Friday, November 20, 2009

5 cookbooks in 5 days, 5: Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

Whew- we have come to the final chapter of our 5 cookbook reviews in 5 days. I'm ending the series with a little book called Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Remember a little book about vegan cupcakes that came out a few years ago? And now we can't imagine a world without cupcakes? Well, it's time for cookies to get the same treatment. From the simple and old-fashioned, to the innovative, this book has tons and tons of recipes. There's even a section for wholesome cookies! I mean, come ON.

These have been all the talk with the kids these days- Mexican chocolate snickerdoodles. You think they'll be good. Then they turn out even better than that.

Lazy samoas. The Girl Scout recipe, simplified, veganized, and awesomerized.

Agave trailblazers- chock full of nuts and other goodies, but not too sweet.

And finally, these Irish Creme Kisses, delicious cookies that get a kick from just a hint of Irish whiskey. When I lived in the U.K., I may or may not have developed a thing for Irish whiskey...

And it may or may not have gotten a little out of hand...

Anyway... you can go here to get some sample recipes from the book- including the Mexican Snickerdoodles!

And, check out the other 4 cookbook reviews from this past week:
11/16 - 500 Vegan Recipes by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman
11/17 - The Urban Vegan by Dynise Balcavage
11/18 - Potluck Mania by Joanna Vaught
11/19 - The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek

Happy cooking and baking!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

5 cookbooks in 5 days, 4: 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes

We are on a roll! Tonight we have the 4th installment of this week's 5 cookbook reviews. When I heard that The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek of the nom! nom! nom! blog was coming out, I knew that I would have to get my hands on it. Why? Because Kris was the author of The Damn Tasty! Vegan Baking Guide. Those of you that were lucky enough to get your hands already know how good the recipes in that book were. That book is no longer in print, but fear not! Some of its best recipes are included in the new book.

If you've spent more than 5 minutes with me, you've heard me go on and on about THE banana bread recipe. It's the best one ever. I've tried a couple of other ones, only to come back to this- it makes a perfect, moist, flavorful banana bread and you won't believe how simple the ingredients are. It's also adaptable- I switch up the flours and add in crazy ingredients all the time, and it's never failed.

Here's another amazing recipe from the book- Boston Creme Pie! I never imagined I'd be able to make this fancy treat at home, but this recipe is awesome and it'll make you see that it is quite do-able.

This week I decided to make carrot cake. Don't laugh- my cake decorating skills are not that great!

But you can see from this inside shot that this cake is too good to care about my shoddy frosting job. A delicious spicy cake with carrots, raisins, nuts, and plenty of cream cheese frosting. It's so good. I'm not ashamed to admit that Daiku and I have been having slices of this for breakfast for the last couple of days...

Some helpful features of 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes:
  • very thorough ingredient and substitution guides
  • a huge range of recipes from sweet to savory, simple to fancy
  • a guide to let you know exactly how difficult each recipe is, in addition to tips on how to increase efficiency while baking
Don't miss out- this is a reference guide that you'll go back to again and again! Except for THE banana bread- you'll memorize that one pretty quickly...

Check out this week's previous cookbook reviews:

11/16 - 500 Vegan Recipes by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman
11/17 - The Urban Vegan by Dynise Balcavage
11/18 - Potluck Mania by Joanna Vaught

And stay tuned for my final review tomorrow:

11/20- Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

5 cookbooks in 5 days, 3: Potluck Mania

Tonight's cookbook up for review is actually a zine, Potluck Mania: Issue #1 Baby, It's Cold Outside. But it's bigger than most zines, and comes with a load of recipes that have been thoroughly tested and vetted to be really good. So really what's going on is that you have the depth and quality of a full-blown cookbook, for the price of a zine. Win-win.

It comes to you courtesy of Joanna Vaught, who you may recognize from her first cookbook, Yellow Rose Recipes. Much like YRR, this zine is full of recipes that reflect Joanna's southern roots. However, these dishes all have a little twist that takes them from good to extraordinary. You will be impressed with the quality of these recipes- taste, texture, and balance, it's all here. Here are some of my favorite dishes from the zine:

corn muffins- these have the perfect texture, and a delicate topping that kicks them up a notch

ginger maple tempeh strips- perfect balance of sweet, smoky, and awesome.

coconut sweet potatoes- just when I thought my love of sweet potatoes couldn't go any farther

last, but not least, we have us a crazy little breakfast treat that some friends and I invented one day. Before I go any farther, let me just say that Joanna is NOT responsible for this monstrosity! Her recipe is for these excellent breakfast sausages. We just happened to take those innocent sausages and... cook and wrap them in pancakes and top with maple syrup and whipped cream. I'm in no way saying you are obligated to do these with these sweet breakfast sausages, just... putting it out there.

