Category Archives: Cookbooks

MoFo Day 8: But I Could Never Go Vegan Cookbook Review

Today’s MofFo theme is “make a new vegan friend.”  Cookbooks count as friends, right?  They provide us with advice (on cooking and lifestyle), comfort us (with food) in tough times and the best ones make us feel like we know the author.  Today’s challenge was about making a living, breathing friend you say?  I can’t hear you because I’m busy snuggling up with my cookbook collection.

For today’s post, I’ll focus on one of my newest cookbooks: But I Could Never Go Vegan by Kristy Turner. Turner, a former fromagier, writes a popular vegan blog called Keepin’ It Kind.  But I Could Never Go Vegan is her first book and what a fun debut.  Each chapter is based upon an excuse for eating animal foods such as “But I Hate [Insert Vegetable Here]” and “But I Scream for Ice Cream,” and has recipes that debunk that excuse.  The cute concept alone makes the book enjoyable to flip through, but the beautiful pictures and inventive recipes add to the fun.  My only quibble is that some of the recipe intros lack color.  I would love to know a bit more about Turner’s life and how she came up with the various recipes.

At first glance, Turner’s recipes can seem a bit overwhelming.  Many have multiple components or require long cooking times.  However, as I actually cooked through the book, I found that there were a good mix of quick and easy recipe and more elaborate ones.  Though I’m not sure that this is a great book for a beginner, I do think it has a lot to offer for intermediate and advanced cooks of every persuasion.  The recipes are unique, well-thought-out and creative.

Here are a few of the recipes I tried.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream:  The first recipe I tried from this book was actually my least favorite.  Though there was nothing wrong with this ice cream, the almond extract called for in the recipe over-powered the peanut butter flavor.  I like my peanut butter ice cream to taste like peanut butter, so I would not make this recipe again as written.  I’m as shocked as you are that ice cream of any kind qualified as a least favorite for me.

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BLT Tacos: These were so easy and so tasty. If you marinate the tempeh for the tempeh bacon ahead of time, the whole recipe comes together in less than 15 minutes.  Plus BLT as a taco is genius.  Everything should be taco-ized.

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Sesame Sriracha Tofu Sandwich:  I’ll confess that I really don’t like Sriracha, which I think makes me a vegan blasphemer. I do like a good tofu sandwich though, so I made this with chili garlic sauce instead of Sriracha.  It’s basically sloppy joe meets Korean barbecue.  It was okay, but not my favorite.

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Chocolate Stout Chili Fries:  This is a solid chili recipe served over oven fries, so it’s not even that unhealthy.  I topped mine with the sour cream from the book (good in recipes, but not so great on its own) and some guac.

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And saving the best for last, Seitan Phyllo Purses.  These are little phyllo pouches stuffed with seitan and gravy and served on top of more gravy.  They were as delicious as they sound.

PicMonkey Collage

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Vegan Mofo Day 5: Best Sandwich Ever

IDI beet burger

Veg*ns these days have it easy.  Case in point: I’ve actually heard complaints that the “only” vegan item on the menu is a veggie burger.  Why, in my day, we walked uphill both ways to a restaurant only to be told that our choices were iceberg lettuce salad and a dry baked potato.  Going out to a place that served frozen Gardenburger patties was a special treat.

Now, most restaurants that serve veggie burgers make their patties in house.  I’ve found everything from bean patties, to grain patties, to tempeh patties — often with interesting topping choices like flavored aiolis or roasted veggies.  While it’s true that veggie burgers have become the standard veg*n item at restaurants, even an okay veggie burger is satisfying and beats the heck out of a “steamed vegetable plate.”  And I submit that a good veggie burger perfectly fits today’s best sandwich ever MoFo theme.

The burger above is the Bistro Beet Burger from Isa Does It, which I made for the first time today in honor of MoFo.  It’s a lentil, brown rice and beet patty that’s lightly seasoned and pan-fried.  Although the texture of the burger was spot-on, I found these patties to be a little bland topped just with ketchup, mustard and pickles.  But with the right toppings, these burgers could be a thing of beauty.  I’m thinking sauteed mushrooms and pesto mayo, or perhaps avocado and veggie bacon, or maybe onion rings, ranch dressing and buffalo sauce.  The possibilities are endless.

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Vegan Mofo Day 2: Loaf Is Not an Appetizing Word

The theme for day 2 of MoFo is “recreate a meal from your childhood.”  I was fortunate to be raised in a family that ate dinner together most nights and I move mountains to do the same for my son.  The two main differences between family dinners during my childhood and now are: 1) I grew up eating meat; and 2) unlike my son, I actually ate the food that was served to me.

