Review: Vegan Recipes in 8 Ingredients or Less — Say Hello to The Vegan 8 Cookbook!

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There are so many plant-based and vegan cookbooks coming out now! It’s exciting, because it means more people are taking an interest in the benefits and possibilities of this way of eating, but it can also be overwhelming. I stopped trying to keep up a long time ago, and I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones that I’ll need to hunt down. But when I heard Brandi Doming of The Vegan 8 was coming out with her own book, I know that was one I had to get my hands on.

The publisher was kind enough to send me a copy to review, which was perhaps not necessarily a good thing for my bookshelves, where books are already sitting two deep in places, but it was certainly a good thing for my kitchen. I’m in a life stage right now where my budget is limited, my schedule is crazy and, as much as I love seeking out new ingredients, it’s generally easier to cook with whatever I already have on hand.

Sound familiar? Then The Vegan 8 is for you.

Vegan Cooking for Everyonevegan 8 cookbook review cover

Brandi Doming started The Vegan 8 in 2013 after being fully vegan for about a year. The transition from an upbringing steeped in traditional Texas fare was sparked by her husband’s struggle with gout — and the change was dramatic. Already a fan of creating recipes, Brandi stepped into the role of vegan blogger and inadvertently created one of the most popular vegan recipe repositories on the web.

The Vegan 8 was written with the same premise as the blog: easy, delicious recipes using eight ingredients or less (salt, pepper and water excluded). We all have time for eight ingredients, right? With recipes that short and to the point, anyone can have dinner on the table in the same amount of time as calling for takeout, waiting for it to be ready and going to pick it up if it can’t be delivered. And the end result is, of course, much healthier.

With 100 recipes (10 from the blog and 90 brand new) for meals, snacks, desserts, sides, appetizers, dips, sauces and more, this cookbook can easily become a dog-eared favorite smeared with the delicious fruits of your labor. Because you know it’s absolutely necessary to christen a cookbook by spilling something on it while you’re cooking. Or is that just me? Anyway…

Straightforward, Simple and Tasty

Since every recipe has only 8 ingredients, it’s pretty easy to find everything you need to make Doming’s tasty creations. The book begins with a typical “here’s what’s in my vegan kitchen” list, which functions as a quick way to check how much you already have and what you might need to buy. There are only a few ingredients I wouldn’t consider typical or everyday, but nothing you have to go out of your way to find.

Two items I don’t keep in my kitchen but that make repeated appearances are cashew butter (and raw cashews) and lite coconut milk. Both function to add creaminess to the recipes, so they’re worth investing in. If the thought of buying prepared cashew butter makes your bank account scream, you can hunt down low-priced cashews in bulk and make your own using the recipe in the “Staples” section near the back of the book. (Also included there are incredibly easy DIY versions of things like pizza/pasta sauce, barbecue sauce and spice blends!)

By using a collection of recognizable ingredients, Doming has created a book with appeal for plant-based foodies, beginners and their non-vegan friends and family. It has just about everything you’d expect in a vegan cookbook, including:

  • Pancakes (even chocolate ones!)
  • Muffins
  • Baked oatmeal
  • Loaded potato skins
  • Breakfast hash
  • Energy balls
  • Granola
  • Alfredo
  • Beanballs
  • Bowls

Sprinkled in here and there are unique and inventive offerings, including a recipe for vegan caramel (Stop drooling in your keyboard! I see you!), “leveled-up” versions of staples like pasta with red sauce and new spins on favorite party dips. If you’re into dessert but not so into gluten, most of Doming’s desserts either are gluten free or have gluten-free options.

Usually when I write reviews, this is the place where I talk about the recipes that really stood out to me and that I’d like to make ASAP. One problem (totally in favor of this book): There are so many amazing ones, I can’t pick just a few. Simply flipping through the book makes my brain start to spin with happy anticipation, especially with the holiday baking season coming.

This is also the place where I post pictures of what I’ve already tried. And I have to be honest, I can’t. I blame my taste buds. I did put together the quick and absolutely fabulous “honey” mustard from the sauce section, but it was so good I didn’t get a picture before eating the majority of it as a dressing for my daily salad. That in and of itself should be an indication of how amazing this book is.

Here’s Why Your Stomach (and the Rest of You) Should Love the Vegan 8 Cookbook

With its simple premise, beautiful pictures, accessible ingredient lists and unique recipes sure to please both vegans and omnis, it’s hard to come up with a reason not to like The Vegan 8. But for those of you who prefer lists for comparison, here are my favorite things about the book:

  • The chapter breakdowns. Doming divides the book into chapters dedicated to meals and types of dishes yet manages to avoid falling into a predictable pattern of recipes. The result is a creative, refreshing presentation with a lot of surprises.
  • Distinctive recipes. No tofu scramble here! And the 8-ingredient blueprint gives other common dishes, like mac and “cheese,”  a makeover to be more approachable.
  • Oil-free. Most, if not all, of the recipes use plant-based fats from sources other than extracted oils without sacrificing rich or creamy textures.
  • The “Staples” chapter. I’m a sucker for a good sauce and am always a bit annoyed when I want to whip something up only to find the recipe just for the sauce is going to take all day. I’m also wary of pre-prepared sauces because they usually have sugar, oil or too much salt. Eight ingredients to the rescue!
  • The desserts. I’m not much of a dessert person. (Ask me about the Christmas cookies still in my freezer from last year.) But I’m always on the lookout for something delicious to make and bring to the monthly potluck at my church. I have a feeling I’ll be cooking a lot from this chapter in the coming months!

My verdict on The Vegan 8 is it’s a refreshing contribution to the growing library of vegan cookbooks available. If you’ve been looking for a book to help you get started with simple vegan meals or a collection of recipes you can make any time even if your schedule is absolutely insane, go grab yourself a copy.

In case you need more convincing, here’s one of those amazing dessert recipes, which I should probably run off and make before I eat my laptop in anticipation…

Follow Brandi Doming on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for more! (Warning: Her IG account is dangerous…in a delicious, delicious way…)


Chocolate–Peanut Butter Candy Bites

By Brandi Doming, from The Vegan 8

Photographer: Jennifer Causey, Prop Stylist: Christine Keely, Food Stylist: Anna Hampton

My favorite candy bar growing up was Butterfinger. I swear, I could eat those back to back. These bites have the same flavors of the classic candy bar but are so much better. Instead of the outside being the chocolate coating with the crunchy sweet interior, I reversed them and also made them into bites. Man, they are delicious and a favorite among my taste testers! If you can’t find salted peanuts, then add a pinch of salt.

