Category Archives: Plant-Based Cookbooks

Whole Protein Vegetarian – Delicious Plant-Based Recipes with Essential Amino Acids for Heath & Well-Being

Whole Protein

By Rebecca Miller Ffrench. The Countryman Press 2016 $27.95 (Amazon $18.50/ Kindle $14)

Ms. Ffrench approaches recipes and daily menus from the very particular perspective of amino acids – in other words protein. There is a mantra in the plant-based world that it’s impossible not to get enough protein. That we actually consume too much protein and the invariable question from the canivores “how do you get your protein?” is mock-worthy.

But the author demonstrates that that might not be as true as we had assumed I was surprised when taking a hard look at the protein counts of some of the pulses and vegetables that we normally consume. If adequate protein is a concern, then this might be a useful reference.

It’s a handsome, hard covered book with bleed and full-page photos of about half the recipes. The recipes themselves are not particularly adventuresome or noteworthy – assuming you are steeped in current plant-based culinary arts. If you are not, then this is an excellent primer. I prepared a couple and they were fine family-dinner fare – but not guest material.

Our Seven-Day Juice Cleanse

juice cleanse   Primal Essence ginger primal essence Chai

We just finished a 7-day cleanse! Our guide throughout was “The Juice Cleanse Reset Diet” by Lori Kenyon Farley and Mara St. Clair. It was a successful experience for both of us – we lost our vacation weight and a bit more. Hopefully the trend will continue. But more important, we hope that it’s given our bodies a rest and perhaps allowed them to start healing some long-time issues. Time will tell, but we both feel pretty good with some increased energy. And it was a real education.

For a week, we ate and juiced only organic produce (except for the Clean 15) so just finding it all at some kind of reasonable price was a bit of a project. Whole Foods, CostCo, Trader Joes and Stop & Shop were our go-to resources. We bought and juiced through most of: six pounds of apples, eight pounds of carrots, four pounds of pears, two pounds of kale, three pounds of mixed baby greens, a pound of baby spinach, two pounds of strawberries, a pound and a half of blueberries, two pounds of sweet peppers, eight cucumbers, ten kiwis, seven mangoes, seven large beets, six heads of romaine, four bunches of celery, a pineapple, a bunch of lemons and limes – and bananas for the smoothies (should have taken a photo of the kitchen counter covered in gorgeous food). I haven’t added up the cost yet, but it was pricey – albeit clearly less than buying these from a juice bar or delivery service, and a lot less than a spa :).

Part of the plan is to drink 16 oz. of water seven times a day and 16 oz. of juice about six times. So if you really don’t like plain water – and I don’t – that was a problem. Coincidentally, as if on cue, UPS delivered a gift – three small pumps of Primal Essence’s super teas (primalessence.com). Each a different flavor. The instructions said just pump a couple of squirts into a glass of water; instant flavor from organic whole plant-extracts! Tasty and healthful. During our cleanse, I switched around among Ginger Zing, Classic Chai, Peppermint Splash and a squeeze of lemon. It really made drinking that much water a lot easier, more pleasant (and even more healthful). When we were going out, I just dropped one in purse for instant interesting water. Each little bottle contains 225 pumps. These are a real find for people who find water just too boring to drink – I want to try the other flavors: Tumeric Tulsi, Vanilla Chai and Lemon Ginger (especially the latter).

We also learned more than we wanted to know about our venerable Omega 1000 juicer that has been sitting on the shelf for, perhaps, a decade. Toward the end of this severe workout, it started showing its age. Trying to control it as it wobbled all over the counter at 3600 rpm was just a little scary. Yet, even out of warranty Omega was there for its customers: we just sent in the broken arm for a free replacement and a tech walked us through the process of re-balancing and explained some of the finer points of cajoling this particular unit. When it’s time for a new one, it’ll definitely be an Omega. Our Vita-Mix performed admirably as usual for the smoothies and also for some of the greens that we had trouble juicing.

Bottom line: a very satisfactory week. We weren’t really hungry. We looked at this as a project and “went with the flow.” But it was a lot of work and we ducked outside engagements as much as possible although we both went to the gym for our usual class and workout. But we definitely both agreed that we will do it again – probably twice a year (or maybe even more). One word of advice for a half a couple trying to do this alone: try to engage your partner. I can’t imagine cleansing while living with someone eating regular food. It just wouldn’t be much fun either.

