Tag Archives: cookbooks

Pea-ing

31 Jan

Sorry, I couldn’t resist a pun (on a pun, actually).

It took months before it was my turn in the library queue, but I finally got my hands on a copy of Mama Pea‘s Peas and Thank You! I decided to tackle two of the recipes this week as a test drive. Behold breakfast:

Tea and a muffin. Before I get into the Pea biz, let’s talk about the tea. I made a quick Whole Foods run Sunday — my first since I moved to LA, believe it or not — and discovered that they had this delicious delight:

Celestial Seasonings‘ Nutcracker Sweet: “an irresistibly simple blend of fine black teas made more festive with creamy, nutty vanilla and just a pinch of cinnamon.” I was so excited to find this stuff!

Anyway, back to the food:

This little guy is a Blueberry Muffin with Streusel Topping from the aforementioned cookbook. It’s so cute and delicious!

As you can see, I didn’t go quite heavy enough on the streusel in an attempt to reduce the sugar and fat. If you do the same thing, I definitely recommend adding cinnamon to the batter. You can view the original recipe here, and below are the tweaks I made:

  • I used white whole wheat flour instead of whole wheat pastry. I don’t really know what the difference is, to be honest.
  • I subbed frozen bloobs for the fresh, and as a result followed the book’s instruction to add them to the muffin tin itself.
  • As I mentioned, I made about 1/3 less of the streusel topping than the recipe called for. Don’t do that. I also used turbinado for all the sugar in the recipe and canola oil instead of Earth Balance. These choices were totally fine.

I absolutely love these muffins! They are filling, considering how small they are, and have the perfect level of sweetness. I’m excited to work my way through the batch this week.

My second reci-pea is the Spicy African Peanut Stew:

The original recipe is here, and my changes are below:

  • I used freshly cooked chickpeas instead of canned. I swear I’ll never go back.
  • I used 1 rounded teaspoon ground ginger instead of 1 tablespoon of fresh.
  • I minced two massive garlic cloves and did not measure them.
  • I omitted the sweetener because I forgot about it.
  • Instead of 1 can light coconut milk (the store was out), I used half a can of full-fat and made up the difference with almond milk.

This stew is incredibly rich and delicious and full of fiber and protein. Plus, it was a great excuse to use my slow-cooker, which I love. I even used the general spice mix to make curry for Mr. X. Hopefully I can coerce him into sharing a picture this week.

Have you tried anything from this awesome cookbook? If so, what’s your favorite recipe? If not, what’s your go-to cookbook?

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Book review: The Voluptuous Vegan **

11 Oct

The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld

I am an unabashed nerd. I knew I was a real Angelena when I possessed both a California driver’s license and an LA library card. My local branch does not have an extensive collection, but there was a handful of vegan cookbooks on the shelves, including The Voluptuous Vegan, which I haven’t read before. Home it came with me to become my cookbook of the week.

My initial reaction was excitement at some of the meal ideas, but when I dug deeper, I was a bit let down by the actual content. Making many of the recipes would have required me to buy expensive ingredients, which I probably wouldn’t use again. Many others contained weird things, such as burdock root (flashbacks to Alicia Silverstone’s book!) and umeboshi vinegar. Maybe these ingredients are mainstays in some people’s kitchens, but I just couldn’t justify the expense or the hunt. I was also shocked at the amount of fat included in the recipes – one called for a 1/2 cup of olive oil for a pasta sauce! No way, not in my house. I love olive oil, but in no way is that a healthy amount, even if it served four people. Honestly, I think the biggest sin of the book was its layout: the recipes are divided into Soups, Main-Course Menus, and Desserts. I much prefer a more straight-forward design in a cookbook, and the Main-Course Menus was just too big of a dumping ground. Plus, why weren’t soups included in the menus if everything else was? None of the menus as a whole interested me either. Plus, as I said in my recipe post (LINK), I don’t have hours to devote to the kitchen on a weekday. This complaint is totally petty, but I bugged me that she kept calling soy sauce “shoyu” – there’s nothing incorrect about the word, but it felt pretentious.

All that said, the things I made from the book – all altered to meet my fat allowance – were tasty. Kornfeld got me to make vegetable stock for the first time, which was super quick and easy and made a big difference. I don’t normally make a ton of East Asian-type dishes, so it was fun to force myself to try different things. Truly, I didn’t hate this cookbook, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

My rating: ** (out of *****)

Oops

25 Nov

Due to a clerical error that is totally and completely my own inability to read a calendar, the Veganomicon giveaway is still on. Go to the post to enter for your chance to win!

Cookbook of the Week #2:

11 Nov

Hey readers! Who is finalizing their selections for my second contest? Kate mentioned making falafel, one of my favorites. I’m chomping at the bit to make my gnocchi.
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My taller half is incredibly supportive. I mean this in pretty much every facet of our life together, but I have to give him special credit for his willingness to accommodate my mostly vegan dietary habits. It helps that he was mostly vegetarian long before we met, and as soon as we began dating, he eliminated fish from his diet. He is really the one who taught me about food and cooking. I could do some basic things before, but he is the reason I know the difference between chopping and dicing and mincing. He’s also the one who showed me how easy it is to make some things from scratch, such as salad dressings, and that chemicals really aren’t food.

