What do you reach for when you want a vegan cookbook that’s different but still easy to follow?
Nom Yourself: Simple Vegan Cooking by Mary Mattern is the latest offering that fits the bill. A collection of recipes from the mind behind the popular NomYourself.com website and Instagram feed, this compact cookbook includes a collection of recipes that range from veganized comfort food to unusual new offerings that keep daily meals interesting without requiring a lot of special ingredients.
When Avery Books offered to send me a copy of Nom Yourself to look at (and, of course, cook from), I accepted. I must admit that I wasn’t familiar with Mattern’s blog or recipes at the time, but looking through the book gave me a good overview. It starts out simply with categories that are included in pretty much every cookbook ever: breakfast, soup, pasta, entrees…that sort of thing.
It’s the recipes in each category that make Nom Yourself different. Accompanied by full-color photos on most pages, Mattern’s dishes include gems like a sweet potato waffle sandwich with tempeh bacon and vegan Hollandaise sauce, coconut mushroom gravy, drunken potatoes and buffalo cauliflower kale salad. There are also some standard recipes like apple pie, dinner rolls and Southwestern tofu scramble. I was happy to discover a section full of “staples” because these simple ingredients are absent from so many vegan cookbooks. And true to the form of the rest of the book, Mattern includes some unique ideas like coconut “sour cream.”
Out of all of this, the recipe for Chipotle BBQ Quinoa Chili made its way to my table first. I’ve been a fan of quinoa chili since the first time I had it and will try pretty much anything with “chipotle” in the title. Although the recipe has a boatload of ingredients, I wasn’t deterred — in fact, it made me want to try the chili even more since the combination included sweet potatoes, two types of beans, zucchini and fresh tomatoes instead of canned.
Interestingly enough, chipotle chiles and BBQ sauce are entirely absent from the litany of tasty components. Instead, there’s some smoked paprika and a bunch of other interesting seasonings like liquid smoke and — wait for it — coffee! I’ve had chocolate in chili before, but never coffee. It turns out that I was really missing something because, in my opinion, the coffee is what brings the dish together. With a dash of Siracha for extra spice (because I didn’t have chili sauce), it was a truly unique experience.
I also like how Mattern includes fresh grated carrot on top of the finished dish. She also suggests chopped sage. I couldn’t imagine that together with the other flavors, so I used vegan yogurt and some pumpkin seeds instead. It’s not a particularly thick chili and could benefit from the addition of some crushed tomatoes or tomato paste to round out the sauce. It is, however, incredibly hearty thanks to the laundry list of amazing vegetables it contains.
I added some extra beans and potatoes, and as a result the chili took longer than 20 minutes to cook. On the one hand, that kind of thing drives me crazy because I’m so schedule-oriented, but on the other, it probably gave the flavors more time to mingle. A worthy trade-off, I’d say!
I also tried whipping up a batch of the cream cheese from the dips and spreads section, but I found it to be on the bland side. (I’m used to making the cultured stuff from Artisan Vegan Cheese.) The cider vinegar and lemon juice in Mattern’s recipe doesn’t do enough to make the cashews taste truly “cheesy.” The end result does, however, make a decent sour cream substitute or a stand-in for mayo if you thin it out. It’s especially good if you mix it with hot sauce or pair it with hot pepper jelly!
One thing that I haven’t had a chance to try yet–but really want to–is the recipe for Cauliflower Ricotta Stuffed Shells. I love innovative approaches to vegan cheese substitutes, and stuffed shells speak to the part of me that remembers being little and scarfing down my mom’s delicious baked pasta concoctions. If you’d like to give this particular vegan comfort food a shot, I’ve included the recipe below. It is, after all, prime time for cauliflower, so go for it! And let me know how it turns out.
There are a few other recipes sprinkled throughout Nom Yourself that I still want to make, and I applaud Mattern for adding her personal approach to the vegan food landscape. It may not be as unique of a book as I was expecting, but it does hold promise if you’re looking for something a bit different, like a waffle sandwich with sweet potatoes…mmm, sweet potatoes…
Cauliflower Ricotta Stuffed Shells
Reprinted from Nom Yourself by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2015, Mary Mattern
Cauliflower has to be one of the most versatile vegetables out there. You can fry it, blend it, bake it, sauté it, boil it (if you want your whole house to smell like cauliflower), and I’m sure there are some preparations I’m leaving out. Cauliflower also makes one hell of a ricotta-like filling for baked stuffed pasta shells. If you’re not a huge stuffed-shells fan, just replace this pasta with some ziti and make some baked ziti instead. Remember, this is your kitchen. I’m just living on the shelf in it.
Makes about 20 medium shells
1 large head of cauliflower, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup nutritional yeast
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 pinches of sea salt
1 (12-ounce) jar tomato sauce, or 1½ cups homemade tomato sauce
1 (12-ounce) package jumbo shells, cooked to al dente and drained (QV Note: I recommend whole wheat or another whole-grain pasta such as brown rice!)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In the bowl of a blender, blend the cauliflower, olive oil, nutritional yeast, almond milk, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, and sea salt. Don’t overblend. You want to eliminate big chunks of cauliflower, but you still want a coarse consistency.
3. Spread the tomato sauce on the bottom of an 8 x 8-inch glass baking dish.
4. Stuff the shells with the cauliflower mixture, arrange them in the baking dish, and pour the remaining sauce on top of the shells.
5. Bake for 15 minutes.
Add some fresh basil and vegan Parmesan cheese on top if you have it! If you don’t have shells, you can also use manicotti, or use the cauliflower ricotta for lasagna.