Monday, 24 September 2012

Book Review - Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day!

Not all the photos in this review are mine! I asked very nicely and Celine sent me some to use. (thank you!) As you'll see as I go through I made some of the recipes "de-constructed" (that is, not as sandwiches) but I wanted to show how they would look as sandwiches, hence my request. I'm not going to reproduce photos used in the book, I'll just use some of the ones which didn't make it to the book, because when you buy your own copy you'll be able to see the other photos. and, yes, you will be wanting your own copy of this one - the range of flavours and creativity is incredible!

There is a small introductory chapter, outlining some basic skills and ingredients and sandwich-y type hints, and then you're into the recipe chapters. The chapters are quite logical in order, with a final chapter providing  the basics used in other recipes, and breads etc. I'm not entirely convinced this wouldn't have been better as the first chapter, but anyway, at least it is there. The recipes are 1 a page, with a great many of them accompanied by photos. They are well laid out, easy to follow and have symbols for fast to make, travels well, and those which are easily gluten-free-able. Don't think you won't be able to use this book if you are GF - you may have to use different breads, or, do as I did for some of the recipes, and not make them as sandwiches at all!

The recipes I made -

Page 19 Country Sausage Sandwiches.
As you can see from my photo this is one of the ones not made as a sandwich. The flavours were awesome, and I really enjoyed the "sausage".

Page 26 Shh-ocolate Spread
I have made bean based chocolate spreads before and they all somewhat tasted bean-y. This one didn't. It fooled even my bean-phobic picky eater who was eating this with a spoon out of the container. I will be making this one often for sure!

Page 41 Beans not on Toast
Coming from a place where beans on toast are super common I had to try this. The beans were interesting, very flavourful, and filling.

Page 42 'Shrooms on a Shingle
In my head I expected the mushrooms to be creamier, so I was pleasantly surprised by the little biit of bright acidity they have. Very tasty.

Page 57 Deviled (not) Egg Salad Sandwiches
In my photo I show an alternate way to eat the salad - with salad! This was pretty good, I'd like to try the tofu variation too.

Page 67 Tofu Pomegranate Pockets
This tofu is lovely. I think the hardest part of  making this one was not eating all the tofu as it was cooling.

Page 91 Curried Lentil Wraps
I made a mistake in this one, as the "creamed coconut" I bought was the sweetened stuff for drinks by mistake so my curry ended up a little sweet. It was still very tasty, but I can only imagine how much better, creamier and richer, it would have been with the real stuff!!

Page 131 Chickpea Shawarma
Another one served de-constructed, this time over rice (which was lovely). I adored the tahini dressing, creamy, tangy and very good.

Page 132 Out of Tuna Sandwiches
I didn't, but this one you could also make as a salad if you wished. I liked the crunch of the beans against the creamy "tuna".

Page 171 Peanut Butter Brownie Sandwiches
Just as good without the Peanut Butter Frosting my Peanut Haters tell me. Very filling, so a treat for sure, these are lovely and did not last long.

Page 179 Tempeh Bacon
I sliced my tempeh too thin as I had issues with it falling part as I moved it from the marinade to the pan. Still tasted awesome, just a textural fail. (which is all my fault)

Great book.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Book Review - The Tastes of Ayurveda

Not a vegan book, but super vegan friendly, this is a follow up to Amrita Sondhi's very popular "The Modern Ayurvedic Cookbook", and is loaded with tasty recipes, with a Indian slant. The book is Ayurvedic, which is an Indian healing tradition based on balance, after all!

The book starts with an extensive introduction to Ayurvedic principles, explains the doshas, and the balance required in everyone to perform at an optimal level, and some basics of cooking in this way. It is a very interesting read, and if, like me, you know very little about these traditions, you'll learn something. There is a little quiz type thing to determine your primary dosha (so you can know which recipes will benefit you the most) and I did take the quiz, and came out with two doshas (Pitta and Kapha) having the same score, and the other (Vata) being substantially less. I'm not sure exactly what this means, but I did try and choose recipes which were marked as being beneficial to both Pitta and Kapha.

The recipes are laid out clearly, in an easy to follow manner, in logical chapters, one to a page (mostly), with symbols to indicate which dosha each will benefit, and also a handy dandy vegan symbol for the recipes which are already vegan! There are notes, and information on ingredients as required which is helpful. Many of the recipes which aren't vegan can easily be made so with simple substitutions or omissions.

