Thursday, 28 June 2012

This week I am cooking from.....

Getting me some Gluten-Free(k) on this week.....
Looking forward to telling you about this book on Monday next week so watch this space!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Book Review - Wild about Greens

I am wild about greens, I love them, so I am pretty wild about this book from Nava Atlas. Whilst every recipe in this book is vegan, it isn't wholly a "vegan cookbook" more of a guide to getting the best out of those lovely leafy greens, which happens to be vegan. Suitable for everyone who needs a little green veggie love in their lives (which is of course, everyone!)

Nava starts with a wonderful introduction to greens in general; how to purchase and store etc, then follows this with a look at all the greens she uses in the recipes, a bit of info about each, with the recipes they are used in listed afterwards - especially handy for when you have a specific green and want to quickly search for recipes. The chapters start with basic preparations - which suit most greens, a handy how to guide this chapter, and then follows with greens used in more substantial recipes, and even a chapter on smoothies and juices. You're covered for all uses!

Recommended?? For sure! and for everyone. I had mostly complete hits with the recipes I made. Apologies for not many photos.

Page 40 Simple Garlicky Greens
How I often prepare them anyway, but with loads of variation in the recipe for the type of green you have. A nice guide, and introductory recipe.

Page 47 Chard with Raisins and Pecans
I've made something similar before, but I do love this combo - the sweet raisins, creamy pecans and slightly bitter chard. Yum, and simple too.

Page 64 Tahini-Lemon Sauce
Great on cooked greens as well as used as a salad dressing!

Page 65 Spicy Peanut Sauce
I do love peanut sauces and this one was very nice.

Page 66 Avocado-Tahini Dressing
I needed a tiny touch more lemon juice to balance this one, but lemons aren't consistent in the juice they have, so its good to adjust to taste.

Page 78 Oven Baked Kale Chips
More of a how-to guide than a recipe I enjoyed these. I doused mine before cooking in a mixture made with - 2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast, 1 teaspoon Chili Powder, 1/2 teaspoon dried Basil, 1/4 teaspoon each of Onion Powder and Garlic Powder - and it was lovely, spicy but not too much. A little like pizza kale chips!

Page 88 Bok Choy Fried Rice
I wasn't sure about this until I tasted it, and I loved it. Will make many times I am sure, though will maybe reduce the oil slightly.

Page 117 Pasta with Asparagus. Arugula, and Sun Dried Tomatoes
A little on the dry side so did need some additional oil, I liked this one a lot but I do love both asparagus and arugula. Super simple.

Page 135 Cumin-Roasted Cauliflower and Kale
I really enjoy roasted cauliflower so I liked this. I did cook the kale a little longer to crisp up a little lie chips (even though the recipes says not to) as I like it that way. Easy to make and tasty.

Page 151 Kale and Cucumber Salad
I should have massaged my kale a little longer, and would have liked a stronger flavour in their somewhere, (maybe more scallion, or a little garlic but that is personal taste preference) but overall a nice salad.

Page 158 Pinto Bean Salad with Watercress and Dill
Though I did use black beans as I ha some open which needed using. Tasty balance of the peppery and creamy.

Page 168 Sesame-Ginger Salad Dressing
Super good. Used leftovers as a marinade for tofu and it worked really well.

Page 169 French Dressing
OK. Easy to make - it is what is says it is.

Page 192 Curried Spinach and Chickpea Soup
I liked this better the next day, and if making again would add the chickpeas earlier, probably with the tomatoes so they soak up more flavour, then wilt the spinach just prior to serving - even maybe make the soup ahead and wilt the spinach in the next day.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

This week I am cooking from....

and I am very excited to be doing so! I love leafy greens and here's a whole book dedicated to them!!

Watch for the review next week.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Book Review - 350 Best Vegan Recipes

I'm going to be back to front this week and start with the recipe reviews, and then move on to more general comments. The recipes I made -

Page 38 Big island nori rolls
These were tasty, but too big! Making 6 or 8 smaller rolls instead of 4 big ones would have made eating easier and a lot less messy. Flavours were good, and I loved the use of the nuts in the filling, the rolls just needed to be smaller.

