Monday, 30 April 2012

Book Review - The Inspired Vegan

Bryant Terry has written a wonderful book. It is more than a cookbook, it feels like a reference to his life. As such parts of it have a depth which seems quite personal, and you feel the love he has for what he is doing, and sharing with the world.
The book is structured by meals, with each meal (banquet maybe would be a better term) having a number of dishes which work together to a theme. Bryant has included music and readings to accompany the theme which is where the depth is added. Unlike some books which group recipes by meals Bryant has also included a helpful list of recipes by more traditional "part of meal" at the start of the recipes section for easy reference and to allow mixing and matching to create your own meals (which is what I did). Basic recipes (those used in other recipes) are a section of their own too. Each chapter (meal) starts with an explanation of how the recipes came to be, and the meaning that they have in his life, and the lives of his family and friends; as I said before, a very personal touch. Some folks may not like this insight to his life, but I find it quite touching, as it is respectfully and tastefully done. There is an insert with delicious looking colour photos.
The recipes are creative, and a little out of the ordinary but very appealing. I would recommend this book for any foodie (vegan or otherwise) looking for something to expand what they usually do. The recipes are a little involved with multiple steps being made simultaneously, so may not suit a very beginner cook.
The recipes I made - in page number order....
Page 26 Plum Tomato Ketchup
Sweet, tart and a little bit spicy, this sauce is a bit of a party in your mouth. Easy to make and great on lots of things not just the potatoes as written (follows)

Page 42 Sparkling Rosemary-Grapefruit Water
I let my rosemary steep a little long so my water was very herbaceous. Very refreshing, and would make again.

Page 43 Paprika Peanuts
My husband ate most of these. I did use a combination of regular and smoked paprika, which was a nice flavour.

Page 47 Wilted Dandelion Greens with Hot Garlic Dressing and Garlic Chips
Though I used  Swiss chard as directed for a sub. Mine didn't really wilt too much, but was lovely and garlic-y!

Page 67 Aromatic Asparagus and Sweet Potato Curry
My sweet potato took longer than stated to cook tender, but it was worth the extra time, very nice.
Page 69 Saag Tofu
The tofu in this isn't as soft and creamy as I was expecting but did make a nice contrast to the soft and creamy spinach (oh yeah) which was super delicious.
Page 71 Yellow Basmati Rice
Picture above. Strange that the recipe is titled "basmati rice" but uses short grain. Tasty though.

Page 84 Bright-Black Fingerling Potatoes with Fresh Plum Tomato Ketchup
See above for the ketchup. These potatoes were really good! I should have made double. We would have eaten them.

Page 92 Funmilayo Fritters
A little dry (but nice with the Plum Tomato Ketchup in place of Harissa) but very tasty. Crisp outside which was lovely.
Page 97 Thiakry with Millet and Raisins
A little more liquid-y than I was expecting, but good.

Page 103 Crunchy Chopped Salad with Creamy Herb Dressing
Crunchy salad, yes. Creamy dressing, yes. Very nice.
Page 123 Mexican Chocolate Pudding with Agave-coated Pepitas
Too much cayenne for us for a dessert, however it was creamy and luscious and will make again without the cayenne!

Page 130 Creamy Chard Soup with Tostones
I love tostones. I loved the soup too. Not entirely sure the two were a perfect match, but I'd gladly eat the soup over and over. So simple but so good.
Page 134 Double Garlic Rice
If you like garlic (which I do) you'll like this simple way to infuse the rice with flavour (which I did).

Page 146 Molasses, Miso, and Maple Candied Sweet Potatoes
Sweet and salty combination which was well loved. Will make again for sure - maybe for Thanksgiving.

Page 166 Tofu with Peanuts Roasted in Chili Oil
Little bit plain, this one, I was expecting more ooomph.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

This week I'm cooking from....

Whatever have I been inspired to make?..... Watch next week for the review and reveal!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Book Review - Vegan Diner

This book has been out for a little while but I only just got a copy. I had taken it out of the local library a wee while back and put it on my "to get list" (do other folks have these?) as it looked like a book I would enjoy using. And it is.

There are a good selection of photos for those who like that sort of thing, the paper is high quality and shiny, with a recipe to a page. The recipes are easy to follow, clearly written with nice, not too long or chatty, introductions. Each chapter (which are logically organised) is full of lots of options, though the Main Courses chapter does use a lot of seitan. I think this is due to the subject matter and this being the best way to capture the true diner experience of the meal. The introduction and front sections (which I do like to see in a cookbook) are well written, informative, though not long.

