Cookbook Review: Simple Recipes for Joy, Sharon Gannon (2014)

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Really Enjoyed the Selection of Soups & Pasta Dishes

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.)

Sharon Gannon’s Simple Recipes for Joy: More Than 200 Delicious Vegan Recipes is nothing if not quirky – and I mean that in the best way possible. The cover features a Mad Hatter-style vegan tea party, and the interior of the cookbook has a fun, funky ’70s vibe. The glossy pages include tons of mouth-watering food photos, as well as shots of the author, both at work (Garon co-founded the Jivamuktea Café in NYC) and play (her costumes will leave all the hippie chicks in awe).

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The 200 vegan recipes are divided up into fifteen sections: soups; pasta and sauces; salads; dressings; dips and spreads; grains; beans, tempeh, tofu, and seitan; vegetables; potatoes; toasts; sandwiches; quick bread and crackers; desserts; smoothies; and tea and other hot drinks. Also included are a FAQ; cooking tips; notes on a well-stocked kitchen; 30 sample menus; and 21-day cleansing diets.

Since I first got to know Simple Recipes for Joy during the cold winter months, I veered heavily towards the soups and pasta dishes. At 50 pages, the chapter on soups is easily the largest – and one of my favorites. Save for the Cream of Broccoli Soup – which was tasty enough, but made me all kinds of bloated – every recipe proved a winner.

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The Red Lentil and Tomato Soup was awesome, and helped me to polish off a whopping two pounds of my homegrown tomatoes. It’s a little on the thin side, though; for a heartier soup, I added an extra cup of red lentils toward the end of the cooking cycle. That gave them just enough time to cook, but not dissolve entirely, like the first batch.

(More below the fold…)

Creamy Mushroom Pasta

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

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Okay, so I lied!

The lovely spring weather has kept me so busy that my review of Simple Recipes for Joy is slow going. In the meantime, I decided to try another pasta dish: namely, the Creamy Mushroom Pasta, which is amazaballs.

Basically you saute the mushrooms along with some garlic and spices; mix in some mushroom stock (I used veggie), soy milk, water, and gluten-free flour for thickness, and then puree the whole shebang into a creamy mushroom sauce. So good! But I like my pasta with some chunk veggies too, so I upped the ten ounces of mushrooms to an even sixteen, and then held some back prior to adding the liquids. Once the sauce was creamed and the pasta cooking, I mixed the mushrooms back in with the sauce so they’d be nice and warm. Done and done!

From the looks of things, though, I probably could have went with even more ‘shrooms. Filing that lesson away for next time.

For the GF flour, I went with coconut, which made for an interesting texture. Once the sauce cooled, it got a little grainy, but…I kind of liked it! It’s reminiscent of the Fettuccine Alfredo from Mark Reinfeld’s The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe, which uses cashews in addition to mozzarella Daiya. The coconut flour bits are so similar to the little cashew crumbs that one’s easily mistaken for the other. And since Reinfeld’s Fettuccine Alfredo happens to be my favorite Fettuccine Alfredo of all the times…well, good memories, positive associations, and all that jazz.

Spaghetti and “Meat” Balls

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

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You guys, can you believe this is my first and only post titled “Spaghetti and Meat Balls”? NEITHER CAN I.

Anyway. This is probably the last recipe I’ll try before reviewing Sharon Gannon’s Simple Recipes for Joy. I think the count’s up to eleven now, which is good enough for this girl.

So. Spaghetti and “Meat” Balls. Now you know I’m a rather rigorous judge when it comes to pasta dishes, since red sauce basically pumps through my veins. And I’ve had some frustrating run-ins with sketchy faux meatball recipes, so there’s that.

While these meatballs didn’t exactly come together as expected – the directions were a little confusing; the batter, super-mushy – I was able to salvage them with a few tweaks.

(More below the fold…)

Cream of Celery Soup

Friday, March 13th, 2015

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If you guys know me at all, you know that I loathe celery. I kind of say so every opportunity I get. Truth be told, it’s only the gross, stringy, floss-like texture of celery that I dislike – the actual taste is pretty bangin’. Seriously. Celery salt? Bring it on!

So color me intrigued when I spotted the Cream of Celery Soup in Simple Recipes for Joy. The celery is boiled into a mushy mess and then pulverized with an immersion blender, so I figured that ought to take care of all the flossy bits. And it totally did! This soup has all of the taste of celery with none the weird mouth feels.

(Updated to add: Well, at least the freshly made soup did; strangely enough, the celery strings seem a little more prevalent in the reheated leftovers. Maybe because the soup was thicker the second and third time around? It’s a brain teaser.)