Our eating habits have made long strides over the past four-and-a-half years, and a few contributions have come from me. I told him about animal rennet and sneaky ol’ gelatin, to name two. But mostly, either he has taught me or we have learned together. When I decided to move away from dairy, he was fully supportive, especially when he saw how improved my energy and migraines were. (Don’t let yesterday’s post convince you otherwise; my twice-weekly pain now hits me less than half as often, and my BFF Treximet keeps the pain from overtaking me, as long as I recognize my signals early enough.) The problem is that we were having trouble thinking of creative, tasty, quick dishes to make together. Enter our new purchase, Robin Robertson’s 1,000 Vegan Recipes. (Wouldn’t it be cool if my name was Brigid Brigerson?)

I chose the book as our Cookbook of the Week because we are diving head first into it. My taller half purchased it on Sunday, and by the end of the week, we will have made at least four recipes from it. Not too shabby, eh?

So far, my favorite feature is the inclusion of an “F” symbol, which indicates fast ideas. The book is also broken down into very easy-to-navigate sections, including salads, pastas, sandwiches, desserts, beverages, and breakfast foods. And did I mention there are 1,000 recipes? I mean, Veganomicon is considered a tome; what would we call this monster?

Expect to see some recipes from the book tomorrow. All I will say so far is that we weren’t disappointed.

Vegan cornbread

9 Nov

I belong to a book group. Specifically, we read historical fiction, which typically isn’t my forte, but I’ve been having a good time nonetheless. Each month, we meet at one member’s house to discuss the reading, go off on long tangents unrelated to the book, and eat. This week, our host pledged to make vegan chili with me in mind. Only time will tell if she did so, but either way, I was touched. So what must one serve with vegan chili?

Vegan Cornbread (recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking)

  • 1 1/2 cups vegan milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar (I use apple cider, but white is good, too)
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons vegan sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 to 1 cup corn kernels (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Grease an 8″x8″ baking dish and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the milk and the vinegar. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the milk/vinegar mixture, oil, and corn if using (I usually don’t). Stir until just blended. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish, spreading evenly. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

This recipe is incredibly quick and easy. It goes from empty bowls to the oven in 10 minutes, I promise. It’s also delicious. In fact, I can’t think of a dairy-loaded cornbread I’ve liked so well. The result is moist and flavorful without the sweetness overpowering the corn taste and texture.

Now we must wait and see what everyone else brings to share.

Cookbook of the Week #1: Student’s Go Vegan Cookbook

4 Nov

Tuesday night’s post included the results of a recipe from one of my favorite culinary instruction manuals, Carole Raymond’s Student’s Go Vegan Cookbook.

The author’s previous book, Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook, was my first purchase after deciding to give up meat in 2005, my senior year of college. It quickly became invaluable to me as I negotiated learning most basic kitchen skills and, soon after, returning to my meat-loving home state as a vegetarian. Last year, when I decided to lean towards a dairy-free diet, my taller half and I purchased the vegan book, and it, too, has proven to be an invaluable resource.

Here’s what I love most about this cookbook:
· The recipes are quick, easy, nutritious, and full of whole foods.

· Raymond offers a new spin on a lot of favorite dishes.

· Almost every dish is aimed at one or two diners, perfect for singles or couples.

· Everything I’ve tried runs the gamut from tasty to delicious.

Though I’ve been out of college for four years, the student aim of the book is still great for busy working folks. Being able to get dinner for one or two on the table TV tray in 20 minutes is a godsend on weeknights. Plus, most of the ingredients are inexpensive and easy-to-find, an increasing rarity in vegan cookbooks.

I highly suggest you check out the Student’s Go Vegan Cookbook. When you do, here are a couple of my favorite dishes from it:

  • Chilean Two-Potato Soup
  • Fattoush Bread Salad with Hummus
  • Soba Noodles with Broccoli and Peanut Sauce
  • Caramelized Onion, Walnuts, and Sage Pizza
  • Hot Pocket Mushroom Saute

My rating: **** (out of *****)

Book Review: Simple Food for the Good Life

12 Oct

Simple Food for the Good LifeSimple Food for the Good Life by Helen Nearing

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of the blogs I follow (can’t remember which one – sorry!) recently mentioned this book by famous homesteader Helen Nearing, so I decided to check it out. It arrived quickly on interlibrary loan from a mystery library abbreviated AMO (Amarillo is my guess), and I perused it even faster.

Nearing claims not to cook, so what follows, she reasons, is not really a cookbook. In a sense, it’s true. The chapters do not contain recipes so much as methods or ideas for using certain ingredients. Each dish is incredibly simple, as the title claims, containing a short list of items and nearly effortless instructions. As a result, I would recommend this book for brand-new cooks, people with little time, or new vegetarians. For me, it was almost useless. I already know how to sauté veggies or soak grains.

However, what saved it, for me, was Nearing’s amusing tone and outlook. She is very matter-of-fact and learned, which gives the book a better flow than most traditional cookbooks. She espouses a diet of “hearty, harmless food” (p. 8) and hopes to reach “those frugal, abstemious folk who eat to nourish their bodies and leave self-indulgent delicacies to the gourmets.” What you see is what you get here.

Though this isn’t entirely my style of eating, I respect her efforts and her honesty. However, one thing bothered me: she claims to “drink no milk” and then qualifies that claim with all the dairy she does consume (yogurt, cottage cheese, occasional yogurt), all of which are milk-based. She also includes many recipes containing butter. The inconsistency, following on a very finger-wagging tirade against eating flesh, was a bit hypocritical.

Nonetheless, the book is a quick, easy read, and though it won’t win any awards for innovation, I appreciated her views on eating.

My rating: *** (out of *****)