Monday, 26 August 2013

Book Review - Vegan for Her

I was quite pleased to get a copy of this book for a number of reasons. Firstly I have other books by Ginny Messina and I do like her work. Secondly, also I am both a vegan and a woman so thought this would be the perfect book for me, and on many levels it is. Packed with nutritional information this books looks at every stage of a woman's life, diseases and problems which may occur (some general to the whole population some specific to women but all looked at from a female perspective) and how the nutritional requirements may change. There are menu plans and information tables, comparisons of nutrients in different foods so if you want to just flip and look and the tables you can do that too. There is also a chapter looking at vegan issues beyond food, which is a nice addition and gives a fully rounded feel to the book. While this may appeal more to a new vegan woman, or one who is vegan curious, there is enough in this to make it a worthwhile read for every woman (vegan or otherwise).

As to the recipes I made I had mixed success - which may be down to personal preferences.
Page 250 - Coconut-Mango-Avocado Smoothie
This one I did not enjoy - it wasn't an harmonious mixture to my tastes, the coconut water and the avocado didn't really go with the mango, and I didn't find it sweet enough.

Page 255 - Nutty Quinoa and Cherry Salad
Very simple, but very tasty. I did add a little chopped green onion for a contrasting colour. Even H (who doesn't like quinoa much) enjoyed it.

Page 259 - Sesame Tahini Dressing
Nice dressing, thick but tasty.

Page 261 - Cheesy Dressing with Cashews and Capers
Not really cheese-y, more tomato-y than anything, but tasty enough. To get it really smooth you'd need a better blender than I have.

Page 269 - Creamy Squash and Apple Soup
I did not enjoy this. Too sweet for my tastes, without enough balance. I added a bunch of lime juice and some salt to try and bring it back into balance but it never really appealed to me. H ate more than I did.

Page 278 - Chickpea Salad Sandwich
Enjoyed this one, though wish the size of the can for the chickpeas was specified as I think I added too many. Simple to make.

Page 296 - Turmeric, Cumin and Ginger Tofu
Very tasty, super easy. I enjoyed this one a lot.

Page 297 - Cinnamon Tofu
Another really easy tasty way to make tofu. The cinnamon doesn't make it overly sweet but it is an interesting taste.

Overall - a good book to have on your shelves as a reference, and a great one to be able to loan out to the women in your life.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Book Review - The Vegan Cookbook

This is one of those bargain table cook books which don't actually have an author but are thrown together some-how from recipes from some-where. It is the first time I've seen one which is vegan, and it was a super bargain so I bought it!

The book itself is hard cover, has a photo for every recipe, and is better than I was expecting. There is not much of an introduction to speak of, and what there is is nothing new, or earth-shattering. Just a quick page blah blah about how popular veganism is becoming and why it is the best way to eat. There are much better introductions out there, but for a book I paid less than $8 for I shouldn't complain too much!

The chapters are logically grouped, but there are no chapter introductions or recipe introductions, or notes or hints of any kinds on any of the recipes. Luckily they are all pretty simple and straight forward so easy to follow and make out. There are recipes which are gluten-free but are not marked as such.

The recipes I made - page number order as usual.
Page 8. Green Apple and Kiwi Juice
Too much ginger for me, which overpowered the apple and kiwifruit. Also the lemon made it overall too sour.

Page 14. Apricot and Ginger Juice
Certainly ginger-y! OK, but the ginger was very dominant.

Page 20. Peanut Butter Muesli
Ended up quite subtly peanut butter flavoured. Not bad, but I would have liked more - and maybe the addition of some chopped nuts . dried fruit. Easy to make.

Page 56. Raw Cashew Hummus
Nice dip, not very hummus-like though. Needed a little more tahini for that. Good with vegetables to dip.

Page 64. Sweet Potato Fries
Simple, and very tasty. Similar to recipes I've had before.

Page 78. Sweet Potato Soup
Nice, though again a little heavy on the ginger. I would have liked a little more red curry paste as this was very subtle - but that is just a personal preference.

