Cookbook Review: Mayim’s Vegan Table, Mayim Bialik (2014)

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Quick & Healthy Plant-Based Meals

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Actress-slash-neuroscientist-slash-vegan mom Mayim Bialik makes her foray into the vegan cookbook market with Mayim’s Vegan Table: More than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes from My Family to Yours. (She previously published a parenting guide, also with pediatrician Jay Gordon, called Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way.) With an emphasis on quick, easy, nutritious meals, the dishes found in Mayim’s Vegan Table are likely to appeal to families on the go and newbie vegans. But longtime vegans (and I include myself in that category) might just discover a few new favorite recipes, too!

Mayim’s Vegan Table begins with three introductory chapters about the environmental, nutritional, and ethical benefits of a plant-based diet, as well as tips and tricks on how best to introduce children to a healthy vegan lifestyle. (I must admit to skimming over these; show me the food, please!) There’s also a standard “stocking your pantry” chapter. The recipes are grouped into categories for Breakfast; Soups, Salads, and Sandwiches; Snacks, Sauces, and Dips; Veggies and Sides; Entrees; Breads; and Desserts. The dishes range from simple (Daiya-Style Pizza, Parsnip Fries, Cashew Cheese) to the more complicated (Creamy Enchilada Casserole, Hot Pretzel Challah Bread).

In preparation for this review, I made the following:

 

2014-03-22 - Mayim's Pancakes - 0002 [flickr]

  • Pancake Batter (page 67)

    So this is a pretty serviceable recipe for pancake batter. It’s not my favorite pancake recipe of all time – that’s a toss-up between Isa’s Perfect Pancakes (Vegan Brunch) and the Lavender Pancakes from Alicia Simpson’s Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food – but these pillows of carbs are tasty enough. They manage to be both fluffy and cakey at the same time, which is a feat in itself. It would have been nice if Bialik included a few original topping ideas to dress things up, though.

    (More below the fold…)

  • Root Vegetable Latkes

    Thursday, May 8th, 2014

    2014-05-01 - MVT Root Vegetable Latke - 0001 [flickr]

    These latkes from Mayim’s Vegan Table (review coming soon!) are reminiscent of the potato pancakes my mom made when I was a kid,* but with extras: Sweet potatoes. Carrots. Zucchini. Red Onions. Dill. So many savory flavors for one lil’ pancake!

    Instead of frying, I decided to bake mine for a slightly healthier meal. Twelve minutes on each side at 425F worked okay, but I’m still experimenting with different time/temp combos. 425F burned the edges just a teeny bit.

    As with the Quinoa Burgers, I ended up with double the batter I expected. Pro tip: the leftovers make a decent burrito filling. Just fry in skillet (with a teaspoon of oil and any extra veggies your heart desires) for about ten minutes.

    2014-05-04 - MVT Latke Burritos - 0001 [flickr]

    * OMG childhood memory time! My mom made THE BEST potato pancakes. She had this old-style, turn of the century meat grinder that she used exclusively to shred potatoes. (What a mess that was. Wet newspaper everywhere!) It came down from the attic like twice a year, when she’d make an oven full of pancakes for us, our aunt (who lived on one side of us), our great-uncle Floyd and his wife Millie (they lives on the other side), and our great-uncle Howard (who lived next to Floyd). (Family land long since divided. Another story for another day.) She literally spent a good four hours making pile after pile of pancakes. (STACKS LIKE WHOAH!) I’d say that I helped, but idk how much assistance a seven-year-old me might have provided. My brother and I were decent delivery people at best.

    I loved the pancakes with maple syrup and just a smidge of margarine. Reminder to self: must get that recipe from mom like yesterday! It should be pretty easy to veganize, if it even contains any animal products. Eggs, maybe?

    Baked Ziti with Herbed Ricotta and Cashew Cream

    Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

    2014-04-24 - MVT Baked Ziti - 0010 [flickr]

    Of all the recipes in Mayim’s Vegan Table, I think I was looking forward to the Baked Ziti the most. (It’s got two kinds of nut cheese! TWO!) I had to wait to try it though, on accounta I had to order some bulk macadamia nuts online. I’m not sure why, but I rarely cook with raw macadamia nuts. I can’t even remember the last time we had them in the house!

    The verdict: pretty good, though I think it stopped just *this short* of living up to my expectations/wildest fantasies.

    While the recipe might look a wee bit daunting to newbies, it’s not a terribly difficult dish to make. For one, you can use store bought sauce if you’d rather. (I made my own from scratch – using the rest of last year’s tomatoes, long since in deep freeze – but didn’t use the recipe provided in the cookbook. There was several gallons of sauce there, and I just winged it.)

