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


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.


Review & Recipe: Nom Yourself by Mary Mattern

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What do you reach for when you want a vegan cookbook that’s different but still easy to follow?

nom yourself cover avery books

Image courtesy of Avery Books

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 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.

nom yourself vegan chipotle bbq chili

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.

nom yourself vegan chipotle bbq chili bowl side

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.

nom yourself vegan chipotle bbq chili bowl
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

vegan caulilflower ricotta stuffed shells nom yourself

Photo courtesy of Avery Books

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.


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



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



  • 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)


  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.