Cookbook Review: The Cheesy Vegan, John Schlimm (2013)

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

It’s easy being cheesy!

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: The publisher sent me a free copy of this book for review at my request.)

Vegan cheese! No two words in the English language are able to arouse the excitement, the vociferous debate, the unbridled passion of vegans quite like “vegan cheese.” (Except – maybe – “free pizza”!) Whether arguing about the merits of Daiya vs. Teese or swapping our favorite cheesy sauce recipes, us vegans love to cut the cheese. (Sorry I’m not sorry.)

John Schlimm’s latest cookbook, The Cheesy Vegan, doesn’t disappoint. Filled with recipes for cheesy sammies and cheesy pizzas and cheesy pasta dishes and cheesy soups and sides (and an entire chapter of mac & cheese! ONE WHOLE CHAPTER!), there are also a ton of recipes for homemade cheeses: Cheddar. Mozzarella. Brie. Swiss. Feta. Ricotta. Blue. Jack. Muenster. Wine. American. Cottage. Cream. Parmesan. Nooch cheese. You name it! If it’s cheesy, it’s in here.

Better yet, the cheeses are all pretty easy to make: just blend and chill. I’ve been on the fence about whether I should give Artisan Vegan Cheese a try, since (from what I’ve seen) some of the recipes border on alchemy. But these are actually recipes that homemade cheese novices like myself can pull off with some ease!

While choosing recipes to test for this review, I tried to select dishes that would allow me to experiment with a variety of the homemade cheeses. Six weeks, seven cheeses, and thirteen (plus!) meals later, and I think I’m finally ready to do this!

For what it’s worth, I’ve been allergic to milk my entire life – so I’m not exactly the best judge of whether vegan cheeses taste or even behave like their non-vegan counterparts. Luckily, my husband was more than happy to help with the taste-testing and opinionating. (We’ve both been vegan since the mid-aughts and consider ourselves connoisseurs of vegan cheese.)

With that disclaimer out of the way – let’s get cheesy!

(More below the fold…)

Cookbook Review: Vegan Pizza, Julie Hasson (2013)

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Heck Yeah Vegan Pizza!

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: At my request, the publisher sent me a free copy of this book for review.)

I just had to laugh when I spotted some reviewers questioning the necessity of a cookbook devoted solely to vegan pizza. Pizza is pretty much the perfect food; potential toppings and topping combos run the gamut, and are really only limited by one’s imagination. Some of my own personal creations of which I’m particularly proud include a Thanksliving Pizza (topped with mashed potatoes, carrots, green beans, Tofurky, gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce), a Cheddar Bacon Cheeseburger & Fries Pizza, a Mac & Cheese (with bacon!) Pizza, a Kalamata Olive Crust Pizza, and a Lemon Pepper Bruschetta Pizza. And don’t even get me started on pizza variants! (Pizzadillas, dessert pizzas, pizza fries, taco pizza, pizza soup, pizza bread…I could go on and on!) It’s wonder there aren’t more vegan pizza cookbooks on the market!

Maybe I’m biased – I run a vegan pizza tumblog, after all – but yeah. I think this is one niche that deserves more attention than it’s gotten to date. Julie Hasson’s Vegan Pizza is only the second vegan pizza cookbook of which I’m aware – the first being Mark Sutton’s Heart Healthy Pizza, published in 2012. (For those who found the recipes in Vegan Pizza too unhealthy/reliant on processed cheeses, check out Sutton’s book – all the ingredients are homemade!)

Vegan Pizza is roughly divided into four sections: Dough and Crusts, House-Made Meats, Cheesy Sauces and Spreads (including tomato sauce and pesto), and THE PIZZAS (with 32 total pizza creations, five of which are dessert pizzas). I like that Hasson provides recipes for diy meats and cheeses; this is especially helpful for those looking to save some money, or who don’t always have access to the store-bought stuff. The pizza recipes range from “the classics” – Tomato-Basil; Spinach, Onion, Mushroom, and Pepperoni; and Garlic, Sausage, and Onion Pizzas – to more imaginative fare, such as the Tomato, Cucumber, and Caper; Chili Mac; and Muffuletta Pizzas.

So far I’ve tried about sixteen recipes (give or take), including:

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John Schlimm’s The Cheesy Vegan drops today! Also: Flying Buffalo Pizza & a giveaway!

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

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When I first laid eyes on John Schlimm’s The Cheesy Vegan: More Than 125 Plant-Based Recipes for Indulging in the World’s Ultimate Comfort Food via an Amazon recommendation, I nearly fell out of my seat. It’s like they read my mind! An entire cookbook devoted to vegan cheese (pizza, pasta, tacos, macaroni and cheese!); could a more perfect thing exist? (A: No. No, it cannot.)

Luckily, the folks at Da Capo Press were kind enough to send me a copy for review. Yay! And in the interest of not burying the lede, let me just say that they also offered a second copy for me to give away. Yay for you! Head on over to fuck yeah vegan pizza for details and to enter.

Anyway, between Vegan MoFo and Julie Hasson’s Vegan Pizza (which I’m currently also reviewing), I haven’t had much chance to cook from it yet. BUT it does look quite promising. Wait, that’s an understatement. Amazing. It looks amazing.

In addition to cheesy sammies and cheesy pizzas and cheesy pasta dishes and cheesy soups and sides (and an entire chapter of mac & cheese! ONE WHOLE CHAPTER!), there are also a ton of recipes for homemade cheeses: Cheddar. Mozzarella. Brie. Swiss. Feta. Ricotta. Blue. Jack. Muenster. American. You name it! Better yet, they all look pretty easy to make: just blend and chill. I’ve been on the fence about whether I should give Artisan Vegan Cheese a try, since some of the recipes sound like alchemy or witchcraft or rocket science. (Take your pick!) But these actually look like recipes I can pull off! (*knock on wood*)

For those of you who fancy gorgeous, glossy, full-color photos, The Cheesy Vegan will not disappoint. Nearly every page is dripping and oozing with cheesy orange and white goodness. You might find yourself overcome with a sudden and powerful urge to lick the gourmet food photos. This is one handsome book.

