Veganly Delicious

Julie-Juliaing one cookbook at a time.

A Bevy Of Reviews. (2 Slow Cookers & a Planet full of Vegan Awesome).

Can I just say – I hate winter.

(my best friend Lisa would interrupt here and go “But, Oh.Liv.Ee.Ah. when she’s being all hello dofus! on me you hate summer too!” (which I do. I can not stand the heat. Yes i like the sunshine, and the farmers market, and fruit seasons and stuff, but when you live in Ontario, where it is as humid as heck, or live in Alberta (Calgary, specifically, where there’s none, but it’s just a constant dry heat, you can’t win. I can’t stand it). I… am a fall girl.

But when you have winter, it does give you a chance to whip out your slow cooker and play with things. (actually summer does this too,but do you really feel like eating hot food stuffs in the winter? Not me, I live off salads, smoothies, and ice cream).

I’d just like to take the time to thank ThomasAllen once again for sending me a few books to review. (and you know, that I’m going to be dead honest here, because they didn’t ask for one in compensation). This was during slow cooker month (November… you know, guys grow mustaches, I slow cook, we’re good).
I just wanted to do all three reviews at the same time here, as I am thinking it’s almost time for Christmas. (hee. I am awesome, I got all my Christmas Shopping done in October. Yes, you can commence being jealous now), that I should nudge people in some vegan presents for all..

Quick and Easy Vegan Slow Cooking
Carla Kelly
The Experiment

296 Pages
Copyright March 2012

This is one nifty little tome of goodness right here. Not even going to lie to you. Carla Kelly, (whom I’ve never ‘met’ or talked to or anything), is awesome. Half of this awesome is that she’s been to New Zealand, The United Kingdom, and she lives in Canada. (There aren’t a lot of vegan cookbooks written by the Canucks, I have to lament). And she brings all of that cultural awesomness in her cooking, which I think is just great.

This cookbook is crockpot full (okay, yes a little lame), of unique recipes, but more importantly, it is really rift of information that you need to use your crockpot. Not the whole “make sure it’s 1/2 way full, and etc etc, that most crockpot books uses, but the real, important stuff – like you shouldn’t put kidney beans, or cannellii  (white) beans in your slow cooker, without giving them a 10-15 minute boil first. (and actually, Carla just suggests you buy kidney beans. (I do a 15 minute boil btw, (after the soak), then slow cook – the reason is there’s a toxin on the kidney bean that the slow cooker just doesn’t kill off).

The book is coloured. (as in, the pages are pinkish red, and the side that has the ingredients are a darker shade of pinkish red (so it stands out). There’s more than 150 recipes in this book, and what I think is very cool, is that she also provides a whole chapter on side dishes. (So you can do your slow cooked meal – and then when you get home – or if you are really smart, you can have this mostly prepped up). Therefore you can have your soup and crackers too!

The book has a recipe for homemade creamer.(I LOVE Creamer – I don’t always use it all the time, but sometimes, I like to mix vanilla creamer, with almond chocolate milk, and it’s like. hmmm). so I made some, and it was really easy to do and make. (Not the vanilla, I just made the basic). But it pretty much ensured that I’m never buying creamer again. And the beauty of this is, I can now own almond milk creamer (not available in Canada) coconut milk creamer (can’t FIND it in Canada), or other versions. Basically – whatever you can drink, you can now have a creamer for that.

It’s like apps!

Like most slow cooker cookbooks, the main focus is on meals that taste awesome after an eight hour cook. Soups, Stews, Chilis and Curries. I made the Mushroom soup in this section, and it was the bestest soup ever. Like. I have this thing for mushroom soup, and since becoming vegan I never had it. (I wasn’t really the biggest fan of Campbell’s cream of mushroom – it was too… well, white and salty).  Homemade is generally grey. (Depending on the mushrooms you use). This one uses several variations of mushrooms, and I splurged and treated myself to some dried mushrooms (chantrelle), soaked them and used the stock in it. It was so full of flavour and mushroom-y goodness. And I didn’t really have to add extra seasonings to the meal. (like I had to with the Vegan Slow Cooker which was a bonus).

I also made lemon tofu and beans, which was really (quick). but tasty as well.

Carla also has some recipes for pate (yum!), dry-cheesy mix, seitan (light/dark), (for “basic pantry stock”). She does go outside the box. (not too far, but just enough to give you some perspective on changing your culinary palate).

My one complaint – there’s no “use this size crockpot” (What’s with that?), but basically, I just use Chuckwagon, my 6.5 quart Cuisinart Beast. Also for you picture needers out there, there aren’t a lot of them, but just enough to whet your appetites.

There is a bit of prep work involved. (and some of the ingredient list is long), but again, I think that just guarantees the fact that you’ll have a great meal waiting for you at the end of the day, without having to adjust for seasonings (Which is what I had to do with the Vegan Slow Cooker.).

This book gets the Veganly Delicious Seal of Approval, and I award this book a buy. 

I will not lie. There was a reason why I keep bringing up the “use this size of crockpot” thing. Robin Robertson tells you which one to use in her newest book Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker.  (which is not FYI – a re-print of Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker ). This is all new stuff, from our Betty Crocker of the Vegan world. (I seriously have to wonder how she does it. She has a bazillion books and she comes up with 200 brand new recipes).

this book was the reason why I ran out and bought Chuck. Also a small bread pan that I use specifically for slow cook baking. (which seriously rocks my world that you can do that).

Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker
Robin Robertson 
Harvard Common Press
304 Pages
Copyright Sept 2012

This is one chunky book. (It’s cute. I didn’t expect it to be so thick!). And its boootiful. It’s got this blueish bamboo cover with the most yummy taco filling (with is seitan rojitas with vegan sour cream, avocados and lime). and the spine is green. (and white). (and inside, all the titles are green. Sorry, these things matter to me) :)

(this is my one little thing for future cookbooks that have food on the cover: let us know what the food on the cover IS! that’s generally why we pick up the cookbook in the first place, because there is something so moreish on the cover, and we want to make it right away!). 

I’m going to get the negatives out of the way first and foremost: no, there are no pictures in this book, this is not Robin’s fault. She fault really hard, and lost that particular fight. The recipes follow one another (personal peeve – I love having recipes on their own page/facing page). Okay, there. good. Now let’s get to the good stuff.

This is your typical, Robin cookbook. So, not only do you get your general information (all slow cookerbooks have the same basic info of how the crockpot came to be, the fact it’s super popular again, and how it fits in a vegan kitchen). But you get all this other info. Did you know you could do pizza in a crockpot. (I didn’t). Did you know you can brake in your slow cooker. (I didn’t. Well, a lie, by the time I got the book, I did, but before I didn’t, and Robin explains how it works, and how to do it without having a rack/baking pan). She explains the whys of a lot of things (why seitan is awesome in a crockpot for example). Also she has a lot of tips and trick, to thicken your soups and stews with things you just didn’t think of (like not just your cornstarch slurry, but real tricks of the trade)

And like typical Robin fashion, the index and the table of contents (for each section), is fully detailed, and explained (and numbered), so instead of just flipping the book, wondering what on earth to make, you can just mark your chapters, and then find what page you want to slow cook first. Also in TRF (Typical Robin Fashion), everything can be made soy free (for the most part), gluten free, or whatever free you need to be. She gives a lot of options. I think that just explains how much work she puts into her books.

(You get this all on the side of the book – it lists the cooking time (both low/hot <<– if possible), the size of the crockpot you need, the “Free-options” and serving size). A lot of the recipes have a LOT of ingredients (a draw back I think for some), and she does do “for best flavour, prep” (which I always do,but again, some people have massive issues with that which cracks me up.

I made from this book – Country Style green beans and tomatoes. (which was super quick and fast and easy ), with Cheesy Grits and Sweet Taters.

And now it’s time for a joke. Canada – does not have grits. (Or if we do,its called polenta). But when your sister of the heart (Hi Dee),and other close friends who live in the south…. tell you without any hesitation that “Polenta and Cornmeal, is not the same as grits, bless your heart,” and then when a Texan in the supermarket laughs at you when you ask where you can find it… you know you are in trouble. I wanted to make this dish, and so I used the cornmeal I had on hand.

Which actually turned out really well. It was like creamed sweet potato with corn in it. (topped with some salt and pepper, the green beans, and some cheese. Yum. My.). (But then Dee said it would be even better with grits and she’s sending me some stat.). But that’s the point. It’s dooable to make most of these recipes without the exact “thing” you need.

I also made some Southern Style Pecans. (yes. please,this was like the best thing I put in my mouth – that week), and breakfast oatmeal. (Apple and Cinnamon).