    Also, the nut cheeses are rather easy, with just a few ingredients each. The hardest part is remembering to soak the nuts the morning of. (The macadamia nuts need at least four hours; the cashews, two. I like to soak the suckers all day before I pulverize them into mash. It’s like a spa day before the apocalypse!)

    (More below the fold…)

    Quinoa Burgers & Pizza Crumbles

    Sunday, April 27th, 2014

    2014-04-19 - MVT Quinoa Burgers - 0010 [flickr]

    The good news: The Quinoa Burgers from Mayim’s Vegan Table are bangin’.

    The bad news: The recipe requires a little finagling to make it work.

    So I followed the recipe as directed – it’s pretty simple, with just seven ingredients – but my burger batter came out way too wet and sticky to handle. I ended up adding 1/4 cup of flour and between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of quick oats before I could shape it into patties without half the quinoa clinging to my phalanges.

    2014-04-20 - MVT Quinoa Burgers - 0002 [flickr]

    Then you’re supposed to fry the patties and bake ’em a little longer. Instead, I went right to the baking portion of the directions: 425F for 30 minutes (20 minutes on one side and then flip) on a lightly greased cookie sheet. I figured it’d be both easier and healthier, and I think I was right on both counts.

    Also weird, but not necessarily in a bad way: I ended up with nearly double the burgers I was supposed to.

    2014-04-20 - MVT Pizza Crust - 0005 [flickr]

    Anyway, I could only fit five patties to a cookie sheet, so I had a little extra batter left over. The next day we had a mini pizza party for Easter (and because it was Sunday. And 4/20. Basically we don’t need a significant reason to enjoy pizza, is what I’m saying.), and I spooned some of the batter onto the Daiya mozzarella and onion pizza. Soooooo good, y’all! I think I like this even better as a pizza topping.

    2014-04-20 - MVT Pizza Crust - 0009 [flickr]

    We also took the pizza crust recipe from Mayim’s Vegan Table for another spin. The first time around, it didn’t bake all the way through; instead, it remained a little dense and doughy. Chalk it up to bad yeast or wacky weather, but the crust came out much better on our second try. Yay!

    Potato Hash

    Thursday, April 24th, 2014

    2014-04-18 - MVT Potato Hash - 0001 [flickr]

    Another one from Mayim’s Vegan Table. So this recipe is pretty tasty – you can’t go wrong with fried potatoes, am I right? – with beans (I used Navy in place of the recommended black beans, of which I am still sadly bereft), corn, chorizo (or Lightlife hotdogs, in my case), red peppers, onions, garlic, and some other goodies. (Pro tip: this hash tastes excellent with mushrooms!)

    Sadly, my potatoes and hot dogs did not brown. I blame my expensive new(ish) frying pan, which is giant and makes some pretty kickass pasta sauce, but sucks at browning my favorite things. Tofu scramble, vegan meats, potatoes: they all just stick to the bottom of the pan. Usually I break out my 15-year-old cheapo frying pan for these occasions – the Teflon coating browns all the things – but it was way too small for today’s purposes.

    Maybe it’s finally time to replace it with a shinier model?

    Mayim’s Breakfast Burritos

    Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

    (…for dinner. Always for dinner!)

    2014-04-17 - MVT Breakfast Burrito - 0003 [flickr]

    So if you already own Mayim’s Vegan Table, you’ll immediately notice that I made a few changes to this recipe. Instead of unpressed, diced tofu – which I’m not really keen on – I used pressed, crumbled tofu to make a scramble. Also, I didn’t have any black beans (SHANE!), so I used navy beans instead. And, as per usual, I shredded my spinach, since cooked spinach gives me the willies. (It’s all slimy and wilty, much like spoiled spinach. Ew!)

    Hmmmm. Maybe I should start a tag for fussy eaters. You think? “Fussy eater problems,” or something like that.

    Anyway, it’s a solid recipe that’s easy enough to modify based on what ingredients you have on hand. Not quite a scramble, but easily made into one. I’ll admit that the mix of maple syrup and apple cider vinegar made me a little nervous, but you don’t really taste either in the finished product.

    Plus you just can’t go wrong with Daiya cheese or burritos. Not. Possible.

