Monday, 14 April 2014

Book Review - Thrive Energy Cookbook


This is a big book for 150 recipes - it is chock full of pictures (general food items, the recipes and Brendan Brazier being athletic), and very bright and colourful. The theory is recipes for "high net energy gain" where the foods provide the most nutrition and energy for your calorific buck, after the energy to digest the food has been spent. Because the author is a high- achieving athlete a lot of the recipes do focus on the needs of athletes. Nothing wrong with that - and the recipes are suitable for all.

The introductory chapters look at the theory behind the style of eating and ingredients common to the recipes. It is interesting reading. The recipes are labelled with codes for those which are for Transition, Raw, Gluten-Free, Protein-Rich, or Super Nutrient-Dense, so you can choose ones which best suit your needs. There is a chapter for "Basic" recipes which are used as ingredients in other recipes. I'd actually like to see more recipes in this chapter (such as those under the Multi-Use Staples sub chapter in Appetizers) as with the recipes I made there were quite a few other recipes needed to have been made first. Otherwise I found the recipe chapter groupings logical and easy to follow. The recipes are laid out one to a page and give indications of times required, and equipment needed.

The recipes I made -
Page 67 - Falafel Patties
Tasty. Held together quite well. I served with Salad instead of stuffed in a pita.

Page 74 - Roasted Garlic Tahini Sauce
First I made the Roasted Garlic on page 64. Easy to make once that was done. Tasted great but was much better (intensely garlic) after a couple of days in the fridge.

Page 76 - Pad Thai Sauce
Nice nut butter sauce but not really pad Thai. I made up my own stir fry noodle and vege dish to use this instead of using the pad Thai recipe in the book. Tasted good, though I did add a bunch of Sriracha to mine.

Page 109 - Coconut, Lemongrass and Lime Soup
Lovely broth. However the other ingredients tended to sink to the bottom.

Page 117 - Roasted Red Pepper and Sweet Potato Soup
Rich and creamy this was a lovely soup. Warming and comforting.

Page 136 - Ginger, Lemongrass and Peanut Salad
Firstly I had to make the Asian Julienned Vege Mix Page 136, and the Ginger and Lemongrass Vinaigrette Page 146. However I fudged it a little and just used what I had as I didn't have all the ingredients for this Asian mix. I did not use the tempeh, but still enjoyed the salad.

Not too keen on all the recipes calling for the Wildwood Garlic Aioli. Would prefer to have options for make it yourself. Granted these are all marked as "transition" recipes, but this is not something I have seen in my local stores and I didn't feel like searching for it.

Apparently in the US this book has an alternate cover so you may see it looking like this -

Monday, 7 April 2014

Book review - Mayim's Vegan Table

I must say I love the apron Mayim is wearing on the cover of this book. In a funny twist that happens sometimes it is made from the same material chosen (and used) by the designer for Vegan al Fresco. Follow the link to see! Great taste all round maybe?

This is a nice sized book - there is a picture insert illustrating a number of the recipes - and lots of introductory information (4 chapters) so would be a good resource for new vegans and vegan curious folks. The intro chapters look at everything from stocking pantries, to meal and menu tips, to nutritional information, so even if you're a longer term vegan you may find something of interest.

The recipes are laid out mainly one to a page, and the use of two colours and italics in the text provides visual interest without being too busy. the recipes are easy to read and follow. There are a number of tips for substitutions given on some recipes as well. There are recipes from Mayim, her co-author (and nutritional expert) Dr jay Gordon, as well as some donated by the photographer and other friends. The recipes I made -

Page 100 - Dilled Chickpea Burgers
These were very nice. They held there shape well too which sometimes is an issue with chickpea burgers and were nice alongside salad and the sauce.

Page 109 - Brussels Sprouts Chips
Yum. Really Yum. More roasted leaves of Brussels than chips I'd eat cold, and really time consuming to peel the sprouts but so very tasty!

Page 110 - Guacamole
Apparently this is even better than the Guac I usually make. According to the 9 year old!

Page 120 - Hummus
Very simple basic hummus recipe. Quite thick so I did add some water for a thinner consistency.

Page 144 - Winter Vegetable Risotto
Very nice, even without the Mirin (or wine). Would have been better had I remembered to get the wine!

Page 152 - Veggie Chili
I didn't add the kale but it was very good without it. I thought I'd snuck the zucchini past the picky eater until I saw the wee pile left on her plate!

