I like to think that I’m pretty in tune with the world of vegan cookbooks. I have been known to stalk Amazon for new and old titles alike, and I find it very rare to happen upon a book by an author (or blogger) I’ve never heard of. I’ll admit that I can be a little judgy with new books up front, deciding early on whether or not I’m interested in one. I find that vegan cookbooks are flooding the market these days in a way that just creates infinite unnecessary recipes (and books). Unless a cookbook author has a very unique approach to cooking, I find I’m not often wooed by upcoming releases. So when I was given the chance to sneak peek at some upcoming cookbooks, I took it with a grain of salt. I honestly wasn’t expecting much. Just more cookbooks, with more recipes. And then I came across this one.
I’d never heard of this author, Andrea Duclos from ohdeardrea, but from the get-go I was seriously impressed with this book. I was so impressed that even though I was checking out an advance e-copy from the publisher, I made my husband get online and pre-order a hard copy for me for Christmas. Once I could hold the thing in my own two hands, I fell even more in love with it. Let me count the reasons why.
1: It’s beautiful. I try not to judge books by their covers, but I’m a sucker for good design, and this book has got it GOIN’ ON. So yes, it was all sparkly and pretty and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Full color pages, nice font choices, beautiful photos, and adorable little flourishes just make it so ridiculously pleasing to the eyes. And it’s hardcover with no dust jacket, which is a trend I’m seeing lately that I love.
2. The recipes use easy-to-find ingredients and are easy to put together. Often times I equate easy recipes with boring recipes, but that’s not the case here. I love to make complex recipes when I have time, but lately I’ve been finding myself with less and less of it. The busier my life becomes, the more thankful I find myself for this book.
3. It’s kid-friendly without being a kid book. That’s a fine line to walk to be able to please both kids and adults alike. That’s not to say everything will work for kids and adults, but many recipes will. Some recipes you won’t get a kid within 10 feet of. Others, she offers up some tips to adjust to make it more kid-friendly. The problem with a lot of “kid-friendly” vegan cookbooks is that they might be kid-friendly, but they bore the hell out of me. So yeah, I can make something for my kid and something for myself, but I’d rather make one thing that we can both enjoy. I haven’t done very much of that yet (my kid is only two), but we’ll get there.
4. Stuff on toast. There’s an entire chapter dedicated to toast. I’ve joked before about tacos and pizza being the perfect vehicles for delivering food into your mouth, but we can’t forget about toast. I’ve made all but one of the toast recipes (and the only reason I haven’t made the last yet is because I’m waiting for delicious summer strawberries for it). They are varied and unique: Pear, Radish, and Carrot Toast with Radish Tops (sounds weird, but it works… oh, does it work!); Simply Amazing Tomatoes and Garlic (which I made on Christmas morning); Cream Cheese and Roasted Beets (I don’t really like beets, but I loved this); Mushrooms and Crispy Sage (oh yeah); Plantain and Avocado (plantains were new to me, but a few fave); and Pea Pesto (mean and green). Just look at these beauties!
Here are my creations from the toast chapter (there are 7 recipes, and I’ve made 6 of them so far). I’ve loved them all!
5. The book never ends. It’s 300 pages long and just when you think it might be starting to wrap up (because you’ve hit the main meals), it keeps going and going. There are chapters for “easy dishes,” Latin stuff, Asian food, pizza, and pasta. And it goes on and on and on.
I’ve made a lot of recipes from this book (see below), and I’ve yet to be disappointed. Here and there I might find a recipe to need a little more flavor, but that’s nothing the salt shaker can’t fix. A few of my favorite recipes include the Eggplant Mashed Potatoes, which lighten up the traditionally coma-inducing holiday favorite; the Garam Masala Pancakes, which might be my favorite pancake recipe ever; and her Arugula Pesto and Potato Pizza, because pizza, duh. It’s also worth mentioning that the Olive Pasta Even a Toddler Will Love is actually toddler-approved by my picky eater. That’s saying something! Now that my kid has started branching out with new foods lately, I suspect I could try out even more of these recipes on her.
