Thursday, 26 December 2013

Book Review - Happy Herbivore Light and Lean

I have reviewed Lindsay's previous books (here and here) and found this one to be very similar. As this is the day after Christmas, where there may or may not have been a little over indulgence, its a good time to talk about looking forward to healthy eating again and maybe the odd New Year Resolution or two?? This book fits well for those who are looking at dropping a few pounds but don't know where to start. I also feel that, like the previous books in the series, this suits the novice in the kitchen, and appears to be targeted at those who are not necessarily confident cooks. If you have kitchen experience and know about putting flavours together then you may not find all the recipes interesting or challenging.

The book is, as before, well laid out, logically grouped into chapters and illustrated with numerous full colour photographs. The recipes are easy to follow, are mainly one per page, and all come with nutritional breakdowns - which I would expect in a low-calorie book. The introductory chapters look at ingredients used, and the theory behind both Lindsay's eating style and the weight loss focus of this book. There is also quite a lengthy personal story which is neither here nor there for me, but some people may like to read it to feel a personal connection to the author.

I liked the way the exercise section in the back has been done - with photos showing the correct technique, and that both beginner and more advanced options are given. Simple things you can do at home. No excuses anymore!

Before you start thinking I'm going to do nothing about rave about this book - there were a few things I didn't like so much. I found, reading through, that many of the recipes are repeats from the other books - some have been adjusted to be lower calorie to fit this specific theme, but many are the same. I expected more new content rather than reworking of used ideas. Also, as I noted briefly above, I found many of the recipes super simple - so simple that I would not really feel a recipe is needed (Loaded Baked Potato for example) but, that said, if I were a new and inexperienced cook (more the target than I am) then this would fit the bill completely. I'm not entirely sure about the need for alcoholic drinks in the drinks chapter, being as the focus is on health - but can see that some may appreciate lower calorie ideas for indulging. The last thing I didn't like so much were the testimonials, and that in some parts the book reads like a great big advertisement for the Happy Herbivore Meal Plans (which I assume you have to pay for). However, I can appreciate that if you're an individual who needs to loose weight knowing that others have done so successfully would be a positive, and also knowing how they did it and where to get the same information would be a bonus. So for all the things I personally wasn't enthralled with, I can see the plus sides to others.

On to the recipes I made -
Page 30 - Granola
This was OK with milk and fruit. It wasn't super delicious to the point where I'd stand at the container and just eat it like some granola I have made in the past. I also found it very dry without liquid. OK but nothing great.

Page 60 - Sonoma "Chicken" Salad
This was lovely. I used my own mayo not Lindsay's recipe so I can't comment on that part of it, but the flavour combination was good, texture was more-ish with the grapes and celery, and I enjoyed this with a green salad.  I didn't add the optional nuts but could see them being great too.

Page 74 - Taco Burgers
Enjoyed these hot and cold. Would have preferred to use spices individually rather than be directed to buy a taco seasoning packet as this is something I don't usually do.

Page 140 - Thai Peanut Dressing
Nice, though thinner and less creamy than I had in my head to expect.

Page 153 - Chipotle Pasta
H loved this one. He must have said 3 or 4 times as he ate it "this is delicious!". High approval rating from him! I liked it, though not as much as H, nice flavour combinations and super easy.

Page 158 - Soba Peanut Noodles
This one I loved! I made it 2 days in a row. The sauce here is very thick (more like I was expecting above) and luscious from the texture of the yogurt. I served with sauteed broccoli one day and just green onions the next. Can see this one being made again!

Page 181 - Parmesan Greens
This was OK. Nothing super - and so simple.

Page 214 - Tofu Jerky
Tasty. Took a little more forward planning. Instead of discarding the marinade as directed I mixed it with some mayo and made a very tasty salad dressing. Not as chewy as commercial jerky but a tasty change to the usual soft tofu.