Prep: 20 minutes

chill: 20 minutes

Yields: 8 balls

  • 1⁄2 cup (128g) smooth peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons (18g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons (60g) pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) vanilla extract
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon (2g) fine salt
  • 1⁄2 cup (80g) roasted, salted peanuts
  • 1⁄4 cup (40g) coconut sugar
  • 3.5 ounces (100g) 70 to 72% dark chocolate chips or bar, finely chopped
  1. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Add the peanut butter, cocoa powder, maple syrup, vanilla, and sea salt to a bowl, and stir until it comes together into a thick batter and is completely smooth. Roll about a heaping tablespoon of the dough into small balls, creating 8 balls total. Place the balls on the prepared pan.
  3. To prepare the coating, add the roasted peanuts and coconut sugar to a food processor, and process until the mixture is in very small pieces but not as superfine as a flour consistency. Add this mixture to a wide, shallow bowl. Set aside.
  4. Add the chopped chocolate to another small microwave-safe bowl. Melt in the microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds or in a double boiler. If microwaving, stir, and then heat in 10- to 15-second intervals until the chocolate is almost all melted. Be careful not to let it burn. Stir the chocolate until it is completely melted and smooth.
  5. Place 1 ball into the melted chocolate and use a fork to rotate and coat it completely. Tap the fork gently on the side of the bowl, letting the excess chocolate drip off. Immediately place the ball into the peanut coating mixture and rotate it multiple times with the fork until coated well. Place the ball back on the pan and repeat with the remaining balls.
  6. Place the pan in the fridge to set for about 20 minutes. Store the balls in the fridge to retain their shape. They can be set out at room temperature after they’re fully set for parties, but they will become softer and less crispy as time passes

Nutrition per ball: 260 calories | 23.2g fat | 8.7g fat | 26.3g carbs | 4g fiber | 19g sugar | 209mg sodium

Tip

Be sure to use a peanut butter without added oil or sugar. To make these nut free, sub the peanut butter with sunflower seed butter, if you don’t mind having that as a strong taste in these bites. With this sub, the batter may be a tad more wet and may need to chill in the fridge for 15 minutes before adding the chocolate.

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Review & Recipe: The Complete Guide to Even More Vegan Food Substitutions

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Ever wish you had a way to magically veganize any recipe? Somewhere to turn when you find that perfect dinner dish and all your hopes come crashing down when you scroll through the ingredient list only to discover meat or dairy hiding at the end?

Joni Marie Newman and Celine Steen have you covered with The Complete Guide to Even More Vegan Food Substitutions.

complete substitution guide cover

Image courtesy of Quarto Publishing Group USA

I’ll admit that I never paid much attention to the original Complete Guide book simply because I thought I didn’t need it. A bit arrogant of me, perhaps, thinking that I already knew everything I needed to know about making standard recipes vegan, because once you’ve seen one cheese sauce recipe, you’ve seen them all, right?

Oh, how wrong I was. The minute I got my hands on a review copy of this book, I realized that there was so much more to vegan substitutions than I ever could have imagined. The contents are divided into four sections:

  • Dairy (milk and cheese)
  • Eggs (for savory dishes and baking)
  • Protein (chicken and beef, seafood, bacon and non-meaty meat “replacements”)
  • Kitchen Success (comprehensive substitution charts)

Throughout the book, Newman and Steen include notations to show which recipes are gluten-free, nut-free and soy-free. You’ll also find no-added-sugar recipes, oil-free options and “quick and easy” recipes that come together in a flash. This lets you tell at a glance if a recipe fits your dietary needs and whether or not you can whip it up when your mother-in-law spontaneously announces she’s coming over for dinner.

Before delving into the recipes, you can look over a glossary of some of the possibly unfamiliar ingredients that are used. Most are pretty recognizable, but some others, such as black salt, may be new to you. (I haven’t had the pleasure of trying that one yet!) When you’re ready to head to a specific section, you’ll find a chart of substitutions specific to that part of the book along with an example recipe shown in its original and veganized formats. It really couldn’t be any simpler than that.

Just what kinds of recipes are there, you ask? A better question would be what isn’t there? Of course, there are recipes for the substitutions themselves, such as vegan butter, yogurt and cheese slices, but there are also recipes that use these substitutions. Here’s just a small sampling to give you an idea:

  • Mexican Cobb Salad (complete with tofu “egg whites” and “yolks”)
  • “Fish” Tacos
  • Strawberry Clafoutis
  • Linguine in Tomato Garlic Cream Sauce
  • Breakfast Rice with Plums
  • Summery Spelt Salad
  • Bahn Mi Scramble

As you can see, Newman and Steen cover the whole spectrum from salads to desserts with main dishes for every meal in between. They even include an entire subsection full of meat replacements that don’t try to imitate meat; rather, these recipes can stand in for meat when you’re looking for a protein option without a meaty flavor. By the time you hit the substitution charts at the end, you’ll be armed with an arsenal of vegan recipes for just about any substitution you could want, plus a bunch of brand-new dishes to try. The charts provide both homemade and store-bought suggestions for replacing non-vegan ingredients with page references to recipes within the book.

This is more than a guide; it’s practically an encyclopedia. With this as part of your kitchen arsenal, you’ll be armed and ready to veganize literally any recipe that comes your way, even those crazy bacon concoctions that keep popping up. (Link contains pictures of actual bacon, but all the recipes can be made vegan!) Because yes, there’s even a recipe for Seitan Slab O’ Bacon.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “This all sounds great, but I can just go out and buy vegan yogurt/cheese/chicken/seafood/bacon…” Sure you can, but how many of these products contain the same kinds of highly processed ingredients that are making so many people on the standard American diet sick? The second goal that Newman and Steen have with this book is to provide recipes that use as many natural, whole-food ingredients as possible and avoid the junk that, while tasty and convenient, can undermine the health benefits of a vegan diet.

So go ahead, make that sausage and cheese breakfast sandwich you’ve been thinking about. Dip your veggies in ranch dressing. Serve your omni guests tuna sandwiches or spaghetti with “meatballs.” It’s all been veganized, and it’s right at your fingertips in The Complete Guide to Even More Vegan Food Substitutions. If I had three thumbs like Zaphod Beeblebrox, I’d be putting them all up for this book!