Page 58
Spicy, sweet and tart roasted chickpeas
Candied chickpeas really. For me, far too much sugar. I had to shake the chickpeas in a sieve in order to remove a bunch of it, and if I made again would use less and more spice / lime. Nice enough, and the crunchy chickpeas were good but I'm not entirely convinced that sweet chickpeas are for me.

Page 82 Go go breakfast bars
I used old fashioned rolled oats instead of spelt as they were easier to find, and used dried cranberries for the cherries. I shared these and had 2 people ask for the recipe. Very tasty, though a little too sweet for me for a breakfast item.

Page 87 Easy homemade granola
I had the opposite issue here. I found this granola needed more sweetening for my taste preference. Not a lot though. I like how the OJ made the oats clump together to get those wonderful clumpy bits I like in granola.

Page 148 Athenian roasted potatoes
I needed to cook for longer uncovered to get any browning or crispness, so next time I would allow for that, or increase the oven temp at that point. I'd also use less of the after cooking drizzle as that made them a little soggy (after spending all that effort to crisp) and was a touch oily. Tasty though and H really enjoyed!

Page 152 Chinese long beans with orange sesame glaze
I was expecting a sweeter stickier glaze, less liquid-y. I also think it would have been nice to give the option for regular beans (which is what I used) in the variations. Tasted god but next time I think I'd cut the beans a little shorter as this length made them a little tricky to eat.

Page 163 Picnic macaroni salad
Nice, if a little plain. I did add in capers and red pepper after trying it to add more flavours. Easy to make, but really did need more mayo added once it had sat in the fridge.

Page 165 Middle eastern balela salad
I made with canellini beans as per the variation and really liked the fresh herb flavours. I found there to be a little much oil for my preference but that is an easy fix.

Page 169 Kale quinoa tabbouleh
Another one where I felt there was a little too much oil, but overall I liked this use of both quinoa and kale. The kale softened quite nicely, and the herbs added a fresh lift.

Page 220 Cilantro black bean burgers
Subbed rolled oats for the spelt as above. Had a little trouble with the burger patties crumbling as they cooked so next time would add a tiny touch of liquid and allow these to chill for a bit before cooking. Tasty though. The better of the bean burgers flavour wise that I have made for a while.

Page 222 Pad thai with crispy tofu
Yum. I ended up with no bean sprouts in mine though as I bought them the day before and by the time I was ready to use them they'd gone all soft and watery. Bleah. I would make adjustments to this recipe for next time (which would have been nice to have as a variation) to enable me to use tamarind paste as it is easier to get here than pulp, and also to use chili flakes instead of whole chilies - again for convinience. Flavours were great though!

Page 240 Rice noodle bowl with lime-arugula pesto
The pesto for this was lovely, and I would make again for sure. Would be lovely with grilled vegtables, baked potatoes and even corn-on-the-cob! I'm not entirely convinced that rice noodles were the best fit for it however, there was (to me) a bit of a discord in flavours and textures.

Page 267 Cream of broccoli soup
One of the best soups I've had recently! I would cook the potato a little bit more in the first part before adding the broccoli so that once the broccoli is done it is almost falling apart, making it easier to process and add another level of creaminess to the soup. I only ate hot, but it did reheat well with a little liquid added.

Page 302 Caper and pine nut vinaigrette
Nice with roasted asparagus! Though I'm not sure I'd use as a salad dressing - a little too much oil, which didn't really emulsify completely.

Page 304 Fresh raspberry mustard vinaigrette
I added a step of straining this once blended to remove the pesky raspberry seeds and liked the dressing much better once I had. Very fruity, a little sweet, but good with slightly bitter greens such as spinach and arugula.

Page 352 Mexican chocolate pudding
The texture of this was sublime. Loved the hint of cinnamon, though in the future I would leave out, or at least reduce, the almond extract as I found this flavour a little overpowering. My younger daughter liked this a lot.

Page 370 Decadent chocolate truffles
I rolled mine in coconut seeing as there is coconut milk in them! Subtle flavour there and really nice. These did firm up quite a lot in the fridge so would be best if given a little time to return to room temp before serving.