I did need to adjust/add some seasonings to make the flavours pop up more, but like the tomato/green bean dish? Will like always be made when I need to wonder what to have on my vegetable side.

totally award this book the Veganly Delicious Seal of Approval and award this book a Buy. (seriously, if you need pictures, look up Robin’s flickr account, she has tonnes of pictures there. Don’t let the lack of photos, discourage you into not having an awesome slow cooker book).

And now, for what a lot of people call the Vegan Joy of Cooking book.

Vegan Planet.

Man. I kid you not. I did not like this book. At first. (When I was pregan). Honestly, I was one of those people who needed to see pictures, I just flipped through the book half heartedly, nothing screamed to me, (hello, why make something like Tofu Vegetable Lo Mein – which is awesome, by the way), when I could have hot dogs, and onion rings from the student union cafeteria? I wasn’t vegan, I wasn’t ever going to be vegan, so the book was eh.

(Yes. I laugh now, as I eagerly flip through this book, with sticky notes in hand, marking everything I want to make. I was so naive and culinary and palate defunct. heh).

Vegan Planet
Robin Robertson
Harvard Common Press
New Edition Copyright, 2003
592 pages.

 

Okay, please don’t run away. Yes, it’s a thick book. But I mean, common, look at your Betty Crocker cookbooks. Heck, look at your Joy of Cooking! It’s worth it.

Generally, the rule of thumb is, (it’s what I did), buy anything that Isa Chandra Moskowitz has ever written, perhaps grab something from Colleen Patrick Goudreau, and then practice with those books and then branch out from there. I say, before you even do that, you should check out Vegan Planet (Let’s just cut to the chase, this books is totally worth a Buy and gets the Seal of Approval), because it has more than just how to cook tips, and how to make your cookies really chewy (canola oil), it has the ins and outs of why veganism (or just plant based dieting) is the way to go.

Dr. Neal Bernard (who does the forward for a lot of plant based cookbooks) explains why this is a natural and healthy way to eat. Robin then takes over, and explains all your alternatives. There’s mention on what to not eat as a vegan, and also – how certain things combined together can limit your absorption of the nutrients. (Did you know that drinking coffee/tea with your meal can limit your iron consumption? I didn’t).

And there is a huge section on why soy is actually good for you.
I’ll repeat:
Why soy is good for you to eat.  It’s just a bean, people.
(okay, yes, there are people who are very sensitive to it, even allergic. But for everyone else out there who has their reasons about not eating it – organic based soy is good, and healthy. Now I don’t eat it every day, and sometimes I go weeks without, I cycle my food, but still. let’s give this bean some love, eh?)

And the book is rift with information like that. Not just the cooking tips, but you become armed with information. You are what you eat, and Robin gives you the ability to explain why and inform others. (or you know, just give the book away and let people read it for themselves).

The downside, no pictures. Also I don’t like the colour scheme (a pale greeny/yellow – plant colours, I’d imagine) and the font is hard to read. The font on the cover is the font used for the table of contents and the titles of the recipes. Kinda, slightly wish it was normal. But! the recipes are all on facing pages. Yay.

I made from this book – and I think if you have someone you need to impress, or a birthday dinner, or you want to borrow your parents care – the lemon risotto with scallions (green onion for me) and peas. (serve this with Isa’s chickpea picatta). Ho.ly. Moses, this was the best meal I had in life. In life. I am not even kidding, or exaggerating about this one. My roommate begs me to make this more often,  J&A gobbled it up, and we were all so sad when the risotto was gone.

(Like you don’t even get mad,when you have to make this for 30+ minutes, because you eat, and it’s like, yummmmmmmm numnum num). Robin does amazing things with lemon.

I also made gnocci for the first time. (fast and easy) with avocado pesto (the avocado pesto isn’t in the book,it’s from Oh She Glows. but that was really nice). the Vegetable Hash, the garlicky herb marinade and roasted “chickers” (chickpeas).

The instructions are really detailed and clear, and everything is just so yummy. There are a lot. more. I want to make from this book (my friend Sara – and most people I know, swear by the tamale pie), and next year I’ll be doing so.

This really is the Joy of Cooking (tonnes of information, instructions, and detail), not so much “free” as other of Robins book, but totally swapable, I think, and like I said – this is totally approved and worth a buy :)

 

Phew. Now I’m going to make some cold medicine and get some sleep.

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Robin Robertson’s Triple Giveaway

If you are in need some some vegan books to add to your collection, mosey on over to Robin Robertson’s blog and leave a comment, for your chance to win some books! :)

(I”m hoping I win 1000 Vegan Recipes. But I’m not gonna lie, I want all three!) :)

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Review on All You Knead is Bread by Jane Mason

Okay, you know that little saying that I write at the end of all my reviews (that I get from publishers?) The one that says a positive review isn’t required of me?

 

Well, this is what this is. A non positive review. (But to be fair, it’s a not a negative review either). this is a Confused review.

I am not going to claim I am the biggest official on bread making. I really got into it a few months ago when I made some Sweet spelt rolls. (which were awesome). And then I made Vanilla Raisin Bread (American Vegan Kitchen – which was yummy, but deformed, I don’t get the whole “shape and tuck thing”), and then I made bagel rolls (Best Veggie Burgers). So I’ve had a good roll (no pun intended) going on, and then… along comes this gorgeous book.

And I squealed and said. “Bread!” (Really, I did. I said. BREAD! – duh it’s a bread book. but remember I get excited over simple things).

 

 

All You Knead is Bread
Jane Mason
Ryland Peters
175 Pages
copyright 2012

When I tell you guys, this is a gorgeous book. It’s a gorgeous book.  It’s rift with pages, full of techniques (on kneading, rolling, and tonnes and tonnes of bread). It just makes you want to yank out all your bread flours, yeast and mixing bowls and get started. (I am am an old school girl. I knead with my hands, I don’t have the spiffy dough hook thing. As much as I want a Cuisinart Stand Mixer, I’d probably do it so I could get a lot of loaves done at once).

I have this love affair with sourdough bread, so instantly this is the first thing I go to make. (both the Rye + Wheat).

And… well let’s just say. It didn’t work out. At all. I’ve never made a starter before period, so I don’t know what I was expecting, but I just got… really dry dough that had met water. (I did this for about 3 days, and It wasn’t bubbly, watery or anything). The rye just dried out. I was very bummed out.

But I dusted myself off and thought, you know, maybe it wasn’t the best idea to start with a starter, let’s just go with a basic brown bread. So I made the Brown Cob. (Which is a British style bread). And here is where (my) issues started.

A: Jane doesn’t proof with sugar. Now  I’ve never not  proofed without sugar before. So this “water and yeast in the dough.” kinda freaked me out. But I did it, and it never really… “exploded”. like it does with sugar. (You know, volcano action everywhere!) .  But I used it, and kneaded and everything, and it never really…. rose like dough does. I was tres. disappointed.  (it “puffed” up overnight though, but it was more of a surprise than anything).

B: Jane likes her salt. My first red flag was that she called for 1 1/2 tsp salt. That is a LOT of salt, and she didn’t add any sugar or milk to balance it out. But in it went.

And it was a not very well risen, salty, slightly soggy bottom bread. Like it was eating into a ball of salt. Was not impressed.

I did email Jane right away and wondered if it was errata or anything in the book, and Jane did come back to me saying that while she did prefer her bread salty, 1 1/2 tsp did seem like a lot. (the book has measurements + weights).

But with three flops, you can understand while I am a little gunshy about trying anything else. (to be fair, the water + yeast thing was my fault).

So this was just based on my baking attempts, this would totally not get the Veganly Delicious Seal Of Approval, and give this book a Fry raving.

With this book though, you can learn a lot about making bread period. And the pictures are gorgeous, and with Jane’s fast response to my questions, I’m not really going to say that the book is a total flop. I think it just has a learning curve to it (maybe a big learning curve).

This book is accidentally vegan. (She does use eggs and milk and lard, but that just translates to flax/chia seed eggs, tofu, almond milk and coconut oil). There are a 50+ recipes to choose from (plus some starters of course). It would be a good book to work with and I think if one never had a bread book it would be all you “kneaded” (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

So…I don’t know. I’d say try the book out and see how you fair with it. I’m going to try again, and I’ll totally amend my review.

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A Sniffly Review of Bean by Bean by Crescent Dragonwagon

I have the flu.

Or a really bad cold.

