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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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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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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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Cookbook Obsession: Review of Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen

 

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While being unemployed has certain benefits (namely more time with friends and family), the downside is a very limited cookbook budget.  I have a list of about 10 new-ish titles I’d like to buy and a budget of $0 to buy them.  What is a cookbook addict to do?  In this case, my husband was kind enough to enable my addiction by converting all of the change in my childhood piggy banks into an Amazon gift card.  Thanks CoinStar!  After purchasing decorations for my son’s upcoming birthday, there was just enough left over for a copy of Chloe Coscarelli’s latest book.

Like Chloe’s previous titles, Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen does not disappoint.   The book is 270 thick, glossy pages with color photos throughout.  The book is nicely laid-out.  Each recipe is contained on one page.  With the exception of recipes that call for component-recipes (i.e. ricotta or marinara from the Make Your Own Basics chapter), there is no need to flip around while cooking.

The book contains a good variety of recipes, including soups, pastas, pizzas, sandwiches, vegetable sides, desserts and even a few breakfast dishes.  Like Chloe’s other books, the recipes are generally simple to make and call for ingredients readily found in most supermarkets.  (Now that I’m no longer in California, the number of dishes that call for avocado did pose something of an issue).  Most of the recipes are bean, nut, veggie and grain-based, though there are a few recipes that call for tofu.  The book does not use any packaged veggie meats or cheeses.

I’ve had good results with the recipes I’ve tried, though many call for a bit too much salt for my taste.  I was also disappointed to see that the tomato sauce recipes all call for sugar, which I simply omitted.  (There are two schools of thought on tomato sauce.  Some people believe that sugar is necessary to “soften the acidity of the tomatoes,” whatever that means.  Others make tomato sauce correctly.  I kid.  Okay, not really.  Sugar does not belong in tomato sauce people.  Buy decent quality tomatoes and no “softening” will be required.)

In order to review the book, my family enjoyed a week of Italian dinners.  I started with the “Thyme for Stuffed Portabellos with Rosemary Gravy” (page 172), which turned out to be my least favorite dish of the week.  The portabellos are stuffed with a flavorful rice and lentil mixture that unfortunately dried out a bit too much during baking. The technique for making the gravy was a new one for me and one I’ll use again.  Onions and garlic were sauteed in the pan, then flour, seasonings and water were added.  Once the gravy thickened, the mixture was pureed.  The result was a thick, smooth, rosemary-scented gravy.  The gravy needed a little something the night we first ate it, but tasted much better as leftovers.

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Next up was the “Lemon Herb Cannellini Beans” (page 159).  This recipe was quick, easy and tasty.  The lemony-sauce reminded me of something I’d had before, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  As suggested, I served the beans over steamed spinach and mashed potatoes.  This is a definite make-again meal for my family.

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Since it’s technically autumn (despite the bursts of hot weather), I thought the “Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Brussels Sprout Leaves” (page 75)  would hit the spot.  This is a pureed soup that gets depth of flavor from apples and creaminess from coconut milk.  The soup really grew on me as I ate it; in each spoonful, I tasted slightly different flavors.

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Pasta alla Norma (pasta in a tomato and eggplant sauce with ricotta salata)(page 127) is one of my favorite pasta dishes, so it had to be my first selection from the pasta chapter.  I began by making the Rockin’ Ricotta (page 242) to top the dish.  Chloe’s version of ricotta is tofu-based and easy as can be.  All of the ingredients are just buzzed together in a food processor.  Although the ricotta was very yummy, I thought it was very salty.  I will cut the salt down to 1.5 tsp. in the future.  The pasta was easy to make and tasted great topped with the ricotta.  (I omitted the sugar from the sauce as noted above.)  My parents actually ate this dish as is and never suggested adding grated cheese.  Trust me when I say that is a huge deal.

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The last meal of the week was the “Pizza Burgers with Avocado Pesto” (page 106), primarily because it took my avocado the entire week to ripen.  The pizza burgers are white bean patties flavored with sun-dried tomatoes and basil.  Based upon a tip on the PPK forums, I made sure to grind my sun-dried tomatoes up nice and small to avoid any unpleasant chewy bits.  (Adding the breadcrumbs and flour to the food processor along with the tomatoes made them easier to mince). My only complaint about this recipe is that Chloe claims it makes 6 burgers.  Had I formed 6 patties, they either would have been slider-sized, or thin enough to see through.  I made 5 very thin burgers, which just barely fit standard-size burger buns.  Even my son loved these burgers, which he pronounced “dee-wish-us.”

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After a week of tasty, omni-approved meals, I look forward to more cooking experiments from this book.  I recommend “Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen” to any lover of Italian food who wants to whip up meat and dairy free weeknight meals.