Thanks to the folks at Quarto Publishing Group for letting me have a look at the book and for passing along a great recipe for me to share with you. True to form for me, the recipe that really smacked me between the eyes was perhaps the least quick and easy of them all. I haven’t had a chance to make it yet, but I can practically hear it calling to me every time I pick up the book. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Dinner Plate Bowl. Chock full of goodness, it has everything you could want in a meal from the bed of kale on the bottom to the “special sauce” drizzled over the top. The best part? You can make a bunch when you have time and pop one in your lunch bag to enjoy a hearty plant-based meal at work any time during the week.

Trust me, your colleagues will be jealous. Even the guy who makes fun of you for eating so much kale.


Dinner Plate Bowl

* No Added Sugar * Nut-Free

There is something about putting your whole meal into a bowl that just makes it, well, taste better. And this one is no exception. We call it the Dinner Plate Bowl because inside is all the components of a traditional dinner plate. We like to make all of the components ahead of time, and assemble the bowl and reheat as needed for a quick-and-easy lunch or dinner. In fact, Joni has been known to make huge batches of these ingredients just for the purpose of “bowling” all week long.

For the potatoes:Potatoes (4799817714)

  • 2 pounds (908 g) baby red potatoes, halved
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (9 g) minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 tablespoon (2 g) fresh
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the balsamic onions:

  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) neutral-flavored oil
  • 1 large red onion, cut into thin rings
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the special sauce:

  • 1 cup (225 g) vegan mayonnaise, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (17 g) ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill, or 11/2 teaspoons fresh
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the tofu:

  • 1 block (10 ounces, or 284 g) extra or super firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 1 tablespoon (8 g) nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspooon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) neutral-flavored oil
  • Salt, to taste

For the bowl:

  • 1 bunch (about 10 ounces, or 284 g) Dino Lacinto kale, julienne cut
  • 4 cups (632 g) cooked white or (780 g) brown jasmine rice, warm
  • 1 cup (134 g) green peas, heated (fresh, frozen, or canned is fine)
  • 2 stalks scallion, small chop on the bias

Red_onion_rings_closeup by Sebastian Wallroth (Public Domain)To make the potatoes: Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C, or gas mark 6). In a medium bowl, toss the halved potatoes with oil, garlic, and rosemary to coat. Arrange in a single layer on baking sheet, and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until tender and edges are browned. When done, remove from oven, and add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until ready to serve. (QV Note: You can roast potatoes without oil if you prefer–simply use parchment paper or a silicon mat on the baking sheet!)

To prepare the balsamic onions: Heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft. About 5 minutes, tossing regularly. Add the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and continue to cook down until onions are very soft and caramelized, 7 to 10 minutes.

To make the special sauce: Whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Set aside, or refrigerate until ready to serve.

kale by Ayla87

FreeImages/Ayla87

To make the tofu: Add all the ingredients, except oil and salt, to a small bowl and toss to coat. Preheat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu mixture and saute for about 5 minutes or until golden brown. Add salt to taste.

To assemble the bowl: Layer the ingredients in the following order: Kale on bottom, rice over the kale, potatoes over the rice, tofu over the potatoes, peas over the tofu, balsamic onions all over the top, drizzle liberally with sauce, then garnish with chopped scallion. Serve immediately, or package for easy-to-reheat lunches and dinners throughout the week.

Yield: 4 bowls

 

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Review: Plant-Powered Families by Dreena Burton (plus a CRAZY dessert recipe)

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New cookbook makes plant-based eating fun for the whole family

Busy mornings, picky eaters, concerns about nutrient intake–parents deal with it all when it comes to their kids’ diets and lifestyles. So what’s a frazzled Mom or Dad to do? Dreena Burton’s new book, Plant-Powered Families, has the answers!

Plant-Powered Families Front Cover from BenBella Books

Image courtesy of BenBella Books

This fun, vibrant cookbook features five family-friendly categories, each labeled in its own color:

  • Healthy Mornings (dark blue)
  • Lunch Fixes (red)
  • Salad Dressings, Sauces and Toppers (green)
  • Dinnertime (purple)
  • Sweet Treats (bright blue)

This makes it easy to flip through and find a section when you know the sort of recipe you want to make but aren’t quite sure which one to go for. And believe me, with this book it’s hard to choose! Dreena Burton serves up a delicious selection of recipes including Almond Zen Granola, Potato-Meets-Egg Salad, Green Superhero Dressing, Sneaky Chickpea Burgers and Crazy Brownies (which you can try out for yourself with the recipe below).

That’s just a small taste of what you’ll find in Plant-Powered Families. The book goes beyond recipes with tips for parents who want to feed their kids a healthy plant-based diet and stay on track even when life gets a little crazy. Burton starts with a chapter of basics including suggestions for stocking a plant-based pantry, cooking hints and suggestions for ingredients that can be prepared in advance. She includes helpful icons throughout the book to denote recipes that can be made in large batches and others that make use of pre-prepped ingredients.

Another emphasis in Plant-Powered Families is making plant-based eating fun for kids. Burton emphasizes the importance of getting children involved with food choices and meal prep and goes on to provide solutions for introducing new foods to picky eaters. A section on preparing packed lunches for school, both cold and hot, gives parents a way to provide nutritious midday meals that appeal to kids at any age. There’s even a bit on how to host plant-based kids’ parties and how to handle the food situation when kids get invited to gatherings where treats will be served.

The book concludes with a “DIY Staples” section, which I must admit I absolutely love. The more plant-based my own diet becomes, the more I appreciate cookbooks that offer recipes for ingredients whose packaged forms include excessive additives. This section also has charts with bean and grain cooking times to make meal prep that much easier.

At first, I was a little put off by the long ingredient lists in some of the recipes and what seemed to me to be a small selection of dishes in each of the sections. Having flipped through the book more, though, I’m convinced that Plant-Powered Families is the perfect addition to any plant-based parent’s library. The simplicity of most of the recipes makes them easy for kids to follow while helping Mom and Dad in the kitchen. Even the Smoky Bean Chili, which I made a variation on, is easy despite appearing to require a lot of prep work.

Best of all? Every recipe in the book uses whole-food ingredients. That means no packaged products, no oil and no refined anything. Nut, seed and coconut butters provide fat in baked goods, and coconut sugar and maple syrup are the sweeteners of choice. That means parents can feel good about feeding their kids anything from the book–even the desserts–and know that they’re promoting a healthy lifestyle for their family. And with unique twists on standards like granola, mac & cheese, burgers and meatballs, there’s always something new for kids to try.