Either way, I can’t smell, and my tastebuds are going. Luckily, I got a lot of my testing/reviewing done before I got sick. (I feel really bad for the Vegan Slow Cooker. it’s not getting the love and attention that it deserves from me. I got sick this Thursday – well Wednesday night), so everything was starting to hurt my throat a lot, and now basically all I’m eating is orange juice, club soda, some crackers. Even cookies aren’t doing it for me. Yeah, you know I’m sick).

I did make menu #3: It’s all Indian fare. (I figure the spices will help my nose clear up).

Channa Saag (Greens with Chickpeas), Butter Chicken (used kidney beans), and Carrot Cake & Zucchini Bread oatmeal. I also made the macaroni and cheese, and I realised something really, really important:

My Crockpot. (not the Cusinart) doesn’t really burn off the liquid like it’s supposed to. Which what would explain why my onions didn’t “marmalade” but was a big sopping mess. It clicked home when I made the macaroni and cheese (which is GOOD) and the channa saag in there and it didn’t really thicken up, it was just soupy. I’ll just use Chuck, until I can buy his little brother.

So,  Bean by Bean by the coolest name I’ve ever seen/heard in my life. Crescent Dragonwagon. Like honestly, can you imagine going through life with a cool name like that? And it is a gorgeous book. I am one of the people who get attracted by the spine first, and then the cover. (I know that’s a bit weird but generally, when you live in a big city, you have a big bookstore. And when you have a big bookstore, book covers usually don’t face you unless it’s part of the display, you notice the spine. Anyway.the font/spine is really beautiful (it’s like wood).

But let’s get started with this review. (which was supposed to be up last week, I know, but, again: work is working me dead, and now I’m sick. You love me. Y’all are invited over for food. You know, after I get better).

 

you could say, it’s full of beans.

Bean by Bean
Crescent Dragonwagon
The Workman Publishing Company
copyright 2012
400 pages

I am going to start with the preface: this is not a vegan book. It’s not really a vegetarian book. There’s ham in here, and shrimp and all those things there. (which kind of surprised me because Crescent is a vegetarian. But as she writes in the introduction, she’s more laissez-faire about it and the book isn’t to advocate anything. (Except how awesome the bean is). And most of it is optional. (the meat-y bits, I mean).  And the ones that aren’t (see: chicken-salad), well there are a lot of vegan-ish things you can use. (Like say, seitan, tofu, tempeh, etc that taste chickeny, and continue with the recipe).

I was kind of nervous though because this was my first “non-vegan cookbook” I got since I became vegan. (or rather solely plant-based  in my eating). So I was sitting here wondering, how to review a book that’s not really vegan – not even accidentally vegan?

Well, easy. By focusing on what this book is.

And it’s full of beans. Really.

There are ten chapters. (from Bean Basics, a chapter on Hummus (a girl after my own heart. Hummus always needs it’s own chapter), Soups, Salad, Chili, Stew & curries, Bakes/casseroles, Stirfries, Beans and Grains, Sweet Beans, and a lot of other information at the back.

And naturally, that my love of hummus/spreads nearly rivals my love of cookies, I spent a lot of time in chapter two. I made the Salt of the Earth “Bread Spread”  (snicker. I love someone who can make a great pun, and/joke when the opportunity arises… like a good loaf of bread… okay that one was lame).  I used my brown miso for this, and it was awesome. I had some of Joni’s  bagel buns with this spread, and it was just.. it was love. That’s all I have to say. This would be awesome with a bowl of soup (chickpea noodle, split pea), or just on its own with some homemade pub cheddar  homemade-cheese. It barely really took any time at all, to make.  It has this nice salty taste to it. So if you had a baguette and toasted it, and then schmeared this on top, your tastebuds will bow to you.

I also had a delicious salad from this, which was the Sugar Snap-Pea, Orange and Spinach Salad. (I did not make the citrus vinaigrette). Never really had sugar snap peas (or if I had, I didn’t realise that’s what they were), and I never really had “fruit” in a salad before. It was (clearly) a snap (no pun intended) to make. (The peas get boiled for like 3 minutes), then you mix everything else together. It was really nice to go with my chik’n casserole from Vegan Slow Cooker.

But the star of the show isn’t so much the recipes, but the reference guides. (I’m a librarian. I live for this stuff).
Like, did you know a vanilla bean isn’t a bean? It’s just a pod. (Who knew? Well, maybe you did). Ditto Cacao beans, and coffee beans.

Then there is an entire list of beans. (I was flabbergasted. I could name like. 9? maybe – Lime, green, chickpea, blackbean, soy beans (Tofu!), sweet peas, black-eye peas, kidney, and broad). I just learned about adzuki this year. And probably some others that I knew but can’t name. or things I didn’t consider as beans (see: lentils), But there is not only the name of a bazillion (okay not a bazillion, but a good lot) of beans, and how available they are, what can be substituted,  and the like. I think that’s ace.

This book if full of information, (very reference-like), and it does have a lot of yummy recipes, a lot of illustrations (but no pictures for those who need them).
It does get the Veganly Delicious Seal of Approval and I award this book…
A Try.

Yeah. A try. For a few reasons. A: if you aren’t very strong at removing “meat” and adding “whatever” and still having it taste good. (like for me, what made my eyes bug out of my head was the beans that had ham hocks simmering it in for hours). Now – at this stage of my cooking life, I would know exactly what to do to get the flavour of ham (which is mostly the salt – liquid smoke) and the meat source (out of all the options, a beef-y flavoured seitan would do the trick). But 6 months ago? I would 100 percent have to Google it up.

Ditto with the “4 eggs” (well maybe not so much, Just that much chia-seeds or flax seeds). But newly minted vegans or vegetarians that give up animals completely (but don’t mind the byproduct), could very much have an issue. It’s not rampant, the animal usage, but I think enough to make some people think.

But I think the reference guides, and the information that’s found within the book save it. So see if you can find it in your local library, go a little beany, and see if it’s right for you.

Now if you excuse me, I need to blow my nose.

achoo!

I was given a review copy by the Canadian rights holder of this publication ThomasAllen. No compensation or gift was required for my review, all thoughts (even addled with the flu-cold) are my own. A Portion of this review will be found on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com. 

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Review of “Caribbean Vegan” by Taymer Mason

I’d first like to say – Thank you very much to those who fought in World War I & II, and any other Peacekeeping missions to give me the rights and freedoms that I sometimes (maybe all the time) take for granted. This post is dedicated to you. Enjoy the (ginger)beer. 

You may not know this about me. My daddy’s from Jamaica. (My momma is from England). So I grew up with a culinary palate of 1/2 island food and 1/2 European/Canadian. My personal tastes run more to my Momma’s side of the pond and even when I cook internationally, It’s more European/Asian. Curries. Dals, Asian fair (Thanks Korea).

When I was pregan, I did love me some … well. curry chicken. It was yummy. And even better, curry goat. (Okay look. It was good. I loved it. With some roti and rice with black peas? It was me and my dad’s favourite meal).

Moving on. ;)

I do love me some Island flavour, and when you have 48 hours of consecutive snow fall – no, I am not lying, you want to do test out a book that will make you think of warm breezes and coconuts.

Thank you Tamyer Mason and the Caribbean Vegan. I feel warmer already.
And ThomasAllen for graciously giving me the book to review! A portion of this review will be found on Amazon. Per usual, while Thomas Allen (the Canadian rights holder of this publication) provided the book for a review, a positive review is not required, so if I feel that the book is not good, I will let you all know.

 

Jamaica, Bermuda… Oh, you know I wanna….

Caribbean Vegan
The Experiment
copyright 2010
239 pages.

This book is a celebration Island Fare. Bahamas, Jamaica and the like :) It’s a bright pink book (I feel warmer already!)

The book opens up with the introduction,and what you need to stock an island vegan kitchen. A lot of these things, I would have had at home – Essences (a weaker version of extract – I like extract better you get that punch in the gut, but essence is what is used in island foods) and the normal stuff you’d probably have. (Nutritional yeast, etc). And put away those food processors, it’s all about the box cutter! :D

(If you are adverse to using analogs (tvp, Energ-g replacer, etc, she uses it a touch. I’m not really sure of “a lot” but I mean if you don’t use it, you don’t use it, so you might want to take advantage of Amazon’s “Look” feature here).

Like most vegan international books I’ve seen, we open up with the Condiments & sauces. (Mostly because these are going to be the base of anything/everything you make, rather than going to the West Indian Store and buying bottles of the stuff. Here is my little tip: if you can get away with making your own, make your own. It’s more flavourable (okay, fine, flavourful!), you can guarantee the vegan-ity of the item and so on. Plus the measurements that is called for will give the right “punch” to the food. Storebought might be weaker or even a bit hotter than what is called for). 