All the recipes I tried were tasty, filling (pretty large portion sizes I thought), and on theme. Julie Hasson is an experienced cookbook author and knows how to put food together. I do recommend this book as a resource for comfort food recipes. The recipes I tried in page number order -

Page 31 Diner Granola

This didn;t form clumps of granola which I was hoping it would, as I do love the clumps, though was great with almond milk and dry as a snack.

Page 45 Breakfast Potatoes with Peppers and Onions

A little heavy on the pepper and onion, and light on the potato for my taste, but that one is an easy adjustment. Easy to make and a good side for dinner too.

Page 68 Old-Fashioned Tomato Soup

I really liked the smooth richness of this one, though H found the basil a little too pronounced for his taste.

Page 70 Quick and Hearty Chili

Lovely on its own, and great over nachos. Very simple to make and doesn;t get upset if you accidentally cook it for a lot longer than stated (my bad).

Page 82 Crispy Chickpea Onion Rings

Even though I neglected to use sparkling water (ooops) this still turned out well, and was happily eaten, though the batter wasn't as light and crisp as it would have been had I followed the recipe correctly!

Page 86 Sweetheart Fries

I can never get oven baked sweet potato fries crisp. These made up for that by being ever so tasty. They were sweet. but not in a bad way.

Page 88 Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I don't usually leave my sprouts whole to roast so this was a nice change. Very garlic-y so be warned.

Page 100 Quinoa Burgers

Held together well. My quinoa hater liked them!

Page 120 Home Style Loaf

I liked this better cold the next day, but I often do with loaves like this.

Page 129 Lotsa Chocolate Pudding

Rich, creamy, heavy and heavenly. I will make this again for sure.

Page 134 Old Fashioned Rice Pudding

Not too sweet so makes a fine dish for breakfast. I do prefer my rice pudding hot but this was nice and creamy so I enjoyed it fine cold.

Page 152 Very Vanilla Ice Cream

The experts (M&R + friends) agreed this was a very good vanilla icecream and I can make again any time.

Page 163 Creamy Ranch Dressing

Photo on salad in Quinoa Burger Pic. Fast and simple, tasted good.

Page 164 Creamy Tomato Dressing

Nice. Had over salad.

Page 166 Very Secret Sauce

Nice with the Burgers.

Page 168 Great Smoky Mountain Cheeze

Just like the smoked flavor of those little spreadable cheese triangles I had as a kid. Wonderful on crackers, as a dip for veggies, in a sandwich..... and very simple to make. Don't be scared off by the agar.

Page 176 Rich Brown Gravy

Not so brown but very rich and tasty. I enjoyed with the Loaf but H didn;t think it went too well because of the ketchup on top of the loaf(?).

Thursday, 19 April 2012

This week I'm cooking from....

Vegan Diner by Julie Hasson. Comfort food time.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Book Review - Main Street Vegan

So, this one isn't a cookbook, really. There are some recipes - 40, which is one per chapter illustrating the content of the chapter in food form - but many of these are contributed. I did make some (read, quite a few) of the recipes (how could I not) and my review of those follows as always. As this isn't a cookbook there are no pictures, nutritional information, or layout comments to be had, instead I'm going to speak in glowing terms of the content of the book as I really enjoyed this read.

Victoria Moran has written a book for anyone who has questions about what it means to be vegan in the real world, be you vegan already, or just vegan curious. What I see as the main message in the book, underlying all the information about what it is to be vegan, is that everyone can be vegan, there is no right or wrong way to approach this lifestyle, and that you should just do what you can, as you can, as funds, circumstance, and temperament allow. Real life, real time solutions and suggestions for everyone. The vegan information itself is given in a friendly, non-judgmental (and not overly scary for those who find animal cruelty information hard to read) way, which is easy to follow and assimilate. It makes you think, and at the same time to realise "I can do this" (if you're not doing it already).

There is a "whole foods for health" focus in the writing, but not to the exclusion of what the author knows is the real world where people eat all sorts of things all the time - whole foods are held to be the ideal to strive towards, but all the time Victoria stresses that all you need to do to be successful as a vegan (and to help our planet, your health, and the animals) is start by substituting non-animal products from the animal ones you currently eat (if any) and taking it from there.

