Monthly Archives: November 2014

Cookbook Obsession: A Review of The Oh She Glows Cookbook

Ten years ago, we were lucky if a vegan cookbook contained a small photo insert.  Now, full-color photos throughout seem to be becoming standard.  But even in a world where vegan cookbook publishers have stepped up their game, The Oh She Glows Cookbook stands out for its design and gorgeous photography.

Oh She Glows is the work of blogger Angela Liddon, who writes the incredibly popular blog of the same name.  For those unfamiliar with Angela’s work (as I was until recently), the focus is on simple recipes prepared with whole food ingredients.  I put off buying the book for quite a while because many of the main dish recipes did not seem particularly innovative.  I have lots of recipes for things like Chana Masala and African Peanut Soup already.  The healthy snack chapter, which features things like salt and vinegar roasted chickpeas and  peanut butter “cookie dough” balls made from oats, made me reconsider.  I wondered: Could Angela get my son to eat a remotely healthy meal?  As I flipped through the book weighing my purchase, the back cover endorsement by Dreena Burton sealed the deal.

You may have noticed that I like to cook multiple recipes from a book before reviewing it. Oh She Glows is lovely to behold and features the sort of chatty recipe introductions that I enjoy, but did the recipes deliver?  The proof would be in the chia pudding.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find chia seeds, so I started with the Maple Cinnamon Apple and Pear Baked Oatmeal (page 39) instead.

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Oatmeal is one of those foods that I eat because it’s good for me.  I don’t get particularly excited about it.  Baked oatmeal, however, is a simple way to elevate the humble breakfast porridge.  Angela’s version is lightly sweetened, lightly spiced and loaded up with chunks of fresh fruit and walnuts.  Although I enjoyed my oats (and managed to coerce my son into eating a few bites), I don’t agree with Angela’s suggestion that this would be a good company dish.  It didn’t have the wow factor I look for when cooking for special occasions.  It also made way more than 6 servings, so I will half the recipe in the future.

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For lunch, I whipped up the Perfected Chickpea Salad Sandwich (page 105).  The recipe title does not lie.  This is the best chickpea salad I have ever made.  As a bonus, it contains just 2 tablespoons of mayo and lots of crunchy veggies, so I felt like it was one of the healthiest versions, too.

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I was a bit puzzled by the smoothie section because it seemed like Angela was taking credit for inventing the green smoothie.  Having witnessed my parents jump on every health food fad from the 80’s on, I am quite certain that green smoothies were a thing long before 2008 (as was frozen banana soft-serve, which Pinterest seems to have only recently discovered, but I digress).  My confusion over the green smoothie recipes did not stop me from buzzing up a glass of Pumpkin Pie Smoothie (page 62) from the same chapter.  This recipe was a keeper.  Although it was made with nothing but fruit, milk, spices and just a bit of sweetener (maple syrup), it tasted like drinking a glass of my grandmother’s pumpkin pie.  My son voluntarily had a few sips and said, “I like this.”

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Next, I tried the Cream of Tomato Soup with Roasted Italian Chickpea Croutons (page 141).  Cream of tomato soup is not something I ate growing up, but I’ve developed a taste for it as an adult.  This version, which gets depth of flavor from 3 types of tomatoes (paste, dried and canned), is one of the best I’ve tried.  As a bonus, it’s easy-as-can be to make.  Just saute the onion and then buzz everything up in the blender.  My son refused to sample the soup, but ate quite a few of the “chicken peas.” There were no leftovers after this meal.

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Chilly autumn nights seem to call out for soup, so I put the Indian Lentil-Cauliflower Soup (page 133) on the menu too.  This was another recipe that was both simple to throw together and tasty.  Since the recipe relies heavily on curry powder for flavor, I used my “secret” curry powder trick.  Whenever I make curry with curry powder (rather than a homemade spice blend), I combine two or three different types of curry powder (for example, hot and mild or two different brands).  I find that this keeps the curry from tasting flat and one-note.  My dad commented on how filling this dish was, even with just a simple salad on the side.

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Finally, I made the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas (page 147).  This was my least favorite dish of the bunch.  It required dirtying lots of pots and pans and took quite a while to cook.  That would have been okay if dinner had knocked my socks off, but this dish just did not have the big flavors I look for in Mexican food.  I think the rest of my family agreed because the leftover enchiladas sat for nearly a week before someone finally ate them.