Better still, few of the recipes require unusual or hard-to-find ingredients. The weirdest item I spotted was instant flour (Wondra), which Schlimm assures us is readily available in most grocery stores. That said, you will need plenty of agar flakes for the diy cheese recipes – and agar is rather pricey.

Some of the equipment is a bit non-standard, especially for my kitchen; I only own a few odd ramekins (for my wannabe-gourmet food photography!), and I’m not even sure what a jelly roll pan looks like. The Pizza Mountain Pie, in particular, requires a pie iron, which I don’t think even exists in my parents’ attic (and you can find one of nearly every countertop kitchen appliance there!). But, with the exception of the pie iron (and requisite campfire!), many of these items are easily improvised.

I especially appreciate the do-it-yourself cheese recipes, which is a nice way of keeping costs down. It’s also super-convenient for those of us who don’t have easy access to alternative/natural foods stores. Overall, I’d say that most of the recipes are moderately difficult at worst, but of course home cheesemaking complicates things a bit and will require additional planning. The good thing is that you don’t have to make the cheeses from scratch if you don’t want to – Schlimm allows for plenty of flexibility in the recipes.

Just see for yourself! Reprinted below (and with the publisher’s permission) is a recipe for Flying Buffalo Pizza (page 177, for those playing along at home).

Enjoy, and stay cheesy! And vegan!

(More below the fold…)

VeganMoFo VII: Vegan A to Z!

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

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Behold! The VeganMoFo VII book pile!
Guarded by a stuffed mini-Ralphie, who will be with us in spirit.
Ditto Kaylee, though I’ve yet to find a stuffed animal that resembles my lumpy little girl.
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Happy VeganMoFo, ya’ll! This is the month that vegans the internets over gather to discuss and share all things food-related: Recipes. Cookbooks. Tips and techniques. Favorite websites. And most of all: hundreds (thousands?) of gorgeous, melt-in-your-mouth, so-good-you-can-almost-taste-it food photos. Not like we need a special month, but hey. It’s nice to be on the same page for a few weeks, innit?

Because I got hooked on the theme thing last year (Eat to the Beat! Remember me?), I decided to do that same in 2013. Not the same theme, just a theme. I rilly rilly rilly wanted to do a month’s worth of foods found in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, but had to shelve the idea due to lack of time and energy. (Regular readers might remember that I lost my two eldest dogs, Ralphie and Kaylee, back in May – a mere twelve days apart. Not to be a bummer, but I’m still recovering.) But hey, there’s always 2014, right? On the bright side, that’ll give me time to reread the series and hopefully come up with a few more menu ideas. At last count I was still four posts shy of a full month.

So instead of HDM, an alphabet theme! As I understand it, it’s customary to pick an ingredient for each letter of the alphabet and then cook a dish that includes it, preferably in a prominent position (A for apples, B for blueberries, etc.). Because I play fast and loose with the rules, I won’t be quite as strict as this. Mostly the letters will correspond to the recipe’s title, but not always. (This is what they in the biz call a “teaser”!) Living dangerously, this is how you do it.

The goal for the month is to work through all 26 letters of the alphabet (Sundays are reserved for Iron Chef – assuming it isn’t too difficult! *fingers crossed*), while trying all new-to-me recipes. A few are Kelly G. originals, but most come from cookbooks – in this case:

  • Betty Goes Vegan: 500 Classic Recipes for the Modern Family by Annie and Dan Shannon (2013)
  • Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food: 150 Down-Home Recipes Packed with Flavor, Not Calories by Alicia C. Simpson (2012)
  • The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe: 150 Plant-Based Makeovers of Classics from France, Italy, Spain…and Beyond by Mark Reinfeld (2012)
  • Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For–From Asparagus Omelets to Pumpkin Pancakes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (2009)
  • Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero (2007)
  • Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson (2010)
  • The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook by Robin Robertson (2002)
  • Chloe’s Kitchen: 125 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Making the Food You Love the Vegan Way by Chloe Coscarelli (2012)
  • The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur: Over 140 Simply Delicious Recipes That Treat the Eyes and Taste Buds by Kelly Peloza (2010)

    If this looks like a ridiculously ambitious book pile, you’re right. Truth be told, most of the menu will come from Betty Goes Vegan and Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food, with the other cookbooks contributing a recipe or two each. Not because they aren’t awesome; Betty Goes Vegan and Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food are just my two newest acquisitions, so it makes sense.

    Let the feeding frenzy begin!

     
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  • Cookbook Review: Vegan Italiano, Donna Klein (2006)

    Monday, April 22nd, 2013

    Why hello, never ending vegan pasta bowl!

    five out of five stars

    I received a copy of Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano for Christmas – and in the few short months that I’ve owned it, I’ve managed to tear through nearly three dozen recipes. This is unprecedented for me, cookbook hoarder and master procrastinator that I am. But I also love, love, LOVE pasta, and since the dishes all sound so incredible, my biggest challenge was choosing just one to start.

    (As it turns out, the inaugural recipe was Frying-Pan Pizza, and it was a game changer. Hearty, doughy pizza! In less than 20 minutes! MAGIC!)

