Monday, 29 July 2013

Book Review - The Sexy Vegan's Happy Hour at Home

Photo credit for all photos in this post is to ©Dan Boissy, and thanks to the publishers (New World Library) for the recipe excerpt which follows later. They did send me a copy of the book for review but all the opinions which follow are mine.

Now the official bit is done lets chat about the book itself. I reviewed The Sexy Vegan's first book here and I think I like this one better. Not that the food wasn't spectacular in the first book (it was and continues to be so) but this book has less of a cringe inducing trying-too-hard-to be-sexy-clever tone to it. Like the first book this one was also printed on post-consumer recycled paper and I must commend the publishers on this step - it does mean the pages aren't super shiny, and the photos (there are lots actually) are not in colour, but as those things are less important to me than the substance of the recipes then I'm fine with that. If you like your cookbooks to be super high-gloss then maybe this one won't catch your eye (but you should give it a look for the awesome food!).

The book is laid out a little differently than your standard cookbook - it is by menu rather than recipe type, as the menus are meant to be made and served together to a theme (I didn't do this but more on that later) as part of a happy hour type event, and they all serve 4 people so there's no need to guess about that either. Each recipe "chapter" has 3 or 4 recipes and a shopping / pantry list for the menu so you can easily ensure you have everything if you're making everything in the theme. The only exception is the beverages which have their own chapter. Each "chapter" intro comes complete with beverage recommendations, tips for making the most of your time and other hints - nicely done with no OTT sexy-ness. I think this layout works and is logical for the type of book it is, and if you are like me and choose not to make complete menus then it is still easy enough to work with as the index is pretty good.

Because I am GF I found I wasn't easily able to make complete menus so I mixed and matched dishes from the menus, and found the dishes worked as stand alone meals quite nicely - I did find that the serving sizes were thrown off by my doing that but it was expected.

The recipes I made -
From Menu 4, 
Page 44 - Spiced Nuts 
A little sweet, warmly spiced rather than hot spiced, these were very tasty and easy to make.

From Menu 5, 
Page 51 - Tofu-Citrus Dippers
A little disappointing as the tofu remained a little bland - I was expecting more of a citrus/jalapeno blast but it was subtle. 
Page 53 - Citrus Soba
Loved these noodles. Loved them to bits and will make them by themselves again. The citrus here was more pronounced and the sesame hints really made them so good.

From Menu 7,
Page 68 - Fresh Corn and Jalapeno Salad
I've made something similar before but not with raw corn. This was a delight - really refreshing and light but easy to make. Recipe at the end.

From Menu 8,
Page 78 - Roasted Chana
Simple and very tasty. Meant to be eaten cool but I couldn't wait. Not too spiced.

From Menu 12,
Page 113 - Sunflower Seed Spread
A little hummus like but with sunflower seeds. Nice spread, tasty and filling. I ate as a dip with raw vegetables instead of crackers and it went down a treat.

From Menu 13,
Page 123 - Baked Sweet Potato "Fries" with Adobo Dipping Sauce
Will make these again too as everyone liked them. The sauce wasn't too spicy - but you could easily make it more so. Little more time consuming but worth it.

From Menu 15,
Page 139 - Sexy Peanut Sauce
Nice and simple variation on this sauce. Super easy to make, I served with Spinach and Broccoli which was a good choice.

From Menu 16,
Page 150 - White Barbecue Sauce
I served with some barbecued vege to dip (asparagus and zucchini) and it was good - tangy and more-ish.

From Menu 20,
Page 183 - Maple-Chipotle Roasted Veggies
Super yummy way to roast veggies, and I'm sure I will make again, maybe even upping the chipotle next time, or changing up the vege.

For sure - especially if you entertain and like to have menus all sorted for you, but even if you don't and choose to pick and choose like I did you'll find tempting recipes in this book.