Recommended? I'm not one to buy into stuff just because a celebrity endorses it, so I almost like this book in spite of it being written by a TV person. There are lots of real food for real folks type recipes which appeal.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Book Review - Jazzy Vegetarian Classics

I made the recipes from this book the week before Spring Break - and we did go away for the break which is why I didn't get to writing this up until now. We had a fun break - though there was snow on a lot of the passes over the mountains to the BC interior, and we got caught in a good few snowfalls! Anyway - to the book!

This is a substantial hardcover book - filled with lovely photos, including a lot of the author, but the ones she are in is with the food, which remains the focus. Unlike in some other books I have her presence is an addition to not a distraction from what I feel should be the focus (presenting the food!).

All the recipes in the book are in fact vegan - which is a little confusing as while the sub-title references this the actual title does not. Vegans skimming though the book store or online sites may pass this by because of it. I would have done.

The introductory chapter is a good run through ingredients used, herbs and spices, and other kitchen tips. All nice to have. The actual recipe chapters are logical groupings, the recipes are mostly one to a page, use of colour is enough to differentiate the recipes from each other but not overly busy. There are hints and notes on many recipes, and they are simple enough to read and follow. I like the quotes from famous and historically important vegetarians and musicians smattered throughout the book, and the section where jazz music suggestions are given for menus is a cute touch. Not sure I'm too keen on the book having commercial companies as sponsors.

The recipes I made -
Page 47 - Peanut Sauce
Very simple sauce, quite spicy, and tasty.

Page 52 - Caesar Salad Dressing
Didn't like this version of a Caesar dressing. I feel regular tofu is the wrong texture and taste - the dressing was very tofu like in flavour. Would not use this recipe again.

Page 57 - Cashew Parmesan
Nice - though I'd have preferred a little nutritional yeast added for a more cheesy-like finish.

Page 67 - Aioli Dip
Very nice, super mellow garlic flavour which was really good.

Page 111 - Creamy Cauliflower Bisque
Super simple, yet creamy and very tasty. Soup for making you want more soup! Serving size as written is very small so make a double amount.

Page 120 - Caesar Salad
See dressing above - so not the best I've had.

Page 171 - Savory Mushroom Stroganoff
OK but not as rich a creamy as I was expecting.

Page 174 - Oven Baked Two Bean Chili
Genius. Very tasty, very easy, and mostly hands off - perfect for a busy person who does 17 things at once - dinner takes care of itself!

Page 202 - Broccoli with Lemon Sauce
OK - a nice simple way to jazz up your broccoli (excuse the wee pun)

Page 211 - Paprika Roasted Cauliflower
Very nice. Addition of the onion a nice touch and tasty too.

Page 213 - Paprika and Rosemary Roasted Red Potatoes
Simple, savoury and tasty. Nice potatoes.

I must admit to have never having heard of Laura Theodore - either as a Jazz singer, TV show host, or vegan chef prior to receiving this book but I may have to have a look at her previous book after this!


Monday, 10 March 2014

Book Review - The New Chicago Diner Cookbook

Before I start into the review I must really apologise for the length of time since my last post. Excuses to follow! Firstly, we've all been sick - one at a time - so I have been busy getting us all healthy, as well as working pretty much full time at a paid job, and part time at a volunteer one, as well as getting all the stuff ready for the publication and launch of Vegan al Fresco. All I can do is try better from now on!

On to the review -

Never having been to Chicago (one day!) I have not eaten at the Chicago Diner so have no pre-conceived ideas about the food, not any favourites I was wanting to try at home. I selected the recipes by what appealed to me as I flipped through. On the whole I may good choices!

The book itself is medium sized, nicely laid out with clean, clear text and a good smattering of full colour photographs, illustrating both the recipes and the restaurant. There is a nice introductory section covering the story behind the restaurant and the players involved, a quick look at tools and ingredients, and the first chapter is those "basic" recipes utilised in other recipes in the book. The recipes are grouped logically into the chapters and those chapters are themselves logically ordered. It is an attractive, enticing book.

The recipes I made -
Page 70 - Simple Kale Salad
Nice, and simple. A little heavy on the red onion, but I should have known that as I was chopping it and just added less! Tahini Dressing that goes with it is lovely, creamy and smooth and rich. I would be happy to eat the dressing on anything!

