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
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
Harvard Common Press
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.
I 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.
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).
Harvard Common Press
New Edition Copyright, 2003
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.
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.