Basically, if you like quick and easy recipes, have kids, or appreciate the feel of a beautiful book in your hands, don’t miss this one!
Everything else I’ve made from the book so far!
I have a weird relationship with Italian food. While it seems most people go gaga for it, I am pretty ambivalent toward it. The exception, of course, is pizza… which I could (and would) eat forever. Wouldn’t everyone? Pasta, however, I really couldn’t care less about. I enjoy eating it occasionally, but I never crave it, so I rarely think about it, and therefore I rarely make it (exception: mac and cheese). The 10-year-old me would never believe that could happen to her. Alas, it did. Perhaps I ate a lifetime’s worth as a child, and now I have no appetite for it. Who knows.
Luckily, despite what you might think, Italian food isn’t all pasta and pizza. Of all the things I’ve made from this book, only a few actually involved pasta. And the first thing I made was hardly even Italian (it was the Latin-inspired Tequila Tempeh Fettuccine, and let me tell you, it was divine). While there are a lot of pasta recipes in this book, I’ve only made three of them. As amazing as the rest all look, they just don’t turn me on. I guess I have a low pasta libido. That’s okay though, because there are plenty of vegetable-centric dishes that I’ve made instead.
A few of the things I’ve made.
One of the more memorable recipes was the Tempeh with 40 Cloves of Garlic, which yes, has 40 whole cloves of garlic in it. I was more than a little terrified to eat it, fearing a nightmarish episode of gas, but braising the cloves really does tame the beasts… I didn’t fart once! Other pizza and pasta-free dishes I made include the Rosemary Lentils with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlicky Broccoli; Summer Bread Salad; Pizza Burgers with Avocado Pesto (the stuff burger dreams are made of); Tomato Bread Soup; and the Avocado Basil Quinoa Bowl. That last dish brings up my only complaint with the book. It’s not the dish (it was glorious, as all of them are), but it highlights this book’s profligate use of oil.
Now, I’m not one of those no-oil people, but as someone who gains weight easily (and is already holding steady at the upper end of my weight spectrum), my body simply cannot afford 100 extra grams of completely unnecessary fat at dinner. I understand that the amount of oil is what helps make these dishes authentic (and extra, extra delicious), but while the author’s Mediterranean genes can metabolize that much extra fat, my Midwestern ones can’t. Luckily, as most of the oil seems totally unnecessary, I just omit some and nothing suffers. The food is still phenomenal, and totally decadent and hearty.
While most of the desserts look truly divine, I’ve only made one, because like pasta, sugar just doesn’t rev my engine either. The treat I did make was the Tiramisu, when I was having about ten friends over for dinner. I’d never made tiramisu before, but it was so much easier than I expected! It’s an easy vanilla cake that you drench with rum and espresso (instant espresso powder… not like you need a fancy machine), and top with ground up chocolate and coconut whipped cream (also very easy to make). It’s super rich, ultra-filling, and insanely full of caffeine. That might not be a problem for some, but I am super sensitive to it and eating a hunk of this tiramisu kept me up until 2am. It was worth it though. So very worth it.
The bottom line is that while this is a really fabulous book (especially if you love Italian food), my personal tastes have me not using this book as much as I’d like to. For that reason, I’d like to spread the cookbook love and mail this to one of my followers… preferably someone who does love pasta and all things Italian! I’ve done this a lot over on Instagram, because my cookbook collection is always in need of trimming, and I love sharing the magic of cookbooks with strangers. Just leave a comment here, and make sure to leave your email address too. I’ll pick a random person to send it to. US only, please!
I don’t set out to pick a favorite cookbook each year, but one always seems to stand out above the rest. In 2014, it was Salad Samurai. The year before was Isa Does It. I treasure both of those books, and now The Homemade Vegan Pantry joins their ranks as my favorite of 2015.