So, there you have it. Recommended?? If you're looking to loose weight, control your calorie intake, get some info about exercising at home, and are a relative kitchen newbie, you probably couldn't do better.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The next two posts -

Are part of blog tours for books published by Ben Bella Books. Watch out for
- on December 26th, and
- on January 1st.

I even have official little badges -

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

OK - just one more...

I know I said I wouldn`t be posting until after Christmas, but I am! This one isn`t a book review so it doesn`t really count!

Head on over to Homemade Holiday 101 and sign up from the e-newsletter to get hints and recipes for making the best of the season. You can also get great deals on e-books (Quick and Easy Vegan Bake Sale and Quick and Easy Vegan Slow Cooking included!) so check it out. Some of my recipes are also being featured in a Holiday e-book (Holiday food for all) which is FREE!!! So follow one of the links and check it out.

Happy Christmas to everyone!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Book Review - Eat to Live

Lots of information in the introductory sections of this one, mainly about Dr Fuhrman`s theory on the best way to eat. In general there is a lot on the nutritional value of different foods and which give you more bang for your calorific buck (which is his theory in a nutshell) and guides to choosing produce, kitchen tools recommended and some testimonials. Not all the recipes are the creations of Dr Fuhrman, and the guest chefs are introduced, which is a nice touch - giving credit where due. My only negative about parts of this book is that they do push the Dr Fuhrman brand products a little, but in fairness there are alternatives given in the introductory sections should you not have access to these.

There is one section of colour photos, otherwise the recipes are not illustrated. They are logically grouped, spaciously laid out and easy to follow in the most part. Each recipe has nutritional information per serving, which I would expect from a book focused on eating nutritionally. There are loads of informational text boxes about ingredients, containing tips and points of interest.

The recipes I made -
Page 52 - Chocolate Cherry Smoothie
Very tasty. Rich and filling. Not overly chocolate-y, you could still taste the fruit but wouldn`t know there was spinach in there!

Page 64 - Overnight Oatmeal
Very simple. Nice to have ready for in the morning without really doing anything for breakfast.

Page 82 - Nutritarian Caesar Dressing
I didn`t like this one. I found it both too sweet and too overpoweringly kelp-y. I tried to rescue it by adding other ingredients any eventually ended up wiht something i liked. Sorry to say I threw most of it away.

Page 96 - Fresh Tomato Salsa
Simple but tasty.

Page 97 - Favourite Guacamole
Not my favourite but nice enough. A little too heavy on the raw onions for my guac preferences.

Page 115 - Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad
Loved this one. Very simple but tasty way to eat sprouts!

Page 120 - Dijon Vinaigrette Asparagus
Though I didn`t use asparagus as it is not in season, I made Dijon Vinaigrette Beets using the same method etc and it was lovely.

Page 132 - Taco Salad with Guacamole Dressing
Too much raw onion in this one for us, and the dressing was a little on the bland side. Tasty enough once we picked out alot of the onion.

Page 190 - Tofu Fillets with Mushroom Wine Sauce
Very nice. A filling meal served over rice. Enjoyed this one quite a lot.

Page 230 - Polenta with wilted greens and roasted Portobello Mushrooms
Another I enjoyed. Simple to make but good.

Page 252 - Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers
Tasted great but texture wise weren`t the best. Didn`t hold any real shape once mixed, and I had to bake for art least twice the stated time to get any sort of crust. Nice cold too.

Recommended..... If your health is a big concern, and you are looking to eat in the most nutritionally sound manner, or looking to loose weight or control health issues, then yes.

Next blog post won't be until after Christmas!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Book Review - Vegan Cooking for Carnivores

The paperback version. Not sure it is different from the hardcover - other than there is a different picture on the front.