Also present: potatoes and coconut milk, for a wonderfully thick yet creamy texture; carrots and mushrooms for extra yumminess; and parsley, garlic, tarragon, and thyme for added depth of flavor. As per usual, I added a tiny bit more spices than called for: an extra 1/4 teaspoon on top of the tablespoon each of tarragon and thyme.

This soup is both delicious and easy to make, and this particular recipe makes a pretty massive pot. Seriously, I had to break out the 16-quart monstrosity because I worried that our second-largest 6-quart pot just wouldn’t contain all the awesomeness.

I mean, just look at the creamy goodness!

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Maharini Dal

Monday, March 9th, 2015

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Packed with red lentils for protein (and hearty, stick-to-yer-ribbedness), the Maharini Dal (“fit for a queen”) from Simple Recipes for Joy is almost as tasty as it is healthy. I say “almost” because it contains cilantro, which I omitted without hesitation. (Ew, soap!) Otherwise I’d say that the recipe’s spot-on, though I did add an extra teaspoon of cumin, coriander, and curry on account of the recommended one tablespoon of each proved a little understated for my palate.
For what it’s worth, this seems to be a recurring theme with SRJ.

Who knows, maybe my palate’s just woefully underdeveloped? I’ve been told that I’m heavy-handed with certain spices. *shrug*

Country Vegetable Soup

Friday, February 27th, 2015

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Another one from Simple Recipes for Joy ! This soup proved much kinder to my insides than last month’s Cream of “Broccoli Hates You” Soup. The broth is surprisingly understated, considering the amount of spices that go into it: two tablespoons of rosemary, and a tablespoon each of cumin and coriander. (Is it just me, or does that sound like a ton of rosemary?) Really tasty though, and excellent for dipping crackers and rolls. The veggies include potatoes, carrots, corn, and peas (which I omitted), for a hearty vegetable soup.

We’ve been experiencing a cold snap here in MO, and an oversized mug of piping hot soup sure hit the spot.

For the dogs, I finally dug the heated blanket out of storage. I think they’re officially in love.

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Cream of “Broccoli Hates You” Soup

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

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Now that the holidays have passed, I’m concentrating all my foodie efforts on finishing up that review of Sharon Gannon’s Simple Recipes for Joy. To wit: yesterday I made a batch of Cream of Broccoli Soup, with a few notable changes:

a) Instead of adding the onions and garlic near the end of the cook cycle, I sauteed them in a bit of oil first and then kept them in the pot, along with the split peas/lentils. Tasty!

b) I swapped out the split peas (I’m allergic!) for green lentils. I think they worked okay; the soup has a fairly greenish hue, don’t you think? Plus they don’t have to cook nearly as long as the peas, so bonus.

The result was okay; certainly not the tastiest soup I’ve ever had (even just from this particular cookbook), but not the worst either (that distinction would go to French Onion, which I thought I’d love but totally loathed). It’s a little on the bland side and could use a few extra spices to mix things up. Also, I bet some green beans would be a nice addition, and green the soup up a bit.

I do loved creamed soups, on account of you can get them started hours in advance and just let everything simmer until you’re ready to blend and eat. No need to worry about overcooking, you know?

Unfortunately, the broccoli wreaked havoc on my intestines (hence the title of this post). Well, it was either that or the chickpea salad I had earlier in the day. Probably both.

Note to self: only splurge on one gas-making meal in one day.

We all bark for bisque!

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

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Sweet Potato & Corn Bisque from Simple Recipes for Joy, served with a loaf of lightly toasted sourdough bread for dipping!

There’s not much else to say about this soup – it warms the belly and is a cinch to make, and that’s enough for me – so here’s a picture of Finnick coveting my dinner from the couch while I snap some not-so-gourmet food photos. (The lighting + my yellow countertops = the ughs.)

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Deluxe Tofu Scramble

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

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Okay, so, confession time: I did not follow this recipe – found in Simple Recipes for Joy – to the letter. I tried, I really did, but I just could not bring myself to mix the spices in the 4 to 5 recommended tablespoons of water before adding them to the tofu scramble. The tofu of which? IS NOT PRESSED! Madness, right?

I don’t know about you guys, but I usually have a problem with too much moisture in my scrambles – especially if I add veggies with a high water content, like mushrooms, spinach, and tomatoes. Granted, this recipe calls for none of these things (though I did add a little of each, in the interest of cleaning out my fridge), but still. Four tablespoons? That’s a lot of water, yo! I would say try one tops, since the recipe is absent the one tablespoon of soy sauce I usually use. But no more!

Otherwise I really liked this Deluxe Tofu Scramble. The spices are a mix of cumin, nutritional yeast, tumeric, thyme, paprika, chili powder, salt, parsley, and coriander – which is a new one for me. The taste is a little fresh and different from what I’m used to. Definitely gonna remember coriander for my next impromptu scramble!