With so many great cookbooks coming out these days, why does this one stand out? Well, for starters, it’s different. While there are recipes to make meals of, most of the recipes are simply for ingredients you would normally buy, parts to a future whole. Homemade ketchup, for example, and bouillon. Pasta noodles, pasta sauces, and pancake mix. In an era where processed food dominates our lives, this book shows you how to step back and make your own ingredients from scratch. And for the most part, they are things you can keep on hand for an extended period of time, just like that jar of mayo that’s been in your fridge for the past few months.
I like to go on staple-making binge sessions and throw together a bunch of things to have ready for when I eventually need them. Because of that, I can make macaroni and cheese for my daughter at the drop of a hat. I can head out on an impromptu camping trip and throw biscuits together over the campfire. I can rescue dinner when I screw up and suddenly find myself in dire need of barbecue sauce (that actually happened recently and this book saved me). If I don’t have anything planned, the Real Burgers (perhaps the best veggie burger I’ve ever eaten) are in the freezer, ready to come to save the day. And just this morning, my daughter needed something for breakfast, and I remembered I had pancake mix hiding in the cupboard. Presto blammo, and hot piping pancakes were on her plate a mere five minutes later.
Staple binge cooking session: Two kinds of pancake mix, macaroni and cheese powder, maple balsamic ketchup, and chocolate hazelnut spread (aka homemade vegan Nutella).
If you think a vegan diet limits you to crappy store-bought vegan cheese, or a blended up cashew sauce, prepare to have your mind blown. Miyoko is a cheese goddess and even if you already own her previous book Artisan Vegan Cheeses, this book has several new (and improved!) cheese recipes. These are perfectly crafted, dairy-free cheeses. Think of vegan feta as crumbled tofu with some spices? Think again. Hers is cultured and made of almonds. Think of vegan parmesan as that ground up mixture of nuts and nooch? Try big, flaky shards of brazil nut Shaved Parmesan, which are blissfully rich, savory, and truly gourmet. I’ve got no biffs with tofu feta and ground up nut parm, but when you want something more deluxe, this book is your go-to. However, real vegan cheeses are not instant. They’re cultured for a few days, and they do take time, but they are well worth any extra time they may take.
This is a book I’ll savor and take my time with, eventually probably getting through it all, but not any sooner than I need to. Next up to make is homemade vegan butter. Yes, you really can make it all… and you can make it all vegan.
Does the term “superfood” scare you? Does it bring to mind raw kale milkshakes and powdered banana peel? Before you go running and hiding from what might appear to be a cookbook of impossibly healthy and boring meals, let me say this: “superfoods” are really just regular foods you already know and love. Are you ready for this?
Apples, carrots, berries, spinach, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, lentils, avocado, mango, oats, and sunflower seeds. See, that’s not so scary, is it?
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let me also point out that almost every whole food is considered a superfood by someone, somewhere on the internet (except maybe corn… except maybe why not?). This book uses a smaller collection of around 40 of them, which are mostly readily available at your everyday grocery store. A few more exotic items are occasionally thrown in, such as adzuki beans, maca, and lucuma (whatever that is), but they are few and far between.
Regardless of whether or not these superfoods are really any different than what I like to call “regular food,” what this book does is that it jams lots of them into each recipe. My totally scientific page flipping calculated that most recipes call for at least three or four of the superfoods listed at the beginning of the book, with many more ingredients being called superfoods by world-renowned superfood expert, Dr. Google. That’s a whole lotta whole foods in each recipe resulting in a triple dose of super-good-for-you-foods.
Tempeh Brassica Bimbimbap, aka superfood central.