My Mom had a short list of meals that she rotated through from Monday through Thursday, including chicken cutlets, pot roast and vegetable soup.  Fridays and Sundays were always pasta and my Dad often cooked on Saturdays.  As a small child, my favorite of Mom’s standard meals was meatloaf.  I think this was, in part, because meatloaf employs ground meat and seasoning and thus one can avoid the bones and veins that are uncomfortable reminders of who the meal once was.  (My vegetarian tendencies definitely manifested themselves early on).  That and the fact that meatloaf is a great vehicle for ketchup.

When I first gave up meat, I stuck to cooking simple meals like tofu stir-fry and frozen veggie burgers.  But as my cooking skills improved, the idea of recreating childhood favorites without the meat ick-factor began to appeal to me.  In my search for the perfect meatless loaf, I cooked my way through at least half-a-dozen recipes, finally settling on Dreena Burton’s Lentil Sunflower Pie as the best of the bunch.  Although I could have re-blogged that trusty Lentil Sunflower Pie, MoFo calls for just a little bit more.

Instead, I present the Lentil Mushroom Loaf from But I Could Never Go Vegan.  Honestly, this loaf recipe isn’t that much different than Dreena’s.  It has the same lentil base and similar seasonings.  The main differences are the use of mushrooms instead of Sunflower Seeds and a the addition of a ketchup glaze with a little extra kick from vinegar and powdered mustard.  Overall, the loaf had a good texture and held together nicely, but it definitely needed the glaze for flavor.  That was fine by me because I always drown my loaf in ketchup.

Verdict: If, like me, you grew up with ketchup-covered meatloaf, this Lentil Mushroom Loaf just may inspire some nosh-talgia for you.

 

Never Go Vegan Loaf

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Rise and Shine. It’s MoFo Time!

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Happy Vegan MoFo from beautiful Boston, Massachusetts!

This year, for the first time, the official MoFo website has suggested themes for each day of the month — starting with breakfast on day 1.  I’ve written tons of posts about my weekend breakfasts, but a Tuesday morning is no time to whip up pancakes or tofu scramble.  My standard breakfast is either a bowl of granola or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some fruit and coffee.  Since mornings can be pretty frantic getting my son dressed, getting the dog walked and getting out the door, I generally pack my breakfast to go and hop on the bus.  About 40 minutes and a few book chapters later, I arrive at South Station and take a stroll along the harbor to work.  (The pictures above are my walk to work, which is always a highlight of my day).  Sometimes, I stop off for an iced coffee from Au Bon Pain, but today I made myself a mocha smoothie before running for the bus.  The recipe was from 365 Vegan Smoothies and I added the optional banana to thicken.  Nothing earth shattering, but it was a nice treat made with simple ingredients — soy milk, coffee powder, cocoa, banana and agave.

mocha smoothie

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Cookbook Obsession: Review of The Lusty Vegan

Since its release early this year, The Lusty Vegan by Ayinde Howell and Zoe Eisenberg seems to have flown under the radar — and I’m not sure why.  It’s a book that’s beautiful to look at, fun to read and has a unique point of view.  In addition to recipes, The Lusty Vegan aims to be a vegan dating manifesto — and it’s full of amusing anecdotes from its authors’ failed relationships and advice to bridge dietary differences.

Howell is a professional chef, so his recipes are unique and deliver complex flavors.  As a bonus, everything I’ve tried has been surprisingly easy to put together.

Overall, I highly recommend The Lusty Vegan.  The only negative is that some recipes in the book call for vegan convenience foods like cream cheese or cheese shreds.  Those recipes are mostly in the chapter of recipes designed to be cooked by non-vegans, so the use of transition foods makes sense.  For those of us who prefer to avoid processed convenience foods, there are still plenty of recipes to choose from.  (Also of note: In keeping with the theme, the book also features some photos of the authors in their undies.  Be prepared to get some looks if you read your copy of the bus like I did.)

RECIPE REVIEWS

My husband loves capers and sandwiches, so I had to try the Tempeh Piccata Hoagie first.  The sandwich is basically piccata deconstructed.  It features lemon herb marinated tempeh topped with a lemon caper mayo.  I pre-marinated the tempeh, so the recipe came together in less than fifteen minutes — and it was as tasty as it sounds.

Tempeh Piccata Hoagie

(Tempeh Piccata Hoagie)

The next recipe on my list was the Hearts of Palm Lobster Roll.  Here in Boston, lobster rolls are ubiquitous and I was intrigued by the idea of a vegan version.  This was another quick and easy recipe with a tasty result.  I’ve never had a lobster roll, but my husband tells me that the faux lobster filling was too acidic.  I’m not sure if that’s because I didn’t rinse the hearts of palm before cooking them, or if the recipe calls for too much lemon.