Check out Monday's cookbook review, 500 Vegan Recipes
Check out Tuesday's cookbook review, The Urban Vegan

and stay tuned for review #4, tomorrow!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

5 cookbooks in 5 days, 2: The Urban Vegan

Welcome to the 2nd installment of this week's 5-part cookbook review series! As I mentioned last night, I will be reviewing a new vegan cookbook (and 1 zine!) every day of this week. Tonight, I have The Urban Vegan: 250 Simple, Sumptuous Recipes from Street Cart Favorites to Haute Cuisine, by Dynise Balcavage of the Urban Vegan blog.

True story: Urban Vegan was the 2nd vegan blog I discovered, way back in the summer of 2006, and it was one of my main inspirations to start this blog. As anyone who reads her work knew, it wasn't if, but when Dynise would come out with a cookbook. I love the way she distills the essence of urbanity into her recipes- diverse, edgy, cosmopolitan, unexpected, but ultimately, homey. If like me, you are an urban person at heart (whether or not you live in a metropolis like Philadelphia), you have to pick up this book. What I love is how the recipes are inspired by Dynise's travels to all corners of the world, but somehow fit together very nicely. Check out some of my favorite recipes:

alternative granola - Peruvian influence, a use I'd never imagined for quinoa!

spätzle- you don't need any special tools for this Central European comfort food

chickpea paprikash- daiku's favorite recipe from the book- the paprika taste is so deep and rich, it'll blow your mind

Havana beans and rice- a little taste of Cuba, right in your kitchen

punka pie- I never even liked pumpkin pie before this!

blue mosque ayran- a refreshing and minty drink from the Middle East, perfect for hot summer days

crème brûlée - yes, you heard me!

tiramisu- oh man, possibly my favorite recipe from this book. boozy and decadent and coffee-y- wow!

portobello burger- so simple, yet so good

Here's the tiramisu that Luciana and I made for our recent Halloween party. We called it "fetalmisu"- get it? Ok, even if fetus humor isn't your thing, you have got to get your hands on this book!

Stay tuned for installments 3, 4, and 5. In the meantime, check out my first cookbook review from last night, 500 Vegan Recipes.


Monday, November 16, 2009

5 cookbooks in 5 days, 1: 500 Vegan Recipes

It's such an exciting time! Those of you who are cookbook addicts, and I dare say that's more than a few of you, might be aware that a ton of new vegan cookbooks have been published recently. This week, I've decided to give a few of these books some love- so I've decided to do a series called 5 cookbooks in 5 days, one each day until Friday.

The schedule will be as follows:
Mon (today!) - 500 Vegan Recipes by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman
Tue - The Urban Vegan by Dynise Balcavage
Wed - Potluck Mania by Joanna Vaught
Thur - The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek
Fri- Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

Just a quick note to let you know that I know all of these authors, I have tested recipes for most of these books, and as a result have received free copies of some of them. I won't lie to you, I'm going to highlight what's good about these books! However, I think you'll agree that there just isn't much bad to say about any of them.

On to today's book!

500 Vegan Recipes
is brought to you by the lovely and prolific bloggers Celine (of Have Cake Will Travel) and Joni (of Just the Food). Just as its name implies, this is a big book, and has an encyclopedic selection of recipes for every meal, mood, and occasion. The book gives lots of background on ingredients and techniques, enough to give beginners the knowledge to begin and more advanced cooks confidence to experiment. The recipes, however, are anything but basic- both Celine and Joni are creative enough to write truly enticing and unusual recipes. A broccoli salad with candied nuts? It's good! A muffin made from a cookie? It's possible!

Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Cannellini All'Italiana (hearty, stick-to-your-ribs, lip-smacking yet oh-so-simple to make)

Homemade bacon bits (much better than the overpriced chemical stuff at the store!)

Braised brussels sprouts and apples (so simple, but so good)

"That" broccoli salad (a perfect old-school blend of healthy and decadent, savory and sweet)

Agave bread (a wholesome bread with a light and delicate taste)

Mole bread (a wonderful complex bread with cocoa and spices)

Mexican hot mocha (a hot and comforting drink- with a kick)


Friday, November 06, 2009

in praise of gluten and other yummy things.