This book is like Quick & Easy Low Cal Comfort Food as there is a blurb/write up of what the chapter is intending to do. I like this, it feels very much like a book (that you’d read) and get into the mood.

Then we have breakfasts. (YAY! Breakfast is first. Honestly, it is a teensy bit of a pet peeve for me to have it buried at the back). Appetizers,  soups and so forth. (ending with drinks). Hmm. Drinks.

Which is what I made. If my momma were here, I would have made her Sorrel. (which is hibiscus). Or Mauby. (I don’t know what is, but my momma and all her friends love it. It’s part of a tree). However, I made. ginger beer.

Let’s just get something straight.
There is gingerale  which is good. And gingerbeer which is what gingerale wants to be when it grows up. It’s not alcoholic  but the ginger is just much more potent. It’s just a mouth-feel awesome explosion of flavour. If you close your eyes (well keep one eye open to read this), and just imagine a hot warming burn in your throat and stomach, your mouth full of heat and ginger and a little something extra… that’s ginger beer.

(And storebought, while it’s passable, has nothing on homemade. I’ve grown up on homemade. My aunties make it homemade when time permits, and you can always tell the difference – generally from the “Holy *wheeze* crap!” You want to emit when you have it. Gingerbeer is HOT. (taste wise, not temperature wise).

Tamyer has a “fermented” version and an unfermented version, which is what I’ve made. It was good, good stuff, y’all. The base for this is “Island Simple Syrup” (which is basically simple syrup, but you use brown sugar instead of white. Tadaa!)

I also made Eggy Tofu open faced sandwiches. Which was very delicious. (I am slowly getting into this habit of having “eggless” sandwiches. I never liked it as a pregan, but vegan.. yum). Use your black salt for this recipe. Basically, anything that you are making “eggs” with and tofu is involved, get black salt. It makes it eggy. (it was a nice spread on some toast)

and then I made some Orange coconut pancakes.
Yes. Please.

These were a plate-ful-of-yum.

The book is rift full of “island tips” (what to use, what to substitute, what to do when). The book is very “black and white” (even the island tips look like dark), and there aren’t a lot of pictures. But what there is, is a nice section of how to fold and make your Doubles. (This was what my mom and I ate all the time if we had a doctor’s appointment. They are nice puffy pieces of dough stuffed with chickpeas and pepper sauce and other stuff. Yum, yum in the tum).

The pictures might be a deterring factor for a lot of people who haven’t had Caribbean food before. Also, I will point out (and I am actually reminded of a review on Amazon who claimed this book was ‘too authentic/Caribbean-y for her, which made me laugh, and slightly roll my eyes), but it is. If you were a vegan on the Islands, you’d have this book, and you’d cook from it and you wouldn’t really miss pre-gan treats. There’s recipes how to make your own Ackee and Saltfish, and ham.  (I kid you not. Pork was the one thing I’ve never had ever, and when I told my mom, who also never had pork, ever, said “But why would you even want to try it?. To which I had to stop and think, and go.. “Well.. why not?”)

(And Alicia C. Simpson uses this ham-style flavouring to make her sausages. See? It’s good to try).

I award this the Veganly Delicious Seal of Approval (I need to really make a seal), and award this book a solid Try rating. It takes some sourcing to get some original ingredients that may or may not be in a well-stocked supermarket. (Ie: Mauby) but if you are in a large city it will be worth getting some to make a lot of these recipes. Again if you are the kind of person who is vegan due to “health” and don’t want analogs, or against them in some way, she doesn’t use it a lot, but enough to make people go “ugh, why?”

But try it. There are a lot of recipes that don’t require exploring new territories, the recipes are easy enough to read and follow, and then you can imagine warm island breezes as you drink your (ginger)beer, and eat some eggy sandwiches with ham.

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Let’s Get Ready to Slow Cook! (Menus #1 & 2)

Work is working me dead.

Sorry everyone, for being so quiet. But it’s only seven more weeks (sigh) of working overtime. I also started working out so basically my day starts at 3:50am and I keep going until 9:00pm when I fall into a very amazing dead to the world sleep, and then I rinse, and repeat. I have some reviews to post up (I was busy testing out some recipes from a few review copies books that I got recently,so it’s going to be a big posting baloozza)
And I’m running on hot chocolate right now. Not even breakfast. That’s how bad I feel about ignoring you guys.

So the plan had been to compare two crockpot cookbooks. It was a brilliant plan. However, I got really tired of that idea really quickly. It’s easier to concentrate on one for these kind of reviews, so I am going to do the one I had picked first.

 

The Vegan Slow Cooker by Kathy Hester.

This was one book I purchased that didn’t have “Celine & Joni, Isa & Terry, Robin or Dreena” attached to the cover. The reason why I chose this book (to buy) was kinda 2-3 fold.

A: Isa reviewed it and had a comment on the cover. (This instantly makes me sit up and take notice)
B: My friend Val had it and had great results from it.
C: I needed a vegan slow cooker cookbook.

It really was that simple. I am a simple person.

This book was published in 2011 by Fair Winds Press (The home of Joni & Celine). So right away your book quality is good, and there are a decent amount of pictures. Not rift like Allyson’s, or Kelly’s books but a decent amount of pictures. The book is going for a “grunge” kinda thing with the font. (Like the main font is a spray-painty motif, which carries on to the headings of the chapters and the recipes themselves. Kinda cute). There are 150 recipes for your tummy’s pleasure. (Why thank you Kathy. I can’t wait).

This actually fits in my cookbook stand. Colour me surprised.

What  I like about this book is that you have the title of the recipe like so

RECIPE TITLE
a little blurb underneath.

And then the ingredients on one side, and how to proceed.

Note: if you are one of those people who don’t like the prep work for your slow cooker – ie: doing some sauteing, etc and whatever, then you aren’t going to like this book. I’m just saying. It is hilarious how many people get upset/mad that the book isn’t a big “dump and go” thing. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of “dump” and “go” in this book, but there is always a bit of prep to get the best, ultimate flavour. Do do it.

The book is broken down to
Slow Cooker Basics (what to do with your slow cooker, the history of it, basically: read your manufacture instructions. They built the thing, they know how to use it).

Then there are Twelve chapters dedicated to yummy yummy eats And breakfast is all the way at the end. (It just beats out desserts. I will never understand why poor breakfast gets the shaft and is stuck at the end. Don’t worry breakfast! I <3 you!) The font is readable, It looks a little like Arial (nice and rounded, 12 font) so easy to read. (Thank you).

The one drawback is – you don’t really know what size crockpot to use. It’s not listed anywhere in the basics (I looked) or in the recipes, unless your specifically told it’s for a baby crockpot (1 1/2-2 1/2 quart). I found that really strange. I emailed Kathy and she said most of the recipes are for a 3.5-4 quart while some can. go to a 6 quart depending on the recipe. (so there you go, write it down).  I just found it really strange that it wasn’t there. Everything else (serving sizes, length of time in said crockpot, etc) was listed.

Menu #one was:
Cranberry Vanilla Quinoa
Sweet Potato & Swiss Chard Dal.

Menu #Two is
Balsamic Onion Marmalade
Apple Sage Sausage
Savoury Cheddar Sausage Bread
Chickn’ And Mushroom Casserole
Cheddar Broccoli Rice. 

 

The cranberry Vanilla Quinoa (with slivered almonds) was really good, however I don’t think I would make it again, or if I did, I would make it with steel cut oatmeal. The reason: texture, texture, texture. It came out really soft, and there was no real “bite” to it. I just can’t handle … certain kinds of mush, for a lack of a better word. Something that you always need to remember is that the seasoning kind of… melts away in the crockpot. so I always added a bit more salt and a tbsp. of maple syrup to kick up the flavour.

This was great for leftovers and it kept me full all day. Had I thought about it, I would have swirled a little cranberry apple butter in it as well, to help thicken it up. So I will probably make it again – but again just to be more wary about the ‘mush’.

I finally found a use for all my sweet potatoes – and made this dal. I love Indian food, and this was just fantastically delicious. I passed out (literally) from exhaustion when I was making it, and my roommate (Bless her) turned off my crockpot for me. Ergo – she didn’t know that I had to add the chard in for the last 20 minutes of cooking. Luckily, I used my steamer, and swirled it in, and there was no problems. (so a little trouble shooting for you).

This was fan-freaking-tastic. Extra S&P were needed to just enhance the flavours, but yum.mo. I was very sad when this was over.

And now a little lament.