So, here is the recipe I have to share - 

This Fresh Corn and Jalapeño recipe is from the Papadilla, Don’t Preach Happy Hour Menu that also includes recipes for Braised Scallion Papadillas and Nectarines with Mole-ish Stuff on Them.

Fresh Corn and Jalapeño Salad

2 ears raw corn, kernels cut from the cob
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
6 braised scallions, sliced, reserved from the Braised Scallion Papadillas  (see recipe, page 66)
1 roasted jalapeño pepper, diced, reserved from the Braised Scallion Papadillas (recipe, page 66)
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

In a large bowl, toss the corn with the bell pepper, scallions, jalapeño pepper, cilantro, lime juice, and oil.

 Excerpted with permission from The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home ©2013 by Brian Patton.  Published with permission of New World Library

Monday, 22 July 2013

Book Review - Mouthwatering Vegan

Mouthwatering Vegan is a good sized book, packed with loads of colour photographs (not one per recipe but pretty close). The recipes are mainly set out one per page, are easy to read and follow, nicely yet simply introduced, and logically grouped into chapters. The introduction does give equipment and ingredients hints, though is not overly long or involved. There is a nice chapter at the end touching on why Vegan is the best way to go - not sure why this wasn't at the front as part of the introductory section.

Now, this is completely a personal taste preference thing, but the one thing I did find off putting about this book (for me) is that there are loads of recipes using eggplant. Eggplant for me is the vegetable-of-death, and I am really not a fan so there were quite a few recipes I completely skipped over because of the inclusion of this ingredient. As the recipes are largely Mediterranean in focus it is not surprising that eggplant features heavily, but I just don't like it!

The recipes I made -
Page 13 - Blood Purifier Juice
Lovely, sweet and grounding (from the beet). Beautiful vibrant colour, and quite filling.

Page 25 - My Greek Family Tree Hummus
Hummus is a favourite so what's not to love! Made using a slightly different method but it ends up as tasty hummus all the same.

Page 50 - Easy Spinach, Lime and Ginger Soup
I used frozen spinach as I had some in the freezer. I'd not have thought of ginger and lime with spinach but the combination works really well, the soup is tasty and filling.

Page 57 - Creamy Coconut Broccoli Soup
I didn't add all the additional water called for as I wanted this a little thick. The broccoli/coconut combination is a lovely one, enjoyed very much.

Page 63 - Mixed Lettuce Salad with Strawberries, Pear and Basil
Nice combination of flavours, I like the addition of fruit - though there was way too much dressing for me.

Page 65 - Cherry Tomato, Chickpea and Orange Pepper Salad
Too much raw red onion in this for us, otherwise very tasty and nice combination - would make again with less onion!

Page 80 - Spinach Basil and Arugula Pesto Pasta with Curried Vine Tomatoes
Pesto was lovely, rich and green and really good on the pasta. I didn't feel so much that the curried tomatoes were a good match in flavours, but they were delicious by themselves. The pesto is an awesome way to get a bunch of greens used up!

Page 232 - Chocoholics Cheesecake
Not a high as the picture and I used the right sized pan - maybe a smaller one would have been better. This tasted luscious, not too sweet but intensely chocolate-ly. Rave reviews from all who tried it!

Recommended - yep, even if you don't like eggplant! The recipes I tried were all yummy, won approval from H and were easy to make and not overly time consuming. If you are an eggplant lover, then even more recipes for you to try!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Book Review - The Complete Idiot's Guide to Juice Fasting

A juice fast was never something I thought I'd see myself do. I thought it would be too extreme, too hard and just too weird. Now, having done one, I'd like to do more, and maybe for longer - this book made it seem so simple, so do-able and so normal, healthy and desirable, even that I wanted to get it done as soon as I finished reading! However it doesn't work like that, you have to plan! A one day juice fast is actually a 5 day programme, who knew? not me prior to reading this book.

