Tuesday, 31 July 2012

I'm not the only one...

Vegan Heritage Press is also holding a give-away this week. Over on their blog there is a choice of books you could win. Enter!

Monday, 30 July 2012

E-Book Review - and Giveaway

So, I am still working through some recipes from both Grilling Vegan Style (Review next Monday) and Vegan a la Mode (the following Monday most likely) as the weather is co-operating nicely, but there is only so many times you can make ice-cream in one week! I've also been working a lot, two paid part-time jobs, and a part-time volunteer position. The volunteer thing is over now, and one of the paid jobs only has a few more weeks to run so I will be able to spend more time with the kids for the rest of the summer, and pay a little more attention to this blog.

I must admit that I am having a bunch of issues with my camera at the moment so this review, and the two coming up are unlikely to have any pictures. It is incredibly frustrating, and I am at the point where I may just have to get a new camera.

This week we have an e-book, and tied into that a give-away of two copies! The book is The New Raw Food Diet by Hillary Greenleaf (who has waited so very patiently for me to finally get to this review - apologies!) who has also penned the Green Smoothie Diet, and Superfoods for Women Only (neither of which I have read but you may be familiar with). She blogs here.

I love the book, it is written in a very approachable manner, is easy to follow and understand, and makes the idea of eating more raw foods, or even a complete raw food diet, very do-able for the average person! I made a recipe from each recipe chapter -
Breakfast - Almond Berry Muesli
Nice combination, super simple - really easy and a great start to the morning.

Main Dish - Hearty Kale and Cranberry Salad
I subbed agave for the honey but otherwise as written. I do love kale salads so was really expecting to like this, and I did. I like the sweet burst from the fruit dressing and pear, and the sour burst from the fresh (or in my case thawed frozen) cranberries.

Dessert - Key Lime Chiffon Pudding
Though I used regular limes! Lovely creamy texture, even with my crappy appliance, and nice flavour, bursts of lime!

To enter this giveaway I'd like you to visit Hilary's blog (link again) have a browse, them come back here and leave me a comment about something which struck your fancy in some way over there. For example, I enjoyed the article on dried fruits vs. fresh. I'll choose the two winners on Friday 3rd August, announce them here, then pass email addresses on to Hilary so she can arrange for the books to be sent to you electronically. Good luck!!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Book Review - The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plan- Based Nutrition

Being a complete idiot I was rather pleased to receive a copy of this book. (I am joking, of course) I have another in the series (Vegan Living) so sort of knew what to expect from this one, or at least thought I did.

I really liked this book, I liked how it presented nutritional information in an informative, yet not condescending manner, and that it didn't repeat itself too much (which would be my only complaint about the other one).

I don't know if I learnt a great deal, having read many books over the years on the subject of vegan nutrition, but would recommend this one, and loan it out, to folks who were curious but hadn't a clue where to start.

The layout of the book is logical, the chapter order makes sense to me, and it was a detailed read so a new vegan would certainly find a great deal of food for thought.

The recipes I tried, on the whole, were simple, easy to make, with nothing to trip you up if you weren't a kitchen whiz. In page number order....

Page 248 Veggie Tofu Scramble
Loaded with veggies, so a lovely version of a tofu scramble. Easy to eat plain, though would be nice with potatoes.

Page 249 Breakfast Rice Pudding
Nice enough, not too sweet, but filling and warming. (Maybe not the best choice for this time of year!)

Page 251 Holy Kale with Herbed Tahini Dressing
Loved the dressing. Would make again to eat with grilled vege or over a plain lettuce based salad.

Page 255 Cream of Carrot Soup
Nothing but carrot goodness in this one - a little like eating a hot carrot smoothie. The dill adds a nice dimension to the flavours.

Page 258 Japanoodles
Too salty for me with all the miso. Simple to make, I'd just use less miso next time.

Page 260 Easy Beans and Quinoa
Easy, for sure. I added salsa, some sliced avocado, and more spices to mine.

Page 262 Versitile Bean Saute
Little bit bland so I added more spices (red pepper flakes for one) to add more flavour power.

Page 268 Roasted Cheesy Cauliflower
I love roasted cauliflower and so really liked this one. It is dead simple.

Page 269 Beans and Greens Chili
My greens were arugula so added a little bite to the chili. Nice, though a little strange at first to have greens in the chili!

Page 272 Simply Hummus
Nice standard hummus recipe. I like the addition of the nutritional yeast.

Page 276 Savory Nut Spread
My not-so-super food processor didn't get this entirely smooth but I enjoyed it anyway.

Page 281 Unclassic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Though I did use chocolate chips instead of the raisins. Not too sweet, these could easily qualify as a breakfast cookie. Not a decadent treat.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

This week I am cooking from....