To illustrate my point, let’s compare what a recipe in this book might look like compared to another. Let’s look at broccoli, the quintessential green vegetable. I have an impressive cookbook collection, but I’ve found a surprising lack of broccoli recipes (in vegan cookbooks!)… isn’t that insane? I know this because I’ve poured over indexes trying to come up with something to make when I had two pounds of broccoli to use up, and I found very limited options. Anyway, a great broccoli recipe I know of (that is not from this book) calls for seitan, rice, broccoli and BBQ sauce. The only real “superfood” in that recipe is going to be the broccoli. The rest is essentially just wheat gluten, sauce and rice (gloriously delicious, but not necessarily a powerhouse of nutrition). Now let’s look at this book. One of my favorite recipes in here is the Tempeh Brassica Bibimbap. Along with broccoli, rice, and sauce, it’s got tempeh, Brussels sprouts, carrot, cabbage (red AND green), daikon, fresh ginger, and sesame seeds. So yeah, that’s what this book does differently. It packs a nutritional super-punch… and it tastes just as good.
Colorful Roasted Potatoes with Apple
Regular old roasted potatoes are revamped with sweet potatoes and apple. Greasy potato latkes get a makeover with Brussels sprouts as the main star. Cookies get packed with carrots and sunflower seeds, while brownies are filled with beans. If you’re looking to add more whole foods to your diet, this book really shows you how.
Speaking of those Brussels sprouts latkes, I know your mind is going crazy at the thought of them. Fear not, here’s the recipe so you can go make them, pronto! A word of wisdom though, the recipe makes a lot more tofu sour cream than you will probably end up needing (at least it did for me), so just be warned (or adjust accordingly).
BRUSSELS SPROUT LATKES WITH TOFU “SOUR CREAM”
Serves 4-6 | gluten-free option | Prep: 15 mins | Cook: 15 mins
- 2 cups (180 g) shredded Brussels sprouts
- ½ onion, thinly sliced
- 1 medium potato, grated
- 2 chia eggs (see below)
- ¼ cup (30 g) all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)
- pinch of paprika
- fresh chives, chopped
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- a little oil, for frying
For the Tofu “Sour Cream”:
- 1 x 12 oz (350 g) package firm silken tofu
- 2 tablespoons umeboshi vinegar
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- ½ tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
To make chia eggs, mix 2 tablespoons of whole or ground chia seed with 6 tablespoons of water and let it sit for 5 minutes. The mixture will gel and become a bit gloopy, like a raw egg. Stir again and the “egg” is ready for use. It’s best used in baked goods.
1. In a medium bowl, mix together the Brussels sprouts, onion, and potato. Add the chia eggs and toss to combine.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, paprika, and a little sea salt and pepper. Sprinkle this over the vegetable mixture and fold in to create a thick batter.
3. Heat a little oil in a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Scoop out 1.4 cup (60 ml) of batter and place in the oil, flattening it with the back of a spatula. Repeat with three more scoops to fill the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown, then flip and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes until the underside is also golden brown. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and then repeat with the remaining batter. If not serving immediately, keep warm in the oven at 250°F (120°C).
4. For the tofu “sour cream”, place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Alternatively, a hand-held immersion blender can be used. Any leftover cream can be stored for up to five days in the fridge.
5. To serve, top the latkes with a dollop of cream and a sprinkle of chives.
Recipe from Superfoods 24/7: More than 100 Easy and Inspired Recipes to Enjoy the World’s Most Nutritious Foods at Every Meal, Every Day © Quantum Publishing, 2015. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.
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 this book really does make superfoods super filling and super delicious. No powdered banana peel included.
I’m not into new years resolutions. They tend to imply that you’re not doing something good enough, and you’ve got to do better. You’re not good enough as you are, and the new year is your time to make note of all the little things you’re doing wrong in your life. You don’t eat enough salad, don’t go to the gym enough, and definitely don’t fit into those jeans you somehow used to consider your “fat jeans,” but now you’d kill to wear them. How dare you let yourself get like this. Fix it, now. You’ll be so much happier once you do.
For that, I’ve got two words. The first starts with F, and the second rhymes with bat.
