsure of the green onions and pistachios in it, but she didn’t seem to mind the couscous. It was pink, after all (thanks again to beet slices). However, I did discover that couscous is not a very mom-friendly food for a two-year-old. It makes a royal mess, and is a pain in the ass to clean up. If your kid can keep that stuff contained to the bowl, spoon, or mouth, good for you, but that’s a skill my two-year-old does not yet possess. It’s a good thing she’s cute.

You know what else is cute? This book. It’s pretty much the most adorable book I’ve ever laid eyes on. The recipe pages are put together as collages of photos and drawings, and the text is all hand-written. It looks like a rainbow of happiness exploded all over the pages. Lucky for me, that means that even when the food itself isn’t pink, there are recipes that are on pink pages… and that is just as good in my daughter’s eyes. Like the Party in a Cup. It’s just some yogurt topped with whatever toppings you got, but has been a great way to combine some of my daughter’s favorite foods into new combos. I use fresh berries in the yogurt and top it with hemp seeds. I tell her they’re sprinkles, but hey man, my kid is eating hemp seeds! She’s asked for the “party cup” a few times now. Thank you, pink page.

When snack cravings attack, I love the simple recipes in here. Instead of reaching for her usual handful of pretzels, olives, or berries, we can throw together some Power Towers, which are just apples (or bananas) with almond (or peanut) butter. No, I suppose one doesn’t really need a recipe for almond butter on apple slices, but as the mother of a two year old, I am so thankful for “recipes” like this in the book. She sees them on the page, knows what we’re working toward, and then gets to see the finished product that we eat. And it teaches her that no, food doesn’t just magically show up on your plate. We have to make it, and you get to help. We get to be in the kitchen together, and I get to keep my sanity because it only took five minutes.

Along the same lines, there’s a recipe for Dino Rolls, which are essentially just ants on a log, but made with lacinato kale instead of celery. Do you need a recipe for that? Maybe not, but tell me this… would you have ever thought to make ants on a log with kale? No, you wouldn’t have. And did you ever get your two year old to eat raw kale? No, you didn’t. I rest my case. 

While I might be irritated if a book for me had recipes this simple, this book isn’t for me. It’s for my daughter, and therefore it’s perfect. And you know what, I really like a lot of it myself. When she wouldn’t eat more than a few spoonfuls of the Broc-O-Tree Bisque, it was my lunch at work the next day (and I loved it). When the smoothies like the Polar Bear and the Un-Stick in the Mud are so good that I’ve wanted my own, I’ve made my own. I’m not ashamed. Mother tested, kid approved.

There are a lot of things in here that she isn’t quite adventurous enough for (at least not yet), but I imagine we’ll get there. The book is listed for ages 6-12, but don’t wait until your kid is 6 to get this book… start the love of food and cooking young. If we’re loving it this much at age 2, I imagine it will only get better as she gets older and becomes a little more brave with her foods. But even now, she’s tried so many new things, or foods in new combos, that I am one happy mama. She doesn’t love everything, and she doesn’t have to. All I ask is that she tries things though. If that means she doesn’t like cucumbers and wants to eat the Pipsqueak Tea Sandwiches as just vegan cream cheese on bread, so be it. Rather than fight it, I’m just going to go with the flow. I’m learning to find a new zen, and I’m thankful to have her in the kitchen with me. Just as long as it’s not for too long…

  • dianaMay 12, 2016

    You are SO right! While the adults might not need those “recipes” it is so so great to have a book that gets the kids excited for healthy choices! My daughter can’t eat yet, but I really want this once she can!ReplyCancel

Vegan life is good.

Vegan life is good.

A lot of people I follow online celebrate “veganniversaries” on the date that they became vegan, whether it be a month ago or ten years. For me, there is no such date, no switch that flipped from one day to the next. More like a dimmer, becoming vegan has been a 20-year process for me, one that is still evolving, and probably always will. These days, I do consider myself vegan, but I also knowingly consume small amounts of animal products from time to time. Sound hypocritical? It’s not. It’s reality. I find that the world does not exist in black and white. No matter how neatly we try to separate it, life lives in the gray areas. It’s like trying to hold water back with your hands, and everything seeps and muddles together, regardless of how hard you try.

The path that would eventually lead me here started in the sixth grade when I wrote a 38-page report (more like a scrapbook) on animal testing. I became a PETA member and barred all Gillette products (and more) from our home. All my school projects, papers, and speeches became devoted to animal cruelty. Still, I ate meat. It wasn’t until the next year that I realized my hypocrisy, and promptly decided to fix it. I became a vegetarian at age 12.