So, there we have it. Overall the flavours of the recipes I made were awesome! None of teh recipes were overly time consuming or too "chef-y" in the skill level required. However, seeing as how I felt that most (if not all) of the recipes I made needed a small tweak in some way to better suit my tastes  I don't know if I would necessarily say these are the best ever 350 vegan recipes! Pretty darn good, yes absolutely, and I would recommend anyone to try this book bearing in mind that you may need to adjust a little, but best? maybe not.

As with all books I've seen from this publisher the recipes are well laid out and easy to follow, with nice recipe introductions and a generous smattering of Tips, Hints and Variations throughout the book. There are 2 colour photo inserts showing the recipes, not just random produce, or the author. In the introductory sections there are pantry stocking hints, (usual for many vegan books but still handy) and also menu suggestions using the recipes for different themes which is a helpful addition.

Apologies for the lack of photos this week, I was a little slack / lazy.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Review - Fairy Cakes

Link to web page
Fairy Cakes is a purely vegan, and nut free, bakery in Vancouver. It isn't really anywhere hear me, however, last week I was in the sort-of general area for something unrelated and thought I'd pop along and try a cupcake or two (or three as it turned out - though not all at the same time!). I had been meaning to do so for quite a while and was glad I did, and may have to make more of an effort to get there again.

I arrived bang on opening, and the cupcakes were still cooling and yet to be iced. I was told which flavours were available,  and had them iced for me there and then. I tried Maple (lovely!!), Lime (vibrant and a little tart - but in a good way) and my favourite of the three, Coffee Chocolate. This was actually not a flavour, I misheard when I was told "Coffee, Chocolate" in the list of flavours, but they combined the two icings for me! Hooray for awesome customer service.

The cupcakes aren't cheap, but, you do get what you pay for! The bakery uses quality vegan ingredients, bakes with skill and care each day - giving a really tasty end product. While these may not be an everyday treat (to be honest I think cupcakes shouldn't be an everyday treat anyway) I'm happy to support vegan owned and operated businesses for my treat! They also use no plastic in their packaging, and environmentally friendly cleaning products etc, which is admirable.

My only wee peeve was that they had no small boxes (only bags) for small orders to stop the cupcakes getting squished on the way home. (I understand they are sourcing come!)

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

This week I am cooking from....

Are they really the 350 BEST vegan recipes??? We will find out.
Well, about some of them as I'm not making all 350 that's for sure!!
Watch for the review next week...

Monday, 11 June 2012

Book Review - Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food

The title of this one is a huge mouthful! Just like much of the food you'll be making from it once you've got this beauty home! (I know, how corny is that)

The book starts with a nice introduction to the low-cal but full flavour focus of the book, including a look at comfort food and the importance of exercise in any lifestyle. This is followed by a bunch of nutritional info, including portion sizing and control, specifically focussed on the Lo-Cal theme, which is very handy, then there is a run through of ingredients you may not be familiar with. The next section is a menu section, giving alternatives for a variety of calorie-per-day plans to suit individual requirements. All very helpful. If you're one of the people who don't read the introduction sections in cookbooks I would recommend you make an effort to read these sections.

The recipes themselves all have per portion nutritional information, which I would expect from a book advertising itself as "low-cal", are easily followed, nicely laid out, and come with a colour photo insert (for those of you who love that sort of thing).

I did find on some of the recipes I made that the portions were smaller than I would use, however, looking at the menu section, many of these recipes appear to be served as part of a meal instead of as the meal. (So my eating 2 portions of the Caesar Salad with Chickpea Croutons for lunch, instead of as part of a lunch, is not as bad a thing as I first thought.) Just bear in mind that if you have a big appetite, or are serving for someone with a big appetite, or are using the recipes without other recipes alongside, you may get fewer servings than specified.

Recommended? Yes, and not just if you are looking for low-cal food. You may need to disregard the portion sizes if you're not looking to loose weight, but the food is really good so this is a book you should have! I also think that Alicia's writing style has grown and developed as she writes more books and I look forward to more from her in the future.

What I made - in page number order as always.....
Page 52 Almond Granola
Though I had to sub other nuts and seeds for some of the almonds as I ran out. Very nice granola, and I would make again..

Page 101 Chickpea Cheese
I don't know if I would call this "cheese" myself, Its like a differently, slightly chees-y, flavoured hummus. Very tasty and easy to eat, and worth making, but maybe not called "cheese".