The book concludes with a selection of sample meal plans complete with nutritional breakdowns to get families started on their plant-based adventures, and Burton doesn’t neglect to include the all-important information about where kids (and their parents!) get essential nutrients on a plant-based diet. The information may seem a bit obvious to those who have been eating plant-based for years, but for a Mom or a Dad who’s just starting out with a vegan diet for the family, it’s essential and gives them guidance as to what their kids should be eating to live vibrant, healthy lives.

Plant-Powered Families is more than a cookbook; it’s a resource for any family that decides it’s time to move away from animal products and embrace a fully plant-based life. Kudos to Dreena Burton for making that life more accessible to parents and their kids.

BenBella Books has graciously provided the recipe for one of the most unique treats in the book–Crazy Brownies! Check it out below and enjoy a fudgy treat that’s not-so-secretly good for you.

What are your favorite strategies to cook plant-based for kids?


 Crazy Brownies

Makes 16 brownies

crazy brownies with chocolate ganache benbella

Image courtesy of BenBella Books

These brownies are incredible! They are fudgy and dense and sweet. Make them and see whether your family can even GUESS what’s in them!
(QV note: I think I’ll bring them to the next church potluck and watch everyone devour them in blissful ignorance!)

 

  • 1/2 cup kidney beans
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup peeled, precooked, and cooled yellow or red potato (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons tahini or nut butter (see note and nut-free option)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut butter (see note)
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons nondairy milk
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or 11/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons nondairy chocolate chips (mini are nice)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ × 8″ brownie pan with parchment paper.

Using a small or mini food processor, puree the beans, dates, potato, tahini, and coconut butter until smooth, and then add the maple syrup and milk and puree again.

Add the cocoa powder, sugar, arrowroot, vanilla bean powder, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt to the processor and puree until combined. (If your processor is too small, transfer the date mixture to a bowl, and use a spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients.) Stir in the chocolate chips.

Transfer the mixture to the brownie pan, and spread evenly with a spatula. Bake for 22–24 minutes (brownies will firm with cooling and are more fudgy with less baking, so don’t overbake).

Remove, let cool completely, frost if desired, and cut into squares.

Potato Note: Potatoes add moisture and density when combined with the beans. If you don’t have cooked potato, substitute 1/4 cup of potato starch and increase the milk to 5 tablespoons.

Nut-Free Option/Tahini Note: I use a good-quality tahini, with a mellow, buttery flavor and smooth texture. If you don’t have nut allergies, try substituting macadamia or almond butter. Another 1 tablespoon of nondairy milk may be needed if the nut butter is quite thick/dense.

Coconut Butter Note: If you don’t have coconut butter, you can substitute another 11/2 tablespoons of a nut butter like macadamia, almond, or cashew butter—or more tahini.

Frosting Note: Chocolate Ganache, page 211, is wickedly good on these brownies! (QV note: The ganache is made with coconut butter for true decadence!)

Reprinted with permission from BenBella Books. (c) Dreena Burton.

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Review & Recipe: Mastering the Art of Vegan Cooking by Annie and Dan Shannon

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When a book with a title like Mastering the Art of Vegan Cooking comes out, how can you say no when someone offers you a copy for review?

mastering the art of vegan cooking cover

Image courtesy of Grand Central

Written by Annie and Dan Shannon, Mastering the Art of Vegan Cooking is a gorgeous hardcover book with rich, full color photos inserted among the recipes. The pages are laid out in a classic style that brings to mind old-fashioned cookbooks–which is no surprise considering that the Shannons are also the brains behind the unique Betty Crocker makeover tome, Betty Goes Vegan (and, of course, the popular Meet the Shannons blog).

What did surprise me was that the book starts out not with an introduction to fancy vegan cookery but a very honest look into the Shannons’ lives. The general gist of it is that they found themselves in a situation that necessitated re-adjusting the way they approached cooking and eating in order to make delicious, quality vegan food possible despite suddenly being on a tight budget.

I found this very apt since I just moved into my first apartment and am finding that frugality is something I’m going to have to get used to. For a lot of years, God has blessed me with the financial ability to buy pretty much whatever food I want, when I want it. Expensive specialty finds haven’t been off-limits in a long time, but now that my expenses have changed, I’m also going to have to start looking at my food budget in a new light.

With this and similar scenarios in mind, Mastering the Art of Vegan Cooking starts off with tips on stocking your pantry and your kitchen without emptying your bank account and continues to focus on saving money and reducing waste throughout the book. Recipes include boxes that reference other dishes that can be made with leftover ingredients. For example, if you buy a whole bottle of vegan Worcestershire sauce to make Roasted Red Flannel Hash, the Shannons direct you to Sloppy Joel Pie, Yankee Pot Roast Dinner and four other recipes in the book that also make use of it. Every recipe has a “per serving” cost as well, so if you’re looking for a 9 cent muffin, this book has you covered.

Unfortunately, I had a hard time finding anything among these helpfully frugal recipes that I wanted to make. Although the dishes are both inventive (like Apple-Sage Tempeh Sausage over Savory Polenta) and accessible (hello, PB&J Granola Bars!), many of them rely on packaged vegan meats and baking mixes that I no longer use in my kitchen and am not comfortable with eating. I’ve become very used to whole-food, plant-based cookbooks that include recipes for staples such as seitan, cheese sauce and biscuits/wraps/breads. I suppose you could say that makes me a bit of a food snob, which goes against the spirit of the book, but I’m not personally comfortable going back to foods that I’ve chosen to stop eating.

That said, the inclusion of these ingredients does make it easier and more efficient to whip up what might otherwise be an all-day recipe in under an hour. Even the “fancy” recipes in the Special Occasions section don’t include anything that’s too hard to find outside of a well-stocked grocery store. But you probably will have to visit the store before you get started with this book–which is where the pantry stocking suggestions come in handy.

After flipping through the book a few times, I finally settled on the Hungarian Goulash Stew from the No More Leftovers! section. It’s a neat chapter–every recipe is followed by one or more “leftover recipes” that take the remainder of the original dish and turn it into something completely different with just a few additional ingredients and steps. That way, you don’t have to eat the same thing more than once if you don’t want to, and nothing goes to waste.

hungarian goulash pot
I used homemade baked seitan in lieu of packaged vegan beef and substituted regular paprika for some of the astonishing 1/4 cup of smoked paprika called for in the recipe. Other than that, I followed the instructions but was a little frustrated to discover that no concrete cooking times were given. I’ll admit to being a bit OCD about things like that–I like to know beforehand how long something is going to take so that I can have dinner on the table at a specific time.

