Monday, 26 May 2014

Book Review - Vegan for Fun / Vegan for Fit

Two books in one review! Not something I usually do but I got both books at the same time, both books are by the same author, and many of my comments would be the same for each if I did individual reviews. Also I am well busy at the moment with Interviews and the like promoting Vegan al Fresco, so am taking the easier (read lazier) route for these two books.

Both books are substantial hardcover books, with large sections of introductory, and appendix chapters. I found some of the information repeated in these sections, and that they were just a little too long. The recipe chapters were, on the whole, logically laid out, the recipes mostly one to a page and well spaced / easy to read. The majority of recipes were accompanied by beautiful photos.  Overall everything I made from these books was delicious, but I do feel there was a lot of tofu / soy products used which may put some folks off, and that some of the ingredients called for (first clear flour / locust bean gum / white almond butter) may not be familiar to (or easily obtainable by) many North American readers. I didn't make a huge number of recipes but what I did make was -

From Vegan for Fit -
Page 142 - White Beans and Basil in Tomato Sauce
I added more water and cooked for longer than stated to have the beans cook in the tomato sauce for longer. Seeds are a nice textural contrast but I'm not sure why the smoked tofu is there. Tasty and easy.

Page 154 - Red Lentil Soup
Creamy and luscious with layers of flavour. Very good. I enjoyed the crunch of the garnish but H did not.

From Vegan for Fun -
Page 36 - Spaghetti with Tofu Bolognese
Tasty and simple. Quite rich but not heavy. Worth making.

Page 46 - Red Fried Potatoes
Very good! though the adding of the tomato paste to the fried potatoes negates all the crispiness you have just created by frying them! Would change slightly to maintain the crispy potatoes.

Page 94 - Chili with Avocado Cream
Made into layered nachos and enjoyed by all the family. This is not spicy so I would maybe add some heat for next time.

Page 118 - Asparagus Salad
Didn't peel the asparagus, which seems to be a European thing - as is white asparagus (I used green). Very simple but very tasty!

There are a few things I found as I was making the recipes which I didn't like. I am not sure whether these are a "lost in translation" thing, or if the recipes in the original German are missing these references too. The recipes I made did not (apart from I think once) give heat temperatures (low / medium / high) for stove top cooking, which in itself is not a biggie, but when coupled with the lack of description after times given is frustrating. The recipes would ask for something to be cooked for "approx. 3 minutes" but wouldn't give a follow up "until XXX" (such as; cook onions for 3 minutes until soft and translucent) so I had to guess at both temperature and expected outcome. Not really a bother for me but less experienced folks in the kitchen could feel lost. I also found an inconsistency with how things were measured, within the same recipe - for example asking for 1/3 cup of one liquid ingredient, but 5.5 ounces of another liquid ingredient - this I feel quite sure will be a translation thing. In Vegan for Fun there was one definite translation typo I noted - Page 96 references "Best Muesli Bars in Town" in the text (Muesli Bars being what English folks call Granola Bars) whereas the recipe on Page 98 is titled "Best Granola Bars in Town". Yes, this one is a nit-picky one.

Another thing I was not enamoured with (and this one is nothing to do with translation) is what I feel to be an excess of photos of the author. Absolutely have some to provide that "Author Presence" and to showcase the exercises in Vegan for Fit, but I would preferred to have had less of these photos. I don't feel they add to the books overall.

Of the two, I prefer Vegan for Fun; the recipes appeal to me more, the premise of the book appeals to me more, and of the recipes I made the ones from this book I enjoyed more. The food was certainly tasty!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Book Review - Vegan Finger Foods

Celine and Tami have done it again! Another beautiful, user-friendly book has hit the stores!
The premise of this book is, obviously, finger foods - those you don't need cutlery to eat, with a focus on ones which are suitable for parties, either as passed appies, or as a buffet spread. The introductory chapter offers some hints, introduces some maybe less well known ingredients, and lists the recipe icons (for make ahead, quick and easy, and those with GF potential). Not overly long, or that info packed, however at the end of the book there are suggested menus which is nice helpful information.

The recipe chapters (4 of them) are logical, and group the recipes in an approachable manner. The recipes themselves are 1 per page, nicely laid out, have chatty but informative introductions, and many have accompanying photos. The photos (as always in Tami and Celine's books) are pretty awesome, and make the dishes they illustrate look worth making. Even if you don't really need your recipes illustrated you'll like these photos!

The recipes I made, in (as always) page number order -
Page 16 - Quickie Marinara
Simple and quick (as the title implies) this is a tasty sauce. Nothing difficult or out of the ordinary.

Page 21 - Snacking Chickpeas
I made the Bacony variation, and almost ate the whole recipe by myself as they came out of the oven. Super winner!

Page 43 - Potato Puffs with Tapenade
Not too keen on this one. The addition of the instant mashed potatoes gave a texture and taste I didn't really like. Tapenade was tasty, and the idea is a great one.

Page 44 - Nacho Potato Skins
Tasty! Though my potatoes were really big, and had to be eaten with a knife and fork. I did add a step where I heated the skins in the oven for 10 minutes after filling before adding the sauce as I have folks who don't appreciate raw onion, and this extra step cooked them just enough to make them acceptable.

Page 57 - Pantry Raid Ranch Dip
Super fast, super easy. A tasty enough addition to anything which needs a dip, or as a salad dressing.

Page 58 - Nacho Saucy Dip
Another simple, yet tasty sauce / dip. Would be great over green vege.

Page 145 - Chocolate Chunk Cookies
These turned out a little dry. Not my favorite choc chip cookies. Easy enough to make though!

I would like to try more recipes from this one - but its a great little book, filled with awesome ideas. Add it to your shelf!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Book Review - The China Study All-Star Collection

Blog Tour - All stop here!!

I must say I was excited about the concept for this book. Bringing together a collection of healthy whole-food, plant-based recipes from a variety of vegan chefs (some more known than others but all pretty awesome) to really showcase that eating plants, and doing so in a healthy manner, can be both effortless, and appeal to a wide range of different tastes and eating styles. Sounds like a sure winner to me.

The book is colourful and attractive. The recipes are laid out 1 to a page, and most have a full colour photo as illustration. I know many folks really like to see what the recipe should end up looking like so I think this will aid in the appeal of this book to new vegans, or those who are just giving plant-based eating a try. There are lots of tips and hints interspersed with the recipes, again helpful for those new to this way of eating.

There is no introduction - which is to be expected in a book which is compiled from recipes from a number of authors. At the end of the book, each contributor is introduced, with a short resume of there cooking and publishing experience, and a photo - so you know who to look for if you liked particular recipes. For those who skip ready the introductory sections in cookbooks then this is a plus for you!

The one thing I didn't really like  - and it is not a biggie, and is something other readers may like - is the lack of consistency in style for all the recipes. Some have introductions, some do not. Some make servings, others slices, others cups... I know this will be from the fact that the recipes were contributed, (and I'm being picky) and that each author will have their own style, but I would have liked to have seen the recipes edited to be a little  more similar in appearance - standardised a bit more.

All in all - if you are wanting an introductory book, one that allows you to experience the style and outlook of a number of different authors without buying each person's book and spending a bunch, then this is a great option. You can try dishes from a range of people and see where your tastes and preferences guide you. A great idea, and good resource to have on your shelves. This one I would loan out (after my own Vegan al Fresco of course!) if I had someone asking about where to start.