    Creamy, Cheesy Nondairy Kugel

    Saturday, April 19th, 2014

    2014-04-16 - MVT Nondairy Kugel - 0003 [flickr]

    2014-04-16 - MVT Nondairy Kugel - 0013 [flickr]

    When Peedee got a clean(ish) bill of health of Tuesday, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or scarf down a giant bowl of mac & cheese. No surprise here: I did all three. As it turns out, the cookbook I’m currently reviewing has two (TWO!) recipes for vegan macaroni and cheese.

    This one’s the Kugel which, while not technically mac & cheese, is close enough me for me. I mean, just look at it! (LOOK. AT. IT!) Creamy Daiya cheese sauce. Breadcrumbs browned on top. With just “a touch of sour cream for that classic and slightly tart kugel taste.” Sooooo good.

    Since I knew this dish was to be baked – and baking mac & cheese often dries it out – I made a little extra sauce and thinned it out too, with an additional 1/2 cup of soy milk and handful of cheddar Daiya on top of what’s required. Worked like a charm: the sauce was still super-rich and creamy even after 25 minutes in the oven.

    My only complaint? The onions tasted a bit raw for me. Next time I think I’ll sautee them in the same saucepan used to make the cheese sauce, rather than add them uncooked to the pasta. Baking just didn’t get ’em done, imho.

    On another note, Shane used his portion as a burrito filling! Maybe I can has a burrito-themed VeganMoFo after all? (Burritos are like pizza: everything goes great in them!)

    (More below the fold…)

    Pizza Pizza Pizza!

    Saturday, March 29th, 2014

    2014-03-23 - Pizza (including Mayim's Crust) - 0004 [flickr]

    2014-03-23 - Pizza (including Mayim's Crust) - 0009 [flickr]

    Last Sunday was pizza night, and we took the opportunity to try out another recipe from Mayim’s Vegan Table – namely, the pizza crust. It’s almost identical to our go-to recipe, minus the sugar (there isn’t any). Consequently, the dough doesn’t rise quite as much, resulting in a thinner, denser crust. Shane was happy to report that it’s still plenty pliable.

    Onto Miam’s pizza (top and bottom right) went mushrooms, red peppers, onions, and the pepperoni crumbles from Julie Hasson’s Vegan Pizza. (The extras made some pretty kickass burritos. Just saute with zucchini, red peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and a touch of salt and pepper and serve warm. So good I could cry. BECAUSE I’M OUT.) The other pizza (bottom left) has zucchini, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Of course there’s mozzarella Daiya on each. (OF COURSE.)

    Neither of the pizzas cooked to the center, though. Possibly this is because of all the juicy toppings, but who knows? Our crust cooked through when reheated in the oven, but Mayim’s remained a little chewy on the inside. Definitely gonna try it again to see if we get different results.

    Tasty either way.

    Mayim’s Pancakes

    Thursday, March 27th, 2014

    2014-03-22 - Mayim's Pancakes - 0001 [flickr]

    Over the weekend I finally had a chance to break open Mayim’s Vegan Table and give the pancakes a spin. (I know, Saturday was a lifetime ago. My queue overfloweth!) It’s not my favorite pancake recipe in the world – that’s a toss-up between Isa’s Perfect Pancakes and the Lavender Pancakes from Alicia Simpson’s Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food – but these pillows of carbs are tasty enough. They manage to be both fluffy and cakey at the same time, which is a feat in itself.

    Served with crushed toasted pecans, maple syrup, and pan-fried Smart Bacon (it didn’t have a mom!) by Lightlife.

    Mayim’s Vegan Table on Kelly’s Cookbook Table

    Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

    2014-03-19 - Mayim's Vegan Table - 0002 [flickr]

    A belated (Two days late. I KNOW I AM THE WORST.) shout-out to Da Capo Books, who sent me a copy of Mayim Balik’s debut cookbook, Mayim’s Vegan Table. It dropped on February 11th, so you can grab a copy for your own bad self any time you want.

    I’ve already cracked it open and come up with a list of recipes I’d like to try. Naturally I gravitated right to the breakfast foods: Breakfast Burritos, Potato Hash, and Pancakes, yum! There are also a ton of Jewish recipes that caught my eye. Matzoh Ball Soup? Check. Root Vegetable Latkes? Yes please. Rugelach? You betcha! And two mac and cheese-style dishes? I am sold.

    Also, and on a completely different note, don’t you just love my cookbook table? It started out as a place to stash the cookbooks I’m currently using but, as the cookbook shelf in the pantry filled up, it became overflow storage. Wanna take bets on how high I can pile the stack? I have a couple of feet until I hit the bottom of my Rat Terrier Coffee Bean Company poster.

    Serious cookbook addiction? Check and check.