 

 

Simple Green Suppers – A Fresh Strategy for One-Dish Vegetarian Meals

Simple Green Suppers

by Susie Middleton- Roost Books April 11, 2017 $24.95 (Amazon $14)

This is, as the title promises, a book of vegetable forward family dinners that strives for the unctuousness of meat-meals, the delciousness of deeply layered flavors, and the freshness of right from the garden produce. It is a beautiful tome, with lots of enticing full-page bleed photos from Randi Baird, that makes you want to dive in and start cooking

Ms. Middleton approaches the organization of her one-dish family suppers from an unusual perspective; each chapter focuses on a specific, but varied, base to which veggies are added: noodles, grains, beans, leaves, toasts, tortillas, eggs and broths. And each of those bases covers the whole landscape of, for instance, noodles – soba, udon, rice noodles, pasta, couscous, somen, egg. If you “go with” this horizon-broadening perspective, it can really step up the nightly dinner grind – and add some fun to the shopping and prep. Each chapter is preceded by a couple pages of useful “Tips and Strategies” – including prepping your larder. These aren’t ten minute projects and the ingredient lists can be a little bit daunting, but most can be executed well within an hour – and the results are far from fast food. There are some new concepts and fresh, upgraded re-works of old favorites.

But be aware this not a totally plant-based book. There is a chapter, as noted, on eggs and some dishes in other chapters include cheese and dairy. But most of  these ingredients are, IMO, easily substituted with vegan replacements since they are not center stage – or simply skipped. The egg chapter may be doable with the new Follow Your Heart VeganEggs (if you don’t have an issue with a primary ingredient – algal).

Note that the number of servings varies from two to three to four. So that means doubling or halving depending on your situation. As an empty-nester, I welcome recipes for two since I often find myself cooking the whole recipe for four –  and then there are often no leftovers!  The scale speaks.

I am looking forward to cooking my way through this lovely book and will post some of the results – especially when I’ve used dairy or egg replacements.

Essential Herbs and Spices – Discover Them, Understand them, Enjoy Them

Essential Spices

By Christina Nichol  – Rockridge Press 2015 $18.99 (Amazon $15.82 Kindle $4.99)

While not talking specifically to the plant-based cook, Ms. Nichol provides a useful overview of these critical components for all food preparations – not just for enhanced deliciousness but also for health promotion (almost all have “antioxidant, antiviral,  antiviral, or anti-fungal properties”), ceremonial rites, preservation and, historically, that biggie: covering up the taste of foods on the verge of rot. Herbs and spices figure prominently in the age of exploration – when, ounce for ounce, some were as valuable as gold. And the discovery of others changed the flavor profiles of major cuisines.

What are herbs and spices? They are all some kind of plant. If used for medicinal purpose then the entire plant is referred to as an herb. But for culinary uses, the leaf (fresh or dried) is the herb and the stronger, more pungent seed, root, berry, bark, and flower are the spices. Herbs are at their best fresh and tend toward “bitter astringent, tart or savory” while spices are better dried with “earthy, nutty, warm” and pungent profiles.

The author makes a good case for knowing more about the history and contemporary usefulness these small bottles of big flavor stacked in our pantries. She focuses on a selection of 50 popular herbs and spices as well as ten useful blends – helping the cook triage if s/he isn’t ready to stock them all. Each is described along with its history,  kitchen methods, healing uses, what foods it complements and what other spices and herbs it pairs with followed by a couple of concrete recipes.

Exploring the magic that these condiments can exert over the most plebeian dishes, may make the temptation to take the plunge to stock them all irresistible. Ms. Nichol also lists the critical herbs and spices of major cuisines: Cajun, Caribbean, Chinese, French, Indian, Italian, Korean, Mexican, Middle-Eastern, North African, Thailand and Turkish. I found this particularly useful when cooking without recipes – just pick a favorite flavor profile then pull out the particular jars that deliver it. Then play.

I have a spice cabinet containing well over a hundred herbs and spices and a pullout with two dozen ethnic mixes – but I still learned a lot from this book:

Whole spices can last up to 4 years, most ground spices up to three years and dried herbs up to two – contrary to prevailing myth to toss all at the one year mark. But always smell and taste your spices first to be sure. Then toast them

Red pepper spices increase in intensity during cooking! Beware

Asafetida is a vegetarian gift with a taste blend evocative of garlic, shallot, onion and leek that imparts that meaty, umani flavor. Love it but never knew why! It’s the dried sap of an herbaceous plant from the fennel family and also a wonderful gift for those with a sensitivity to the allium family.

 

No Excuses Detox – 100 Recipes to Help You Eat Healthy Everyday

No Excuses Detox

by Megan Gilmore. Ten Speed Press 2017 $19.95 (Amazon $10.70, Spiral $22.50)

This beautiful book landed on my doorstep and I had to read it right away. Yes, I actually do read cookbooks (cover to cover); it’s a glitch in my system and my friends think it is hilarious.  This is not a totally Plant-Based cookbook, but it is gluten-free with lots of vegan options – and many that are easily convertible.  The goal here is “clean eating.” The author blogs at detoxinista.com which will give you some further ideas about her food and if it will work for you.

