Monday, 27 February 2012

Book Review - Everyday Happy Herbivore

I made loads of recipes from this book, mainly because they were all so very simple to throw together, and apart from one, all the ingredients could be found in my local store (I touch on the one when I run through the recipes I made). This is very much geared for the home cook - even those with very little experience. The book itself is a nice sized paperback, with many photos of the recipes (for those of you who like that!) - not every recipe, but most. I like the introduction section listing the pantry staples for making the recipes, always handy to have.

I must say that this is not how I usually cook - low-fat or fat-free, while I have flirted with doing so in the past. I found, on the whole, that I didn't miss any added oil, but in some instances felt something was missing from the finished dish - I felt a little unsatisfied and wanted something more. Now whether this is because the body needs time to adjust to eating fat-free and I'm just writing a review after a week, or if its due to maybe needing a spice tweak for my tastes, or a serving size tweak for me, or some thing completely different I can't really say. I'll note on the individual recipe comments where I felt this way.

And speaking of serving sizes I found there was a discrepancy in some instance which was confusing. For example, the Smoked Cauliflower Soup (p97) "serves 1" and makes enough for easily 2 appetizer servings (for us), whereas the Jalapeno-Butternut Soup (p110) "serves 2" and makes substantially less (maybe 1/2 an appetizer serving for us). Maybe a typo?

As for the recipes - on the whole they are easy to follow, being very simple with no complicated or involved steps. I would have liked to have seen cup measurements as well where can sizes are used as these vary from place to place, and it would have been helpful to give guidelines on quantities of vegetables when only measurements are given (1 tbsp minced Garlic - is that 1 clove?). Nit picking really, but this would have been helpful.

The recipes I made - in page number order -

P23 - Granola Bars

One of the ones which I felt strangely unsatisfying. They were OK but didn't really do it for me, and the kids weren't keen. Nothing wrong with the recipe - it works fine, just personal taste.

P32 - Spinach and Artichoke Frittata

Recipe works fine. This one was OK. I'd have preferred the artichokes to be cut into smaller pieces which is an easy fix.. I think I liked this one better cold that hot. (good for breakfast the next day! )

P83 - Masala Burgers

Little bit dry, and a little bit crumbly but tasted good. I did adjust the spices to taste where the recipe suggests.

P97 - Smoked Cauliflower Soup

See comment above re serving size. This one was luscious. Smooth, and creamy and a little frothy - really enjoyed this one and ate the lot.

P101 - Moroccan Lentil Soup

Enjoyed this one too, though the combination of spices where a little harsh (not sure if that is the right word - maybe intense?) for my tastes.

P106 - Ethiopian Chickpea Stew

Nice. Enjoyed this one.

P107 - Cheater G-Nut Stew

More of a soup in texture at first, then as it stands it thickens. I enjoyed this a lot - more than I thought I would by looking at the simple ingredients list.

P110 - Jalapeno-Butternut Soup

See comment above re serving size. Lovely soup, though very unsatisfying as it made so little! I wanted much more.

P126 - Balsamic Dijon Vinaigrette

Overly mustard-y for my tastes. Easy fix.

P127 - Italian Dressing

Nice, simple, basic.

P128 - Caesar Dressing

Doesn't taste exactly as I remember Caesar Dressing tasting (but it has been a while!) but nice enough, and good as a dipping sauce for roast veggies and over rice too!

P130 - Thai Peanut Sauce

I served this over rice and broccoli - it didn't "serve 4" in this way! I love peanut sauce and really enjoyed this one too.

L-R Pumpkin Cauliflower Curry, Gobi Palak, Chana Saag

P146 - Cauliflower-Pumpkin Curry

The least favorite of the dishes I made for my Indian Feast (see photo). I made the roasted version, and was glad I did as I think the lovely nutty roast cauli was what I did enjoy about it. I think the spice balance was wrong for my tastes.

P147 - Gobi Palak

Liked this one as part of the Indian Feast (see Photo). Nice with plain brown rice.

P149 - Chana Saag

3rd dish in the Indian Feast Photo. I ran out of fresh spinach so used frozen which had been thawed. Worked fine. Maybe not as fresh tasting as it would have been, but I did like this (I do love me some chickpeas)

P168 - Curried Rice

Photo with Ethiopian Chickpea Stew above. This was fine. The spices a little harsh again, personal taste, right.