The recipes I made -
Page 45 Nut and Seed Granola
Very nice, simple to make.

Page 82 Zucchini Hummus
This was amazing! Just like hummus, but raw, and made zucchini. Really worth making. If you have too much zucchini at any point in time you'll gobble it up using this recipe.

Page 104 Curried Chickpea and Quinoa Salad
Good hot or cold (as the introduction says), though I did use regular quinoa instead of red.

Page 135 Miso Sesame Dressing
A little strong, and aciidic for me. I added a touch of maple syrup which rounded everything out nicely.

Page 136 Singapore Dressing and Page 137 Tahini and Lemon Dressing
Very zesty, and I felt could ahve used just a touch of sweetener.

Page 140 Lime. Honey and Cilantro Dressing
Though I used agave in place of the honey. I love cilantro so really enjoyed the flavours in this one.

Page 148 Calming Avocado Dressing
Vibrantly green, and creamy, this is a good dip with raw veggies.

Page 155 Wild Mushroom and Leek Soup
I love both mushroom soup and leeks so this was going to be a hit for sure. Nicely balanced I enjoyed this.

Page 160 Very Simple Dal Soup
As the title indicates, this is very simple. I was not ready for the depth of flavour this soup ahd and was very pleasantly surprised. Much enjoyed.

Page 200 Fawn's Spicy Rajma
This was OK, not my favourite in the book, but nice enough.

Page 211 Cauliflower. Broccoli and Carrot Pilau
I did use all oil instead of the ghee, and maybe should have cut my veggies a little smaller. Tasted great however.

Page 308 Chocolate Chip and Coconut Bars
Lovely. Not too sweet, so you could have one for breakfast, but sweet enough to be dessert if you needed them to be. Would be lovely, and super decadent dipped in ganache!!

I did enjoy this book very much, and would recommend it, especially if you have an affinity for Indian style cuisines. You will have to overlook some of the recipes which are laden with eggs, and use some simple substitutions in others, but overall this book offers tasty easy to make food - what more could you want?

Monday, 10 September 2012

Place Review - La Vida Vegan

Not so much of a place really as this is a food truck and as such moves around a bit. We were on holiday for a bit the week before last on Vancouver Island, and, as you do, I checked out The Happy Cow before we went to see what specifically vegan dining options there were in the area. I was happy to find this Mexican Vegan food truck, La Vida Vegan, so one lunchtime we drove along to Qualicum Beach by the visitor info place, and checked it out.

The menu is not huge for food options but there are loads of juices offered and some snack items. All items are vegan, gluten free, not expensive, and fresh! We just went for the main items as it was lunchtime after all. Not knowing what to choose I picked a Taco and a Tamal - one with the black bean option (the taco) and the other (the tamal) with the lentil and red pepper option.

Both were delicious beyond words, and I had to send my 10 year old back for a second tamal for me (greedy I know, but they were melt-in-your-mouth good), this time black bean. I could have sat there all day eating the tamales!! Seriously good stuff. I reallyy must make some tamales here at home soon.....

The taco was good too - the corn tortilla freshly made and just wonderful, but I enjoyed the tamales more than I can tell you. I think if I lived in the area I would hunt La Vida Vegan down very often, and as they are reasonably priced it wouldn't be a bank breaking thing.

So, if you are in the Parksvillle / Qualicum area oon Vancouver Island look them up and check them out. Highly recommended for the tamales, but I can't comment about the juices and smoothies as I just didn;t have room!!

Back to your regularly scheduled book reviews next week, so watch this space..... First up is this one -

Monday, 3 September 2012

Book Reviews - Two Non-Vegan Cookbooks.

Firstly, Whatever happened to Sunday Dinner?, by Lisa Caponigiri.

A hefty book, hardcover, with a decent amount of pictures and well spaced recipes. This book is a year's worth of recipes (so 52 menus) for a 5 dish meal; each consisting of a starter, a first (often pasta) course, a main course, a side dish and a dessert. Most of the recipes which are accidentally vegan, vegetarian, or easily veganisable are not main course dishes so the dishes I tried are mainly sides and pastas.

