What a busy year it’s been so far. Between work, parenting and my cross-country job hunt, there’s been scarcely a minute to c0mpose my thoughts for a blog post. Fortunately, the recipes in Isa Does It, the latest by best-selling author Isa Chandra Moskowitz, are made with the busy home cook in mind. The focus of the book is easy, weeknight meals using easy-to-find ingredients (hence the pun-y title).
Isa Does It is easily one of the most visually appealing vegan cookbooks ever published. It is a hefty, hardback tome with color pictures throughout. The pages are colorful, with fun doodles and, most important, easy-to-read recipes. There’s no flipping back and forth in order to complete a recipe. Case-in-point, Nacho Night from the Sunday Suppers section. The nachos use queso and lentil taco meat recipes from earlier in the book, but they are reprinted on the Nacho Night page along with the guac and salsa recipes.
In some cookbooks, I use post-it flags to mark recipes I’d like to try. In Isa Does It, it would have been easier to flag the few recipes I did not want to try. I found the bowls section especially appealing. Each recipe has a suggested protein, veggie, starch and sauce to smother it all with. For example, behold the Good Gravy Bowl: grilled seitan tenders, broccoli and buckwheat (I subbed out the quinoa suggested in the recipe) covered in a lentil-based gravy.
Because the focus is on weeknight cooking, the book is composed entirely of recipes for main dishes. It begins with soups and includes chapters on stews and curries, pasta, bowls, hand-helds, stir-fries, breakfast and even short sections on easy desserts and more time-consuming weekend recipes. The recipes are a mix of 30 minute meals and meals with down-time built-in — for example, a dish might take 15 minutes to assemble and then bake in the oven for an hour. The recipes clearly state the full cooking time and the active cooking time. I’ve found that the cooking-time estimates assume that you use your time as efficiently as possible, which meant that recipes sometimes took me a little longer than the estimates.
After cooking from the book for a month, I’ve found that most recipes turn out very good, some excellent and a few below expectations. Overall, this is probably my new favorite Isa book. (We’re on a first-name basis after hanging out together so much over the past few weeks). I highly recommend it.
Nacho Night (Sunday Suppers section): A tasty cashew queso, salsa, guac, lentil taco meat and garnishes served over corn chips. This took me less than the estimated time, perhaps because I have a high-speed blender.
Coconut French Toast (Breakfast section): I love coconut, so it was no surprise that I would enjoy this recipe. What I especially liked about it is that the coconut flavor comes from shredded coconut and coconut extract, so you don’t wind up with a half-can of coconut milk lying around when you are finished.
Everyday Pad Thai (Stir Fry section): A Pad Thai made with pantry staples that tastes almost as good as my favorite vegan Thai place’s. I used the tofu called for in the recipe, but this would also be delicious with seitan or your favorite mock-meat.
Pizza Bowl (Bowls section): brown rice, veggie sausage, kale and olives, topped with a roasted red pepper cashew cheese sauce. The best part was that the recipe made a lot, so I had several days of tasty brown-bag lunches.
Chicky Seitan (A Few Basic Proteins section): This is a steamed seitan with chickpeas in it. I used a food processor to mash the chickpeas and knead everything together. I think this is my new favorite chicken-style seitan. The texture was perfect.
Roasted Pumpkin Chimchurri Bowl (Bowls section): The soba bowl with chimichurri, black beans and roasted pumpkin sounded like an odd combination to me, but I decided to trust Isa and give it a try. Unfortunately, no one in my family enjoyed this dish and leftovers went right in the trash.
Sticky Orange Chicky (Stir Fries section): This recipe didn’t taste bad and we ate it all, but I am counting it as a fail because it just tasted too healthy for me. When I want orange chicken, I want the sticky, sweet restaurant-style version. I’ll stick to my Chloe’s Kitchen Orange You Glad I Made Crispy Tofu from now on.