As a 12-year-old vegetarian who didn’t like vegetables, I survived off of pasta and cheese (the dairy industry was not something I learned about in my studies). My mother eventually stepped in and forced me to occasionally eat chicken (I conceded), but it didn’t last very long. I remained a steadfast vegetarian for the next 10+ years, flirting with veganism every now and again. When I was 25, for whatever reason (I honestly don’t know why), I started eating fish. Later that year, I met my future husband, a vegetarian himself, and I found it so ironic that I finally snagged myself a vegetarian man when I myself was not one. Over the next four years, I’d rarely but occasionally eat fish (and my husband never gave in, despite it being the only meat he missed). These fish-eating years are actually the time in which I first started becoming interested in vegan cookbooks, and started cooking vegan at home. Even though I wasn’t vegan, it was my attempt to move beyond the flirting into more of a casual dating relationship. However, I would still occasionally eat fish of two varieties while out: sushi, or the fish tacos from this taqueria by my house. Pregnancy eventually eliminated the sushi from my diet, and I never bothered going back to it. The fish tacos (which I sometimes ate while pregnant) eventually got phased out as well, once I started cooking every day and decided to get more serious with veganism after I had my kid.

Things move slowly though. At first, since I was cooking at home so much, I committed to eating vegan at home, and vegetarian when I was out and about. My favorite meal out was always breakfast, and yet, it’s the cuisine with usually the least vegan-friendly options. So when we’d go out for breakfast, I’d eat eggs and not let it bother me. Eggs were always my weakness, though. I could live without cheese, but eggs were harder for me. Eventually though, I stopped wanting even those. Nowadays, if we go to a restaurant that isn’t exactly vegan-friendly (really only when we’re out with family), I still make it work. Breakfast might involve ordering dry toast with a side of avocado and tomato, which I am more than happy to eat. But sometimes… that dry toast doesn’t come out so dry (I usually order rye, and the combo of “dry” and “rye” has apparently caused some confusion). However, I don’t send it back and waste it. Wasted animal products are worse than eaten ones. I will eat the toast, and I learn to be even more clear in the future.

I’ve never been a hardline vegan. If a kind stranger bought me a coffee drink, I’ll say thank you and take a few sips. There’s a time and a place for the vegan convo, and that is not one of them. If a new friend who didn’t know my diet brings me traditional homemade treats, I’m going to thank her, eat a couple bites, and share the rest with everyone I can. I refuse to feel guilty about it, or make my friend feel that way. By not alienating her, next time she brings vegan treats. When friends or family try to make vegan meals for me, but didn’t realize certain store-bought ingredients weren’t vegan until it was too late, I’m still going to eat it. All of these things have happened to me just this past year, and I don’t consider myself any less vegan for them. You might, but I don’t really care what you think about me. The most important thing for me has never been to keep my body “pure” from animal products, but to not support their suffering with my money. That’s not to say if there’s free food, all bets are off, but I can’t always help it when it comes to other people’s actions. All I can do is put my money where my mouth is, and animals don’t go near it.

Despite those occasional glances the other way, veganism and I have been in a committed relationship now for about two years, casually dated for a year or two before that, and have known each other for over 15. We don’t have an anniversary, and like any relationship, ours isn’t always perfect. But no matter what anyone thinks about it, our relationship is ours, and we’re happy together.

Vegan RichaI’m not proud, but I’ve eaten a lot of Tasty Bites in my day. I love Indian food, but to me it always meant either dining out at a restaurant, or dining out of those classy little envelopes of curry. Then when I started cooking a lot, I was less than impressed with most cookbooks’ attempt at the “obligatory chickpea curry recipe.” (Dear future cookbook authors: just don’t. The world has enough crappy chickpea curry recipes.) I used to own a vegetarian Indian cookbook, but I never used it much. It did annoying things like call samosas “spicy potato prisms.” I get the point of translating the Indian names to understand what they are, but that one is taking it a bit too far. However, I digress.

It was always a given that I’d get this book. I actually pre-ordered it five months before it came out, so it was a lovely surprise coming home to it one day. (That alone is like the best reason ever to pre-order books… surprise mail! They’re like presents to your future self.) So it was a really good day, the day I received this gift from myself. I promptly started marking recipes to try first, as I salivated all over the pages. It was summer though, and Indian food just didn’t really appeal to me much in the hot summer months. I’d cook from it here and there, but it wasn’t until fall and winter and I delved in a little more. I still haven’t cooked from it as much as I’d like, only about ten things so far. They’ve all been great, but some greater than others. One of my tippy top faves (that I highly recommend) has been the Cabbage Kofta in Creamy Tomato Sauce. It’s such a light, refreshing take on kofta. I honestly could have eaten all of it myself. Alas, I had to share with my husband. Balls.