Final verdict:

Most recipes were easy to make, tasty and full of veggies, fruits and legumes. There’s enough to love here to make up for the few lackluster recipes.

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20 Days of Happiness – Part 14 – Lentil Sunflower Pie

There’s a scene in A Muppet Family Christmas where Ernie and Burt (from Sesame Street) have a conversation with Doc (from Fraggles) and Ernie and Burt can’t help pointing out what letter every word begins with.  “Bunk beds: B words!” they say as Ernie chortles.  When Doc looks at them askance they explain, “Where we come from, this is small talk.”  My sister once said that the scene reminded her of our family — except that complaining, not letters, are our family’s small talk.  It’s not that we are unhappy people.  We just like to air our grievances.  But sometimes it’s good to air positive feelings too and that’s just what I plan to do.  In this 20-part series, I focus on the many reasons I have to be happy.

Reunited And It Feels So Good

My Facebook feed is full of #100happydays posts.  Since appreciating one’s good fortune is apparently super trendy right now, I thought it was the right time to finish my 20 Days of Happiness series.  I started celebrating the little things that make me happy back in October 2013, way before it was cool.  I assume it’s only a matter of time before the Today show takes notice.

Since my last 20 Days of Happiness post, so much has changed.  Although I’ve talked a little bit about those changes in previous posts, a little recap will make this post more coherent.  A year ago, I was living in Los Angeles and working for one of the largest law firms in the country.  As the firm continued to do worse and worse financially, it became less and less pleasant to work there.  The more unhappy I was at work, the more difficult it became for me to justify living thousands of miles away from my family and close friends. Eventually, I realized that I had nothing to lose by quitting (except my salary, of course) and potentially lots to gain.  I gave notice and we hastily packed up and moved across the country.

The original plan was to take some time off to travel and give thought to careers outside the law.  That plan changed when I had the opportunity to interview for a clerkship (job assisting a federal judge).  Although the judge ultimately hired someone else, she was incredibly encouraging and generously offered to help me look for other legal jobs.  With the judge’s feedback and the encouragement of the many wonderful mentors I’ve had throughout my career, I decided to give the whole lawyer gig another shot.  After a few weeks relaxation, I started looking for a legal job here in New York.

To save money during my job hunt, we are staying with my parents and most of our things are staying in a nearby storage unit.  Last week, though, I had a bit of good luck.  My husband decided he could not live any longer without our television and we made a visit to the storage unit to search for it.  We did not find the TV, but we did find most of my missing cookbook collection.  I now have all but about 20 books — and the 20 missing books are mostly vintage books that I don’t actually cook from.  With so many of our things still packed away in boxes, it’s nice to be reunited with a little piece of home.

This week, I’ve been cooking up some of our favorite recipes, like last night’s dinner of Lentil Sunflower Pie from Vive Le Vegan, Maple Mustard Potatoes and Green Beans from Vegan with a Vengeance, cranberry sauce and cabbage.  The Lentil Sunflower Pie is made from veggies, lentils, sunflower seeds and seasonings, but has an uncanny resemblance to meatloaf.  (Last night, this was confirmed by my omni parents, who said it tasted “a lot” like meatloaf.)  It’s actually my all-time favorite loaf recipe, beating out loafs made of “meatier” ingredients like seitan and tofu.  This was a meal enjoyed by the entire family, including my son.  To my surprise and delight, he ate his entire piece of loaf (which he called “burger”) and two servings of cranberry sauce.  He also chewed on the potato and cabbage, but did not feel they warranted swallowing.

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Resources For Feeding Vegetarian and Vegan Toddlers

Yesterday’s post turned out to be particularly well-timed.  This morning, my son had his 2 year check-up and the doctor devoted quite a bit of time to asking us about his eating habits.  He advised that we continue to serve balanced meals without commenting or trying to coerce our son to eat.  The idea is to teach my son what healthy eating looks like and make sure that he is familiar with healthy foods when he is finally ready to try them (which could be a year from now, or even longer).  The doctor also assured us that our son is perfectly normal in his finickiness and refusal to try new things.