Potato-Zucchini Salad

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

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Okay, so maybe potato salad is SO LAST SEASON – but if you’re anything like me, then you probably still have a few stray zucchinis languishing at the bottom of your produce drawer. And as awesome as Baked Zucchini Sticks may be, a girl can only batter so many slices of zucchini. Enter: the Potato-Zucchini Salad from Simple Recipes for Joy!

I never would have thought to dress zucchinis up with Vegenaise a la potato salad, but it totally works! The mix is approximately half potatoes and half zucchinis, with a few stray green beans thrown in to liven things up. Once you add the mayo and spices, the potatoes and zucchinis are (almost) indistinguishable.

The seasonings are pretty basic – just mayo to taste, plus lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper – so I embellished with some of my own potato salad favorites:

6 tablespoons Vegenaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon dill
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 red onion, finely diced
a dash of black pepper
a dash of lemon peel

Served with dill pickles on the side, natch.

In addition to the combination of potatoes and zucchini, I also love that all the veggies are steamed, which is way easier than my usual method of boiling potatoes for salad. You just need two baskets and 25 minutes and voilà! – soft, tender potatoes. And the beans – steamed for just a few minutes – add a satisfying crunch to the dish.

Carbs & Rec: Long-Ass Rice with Creamy Lemon-Zucchini Sauce

Monday, September 29th, 2014

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I promised myself I wouldn’t make any pasta dishes this VeganMoFo. Well, besides the Chicken Cacciatore. And that crazy deep dish mac & cheese pizza. Oh, and also the five-cheese macaroni and cheese I made for Mac & Cheese Monday a few weeks before that. YOU GET THE IDEA. I pretty much live on the stuff the rest of the year, and trying new things is part of the point of my themes. A minor one but still.

AND THEN.

A copy of Sharon Gannon’s (then-upcoming; now recently available) Simple Recipes for Joy unexpectedly appeared in my mailbox.

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(Thanks, Avery Books!)

And, in a fortuitous twist, I found a ton of recipes (okay, six) that call for pounds of zucchini (LITERALLY), which was really pretty great because at the time my garden was spitting out zukes faster than I could pick them.

(More below the fold…)

You say “tomato,” I say “Red Lentil and Tomahto Soup.”

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

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So I know I said that I wouldn’t have time to cook out of Simple Recipes for Joy until after VeganMoFo. (Just six days, y’all! SIX DAYS!) But as fate would have it, I have a ton of fresh tomatoes from my garden – and Simple Recipes for Joy has a recipe that calls for a whole two pounds of fresh tomatoes. (Count ’em, TWO.) On the weird side, it’s a hot soup recipe in a week when the temperature has been topping out in the high 90s every. single. day. But hey, air conditioning.

I was concerned that maybe Shane wouldn’t be in the mood for soup after eight hours spent mowing the lawn in what is essentially hot, humid August Missouri soup, but he was actually stoked on the idea: “I need to rehydrate!” Um, okay then.

So the soup is really tasty, though a little on the thin side. I ended up adding an extra cup of lentils and cooked the soup a little longer, just enough so that the lentils were tender, but didn’t dissolve (like the first batch did, and was supposed to). Along with the tomatoes and lentils there’s cumin and curry, which gives the soup a rich, savory taste.

Perfect for dipping bread in! We didn’t have any fresh bread (boo!), so I cooked up some frozen dinner rolls and those were almost as good.

Simple is Good!

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

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A hearty shout-out to Avery, which sent me a copy of one of its upcoming vegan titles: Simple Recipes for Joy: More Than 200 Delicious Vegan Recipes by Sharon Gannon, the founder of Jivamukti Yoga and the Jivamuktea Café.

As much as I love the book’s Mad Hatter-styled cover, I positively adore the photo on the back of the dust jacket, which shows the proprietor beaming from the Café’s front counter, standing right in front of a chalk board jam packed with the names of delicious vegan dishes. SO MUCH VEGAN FOOD.

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Burrito Verdura, I want!

This bad boy doesn’t go on sale for more than a month – September 16th, to be exact – but sadly I don’t think I’ll get to do any cooking from it until after then anyway, on account of VeganMoFo, for which I have a theme. A carefully planned, flawlessly executed, hopefully epic theme. (Hint: it involves lots of waffles and all the bacon and eggs you have.)

BUT. I might have to make an exception for the Angel Hair Pasta with Creamy Lemon-Zucchini Sauce, seeing as I have at least ten pounds of zukes sitting on my countertop this very moment. And that’s not counting the half a dozen maturing in the garden. A girl can eat only so many Baked Zucchini Sticks, you know? (By which I mean ALL the zucchini sticks. They’re kind of amazing.)