Healthy and wholesome! Looks tasty too. Review next week, then after that I may just potter about with a few books for a couple of weeks - I have these following two books to review, but need great weather (which has finally arrived here in Vancouver) to do them justice!!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Book Review - Cornelia Guest's Simple Pleasures

On my initial read through this book didn't resonate with me, at all, to the point where I wondered if I could get past that to make the recipes and give them a fair evaluation. (I'm glad I did as some of the recipes were really good, but more on that later) It may be an inbuilt bias, but the life of the author is so very, very far removed from mine, or of anyone I've ever met, that I really felt no connection with her through the introductory sections, nor any desire to have one. I think this book does nothing to debunk the myth that you have to be rich and white to be vegan (which is so far from the truth), but may appeal to those who are - and may then encourage those folks to spend some of their spare cash to make a difference in the lives of animals (which would be a wonderful thing).

Apart from having to see past the references in word and photo to the authors' wealth, the book itself is a little confusing in its layout, once you get past the initial grouping of recipes by season (which is a great idea). Each section starts with a seasonal menu with the recipes for those dishes, and then branches into other dishes for the season, with not a lot of explanation in between or in the section headers. The different parts of each section don't have enough differentiation in title or pagination for them to make sense (from my point of view). Scattered throughout the book in a seemingly random way are sections on grains and beans with recipes attached - again not really differentiated.  The introductory sections tend to be a bit rambling, and overly personal, even for me - and you know I love to read cookbooks like novels.

I applaud the focus of the book, which is fresh, seasonal food, but do disagree with the lumping of tofu, tempeh, and seitan into the "faux meat" category - these to me are traditional protein sources, which happen to be vegan - they are not made from broken down parts of many other things clumped back together again to look and taste like something else. Otherwise the focus on fresh, in-season, organic (if possible) produce, and use of real whole foods is one I can ascribe to completely.

I would not overlook this book, as many of the recipes I made were true gems, (as you'll see in a bit) and I am sure there are many others in its pages. You may need to browse this one at a store, or get it out from the library before deciding if it is right for you. I'll just be focussing on the recipes, and the foods, and enjoying the pleasure they bring.

All the recipes I tried were simple (as to be expected from the title of the book) with no complicated steps or equipment needed. The flavours were great, and do live up to the seasonal eating concept. The recipes I made -
Page 85 Quinoa Salad with Mint and Parsley with Lemon Dressing
A tabbouleh with quinoa basically. Very nice, though the dressing could have done with just a touch of sweetener for balance.

Page 96
Poppy Seed Vinaigrette
For me, far too sour without the agave I added to balance the flavours. This one I would not make again.

Page 100 Baked Vegetable Risotto
Really good. Could make this one over and over. Creamy and comforting, yet fresh. My only note would be that the recipe states it serves 8 as a main course, however only has 1 cup of rice in the recipe. Either these 8 folks have very small appetites, or it is meant to be part of a longer multi-course meal. 

Page 105 Chocolate Coconut Squares
A little like a chocolate granola bar! Very good but not so much dessert-y. Maybe if you topped them with ganache.... Recipe also doesn't say if it is Old Fashioned, or Quick Cooking rolled oats. I think it is Quick as I used OF and they weren't cooked through.

Page 109 Curried Quinoa
Nice idea, though I found the end result a little unbalanced, a little too heavy on the bitter / sour taste from the curry powder, green apples, and lime juice. (I also find that the recipes where only "Juice from X Limes/Lemons" is in the ingredients list really needs to have a measure also - some are juicier than others)

Page 136 Lemon Chickpea Puree
Lovely, luscious and smooth this one, with vibrant lemon notes. Does make WAY more than the 2 cups noted in the recipe however.

Page 153 Roast Tomatoes with Fennel and White Beans
Don't be put off by all the oil - after all the cooking this has reduced and the end result is superb;creamy, rich and super delicious (seriously good!). I would make this every day if that wasn't ridiculous.

Page 158 Caesar Dressing
For me, this was not tangy enough, and too sweet from the dates. I did add more lemon juice as my lemons weren't super juicy ones. Would maybe blend in some capers if I made again.

Page 177 Debra's Granola
No fruit in this one so I added a little dried fruit with each serving as I felt like it. Not too sweet as stated which was nice. I also found this to be way too much for the one cookie sheet called for, even with only making a half batch I had to spread over 2 sheets to get any browning. Nice version of granola though.

Page 179 Guacamole Hummus
I love this idea, and enjoyed this one very much.

Page 183 Sweet Potato Watercress Salad
I subbed arugula as the store didn't have watercress, but this one was really good. Enjoyed by all, and will be added to the rotation for sure!