If yesterday’s post left you filled with despair, fear not.  I’ve compiled a list of resources written by folks who know much more about nutrition and feeding kids than I do.

Nutrition and Child Development Information

  • Raising Vegetarian Children, by Joanne Stepaniak not only addresses nutrition and menu-planning, but also covers things like explaining veganism to your children and helping them deal with being different from their peers.
  • Becoming Vegan, by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina is sub-titled “the everyday guide to plant-based nutrition” and that about sums it up.
  • The Vegetarian Resource group is a non-profit dedicated to educating the public about vegetarianism and veganism.  They have a ton of information available for free on their website, including sections on nutrition and raising vegetarian and vegan children.  VRG takes great care in assuring that the information they provide is factually accurate, so articles are heavily footnoted with references to studies and scientific articles.  (This is the perfect place to send any well-meaning family member who questions how your kid will survive without animal foods).
  • The Vegan RD is the blog of registered dietitian Ginny Messina, the author of Vegan For Life and several other books.  Messina offers lots of health and nutrition resources, but what I like best about her blog is the way she addresses the vegan health controversy du jour with common sense and sound science.

Recipes and Menu Planning

  • Vegan Lunchbox, by Jennifer McCann is a cookbook filled with healthy, kid-approved menu plans and recipes.  Way back in my law school days, I took a study break every day to visit McCann’s blog and see what her then 7 year old son had eaten for lunch that day.  I hoped that I would one day have a son who was such an adventurous eater.  Although McCann no longer updates her blog, both the blog archives and her cookbooks have lots of great ideas for feeding kids.
  • As a Mom of three, Dreena Burton knows what kids like.  All four of her cookbooks feature whole-foods recipes and tips on feeding babies and children.  I think each of Burton’s books is better than the last, so her most recent work, Let Them Eat Vegan!, is my top pick.  Burton also has a blog.

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At 1, Baby Ate His Veggies. At 2, Mommy Ate Crow.

VegNews is publishing again and they’ve added a bunch of new columns, including one called “VegFamily.”  In the October 2014 issue, columnist Rich Lysloff talks about the healthy diet his wife ate during pregnancy. “And wouldn’t you know it,” he goes on to say.  “[T]hese are the same foods that our [one year old] baby girl loves now that she’s eating solids.”  Oh Rich, I said nearly the same thing when my son was one.  Watching him happily eat any veggie, whole grain or wholesome plant-based protein I put in front of him, I surmised that my dietary habits had somehow insulated my son against picky eating.  I even bragged to friends about what an amazing, healthy-eater I was raising.

A year later, the same healthy foods that my son used to eat with gusto might as well be scraped directly into the trash. “I don’t like this,” he pronounces, without taking so much as one bite of his lovely veggie stew.  “Disgusting,” he says, feeding the broccoli he used to devour to the dog.  “It’s dirty.  Yuck,” he exclaims if I dare to put sauce of any kind on his pasta.  Left to his own devices, he would subsist entirely on cookies and Gardein chicken tenders.

Had I skimmed ahead in the parenting handbook, I would have been prepared for this seemingly abrupt behavior change.  As it turns out, one-year-olds are generally great eaters.  Not only are they are at the tail-end of a period of rapid growth that requires them to eat a lot, they also have not yet gotten to the “assert-your-independence” stage of toddler-hood.  If Mommy or Daddy says something is yummy, that’s enough reason to give it a try.  Toddlers, on the other hand, are naturally picky eaters.  With the first-year growth-spurt behind them, calorie needs decrease and eating becomes an annoying interruption in the middle of play time.  As a bonus, refusing to eat the meal that Mommy or Daddy lovingly prepared is a perfect way to show Mommy and Daddy that they are their own boss (at least when it comes to what makes it into their tummies).

While it’s impossible to generalize about kids or parenting, I’ve talked to parents of all stripes — everyone from raw vegans to those who post “recipes” on Facebook involving Velveeta and a can of Spam — and I haven’t met one who completely avoided the picky toddler stage.  For now, all I can do is have faith that this stage will pass.  I continue to cook healthy, balanced and delicious vegan meals knowing that eating this way makes me feel happy and at peace with my choices and I continue to hold my breath and pray that a few bites of dinner actually make it into my son’s belly.

 

 

 

 

 

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