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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20 Days of Happiness – I’m So Vain, I Probably Think This Post Is About Me (And FREE Wrap Contest!!)

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.

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And Now For Something Completely Different – Vegan Friendly Nail Art and Lotion

For the most-part, this blog is about my love of food and cookbooks.  But being vegan is about cruelty-free living, and that extends to beauty products.  This post is about my new-found love of two vegan-friendly product lines: Jamberry and Arbonne.  Full disclosure:  When I started drafting this post, I was merely a fan-girl, but a few days ago, I signed up as a Jamberry consultant.  I still have no affiliation with Arbonne, other than liking their product line.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved clothing and makeup.  Until I had my son, I never stepped out of the house without getting dressed in real clothing. Now, I make a limited exception for early morning dog walks, but you’ll still need to live next door to ever see me in jammies or sweatpants.  I also used to be a big fan of nail art.  I liked to do elaborate polish designs at home and occasionally treat myself to a manicure.  Once I had to be a “grown-up” with a busy job, that fell by the wayside. My free time tends to come just before I bedtime, which means I either have to stay up late watching polish dry (literally) or risk a smudgy mess.

Then, I discovered Jamberry nail wraps. The wraps are heat-activated vinyl and can be applied at home using nail scissors, an orange stick and a hair dryer.  They come in 300+ fun designs, last up to 2 weeks on hands and have zero drying time. The wraps are made of vegan ingredients and are not tested on animals.  (Jamberry does sell a lotion set with one item that contains beeswax.  Although it would be better if the entire line was 100% vegan, I was happy to see that the description of the non-vegan product clearly indicated the beeswax.)

The photo above is me wearing the first set of nail wraps that I bought.  The wraps held up so well (I took this photo 5 days after application) and I got so many compliments, that I signed up to host an online party.  Two days into the party, I decided to just become a consultant instead.  (Though I’m obsessed with Jamberry, I promise that this isn’t going to become a Jamberry blog.   I have a review of Inpired Vegan in the works for my next post).

Around the same time that I discovered Jamberry, I also discovered Arbonne.  Arbonne is a vegan beauty line (vegan is right on the bottles!) that is sold through independent consultants.  I bought mine from a fellow mom in a networking group that I belong to.  I’ve been using the hand and body lotion to fight against winter dry skin.  After 10 years in L.A., I am definitely not used to cold weather and indoor heating!  Having cute nails is a little thing, but it’s something that makes me happy.  Getting the chance to spread the message that awesome nails can be cruelty free makes me happier still.

Free Samples and Nail Wrap Giveaway!

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As part of my Jamberry consultant launch, I’d like to giveaway a free half sheet of wraps to one of my readers — that’s enough wraps to do 1 manicure and 1 pedicure.  To enter, all you need to do is request a sample wrap using this link.  I’ll send you a sample that will allow you to do an accent nail manicure, like the pink and black manicure I did with a sample and some pink polish (above).

The contest runs from now until February 14, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. EST and is open to U.S. residents only.  Samples will be mailed to the first 100 people to request one.  Limit one sample request per household.

The contest is now closed.  Thanks to all who entered and congratulations to the winner, Aracelis from Puerto Rico.  I hope you enjoy your wraps!  Those still interested in trying the wraps out are welcome to request a free sample using the link above.

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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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God Bless Us Everyone

With an exhausted, happy little boy tucked safely in bed, a belly full of tasty food and A Muppet Christmas Carol on the TV, it’s hard to feel anything other than lucky today.  This was the first year that my son understood the concept of Santa, so it was the first year that we left out cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.  Santa made out like a bandit with Chocolate Thumbprints from Vegan with a Vengeance, Maple cookies from Chloe’s Kitchen and Chai Snickerdoodles from Isa Does It (plus a nice glass of soy milk and some carrots for the reindeer).  The Chocolate Thumbprints were the breakout star of the cookie plate and have been fully devoured.  At 2, my son does not yet fully understand the concept of doing for others, so Santa’s cookies were gently licked before being hastily placed upon the plate after Daddy’s reminder that they were for the big man.

A word of warning:  she who tells a toddler that a chubby, bearded man will be breaking and entering assumes the risk of interrupted sleep.  My son demanded to sleep in our bed because he was concerned that, along with Santa, “skunks and birds” would be coming down the chimney.  Fortunately, my son hasn’t yet started waking at the crack of dawn on Christmas, so we received some compensation for our semi-sleepless night and got to sleep until 8.

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After presents and a nice, long walk with the dog, our day of feasting began.  Christmas is a great excuse to bake, so I didn’t stop with cookies.  For our Christmas dessert, we enjoyed pumpkin pie.  I used the crust recipe from Vegan Pie in the Sky and the filling recipe from La Dolce Vegan.  (I did not make the crumb-nut topping and the pie was delicious even without).  This pie received rave reviews.

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Whatever you celebrate, I hope your holidays were filled with family, friends, laughter and lots of cruelty-free goodies.

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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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