P187 - "Crab" Cakes

This is the recipe I didn't have joy with ingredient finding. I couldn't find the Old Bay Seasoning (has anyone in Canada access to this?) and didn't want to go the the HFS for kelp powder so ground up so Nori sheets and added some dill (which too me says seafood). Nice enough but never really got crispy as stated.

P208 - Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce

Perfectly easy and edible.

P232 - Harvest Home Fries

Not so keen on these, they were OK but seemed to be missing something. and it makes A LOT! Says "serves 2" but as a side it was more like 4. Nice with the Caesar Dressing!

P261 - Carrot Cake Rice Pudding

This was another I was left feeling unsatisfied by. The recipe worked fine, but I guess this one isn't for me.

P267 - Masala Mayo and P271 - Remoulade

No issues. Though I did use storebought mayo (and where-ever this was called for)

Would I cook from this again? In all honesty - Maybe. If I decide to return to eating low-fat or fat-free for whatever reason then I would be more inclined to do so. I'll keep this as a reference and think it will be one I'd loan out if I was ever asked about eating a low-fat vegan diet - which sometimes happens. If low-fat / fat-free is your thing then I imagine you'll already have a copy?

Thursday, 23 February 2012

This week I'm cooking from....

(photo from Amazon)
Review to folllow next Monday or Tuesday so watch this space!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Book Review - Vegan Junk Food

Vegan Junk Food by Lane Gold

Firstly, this book is small and square, with 2 colour pages. I like having books of differing shapes and sizes on my shelves, so find this one quite cute. There are lovely bright pictures of the food on the cover, and in the picture insert (same ones unfortunately) but they do accurately represent the food in the book (as far as I can tell).

There is not much by way of an introduction, however, what there is discusses the "junk" ingredients used in the recipes. After reading this, and I'm sure the title would have been a hint, you know for sure this is not a whole foods based healthy vegan cook book!

The title is a little of a misnomer though, as the subtitle is "225 sinful snacks that are good for the soul" as while there are lots and lots of decidedly "junky" snack food options, there are also recipes for more meal type dishes, and ones which, while using processed items in some way, are more than just "junk". Don't write the book of entirely, unless you are specifically looking for whole foods based healthy vegan food. I was pleasantly surprised at some of the recipes and would not necessarily consider them "junk" - occasional meals/foods for sure, but not entirely without merit.

The recipes I made, in page number order, and my comments -

P 3 - Red Pepper, Caramelised Onion, and Hash Brown Quiche.

Of course the first recipe up is my least favorite! I think there may be a typo in this one. The instructions ask you to "pour" the mixture after blending and I had to scrape and spread, so maybe a liquid ingredient is missing. (??) The end result was less like a quiche and more like a tofu crusted potato casserole. It was nice enough taste wise, just the texture was disappointing.

P17 - Oatmeal Brulee with Vanilla Cream Sauce

I had this one for dessert, even though it is in the breakfast section. Very sweet - totally yummy, but I would be on a sugar high all morning if I had this for breakfast! Very easy to make.

P37 - Chicken Salad with Walnuts, Apples, and Celery

I had this as a salad, on a bed of greens, though I am sure it would be very nice in a sandwich as specified. I liked this one, though would use less salt next time for my tastes. I can't say if it is like a "real" chicken salad as it is not something I've had for 20 years or so!

P63 - Savory Twice Baked Potatoes

The quantities here were a little off - I used 4 potatoes as specified but only needed 1/2 the rest of the ingredients to get a perfect result (my error as I'd only meant to stuff 2 of the potatoes I baked but did them all and it was perfect). And this was perfect - lovely and savory and more-ish. Not your plain old healthy baked potato, but really good.

P71 - Takeout Orange Tofu

Another one with the quantities a little off. As written this made SO much sauce - far too much for the amount of tofu, and I found it didn't thicken as indicated. But, this was really, really, really good so I am willing to over look the sauce issue and have made a note for myself to make less, and thicken more, next time.

P72 - Takeout Fried Rice

In picture above. Quick, simple, tasty.

P101 - Falafel with Tahini Dip

Enjoyed this one immensely (but if you are a frequent reader you'll know all about my chickpea love affair) though would up the spices a little for my tastes next time. Very easy to make.

P116 - Tofu Satay

I didn't make the dipping sauce just ate this as is over brown rice. Very nice, very flavorful, and hardly junk at all!