Page 106 Five-Minute Garlic Spinach
Yum. I make spinach like this all the time so I knew I would love this. Very easy, and also easy to eat the lot as lunch!

Page 126 Caesar Salad with Chickpea Croutons
Buy the book for this recipe alone. Seriously. Either half of the recipe (the dressing or the croutons) by itself would be enough for me to shout "Genius!" but combined...... You really have to try this one!

Page 132 Spicy Kale Slaw
Nice salad. Though I would have liked the kale to soften a little more. I'll massage it next time. The flavour profile is very similar to the next recipe, and very tasty.

Page136 Moroccan Carrot Salad
Simple, refreshing and delicious. Better the next day as it sits.

Page 139 Amaranth-Quinoa Salad
I love the tiny pop that the amaranth brings to this salad. A tasty introduction to the grain if you have not used it before.

Page 148 Yellow Split Pea Soup
I like my pea soups smooth so I blended this one even though the instructions don;t say to. Simple, tasty, warming, and filling.

Page 159 Black Bean Burger
I served my burgers with the Kale Slaw not on a bun. Nice enough, little bit on the boring side without the ketchup, which really made these yummy.

Page 169 Ole-Fashioned Chili Beans
I used chickpeas and black beans as it is what I had available. Turned out lovely. Very simple but very tasty and filling.

Page 181 Baked Risotto
Love the simplicity of it, and fresh from the oven is was nice, but  I found the squash and zucchini got a little over cooked, more so if it had to wait before serving. I wouldn't plan on leftovers for this reason.

Page 186 Chickpea Cacciatore
Served over pasta. I love chickpeas so was sure I'd love this, and I did!

Page 188 Kung Pao Tofu
The sauce here is especially good! I like how the texture of the tofu is after the baking, but really I could eat anything in this sauce.

Page 201 Vanilla-Almond Ice Cream
The only recipe I didn't like. I think it was due to my yoghurt being quite strongly "bean-y" which leant a similar bean-y taste to the ice cream. I also found it not sweet enough after freezing.

Page 225 Lemongrass Soda
So refreshing and vibrant I will make this often.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The winner is -

Thanks to the Random Number generator (see below) - comment number 7!

So choirqueer that means you have won a copy of -

Please contact me by email - veganyear at by Wednesday 13th with your address details to claim your prize!

Hosting give-aways is fun. I will have to do this again soon!

True Random Number Generator  7Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Thursday, 7 June 2012

This week I am cooking from.....

Looking forward to some comfort food this week! Watch for the review next Monday!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

BONUS - A Give-away!

I've been sent a copy of a book I already have so I have decided to host a give-away! The book is 
My review is here.
I've also found some other reviews of this book which make for interesting reading too. Check out - Shine, Vegalicious, Healthy Eating Starts Here, or just do a Google search for more reviews if you are so inclined.

To enter all you have to do is comment on this blog post and tell me which country you'd like to visit just so you can stuff yourself day in and day out with the local food! (No linking or liking involved) Open to everyone, everywhere.

Entries before end of day (PT) Saturday 9th June.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Book Review - Celebrate Vegan

Simple, uncomplicated food, which will suit any occasion. That's pretty much what I found as I was making dishes from this book, and I would certainly recommend having this one on your bookshelf. Non vegans who cook for vegans on occasion would likely find this very handy - any and every occasion is covered!

I like very much that the recipes are listed by category at the back of the book - this makes it easier to find something if you can't remember which holiday a recipe was from (and who can) but know it was a soup, for example.

I also like that every holiday you can think of, and some you may not be familiar with (and some which aren't even holidays) are represented, giving a huge range of different recipes to suit any occasion, or non-occasion, you could think of.

There is lots of good information in the introduction, the recipes themselves are laid out in an easy to follow manner, and one per page which is nice. There are no photos of the food, which for me is no big deal, but I do know that some of you are very fond of books with lots of pictures. I think Dynise does quite a good job of painting a picture with her words in the section and recipe introductions.

On to the recipes I made, in page number order, of course.
Page 6 Tofu with Broccoli and Black Bean Sauce
I make something similar, though what I make is less structured, there are no measurements and I don;t even think I've ever written what I do down. I did enjoy this.