I suffer from Week Two-Itis. If you watch the Biggest Loser (I don’t any more), you always hear Bob Harper, Jillian Michaels, My Future Husband Dolvett Quince complain about the “Week Two” syndrome, where people don’t lose weight, no matter what they do, blah blah blah blah.

Since I started this blog, I’ve never had a cooking issue except for one certain meal, during the second week. It is nuts, it is crazy, I can’t explain it.

With Quick and Easy Low Cal Vegan Comfort Food – it was the Lasagna.
Great Gluten Free Vegan Eats – It was the Compassionate Calamari
With this book –  it was the balsamic onion marmalade.

Y’all have had marmalade, or you know what it is supposed to do. Be nice and spreadable. No siree, not mine, mine is a bunch of (delicious, smelling) onions, and a big crock of liquid. I don’t know what happened, I can’t even explain it. Most likely, it’s because I used agave as my sugar (the option was sugar, agave or maple syrup). Maybe that means I had a bit more liquid and it needed to steam more. Maybe my onions were too much. It’s a mystery. So It’s not the actual thing I wanted, however, I have rice, so I know if I mix this up with rice and some steamed Brussels sprouts, I should be good to go. But honestly. Week 2 curse struck again.

The sausage, was a bit of the same. It came out awesome (Kathy doesn’t specify what sage to use, I used rubbed, not ground), and it came out in like some chunks, but still loose. I was expecting like a loaf or something to break up. (also my middle never really set, while the ends were geting nice and sausage-y. But it tasted great. So this is the first time in Week 2, I didn’t have to throw anything out. Woo and hoo.

The curse struck again in the form of the rice and broccoli dish. I swear I had brown rice. But I didn’t. I wrote brown rice  on my shopping list and I somehow, for whatever reason, bought a big bag of white rice. (Not even jasmine or basmati. Boring old white). I wasn’t sure of the liquid measurements, so I figured, hey, why not use the little bit of long-grain wild rice, and mix it with the brown, and it’s still healthy, and it will work, right?

Well yes. If you like really hard, chewy rice. I keep forgetting wild rice is more of a grass (now YOU know), then a grain, so it takes more water, and longer to cook. So I’ve once again have hard, chewy, rice. Way to go week 2.

(and just to finish everything, my casserole looks a little bit, a touch, dried out. I am hoping once it gets warmed up, the liquid will release, and make it all nice and edible). My bread is cooking right now.

Oh and I made Boullion. I don’t know what it was supposed to look like, but mine is thick and awesome, very flavourable. <– that is a word. I just invented it.

So there we have it. 3 weeks of posting done in one mammoth post. Time to do some reviews, but first we break for some cookie making.

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Interview with Allyson Kramer

Allyson was so sweet to agree to interview with me! I contacted her last week, and she got back to me today. She got “Sandy-ed” and was apologetic for holding me up, which was clearly okay under the circumstances :)
(I am really hoping that these continue. If anyone ever has questions they want me to ask, shoot and I’ll put it in my transcript notes!). :)

 

And now.. Me & Allyson!

 

So how long have you been a vegan? What inspired you to be a vegan?

 

I first became vegan 17 years ago, but I had a few instances towards the end of high school and during college where I “fell off the wagon”. I guess it was around 6 years ago when I realized there would be no more slip-ups due to peer pressure, and that veganism was a lifelong commitment for me.

 

 

And the next big question – why Gluten Free as well as vegan?

 

I have celiac disease, so gluten-free unfortunately is a diet I must follow in order to stay healthy. I was diagnosed in 2009, only a few monthsafter I started my blog Manifest Vegan. I like to say I’m a vegan by choice, and gluten-free by necessity.

 

What inspired you to start your blog Manifest Vegan?

 

I had just begun my career in the arts (after graduating with a BFA in both Painting and Sculpture) and once I starting working in the museum and gallery atmosphere fulltime, I realized quickly that the art scene just wasn’t for me. I wanted to choose a career path that would give back a little—to the animals and the environment. I had been enamored with cooking and recipe development since I was a little girl, and I had seriously considered majoring in English (Journalism) in college rather than Fine Arts, so I thought I could use the skills I gained in my art training to launch some sort of career as a cookbook author/food writer. I learned about blogging, and decided that it would be a good thing to do for practice–to more or less develop my own voice with writing. Lauren Ulm of Vegan Yum Yum was a huge inspiration for me. I watched her go from blogger to cookbook author in just a few short years, and I liked her approach. And, I figured if the author thing never took off, I would still be doing something meaningful (and satisfying!) by sharing vegan recipes with others.

 

Why thatname, “Manifest Vegan?”

 

Basically it’s a play on “Manifest Destiny”… sort of my belief that veganism is destined to expand across the world (or at least the United States). It’s certainly a romantic idea, but one I do believe in wholeheartedly. 

 

What prompted you to write your cookbook? Tell us about the process?

 

Honestly, writing a cookbook has been on my bucket list since I was achild. Cookbooks (and poring over them like novels daily/nightly) are such a strong part of my identity; it felt very natural for me to try and create one of my own. Plus, I have always wanted to be a writer… and often I regretted not getting that English degree in college along with my Art degree.

When I got the idea to finally write a vegan cookbook, I started to do my research on what it would take to get a cookbook published. I had hundreds of recipes to share (I’d been cooking daily for years since I was 8 years old, and recipe developing on my own since I was 14), so I just started with a simple list in a Word document. And then it turned into a rough draft …and, my to-do list grew from there.

 

It went a little like this:

Create Book Proposal, Make a Ton of Connections, Query Agents, Get Agent, Sell Book, Secure Cookbook Testers, Sign Contract, Complete and Test Recipes, Write, Write, Write, Take Photos for the Book, Write More, Edit, Turn In Manuscript, and once my editor (and a whole team of wonderful people, honestly) was finished with it, Do Final Edits to the Manuscript. Then I waited a few months for my publishing house to work their magic and eventually the book hit the shelves.

 

It’s pretty fun actually. And a lot of hard work! I wouldn’t trade in the experience for the world.

 

What did you want to accomplish with this book?

 

I want to show skeptics that eating a vegan and gluten-free diet does not have to be restrictive—that you can enjoy many of the same foods that omnivores enjoy, such as cupcakes, pizza, ravioli and donuts! That’s one of the main reasons I include photos with every recipe—more proof of the final product, if you will.

 

This hasdeclared the “The year of the Vegan Cookbook” Why do you think vegan cookbooks are so bountiful now?

 

I think the Internet and the current ease of sharing information has a lot to do with it. Veganism is a powerful movement because much of the time a person’s decision to become vegan is based on compassion—not weight loss or other dietary motives. When the word gets around about how our foodstuffs are produced and the unfortunate realities behind the food industry come to light, it’s sometimes harder to ignore the facts than to simply adopt a more compassionate diet. It’s an easy change that almost anybody can make instantly, and it has a huge impact. I believe the demand for vegan cookbooks (and vegan food in restaurants, etc.) is just echoing the new awareness that people have for how our food is produced.

 

There isalso a big explosion of gluten free cookbooks (both vegan (aka xgfx!) and non-vegan). Why do you think that is?

 

Again, Ithink the sharing of information, and the newfound knowledge of wheat intolerance or celiac disease has a lot to do with it. I believe many doctors nowadays know a lot more about how diet impacts health than they did several years ago.

I had suffered multiple health problems from a lack of diagnosis for over 5 years, even though I had been routinely getting examined by a number of doctors trying to figure out what was causing my issues. At the time, none of them even knew about celiac disease; I was actually diagnosed by a final year med student who was specializing in autoimmune disorders. He recognized it right away, did the bloodtests and shared the info with my physician. So, I think awareness is key.

 

What were your favourite recipes in Great Gluten Free Vegan Eats?

 

The Butterscotch Amaretti and The Spinach Artichoke Dip are my top faves; but, the entire book is a collection of my favorite recipes, so all of them!

(y’all: go to youtube – search the name, and then just make yourself a batch. You’ll love the both of us for it).

 

What’s your inspiration? (to come up with all these yummy things) 

 

Every single cookbook author, chef, home-cook and food writer I’ve ever had the pleasure of either meeting or reading about has been a huge inspiration to me, from my mother to Martha Stewart. In a way, you could say the simple pleasure of eating drives me to do what I do every day. I live for food, and creating recipes is my passion.

 

Whose your favourite chef (vegan or otherwise?)

 

Goodness, that’s a tricky question! I wouldn’t say I have a favorite, per se, but a few chefs who inspire me are Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, David Chang, Wolfgang Puck, Nancy Silverton …and countless others.