After a lifetime of being dissatisfied with myself and never feeling like I was good enough, I finally reached a point a few years ago where I’m content with myself and just don’t give a $&%^. Finally. It’s amazing! It’s a wonderful outlook on life that doesn’t revolve around what size I’m wearing, or how much weight I’ve gained. I think I can credit this to two things. The first is eating a vegan diet, which has given me the best relationship with food that I’ve ever had. And second, becoming a mother, has shown me that I just don’t have enough energy or time in the day to worry about such trivial things. That’s not to say I don’t want to lose weight or eat healthy, or that I shouldn’t try to do some things in my life better, but I don’t need a new year to kickstart any of it. The new year is just another new day, and we get new days every 24 hours. 365 chances every year to start doing things differently.
That said, I love the reset button the new year brings for what I like to call “food projects.” These are my own personal resolutions and aren’t based on things I’m doing “wrong,” but are things I’d like to do and eat this year.
2015 brought new foods like leeks, sunchokes, and lotus root to my table.
Last year, I vowed to cook with a new-to-me food each week. Sometimes I missed a week and made it up the following, but as the clock struck midnight and 2015 waved goodbye, I had 52 whole new foods under my belt for the year. It was a wonderful project that forced me to try new things, and some of my favorite foods came from this experiment. I’m not sure I ever would have tried them otherwise. I tried new fruits like oro blanco and starfruit, and ate crazy roots like celeriac, taro, and sunchokes. Some things I liked more than others, and some things I didn’t really like at all. There was nothing that I would swear off forever though. Anything I didn’t like, I just need to try again a different way.
In 2016, my food projects will be a bit more flexible, and you can call them resolutions if you must. They include:
- Cook on my own more, as in not from recipes. I prefer to cook from recipes, but I’d like to experiment with things myself. With The Vegetarian Flavor Bible as my guide, I feel more confident about making things up.
- Learn to make my own bread. I meant to do this last year, and while I did make some things like English muffins and naan, I want to make my own delicious rye loaves. And sourdough. My husband got on a sourdough kick a few years back. Maybe we can do this one together.
- Eat more fruit. Okay, that really sounds like a resolution, I’ll give you that. Truth is, though I love it, I don’t eat much of it. My daughter eats a big bowl of berries for breakfast every morning, and snacks on oranges, apples, grapes, and anything other kind of fruit we have, but I don’t follow suit. And why not? I usually skip breakfast during the week, and this year I’d like to replace the skipped breakfast with fruit more often. It’s fast and easy, and there’s really no reason not to.
- Speaking of my kid… this year I hope to get her to eat more things. I’m so glad she loves fruit, because she’s not really interested in eating anything else healthy. I mean, she’s only two, but she’d live off of fruit, cookies, and macaroni if I’d let her. Rather than continuing to focus on everything she doesn’t eat, a couple months ago I made a list of all things she does, and it made me realize maybe we aren’t doing so bad after all. It’s small, but mighty. She loves fruit, peas (in macaroni), hummus, tofu, olives, peanut butter, and avocado. That’s not so bad! I can definitely work with that. I introduced carrots into her Mac n’ Peas and she ate them, so there’s that! I just have to remember to introduce more things and widen her horizons in 2016.
- Learning cooking technique from Rouxbe’s online cooking school. While I cook a lot, I actually don’t really know anything about proper techniques (like, at all) and I’ve signed myself up for Rouxbe. Not the crazy expensive plant-based certification you’ve maybe heard about, just access to their videos (which costs $150 dollars, and then $5/month after that). They even have a plant-based course within that that. I will admit to fairly recently Googling what exactly a simmer was. And I just learned how to properly cut an onion this past year. I don’t know how to sharpen a knife. I can’t make rice for the life of me. I’m so excited to learn how to actually cook.
- And last, this year I am so excited to get my garden going again. I’ve had a pretty pathetic excuse for one the past few years (I blame having a child). This year, we’re planning to move the beds to just outside the back door, so they are not out of sight and out of mind like they have been the past few years.
With those goals in mind, I’m so excited for the food adventures that are coming in 2016! It’s bound to be another great year of food!
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