There is not a lot of comment to be made about a number of the recipes, especially the sides, as they were very simple and quite standard. I've listed the recipes here by English names, though in the book they are in both Italian and English.
Page 61 Sautéed Swiss Chard
Page 74 Sautéed Green Beans
Page 95 Sautéed Spinach
Page 131 Roasted Leeks
Page 267 Rosemary Potatoes
Page 273 Roasted Plum Tomatoes with Garlic
Page 285 Oven-Roasted Potatoes
All perfectly nice, simple vegetable side dishes, with olive oil and garlic mainly.
(Rosemary Potatoes with Sauteed Swiss Chard and Pepper Stew noted below)

Page 88 Lisa's Classic Tomato Sauce
My only issue with this recipe is it says to simmer (and doesn't say to cover or not) for 2 to 4 hours, giving no indication of how thick the sauce should be at the end of simmering.

Page 94 Polenta with mushrooms
Hearty and filling, though we liked it better served with the mushroom sauce stirred into the cooked polenta, not served on top as stated.

Page 156 Woodsman's pasta with Mushroom sauce
Too many dried mushrooms in this for me as they never do really properly rehydrate (in my experience). Nice enough overlooking that (which wasn't an issue for H).

Page 163 Risotto with sautéed vegetables
A little ho-hum. Nice as a backdrop to more flavourful items but doesn't stand alone (and is not meant to really).

Page 216 Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce
Nice, simple, easy to make.
(Pasta with Spicy Sauce pictured with Roasted Leeks)

Page 222 Pepper Stew over arborio rice
Wonderfully flavourful. Thick and very more-ish. Could eat this with no accompaniment.

Page 228 Risotto with mushrooms
Nice enough, nothing super special, but tasty.

This is a pretty good book, for the right (preferably omni) person, just not for me. Maybe someone would enjoy the challenge to vegansie it all, but not me, not right now.


Then we have a book in the "Idiot's Guide" Series - The Complete Idiot's Guide to Low-Carb Meals, by Lucy Beale.

Just from the cover picture I would not have picked this one off the shelf! and I am not really a fan of the whole "low-carb lifestyle" thing, but I know people who are so I approached this one with an open mind and was interested to find that a number of recipes where either accidentally vegan, or easily made vegan. Not loads, mind you, as there are whole chapters I had to completely skip, but some. I did have to make some substitutions and omissions from the recipes I made, which were, on the whole basic but tasty, with simple instructions which may have benefited from a little more detail.
I do like that this book is encouraging the consumption of more vegetables than other "low-carbing" books seem to. The introduction really stresses how important eating lots of produce is, and the recipes reflect that.

The recipes I made -
Page 30 Granola
I used vegan marg instead of the butter and agave instead of the honey. Makes a tasty granola that I am enjoying.

Page 57 Mexican Layers
I used vegan mayo, and cheese. Nice tasty salad which looked very pretty in the bowl - not that the picture does it justice.

Page 184 Cajun Black Bean Soup
I left off the eggs. Little confused as to when to add the whole beans so I just put them in with the mashed ones. Not sure if you're meant to eat the lemon slices or not. Tasty! I toppede mine with a little vegan sour cream which was nice.

Page 186 Lentil Soup
Super easy, but a really tasty soup. I was a little surprised at exactly how tasty as the ingredients are very simple.

Page 235 Avocado Margarita
Like a chunky guacamole. Tasty, nice with salad and baked potatoes.

Page 285 Fiesta Confetti Salad
Really nice, refreshing and interesting with all the different flavours and textures going on.

Page 286 Five-Day Coleslaw
Unlike any coleslaw I've made before. The dressing was a little sparse and left the cabbage a little dry almost. I had trouble getting the vinegar and spice mix to boil, as once I added the spices the liqquid turned into a paste. I added a little water. H enjoyed this one more than I did.

Page 290 Mandarin Orange Salad
I used Arugula instead of spinach. Very nice tasty salad though I would make again with fresh mandaarin segments, not canned ones.

Page 328 Quinoa Pilaf with Vegetables
Simple and tasty way to eat quinoa. I omitted the cheese.

Page 344 Peanut Butter Cookies
H took some to work for a meeting and got great feedback. I liked these though found them more almond-y than peanut-y.

Page 361 Nut Clusters
I used pine nuts with the coconut and these were so delicious and very more-ish. Simple and quick to make so I will make again!!


While I enjoyed most of the recipes I made I don't think I will be keeping either of these books as there are more recipes I can't make as written than can. I have people in mind to give each of them too, and I know they will be well received.