Page 73 - Chicago Diner Vegan Ranch Dressing
This was nice. Tangy, herby and tasty!~

Page 74 - Tempeh Caesar Salad.
I didn't use Tempeh, but added some avocado to the salad. I enjoyed this - the dressing especially. Garlic-y and very more-ish.

Page 76 - Southwest Spice Dressing
Spicy, a little heated and very tasty. I didn't make the salad it "goes with" but enjoyed with just mixed greens. I imagine it would be better with the flavours of the actual taco Salad.

Page 97 - Curried Cauliflower Soup
Nice flavours, but not as thick and hearty as I was expecting from description. A little bit of a let down. Would make again with less liquid.

Page 102 - Gluten-Free Black Bean Burgers
Fail. I made this twice. The first time the mixture burnt when cooking for the time specified with the liquid specified and then the next time I added more liquid so it wouldn't burn and ended up with sloppy burgers which didn't form nice patties. From what I tasted the flavours were there but I didn't really enjoy them either time - and felt a bit cross to have wasted all the ingredients.

Page 140 - Fettuccine with Cashew Alfredo
This was tasty. Similar to recipes I've had in the past, but very nice sauce. Easy to eats lots of!

Recommended? If you're a fan of the restaurant and want to re-create the food at home then I'll think you'll like this. If, like me, you've never been there this is a nice introduction. (Even with the burger fail!)

Monday, 27 January 2014

Book Review - Isa Does it!

This is a hefty book, hard covered and packed with all sorts of recipes. It is very pretty, with a lot of colour used - the pages are all different coloured which I like, but it does make it quite busy on the eye when you're reading through. There are lots of artfully arranged colour photos of the recipes, and cute hand drawn illustrations. The recipes are all one to a page, logically grouped into chapters, humorously (yet relevantly) introduced, and easy to follow. I'd expected as much! My only negative about the layout etc would be that the font is very small in places and my "old-lady-eyes" have a little trouble. There is a lot of information in each recipe and on all the pages so I imagine the font has had to be small to fit everything in.

The introductory sections explain the theme of the recipes (easy to make, easy to find ingredients, and as quick as possible while still being tasty), look at equipment, ingredients, and swapping for allergens, as well as how to be organised while cooking and a pictorial guide to cutting tofu. This last one is interesting, as describing how to get the shapes needed is not always easy - but I'm not entirely convinced it is necessary. There is a lot of good, and relevant, information int he introduction and you should read it so you're aligned with whats going to follow.

The recipes I tried -
Page 46 Roasted Potato and Fennel Soup
I love fennel, and this soup was lovely. I left it quite chunky, and it really was a meal in a bowl. Thickened overnight so I had to thin with water the next day.

Page 85 Falafel Burgers
This one is a little more time consuming and you really have to start it the next day. It does take longer than the time stated but it is worth it, as we both enjoyed this recipe a lot. It was a little crumbly for me so I added some water to help it hold together. Most likely from my using GF breadcrumbs.

Page 110 Ancho-Lentil Tacos
H enjoyed this more than I did. I found the spices a little harsh and in need of some balance when eaten by itself. I found this less so once the guacamole and other fixings where included. It may also have been my spices. Worth making.

Page 142 White Wine Risotto
OK, but not our favourite. We both found it to be a little on the sour side - there is lots of wine, and then lemon juice too. May have been the wine I was cooking with. I also found the finished risotto too loose for my preference so I cooked for longer, and then my rice was over done. This is just a preference thing and not the recipe! Second day I reheated and added a bunch of nutritional yeast and found I enjoyed it more.

Page 179 Everyday Pad Thai
Tasty. Though I'm not convinced broccoli belongs in pad thai. Will make the sauce and noodles part again for sure.

Page 192 Miso Tahini Dressing
Only make the sauce part of this recipe, but it was very good. A little salty (from the miso) but tasty. Very simple too.

Page 201 Hummus
Only made the hummus not the rest. Nice version with the olives added, so not your traditional.

Page 216 Chandra Malai Kofta
Loved the sauce - rich and mild but very tasty. The kofta balls were also good, but my favourite part was the sauce.

Page 233 Pepes Secret Guacamole
Very nice. Interesting with the orange juice not lime. My little guacamole lover liked it so a winner all over.

Recommended? For sure. There are lots more recipes in the book which I would have liked to have tried. Have you tried any from this one? any favourites?