Monday, 28 October 2013

Book Review - The Complete Leafy Greens Cookbook.

Loved this book. Will say it right now at the top of the review. Everything I made tasted awesome, and that slight fear you make when trying something you're not sure of went right out the window after the first couple of recipes as I quickly grew to trust Susan Sampon's palate and flavour combinations. Will revisit this one again for sure as there are many more leafy greens to try - and maybe I'll venture into some of the less common ones next time! This book is not vegan but most recipes have vegan friendly alternatives.

The book itself is quite hefty and after an initial introduction is organised by green in alphabetical order. The introductory section is a general look at leafy greens, how to buy, store and prepare them, and looking at the different families. Then, each green has a good few pages looking at specifics - other names, varieties, how to buy, store and prepare, as well as nutritional information and substitutes you could use (helpful for the more rare greens). Then there are recipes using the green - for some only 1 or 2, and for others up to 10 - the number depending on the commonality of the green I suppose. There are photos of each green but not of the recipes.

The recipes are well laid out, easy to follow with tips and hints. The Robert Rose books are all very standard in recipe layout so I did know what to expect. Now the recipes I made -
Page 79 - The Brussels Caper
I love Brussels sprouts and this version, with capers and nuts was lovely.

Page 79 - Maple Walnut Brussels Sprouts
I preferred the recipe above, but liked this one too - a little sweeter and less crisp.

Page 85 - Sunny Lettuce and Avocado Salad
Simple and elegant, a very nice salad as a side, with a little bite from the radishes.

Page 111 - Fettucine with Chard and Citrus Cream Sauce
Wasn't sure about this one going in but wasn't disappointed. Flavours all went well together and we wished there was more!

Page 219 - Tomato Salad on leaf Lettuce with Crispy Shallots
Little simplistic, but the shallots are awesome (more in a bit).

Page 368 - Spinach Chickpea Salad
Heavy on the chickpeas (which is fine by me) and a little on the red onion (so I put on less). Nice the next day too.

Page 376 - Thai Curry Noodle Bowl
Another one we wished there was more of. Really fresh and refreshing with a bit of heat and lovely balance.

Page 450 - Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette
Really sings with the basil. Lifts any salad to pesto-like greatness!

Page 450 - Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette
Little sweet, but still very good.

Page 453 - Lemon Cumin Dressing
Quite lemony, a little sweet and not too heavy on the garlic. Nice.

Page 455 - Crispy Shallots
Worth the book in itself. So simple but so yummy. Hard not to eat by the handful!

Recommended? What do you think? Of Course - makes it well easy to get more leafy greens in your diet! and expands the leafy green horizon at the same time.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Product Review - Vega One Starter Kit

I was sent a Vega One Starter kit to try - came complete with a plastic bottle to drink it from, and a cool metal shaker thingy (like the end of a whisk but as a ball - no handle) with which to shake it all up in the bottle.

There is also an information brochure and some packets of shake mixes in different flavours. I tried them all - though using recipes of my own devising instead of the ones suggested. I've had Vega shakes in the past  and found them a little gritty with a funny after taste if had by themselves so knew I'd enjoy the shakes more if blended into a smoothie.

For the Chocolate Smoothie powder I added Peanut Butter, Dates, and Chocolate Soymilk. So, I created something which is maybe not the healthiest smoothie out there, but really good!

For the Vanilla Smoothie powder I added frozen Banana and Mango, with a touch of agave. This was super tasty and very much like a chilled milkshake!

For the Berry Smoothie powder I added frozen berries, half an avocado and some spinach leaves along with some agave. Couldn't tell the avocado or spinach was in there (though the purple colour was a little muted) and liked the creaminess from the avocado.

I found this time the taste / texture more pleasing, and noted that if I kept the smoothie overnight to have in the morning then the slight unpleasantness was not there, so if you have tried this in the past and noted the same - then try making the mix as a smoothie and a day in advance.

Recommended - yep, though as a blended drink for me please. Have you tried the Vega One starter kit? any other comments to make??

Monday, 21 October 2013

Book Review - Blissful BItes

This is a pretty book. There are lots of nice photos, there are lots of different colours used on the pages and text (to differentiate seasons within each chapter - which is a nice touch) so it is very eye catching. The recipes are grouped into logical chapters by meal / main ingredient, and then subdivided by season. There are hints and information throughout the book as well as in the introduction, which is quite long and looks at everything from techniques, to equipment and ingredients used (and not used). The book also indicates which recipes in each chapter are the authors favourite, and the favourite of the folks who tested the recipes - this I like, though it didn't really influence my choices of dishes to make.

Blissful Bites is a health focused book, using little or no oil in the recipes. It also uses little or no onions or garlic (all from the Alium family actually) which is great for those who have taste buds accustomed to eating without these vegetables, but to me, in some recipes I found them lacking and would add these in if making again. The focus in many of the recipes is on macrobiotic ingredients, some of which are not easily located where I am so I avoided recipes which used these ingredients.

The recipes I tried -
Page 44 - Roasted Sweet and Yukon Potaotes
Loved the potatoes and sweet potatoes in this but wasn't overly keen on the green pepper. I think red would have been a better choice - for my tastes anyway. I spiced mine with cumin, oregano and chili powder.

Page 59 - A taste of India Artichoke Dip
I was intrigued by the combination of artichokes and chickpeas, and feel they are a combination worth exploring more, however the spices used in this dip didn't work for me - which may just have been the garam masala I have - and it was a little on the bland side. This one I would have added garlic too for sure.