The design is attractive and enticing with front and back cover “fold-overs” so you have two easy bookmarks.  The easy-to-use recipe layout has multiple circled annotations so you can choose vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free, sugar-free and those with meat protein options are clearly noted as well. She also indicates: 30-min recipes, 15-min prep, kid-friendly, freezer friendly and slow/pressure cooker options (with specific instructions for the Instant Pot).  The photos, not one for every recipe but a lot, are beautiful but sometimes don’t match the written descriptions exactly. And there are written descriptions – an interesting lead-in and often very useful notes at the bottom.

Ms. Gilmore is also a fan of food combining – that was big in the ‘70s and I can’t really tell if this is rejuvenation of that same perspective. But she suggests eating only certain foods together – and makes that easy if you follow her recipes and three week-long sets of menus that make sure that the recipes in those menus also follow that food-combining perspective. That concept requires more study on my part…..

I picked a couple recipes to try out. But first – some of the basics that I noted: Ms. Gilmore uses oil (sometimes a lot and sometimes a little) and she uses salt – sometimes with abandon. In many cases, those are easily modified – although she cautions about changing the ratios in baking when using coconut oil or trying to sub EVOO for coconut oil lest you create a major disaster. She also warns that mixing coconut oil and baking powder together creates a perfectly safe green (albeit surprising) product – with St. Patrick’s Day coming up I might just try that.

Skillet Breakfast Hash was my first try. Green cabbage, onions, and green peppers form the base. The recipe suggests topping it with eggs, sprinkling with goat cheddar (all ingredient cheeses in the book are from goat or sheep milk) and finishing in the oven. Since I actually had a couple of free-range, local organic eggs left by a guest, I put two on the hash. And instead of the two ounces of goat cheddar, I finally shredded 1 ounce of Daiya Mozzarella and sprinkled it on the top.  The result was tasty although the Daiya was so finally shredded that its presence was unnoticeable. The eggs didn’t add that much so I think I might try this again with some tofu – or nothing.

The next recipes I’ll try are Baked Parsnip Chips, Butternut Mac ‘n Cheese (still looking for the one that really works), Deep Dish Chocolate Cookie and No Bake Brownie Bites.

This book contains some fresh ideas. New recipe concepts seem to be generated in the ether and then appear simultaneously in many books, blogs or sites. So when you read some new thoughts, that’s a good thing.

VEGANIZE IT! Easy DIY Recipes for a Plant-Based Kitchen

BY Robin Robertson – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt March 7, 2017. $25. Amazon $14.92/ Kindle $12.99

veganize-it

Another really good book from one of the top vegan cookbook authors. Robin Robertson’s books are classics and I have most of them. So I had high expectations for this one. It’s a beautifully designed book with a stiff fold-in cover for marking your place and lots of full-page photos and chapter intros that sometimes bleed across a double-page spread.

The chapters are similar to those of an omnivore cook book – with a twist. Plant-Based Meats, Vegan Charcuterie, Instead of Seafood, Dairy-Free and Egg-Free, Too…. all very enticing.
Since 2010, I’ve been turning to Steen & Newman’s “The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: Veganize It! Foolproof Methods for Transforming Any Dish into A Delicious New Vegan Favorite.” And collecting recipes from chef-written cookbooks, blogs and the www. There have been so many advances in plant-based cooking in the past six years that I thought Roberstson might, essentially, be providing an updated, cutting edge version of “The Complete Guide…”. And in some ways she has. But I was hoping for some break-through ideas instead of riffs on existing chef or blogger-developed veggie cuisine. Or at least a compilation of those best of the best ideas. But I misunderstood the intention – which might have had something to do with the similarity of the titles…..

Instead, the book provides “clean” vegan recipes for lots of basics like sour cream cream cheese, cheesy sauces, ricotta, hollandaise, feta, butter!, gravy plus many, many more. Beyond basics are burgers, pulled pork, fish ‘n chips, sausages, meatballs, sea scallops, five bacon recipes, and more. Many of these products are available in the supermarket freezer or refrigerator case but made with a laundry list of additives and other unpronounceable ingredients. So this is why I add the word “clean.” Ms. Robertson first chapter includes home-made versions of pantry items (many of which are not vegan in their store-bought versions). Each chapter also includes more involved recipes that use a few of the basics made from the included recipes or, if time is short, from store-bought versions.