 

For those who can’t find specific flours. (as of this date Superfine Sorgum, White & Brown Rice flours aren’t available internationally/Canada), would there be a significant difference in some recipes? (Bisquik, Pasta, Strawberry Shortcake comes to mind right away). 

 

I think you could get away with subbing regular sorghum or brown riceflour in a few of the baked goods, but the texture will be different than the recipe intends. Superfine brown rice flour has really changed the game as far as gluten-free vegan baking and cooking goes—it’s really a huge difference from the flour that is regularly milled. For the pasta dishes and pie crust superfine is a must. I do hope that it will be more readily available internationally soon—it’s such a great ingredient for us gluten-free folks!

 

For those reading and wondering if veganism (or at least very strict vegetarian) is for them, what would you suggest for them?

 

I’d say do your research (everywhere from the library to google) and see how a plant based diet compares to the diet you are currently following. I think once people understand where their food is coming from, veganism really doesn’t seem so odd (or unhealthy) compared to the standard diets most people enjoy on a daily basis–especially diets that contain a ton of processed foods that have only been introduced within the past 60 years or so.

 

Would you say your book are for the newly veganist?

 

I’d like to think so, yes. But I also would like to think that anyone could benefit from my book, even if it’s just a place for inspiration or further enlightenment about vegan eating.

 

 You have a new book coming out next year, tell us about it.

 

My next book “Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats Gone Global” is a lot like the first book but instead of featuring my favorite recipes, the recipes in the next book are a celebration of foods from around the world—with traditional recipes as well as recipes I like to call “global fusion”. The chapters are divided by continent and almost every recipe has a corresponding photo. I had a blast creating this book and look forward to its release in the Spring of 2013.

 

Thanks Allyson! :)

See? isn’t she so cool and sweet?

She even suggested to me to try milling it in the food processor (which I didn’t do), I just couldn’t be bothered. I tried seeing how much it would cost for me to get a 3lb bag of brown, white and sorgum superfine sent to me, and it was over 100.00. (And Amazon just won’t do it). But I am going to try my bestest to get this, write letters or something!

I really enjoyed cooking with Allyson’s book :) I do stand behind my suggestion of “Try” but this is a darn good book. :) (and if you make the cookies first, y’all know it’s going to be bumped up to buy!).

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Happy (Inter)National Vegan Day! (aka: Allyson Could Make Me Give Up Wheat)

Happy (Inter)National Vegan Day!

I didn’t even know, but I saw it in my email and I figured how awesome is this. I can wrap up October’s book, and announce this month’s and celebrate by having the best darn cookies in the world. (Well one of the best. My best friend J made them for me us, and she veganized them for me. Wasn’t that sweet?)

I am finishing off my day eating some breakfast sausage, Hannah’s cheese biscuits and some chowder.

Okay – so. my overall thoughts on Great Gluten Free Vegan Eats

First of all, I am going to be thanking God every day that I can handle wheat. (or if I am one of those weirdos who does have wheat issues but just doesn’t know it, that It’s not that bad that I can continue to ignore my ignorance and continue eating wheat). With that said.

Allyson could make me give it up. No fooling.

I tried to do my best to eat ‘gluten-freeish” as possible – ergo, I didn’t have a lot of bread, or gluten based products. (cookies and brownies aside). I did shop and stock up on items to make the total book experience a  good one.

As a recap, this is what I made from the book

Cranberry Spice Bagels, Basic Brown Bread, Stroganoff, Pumpkin Chili, Cashew Creme, Cheesy Broccoli Soup, Mushroom Corn Chowder, Basked Corn Pudding, Roasted Cinnamon Cauliflower, Butterscotch Amaretti, Compassionate Calamari, Fajita Soup, Potato Salad & Mushroom & Asparagus Tacos with Cilantro Mayo Sour Cream. Oh, and Pizza Crackers. 

(I think that’s all of them).

Everything was really, really good. (Except the thing that won’t be named, and You know what it is, so we’re not going to discuss it again). Everything for the most part was really easy to make and the stroganoff and the pumpkin chili will be made. Often. (well not for a while, but like random “what does Liv want to eat?” Stroganoff will be like right up there.

Leftover wise, these things just taste better the longer it sits. I swear when it comes to the end recipe (which generally means soup), my tastebuds must be regenerating or something because they are always bland. the Broccoli soup was kinda dull (thank you S&P) as was the chowder (like really bland) and then again, whamo. (except, naturally, today where I oversalted it and now I am having some cereal for dinner. No big worries – see, this isn’t planned y’all. This blog post is live. You get to see how my scary mind works.

Be afraid.).

The Overall Pros

This is one gorgeous book. I am the kind of girl who likes to crawl into bed and snuggle with the cookbook (or in the bath. What can I say?), and read it like a novel. Most good cookbook authors realise that and give us great readability. What really pushes this book over the top, (and made it work that I can’t find my camera + it wasn’t working) is that every single recipe has a photo attached. So you can see what you made, is what Allyson made. Which is awesomeness . Plus the book wasn’t that expensive.

(we’ll ignore the fact that I won it in a giveaway)  B.F. (before flood) I had this preordered and everything :)

The instructions for the most part are clear. There were a few bobbles here and there (But this could have been me, being exhausted cooking at 9pm after working 9 hours straight).

Everything is leftover awesome.

Omni-friends will be much impressed

The book layout is very simple, and how you generally eat. Like I pointed out – it starts with “basics” (and the recipes you’d probably need to use for other recipes later on, rather than having the “Meal” first, and then all the “Wait you need xyz” on page 350).  I’m giving up on my cookbook holder, basically it lays flat on my counter and a bowl lays on it.

The overall cons

My overall grocery bill this month – was over my budget of 80 dollars a week. By… a lot. (like over 60 dollars over, a lot). My cheapest bill was around 120? dollars. (some of this wasn’t the books fault, when you see canning jars on sale for 3.00 you snap them up). But if I took out incidentals and stuff like that I was still looking at an average of 110 a month.

Gluten flours aren’t cheap and in Calgary, not that easy to find (for me, when going grocery shopping, and I don’t drive). Had I had had a chance to stock up at the bulk store, I know it would have been a heck of a lot cheaper because, well you know. Bulk.

But I think that is the point. With most cookbooks, you should be able to pop to the shop, and get everything and stick underbudget. You can’t do that with this book. You need to stock up with gluten-flours first.

The availability of the flours comes into question too. Internationally. (or in Canada), Superfine flours (Rice & Sorgum) aren’t available, and Allyson calls for them for a good bit of recipes. While I’m sure it wouldn’t affect the overall product, the texture and taste wouldn’t be the same. (If they would be the same, the specific use of superfine wouldn’t be asked for. Ergo: Dear Superfine Flour – get to Canada. Love, Liv).

I find this book to be very seasonal. I don’t know if that was Allyson’s intention (and I forgot to ask during the interview). So cooking a lot of things that call for cherries – kinda hard in October. (and so on).

Gluten Free breads taste weird. Like not weird. “ewww, what’s in my mouth, ft, pht, tha!” But “This is not really… bread/crackers is it” Just that weird heavy/taste feeling. I’ve never really had GF goods before, so I don’t know if this is common. It’s not really a con, it’s more of a caveat.

Final Tally:

Taking into consideration the cost (of shopping), the book layout, book format, and everything….

I give Great Gluten Free-Vegan Eats a Liv Seal of Approval and award the book the rating of:

Try with a reccomendation to Buy.
If you are gluten free already – buy the thing. It will change your life, I swear.

The try rating is only based on the fact that your kitchen may/may not be set up for the flours which can cost a pretty penny.

Interview with Allyson coming up (Right now!)

 

 

 

 

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Interview with Kelly Peloza. (Cookie Queen).

I should have mentioned… there should have been more brownies. Brownies makes girls happy too. :)
Also – you should be thankful. I pressed a button and something happened and my entire review went poof. I may or may not have cursed by accident , and freaked out a lot). But thankfully, the back button had the review that I had done. If not, it would have been.

“Book was good.” (I am not lying).

Anyway.  My relationship with Kelly started like this.

I was looking up her candy Zine (Vegan Candyland.. Which I will have to admit is buried somewhere in my room. Again. Oh found it). I’ve been eyeing it for ages. I am not the biggest candy person, but sometimes when you want a craving, it’s good to have. When you are a vegan/plant-based eater, 98% of your favourite candies are forboddon. (Damn darn butter).

Anyway – I was looking at this for ages. Since I was in collage. And I finally decide, okay – I’m going to get this book. And it was sold out. (My luck). So I email Kelly and go. Pretty much verbatim.