This is a nice looking book, well laid out with lots of pictures (mainly the food) for those who like that sort of thing. Some of the recipes / instructions have pictorial illustrations of the steps as well - which is nice for things which you may not be familiar with. The foreword and afterword I can take or leave but the introductory sections are short but handy - looking at pantry staples, techniques, and knife info. There is a section on brand name vegan products recommended / used which is your second hint that this is not a from scratch vegan cookbook but more a book filled with transitional recipes, an introduction to vegan eating. (Your first hint would be the title of the book!)

The recipes are logically grouped, and are laid out mainly one to a page. The condiments section is the exception. Most recipes have at least one picture. The recipes I made -

Page 31 - Tofu Egg Salad
Not much egg-ness as the pickle / celery flavour dominates. Tofu is for texture in this one I guess. Recipe is tasty enough, and very easy.

Page 45 - Fruity Snack Balls
Enjoyed these. Would like with cocoa nibs or cocoa powder as well!

Page 54 - Potato Latkes
Simple and tasty. Don't know why you have to heat the oven as it isn't used in the instructions.

Page 71 - Tortilla Soup
OK though H wasn't enamoured with the tortilla strips. I liked them but didn't like the avocado on top. Not as thick as I was expecting and a little bitter from the charred ingredients.

Page 84 - Black Bean Soup
Again not as thick as expected. Tasty, though a little one note - needed a little more depth. Super easy to make.

Page 90 - Spicy Noodle Salad
Very tasty! Enjoyed this one a lot.

Page 100 - Blackened Tofu Caesar Salad
Loved the caesar dressing and the blackened tofu was tasty. Not convinced there needed to be peppers.

Page 157 - Risotto
I often make risotto so know what I like. The addition of the cashew cream at the end was lovely and made for an exceptionally creamy final dish.

Page 160 - Roasted Butternut Squash
I burnt my leeks a little as I think the temperature in the recipe is too high for caramelisation. Very tasty though - had this will the risotto and it was a super good combination.

Recommended? For what it is - a book of transitional recipes using both whole foods and processed vegan foods - you could certainly do worse. If you're not keen on processed foods, even as a very occasional thing then this one may not be for you.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Book Review - Vegan Pizza

Cute book. Not an overly large book, but there are only so many variations on the theme you can make before getting repetitive. Photos of ingredients (not colour) are smattered through the text, but there are no photos of the pizzas or other recipes. This is not a biggie to me, but I know some folks like lots of photos in cookbooks, are find it easier to visualise the end product.

The book is divided into logical chapters, and starts with a run down of ingredients, equipment, and tips and tricks for successful pizza making and devouring (party anyone?). There are options (including Gluten-free) for crusts (if you choose to make your own), sauces (cheesy and other wise), and homemade "meats" for topping. I especially like how quinoa is used in these meat replacement recipes - very clever, and tasty! There is even a chapter on dessert pizza and while I didn't make any of these I can see myself doing so in the future for a different treat (maybe when the kids have a sleepover or party!)

The recipes I made -
Page 10 - Gluten Free Pizza Dough
Worked really well. Made a crisp crust and wasn't too hard to work with.

Page 18 - Sausage Crumbles
Tastes lovely. Not just for on pizza. I would use this on pasta as well - and in all sorts of ways. Easy to make.

Page 35 - Tomato-Garlic Pizza Sauce
Super simple. Perfect as a base for adding toppings too - not much else to say.

Page 38 - Garlic Sausage and Onion Pizza
Using the recipes above! Nice combination, very tasty.

Page 56 - Mushroom, Broccoli and Sun Dried Tomato Pizza
We love mushrooms on pizza, and we love broccoli. Of course we loved this!

On the down side - I'd have liked to have seen more recipes not calling for shredded vegan cheese (my initial assumption is commercial) or more places where it is mentioned how to use the recipes that are given for sauces etc in place. This information is given, but I think it would warrant repeating just to keep it in the forefront of peoples minds.

Recommended? If you love pizza and would like to make your own, from crust up, then for sure. There are some tasty topping ideas, so even to use this as a jumping off point is a good deal.