P120 - Vegan Sour Cream

Nice handy recipe to have. Tastes pretty much like sour cream.

P123 - Spicy Peanut Sauce

I love all peanut sauce. This one was good, but I would say that as I love all peanut sauce!

P137 - Cheesy and Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

See the comment above about chickpea love! Though if you're not a nutritional yeast fan this one may not be for you.

P139 - Cheesy Kale Chips

Ditto here re the nutritional yeast. Simple and tasty.

P141 - Easy Candied Almonds

Though I used mixed nuts being out of almonds.

P157 - Coconut Creme Brulee

Though I would call this one Panacotta as the texture reminds me more of that than creme brulee. I made this one twice. I did share, even though I didn't really want to! Its a very easy recipe and very quick so I can see myself making it very often - far too often perhaps!

There are more recipes in this one which intrigue me so I will revisit -and unless you look for only whole foods based healthy vegan recipes suggest you might like to too.

Thanks to The Experiment!

Looking for a vegan Slow Cooker recipe and having trouble waiting until the release of Vegan Slow Cooking? Check out this awesome recipe which unfortunately didn't make the book!
Happy Meatless Monday!

(I'll be back later with my Monday book review post....)

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Starbucks Blonde Roast Coffee

(picture from Starbucks website)

I was given a sample of the Veranda Blend in this new lighter roast line from the Batista at my local Starbucks the other day. I must say I was impressed. I loved the smooth mellow taste, and easy drink-ability of this coffee. I think I shall have to try the Willow Blend in this line - especially as it comes in Decaf and I'm not usually one for caffeine (I like my sleep too much!).

Have you tried this new coffee? what did you think?

Thursday, 16 February 2012

This week I'm cooking from ....

Vegan Junk Food by Lane Gold.

Look for the review next Monday or Tuesday!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Book Review - Peas and Thank You

I must start this review with an apology, or two. Firstly, I had meant to have this up yesterday but life got in the way so I am late this week, and secondly I didn't take many (read, only one!)photos this week, laziness or forgetfulness to blame.

On to my thoughts. In this book, Sarah Matheny (aka Mama Pea) gives us a whole range of family friendly, easy to make recipes which use simple steps and ingredients you can find anywhere. Hooray! She wraps it all up in a cutesy package (maybe too cutesy for some?) using a play on words with the "pea" theme. Layout and chapter breakdown is easy to follow and makes sense.

If you've read my reviews before you know I am a fan of being able to read cookbooks - preferring those with introductory sections and chapter headings more than just a sentence or two - but I think this book may have gone a little too far the other way for me. (and that is something I thought I would never say!) The introductory sections I like and find informative, and give me enough personal information to feel a kinship to Mama Pea. I don't really need more than anecdotal stories, and food descriptions in the recipe headers and I feel some (by no means all) of these are overly long, and overly personal. This doesn't stop me from enjoying the recipes so don't let it put you off either! Who knows, you may enjoy reading the stories.

The book is loaded with pictures, and as I have said in previous reviews I'm neither here nor there about lots of pictures as I can visual a finished dish, but I know some folks prefer a visual reference. In this instance I think the photo lovers will rejoice, though like me, you may find there are maybe a few too many family photos and not enough of just the food.

This book also has Nutrition Info for each recipe which I know some people really appreciate!

On to the recipes I made, again in page number order -

Page 17 - Mini Tofu Frittatas

Yum. I love olives so these were right up my street. I liked them hot and cold, though found if you let them stand for 10 minutes or so the texture improved and they didn't fall apart as much. Wish I'd made more so I could have had them the next day too.

Page 41 - Baked Oatmeal Squares

Hot out of the oven I thought these were just OK, but once cooled and spread with a little jam I could have scarfed a whole batch.

Page 61 - Lemon Lentil Soup

Perfect. Simple and delicious. Genius even.

Page 83 - Thai Crunch Salad

Nice, though I'd leave off the edamame next time. Somehow they don't do "thai" for me.

Page 107 - Pumpkin Spice Roasted Chickpeas

I've made roasted chickpeas lots, but never with sweet spices. I am as yet undecided about this one - part of me wants to stalk Mama Pea so I can tell her she is a genius, (leaning this way overall) and the other part of me thinks its a little weird. Weird and genius together maybe? What ever it is I must have enjoyed these as they didn't last long at all!