Page 188 Oven Fries
Mine stuck, which I blame more on my baking sheet than the recipe! Tasty and more--ish.

Page 201 Kale Chips
Yum. Nice and garlic-y, though the recipe is a little confusing in that it calls for only some of the oil and garlic to be added at the beginning, but never tells you when to add the rest.

Page 207 Lentils with Red Wine
I really enjoyed this one - even better the next day with  more spinach wilted in.

So, a few misses, but more hits, some of which were superb, so the food in this book makes it a keeper!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

This week I am cooking from....

Cornelia Guest's Simple Pleasures.
Anyone have this book? Care to make a comment before I get too far along??

Monday, 9 July 2012

Book Review - Let Them Eat Vegan

I was really looking forward to Dreena Burton's latest book. I love how Dreena includes so much information in all her recipes, it's like she is in your kitchen chatting to you as you cook. You only have to think "oh, I'd like to make this but I don't have X", and Dreena already has a note on the recipe to say "If you don't have X then use Y" It's like she reads your mind!! I must admit to being a little apprehensive when I learned this book was being published by a different publisher than Dreena's first three, the thought more than crossed my mind that the new publisher might curtail the note and comment writing which I love (publishers can!), but I am happy to report they didn't, and all those handy hints and notes are in full force in this book too.

As with all Dreena's work, the book is well written, with a lot of information about ingredients, methods, and the recipes themselves, in the introductory section, the appendices, the chapter headers, and the recipe headers (not to mention the notes and hints!). This is one of those cookbooks you can read like a novel and enjoy just reading. I do like cookbooks like that. Layout is simple and effective, with one recipe per page, and each recipe has an indicator as to whether it is soy, wheat, or gluten free - handy for folks with allergies and intolerances.

Now, what about the food.....
I made a bunch of recipes, and here are my notes. Page number order as always.
Page 36 Three Bean Salad
Simple salad, similar to many I have had before. Solid recipe.

Page 37 Kale Slaw with Curried Almond Dressing
Dressing on page 49
Not the best Kale Salad I'e had, but nice enough. The dressing didn't absorb into the kale so well, softening it, as is my preference.

Page 38 Quinoa Nicoise
Oh, happy genius. Loved this salad. The flavours and main ingredients of Nicoise, with quinoa! Love it.

Page 39 Smoky Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad
Loved this one too.The combination really works well, and while not too hot there is a good amount of smokiness which accentuates the sweetness in the beans and sweet potato.

Page 40 Quinoa Tabbouleh with Olives
I had to use green olives as I was out of Kalamata, but this was still a lovely salad. Not overely herb-y but nicely balanced.

Page 43 DJ's Hummus Salad Dressing
Another genius idea! I know Dreena borrowed it, but still. Yum!

Page 44 Classic Caesar Dressing
Nice Caesar dressing, good tang.

Page 53 Peanut Tahini Sauce
A little disappointing, as I love both peanut and tahini sauces. I didn't feel the mix was a vibrantly tasty as it could have been, and needed a little zing of lime or something to liven it up a little. Would make again and tweak.

Page 84 French Lentil Soup with Smoked Paprika
Loved this soup more the first day than the second, which is unusual for me and lentil soups. The flavours seemed to get lost overnight somehow.

Page 95 Lemon Dijon Green Beans
Simple and delicious.

 Page 100 Gingered Broccolini
Works just as well with broccoli! Tasty side dish, and not just for with Asian meals.

Page 102 Roasted O&V Potatoes
Simple and very tasty.

Page 114 Jerk Chickpeas
Lovely both straight out of the oven and cold. Super simple to make so will make often I think.

Page 135 Nutty Veggie Burgers
These were goooood burgers. Really good. I meant to only eat one but had to go back for more!

Page 175 Triple Threat Chocolate Coconut Macaroons
Thee simplest cookies ever! and so tasty. If you like the chocolate coconut combo you should make these!

Apologies for the lack of pictures for anything but salad!! All in all, way more hits, so I would recommend this book to everyone!!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Product Review - Vega Energizing Smoothies

I was sent some sample packs of the new range of Vega Energizing Smoothies to try. I'd never had Vega before, or even a protein powder smoothie either so this was all completely new to me. I tried one flavour a day, made in the most basic preparation, and took notes so I could share them with you here.

The smoothies are easy to make - the most basic preparation is add water and shake until combined - and can be added to milk, juice, or to a blended smoothie with fruit as you wish, so the time involved in prep is minimal. Made with just water I found the mix to be slightly grainy, not overly so, but enough that you could taste it, this would be negated, I think even though I didn't try it, by mixing the smoothie mix into a blended drink, or even with soy milk.
As for the flavours, there are 5 in the range, and I have notes for each -
Vanilla - Not bad, not in your face with the vanilla flavour, which I found more apparent in the aroma than in the taste.

