Monday, 31 March 2014

Book Review - Jazzy Vegetarian Classics

I made the recipes from this book the week before Spring Break - and we did go away for the break which is why I didn't get to writing this up until now. We had a fun break - though there was snow on a lot of the passes over the mountains to the BC interior, and we got caught in a good few snowfalls! Anyway - to the book!

This is a substantial hardcover book - filled with lovely photos, including a lot of the author, but the ones she are in is with the food, which remains the focus. Unlike in some other books I have her presence is an addition to not a distraction from what I feel should be the focus (presenting the food!).

All the recipes in the book are in fact vegan - which is a little confusing as while the sub-title references this the actual title does not. Vegans skimming though the book store or online sites may pass this by because of it. I would have done.

The introductory chapter is a good run through ingredients used, herbs and spices, and other kitchen tips. All nice to have. The actual recipe chapters are logical groupings, the recipes are mostly one to a page, use of colour is enough to differentiate the recipes from each other but not overly busy. There are hints and notes on many recipes, and they are simple enough to read and follow. I like the quotes from famous and historically important vegetarians and musicians smattered throughout the book, and the section where jazz music suggestions are given for menus is a cute touch. Not sure I'm too keen on the book having commercial companies as sponsors.

The recipes I made -
Page 47 - Peanut Sauce
Very simple sauce, quite spicy, and tasty.

Page 52 - Caesar Salad Dressing
Didn't like this version of a Caesar dressing. I feel regular tofu is the wrong texture and taste - the dressing was very tofu like in flavour. Would not use this recipe again.

Page 57 - Cashew Parmesan
Nice - though I'd have preferred a little nutritional yeast added for a more cheesy-like finish.

Page 67 - Aioli Dip
Very nice, super mellow garlic flavour which was really good.

Page 111 - Creamy Cauliflower Bisque
Super simple, yet creamy and very tasty. Soup for making you want more soup! Serving size as written is very small so make a double amount.

Page 120 - Caesar Salad
See dressing above - so not the best I've had.

Page 171 - Savory Mushroom Stroganoff
OK but not as rich a creamy as I was expecting.

Page 174 - Oven Baked Two Bean Chili
Genius. Very tasty, very easy, and mostly hands off - perfect for a busy person who does 17 things at once - dinner takes care of itself!

Page 202 - Broccoli with Lemon Sauce
OK - a nice simple way to jazz up your broccoli (excuse the wee pun)

Page 211 - Paprika Roasted Cauliflower
Very nice. Addition of the onion a nice touch and tasty too.

Page 213 - Paprika and Rosemary Roasted Red Potatoes
Simple, savoury and tasty. Nice potatoes.

I must admit to have never having heard of Laura Theodore - either as a Jazz singer, TV show host, or vegan chef prior to receiving this book but I may have to have a look at her previous book after this!


Monday, 10 March 2014

Book Review - The New Chicago Diner Cookbook

Before I start into the review I must really apologise for the length of time since my last post. Excuses to follow! Firstly, we've all been sick - one at a time - so I have been busy getting us all healthy, as well as working pretty much full time at a paid job, and part time at a volunteer one, as well as getting all the stuff ready for the publication and launch of Vegan al Fresco. All I can do is try better from now on!

On to the review -

Never having been to Chicago (one day!) I have not eaten at the Chicago Diner so have no pre-conceived ideas about the food, not any favourites I was wanting to try at home. I selected the recipes by what appealed to me as I flipped through. On the whole I may good choices!

The book itself is medium sized, nicely laid out with clean, clear text and a good smattering of full colour photographs, illustrating both the recipes and the restaurant. There is a nice introductory section covering the story behind the restaurant and the players involved, a quick look at tools and ingredients, and the first chapter is those "basic" recipes utilised in other recipes in the book. The recipes are grouped logically into the chapters and those chapters are themselves logically ordered. It is an attractive, enticing book.

The recipes I made -
Page 70 - Simple Kale Salad
Nice, and simple. A little heavy on the red onion, but I should have known that as I was chopping it and just added less! Tahini Dressing that goes with it is lovely, creamy and smooth and rich. I would be happy to eat the dressing on anything!

Page 73 - Chicago Diner Vegan Ranch Dressing
This was nice. Tangy, herby and tasty!~

Page 74 - Tempeh Caesar Salad.
I didn't use Tempeh, but added some avocado to the salad. I enjoyed this - the dressing especially. Garlic-y and very more-ish.

Page 76 - Southwest Spice Dressing
Spicy, a little heated and very tasty. I didn't make the salad it "goes with" but enjoyed with just mixed greens. I imagine it would be better with the flavours of the actual taco Salad.

Page 97 - Curried Cauliflower Soup
Nice flavours, but not as thick and hearty as I was expecting from description. A little bit of a let down. Would make again with less liquid.

Page 102 - Gluten-Free Black Bean Burgers
Fail. I made this twice. The first time the mixture burnt when cooking for the time specified with the liquid specified and then the next time I added more liquid so it wouldn't burn and ended up with sloppy burgers which didn't form nice patties. From what I tasted the flavours were there but I didn't really enjoy them either time - and felt a bit cross to have wasted all the ingredients.

Page 140 - Fettuccine with Cashew Alfredo
This was tasty. Similar to recipes I've had in the past, but very nice sauce. Easy to eats lots of!

Recommended? If you're a fan of the restaurant and want to re-create the food at home then I'll think you'll like this. If, like me, you've never been there this is a nice introduction. (Even with the burger fail!)