The lover of savory breakfast that I am, some of my other faves have come from the breakfast chapter. The Savory Oats Hash is basically a tofu scramble, but with oats instead of tofu. It’s awesome. The Chickpea Flour Pancakes are too. They’re full of cilantro, onion, and chiles. And then, when you take that pancake batter and dip bread into it to make the Savory Pan-Fried French Toast? HEAVEN. Way too good.

Every year around the holidays, I throw a “Curry Christmas” party. It’s just my excuse to throw a party and eat delicious Indian food. This past year, even though I finally had this awesome Indian cookbook to cook from, we didn’t have time to throw our usual shindig. However, when we were visiting some friends for the weekend, we opted to have a small, low-key Curry Christmas at their house. I would get to cook a feast from this book after all! I made the Avocado Naan, the Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Makhani Gravy (pretty much the greatest ever), and our friends made a chickpea biryani (from another book). All together, it was glorious. For dessert, I also made the Cardamom Fudge. It was very different, but very wonderful. It even got the lip-smacking seal of approval from two toddlers!

Saffron

Saffron. I am not a fan.

A couple weeks later, on New Year’s Eve, I bought saffron for the first time, making it my last new food of 2015 (I tried a new food each week last year). Taking a whiff of the most expensive spice in the world, however, I was quickly taken aback. This is supposed to be good? It smells like tires! I figured the potent smell would dissolve into the dish, the Quinoa Cauliflower Biryani I was making. It more or less did, but it did impart a slight flavor I’d just as soon do without. When I posted on Instagram, I discovered I was not alone in my ambivalence toward saffron. Many friends piped in that they too did not understand the allure. I’ll use mine up in any future recipes that call for saffron (maybe just in slightly smaller amounts), but after that I probably won’t buy it again. And that is actually another reason I love this book. Even when something tastes off to me, it’s teaching me about food, having me try new things, learning more about my personal tastes, and expanding my culinary education. I love the lessons food gives to me.

This book inadvertently taught me another lesson. Let’s talk about bay leaves. I honestly don’t remember anything about the Navratan Korma I made, except the bay leaves. You know how all recipes with bay leaves have you leave them in for a little while, and then pick them out before you eat? I’ve always wondered what the hell they actually did, what flavor they imparted (if any). Well, now I know. Oh boy, do I know (hint: I wish I didn’t). I know because this recipe leaves the bay leaves in, and then you blend them up into the curry. Do you want to know what bay leaves taste like? They taste like menthol. Very strong, very potent piney menthol. They will very quickly overpower a dish if you are dumb like me and put in really large bay leaves (bigger is not always better… don’t dismiss the small ones).

This led me to discover that Indian bay leaves are not the same thing as the more common bay laurel leaves (which is what you have in your cupboard, and what I used). This distinction is mentioned in the beginning of this book, which I had clearly skipped over, but it also says that you can substitute one for the other if you can’t find Indian bay leaves. But listen to me, if you are going to leave the bay leaves in (and blend them up), do NOT use your standard bay leaves. For all that is good in the world, DO NOT USE THEM. That is, unless you want your food to taste like a piney menthol curry. Indian bay leaves supposedly offer more of a cinnamon or cloves flavor, which I can definitely understand in this dish. So while I did not enjoy the menthol aroma of my final dish (my husband didn’t mind it though), I do appreciate learning new things, and like I discovered with the saffron, this mishap with the bay leaves is teaching me about food. And good or bad, anything (anything) is going to be better than eating curry out of a Tasty Bite envelope.

VRIK

  • dianaApril 30, 2016

    This book has been on my wish list for a while…but omg that French toast just bumped it WAY higher on my priority list!

    PS love your writing style. This was very fun to read. Thanks for sharing your bay leaf lesson!ReplyCancel

    • SarahMay 1, 2016

      Thanks, Diana! The French toast is top notch!ReplyCancel

  • SusanMay 1, 2016

    I have been curious about this book, but this review is pretty much selling me on it. It sounds great! I had a friend who was asking about it as well, so I sent this post to them.
    Thanks for the tip about the differences between bay leaves!ReplyCancel

    • SarahMay 2, 2016

      Awesome! Happy to help 🙂ReplyCancel

  • RichaMay 1, 2016

    Love Love this Post Sarah! I was laughing so hard at the potato prisms 🙂

    Yay for all the amazing food! Saffron smells flowery to me. You might want to try it in something that has only saffron for flavor like a rice pudding or Phirni from the book or use it more of it in the fudgy squares and eliminate the cardamom. In other dishes, you can always add more of the cardamom instead of saffron and turmeric for color.

