Cookbook Review: How to Eat like a Vegetarian by Adams & Breitman (2008)

March 13th, 2009 5:00 pm by Kelly Garbato

Back in November, Kara at Lantern Books sent me a copy of How to Eat like a Vegetarian Even If You Never Want to Be One, by Carol J. Adams and Patti Breitman; a mere four months later, and I’ve tried enough of the recipes to offer a review. What can I say – I’m a slow cooker!

How to Eat Like a Vegetarian by Adams and Breitman (2008)

Being Vegetarian/Vegan 101

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(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review at the publisher’s invitation.)

The title of this (cook)book pretty much says it all: in just over 200 pages, authors Carol J. Adams (of The Sexual Politics of Meat fame) and Patti Breitman will show you how to eat like a vegetarian – even if you don’t want to be (or in fact aren’t) one. Since it’s kind of a vegetarianism/veganism 101 primer (though categorized as a vegetarian cookbook, all the recipes are vegan), the book’s likely target audience strikes me as newbie vegetarians and vegans; omnivores who are interested in eating fewer animal products, whether for health, environmental or animal welfare reasons; and the family and friends of vegetarians and vegans, new and old.

The last category seems a particularly suitable audience for How to Eat like a Vegetarian. For example, if you’ve recently gone veg, and your parents, siblings, partner and/or friends are giving you a hard time – “But where will you get your protein?” “Fish is vegetarian, right?” “You haven’t joined a cult, have you!?” – allow Adams and Breitman to set them straight. The information contained in How to Eat like a Vegetarian can help teens and young adults assure their worried parents that, yes, it’s not only possible but rather simple to consume enough protein on a veg diet, and help men and women reassure their partners that the household won’t lapse into starvation because the primary cook (or taste tester) has banished meat from the kitchen.

At its core, How to Eat like a Vegetarian is a cookbook; as such, it features roughly 60 recipes (with a number of additional suggestions, such as quick dinner ideas or suggestions for no-prep, eat-what’s-in-the-fridge, snacking-on-the-go eats). It’s a rather diverse sample, spanning breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, and includes soups, salads, sweets, dips and spreads, and – of course! – tofu dishes. Depending on your tastes, the selection can be hit-or-miss; while I love vegetable-based soups, for instance, I’m not big on “regular” tofu (though I do like the silken stuff!) – so I haven’t yet, and probably won’t, try the tofu recipes (although the Mr. and/or doggies probably will). The wide range of dishes can be taken as either a negative or a positive: on the one hand, the lack of a coherent theme binding the recipes together may mean that you only try half of the dishes. But, if you’re an adventurous eater and don’t know where to start your veg-etarian/-an journey, How to Eat like a Vegetarian might just be the place!

In addition to the recipes, Adams and Breitman offer “More than 250 shortcuts, strategies, and simple solutions.” These include a number of helpful “top ten” lists, such as “Ten ways to eat more vegetables”; “Ten substitutes for using an egg in baking”; and “Ten different things you can do with chickpeas.” You’ll also find suggestions for seasonal eating; ideas for vegan appetizers; birthday food ideas; and tips for hosting a cruelty-free reception. In the final chapter, Adams and Brietman sneak in a 30-page discussion about the health, environmental and animal welfare reasons for adopting a vegetarian diet. (Vegan, really, but methinks they didn’t want to scare jittery omni’s away by using the more radical term “vegan” in their book and chapter titles!)

Over the past few months, the husband and I have tried out a number of the recipes in How to Eat like a Vegetarian. Without exception, all were fairly easy to prepare and quite yummy, if not downright delish. Of course, I did some selective sampling; while I loved the Scalloped Potatoes , the mere mention of Carrot Avocado Soup makes my face crumple, and alas we never made it. Chances are you’re not as fussy an eater as I, so grain of salt and all.

(As an aside, if you’ve seen Baby Mama: That scene where Amy Pohler simply cannot bring herself to eat the organic green pea soup? Totally me. “I would rather be shot in the face than eat this food!”)