The vegetables (which include classic stew ingredients like potatoes and carrots) seemed to take a rather long time to cook, but on the flipside that did give me time to whip up some oat flour biscuits. I’m a fan of stew with dumplings, so I wanted something bready to go along with it. I probably should have written down what went into the biscuits because I basically improvised them by cobbling together various recipes from around the Internet. All I remember is that they were a pretty basic drop biscuit, except with oat flour instead of wheat.

hungarian goulash served
The stew has a robust flavor and a fairly classic texture, both of which are very much like goulash. I enjoyed eating it more than I did making it–again, because I’m so hugely OCD about things timing out properly! I’ve since found a few other recipes that I want to try, but this cookbook hasn’t sprouted bookmarks the way some others did when I got them.

I admire the Shannon’s focus on providing healthy, easy, budget-friendly recipes and practical kitchen tips, and I think this book would be quite good for anyone who wants to enjoy classic cuisine without spending a gazillion dollars on groceries or half their lives in the kitchen. (Come to think of it, it’s sort of the budget version of Veganomicon–fancy enough, but not overly complicated.) Mastering the Art of Vegan Cooking accomplishes the goal of showing that you can eat really well without a lot of money or hassle, but I don’t feel that it delivers on the promise of its title.

You might feel differently, so go ahead and give this unique burger recipe a try. It hails from the Dinner section of the book and features a rather unusual combination of ingredients. One thing that can be said about this book–you certainly won’t get bored with all of the innovative recipes that the Shannons have put together!
How do you feel about using meat substitutes and other vegan convenience foods?


Simple Korean Kimchi BBQ Burgers

MAKES 4 BURGERS

$2.68 PER SERVING

Years ago, I had a vegan Korean BBQ burrito in Los Angeles. The burrito had jackfruit to replace the steak, and I still think about it when I’m figuring out what to have for lunch. Jackfruit is pretty pricey and hard to come by in Brooklyn, but whenever I get nostalgic for that burrito, I make these spectacular burgers. They combine the signature sweet Korean BBQ sauce with a “beefy” veggie burger and spicy kimchi (a sort of hot Korean sauerkraut usually made with napa cabbage, radishes, and green onions) to create a dinner just as good as those burritos. Plus, you’ll hopefully have some leftover kimchi as a side for lunch the next day.

korean kimchi burger annie shannon

Image (c) Annie Shannon

Ingredients:

Burger

  • 2 cups Lightlife Gimme Lean Burger or Match Vegan Meats Burger (QV note: Upton’s Naturals ground seitan would probably also work!)
  • 1 green onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
  • ½ teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • Dash of vegan liquid smoke
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

BBQ Sauce

  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • Dash of vegan liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha or Thai chili sauce
  • ¼ cup applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

To Assemble:

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil (QV note: omit for an oil-free version)
  • 4 whole wheat hamburger buns
  • 1 cup vegan kimchi (read labels to make sure yours is vegan; some contain fish sauce)

Method:

  1. Make the burger: In a large bowl, use your hands to mix together the vegan beef, green onion, molasses, ginger paste, soy sauce, vegan liquid smoke, onion powder, and garlic until blended. The molasses is really sticky, so this is kind of messy and weird, but it’s totally worth it. Promise.
  2. Form the mixture into 4 patties about the size of your hand. Place them on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the BBQ sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together all the BBQ sauce ingredients. Set aside.
  4. In a cast-iron skillet or frying pan, heat
  5. 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the burgers until lightly crispy around the edges, then reduce the heat to low and brush the burgers with
  6. BBQ sauce. Flip and coat the burgers a few times to get a nice saucy patty, but watch out for the hot oil. Repeat with the remaining burgers, adding the remaining oil after the first batch.
  7. Toast the burger buns while the burger patties are cooking.
  8. Serve each burger in a toasted bun with lots of kimchi on top.

Excerpted from the book MASTERING THE ART OF VEGAN COOKING by Annie and Dan Shannon. © 2015 by Annie and Dan Shannon. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Life and Style. All rights reserved.

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Review & Giveaway{Closed}: The PlantPure Nation Cookbook — and a Recipe!

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I can’t help but get excited every time a new plant-based cookbook comes out. It doesn’t matter how many I already have and that I really, really don’t need any more–I get excited anyway. Such was the case when I spotted The PlantPure Nation Cookbook on the shelves at Barnes & Noble recently. Two seconds later, it was in my hands and I was drooling over the full-color photos on its glossy pages. It was one of those cookbooks that I could have rushed home with and started cooking my way through right away, but alas I couldn’t buy it that day. Imagine my pleasant surprise when BenBella Books offered to send me a copy to review!

I’d heard some buzz about the PlantPure Nation film while at Vegetarian Summerfest last year, but didn’t know much about it until recently. According to the website, “PlantPure Nation will help to launch a strategy that engages millions of people everywhere to bring the message of plant-based nutrition to family, friends and neighbors.” The film is directed by Nelson Campbell, son of T. Colin Campbell, and ” tells the story of three people on a quest to spread the message of one of the most important health breakthroughs of all time.” It shows the difficulties involved in getting legislature to take notice of the benefits of plant-based eating and also chronicles the changes experienced by several people who adopt plant-based diets for health.

The PlantPure Nation Cookbook is the official companion cookbook to the film and features whole food, plant-based, oil-free recipes by Nelson Campbell’s wife, Kim Campbell. It’s a beautiful book that includes recipes for all major meals along with tasty snacks, salads, sides and of course a dessert section! Recipes for sauces and spice blends are included as well so you can “DIY” instead of buying if you want to.

As with just about every cookbook I ever get, this one immediately sprouted a forest of little paper bookmarks denoting recipes that I just had to make. I started with the No Knead Whole Wheat Bread.

no knead whole wheat bread plantpure nation

It’s an incredibly simple recipe that turns out a loaf of sweet, soft bread without the need for, well, kneading! Mine fell a bit after rising, probably because the cover I had on it got a bit stuck, so I’d forgo covering it next time. I used maple syrup instead of the agave the recipe called for and only put a pinch of salt in. I found the inside to be a little sticky at first, but after a day or so it firmed up quite well. It’s amazing as toast or as a “bun” for veggie burgers!

As a side note, when looking up the best way to store fresh bread I came across the suggestion of wrapping it in a clean towel and sticking it in a paper bag, then putting the bag inside the microwave (when not in use, of course). It acts like a bread box and keeps the bread fresh for several days!