    Among the recipes I tried:

    * Italian-Style Butter Bean Dip (page 4)
    * Sicilian-Style Tomato Spread (page 13)
    * Cauliflower Soup with Parsley (page 16)
    * Baked Vegetable Soup (page 21)
    * Tomato and Bread Stew with Pasta (page 27)
    * Olive Croutons (page 34)
    * Farfalle with Sundried Tomato-Mint Pesto and a side of Fresh Broccoli Marinara (pages 53 and 99)
    * Farfalle with Zucchini, Mint, and Almonds (page 54)
    * Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Marsala and a side of Roasted Carrots with Rosemary and Sage (pages 55 and 101)
    * Fusilli with Caramelized Onions and Walnuts with a side of Green Beans with Walnut Sauce (pages 56 and 103)
    * Linguine with Breadcrumbs and Lemon (page 58)
    * Linguine with Broccoli Sauce and Garlic (page 59)
    * Linguine with Caper and Green Olive Marinara Sauce (page 60)
    * Linguine with Potatoes, Green Beans, and Spinach-Walnut Pesto (page 62)
    * Linguine with Roasted Pepper, Tomato, and Garlic Sauce (page 64)
    * Potato Gnocchi with Sundried Tomato-Almond Pesto (page 73)
    * Sicilian Skillet Pasta Pie (page 76)
    * Spaghetti with Red Wine and Rosemary Marinara Sauce and Skillet Garlic Bread (pages 78 and 138)
    * Baked Herbed Rice (page 83)
    * Lemon-Pine Nut Rice (page 84)
    * Microwave Risotto with Saffron (page 86)
    * Risotto with Zucchini and Sundried Tomatoes (page 89)
    * Baked Mixed Vegetable Casserole (page 125)
    * Pesto Pizza with a Semolina Crust (pages 132 and 130)
    * Frying-Pan Pizza (page 134)
    * Baked Garlic Bread (page 138)
    * Spinach Pesto Pasta with a side of Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic (pages 144 and 102)
    * Lemon-Basil Pesto Sauce (page 145; paired with angel hair and sweet corn)

    I blogged each dish as I went, so I won’t bother rehashing each one here – but you can click through the recipe titles to see photos and read more about any given recipe.

    Vegan Italiano Mosaic

    As was expected (did I mention my carb addiction?), there were very few dishes that I didn’t absolutely love. Growing up my mom made pasta on a weekly basis, but my experiences were mostly limited to spaghetti and meat sauce. Klein introduced me to a number of new vegan favorites: the ‘Linguine with Roasted Pepper, Tomato, and Garlic Sauce’ is out of this world, as is the ‘Sicilian Skillet Pasta Pie’ – and the ‘Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Marsala’ and ‘Farfalle with Zucchini, Mint, and Almonds’ aren’t too shabby either. And the ‘Linguine with Breadcrumbs and Lemon’? AH-MAY-ZING. I never would have thought to mix breadcrumbs with pasta, but now I’m putting them on all the things.

    (Adding quotes because the recipe titles seem to bleed together otherwise.)

    (More below the fold…)

    Betty Goes Vegan with a Big Greek Salad

    Sunday, March 31st, 2013

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    I swore I wouldn’t give in to temptation – I have more than enough vegan cookbooks to keep me busy clear through Vegan MoFo 2015, yo! – and oh, how quickly I caved. I did it. I bought a copy of Annie & Dan Shannon’s Betty Goes Vegan. With FIVE HUNDRED “classic” comfort food recipes, veganized. At first glance, it’s kind of like Vegan Junk Food, but hella thicker. Vegan junk food heaven, here I come.

    In my defense, Amazon had a great discount on it, and I needed to buy a second book to get the free shipping deal, so there you go. (The other purchase? A boxed set of The Uglies, also on deep discount. Five books for under $40, yay me. In all seriousness though I miss the public library something awful. Our small town doesn’t have a library – it keeps getting voted down, boo! – and once Shane started working at home full-time, the KCMO library became more of a drive than it’s worth. I keep joking that his new boss oughta give him a book allowance. Le sigh.)

    Somewhat ironically, the first recipe I tried was on the healthy side: Greek Dressing, enjoyed on a bed o’ spinach, black and Kalamata olives, carrots, and red bell peppers. Impromptu lunch, I guess I’m doing it right?

    Tasty, though the lemon pepper wasn’t as strong as I expected. I ended up topping the salad with an extra 1/8 teaspoon of the stuff.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go drool over the pizza and pasta sections.

    Cookbook Review: American Vegan Kitchen, Tami Noyes (2010)

    Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

    Three Words: Vegan Comfort Food!

    five out of five stars

    I was lucky enough to win a copy of American Vegan Kitchen through a giveaway hosted by author Tami Noyes on her blog, Vegan Appetite. I can’t even tell you how glad I am that I did, since I probably wouldn’t have given it a try otherwise. Not because the recipes aren’t enticing (they are! some epically so!); rather, I own way too many cookbooks as it is, many of which go largely unused. I’m happy to report that this hasn’t been the case with AVK.

    With chapters devoted to breakfast foods, starters, soups, salads, sandwiches, main dishes, sides, and desserts, it was difficult to know where to start. (The Dessert Case. Always start with dessert!) Cue: the old adage about one’s eyes being bigger than one’s stomach.

    So far I’ve made about two dozen recipes – some of them multiple times! – including the following:

    Mediterranean Scramble (page 23)
    Noodle Omelet (page 25)
    Summer Waffles with Lemon Sauce (page 36)
    Cinnamon Flapjacks (page 37)
    Vegan Sausage Links (page 41)
    Mighty Miso Soup (page 73)
    Loaded Baked Potato Soup (page 74)
    ‘Big Soup’ Minestrone (page 77)
    Seitan and Herb Dumplings (page 134)
    Italian Big Bowl (page 137)
    Italian-Style Seitan with Linguine (page 138)
    Fettuccine Alfredo (page 140)
    Spaghetti Pie with Arrabbiata Sauce (page 141)
    Brewpub Tater Tot Pie (page 152)
    Margherita Pizza with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (page 157)
    Cheesy Mac and Greens (page 164)
    Stovetop Mac and Cheeze (page 165)
    Taters and Strings (page 165)
    Homestyle Gravy (page 167)
    Mom’s Apple Pie (page 178)
    Apple Butterscotch Pie (page 180)
    Peachy Keen Cobbler (page 184)
    Vanilla Espresso Shake (page 198)

    I blogged each of these as I went, so I won’t rehash each and every dish here. (But you can click through the recipe titles to read more.) Instead: a highlights reel!