I especially liked the “top ten” lists and random tricks – many of these are gems! I’ve been a vegetarian for 13 years now, vegan for maybe 5, and I’m always looking for shortcuts in the kitch! Adams and Breitman offer some inspired tips for recreating new dishes out of leftovers (something I’ve kind of been doing, albeit on a smaller scale, for a few years), improvising dishes and the like. Probably nothing new to the more advanced vegan cooks among us (you know the types, always making you drool over their food p0rn blogs!), but a dogsend to us amateur and intermediate chefs.

After the jump: a few vegan food p0rn photos of my own, along with a brief description of each dish. Don’t hold the scrappy photo quality against the book’s authors – everything is much tastier than it looks.

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Cheddary Cheez Soup (pages 64-65): This is a hearty, yummy soup, though I wouldn’t exactly call it “cheesy.” The base is vegetables – potatoes, carrots and onions – along with silken tofu; 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast is supposed to give the soup a “cheesy” flavor, but it didn’t taste all that cheesy to me. Then again, I’ve never been a big fan of using nutritional yeast as a substitute for animal-based cheeses.

Still, it’s quite tasty, and the nutritional yeast and tofu add that extra kick of nutrients. This is a dish I’ll make again, but with a fresh-baked loaf of bread on the side. I suspect the soup doubles as an awesome dipping sauce!

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Easy French Toast (page 45): Yum, yum, yum! Bananas blended with soymilk makes the batter in this recipe. While it isn’t quite as good as the egg-based version of my childhood memories, it sure comes close. Cinnamon and nutmeg (and, if in a fall kind of mood, pumpkin pie spice mix) makes the batter even better – so much so that you’ll be tempted to drink it right out of the blender.

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Carol’s Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Bread (pages 117-119): The authors include two versions of this recipe – one for use with a bread machine, one without. If you don’t have a bread machine, what are you waiting for!? Most Goodwill stores have one or more at $5 apiece.

Carol’s Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Bread, as you may have surmised, contains x3 the chocolate: chocolate soymilk, cocoa and chocolate chips. We went easy on the chocolate chips, since we weren’t sure how our bread machine would handle them (and be “we” I mean “Shane”), but we didn’t run into any issues: so chips ahoy!

Naturally, the bread is best fresh – all warm and gooey – but it also makes for delicious leftovers, smothered in strawberry or raspberry jam. Pretty easy to make, too, assuming you have a bread machine. (wink, wink)

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Chocolate Creme Pie (page 115): OK, so, that obviously isn’t a picture of a creme pie above. Rather, it’s the creme in the pie.

I wanted a light snack, so rather than make a whole pie, I just made the creme in the pie – and half a batch, at that. It’s pretty simple to make: just blend some vegan chocolate chips with a brick of silken tofu and some vanilla, and voilà! I also made some vanilla pudding with silken tofu and Mori-Nu Mates Vanilla Pudding Mix. The two taste wonderful swirled together (my cup, on the left) or topped with more (!) chocolate chips (Shane’s, on the right).

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Scalloped Potatoes (page 106): The pièce de résistance! Talk about comfort foods! My mom used to make scalloped potatoes all the time when I was a yung’un (but laced with piggy bits, ew!), but I haven’t had them since I moved out and away. For some inexplicable reason, I always imagined this dish as difficult to make – but not so! If you can peel and slice potatoes, and layer them with margarine, flour and soymilk, you can make scalloped potatoes. The cook time is super-long, though – 1 1/2 to 2 hours – so plan ahead. Also, if you prefer your potatoes on the saucy side like moi, add a little extra soymilk 60 to 90 minutes in, and cover the baking pan with a cookie sheet for the last 30 minutes of the baking time.

Also pictured above is a heart-shaped Soy “Butter” Milk Biscuit (page 48). The biscuits seemed a little dense to me – not bad, just in need of a saucy topping – but Shane assured me that “real” biscuits are supposed to be like that. Or maybe I should have used whole wheat pastry flour instead of whole wheat flour, which was the closest flour I on hand last night.

Still on my must-try list is the Matzoh Ball Soup; Matzoh Balls; Potato Pancakes/Latkes (Matzoh meal is, like, impossible to find in the Midwest!); Black Bean Dip; Hummus; Red Pepper/Cashew Spread (tonight, perhaps?); Gingerbread; and the Mac Daddy (though the combination of crumbled tofu and nutritional yeast scares me). Keep an eye on my Flickr feed for more: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smiteme/tags/howtoeatlikeavegetarian/

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This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined.

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