Page 82. Maple Glazed Tofu Salad
Lovely and sweet, sticky tofu, which was a little one-note. Could have done with a little more soy sauce for balance (or maybe some ginger to counteract the sweet).

Page 138. Teriyaki Tofu Noodles
Not bad, though a little bland - the sauce didn't really pop with any specific flavour,and the tofu would have been better if it had been marinated a little first.

Page 144. Chickpea and Cashew Nut Curry
Again a little bland, a very very mild korma type curry. H loved it more than I did.

Page 152. Thai Red Curry
More red curry paste would have been great, but I did enjoy this a lot as the vegetables were bright and the sauce creamy. Nice.

Page 186. Coconut Rice Pudding
Thck and rich, with aromatic spices, this was a nice rice pud, hot and cold!

All in all for a bargain table book this wasn't bad! I may not use it often but it was worth the purchase.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Book Review - The Kind Diet

I've actually wanted this book for ages, but until I found it in paperback and on sale I always baulked at the price. Its now not a new book, but as it is new to me I thought I'd give it a review. Many of you may already have this book and not find this review particularly interesting, but for those of you who don't have it here goes!

As you'd maybe expect there are many photos, including many of Alicia herself which I'd be just as happy without, multi coloured text, and an easy to read and follow layout. The recipes are one to a page, nicely introduced and make use of text differences to differentiate the parts of the recipe.

The book is logically divided into three separate parts, and those into sub-parts. The first section looks at what foods are considered nasty (meat / dairy / white stuff) and those considered kind (and therefore fit into the diet philosophy) and the reasoning behind why they are or are not suitable for a vegan diet. A lot of this information is not new to me but is nicely written and presented in an easy to read and understand manner.

The second section looks at being and living vegan - and talks about levels of commitment to the lifestyle and the "kind diet" way. Again much of it was not new to me.

All in all I found the information sections interesting though more suited so a new vegan, or someone who is curious - which I guess is the focus of the book, not to preach to the choir. As a longer term vegan I did find it a little disconcerting about the talk about eating non vegan food stuffs, but looking at the big picture, if someone slips up and is made to feel OK about it and continues with their vegan plan then the comments made are not such a big deal.

The third section is the recipes - and this is divided further into vegan meals, and "superhero" meals which are  more macrobiotic in focus and use ingredients which I don't have easy access to and don't appeal to me. To be perfectly honest, mainly because I have never tried them and am a little hesitant to buy them to do so without trying them in a supporting role in a dish first.

The recipes I tried -
Page 151 - Hot Rice with Cold Lemon, Basil and Tomato
Very simple, tasty, but nothing earth shatteringly special. Quick lunch or side dish.

Page 160 - Ginger Baked Tofu
Very delicious! Good both hot and cold; hot is is a softer more luscious texture and cold is gets firmer, and is suitable for slicing over a salad. Super easy. I turned the left over marinade into a thick sauce with some arrowroot and had with charred broccoli.

Page 169 - Summertime Succotash
Nice, though the timing was a little off on getting the beans tender. I had to cook for longer than stated. Loved the fresh corn and tomatoes.

Page 175 - Caesar Salad
Nice, but a little overly mustard-y in the dressing. I used GF bread for the croutons.

Page 189 - Peanut Butter Pie
Though I used a combination of Almond and Hazelnut Butter in place of the Peanut Butter. I also made my own crust and would have liked the recipe to give an indication of crust size as I didn't make mine in a deep enough (or wide enough maybe) pie plate! Very very good. Super rich, chocolate-y and more-ish.

Page 194 - Peach Crumble
Very nice hot and cold - both with custard or ice-cream. Topping was a little chewy from the oats, but not in a bad way. Not overly sweet either.

Page 205 - Raw Balls
Oh my. Good like candy. My younger daughter loved them too! So very very good, and easy to make.

Page 267 - Scarlet Roasted Vegetables
Simple and tasty roasted mixed vegetables with the addition of nuts and dried fruit. Very good.