Next up, because I’m such a sucker for beans and rice, I had to try the Gallo Pinto.

gallo pinto plantpure nation

I don’t think I’ve ever had a bean and rice dish that looked so darn pretty. Of course, it didn’t stay that way for long because it smelled amazing and had to be eaten. With gusto. The final texture is pleasing–a combination of firmness from diced carrots and crunchiness from celery. It’s also got some minced jalapeno that gives it a nice spicy kick. I could see wrapping it in corn tortillas with salsa like a taco!

Speaking of, I couldn’t resist trying the Enchilada Bake when I stumbled across it.

enchilada casserole eating plantpure nation

I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to eat this. It’s pretty much the Mexican version of lasagna, something I’ve wanted to make for ages but never got around to. With its layers of flaky corn tortilla, spicy beans and vegetables, enchilada sauce and vegan “cheese,” how can you resist? There’s also a special addition that I loved–a layer of spinach on top of the beans! I actually used dinosaur kale that I picked up at the farmers market, but the concept is the same. For the sauce, I cracked open The Forks Over Knives Plan instead of using a prepared one, and I whipped up my favorite “no-cheese” sauce from Forks Over Knives–The Cookbook. The result was warm, creamy and spicy, but I do wish I’d made more enchilada sauce since it turned out a bit dry. Oh well–next time!

And since no test of a cookbook with a recipe for Curried Potatoes in it is complete until said curry has been eaten, I had to try that, too.

curried potatoes plantpure nation

It’s simple, it’s tasty and it’s spicy enough to send your tongue straight to the moon, or at least to make you need to blow your nose. It calls for Thai red curry paste, something I usually have around but don’t use often. I’d forgotten just how spicy it is! I think you could substitute some curry powder and turmeric and have it be equally as good if you didn’t want dragon breath afterward. The potatoes take up a lot of the flavor of whatever you put in.

These are just a few of the recipes I had a chance to try out. There’s also Cornbread, which uses only cornmeal and is low in sugar; Sweet Tahini Dressing that goes wonderfully on all manner of food and an apple cinnamon oatmeal that’ll knock your socks off.

After trying all of these recipes, I have to say that The PlantPure Nation Cookbook is one of my favorite whole-foods, plant-based cookbooks. The recipes aren’t complicated and most of the ingredients are easy to find. It’s pretty easy to flip through the book and come across a dish that you can make with what you already have on hand and get it on the table in a reasonable amount of time. It’s a book that someone who has never cooked plant-based before could pick up and be comfortable with, which I think is important given how many myths there are about how “hard” it is to go vegan and stick with it.

The main thing I dislike about the book, though, is its apparent reliance on extremely salty condiments. Ketchup, mustard, vegan Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce turn up quite a bit, sometimes in combination within the same recipe. There are a few dishes that call for multiple cups of jarred salsa or for coating things in prepared buffalo wing sauce. All that adds up pretty fast in the salt department. I would have liked to see recipes for these staples along with the other tasty sauces and dressings included in the book. With a little creativity, though, you can swap out or cut down on the saltier ingredients.

One dish that I haven’t tried yet, but that I can’t wait to make, is the New England Chowder. It’s pretty standard fare in vegan cookbooks, and the PlantPure Nation version uses cashew cream to give the soup its traditional texture. A few mushrooms and some broken up nori stand in for the clams to make a tasty bowl of comfort food that you can try right now. Yep, right now. Even if it’s midnight, go for it. Then scroll down to see how you can get a copy of the cookbook for yourself!


 New England Chowder by Kim Campbell

reprinted with permission from BenBella Books

Yields: 6–8 servings

Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes

This chowder has the flavor of traditional clam chowder. I use sushi nori sheets to get that sea flavor and mushrooms in place of clams. It’s creamy and full of flavor, and the texture is perfect.

new england chowder plantpure nation from BenBella

Image courtesy of BenBella Books

2 quarts and 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable stock, divided

1 onion, diced

3 leeks, washed well and white and green parts cut small

3 celery stalks, diced

1 carrot, diced

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 large Yukon gold potatoes, diced medium

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

2 cups Cashew Cream (below)

10 ounces button mushrooms, chopped (QV note: I’m betting oyster mushrooms would be awesome, too!)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 sushi nori sheets, torn into small pieces (kitchen shears work great)

1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons vegan bacon bits, for garnish

  1. In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add 1/2 cup of the vegetable stock and sauté the onion, leeks, celery, and carrot until tender. Add the red pepper flakes and cook briefly.
  2. Add the remaining 2 quarts vegetable stock and the potatoes, bringing them to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and cook the potatoes until tender.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the water and flour and whisk until smooth. Add to the soup mixture.
  4. Add the Cashew Cream, mushrooms, lemon juice, nori pieces, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper. Simmer until the flavors are well blended and the consistency is creamy, stirring frequently.
  5. Garnish with vegan bacon bits.

Kim’s Hint: Most grocery stores carry sushi nori sheets in the Asian section. I tear the sheets into small pieces. This will add that sea flavor to your soup.

Cashew Cream

Yields: 8 servings

Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 0 minutes

This recipe is for a creamy, cashew-based milk that can be used in various dishes as a thickener and overall flavor enhancer. When traditional recipes call for heavy cream or a soy creamer, I like to use cashew cream. Use this cream sparingly, though, as it is a high-fat plant food.

1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water to cover for

2–3 hours, then drained

2 cups water

  1. Soaking the cashews in water for a few hours will reduce blending time. If you are not using a Vitamix, I highly recommend soaking the cashews so they blend into a smooth and creamy texture.
  2. Place the cashews and 2 cups fresh water (do not use the soaking water) in a Vitamix or other high-powered blender. Blend on high until smooth and creamy.
  3. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

The fantastic folks at BenBella are providing a copy of The PlantPure Nation Cookbook to one lucky QV reader! To enter, leave a comment on this post telling me what first got you on to eating a plant-based diet (US and Canada only, please). Check out the form below for other ways to earn entries! One winner will be chosen on Tuesday, May 12th using RANDOM.org.

Good Luck!

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks for entering!

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Book Review: The PlantPower Way by Rich Roll and Julie Piatt — Plus 2 Recipes!

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There’s a new cookbook in town, and it’s all about the power of plants

When you open The Plantpower Way by ultra-distance endurance athlete Rich Roll and his chef/musician/yogi wife Julie Piatt, you’re greeted by a section called Pure + Whole that introduces you to their vision of a plant-based diet. With information on their top ten superfood picks (like chia seeds and Pu-erh tea), essential pantry items and handy kitchen equipment, this newest addition to the plant-based cookbook world starts off with a slightly overwhelming bang.