    American Vegan Kitchen Mosaic

    With the exception of the Peachy Keen Cobbler – the only dish I didn’t love, though that’s probably owing more to the fact that I’m not much of a cobbler girl than any deficiency in the recipe – I’ll likely make all of these dishes again. The Homestyle Gravy has become a staple in our kitchen (put gravy on ALL the things!), and Noyes’s Minestrone is by far the best version I’ve tasted. The Brewpub Tater Tot Pie and Loaded Baked Potato Soup are nothing short of inspired. (But be careful of the potato chunks in the latter – those suckers can get HOT! Best to cut them a little smaller than recommended.)

    AVK features not one but two apple pie recipes, both of which are scrumptious. The crust is a bit on the delicate side, and thus hard to work with, but then again I’ve yet to find a pie crust recipe that I truly love.

    Likewise, each of the two macaroni and cheese recipes are good, and healthy too – one even includes spinach! (Heads up, parents of veggie-averse kids.)

    (More below the fold…)

    Cookbook Review: The Chinese Vegan Kitchen, Donna Klein (2012)

    Monday, December 17th, 2012

    Toss the takeout menus and get cooking!

    five out of five stars

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

    I’ve taken to reviewing cookbooks lately because I like the challenge. I can be rather lazy when it comes to cooking, and tend to procrastinate to the point where my only choices for dinner are last night’s leftovers – or a pita bread pizza. Making unfamiliar dishes, on the other hand, requires planning and flexibility – my culinary arch nemeses! Enter: the cookbook review. Since publisher-provided review copies usually come with a deadline (albeit self-imposed, but then I’m always my own biggest critic), they provide just the right amount of motivation to keep me on track.

    So when Penguin USA offered me a free copy of The Chinese Vegan Kitchen: More Than More Than 225 Meat-free, Egg-free, Dairy-free Dishes from the Culinary Regions of China (Donna Klein, 2012) for review, I jumped at the chance. Though I love (some) “Chinese food,” my experiences up until now have been limited to the occasional takeout and prepackaged vegan egg rolls found at the local supermarket’s “meals to go” cooler. Before last month, I’d never so much as made my own lo mein – let alone assembled egg rolls from scratch!

    The same time I was working my way through the recipes in The Chinese Vegan Kitchen, Salon featured an interview with English Fuchsia Dunlop in which she “explain[ed] Western misperceptions about one of our favorite culinary imports”: There is no “Chinese cuisine”. In a country as large and diverse as China – more the size of a continent than a nation – to speak of one common culinary style amounts to an “over-simplification.” Chinese food, says Dunlop, is at once “varied and multi-faceted,” yes shares certain cultural elements.

    Luckily, chef and food writer Donna Klein – whose library includes several previous regional cookbooks (Vegan Italiano, The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, The Tropical Vegan Kitchen) – seems to know her stuff. Having lived in China for a year, Klein begins The Chinese Vegan Kitchen with a brief explanation of China’s regional cuisines. The recipes which follow are reflective of China’s diversity, with dishes from Hunan, Sichuan, Hainan, Shanghai, Yunnan, Tibet, and Northwestern China, to name just a few.

    Prior to writing this review, I made about a dozen different recipes:
    Velvet Corn Soup (page 35)
    Roasted Carrots with Sesame and Ginger (page 155)
    Stir-Fried Bok Choy & Shiitake Mushrooms (page 152)
    Baked Vegetable Eggless Egg Rolls (page 12) with the Basic Dipping Sauce (page 9)
    Roasted Sesame Green Beans (page 160)
    Hunan-Style Baked Sweet Potato “French Fries” with Chili Sauce (page 161)
    Pantry Lo Mein (page 98)
    Microwaved Sichuan Green Beans (page 160)
    Instant Ramen Noodle Soup with Vegetables (page 45)
    Country-Style Vegetable Stew with Tofu Puffs (page 43)
    Chinese Corn Flour Flatbread (page 6)
    Sichuan-Style Lo Mein with Sesame and Garlic (page 100)
    Sesame-Mustard Vinaigrette (page 60)

    I would have liked to have tried a more diverse selection – including at least one seitan and several more rice dishes – before publishing this review, but I also wanted to get it up in time for the holiday shopping season. If you’re still shopping, look no further: The Chinese Vegan Kitchen would make an excellent gift for the Chinese food afficionado/aspiring chef in your life – vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike!

    Nearly all of the recipes I tried were winners. (Photos and individual reviews are included after the jump!) Among the standouts are the Baked Sweet Potato Fries (which we enjoyed as part of our Thanksgiving dinner); the Instant Ramen Noodle Soup (with a very high taste-to-effort ratio); the Velvet Corn Soup (different!); and the Roasted Carrots with Sesame and Ginger and Roasted Sesame Green Beans (which I bet would taste amazing together!).

    Though I had some trouble here and there, most of it concerned obtaining the right ingredients for the job. For example, I was unable to find vegan egg rolls, so I had to swap them out for spring rolls when making Baked Vegetable Eggless Egg Rolls. Since the filling is rather saucy – and the spring roll wrappers, thinner than their egg roll counterparts – this resulted in not a little leakage during baking. Still, the rolls were super-delicious and I’ve no doubt that my results will only improve once I’m able to get my hands on some proper egg rolls.

    (More below the fold…)

    Scallion Pancakes, straight from The Chinese Vegan Kitchen!

    Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

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    Donna Klein’s latest cookbook, The Chinese Vegan Kitchen, drops today (the kids are still saying this, yes?), and the folks at Penguin USA were nice enough to offer me a copy for review!

    Even though I’ve been cooking from it like a wild woman (exhibit A: my flickr stream), I’ve still got a list of “must-try” recipes a legal pad long: Pot Stickers with Cabbage and Shiitake Mushrooms. Classic Chinese Pancakes. Fried Basmati Rice with Black-Eyed Peas and Wanuts. Tibetan Lentil Soup. Chinese Potato Salad. Shanghai-Style Noodles with Green Onion Sauce. Chinese Sweet Walnuts. And yes, Scallion Pancakes! (My stomach is rumbling just thinking about it.) I keep meaning to make these, but forgetting to budget the extra time required to let the dough rise. Bulbs!