Recommended - for sure, though maybe more for a new vegan for the information in the first two sections, and maybe someone a little more in tune with trying macrobiotic style foods for the superhero recipes. The recipes I made on the whole were pretty decent so this book would make a nice addition to a vegan shelf.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

New Facebook Page! and other news....

So, I've changed my FB page from one for each book to one for me as an author, simply because book #3 is being published in the Spring by Arsenal Pulp Press, who recently published Vegan Secret Supper (review here) and Gorilla Food (review here). I felt it would be easier to manage 1 page than neglect 3! You can "like" me here! (please do - I'm planning on having a give away of Vegan Bake Sale and Vegan Slow Cooking on the new page and here pretty soon)
The book is titled "Vegan al fresco", and as you may be able to guess is all about outdoor dining - picnics, barbecues, long sultry evenings on the patio, brunch on the balcony - with a strong summer focus. Very excited about this and will share more (like where to pre-order) once I have the information.
I've recently had some new author photos taken (which I will share some of on FB once they are available) and I'm scheduled for a food photo shoot for the book early September, which will be both fun and lots of work! (maybe I can get some candid shots from that experience to share too)
So that is what is new with me!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Book Review - The Vegan Cheat Sheet

The info contained in this book is really helpful, especially if you are a new vegan, or someone contemplating becoming vegan but think it is too hard. This book will soon put you right about that. There is a lot of information presented in the first half of the book, but it is in bite-size (so to speak) chapters so there are lots of breaks as to not overwhelm the reader. These chapters include topics such as reasons for becoming vegan, dispelling myths about a vegan diet, providing hints for success, info on maybe new to you ingredients and where to get nutrients, what to eat/not eat and what to substitute for the not eat foods, shopping lists as well as cooking hints.

There are also sections towards the back of the book on eating out, travelling and how to find suitable food at restaurants - including a run through of vegan options at a number of chain restaurants (through out the United States mainly though some are international). The only downside to the information is that some of the stuff about dishes at restaurants which are vegan friendly may date quickly as restaurant chains change their menus etc.

The recipe sections are OK. As this is not a recipe book, per se, the recipes are part of the picture as to how easy it is to be vegan, not the be all and end all. The layout of these sections are a little crowded, with many recipes requiring page turning, and for those of you who like them, no pictures. As the book is quite small (super handy for taking with you!!) this is to be expected but does make the recipes less easy to use.

The recipes I made -
Page 100 African Stew
Result was very tasty. Thick, warming and homey. I did have to add more water to ensure the stew didn't stick as it cooked, and cook for longer than stated.

Page 103 Macaroni and Cheese
While a brilliantly cheese-coloured dish this was lacking in oomphy cheese like flavours for me. Tasty enough as a pasta bake but not really a Mac and Cheese in my mind.

Page 106 Pad Thai
I added more veggies and some hot sauce. Tasty, though my noodles got glumpy as rice noodles often do!

Page 113 Falafel
Quick and easy. I prefer Falafel baked for the texture and these were good. Maybe I should of added a little more flour as they did crumble a touch. Flavours were good.

Page 121 Thai Peanut Noodles
Lovely, and I'm not a huge cucumber fan. The combination with the soba noodles was really nicely done.

Page 136 Cream of Broccoli Soup
Really liked this one. Super creamy and rich but not too heavy.

Page 146 Caesar Dressing
I added more caper brine to get the tang which I felt was missing. Not so much caesar dressing for me but still good. Nice as a dip for the falafel.

Page 147 Soy - Ginger Marinade
Lovely on zucchini which we grilled. Vibrant flavours with no heaviness.

Page 148 Garlic Balsamic Vinaigrette
A simple reduction, but very flavourful.

Page 163 Power Breakfast Snack Bars
I tasted the mix and felt it needed sweetener - there is none in the recipe so added a couple of tablespoons of agave. I'm glad I did as the end product wasn't sweet at all even with the amount I added. I would have added more. Simple to make.

Recommended - absolutely, even with the not so easy to use recipe section. The information provided more than out weighs any slight inconvenience. Something to lend to vegan curious friends, or buy for them for sure.