It’s a beautiful book that boasts color pictures, a host of unique recipes and a collection of essays from both Rich and Julie that paint a picture of an idyllic way of life. Passion and compassion radiate from each tidbit as the couple covers subjects such as health, nutrition, vitality and the impact of food choices on the environment and the world. It’s a bit of a trip at times with vibrations of a new age mentality that seeks to link food with spirituality as well as community. However, one goal of the book stood out to me as particularly important, and that is the idea of making food fun and enjoyable, turning meals back into family affairs and celebrating the nourishment and flavors that plant foods provide.

plantpower way rich roll julie piatt

Image courtesy of Avery Books

A quick flip through the pages reveals the standard sections found in most vegan cookbooks, and indeed cookbooks in general: Breakfast + Brunch, Soup + Salad and Mains + Sides. Rounding it out with a little variety and ingenuity are sections with recipes for smoothies, juices, nut milks, nut cheese, teas and lattes. With few exceptions, all the recipes are made using whole food ingredients. (Yes, that does mean healthy lattes.) Though some of the dishes do call for small amounts of honey, the authors address the environmental and ethical issues involved in its production and recognize why vegans avoid it. Coconut and olive oil also show up here and there with the note that people suffering from heart disease should omit them and all other oils. It’s surprising, then, that Rich and Julie don’t seem to have a problem with using Veganaise on occasion, especially in light of the book’s focus on superfoods and the power of plants for vitality.

Because, when you get right down to it, this really is a superfood cookbook. Ingredients like hemp and chia seeds, quinoa, sprouts, goji berries and maca powder abound. Drinking smoothies, juices, teas and lemon water is encouraged, as is starting each day with “salad in a glass.” There are even four suggested “lifestyle paths” at the end of the book that show how to choose recipes for specific purposes such as energy, power and transformation. In an essay entitled “Kalelujah!” near the beginning of the book, Julie encourages readers to “let go of your kitchen fears” and “begin the journey,” noting that living the Plantpower Way is possible for everyone.

Despite this, for those of us who don’t live in areas where these types of foods are readily available, The Plantpower Way may seem more like a foreign country than a journey. I’ve been plant-based for the better part of six years and have dabbled in everything from super-simple recipes that can be made with grocery store ingredients to complex dishes that take half the day to make, and even I found the premise of the book to be overwhelming. The lifestyle that Rich and Julie talk about living is something I could only manage if I had a great deal more time to devote to food preparation (in addition to the 2-3 hours I already spend on it every day) and unlimited access to a selection of fresh foods more diverse than is possible to find in upstate NY.

There are some incredibly straightforward preparations, including hemp milk and “one bowl” meals, but to me it seems like most of the book requires a trip to a co-op or specialty store before spending a good chunk of time in the kitchen going through multiple steps to put the food together. Not that I mind being in the kitchen–it’s just about my favorite place to be–but it makes me wonder how many people looking for a guide to the plant-based way of living would feel like they were in over their heads should they pick up this particular title.

Usually I try three recipes from a cookbook before I review it, but due to the specialty nature of The Plantpower Way, I only had time to test out the first one that really jumped out at me: Roasted Tomato Cacao Sauce Over Penne.

tomato cacao pasta pan
Being half Italian, pasta was always a biggie in my house growing up, and my mom and I still enjoy a good pasta dish. What struck me about this one was the inclusion of Brazil nuts and raw cocoa nibs in addition to more traditional Italian ingredients such as cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and pine nuts.

I found a huge package of grape tomatoes at Trader Joe’s and wound up using those since, alas, cherry tomatoes aren’t in season here yet. And on my shopping trip, silly me forgot to put Brazil nuts on the list and was panicking until I remembered that we have a jar of raw Brazil nut butter in the fridge–which is really the same thing. The pine nuts and cocoa nibs came from the bulk section at the co-op, so I was all set.

I was pleasantly surprised by the results. Pan-searing the tomatoes made them pop and sizzle as they softened, and the cocoa nibs added an interesting depth of flavor that, oddly enough, had no hint of chocolate or cocoa. Both types of nuts were light enough to add creaminess without overpowering the tomato flavor, and the basil offset the slight bitterness from the cocoa. You’re supposed to blend the sauce and just pour it over the pasta, but I wound up mixing it all together and warming it up in the pan.

tomato cacao pasta with chickpea veggie scramble
A garnish of sliced tomatoes and viola! Dinner. If you want to give this recipe a try for yourself, I’ve reprinted it (with permission!) below, along with the recipe for the chickpea veggie side dish also pictured here. The only thing I noticed is that the serving size for the sauce is on the small side. Though it says it serves four, I could easily eat the entire recipe myself on days when I’ve been highly active. I suppose it depends on what else you’re serving it with and how many “garnishes” you want to throw on top.

There are several other recipes I’d like to try, some of which I have the ingredients on hand for and others, like many of the recipes in the book, that will require some specialty shopping and advanced prep work:

  • Cacao mint avocado tart
  • Easy crunchy peanut butter chocolate cookies
  • Ginger turmeric latte
  • Hash browns tower
  • Veggie burgers
  • Sprouted mung kitcheri
  • Ultra energy bars
  • Tempeh chili

If they’re all as good as the pasta, it will be well worth the effort!


 Roasted Tomato Cacao Sauce Over Penne

Reprinted from The Plantpower Way by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,
A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © 2015, Rich Roll & Julie Piatt

cacoa penne plantpower way from avery

Image courtesy of Avery Books

Ripe cherry tomatoes, nuts, and cacao all blended into one creamy sauce take regular pasta sauce to a whole new level. This recipe is an antioxidant powerhouse of flavors. Lycopene may reduce your risk of heart disease, improve vision, and lower bad cholesterol. Super-nutritious cacao nibs add a real depth of flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic cherry tomatoes
  • 6 large basil leaves
  • 3 dehydrated sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 Brazil nuts
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon cacao nibs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (QV note: Water works, too!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Gluten-free penne or other pasta
  • 2 cups organic cherry tomatoes, halved, for garnish
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, for garnish
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, for garnish

Preparation
1. In a wok or cast-iron skillet over high heat, no oil, slightly blacken the cherry tomatoes. If the pan is hot, this should take no more than 5 minutes.
2. To a blender or Vitamix, add the cherry tomatoes and all the other ingredients; blend on high for a full minute.
3. Pour over gluten-free penne or your favorite pasta.
4. Garnish with cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, and thyme.