For a 1 day fast you have 2 days prior of eating raw vegan meals gradually increasing more liquid meals by way of smoothies and juice, then one day of just juices, and then 2 days gradually re-introducing raw vegan foods (the prior 2 days in reverse almost). I followed the menu plan on pages 28 and 29 in the book, and found that these were really generous food wise and I was not hungry at all, except for a little on the actual juice day (which was also a day I worked so maybe not the best of planning there).

The only thing which would put me off doing a fast again would be the cost of all the produce, and having to find somewhere to put it all in my little house. I think I'll make time and allocate funds for later in the summer as I really did feel great during and after. The only other thing slightly negative, and this may just be a psychological thing, is that on the day I was actually only doing juice is that I missed having something to chew. Next time I'd be more prepared.

The book is a real how to and in the non-recipe chapters takes you though everything juice fasting. The benefits, looking at weight loss and cleansing / detoxing, short and long term juice fasts - including menu plans for all lengths of fast. These chapters are easy to follow and understand, and in the way Idiot's Guides are, a little repetitive. Then there are the recipe chapters - one on raw foods for the before and after, then 5 on different types of juice. The chapters are split logically and the recipes themselves are well laid out, easy to follow, and come with lots of additional facts and hints. There are no pictures.

The recipes from the book which I made (some more than once due to the menu plan I was following) -
Page 96 - Green Smoothie
Sweet and rich. No green-y taste.

Page 97 - Berry Smoothie
Rich and creamy without a banana in sight.

Page 99 - Raw Spinach Soup
Nice and refreshing, light and very tasty.

Page 100 - Creamy Kale Soup
So very good! Creamy and delicious.

Page 102 - Super Mixed Green Salad
Salad with a dressing. Nothing extra special here.

Page 103 - Avocado Kale Salad
Nice massaged Kale salad. Needed a little spice for me so I added some cumin.

Page 104 - Raw Waldorf Salad
Loved this one. Really very good, though on the sweet side.

Page 107 - No Bean Raw Hummus
A zucchini based hummus, which I do like.

Page 110 - Pineapple Grape Ginger Juice
Not the most successful of my juices. My pineapple didn't juice well but sort of turned to mush in the machine.

Page 112 - Apple Pear Lemon Juice
Really liked this juice. Refreshing and tart, yet sweet.

Page 132 - Carrot Apple Lemon Juice
Simple and refreshing. A nice combination.

Page 137 - Cucumber Beet Carrot Juice
Sweet from the root ege, yet lightened by the cucumber.

Page 141 - Apple Gingre Parsley Carrot Juice
A little medicinal-y sort of. Maybe my least favourite.

Page 145 - Celery Green Apple Spinach Juice
Brightly green, super refreshing and my favourite of the whole experience! I didn'
t expect it to be so was pleasantly surprised.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Book Review - Annelie's Raw Food Power

Almost like a diary (with recipes) outlining the authors journey in the Costa Rican jungle this is a nice book. There are lots of colourful pictures, mostly of the food, but with a few (on the diary-esque pages so they feel like they belong and are not out of place) life style shots, all in colour and all tempting! It is nicely laid out, logically grouped into chapters and each recipe is easy to read and follow. There are some ingredients I don't have easy access to (so obviously didn't attempt those recipes) and some call for equipment I don't have (like a dehydrator) but that is not unusual for a raw food book. Where unusual ingredients are used they are often accompanied by an explanation which is nice.

The recipes I made
Page 23 - Cheesecake for Breakfast
Not too sweet and totally delicious! A little time consuming so you'd have to plan for it. Creamy and smooth (though that took a while with my blender) and so yummy. Could be dessert too if you wanted.

Page 47 Dressing only from the Super Seaweed Salad
served over mixed greens. Lovely dressing though I used agave not honey.

Page 54 Quinoa Sprouts, Avocado and Tomato Marinara Wraps
I love quinoa sprouts, the crunch and subtle nutty-ness so really enjoyed this recipe.