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MoFo 8: VeggieLawyer Does More “Isa Does It”

Back in July, before we put all of our worldly possessions on a moving truck, I had the presence of mind to put aside 4 well-loved cookbooks to see me through until our things made it to the East Coast.  That turned out to be a great decision because I’ve only managed to locate 1 box of cookbooks in the pile of items in our over-crowded storage unit.  The rest of the books may well remain in storage until I finally find a job.  (On a related note, if anyone in the NY area is looking for a lawyer, I happen to know a great one who’s currently looking for work).

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I currently have access to 30 cookbooks and you may be thinking that 30 books are more than enough.  The trouble is that my cookbook shelves were sorted by topic.  The box I found contained most of my baking books and a random assortment of regional cookbooks.  All of my general recipe collections are nowhere to be found.  While it’s been fun trying new recipes from some of the under-used titles in my collection, I miss having access to my full library.  That’s especially true now that it’s Vegan MoFo because I come across posts on a daily basis discussing the deliciousness of recipes contained in books that I own, but cannot find.

Fortunately, Isa Does It is not only one of the 4 books I carted cross-country in my suitcase, but also a very popular choice for MoFoers.  After reading several blog posts about the Lentil-A-Roni, I decided to give it a try.  In my Italian-American family, a product like Beef-A-Roni (the inspiration for this recipe) is considered sacrilege and would never cross our threshold.  As a result, this isn’t a recipe I would have picked out to try on my own, but it wound up being one that we all enjoyed.  (All, that is, except for my son.  Much like Veganopolous’s son, my little one prefers his noodles plain and refused to even try a bite because “the mac-wonies are dirty, Mommy.”)

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Following the success of the Lentil-A-Roni, I gave a few more new-to-me recipes a try including the banana muffins, Citrus Tahini Bowl and Kale Salad with Butternut and Lentils.   All three were hits.  Unfortunately, I misplaced my camera for most of last week and only have grainy cell phone photos.  Here is the kale salad, which I served with homemade bread-sticks.

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The salad combines raw kale with roasted squash, lentils and a gingery dressing.  Although I’m sure the recipe would have been good as written, I added dried cranberries for an extra layer of flavor.  The kale — massaged according to Isa’s instructions — turned out so tender that my family could not believe it was raw.   Once again, my son was the only one who did not enjoy dinner.  He ate only the bread-sticks and a few bites of lentil.

Since Isa Does It continues to deliver hit after hit, I may yet accomplish my goal of cooking every recipe in the book.

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MoFo 6: It’s Pie O’Clock

I’m somehow not on the official blog roll for this year’s Vegan MoFo.  I suppose I should have confirmed my registration was successful sooner than 9 days into MoFo.  Live and learn, it seems.  Though I’m disappointed not to be an official participant, I’m going ahead with blogging this month anyway. 

We’re in a transition period here in the Veggie Lawyer household following my decision to quit my job and move 3,000 miles to be closer to family.  In keeping with our life situation, the theme I have chosen for the month is “Try Something New.”  I’ll be trying new foods, doing new things and making recipes for the first time.  Then, I’ll blog them here.

Some Thoughts On Pie

I know, I know.  My title would have been 97% more accurate if I’d only waited until 3:14 to post.  Unfortunately, at 3:14 p.m. I am unable to use my computer without tiny little hands banging on the keyboard and I haven’t been awake at 3:14 a.m. for years now — unless I happen to have woken up at precisely that hour to use the restroom.  Getting old stinks, people. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be 3:14 to enjoy a nice slice of pie.  What I’m trying to say is, it’s pie o’clock somewhere.

As baking projects go, I think that homemade pie has a fairly high intimidation-factor.  Things like cakes and cookies tend to come out well if you follow the recipe exactly — no prior experience required.  In comparison, even the very best recipe cannot explain precisely how to turn out a perfect flaky pie crust.  It’s something you have to learn by trial and error.

Now that I have several years of pie-making under my belt, I find that I get the best results using a food processor.  I’m still working on making my crusts look pretty, but, using the food processor method, I’ve definitely reached the point of consistently great taste.

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(My parents’ food processor is as old as me, but it still turns out a perfect, flaky crust.)

Using a food processor, your pie dough  comes together in 4 easy steps:

  1. Pulse together dry ingredients.
  2. Add fats and pulse until you have pea sized crumbs.
  3. Add liquid and pulse just until dough forms a ball.  (If a ball does not form, add more liquid a tablespoon at a time).
  4. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate.

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(Dough ball accomplished.)

 A Review of “Pies and Tarts With Heart”

Now that I had a ball of dough, I just needed a pie recipe.  For that, I turned to Pies and Tarts with Heart by Dynise Balcavage of the Urban Vegan blog.  As the title suggests, Pies and Tarts with Heart is a book devoted to pies.  I actually put a lot of thought into the purchase of this particular book.  I already owned Vegan Pie in the Sky, after all.  Did I really need another book about pie?  On top of that, Hannah Kaminsky’s Easy As Vegan Pie was released around the same time as Pies and Tarts with Heart and I knew I definitely didn’t need three pie books.  What ultimately persuaded me to purchase the book was the inclusion of a chapter on savory pies.