Page 61 - Hearty Lentil Soup
Easy, tasty, a basic lentil soup really. Nice on a cool evening, and very filling. I'd add a little garlic (as it was I doubled the optional onion) if making again.

Page 100 - Not-your-average Cabbage Slaw
I was surprised to see vegan mayo as an ingredient without a recipe for a home made mayo. I did use a homemade mayo (will be in Vegan al Fresco - note the none-too-subtle self promotion) and while tasty I would have liked a little garlic in there. I did use the optional red onion.

Page 102 - Blissed Caesar Dressing
Not so caesar-ish as expected but very good! Lovely dressing and really good with a mixture of romaine lettuce and spicnah leaves.

Page 191 - Baked oil-free Falafel
A little dry after baking, and again I'd have added some garlic, but pretty good with the Tzatziki Sauce. I served over rice to which I added lemon zest and oregano to make it a little Mediterranean-ish.

Page 191 - Tzatziki Sauce
Straight from the blender this tasted a little strongly of tofu to me, however after sitting in the fridge for a while that faded and the sauce was nice. Quite a lot of dill, and I would have liked a little more pickles or fresh cucumber but it was a good addition to the Falafel.

Recommended? Yes, if your health is a main focus for you. If you are looking at trying recipes which add variation to your diet while keeping to a health focus then you'll likely find plenty to try. If not, then you may find recipes which appeal, though you may be inclined to add in onion and garlic to some of the recipes.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Book Review - The (gluten-free) Quintessential Quinoa Cookbook

Yesterday being Thanksgiving I'm posting this review today! Hope everyone in Canada had a happy and joy filled Thanksgiving with loved ones.

While not marketed as vegan this one is surprisingly very vegan friendly as the majority of the recipes have vegan options (often just using flax eggs) written into the instructions. This I liked!

As you'll guess by the title this book is all about quinoa. It is filled with creative and delicious recipes using this "super food" in a range of ways for all meals. The book itself is hardcover, has logical chapter groupings and lots of tasty looking professional photos. The recipes are laid out one to a page in a straightforward and easy to follow manner. There is a good sized introductory section packed with information about, and hints for using quinoa, and is worth the read. Have a look here for a bigger selection.

I have a quinoa hater in my house so chose the recipes with care, and was pleasantly surprised when they were all eaten and enjoyed!! I made -
Page 75 - Quinoa Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce
I think my wrappers were smaller than the ones the author used - and the size isn't specified in the recipe - as my filling kept falling out when I used the amount specified. Oh well, it tasted good and the sauce was awesome.

Page 105 - Quinoa Pizza Dough
One of the best GF pizza doughs I've made, and I have a bunch in the freezer for future use. Held up to the toppings well and had a lovely crust and firm, chewy texture. I topped ours with roasted shiitake mushrooms and slow cooked red peppers.

Page 127 - Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad
Great balance of flavours enhancing the sweet potato. Lovely for this time of year.

Page 153 - Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers
Held together well, texture was pretty good, but needed spicing up just a little more for us as we found them a touch on the bland side.

Page 227 - Quinoa Casserole with Broccoli and Cheese
In our case, Daiya. This one was an absolute winner with the hater! Really really good, so simple and so tasty. Real comfort food though, nothing healthy here.

Page 239 - Chocolate Chip Quinoa Cookies
I quite liked these, though they are a healthy tasting cookie and not decadent at all. The kids didn't like them so much.

Recommended? For sure - especially if you are looking to use quinoa more often but would like some different ideas and creative uses. If you have a quinoa hater you may just find something to convert them.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Book Review - The China Study Cookbook

OK, so I missed a few weeks - sorry. Though it was only because I was crazy busy cooking for, and then being a part of, the photo shoot for Vegan al Fresco. Will try to do better from here on.

This week we have The China Study Cookbook which bills itself as the "Official Companion to The China Study".  I did initially think this meant there would be recipes for dishes that you'd have seen the folks studied in the China Study eating, but once you get past the title page you realise this isn't the case - it is chock full of recipes which fit the conclusions of the China Study. (If you don't know about the China Study go here, or even better here.) Everything is vegan, low fat, and packed with nutrients.

The introduction is quite lengthy, which for a new vegan, or someone new to the results of the China Study would find very useful. It does go into some detail about the best options to include in your diet, and touches on the stuff you shouldn't have. The recipe chapters are logically organised, and the recipes are one to a page in most instances. The recipes are well laid out, come with timings, and in the most part are easy to follow. I think that for a book which is all about nutrition they could have done with including the nutritional analysis of the recipes as while this isn't a big deal for me I think that a number of readers would expect it. Most of the recipes have photos, and they are OK - look more like snapshots of the food than staged professional photos, so are not always the most attractive, but do give an accurate representation of the food they are illustrating.

The recipes I made -
Page 105 - Lemon Tahini Quinoa Salad
This was pretty good, but I'd leave the raw broccoli out next time - it didn't really seem to fit with everything else for my tastes.

Page 120 - Coconut Corn Chowder
I added extra corn as the amount as written didn't seem enough. Enjoyed this one, and H especially loved it.

Page 179 - Favourite Chili with Pasta
Nice for a change but not my favourite. Interesting to have over pasta.

Page 187 - Leek Pie
I liked the idea of this one - a rosti potato crust with a creamy leek filling - more than the execution. My crust was never crisp as I was expecting, but the flavours were pretty good.

Page 192 - Marsala's Chickpeas
I do love chickpeas! This was quite tasty, and nice over rice.

Recommended? If you're wanting to eat a very healthy vegan diet then yes, but if you're a little more about indulgence and have no problem with oil and sugar then you may not find this is for you.