    I am so sorry about the Korma. I have used the regular bay leaves but i guess never in blended form. The recipe testes also probably used the Indian ones or the flavor didn’t bother them, so they never mentioned it. I will add this note to the book reprint for the recipes in which bay leaves get blended.
    This also might be the reason some people dislike garam masala. Bay leaves are blended in the masala and the wrong ones might be giving the blend a different flavor!

    I esp love the veggie sides and dals chapters in the book since those are the kind of food we eat weekly. Happy cooking!ReplyCancel

    • SarahMay 2, 2016

      Thanks, Richa! I will continue to try saffron. I was talking to a foodie friend last night and he was saying that he loves saffron, just in smaller amounts. So I will keep trying it with a little less and maybe it will grow on me! 🙂 And do not apologize for the korma! It was still good, and my husband loved it. My tastebuds were just sensitive to that strong bay leaf taste. I will have to get my hands on some Indian bay leaves. I kinda want to try that recipe again with them and see how different it is!ReplyCancel

      • RichaMay 23, 2016

        I read up more on bay leaves and the california bay leaf has a strong flavor. I have accidentally used regular bay leaves in cooking, but they probably were turkish bay leaves (both turkish and cali bay leaves have a menthal/eucalyptus profile, but turkish is very mild). definitely get some Indian ones called tej patta. many times they will mislabel even in indian stores and online. see pics here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinnamomum_tamala . making these changes in the next printing of the book.ReplyCancel

The Abundance DietLet’s kick this off with a full disclosure. I’m friends with Somer. I actually used to work with her brother, though that was before I knew her. Instagram is what brought us together, not her brother (it’s a small world). So while I might be ever-so-slightly biased on this one, my tastebuds aren’t. Tastebuds don’t lie, and mine love this book.

Everyone will have a different reason for being interested in this book, whether it be to eat more whole foods, lose weight, or try more gluten free recipes. My reason? Sometimes I just feel fat and sluggish. It happens to us all, yeah? It’s not because of caloric guilt, but after all the salt and carbs of road trips, shark weeks, or just eating too much pizza, my body naturally craves lighter, brighter meals. These “roadtrip detox” times are when I find that I desire smoothies and salads the most. Rather than go through all my cookbooks picking out the lighter dishes, I like to have a book that I know I can always turn to. Unfortunately, I find most of these light and healthy cookbooks to be, well, really boring. Too light, too healthy, too boring. I don’t want to eat something that will just leave me craving more food afterward. I want to feel full, but full of good-for-me foods that just happen to be lighter than my normal meals (which are often fairly light to begin with). And this where this book comes to the rescue. Even before I saw the recipes, I knew that despite them being low-fat, no-oil, gluten-free, and totally whole-foodie, they’d taste totally delicious. And how did I know that? Because I know Somer and I know she’s got great tastebuds. I’ve pigged out with the girl. Boring food simply will not fly. Not with her, and not with me.

This book is pitched as a 28-day meal plan you can follow, but I’m a bit too casual to commit to structured meal plans. I’ve always just used the book as a regular cookbook. It still delivers all the healthy deliciousness into my mouth, I just have to come up with my own meal schedule and write my own grocery list. I’m totally fine with that. In fact, I thrive on doing that… meal planning is one of the highlights of my week. So while I can’t speak to the meal plan aspect of this book, or its weight-loss potential when followed, I can speak to how delicious the recipes are.

smoothie

I don’t usually take pictures of smoothies, but here’s the one time I did. This was the Ultra-Alkalizing Green Smoothie, a veggie smoothie that despite sounding really scary (and really green) was actually quite good. I was in major roadtrip detox mode, and this was exactly what my body was craving.

Let’s start with the smoothies, since there are a lot of them in here. Every single smoothie recipe has two packed cups of greens (usually spinach), but you’d never know it from the taste. Somer doesn’t want a smoothie to taste like spinach juice just as much as you don’t want to drink a smoothie that tastes like spinach juice. I love her smoothies (particularly after a period of too much bread), and have made most of them. The Apple Pie Green Smoothie is probably my favorite, and I’ve made it about a zillion times (probably because I always happen to have everything on hand to make it). It’s worth noting that these recipes make very large smoothies (a full quart). I often halve them in the morning and still feel totally satiated.