Page 57 Cucumber and Mint Soup
Refreshing, not overly cucumber-y just smooth, cool and really good.

Page 82 Adi's Amazing Raw Zucchini Hummus
Amazing indeed. Just like hummus. I've made hummus like this before and enjoyed it so felt sure I'd like this version.

Page 86 Marinara Sauce from the Raw Pizza (for the Quinoa Sprout Wraps)
Very easy to make, very tomato-y and good. If I had a dehydrator I'd make the pizza!

Page 95 Quick Raw Tomato Soup
OK, enjoyed the other soup better, and think this would have been more to my taste with more texture instead of blended smooth.

Page 96 Guacamole
Simple and good.

Page 105 Wild Green Salad with Citrus Tahini Dressing
I liked the dressing though H wasn't really a fan.

I did like this book a lot, and will revisit to make more recipes. Maybe I can talk Santa into a dehydrator this coming Christmas....

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Book Review - Animal Camp

Not a recipe book so I'm not using up a Book Review Monday space for it. In case you were wondering why this was on a Wednesday!

I loved this book. It made me cry, and laugh. It is both uplifting and enlightening, and a little upsetting all at the same time. It doesn't preach, but just tells you stories and lets you come to the views outlined in parts gently and on your own. While some of the scenes described are cruel and heart breaking the focus is not on the cruelty, but on the response to the cruelty, and the determination to recover from such events when there is love and joy freely given (along with medical care and proper food!).

The book is a collection of essays looking at the animals and people, and their interactions (but mainly the stories are the animals' stories), of the Catskill Animal Sanctuary in upstate New York. They are well written,   easy to read, and make the animals' personalities really shine.

A book to give to everyone and anyone, vegan or not, as I think everyone can take something away from this and be changed as a person. Maybe even changed to a more compassionate, and maybe even newly vegan, person.

Worth the read.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Book Review - The Big Book of Gluten-Free Recipes

This time instead of looking through a book of vegan recipes to pick out the naturally gluten-free ones (or easily gluten-free-able ones) I was looking through to pick out naturally vegan recipes! So if you're gluten-free and get this book you'll be needing to skip the meat and seafood chapters entirely just as I did!

The first chapter of this book is all bot being and eating gluten-free, it gives hints, suggestions and resources, and while not exhaustive is a good place to start. The recipes are grouped logically into chapters, and while not all one a page are well spaced, nicely introduced and loaded with hints, variations, and information about ingredients used. There are no pictures.

My only real gripe (apart from that I'd have preferred the whole book to be vegan!!) is that there are quite a number of slow cooker recipes scattered throughout the book and I would have liked to have seen these indicated in some way. I got tripped up by choosing a recipe which, upon a proper read, was actually a slow cooker recipe, which hadn't been indicated in the title or with an icon or anything. I made something else as it was too late at that point to get the slow cooker going.

The recipes I made -
Page 90 Avocado White Bean Hummus
So very very good. I've made it twice! Though the second time I played with the spices.

Page 106 Guacamole
Nice and basic but good guac.

Page 148 Apple Cranberry Walnut and Spinach Salad
Simple and tasty. I had to sub agave for the honey.

Page 156 Thick and Rich Cream of Broccoli Soup
I left out the ham, and subbed for the cream, chicken stock and butter, and really enjoyed this soup! It was thick and rich as promised and very broccoli intense.

Page 180 Spicy Vegetarian Chili
I didn't make it super spicy because of my daughter, but enjoyed this chili. She wasn't super keen on the mushrooms but I liked that addition.

Page 339 Warm Chickpea Salad with Spinach
Not really a salad as the spinach does get cooked, but tasty all the same. Nice gentle curry flavour.

Page 405 Three Bean Salad
This was a nice bean salad. Even better the next day.

This is a big book, as the title says, and if you're buying for a GF friend then it makes a good buy as there are a large number of vegan, or easily made vegan, recipes inside which could then be made for you!!