The book does have a North American focus, being as that is where the author lives, so where it gives products and the like in the appendices these are ones commonly found over the continent. Alot of the resources are Internet based (as is a lot these days) so I don't feel this should put anyone in other parts of the world off, you may just have to investigate brand names in your part of the world.

Now the recipes I tried - in page number order, and with contributor noted if not Victoria's recipe.

Page 50 - Neat Loaf

From "The Peaceful Palate" by Jennifer Raymond.

I did make a substitution as I had no wheat germ. Very tasty, if a little inclined to crumble, good hot and cold with lovely little bits of crunch from the nuts.

Page 80 - Cheapish Chili

Really enjoyed by my husband ("best chili we've had for ages") though I was a little ho-hum about it. Easy to make and I used TVP instead of the commercial ground round.

Page 146 All Hail the Kale Salad

From "By any Greens Necessary" by Tracye Lynn McQuirter

I do like kale salad. This one is strong on the onion and garlic, but not too strong for me as I like them too. Simple, fast and tasty.

Page 179 House Dressing

From Chef AJ

Nice dressing, tangy and a little tart, but with a lot of interest as you eat it. No oil either.

Page 197 Spicy Coconut Lime Grilling Sauce

Nice enough, not over the top flavor but gives a coconut base for your item (I used Tofu).

Page 198 Asian Peanut Glaze

Good flavour, though a little thin. Used on tofu. I thickened the leftovers with a little arrowroot and used as a tasty sauce.

Page 229 Peanut Butter "Minus" Cookies

From Kay Stepkin

Oh, these were yummy. Not too sweet and very peanut-y. I had 2 for breakfast one morning and didn't feel (very) naughty.

Page 269 Krispy Kale Chips

One of the more simple kale chip recipes I've used recently. Tasted lovely - nice and crisp.

Page 314 Chickpea Curry

By the time the liquid was reduced as stated the veggies were well overcooked. Next time I'd use less water or thicken with a slurry instead. Tasted pretty good.

Page 344 Chocolate Mousse

From "Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People" by Jennifer Cornbleet.

This was luscious. When the Vitamix people send me a free Vitamix blender to test (hint) I would make this to ensure it is totally smooth - my blender didn;t get it perfect. So rich, creamy and good.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

This week I am reading....

and sort of cooking from, as there aren't many recipes (only about 40) and only some are original, but will review in detail next week....

Monday, 9 April 2012

Book Review - Gluten Free Vegan Comfort Food

In reviewing this book I initially focused mainly on making (and unfortunately neglecting to take photos of) the baking recipes. The recipes in the other chapters are ones which many books (GF and not) have similar versions of in them - it is surprising how easy it is to make main-stream savory non-baking recipes GF if you switch out a few key ingredients. I did make some of these recipes as you will see but wanted to try my hand at GF baking to see how my own efforts measured up. (Quite well but that is another story)

The introduction section imparts a wealth of knowledge about both GF and vegan diets, outlining foods to avoid, and the ingredients used in the book. This is most helpful. The layout and chapter breakdown makes sense, and there is a photo insert showing some of the recipes. The recipes themselves are easy enough to follow, and weren't difficult to make. On balance, a good book to have GF or not, vegan or not.

I made, in page number order -

Page 35 Banana-Nut Bread

Though I omitted the nuts, my children don't really like them in Banana Bread I have been told. This did not last long in my house and my daughter is asking me to make it again already. She didn't notice anything which would indicate the bread was GF.

Page 55 Guacamole

Lots of stuff in this version, which is OK for a change but I think I prefer a more simple guac.

Page 58 Red Pepper Hummus

Nice as a spread on a salad sandwich, and as a dip for raw veggies.

Page 61 Best Banana and Chocolate Chip Cookies

This one we didn't like. It didn't work as well for us as the other cookie recipes. They were too soft and crumbly and a little lacking.

Page 77 Chocolate Cupcakes

Delicious! I made my own icing, which was a little sweet unfortunately, but these were a decided hit. Will make again for sure.

Page 119 Mock Egg Salad

Got better and more "eggy" as it sat in the fridge. A touch of black salt would have been nice to accentuate the "eggy"ness but very nice all the same.

Page 128 Black Bean Burgers

These were good. Great texture, lovely mouth feel - a very tasty burger.