Page 120 - Yogi Guacamole

Oh, yummy! The beans don't add flavor so much as a creamy texture. Will make this one over and over for sure!

Page 122 - Ginger Almond Dressing

Used on the Thai Crunch Salad, and also nice over steamed broccoli. I did add a healthy squirt of Sriracha the second time for a bit of bite.

Page 142 - Homestyle Spaghetti Sauce

Simple, quick, honest tomato sauce. Nothing fancy, but good.

Page 143 - Mediterranean Lentil Balls

Nice. Nothing spectacular, but a good solid dinner.

Page 163 - Teriyaki Tofu

My least favorite of the recipes I tried. Personal preference at work - you may really enjoy this one. Next time I'll dice the tofu for marinating and cooking, and will add a little lime juice to the marinade.

Will I use this book again - yes! I feel there are unexplored potential treasures I'd like to find, and I have yet to make a dessert, and I really have to give those chickpeas another go! Maybe I'll be stalking Mama Pea yet!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

This week I am cooking from....

Peas and Thank you
by Sarah Matheny

Watch for the review early next week!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Book Review - Vegan Family Meals

This book is a hardcover, which I know some folks really like, I'm not fussed either way to be honest, but it does help the book stay open when you're cooking from it so that is a nice bonus.

The layout is pretty easy to follow with full colour pages and lots of photos (for those of you who like that sort of thing you can't go wrong with this one). There are lots of text boxes interspersed with handy hints for everything from cutting vegetables to making your own almond milk. Some of these I found to be in illogical places, but as they are not meant to be read in the flow of the book this is just a little nit-picking on my behalf. Chapter and recipe introductions are friendly and chatty, but not overly involved or long. They give a backstory but are still focused on the food at hand, nicely balanced I think.

So, what did I cook from this book? In page number order (as usual)...

Page 5 -Super Hippie Granola

Would you believe this was only the second ever time I'd made my own Granola? I found this one a little too sweet. Nice and tasty, but a little too much for me.

Page 34 - Blueberry Corn Pancakes

Yum. Though a little dry - perfect for that drizzle of Maple Syrup. They also weren't too sweet so you could have the syrup with them and not be overwhelmed.

Page 48 - Tahini Vegetable Spread

Too salty for me as written. Nice, but I would maybe use less miso next time.

Page 59 - Baked Kale Chips

Again overly salty for my tastes, but really good. (First time for me making Kale Chips!!) Less salt next time is an easy fix.Page 83 - Cashew Cream

Used in the Fennel Soup - nice, though my Food Processor really needs replacing as it took forever to get smooth.

Page 84 - Split Pea Soup with Root Vegetables

For me, as written, this was too thick - more like a dal (see photo) though I did thin with water to serve as a soup it made a lovely dal too!!

Page 87 - Fennel and Roast Garlic Soup with Walnut-Basil Pesto

The pesto by itself was too salty for me, but mixed into the soup the result was lovely. Luscious and aromatic,, silky and smooth. I do love me some fennel and roast garlic!

Page 94 - Yucatan Yam Picante

Mine was nowhere near the beautiful colour in the picture in the book! Tasty and warming so this can be forgiven. Nice soup.

Page 112/113 - Southwestern Salad with Chipotle Ranch Dressing and Agave-Chili Tortilla Strips.

The name is a filing mouthful, and so is the salad. This one was a hit!

Page 156/157 - Lentil Loaf with Savory Gluten Free Gravy

Nice combination. I liked the loaf best the next day, panfried and smothered in leftover gravy! My gravy never thickened as stated so I had too resort to a slurry. No biggie there.

Page 175 - Kung Pao Tofu and Vegetables

Nice and simple. Tastier than I thought it would be.

Page 190 - Cool French Lentil and Fennel Salad

Confession time - I used Green Lentils as I couldn't find French in my local stores. Would have been better with French but perfectly delicious with green!

Page 231 - Coconut Rice Pudding

I usually eat rice pudding hot so this cold one was a nice change. Little on the sweet side for me, but still yum.

Would I recommend this one? Yes, I did like this book, and think I will find myself using it again, with seasoning adjustments.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

This week I am cooking from......

Vegan Family Meals

by Ann Gentry.

I'l be reviewing this one next week, soo watch out for that.

If you have a vegan cookbook you'd like me to review, then by all means send me an email!