    To celebrate the book’s release, Penguin offered up a recipe – really two in one! – from The Chinese Vegan Kitchen. Scallion Pancakes with a Garlic Chive–Ginger Dipping Sauce, yum! Go make a batch and save some for me? I’ll be over here holding my breath, kay.

    If you’d like a copy for your own bad self (or maybe for a friend or relative – x-mas is fast approaching, yo!), The Chinese Vegan Kitchen is available via Penguin USA for $18.95. Penguin also published many of Klein’s past cookbooks, including The Tropical Vegan Kitchen, The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, Vegan Italiano (want!), and Supermarket Vegan. Be adventurous and do a world tour!

     

    Scallion Pancakes

    I adore these savory pancakes. Serve them with soups, stews, and salads to create a light supper, or use them as a bed for your favorite stir-fries and tofu dishes in lieu of rice or noodles.

    Makes 4 pancakes; 8 to 12 appetizer servings

    2 cups all-purpose flour
    ¼ teaspoon table salt
    1 cup just-boiled water
    3 tablespoons canola oil, plus additional, as needed
    1 tablespoon toasted (dark) sesame oil
    ½ cup thinly sliced scallions, green parts only
    2 tablespoon black or regular sesame seeds, toasted, if desired (optional)
    1 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
    Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    Garlic Chive–Ginger Dipping Sauce (below)

    In a large bowl, combine the flour and table salt. Slowly add just-boiled water in a steady stream while stirring constantly in one direction with a wooden spoon (to keep bowl in place, wrap a kitchen towel around the bottom). When the flour absorbs the water and cools, knead the dough with floured fingers directly in the bowl into a slightly sticky ball. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rest 30 minutes. Alternatively, combine the flour and table salt in a food processor fitted with the knife blade; with the motor running, slowly add just-boiled water and process until a slightly sticky ball forms. Transfer to a large bowl and knead briefly with floured fingers. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rest 30 minutes.

    Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the canola oil and sesame oil. Set aside.

    On a lightly work floured surface, roll out dough into a thin rectangle, about the size of a standard baking sheet. Brush on oil mixture; sprinkle evenly with the scallions, sesame seeds (if using), sea salt, and pepper. Starting at one long side, carefully roll up the dough to encase the filling. Cut into 4 equal pieces. Using your hands, roll and stretch each piece into a longer cylinder. Take one piece and twist in 3 places, keeping the filling in place; reshape into a cylinder. Coil each piece to form a spiral, pinching end in to keep in place. Press spiral with your palm to flatten it; using a rolling pin, roll out into a pancake 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Repeat process with remaining pieces.

    Line a baking sheet with paper towels. In a large nonstick skillet, heat ½ tablespoon of remaining canola oil slightly above medium heat. Working with 1 pancake at a time, place pancake in skillet and cook until golden, about 2 minutes each side. Transfer to prepared baking sheet and cover with foil to keep warm. Repeat process with remaining canola oil and pancakes, adjusting the heat as needed.

    Cut each pancake into 6 pieces. Serve immediately with Garlic Chive–Ginger Dipping Sauce on the side.

    Per serving (per ½ pancake without sauce): Calories 176; Protein 3g; Total Fat 7g; Sat Fat 1g; Cholesterol 0mg; Carbohydrate 24g; Dietary Fiber 1g; Sodium 335mg

     
    (More below the fold…)

    Cookbook Review: Cooking Vegan, Vesanto Melina & Joseph Forest (2012)

    Thursday, July 12th, 2012

    Cooking Vegan: You Know It!

    four out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: the publisher sent me a free copy of this book for review.)

    The second collaboration between (vegan) dietician Vesanto Melina and (not-vegan) professional chef Joseph Forest, Cooking Vegan: healthful, delicious, and easy is a nice introductory vegan cookbook, particularly for newbie vegans and skeptical omnivores, as well as veteran vegans who want to eat a more healthful diet.

    With chapter headings like “Vegan Nutrition” and “Vegan Ingredients,” the first fifth of the book is devoted to describing the basic building blocks of a vegan diet: fats, sweeteners, nondairy milks, soy foods, thickening agents, etc. (Spoiler alert: the age old question “But where do you get your protein?” will be answered!) There’s also some more general info about organizing your workspace, following recipes, and the like. Twelve suggested “theme” menus (Children’s; Super Simple; North American; Japanese) provide additional guidance for overwhelmed cooks.

    Now for the food! The recipes in Cooking Vegan are divided between nine categories: breakfasts and beverages; dips, spreads, snacks, and sandwiches; soups; salads; salad dressings; entrées; sauces and gravies; side dishes; and sweet treats. Each recipe is accompanied by detailed nutritional information, and many come with suggested variations.

    Before I begin reviewing a cookbook, I leaf through the recipes and come up with a list of dishes I’d like to try, so that I can check my pantry for ingredients and update my shopping list accordingly. For Cooking Vegan, this meant about thirty recipes, give or take – roughly enough to fill up a sheet of legal paper. At this point, I’ve tackled about half of them – enough that I feel comfortable writing a review.

    With few exceptions, I enjoyed nearly all of the dishes I tried. In particular, the Scrambled Tofu, Marinara Sauce, Tapenade and Pesto Pizzas (including the pizza dough!), Good Morning Granola, Mac Uncheese, Light Mushroom Gravy, and Vegan Dazs Ice Cream stand out in memory, and all will be joining the regular rotation here in the Garbato-Brady household. (Actually, the Vegan Dazs already was a staple, just under another name: One-ingredient banana ice cream. Look it up!) The sole dud? The Holiday Pie Topping, which has a rather unpleasant aftertaste.

