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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