Monday, 27 January 2014

Book Review - Isa Does it!

This is a hefty book, hard covered and packed with all sorts of recipes. It is very pretty, with a lot of colour used - the pages are all different coloured which I like, but it does make it quite busy on the eye when you're reading through. There are lots of artfully arranged colour photos of the recipes, and cute hand drawn illustrations. The recipes are all one to a page, logically grouped into chapters, humorously (yet relevantly) introduced, and easy to follow. I'd expected as much! My only negative about the layout etc would be that the font is very small in places and my "old-lady-eyes" have a little trouble. There is a lot of information in each recipe and on all the pages so I imagine the font has had to be small to fit everything in.

The introductory sections explain the theme of the recipes (easy to make, easy to find ingredients, and as quick as possible while still being tasty), look at equipment, ingredients, and swapping for allergens, as well as how to be organised while cooking and a pictorial guide to cutting tofu. This last one is interesting, as describing how to get the shapes needed is not always easy - but I'm not entirely convinced it is necessary. There is a lot of good, and relevant, information int he introduction and you should read it so you're aligned with whats going to follow.

The recipes I tried -
Page 46 Roasted Potato and Fennel Soup
I love fennel, and this soup was lovely. I left it quite chunky, and it really was a meal in a bowl. Thickened overnight so I had to thin with water the next day.

Page 85 Falafel Burgers
This one is a little more time consuming and you really have to start it the next day. It does take longer than the time stated but it is worth it, as we both enjoyed this recipe a lot. It was a little crumbly for me so I added some water to help it hold together. Most likely from my using GF breadcrumbs.

Page 110 Ancho-Lentil Tacos
H enjoyed this more than I did. I found the spices a little harsh and in need of some balance when eaten by itself. I found this less so once the guacamole and other fixings where included. It may also have been my spices. Worth making.

Page 142 White Wine Risotto
OK, but not our favourite. We both found it to be a little on the sour side - there is lots of wine, and then lemon juice too. May have been the wine I was cooking with. I also found the finished risotto too loose for my preference so I cooked for longer, and then my rice was over done. This is just a preference thing and not the recipe! Second day I reheated and added a bunch of nutritional yeast and found I enjoyed it more.

Page 179 Everyday Pad Thai
Tasty. Though I'm not convinced broccoli belongs in pad thai. Will make the sauce and noodles part again for sure.

Page 192 Miso Tahini Dressing
Only make the sauce part of this recipe, but it was very good. A little salty (from the miso) but tasty. Very simple too.

Page 201 Hummus
Only made the hummus not the rest. Nice version with the olives added, so not your traditional.

Page 216 Chandra Malai Kofta
Loved the sauce - rich and mild but very tasty. The kofta balls were also good, but my favourite part was the sauce.

Page 233 Pepes Secret Guacamole
Very nice. Interesting with the orange juice not lime. My little guacamole lover liked it so a winner all over.

Recommended? For sure. There are lots more recipes in the book which I would have liked to have tried. Have you tried any from this one? any favourites?

Monday, 20 January 2014

Book Review - The SimplyRaw Kitchen

I did really like this book, but I feel I have to mention straight up that I initially found it a little confusing. From the title I was expecting a more complete raw focus. I know the sub heading is "plant-powered, gluten-free, and mostly raw recipes...." but I must have completely glossed over this in my initial reading, and feel that other readers may do the same. Be assured there are loads of raw recipes in the book should you eat a completely raw diet, but there are a number of cooked recipes too (fine for me) to be aware of.

This is a very pretty book - I found it inviting and easy to read. The chapters are laid out in a logical manner, introduced in an interesting and relevant manner, the recipes laid out spaciously, mostly 1 to a page, and in two columns when smaller recipes are combined on a page - the book does not feel crowded even when this occurs. Photos for many of the recipes are dispersed throughout the book. Many recipes have wee icons to indicate if they are fast to make, cooked, or contain nuts.

The introductory sections touch on the authors journey to a raw diet (though not overly detailed or personal - hits a nice balance I think) and how she came to own the restaurant she currently runs in Ottawa. As many of the recipes draw from her cultural roots (Eastern European) and come from her mother, there is a second introduction from her mother, and comments about some of the recipes from her in the book too. I quite like this family touch. The introductory sections continue to look at being raw, transitioning to raw, and eating raw, and does mention that there are cooked recipes included in the book - to aid transition and provide options. There is a chapter looking at raw kitchen essentials, from ingredients, tools and equipment, to techniques and hints, and this chapter includes some basic "how to" recipes as well.

The recipes I made follow - and I did make more cooked recipes than raw, being that it is Winter after all! -
Page 79 - Stovetop Rice Pudding
While this does take a.g.e.s and uses what seems like an impossibly large amount of liquid for the rice, this is one tasty dish. Warming, comforting and very more-ish. I added raisins to mine with the milk and they got plump and juicy.

Page 100 - Cauliflower Chowder
I loved the contrast between the smooth soup and tender cauliflower chunks. Next time I think I'd maybe leave out the herbs and spices and allow the natural flavours to shine more, but even with that said this was one tasty soup.