Page 27 Black Bean Burgers
Little on the bland side for me. I would up the spices and cilantro next time. These formed patties nicely, and cooked well on the barbecue. I did have to sub ground up quick cooking oats for the breadcrumbs as I was out.

Page 32 Good Old-Fashioned Macaroni Salad
Nice, and very like the old-fashioned salad of yore. A little on the sweet side for me so I'd add a little more vinegar and mustard to balance that next time (or less sugar).

Page 40 Risotto with Leeks and Porcini Mushrooms
Would have been nice to have a cup (or weight) measure for the leeks as I was a little worried I had too much as my leeks were pretty big. It all cooked down smooth and luscious in the end and tasted beautiful. Couldn't resist a little Daiya stirred through to serve.

Page 41 Sicilian Inspired Kale
I cooked my kale 5 minutes less than specified as it seemed to be done at that time. I loved this one and ate the whole thing as lunch!

Page 66 Shamefully Simple Chickpea Chili
Very simple!! Though I did sub regular salsa for the salsa verde as I couldn't find any at my store at the time. Very tasty, made lovely nachos.

Page 71 Tofu Dijon
If I made this again I would cut the tofu into 6 thinner steaks so they could have more surface area to contact the wonderful sauce and breading mix! It is so very flavourful, and good, you want much more of it. The tofu is only a vehicle for the coating! I did again use ground up oatmeal for the breadcrumbs.

Page 101 Cream of Broccoli Soup
The soy creamer I used, as it cooked, made the soup taste too sweet. It needed a little squeeze of lemon juice at the end too lift, brighten and balance the flavours. Otherwise very simple, and good.

Page 125 Golden Millet Pilaf
Nice, little plain, but it is a side dish to be served with more flavoured offerings. Easy to make, though I would maybe add the spinach at the end of the cooking time not at the beginning should I make again, just so it retains a little more vibrancy.

Page 161 Substantial Mix and Match Salad
Seen with the Tofu Dijon in the background! More of a guide than a recipe, but there are lots of ideas for creating your own salad masterpiece.

Page 163 Poppyseed Dressing
On the salad in the photo above. A little too sweet for me so I had to add more lemon juice. Also "1 garlic clove, crushed" is listed twice in the ingredients list and I don;t know if that is a typo. I only added it once.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Book Review - Eat & Run

This one is not a cookbook, though there are some recipes in it. Each chapter finishes with a recipe, which usually ties in to something in the chapter proceeding it in some way. I think the premise of including these recipes does work better when there is a link, so its not just a random recipe. I must admit that I didn't make any of the recipes, as, to be honest, I'm a little backlogged in recipe books I have to review at the moment!

This book is the story of the life of Scott Jurek, elite athlete, ultra-runner, and vegan. It tells the story of how he came to both ultra-running (running in races of greater than marathon distance) and veganism from his beginnings in rural Minnesota, through the early influences, his struggles with finding his focus and the impact eating plant based foods has had on him as an athlete and as a man. It is a complex story, seeing as how we all have complex stories, but it is well told, written in a manner which invites you inside his world in a friendly and approachable manner. It is easy to read, and quite a compelling story.

Each chapter takes on a part of his life, in later chapters there tends to be a focus on one race, and the struggles surrounding that race, which has meaning, and from which he grows as a person. Each chapter, as noted above, finishes with a vegan recipe (some are even raw), and usually, also running / training hints. The hints are actually really helpful (not that I am an athlete) but do provide inspiration and helpful encouragement.

The only thing negative I would have too say about the book, is that I found the chronology of a couple of chapters a little confusing. (Not the first chapter which ties in later in the book but the chapters which follow) These set the scene of Scott's early life and introduce his family and the background of his childhood. There were stories related which felt a little out of sequence, a little jumbled, but this may have been my misreading. On the whole this didn't affect my enjoyment of the book.

Scott Jurek really is an inspiration, whether you are a runner, serious or otherwise, or whether you are vegan or not as well. This book makes you think of the things you could achieve, and the spiritual growth which is available to you, if you just get out there and try. All in all, I really would recommend reading this book if you get a chance - ask your library to buy a copy!