    Still on my to-do list: Gooda Cheez (for which I bought a bag of agar, all special!); Heart Healthy Hummus; Black Bean Soup; Tuscan Minestrone; Wild Rice Salad; Shepherd’s Pie; Mushroom Lentil Patties; Corn with Bell Peppers; Scalloped Potatoes; Cashew Cheeze Lasagne; Blueberry Muffins; Almond Butter Balls; and the Cashew Cream Topping. I’ll blog these as I get to them, so keep an eye out!

    Based on my experience, the recipes found in Cooking Vegan are straightforward and easy to follow, with few unusual or hard-to-find ingredients required. While some of the recipes (such as the Mac Uncheese) call for a second recipe (in this case, the Gee Whiz Spread), this is kept to minimum, with one added recipe at most. (One notable exception are the pizzas, which reference recipes for dough and a topping. Both of which are super-easy to make!) When referring you to another recipe, the authors include a page number, which I really appreciate. (All that flipping back and forth to the index when you’re trying to cook dinner? No thanks!)

    My main complaint is that Melina and Forest are rather light-handed with the seasonings. With the Scrambled Tofu, for example, I found myself doubling – even tripling – up on some of the spices. Likewise, before I worked my magic, the Mediterranean Lentil Soup could best be described as “bland.” Still, the fix for this is easy enough: taste, taste, taste! as you cook, and don’t be afraid to adjust the ingredients to fit your own style.

    As someone who’s been experimenting with banana ice cream for a while now, I do have to point out one glaring error in the Vegan Dazs Ice Cream recipe. While the primary recipe uses a juicer to blend the fruit (I’ve yet to wrap my mind around the logistics of this…not a big juicer, me), one variation gives these instructions for using a food processor: 2 cups of frozen bananas to 1 cup nondairy milk; serve immediately. In my experience, it’s best to use as little liquid (be it nondairy milk, creamer, or water) as possible, since the liquid will form ice crystals as it freezes. While it’s clear that Melina and Forest don’t intend for this version to be frozen and enjoyed later, there’s no reason why it can’t be!

    Either way, one part liquid to two parts bananas is still excessive, even if you’re enjoying it immediately as soft serve. Better to leave the frozen bananas to defrost on the counter for 30 to 60 minutes prior to making the ice cream – this will give you a richer, creamier dessert, whether eaten soft serve or frozen ice cream styley.

    Under the jump: photos and summaries of all the dishes I tried. Feast your eyes!

     

    (More below the fold…)

    One-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream with Chocolate Fudge Sauce

    Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

    2012-06-20 - Banana & Granola Sundae - 0001

    One-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream, topped with homemade Chocolate Fudge Sauce
    and Good Morning Granola, also homemade
    (the recipe’s from Cooking Vegan by Vesanto Melina & Joseph Forest).
    ——————————

     

    Banana ice cream, does a more perfect vegan junk food exist? Healthy, inexpensive, easy to make, no special equipment required – and it counts as a serving plus of fruit, to boot! Bananas, my new best friends.

    As many different flavors of banana ice cream I’ve made, it occurred to me that I’ve yet to post a basic recipe. Consider that oversight seen and rectified! This One-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream recipe is delicious when made as is, but it also offers an excellent jumping off point for creating your own signature dish. Nuts, nut butters, dried fruit, fresh fruit, frozen fruit, chocolate goodies, vegan sweets, you name it – all make for yummy additions. Go wild.

    To get you started, I’ve included a bonus recipe for Chocolate Fudge Sauce! I started with the Fudge Sauce recipe found in Lane Gold’s Vegan Junk Food and modified it to fit what was in my pantry. The result? Thick, rich, chocolately … this sauce is addictive, and galaxies better than the store-bought stuff. Standing over the stove top may be the last thing on your mind in this heat, but trust me – it’s sooooo worth it.

     

    2012-06-20 - Banana Soft Serve & Berries - 0025

    Banana Ice Cream: serve with fresh berries for a healthy summertime treat!
    ——————————

     

    One-Ingredient Banana Ice Cream

    Ingredients

    2 to 5 overripe bananas, peeled, sliced and frozen

    (Two bananas yield one generous serving. Four to five bananas make about a quart of ice cream.)

    Directions

    1. Put the bananas in the food processor and pulse until smoothly blended. Most likely you’ll need to stir them by hand several times, as the frozen chunks tend to gather and become “stuck” on one side of the bowl. If necessary, add a splash of non-dairy milk or creamer to get things moving!

    Alternately, you can allow the bananas to defrost on the counter top for 30 to 60 minutes beforehand, so that they’re easier to work with. Before putting them in the food processor, break them up into smaller chunks with a butter knife.

    Note: Since introducing extra liquids (such as non-dairy milk) into the mix results in a slightly icier finished product, I prefer defrosting to non-dairy milk. If you’re in a hurry, pop the bananas in the microwave for 20 to 45 seconds instead.

    2. If the bananas aren’t sweet enough for your taste (sometimes this happens if you freeze them before they’re sufficiently ripe), add a bit of sugar to taste. Any sugar works fine – white, brown, etc. – but I find that powdered sugar results in a smoother blend.

    3. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container. Enjoy immediately as soft serve, or pop the ice cream in the freezer for an hour+ for a firmer dessert. Store any leftovers in the freezer in an airtight container. If the frozen banana ice cream proves too hard to scoop, microwave it for ten seconds to help loosen it up (or let the container sit on the counter for ten to thirty minutes prior to eating, depending on room temp).

    (More below the fold…)

    Vegan Junk Food (is surprisingly healthy!)

    Sunday, June 10th, 2012

    2012-06-09 - Sweet Potato Tots - 0005

    (Last night’s) Dinner! Baked tofu scramble (based on the Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole in Lane Gold’s Vegan Junk Food ), topped with some diy parmesan cheese (also from VJF – put parmesan on ALL the things! ) and served with sweet potato tots and some teensy tiny salad tomatoes.