Page 132 Fresh Pea and Asparagus Risotto

Though I used frozen peas. You could call this "Risotto Primavera" as it is loaded with lovely vegetable flavors and textures. Enjoyed.

Page 136 Mock Tuna Fish Sandwich Fixin's

OK. The pickle is reminiscent of a "fishy" quality. Again better as it sits.

Page152 Falafel Patties

Good texture, but I felt something was missing taste wise. Easy to make and cook.

Page 170 Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

Wonderful cookies. Awesome texture and not crumbly at all. Shared with a friend of mine and she couldn't tell they were GF, and didn't believe me when I told her.

Page 182 Molasses Cookies

Or "Gingerbread Cookies" as we called them. Didn't spread as much as I thought they would as they baked but tasted great.

Page 198 Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

Simple and easy to throw together to top a salad.

Page 199 Peanut Sauce

This peanut sauce intrigued me as it has Green Thai Curry paste. I've made peanut sauce with red paste before but not green. It was a different sensation, and I did take a minute to get used to it, but it was a nice sauce.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

This week I am cooking from...

Enjoying trying the baking especially.......

Monday, 2 April 2012

Book Review - The Naked Foods Cookbook

This book which is not vegan. Just to say that to start with, however it does have a large number of the recipes which are vegan, or can be made vegan, so if you are OK with over looking the odd recipe calling for non-vegan ingredients (which as I've said before, I am) this is an interesting book. Its got a sort-of-raw focus, with a large number of recipes which are raw, but naked is not synonymous with raw. Naked food is more about unprocessed, whole, and natural foods deliciously prepared, cooked and raw. There are recipes for foods which are "better than naked" by the judicious use of microbial action - fermentation and the like. The recipes are also gluten free and largely soy reduced as well. The only soy used is fermented soy products (soy sauce, miso, and tempeh).

The introduction section is large and filled with lots of information about the food philosophy behind the recipes. Yes, there is a plan behind "naked food", and it is outlined in a lot of detail, so you know where the authors are coming from even if you don;t entirely buy into it yourself. This strikes me as a good book for those who are raw curious, have a wheat allergy or intolerance, or for anyone looking to expand their culinary boundaries. For vegans, you will need to overlook the use of animal products.

The recipes I made, in page number order as always.

Page 55 Crispy Shiitake Faux Bacon

Maybe the best mushroom faux bacon I've ever had. Which is saying something. (on the photo for the Caesar Salad below)

Page 85 Grainless Granola

Looks and tastes like granola, but with no grains! Just like the title. Filling, and not too sweet this was great.

Page 99 Cuban Green Peas

Simple and tasty. Unless you don't like peas.

Page 107 Roasted Yam Chips

My chips didn't really get crispy but they tasted good.

Page 108 Garlicky Herb Red Potatoes

Nice side, very garlicky. Easy to make.

Page 117 Quinoa Tabouleh

Nice variation of the Quinoa in Tabouleh variation of the usual bulgar.

Page 121 Caesar Salad and Page 143 Vegan Caesar Dressing

Been ages since I had a "real" Caesar so I can't comment on the dressings authenticity, a little less creamy than I remember. Tasted awesome though.

Page 130 Green Goddess Dip

Creamy and rich, gorgeous and green, thanks to the avocado, this one will be made again.

Page 131 Lemon Tahini Dressing

Little on the sharp side, but not bad.

Page 132 Speedy Peanut Dressing

Not my most favorite peanut sauce/dressing. Balance of flavors not to my taste I think.

Page 145 Thai Peanut Sauce

I was surprised how much I liked this. The cucumber adds a cooling, mellowing influence which I found strange at first taste then came to really enjoy. Recommended to try this one.

Page 159 Curried Lentil Soup

Divinely creamy, not overpoweringly curried, but nicely balanced. Would easily make again.

Page 216 Cheesy Vegan Kale Chips

The best kale chips I've made to date. I think its the combination of the cheesy sauce and the red onion which gets sweet as it bakes.

Page 218 Zesty Crackers

These are awesome, and I've never made grain free crackers before and think I am hooked. See photo of the Caesar Salad for these on top.

Page 226 Chocolate Mousse

If my blender was more powerful this would have been smoother, and therefore better, but it was still great. If refrigerated for any length of time I recommend standing at room temp prior to serving for 10 minutes or so to get the most creamy texture.