Rich and Julie recommend serving this penne with a side of their Warm Mushroom Salad (also found in the book), but I served this Simple Chickpea Spinach Scramble instead. It’s a bit of a variation on my breakfast chickpea scramble (recipe coming soon!), and it adds some protein and greens to balance out the fats in the pasta sauce. Together it makes an enjoyable, healthy meal with all of your “macros” and a bunch of antioxidants to boot. If you’re pressed for time, I think wilting some spinach into the pasta sauce would also taste pretty good.

Simple Chickpea Spinach Scramble
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1½ cups sliced red bell pepper
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 15.5oz can, drained & rinsed
  • 8 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • black pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Place the garlic and bell pepper in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant and the pepper is softened, about 5 mintues. Add splashes of water to the pan to prevent sticking if necessary.
  2. Stir in the chickpeas and cook for a couple of minutes until they just start to brown. Add the spinach along with a splash of water and stir to begin the wilting process. Cover the pan again and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the spinach has cooked down.
  3. Stir in the grated carrots and black pepper and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the carrots are just softened and warm. Turn off the heat, add the lemon juice, give it a stir and serve as a side dish or over hot cooked grains for a filing meal.

In many ways, The Plantpower Way is the antithesis of what most people need when starting a plant-based lifestyle. But on the other hand, the sheer faith that Rich and Julie have in what they say and how they live is encouraging. Reading this book makes you feel like you can be amazing, super and powerful if you take the time to nourish yourself. It challenges entire families to stop eating in a mindless way and come together to prepare and share food that’s actually food (or even superfood). In these respects, the lifestyle that it details is very much within reach for anyone who wishes to embrace a more “Plantpower”ed Way.

The PlantPower Way will be released by Avery Books on April 28th.
For more on this supercharged take on plant-based living, you can follow @richroll on Twitter or check out The Rich Roll Podcast on iTunes.
Follow Julie at @srimati.

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Parsnips: A Perfect Companion to Shepherds Pie?

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Hello, my name is Sam, and I’m a parsnip addict.

I like parsnips so much that I buy them in five-pound bags from one of my favorite farmer’s market vendors, Denison Farm, and wind up eating most of them myself in salads, with hummus or just sliced up on their own. This is kind of funny because the first time I made a recipe using parsnips, I didn’t even know what they looked like.

Turns out parsnips are kind of like big, white carrots, but the taste is much different. They’re starchy and dense with a sweet flavor that has subtle overtones which are hard to put your finger on. One of the people at Denison asked if I tasted coconut, and in theirs, I kind of do! Raw parsnips are a bit on the dry side, but they get creamy when cooked in things like soup or stew. You can also roast them like you would potatoes or other root veggies to give them a crisp exterior with a soft center.

Another way to enjoy these unique and tasty veggies is to mash them up with potatoes, which is what the Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Rustic Parsnip Crust
from Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook has you do. I’ve come across similar concepts before such as Robin Robertson’s “Mashed Potatoes and Company” and Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s “Caulipots,” but I had never tried it with parsnips.

lentil shepherds pie with parsnip crust
Which is part of the reason why I had my eye on this recipe, another part being the phrase “rustic parsnip crust” in the title. Who can resist fabulous foodie marketing like that? (I see you all laughing at me. Go ahead. I’m not too proud to admit being a sucker for a good recipe gimmick.) To make that crust, I cooked and mashed up nearly one-and-a-half pounds of potatoes and parsnips combined for the pie as a whole.

The lentils, onions, carrots and celery for the filling get cooked separately while the potatoes and parsnips are boiling so that everything comes together at once. I found that the lentils turned out kind of soupy even though I used less water than was called for. I prefer to be given exact ratio–this recipe just said “enough to cover the lentils by 3 inches.” I wound up draining some of the liquid off, not knowing that it was going to become part of the gravy-like filling of the pie. Consequentially, the finished product was a bit less soupy than it should have been.

full pie lentil shepherd with parsnips

But you really can’t tell from this photo, can you?

 

Believe it or not, the amount of parsnips and potatoes I made was barely enough to cover the filling. I used the size baking dish recommended in the recipe, but perhaps I should have gone a size down–or mashed more potatoes and parsnips, since my pie worked out to be four servings instead of the six to eight suggested. That, and I had to get creative with spreading the topping. I have a recurring problem with “leaky” dinner pies, whether they’re potato- or biscuit-topped. I never seem to be able to seal in the filling so that it doesn’t bubble over.

lentil shepherds pie parsnip crust meal

But, as you can see, it all worked out in the end. The spices for the filling are simple: just a bit of rosemary, bay leaf and black pepper. I didn’t have any bay leaves when I made this, so I substituted some dried thyme because I’m a big fan of thyme in stews and gravies. It smelled pretty darn amazing when it was cooking, and the taste wasn’t too bad, either! It had that “meaty” feel that lentils lend to plant-based dishes, and the parsnips added something special to the mashed potatoes. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what, but the texture wasn’t quite the same as regular mashed potatoes and the flavor was a bit different. Perhaps it was due to the fact that parsnips, when left in the ground during a frost or placed in cold storage, become sweeter as some of their starch converts to sugar (Murray, 2005).

As with all plant-based dishes, you get a boatload of nutrition from eating this pie. (It’s really more of a casserole, but who am I to argue with tradition?) The parsnips alone provide a range of vitamins including C, K, B5 and folate along with minerals like potassium and manganese (Parsnip, n.d.). The folic acid content alone in one cup of cooked parsnips is 23 percent of the daily value (Murray, 2005)!

Plus, the 5 percent dietary fiber content in 100 grams of raw parsnips contains both soluble and insoluble types of fiber such as cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin (Parsnip, n.d.). These are the kinds of fiber that not only keep you regular but also promote overall digestive health by feeding beneficial intestinal bacteria. Hemicellulose is responsible for binding with cholesterol and helping to clear it out of the body (Murray, 2005).

Despite being white and not a vibrant color normally associated with antioxidants, parsnips also possess anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties (Parsnip, n.d.). Combine that with the carotenes in the carrots and the wealth of vitamins and minerals in the potatoes and you have a literal recipe for nutritional success.

And it tastes good. Comfort food good. Can you beat it?

No, you really can’t.

Want to see more of what I eat every day?

Check out Quantum Vegan on Instagram (yes, finally)! Food, fun and the (very) occasional selfie–but mostly food.


References:

Parsnip. (n.d.). In WebMD. Retrieved March 21, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsnip

Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., Pizzorno, L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Simon and Schuster

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