I want to sound a battle cry today. This is something that's been rattling around in my brain for a long time, and I've been wanting to address it for a long time, but dietitian Virginia Messina has done it much more masterfully on her blog.

The issue? What vegan means, and what it doesn't mean. First, read her article,
No Need for Vegans to Give up Fat, Gluten, Soy or Cooked Foods Obviously, Messina is speaking from a nutrition stand-point, making the point that unless you are allergic to gluten, there is nothing wrong with it, that fat is essential to our bodies, that soy is quite nutritious, and that certain nutrients are more, not less, bio-available through cooking.

However, she has inspired me to make a list of my own.

Vegan DOES mean:
  • a diet and lifestyle free of animal products, or as free as humanly possible
  • a life of compassion and respect for all living beings
  • ...THAT'S IT!
Vegan DOES NOT mean:
  • gluten- or wheat-free
  • soy-free
  • raw
  • organic
  • low- or no-fat
  • sugar-free
  • alcohol-free
  • health food
  • certain brands or companies
  • free from refined foods
  • free from junk food
  • caffeine-free
  • salt-free
  • whole foods or whole grains
  • a diet in the sense of a weight-loss strategy
  • activism, at least activism of any particular sort
  • environmentalism (being vegan is the best thing you can do for the environment, but not all vegans have to be environmentalists or even care about it)
  • religiousness, or lack of religiousness
  • limiting foods for the sake of limiting foods
  • food snobbery
  • orthorexia
  • disordered eating
  • a fast or "detox" of any kind
It's bad enough that people think that because I'm vegan that either I or my diet are rigid, limited, closed, or unexciting. It doesn't help that so many vegans themselves seem to conflate these issues. Again, if you have Celiac disease or have a true allergy or need to lose weight, etc. I completely understand. You can be vegan AND gluten-free, but not because one automatically means the other. I myself have been known to integrate my veganism with an effort to eat healthy, eat for the health of the planet, or for the health of my community.

However, I think it's about time that we clarify, to ourselves and to society at large, that veganism is not a blanket term for "diet" or "healthy" or "activist" - it's just an effort to reduce animal suffering through judiciously removing animal products and exploitation from our food and lifestyle choices.

Now, I'm off to make dinner: pizza. Delicious chewy sourdough crust (gluten! white flour! cooked!), vegan cheese (soy! processed food! salt! fat!), lots of olive oil (fat!), tempeh sausage (soy!) tomato sauce made with wine (alcohol!) ... still badass, still vegan.

Whew! What say you?


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I like... I don't like... November edition

A lot of bloggers have been posting these stream-of-consciousness lists lately, and I love reading them, so I thought I'd post one of my own, organized by the season in which we (in the Northern Hemisphere) find ourselves... If you post a list of your own, let me know, I'd love to read yours!

In November I like...

  • a good sparkly sunny day
  • baked squashes and root veggies of all kinds
  • turning on the oven for any reason, and then leaving the door open when it's done, for the extra heat!
  • the smell of fires burning in the fireplace, and the fires themselves for that matter
  • mulled wine, mulled cider, hot toddies
  • scented candles
  • my Philosophy cinnamon bun scented body wash
  • using the space heater in the bathroom so a shower becomes a sauna experience
  • apples!
  • looking forward to the holidays- songs, cookies, travel
  • tea, tea, tea! and teapots, mugs, accessories, cozies, etc.
  • lots of throw blankets and fuzzy socks and slippers and heat packs
  • cozy Thanksgiving at home, and planning for it
  • cranberries and canned pumpkin- on sale!
  • seeing lights and decorations in public places and peoples' houses

In November I don't like...
  • when daylight savings time ends and it's dark around 4 p.m...
  • and knowing that in a couple of weeks it'll be dark at 8 a.m. too
  • cold!
  • knowing I won't eat another fresh tomato for about 8 months
  • food photography is difficult because natural light is gone, and it's dark by the time dinner's ready (or sometimes lunch, for that matter)
  • putting clothes on when they are cold- it's physical torture for me!
  • looking forward to the holidays- consumerism, commercialization, figuring out what to do with the kitties
  • dry, pale skin
  • raking leaves- over and over again
  • cold numb toes
  • fearing the first snow
  • wearing layers of clothing- makes me feel fat, itchy, and claustrophobic
  • the endless search for a pretty! warm! functional! affordable! vegan! winter coat
  • sports- I just don't care!
  • 3 words: seasonal. affective. disorder.
  • the farmers market becomes a sea of potatoes and turnips... (nothing against potatoes and turnips, which I love, but I miss the color and variety of a summer market)