    I love summer!

    Baked Tofu Scramble & Sweet Potato Fries

    Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

    2012-05-21 - Sweet Potato Fries - 0001

     

    SO GOOD! The baked tofu scramble is adapted from the Tot Casserole in Lane Gold’s Vegan Junk Food – the bottom layer of blended tofu mixed with nooch and other assorted spices is the same, and I used Lightlife Smart Links in place of the required Gimme Lean sausage. Topped off with mixed veggies, ’cause mixed veggies are good. So are tater tots, but I decided to omit those for my jelly belly’s sake.

    On the side is a serving of sweet potato fries. There’s a recipe for these in Vegan Junk Food, too (of course! is there anything this cookbook can’t do?), but I winged it. Sweet potato fries are easy to make, to wit:

     

    Baked Sweet Potato Fries

    (Makes two generous servings.)

    Ingredients

    3 sweet potatoes
    1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
    spices to taste (salt, pepper, lemon pepper, cumin, cinnamon, sugar pumpkin pie spice, chipotle powder, smoked paprika, etc. – be creative!)

    Directions

    1. Preheat the oven to 450F.

    2. Clean, peel, and slice the baked potatoes. You can cut them into any number of shapes: wedges; short, stubby fries; or long, lean fries 1/4 or 1/2″ in width. Here I went with a standard french fry shape, about 1/2″ in thickness. The most important thing is to keep the shape as uniform as possible, so they’ll all bake at the same rate. And don’t make ’em too thick, or else the outsides are likely to blacken before the insides are done!

    3. Combine the potatoes, olive oil, and spices in a medium-sized bowl. (This time around, I used a bit of salt with 1 teaspoon cumin.) Cover with a lid and shake until the oil and spices coat all the fries.

    4. Arrange the fries on a baking sheet (or two, if necessary), taking care not to overlap any of the potatoes. Bake at 450F for about twenty to thirty minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and golden brown, flipping them at the halfway point. Serve hot and often!

    Tip: Clean, peel, and slice some sweet potatoes ahead of time and store them in the fridge until ready for use. I find sweet potatoes terribly annoying and difficult to prepare (so unyielding are they that sometimes I feel as though I’m trying to dice a stone); doing so ahead of time, and in batches, makes it more likely that I’ll actually eat the sweet potatoes I buy.

    Moldy sweet potatoes, such a damn tragedy.

    null

    Enter to win a copy of The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread by Laurie Sadowski!

    Monday, May 21st, 2012

    The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread by Laurie Sadowski

    Hey people! Head on over to fuck yeah vegan pizza, where I’m giving away a copy of The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free by Laurie Sadowski! Now through Sunday night, and you don’t need a tumblr account to enter.

    Even if you don’t want the cookbook, enter anyway – you can always regift it to me, wink wink.

    DO IT!

    simple pleasures

    Sunday, May 20th, 2012

    2012-05-18 - Orzo With Vegan Parm - 0005

    The vegan parm in Lane Gold’s Vegan Junk Food is so delish that I can’t help but put it on all the things. Here’s a bowl of orzo with a pat of margarine and a heaping serving of parm. Seriously, I must’ve put an entire batch on this pasta. I make it in quadruples, yo.

    Possibly I should sample some of the other recipes out there – those using almonds instead of walnuts, for example – but I don’t wanna. Why mess with perfection?

    nooch!

    Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

    noochcookbook

    People! I’m giving away a copy of Jo Stepaniak’s The Nutritional Yeast Cookbook over on tumblr! There are three ways to win, and you don’t need to have a tumblr account to enter. Click on over for the deets. You have until next Monday morning, so get to it.

    ALL THE NOOCH COULD BE YOURS.*

    * Helpful hint: if you use a ton of the stuff like moi, order nutritional yeast online by the pound for extra savings and guaranteed availability. Those dinky bulk bins at Whole Foods only hold a fraction of the nooch I buy in one order!

    Vegan Junk Food Up the Wazoo!: Creamy Ranch Dressing

    Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

    2012-04-30 - VJF Ranch Dressing - 0003

    So here we have a batch of the Creamy Ranch Dressing from Lane Gold’s Vegan Junk Food. Super-yummy, and very close in taste to its dairy counterpart – or so the husband tells me. (This is the first ranch dressing I’ve tried, vegan or otherwise. Look out Thousand Islands, you’ve got competition!)

    The name of the recipe is a little deceptive, actually, as Gold gives you options for creating both a dressing and a dip. You begin by making a sort of “spice packet” with garlic, onion, chives, and other goodies. (This, in turn, makes about 6 batches worth of dip/dressing.) Next, the base: one part vegan mayo to one part vegan sour cream. (There’s also a recipe for the latter, fyi. I thought I saw one for mayo, too, but I can’t seem to find it now!) Mix in a tablespoon of the spices and voilà! – you’ve got dip! Prefer dressing instead? Simply water it down with some soy milk.

    2012-04-30 - VJF Ranch Dressing - 0021

    The taste of the dressing pairs especially well with sundried tomatoes and bacon bits, imho. I’ve got to find a way to work these into the recipe. I’m inclined to add the bacon bits to the spice packet, so they get nice and pulverized; but the sundried tomatoes might fare better when added at the last minute, when you’re actually making the dip/dressing. I wonder how well the base will soak up the flavor of the tomatoes if it’s allowed to sit for several days? THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY TO FIND OUT. I smell an experiment!

    The dressing, though? Still makes for a nice dip, especially when chilled:

    2012-04-30 - VJF Ranch Dressing - 0013

    (If you’re wondering why there are so many damned saltines around, it’s because they’re an ingredient in the spice. Seriously!)

    Last night, having depleted my salad reserves, I was snacking on some potato chips and ranch dressing over the kitchen counter* when suddenly a few of the dogs started barking at me. Out of nowhere! “Put down the chips, fatty, it’s eleven o’clock!” I’m pretty sure that’s what they were saying; they’re super-rude like that. Mags especially.