Pies and Tarts with Heart has a lot going for it.  There are lovely full-color photos throughout, including an introduction with step-by-step photos on basic pie building techniques.  There’s also plenty of variety.  In addition to the usual suspects like fruit pies and creamy pies, there are chapters devoted solely to raw pies, “imposter pies”(things with pie in the name that aren’t actually pie, such as Boston Cream Pie) and the aforementioned savory pies.

Based upon my experience actually baking from the book, though, it gets a mixed review.  Of the recipes I’ve tried, about half did not turn out properly when I followed the directions as written.  The recipes are easily modified, but it took some failed baking experiments to learn what tweaks were needed.  I’m also turned off by the number of recipes that use vegan cream cheese (including recipes that you wouldn’t expect such as the pecan pie), which is a product that I’m not a particularly big fan of.

The recipes I’ve tried so far are:

  • Basic Single Crust Pastry (page 30) – This is just what it sounds like.  My crust has baked up nicely each time I’ve used this recipe.
  • Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Pie (page 90) – The flavor of this pie was great, but I did have some issues with it.  As the pie cooled, the shortening in the filling separated out forming a waxy coating on top of the pie.  I’m not sure why this occurred, but I intend to replace the shortening with margarine if I make this again.
  • Choco-Coco Macadamia Pie (page 93) – A coconut pie in a nut crust with a layer of chocolate.  This was a tasty and rich pie.  As a coconut lover, though, I thought that the cream cheese took away from the flavor of the coconut a bit.
  • Pot Pie Marsala (page 116) – A savory mushroom pie with a touch of Marsala in the filling.  Considering this pie combines mushrooms and Marsala, two of my favorite flavors, I expected the pie to deliver big in the taste department.  I found it surprisingly bland and would not make it again.
  • Cornish Pasties (page 129) – This version of the traditional British hand pie uses TVP and veggies in the filling.  Although it took some time to make the filling and assemble the pies, I absolutely loved these.  They are the best thing I’ve made from this book so far.

In the spirit of my MoFo theme, I selected one new pie to try for this review.  Since it’s the last day of summer, I thought that the Crumble Top Berry Pie (page 51) was an appropriate selection.  It is a mixed berry pie with an oatmeal crumb topping.  Although the flavor of this pie was nice, I once again had issues with the recipe.  My pie did not set up at all.  Even after cooling completely, it was like soup.  Since it was more liquid than solid, we ate the pie on top of ice cream and called it berry sundaes.  I made a note in the recipe to double the cornstarch if I make the recipe again.

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(Crumble-Top Berry Pie  Berry Sundae Topping)

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Vegan Mofo 5: Carrot Ginger Burgers and Pear Cauliflower Curry

I’m somehow not on the official blog roll for this year’s Vegan MoFo.  I suppose I should have confirmed my registration was successful sooner than 9 days into MoFo.  Live and learn, it seems.  Though I’m disappointed not to be an official participant, I’m going ahead with blogging this month anyway. 

We’re in a transition period here in the Veggie Lawyer household following my decision to quit my job and move 3,000 miles to be closer to family.  In keeping with our life situation, the theme I have chosen for the month is “Try Something New.”  I’ll be trying new foods, doing new things and making recipes for the first time.  Then, I’ll blog them here.

2 New-To-Me Recipes From The Complete Guide To Vegan Food Substitutions

The Complete Guide To Vegan Food Substitutions by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman is a handy little paperback novel-sized guide to veganizing recipes, which I previously recommended as one of my five favorite cookbooks for the novice vegan cook.  It’s a book I consult often when trying to decide the best egg substitute in a recipe or if I need to make a basic to use in another recipe (like condensed milk or “sorta yogurt”).

But The Complete Guide To Vegan Food Substitutions isn’t just a reference book; it also has lots of unique recipes.  The Carrot Ginger Burgers are one of the recipes I’ve been meaning to make since I first got the book back in 2010.  Since I’m focusing on trying recipes that are new to me this month, I figured there was no better time to give them a go.  For a side, I went with the Pear Cauliflower Curry that the authors recommend as an accompaniment.  Here’s my dinner all plated up.

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I was very pleased with how well-rounded and veggie filled this plate was, but, unfortunately, the meal got mixed reviews.  (For those who haven’t been following my MoFo posts, my current recipes tasters are my husband and son, both vegetarians, and my parents, both omnis). The burgers, which combine carrots, beans, gluten and Asian-inspired spices, smelled delicious while cooking.  However, the flavor of the finished product was too subtle.  I ended up removing the burger from its bun and adding lots of hot mustard for flavor.  My dad said that, while there was nothing wrong with the burgers, he wanted a much bigger ginger flavor.

The curry was a hit.  I never would have thought to pair curry spices, cauliflower and roasted pears, but it worked.  My mom especially loved this dish and gobbled up all of the leftovers the next day for lunch.  Of the two dishes, only the curry makes it onto the “make again” list.

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