Page 109 - Garden Salad with Creamy Tahini Dressing
Loved the dressing - very Caesar-esque and very more-ish. I poured leftovers onto mashed potatoes as a makeshift gravy and it was a great way to use the dressing up!

Page 122 - Kyssa House Dressing
OK - a basic vinaigrette. Nothing super special but quick to make.

Page 150 - Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Dragon Dipping Sauce
I would eat this sauce on everything if I could, it was that good! I always find rice paper rolls tricky to work with but this sauce made all the fiddling about completely worth while!!

Page 166 - Risi Bisi
Another one where less would have been more as far as the herbs are concerned. I thought the basil overpowered the subtle flavours from the onion, cloves and peas. Very tasty and easy to make, but I would tweak the herbs a little.

Page 167 - Mushroom Goulash
So tasty. I served this with pasta, but could see it being good on mashed potatoes too.

Recommended? Absolutely - If you are raw, raw curious, transitioning to raw, or just want to explore raw food in a delicious and not overly involved manner then this is a great book. So, good for pretty much anyone!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Book Review - The Yoga-Body Cleanse

Continuing with my sort of welcome to the new year with healthy books trend! (Don't worry it doesn't go on long).

This book is a guide through 7 days of healthy living, getting you in touch with your inner being and coming out the other end better for it. I must say right here that I did not complete the programme at this time - though may do so at some point in the future.

The book runs through Ayurvedic basics, has a bunch of quizzes to determine if this is something you'd benefit from, looks briefly at determining your dosha and how that affects you, then moves into a day by day guide to the programme. This part of the book contains a structure to your day while on the cleanse, recipes to use for your meals(which are pretty basic and variations on a similar theme), yoga exercises to complete, self care activities to complete and other hints to get the most out of the programme. There are no pictures and the recipes are contained within the text.

In my opinion, I found that the programme and book was lacking somewhat in scientific proof, to the level I would have liked to have seen. A lot was very anecdotal in the way the information was presented.

If this sort of cleanse appeals to you I really do feel you need to consult a Doctor prior to undertaking anything, instead of just taking the book and jumping right in.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Book Review - Better than Vegan

Happy and Healthy New Year wishes to everyone.

I agreed to take part in the blog tour for Del Sroufe's new book thinking that a post early in 2014 about healthy eating would be a good way to usher in the year - many people do start to think about their health as the year commences after all. I didn't think about that I would actually have to write the review on a day when I might not be the most wide awake, but anyway - here goes!

There's only 101 recipes in this book but it is still quite substantial - there is a huge introductory section, and while I tend to like reading these parts of cook books like novels this one left me a little glassy eyed. I didn't really connect with the very (long) personal life story as related in Chapter 1. Yes, Del's story is interesting and inspiring but I felt this could have been condensed a little. Chapters 2 and 3 I found much more interesting and relevant to the book - looking at foods to avoid and eat more of whilst eating low-fat vegan, equipment, techniques and ingredients all aimed at giving you information for the recipes which follow.

The recipes themselves are logically grouped, well laid out (one per page), attractively presented with coloured text, interesting and not overly long headers, and there are many relevant photos for those who like them. I made -

Page 72 - Cauliflower Puree
This is an ingredient for some of the other recipes I made - but is a luscious way to enjoy cauliflower as it stands.

Page 84 - Low Fat Mayonnaise
Again another ingredient in some of the other recipes I made. Not really tasting of mayonnaise as I would imagine it, but tasty enough. I didn't eat other than in the recipes where it was used.

Page 86 - Jalapeno Mayonnaise
Tangy and spicy and very good. Off the spoon this didn't have the mouth feel I would expect from mayo but mixed into a tossed salad it was very good - it added a background smooth creaminess which is what a mayo based dressing does and was quite enjoyable.

Page 133 - Cracked Black Pepper Hummus
Very Lemon-y! Didn't have the real smooth creaminess I expect from hummus but was tasty enough. I did have to add some water so I would process until smooth.

Page 160 - Turkish Red Lentil Soup
Nice balance of mint and lemon and very very good. Super simple and quick.

Page 204 - Black Bean Burgers
Tasty. Easy to make, and got a lovely crust once baked. Not overly assertive flavour but did the trick with salad and dressing or on a bun.

Page 226 - Creamy Pasta and Broccoli
I also added some arugula right at the end to wilt it as I had some to use up. Very tasty.

Page 232 - Baked Tofu
Confusing this one. I think the recipe has got mixed in with the recipe on the preceding page as it talks about stuffing it and there are no ingredients for that. Just a proof reading error maybe? I ignored all these references and just baked my tofu plain. My marinade / cooking sauce burnt to the dish but the tofu itself was lovely - well flavoured and textured. Nice hot and cold the next day.

Page 244 - Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts
The glaze wasn't as thick and sticky as I was expecting and would have liked, but the flavour was awesome. Love sprouts and it is nice to have other ways to cook them!

Page 252 - Potato Salad
Creamy and very tasty - you'd not know this salad was low fat. Really good.

Recommended? If you're a follower of a low-fat / no-oil vegan way of eating you'll find a lot to celebrate in this book. If you're not - why not give some of the recipes a try for a change? you may be pleasantly surprised!!