    2012-04-01 - Dogs Outside - 0018

    True story!

    * While watching – shhhh! don’t tell! – Toddlers & Tiaras. Two of the prizes in the featured pageant? PUPPIES! Freaking PUPPIES! Gifting animals with the advantage of advanced planning is bad enough, but handing them out as door prizes? WTF! How do you know whether the winner even wants a dog? I mean, the kids do, obvs – the temper tantrums and cryfests from the losers were evidence enough – but what about their parents? You know, the ones who will actually (hopefully) be caring for these living, breathing, sentient creatures? Just when you thought the train wreck couldn’t possibly get any more twisted. Oy.

    Parmesan "Cheeze" Spread

    Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

    2012-04-14 - Parmesan Cheeze Spread - 0010

    I accidentally discovered this recipe when I tried – and failed epically – to make a batch of vegan Parmesan cheese from Vegan Junk Food.

    (In retrospect, I really should have seen it coming: it was still early in the day; I had just eaten breakfast and normally would’ve been getting ready to do my workout. But I was tired and groggy and not at all in the mood, so I decided to get myself going with a few rote chores. Like those that involve reading comprehension, measuring, and mathematics. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?)

    The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 1/2 cup walnuts, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of olive oil; simply toss in a blender or food processor and pulse until mixed. Only instead of a teaspoon of oil, I used a tablespoon.

    But wait! It gets better! I’d quadrupled the recipe so that I’d have plenty of extra cheese left over, so the disaster was four times as bad. In a last-ditch attempt to save the cheese, I quadrupled the recipe yet again, this time omitting the oil entirely. No such luck. The damage had been done!

    The result wasn’t crumbly like Parmesan cheese, but more of pasty concoction, similar in texture to hummus or even almond butter.

    And rather delicious, too! Use it as a spread or dip: put it on crackers, warm bread, or toast. It’s wonderful spread thinly on bagels, along with a little pat of margarine for added moisture.

    2012-04-14 - Bagel & Parm Spread - 0009

    Or mix a little in with sauteed veggies and a dash of water, to make a sauce that tastes great on pasta. The possibilities are … savory.

    After I’d depleted my supply of Parmesan “Cheeze” Spread, I did a little experimentation to see if I could recreate the dish; this is what I came up with. The hubs has requested a garlic version, so keep an eye out for variations. Or create your own and share ’em in the comments!

    The extras keep well in the fridge (idk if refrigeration is necessary, but better safe!), so feel free to double or even quadruple the recipe. Just pay attention to the quantities!

     

    Parmesan “Cheeze” Spread*

    Ingredients

    1/4 cup nutritional yeast
    1/2 cup walnuts
    a dash of salt
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 1/4 teaspoons water, if needed

    Variations: reduce olive oil to 1 teaspoon and omit the water to make vegan Parmesan cheese.

    Directions

    Combine the nutritional yeast, walnuts, salt, and olive oil in a blender or food processor and pulse until well blended. If the “cheeze” is still crumbly, add a teaspoon of water and continue to process. If necessary, continue to add water in 1/4 teaspoon increments until the spread begins to stick together. The finished product should be smooth and paste-like in texture, spreadable but not too creamy.

    Eat, enjoy, repeat!

     

    * I don’t usually care for this cutesy, “cheese with a ‘z,’ because vegan cheese isn’t really cheese” spelling, but here it seems somehow appropriate. Probably because this recipe was a total accident? Who knows. Just, you know, going on the record!

    Vegan Junk Food Mashup: Tater Tot Casserole & Sausage Gravy

    Thursday, April 12th, 2012

    2012-04-07 - VJF Tot Casserole with Gravy - 0025

    How do you improve upon perfection? Slather it in (vegan) sausage gravy!

    Last week I made a batch of Sausage Gravy to use as a dipping sauce for french fries; an extra dash of flour here and a little extra soy milk there and, next thing you know, I’d nearly doubled the recipe! And so I ended up with leftovers. A big old bowl of ’em!

    Rather than enjoy them on even more fries, I decided to “recycle” the gravy into a Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole (both recipes via Vegan Junk Food): a layer of tofu-slash-“eggs,” followed by Sausage Gravy, frozen mixed veggies, and tater tots. (So much for no more fries!) Recall that the casserole calls for a layer of fried Lightlife Gimmie Lean Sausage, and the gravy seems a natural fit.

    I was worried how the extra moist ingredients and added volume might affect the finished product – particularly the “egg” layer – but all in all, it was a delicious success! The tofu didn’t come out as firm as it did the first time around, but it was still yummy and edible, and also firmed up a bit as it cooled. More similar in consistency to lightly cooked scrambled eggs instead of a well-cooked omelet, if that makes any sense. (Does it? I haven’t had chicken’s eggs in what feels like forever!)

    2012-04-07 - VJF Tot Casserole with Gravy - 0035

    Bedazzle your omni friends with this dish! They’ll never know it’s tofu!

    More Vegan Junk Food: Sticky Caramel Baked French Toast

    Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

    2012-04-08 - VJF Caramel French Toast - 0006

    What vegans eat on Zombie Jesus Day: Sticky Caramel Baked French Toast!

    This is another dish from Lane Gold’s Vegan Junk Food – Lane, by the way? A VEGAN FRENCH TOAST GENIUS! – that proved to be a winner. Gooey caramel underside, soft/sometimes crispy vanilla cinnamon top. And minimal effort, cause it’s baked instead of fried! (Think: my ginormous oven-baked pancakes. ONLY BETTER.)

    You’re supposed to assemble this dish anywhere from an hour to half a day in advance, so that the bread can soak up the caramel sauce and cinnamon vanilla batter. Make it before going to bed and the next morning you’ve got a hot, sweet breakfast in thirty minutes or less. Bake in while you’re in the shower for maximum time efficiency. You’re welcome!

    This bog, by the way? Is now officially a food blog. All vegan food, all the time. No regrets.