I started my review by preparing a couple of the recipes. First was Creamy Ranch Dressing that starts with 1 cup of mayo – it had good flavor but the mayonnaise was too prominent so I cut it with a little almond milk that also made it more pourable. The second one was Cheddary Sauce which is pictured below (these are my photos, not from the book). This was a tasty cream sauce and it worked well over a steamed veggie and quinoa bowl, but it didn’t taste anything like cheese, especially cheddar, which the name implied. I made it in a Vita Mix so just letting it blend a little longer heated it up –  once the cashews had been soaked, it was quick and easy despite a lengthy list of ingredients. I will make it again – perhaps amping up the seasonings and playing with the liquor choices. Next up are the five bacon recipes and the pulled pork.

IMG_1474 IMG_1478 IMG_1481

A couple nitpiks: Recipes labeled with cheesy names have to taste cheesy – nooch just doesn’t taste cheesy to me. And there isn’t any nutritional info – I’d like to know the calorie count and the percentage from fat – is it a 30-cal tablespoon or a 125 cal one? Also while the cashew craze has been well addressed, alternatives would be appreciated (since cashews are high-FODMAP)  and a little more on aquafaba would also be helpful and suggestions for those among us who choose oil-free.

Bottom line – this book is a keeper. There are enough interesting concepts in here to encourage experimentation. It is not haute cuisine, but it is reliable, tasty, clean vegan. And that’s worth a lot.

Asian Tofu

by Andre Nguyen. Ten Speed Press 2012, Large format, hard cover $30 ($23.56 or $12.99 Kindle)

Asian Tofu

The only book that I owned on making tofu was the “Book of Tofu” by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi circa 1979. It’s a very yellowed, dense paperback ($2.95 then*) filled with tons of information. But somehow it always intimidated so when I picked up Nguyen’s “Asian Tofu” with lots of big, beautiful photos, graphics and white space (albeit at ten times the price ), I was encouraged to try this again.

Not surprisingly the basic recipe that Nguyen uses is almost the same as Shurtleff’s – she just makes it sound easier.  It’s soybeans, water and coagulant with a proper mold and accoutrements – that’s pretty much it. Nguyen begins with a highly detailed Homemade Tofu Tutorial: an immersion in the various types starting with soy milk, then on to silken tofu, tofu pudding, block tofu, seasoned pressed tofu, tea-smoked pressed tofu, white fermented tofu, fresh tofu skin and soy-simmered fried tofu.  The rest of the book is devoted to how to use each kind of tofu once you successfully mastered it. Again, the photos are the name of the game here.  Seeing the process and knowing what you’re going for makes all the difference. She has encouraged me to try this to see if the result is as good as or even better than the lovely artisanal product produced by The Bridge Company in Middletown, CT. (I was privileged to spend several hours there watching the process – seeing how very minimally processed this product can be.)

Nguyen continues to teach the reader/cook through chapters on Snacks and starters, Main Dishes, Salads, Mock Meats, Buns, Dumplings, Crepes, and Sweets. . She ends with a chapter on Basics that covers stocks, and sauces. Be aware this is not a totally plant-based book. There are many recipes using seafood and meat. But, as in her earlier book, plant-based substitutions are relatively easy and it is a host of basic concepts that she is teaching.

*BTW: The original “Book of Tofu” is still available for $7.23 on Amazon (used $0.1 and up) and a new edition, “Book of Tofu – Protein Source of the Future… Now!,”  a larger paperback with photos, updated information and newly designed covers, was published in 2012 ($17.95, available from $8 up). That might be well worth purchasing.  Together these two books will tell you all you want, need or wish to know about tofu.

The Banh Mi Handbook – Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches

by Andrea Nguyen. Ten Speed Press 2014. $16.99 (Amazon $11.43, or $4.99 Kindle)

BAnh Mi Handook

Banh Mi sandwiches have been the subject of so many articles and restaurant reviews that they have certainly captured my imagination and my salivary glands. But they are so meat-centric that I just couldn’t figure out how to replicate this described deliciousness within the confines of even a flexible plant-based diet. Nguyen’s small, hard-cover book helped me figure that out. This is by no means a vegetable-forward book; the bulk of the recipe chapters cover all of the main meat, poultry and seafood categories. But, there is a chapter on vegetarian fillings, two on breads and other “holders,” and, probably most important, one on mayonnaise, sauces and pickles which form the flavor profile that makes Banh Mi sandwiches so addictive. So you might find it worth the investment in a Kindle version for the Baked Maggi Tofu, Edamame Pate or the four other vegan fillings or for the flavorings of her meat pates that could be reinterpreted in a mushroom or bean pate.