Tropical - I found the taste on this to be reminiscent of an artificial flavoured tropical drink - even though I know there are no artificial flavours - so I didn't enjoy this so much. Would be better blended with fruit.

Berry - This too I found to be stronger in the aroma of berries than in the taste, and that the taste had that slight artificial flavoured noted which I noted with the Tropical. Blended with berries this would be great, but not so much straight up.

Natural - Mixed straight with water this was too blah for me. The slightly gritty texture was more apparent in this than in the others, and I would need this to be in a mixed fruit smoothie for me to enjoy.

Chocolate - Now, this one I could drink all the time! Creamy, rich and very chocolatey, this was more like a milkshake than a powder and water shake! This is the one I would buy and use - It tastes more like a treat than a health drink.

Thanks Vega for the chance to try your stuff!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

This week I am cooking from.....

Dreena Burton's newest! 
I do like Dreena's books so am expecting to like this one.... Review next week.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Book Review - Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats

Here's a book to add to the growing niche section for those who don't eat animals and who also can't handle gluten. There are not a lot of books specifically for GF vegans so it is nice to have this as another option, and it is a lovely book. There is a lot of space for the recipes, and for those of you who are photo lovers, there are loads of pictures - at least one per recipe - some even illustrate steps in the recipe which is a nice touch.

In the intro section there is a GF flour guide, and a general vegan ingredients guide both of which are very helpful. I would have liked to have seen a further guide to general GF foods which may be less common but able too be included in a vegan diet - grains (such as millet and amaranth) which can be used for example.

Allyson Kramer (link to Manifest Vegan blog) has included recipes for all parts of all the meals you eat, from basic recipes, breakfasts, main courses, snacks, starters and desserts, so if you are cooking for  someone who is both vegan and GF you're sure to find a recipe to fit the occasion. The chapters are colour coded which is a nice (and helpful) addition.

The recipes are split pretty evenly between those which are accidentally GF and vegan and as such could be contained in any vegan cookbook, and those which are specifically adjusted to be both GF and vegan, for example the baking and pasta recipes, and those which "usually" would use wheat as a binder. These later recipes are the ones which really make this an awesome book, and one worth investing in. GF baking is tricky, but in this the tricks have been worked out already for you! I didn't make any of the pasta recipes as I don't have easy access to one of the noted ingredients, but really appreciate that they are there. I would without a hesitation recommend this book to those who are either vegan or gluten-free, and if you're both you've probably got this one already!

The recipes I made, in page number order - with apologies for the lack of photos.

Page 33 Mashed Yukon Golds
I prefer my way of making mashed potatoes, which I think is true for everyone!

Page 53 Cherry Vanilla Bean Pancakes
Oh, yum! Though you do have to give the batter the sitting time while the pan heats or else it doesn't work as well, and the batter doesn't behave in the same manner as wheat flour batter.

Page 73 Slow-simmered Tofu with Peanut Sauce
The sauce from this is so good! I was a little underwhelmed by the tofu as it didn't really absorb the flavours as I thought it would, but the sauce was so lovely it more than carried the dish!

Page 77 Deli-style Chickpea Salad
Nice one. Interesting flavour and texture contrasts. Enjoyed by us all.

Page 78 Stroganoff
Even my mushroom hater quite liked this. I loved the richness that the dish had without feeling super heavy.

Page 86 Rosemary, Leek and Potato Pie
A little more involved to get it set up but once this is in the oven it is a breeze, and the result is lovely. It does need a few minutes to set up so give it the time or else it will fall apart a bit.

Page 101 Quinoa Tabbouleh
I love this dish, and I have made loads of variations it seems, and will continue to do so. Nice one.

Page 104 Creamy Potato Salad
Quite a standard, yet creamy which not all are, potato salad, but tasty all the same.

Page 125 Coconut Asparagus Soup
Really good soup - even with my crappy blender which didn't get it perfectly smooth, this was divine.

Page 141 Cinnamon Roasted Cauliflower
Nice spice mix here, which goes well with the cauli - don't be put off by thinking it will be sweet, as its not.

Page 142 Lemon Roasted Leeks
H found this too lemony but I really loved the tart hit with the creamy, slightly caramelised leeks. Will make again just for me!

Page 172 Dark Chocolate Orange Custard
I'd make this again and hide it so I could be the only one to eat it! Really rich, but worth every mouthful.

Page 184 Soulhaus Cookies
Enjoyed by the children and their friends and no-one made any comment about them being not the same as other cookies so I count that as a GF win!

Page 188 Peanut Butter Cookies
I thought these a little too sweet and the sugar stayed crystalline a little too much for me. Very Peanut Butter-y though!