Salads, despite generally being considered lame, might be my favorite food group. When prepared well, they are definitely not lame, especially not Somer’s. I’ve made several of the recipes in here (some are meal salads, others are more side-salad-esque), and some favorites include the Chipotle Knockoff Salad, which gives you all that delicious Chipotle taste, without the E. Coli; and the Black Bean Veggie Burger Salad with Avocado Ranch, which is just, WHOA. Both were ultra filling and didn’t leave me feeling like I just ate salad. Just yesterday I made the Niçoise Salad With Smoky Tofu and Creamy Miso Dressing, and while I don’t usually go for niçoise salads, her recipe sounded great, and it really was. Can’t wait to dig into those leftovers for dinner tonight.

funeral potatoes

Funeral potatoes. Gloriously healthy funeral potatoes. Just look at that ooey-gooey, bubbly deliciousness!

While there are several chapters for these lighter dishes like salad, soups, and snacks, where I think the book really shines is the main meals chapter. This is where you’ll find the heartier dishes that are much lower in fat and calories than their more traditional versions. Dishes like funeral potatoes. If you aren’t from Utah, or didn’t read this post of mine, I realize you have no idea what I’m talking about. Funeral potatoes are a gloriously rich and heart attack-inducing casserole native to Utah (named because Mormons would bring the dish to funerals, not because it’ll give you a heart attack, though that’s another good reason for the name). Funeral potatoes are the unofficial state food of Utah. They are really good, but even veganized, they can still be very fattening. Enter Somer’s Cheesy Cauliflower and Potato Bake. These are not a direct replacement for funeral potatoes, but they are a healthy spin on them that does the job, pleasing your tastebuds while keeping your pants buttoned.

Another favorite dish has been the Cowboy Special One-Pot Pasta. I’ve made it a few times now, and it really took me by surprise. When I was first going through the book, I wasn’t interested in that recipe. It didn’t sound like anything special, but oh boy was I wrong! The first time I made it, it was in a Dutch oven over a fire while camping. The flavors melded together in a way I didn’t expect (it got, dare I say it, kind of creamy?), proving that the whole is definitely more than the sum of its parts.

abundance

BBQ Tofu and Avocado Spring Rolls; Cowboy Special One-Pot Pasta; and Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Lasagna.

 

Veggie Patch Sunday Morning Omelet

Veggie Patch Sunday Morning Omelet

The past few days, I’ve made a few more really outstanding dishes, that I will undoubtedly make again and again. I made the Chiles Rellenos Casserole Bake with Smoky Chipotle Enchilada Sauce, which tastes like fatty delicious food straight out of a Mexican restaurant, but miraculously, is easy on your waistline (not as easy on it as other recipes in the book, but still totally guilt-free). It’s green chiles stuffed with moxarella (Somer’s easy vegan cheese sauce), baked in a chickpea flour batter, and smothered in a smoky enchilada sauce. It is heaven. I only wish there were more veggies in it to make it feel a little lighter, even if it’s only in my imagination. Then this morning, the Veggie Patch Sunday Morning Omelets officially changed my life. I’ve made chickpea omelets before, but not like these. These were thin, folded perfectly, and stuffed with that heavenly moxarella and all the veggies (zucchini, onion, tomato, mushrooms, and spinach). I topped it with some tofu sour cream (leftover from the chile rellenos) and a healthy dousing of sriracha. I haven’t had an omelet that tasted so good since I ate eggs, which were always the hardest for me to give up. 

The only recipe I’ve made that I didn’t enjoy eating was the Raw Pad Thai. It tasted good, but it was shark week and raw veggies do not have the carbs that the female body requires at that time of the month. I promptly ate a piece of toast and a bar of chocolate after finishing it and felt a little better about it. I can hardly blame Somer for that.

So if it isn’t obvious, I’m a pretty big fan of this book. I’m kind of upset that I haven’t cooked from it more lately, but having made three things from it this weekend, it’s reaffirmed by love for it, reminding me that I need to pull it off the shelf more often. And not just after road trips, shark weeks, or too much pizza.

Some other delicious things I

Some other delicious things I’ve made. Smoothies not included.

An important endnote: If you are interested in this book and its 28-day meal plan, there was a printing error that accidentally omitted the meal schedule from the book. You can download that here.

  • SusanApril 11, 2016

    I love this book so much! It came at a time when I really needed to reboot my eating habits, and it was perfect. I love how gigantic the portions are, but they are not too heavy, so I am always happily satisfied. I have made a lot of five-star recipes from this book. It is one of my favourites.ReplyCancel