Hearts of Palm Lobster Roll

Hearts of Palm Lobster Roll

The Fried Tofu Sandwich is another 15 minute wonder featuring seasoned tofu topped with pickles and mustard.  It’s perfect in its simplicity.

Fried Tofu Sandwich

Fried Tofu Sandwich

To prove that The Lusty Vegan contains recipes for things other than sandwiches, I decided to next delve into the breakfast chapter (aka “The Morning After”).  I tried both the Cloud 9 Pancakes and the Orange Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast.  The pancakes were a fail for me. As written, the recipe makes a batter as thick as cookie dough.  I had trouble getting the pancakes to spread or cook properly.  The french toast, on the other hand, is amazing.  It will be on my must make list whenever I have extra cream cheese in my fridge.

Cloud 9 Pancakes

Cloud 9 Pancakes

Orange Cream Cheese French Toast

Orange Cream Cheese French Toast

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Twenty Days of Happiness – Part 16 – It’s My Party and I’ll Eat Rum-Spiked Pancakes If I Want To

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.

Two Birthdays Worth Celebrating

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Between my husband’s birthday, my birthday and Mother’s Day, May is pretty much a non-stop celebration in our house and that’s definitely something to be thankful for. This year, being back in Boston after a nearly 10 year absence made our birthdays extra special.  I kicked my day off by making Tiramisu Pancakes from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts.  I’ve had my eye on this recipe since I bought the book. Pancakes packed with rum, coffee and chocolate chips are not your everyday pancakes, but they were perfect for a special birthday breakfast — especially topped with whipped cream.  (I substituted soy milk for the water, but otherwise made the recipe as written).

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We spent the day exploring the harbor area and Greenway.  When you look at the sparkling harbor and ribbons of park land, it’s amazing to think that one was formerly a Superfund site and the other a highway.  (The Big Dig was actually still going on when we moved to Los Angeles in 2005, so the way that the Greenway used to look is fresh in my mind).

We celebrated my husband’s birthday with a night out with friends and a s’mores cake.  I used the recipes for s’mores cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World to make a 2 layer cake filled with ricemellow cream and chocolate chips and topped with vanilla buttercream and graham cracker crumbs.

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New Year’s Brunch

For many, a new year brings with it a renewed focus on healthy eating habits.  But, New Year’s Day itself — a day of post-party hangovers — is the perfect excuse for one final celebratory meal.  After all that celebrating (and sleeping in for you lucky folks without tiny human alarm clocks), a tasty brunch is the obvious choice.  While a vegan brunch at most restaurants is an uninspired affair of fruit salads and plain oatmeal, the options for cooking at home are limitless.

Why not try a tasty stack of pancakes?  My tips for perfectly fluffy ones and a list of favorite recipes are here.  The pancakes pictured below are Coconut Pie Pancakes from La Dolce Vegan.  In my opinion, not as good as the coconut pancakes from Vegan with a Vengeance, but still a worthy holiday meal.

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If pancakes aren’t your style, maybe a thick Belgian waffle will hit the spot.  Vegan Brunch has a lot of great recipes, including the wonderful peanut butter waffles pictured below.  I usually enjoy them with maple syrup and bananas, but this time I mixed it up.  I topped the waffles with birch syrup that I picked up in Alaska.  (Who knew that they tap birch trees for syrup too?)   The honey-notes of the birch syrup were a nice complement to the peanut butter.

 

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Since it’s still the holiday season (at least for a few hours more), fragrant Gingerbread Waffles are also a good pick.  Or go for the tried-and-true Chelsea Waffles, an absolutely perfect version of traditional plain waffles.  Both recipes are in Vegan Brunch.

If a savory breakfast is what you prefer, tofu scramble always hits the spot.  Or go upscale with a Benedict.  Both Veganomicon and Vegan Diner have great Benedict variations.

If you’re not a fan of waking up to a big meal, a batch of muffins might be the perfect choice.  Bakery muffins are nearly always a disappointment — big on calories and sugar and lacking in the flavor department.  In contrast, homemade muffins are always tasty and sometimes even healthy.  These chocolate berry muffins from Vegan Brunch are low in fat (they call for applesauce in place of much of the oil, but I subbed raspberry jam) and made with whole-grain flour.  Plus, they are bursting with berries and chocolate, both of which are packed with antioxidants and deliciousness.

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Now all you need is a glass of champagne to toast 2015.  Cheers!

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