“Please don’t tell me that this has gone out of print, because I might just freak out.”

(with or without a little more melodrama).

Kelly’s first response was LOL (I tend to invoke that in people. A Lot). and said she had a few more copies hanging around and I bought it. And then as I am the kind of person who needs to dissect every single recipe I made (for clarity), we’ve shot the breeze a few times. And I’m testing for her new cookbook.

Yay.

She has cookies in it.

Double yay.

So She and Alicia were my 1-2 first interview punch. I am getting better at this process. :) Here’s the interview.

Hi Kelly! Thanks so much for letting me interview you! How are you doing?

Good, thank you!

So how long have you been a vegan? What inspired you to be a vegan?
I’ve been vegan for about 8 years now. I was vegetarian on and off since age 10, then fully committed to it a few years later. I started reading about veganism, factory farms, nutrition, and all the issues surrounding veganism, and decided to make the switch a few months later.

What prompted you to write your first cookbook? Was it difficult to get started?
I started reading food blogs after becoming vegan and decided to start my own blog (here http://myvegancreations.blogspot.com/ is my very first blog, for some laughs and truly horrendous food photography!) and write recipes for it. I began recipe testing for other cookbook authors and got a feel for the cookbook writing process. Cookies were always my favorite dessert to make, and that winter, I was making gingerbread people and thought about how cool it would be to write a book of all vegan cookies. A few months later and some recipes compiled, I decided to take the plunge. I wouldn’t say it was difficult to get started with all the resources available on the internet, but the whole venture was a huge learning experience and I definitely made a lot of mistakes the first time around.

I have to say – the name is awesome “Vegan Cookie Connoisseur” What prompted that?
I think it just popped into my head one day. I heard the word connoisseur in the context of cooking and baking all the time when I first started blogging, and it stuck with me. That happens often—I’ve always loved reading and becoming obsessed with certain words. I was a weirdo, always reading the dictionary as a kid. (Liv: me too. I swear, I read the encylopaedias and the dictionaries all the time. :D I was the smartest kid in the world, until high school. Then I just couldn’t be bothered).
You have a Zine based on Candy! What prompted that?
I wrote it in the time between finishing the cookie book manuscript and before the book came out. There’s a several month period of down time after writing a cookbook before it’s actually released, so I wanted to try something a little different while still writing recipes.

So you have a candy cookbook and a cookie cookbook – why the focus on sweets? 

Baking allows for creativity while still being a precise science, making it necessary to follow certain formulas and take notes for everything. All throughout school, I loved art and math equally (weird, I know!), and took AP Calculus and studio art classes simultaneously in high school. Since fine arts won out career-wise, I keep my creative work in check by being meticulous and organized. Baking is just like my personality. I love cooking, but I either make up dishes as I go (never really writing anything down), or cook from a recipe. I’ve thought about writing zines that involve cooking, but not sure about books at this point. Cooking is just a whole different animal.

What did you want to accomplish with the book (other than you know, giving us a TONNE of delicious cookies!)
I wanted to create a collection of vegan desserts made the way I cook and bake—using accessible ingredients, fewer bowls and utensils, and decadent ingredients. No tofu/flax seed/applesauce/egg replacer health food-y concoctions!
To which I think I can safely speak for everyone when I say: thank you. 

What do you think of the Vegan Cookbook explosion? Why do you think it’s happening now?
It probably has much to do with the media and celebrity attention veganism has received lately. Veganism on Oprah, and movie stars going vegan every other week definitely help push it into the mainstream. Publishers who normally don’t make vegan cookbooks (or cookbooks at all) are publishing vegan cookbooks as a result, and vegan options are popping up at more restaurants, thankfully!

What’s your inspiration? 
There’s so many! Animals, of course. Art! I’m just as much devoted to food photography as making the actual food (perhaps more so). The work of other artists, cookbook authors, and people in the vegan community is always inspiring.

Who’s your favourite chef (vegan or otherwise?)
I love all the vegan chefs I’ve gotten a chance to meet, work with, and get to know at vegfests and conferences over the past few years. I love me some Food Network as well. (Liv: ME TOO. I miss the Food Network. Anna Olson & Giada and Me – good ole times, y’all).

For those reading and wondering if veganism (or at least very strict vegetarian) is for them, what would you suggest for them?
I would suggest picking up some cookbooks, doing some research online, reading blogs, and checking out restaurants and groups in your area. I imagine it’s SO much easier to go vegan right now than 5 or 10 years ago with all the resources available, so there’s no excuse to not go for it if you’re interested. (Liv: none! if you want one to start with Oh She Glows, & The Post Punk Kitchen for fail-proof recipes that are full of yum!)

Would you say your books are for the newly veganist out there?

My first was Vegan with a Vengeance. Veganomicon may be a bit daunting for a beginner, but it depends on the person. I’d recommend both those books for new vegans. 

What are your favourite recipes from VCC? What about Vegan Candyland?
My favorite recipes from VCC are the chocolate peppermint cream bars and the giant double chocolate chip cookies. I love making Kit Kats from Vegan Candyland, and the caramels are a great place to start for other caramel-based recipes.

Do you have any other books coming out? What about Zines?
Details are forthcoming (on the blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc) for the next book, but it will be released November 2013! I may write another zine early next year after I’ve finished the book I’m working on now. A couple years ago for April Fool’s Day, I “announced” the release of a new cookbook based on vegan bacon desserts. A few people were disappointed that it was just a joke, so I may do a vegan bacon zine…or maybe something else!

Thanks Kelly!

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Review of the Vegan Cookie Connoisseur

I think it is a little bit obvious how much I love cookies.

Muffins are okay. Cupcakes are decent. But cookies?

Let’s back up.

When I was growing up, Cookie Monster was like my favourite Sesame  Street Character. My little friend-cousin (You know, your families are so close, you call them ‘auntie-uncle, ergo, their kids technically are your ‘cousins’ but they aren’t? anyway, work with me), had this little Cookie Monster counting game, and it was like this awesome juggling thing… it was cool.
My first thing I ever baked…. (horribly, but the house still smelled great), was the Neiman Marcus cookie scam cookie. You know the one – “I asked them how much it was, and they overcharged me, so here’s the recipe, mauhauauha!… note. if anything in baking asks for 1/2 cup salt, you know the fault is totally you and your handwriting, not the recipe.

As much as I love cookbooks that have meals, and stuff, I kind of geek out at the dessert cookbooks that just dedicate themselves to cookies. (even the non vegan ones. I always wonder, how can I veganize it? I saw one called “Very Merry Christmas Cookie Party” and it was awesome. In my mind i’m just thinking flax seed for most of them, or more oil for the rest….Someone’s really gotta get on that y’all. Vegan Christmas Cookies. The Bible of Vegan Cookies. Something, I’m just shooting out ideas)

Cookies make everything better. I don’t even think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t like a cookie. And if you are one of

In the vegan world there aren’t a lot of books dedicated to just the cookie. Oh sure, some books have whole dedicated sections for just cookies, but an entire cookie book?. No.

This is where I sing praises to Kelly Peloza for taking the plunge and help inspire the market with her book. (the first was Isa & Terry’s Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar Nov. 10th 2009).

And I was very excited when ThomasAllen  (The Canadian Publishing company based in Toronto), gave me a copy of this book to review because I was interviewing Kelly!  (I may or may not have squealed happily). So here we go. My first official review of a book (without doing the whole month cookthrough, but not a quick breeze by either)… I bring to you…..

hmm…. 140 cookies….

The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur
Kelly Peloza
Published Nov. 4th 2010 by Skyhorse Publishing
Hardcover  - 288 Pages – ISBN-13 978-1616081218

This book is a miniature coffee book . Skyhorse Publishing used the same format for Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan Desserts and Vegan A La Mode books. So the minute you look at it and the the pages (without even cracking the spine) you know it is going to be rift with pictures. (a little note – did you know that the author does not control if the book has pictures or not? Or how many are used, or the format of them? That’s all publishing.).

It’s a hardcover book, which I like for baking. Don’t ask me why, I just do. Actually a little thing is I like hardcovers for all my cookbooks. They just… have this presentation to it, they tend to lie flat once you crack the spine enough, and if the signatures (sorry, Library term, – the pages), are sewn tightly enough, it lasts you for a good long time.

The fonts is a nice curly-que. (This is used for all headers, and titles). Your basic standing book font is used for the recipes.

There are Thirteen chapters in this book -

  • Introduction
  • How to be a Vegan Connoisseur (no word of a lie – that word gives me fits, I always forget the extra “s”)
  • 11 chapters on the cookie variations themselves. (Eleven chapters. of cookie variations.)
  • Decorating Ideas

Also – Kelly is really sweet. She acknowledges everyone first (I think that’s really awesome. I may or may not bypass it to get to the awesomeness of the cookie – but to have it first shows that the book isn’t possible without those who helped out. I lie, I do always read the names in the acknowledgements. I also stay until the credits are finished rolling).

 

As with all (vegan) cookbooks, we start with your what you needs, what to dos, and why we uses.  Pretty straight forward stuff, what Kelly prefers, product suggestions, frequently used things. Basically if you bake – you most likely have these things, if you don’t, you might want to head to your nearest Wal-Mart or Bed, Bath & Beyond. Also, I am jealous that Kelly has 100+ cookie cutters. I have like 3.

She also has a chocolate melting guide (for both microwave use + a faux double broil method). This was really useful, because honestly, until I read that, I had no clue how to do it. I just thought, pop it in the microwave, toss it in the pot with the water. (or rather – don’t even bother).

Also a question/answer section. (And this is key, because she does knock out a few specific questions, that pertain to the cookies in the book). For example sifted flour. I always sift. (once I figured out it makes baked good awesome). However, some recipes require that you don’t sift. She talks about flours you can/can not (or should not used).  These may seem tired and old, but I always read the Q&A portions of books.

And now. the recipes.
coookies….

Kelly has provided us: Cookies that are inspired by drinks. (So Apple Cider, Lemonade Cookies, White Russian Cookies, Pina Colada Cookie Bars)… Kelly is not afraid to go out of the box, y’all. What I’ve noticed about Kelly’s innovative cooking style, is that it might not be the cookie. It might just be your basic cookie, and it’s the glaze/icing that puts it over the top. I – will be honest. I was never a glazed/icing kind of girl on my cookie. A cookie doesn’t need frosting. (gingerbread, Oreos excluded), it doesn’t need sprinkles, it doesn’t need… stuff.

It just needs to be a cookie.

However, take it from me: if Kelly has a glaze for the cookie – the thing that takes the cookie over the top is the glaze. At least glaze a few. Do a taste test. I won’t mind.

What would be nice here, especially that she addressed the peanut butter usage question in the Q&A, is it were possible to use homemade apple butters, or peanut butters. (To be fair, this was before the big “Make your own!” boon).

Then Kelly goes nuts (Really – 21 cookies based on nuts variations…. and okay she cheats, one is not a cookie. But she has a fudge recipe!). And it’s not all just your basic peanut butter recipe. (This is where, if it were me, I’d run to the store and experiment with Peanut Butter & Co’s peanut butter collection to make these, just to give it an extra punch of flavour. And Kelly gives you tips if your peanut butter isn’t natural, what to do with the salt). She also uses different kinds of butters. Almond butter cookies, Cashew Butter Cookies (Yes, please!)

I made the Cranberry Almond Cookies from this section. (I also stupidly bought the wrong kind of almonds (sliced, not slivered), so my roommate saved the day – to which I had to give her a dozen cookies. So sad. I also made these with the variation of chocolate. (Hello. Cranberry. Almond and Chocolate? It’s like, a necessity).

Then there is the whole “Hi. I am addicted to chocolate and/or It’s that time of month, and I need chocolate before I smack someone” section. (No, Kelly just named it Blissfully Chocolate. Same difference).  My goal is to find some orange extract and make the Orange Chocolate Chunk Cookies. (also. when you read this and see “Puppy Chow Cookies” do not think what I thought, and go “a dog biscuit recipe?” No, it’s for humans. :D

There is then a small No-Bake  section (this is for the summer time!)

Then Kelly does a DIY version of Massed Produced Cookies. (So yes, Oreos – which are vegan by the way are included – but it would be better, because Oreos make me sick, and I know homemade versions will not. hah!).

Then so you can tell your doctor you do have your daily required amount of fruit (You don’t need to tell them, that it’s served up with a cookie!)- you’ve got 10 cookies based on Fruit. I made from this section Chew Pumpkin Spice Cookies. (Which is a whole another story on its own. Really, it’s an upcoming blog post). Needless to say, it rocked mine + my Omni Besties worlds.

Then we’ve got bar cookies. (You know, I’ve never really had a lot of bar cookies.. That’s going to change: Nanimo Bars are in here! <– though I’ve had a bazillion of those, I don’t count those as a cookie. Those are like heaven in your mouth). And if you were wondering if she has a brownie recipe: yes. yes she does. Caramel Hazelnut Brownie. Hmhm.

Ive now noticed I’ve used the word “then” a lot, so now we go to the Take on Tradition section (so your gingerbread cookie recipe would be here. as well as rumballs, and Mexican Wedding Cookies!).

For those who want to be healthier, there’s a cookie for that too, Seven infact! (and this is the section where you’d want to go first  - page 192 for easy reference if you want to ditch the fat – note: if you ditch the fat in cookies, you aren’t getting cookies. You are making a hand held cake. No really, it becomes cakier. Not … cookie-r. And she even tells you what cookies you can make over).

And how to make a cookie healthier with the grains you use, (how to make gluten free), how to ditch the sugar, and how to bake for vegans with allergies. (or in my case, how to bake for omnivores who happen to be your best friends with allergies).

What’s not stated (and really, since I seem to be the only one in the world – Okay not the only one, but the only one i know of, is that she doesn’t suggest how to substitute coffee. Sigh).

We end the book with the last chapter and where you’d find Kelly’s signature Hypnosis Cookies (the cookie you see on the cover).

Oh wait, I lie. :D The decorating chapters has a “Sprinkles Kit” A Buttercream Frosting and a Marzipan recipe.

The Pros:

The pros. A: an entire book on cookies. Thank you Kelly. :D
Also – the font is really clear.

The recipe breakdown is great. Often (for me), when I read the recipe, I sometimes have to go. “Wait? I have to use that? where does that go? Is that even in the recipe). There are no “out of the blue” instructions. Everything is pretty much how you expect it to be. Each recipe starts off with your first steps (preheat oven). If that’s not there – it’s basically because the cookie is going to be frozen for a bit

The recipe tells you how much cookies to expect. In both cases, I got that. (and you know me – I never get what I’m supposed to). Some end up a bit smaller than I like, But that’s fine.

The pictures are amazing. there’s is pretty much a picture for each and every single recipe. (even if it is a little in-shot). And – as a bonus when you take your cookies out of the oven, it kinda looks the same.

A Lot of these are one bowl babies. One bowl, a few instruments, your baking tray. If you are a dorm room kid, this is great, just crank up your convection toaster oven and away you go. (She has a section about that (a little insert how to do it), no one can ever be without cookies.

The Cons

What I don’t like about the book is that  - if it’s a stepped process, that

A: the ingredients aren’t clearly marked. Specifically, it’s not bolded, or separated by a space. So they all just run together, so read carefully).

B: Some recipes run into the next page. Biggest pet peeve ever. (Well, not the biggest, but I like my recipes on one page). This is minute though, most of the recipes are on one page, and if they do spill over it’s on the next (and I guess to get more recipes in so you really can’t complain about that)

C: Unlike my Isa/Terry cookie doughs which always end up how they are told they are supposed to look – my Kelly doughs are often dry.(ish),  Which results in when my cookies are done, a bit cracky on top. This – minute. It doesn’t bug me perse, but if I were to give them out as gifts, it could ruin a bit of the presentation. This – could be me. (No this is me. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’ll work it out).

Final Thoughts

This is a great book – my cookie love aside. I love reading my cookies like a novel, reading the little blurbs and insights on what motivated the cookie to begin with. The recipes are innovative. It’s not just standards you know & love, but Kelly is one of those ladies that pushes your baking comfort zone and you thank her for that because then you get people who love you because you made them amazing, and intriguing mouth fulls of yums.

This is is a book that I’d use any time of the year (a lot of them are great for Christmas times, potlucks and birthdays), but a lot of my Christmas baking is going to come from this one here book.

So would I Fry, Buy or Try this book?

Regardless of your kitchen acumen, I would say that the instructions, directions and methods are clear enough that anyone could try any recipe without any sort of failure. (unless you forget to set your kitchen timer, and gab on the phone with all your friends – and forget you are making cookies. Or, you pull a Liv and had 1/2 c of salt instead of 1/2 tsp.). So with all of that in mind, I give this a solid rating of Buy.

 

While the Canadian  publishing rights holder Thomas Allen graciously gave me this book to review, a positive review was not required in trade, so do not worry, if the book had sucked, I would have told you. (Seriously –  all thoughts were my own). 

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