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: 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.


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.


Busting Out the Butternut

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On a trip to the farmer’s market a few weeks ago, a sign caught my eye.  Taped to a bin of mixed winter squashes, it read simply, “Squash, $2.”  Not $2/lb, but all entire squashes, $2 each.  I couldn’t believe it.  Naturally the first thing I did was find the biggest butternut squash I could–then took it home to make all manner of things out of it.

One of the things I love about butternut squash is its versatility. You can mash it, roast it, make soup out of it, stuff it inside ravioli or, if you happen to have a copy of Appetite For Reduction, turn it into Kidney Bean & Butternut Jamba Stew.

kidney bean butternut jamba stew vegan
What is this mysterious dish, you ask? In true Isa Chandra fashion, it’s a funky mash-up of different food styles that has no right to work, but does. It’s everything you love about jambalaya–the thick sauce, the spiciness, the hint of thyme–with the added sweetness of butternut squash. The ingredients are similar to other vegan jambalaya recipes, including kidney beans, green peppers and celery, but Isa mixes it up a bit by adding chunks of butternut instead of something like seitan or vegan sausage. And an added bonus for all you one-pot meal lovers out there, basmati rice gets cooked right in with everything else! You not only wind up with fewer dishes to wash but also get more flavor infused into the rice thanks to the fact that it spends its entire cooking time simmering in seasoned sauce.

kidney bean butternut jamba stew closeup
There’s a bit of fun to be had with this recipe, as well. Instead of diced tomatoes, it calls for a can of the whole peeled variety, which you get to smash up with a potato masher. How cool is that? You just have to be careful that you don’t wind up squishing tomato juice all over yourself. Or the stove. Or the floor. But if you do–oh well! It’s still fun! Once everything has cooked together into a tasty, colorful (not to mention nutritious) mix, you just plop it in a bowl and enjoy!

kidney bean butternut jamba stew served

I found that this needed a bit of extra spice to taste just right, though I suspect that’s because I don’t add salt to much of anything. (I usually find that there’s enough salt in canned tomatoes that I rarely even need to use vegetable broth in recipes.) Between the rice, beans, veggies and squash, the dish has a nice mix of textures and flavors. You get spicy, sweet, green and that unique flavor that kidney beans have, which I’m not sure there’s a word for. Served with a little whole wheat bread to sop up the sauce, it’s a great meal for the chilly days of winter or early spring.

One of the things I really like about the recipes Isa put together for Appetite for Reduction is that they’re hearty but never heavy. You can have a good solid meal of something like stew or chili and not feel like you just ate a car, nor do you wind up hungry an hour later. Despite my staunch aversion to all things “diet,” this has become one of my favorite cookbooks. It’s so well-worn that some of the pages are starting to fall out while others have been “christened” with all manner of food debris. That, my friends, is how you know a cookbook is good!

Kidney Bean & Butternut Jamba Stew is a recipe I keep coming back to every time squash is in season. In fact, I’m thinking of making it again this week since I picked up yet another squash at the market last Saturday. I’m in love with the seasonings, the textures and yes, the opportunity to smash the heck out of whole peeled tomatoes. It’s quite the successful mash-up, literally and figuratively.

Are you a fan of jambalaya? What’s your favorite recipe for it?



Review & Recipe: Keep It Vegan by Aine Carlin

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While it’s great to see all the vegan cookbooks that are appearing on the shelves these days, I feel like many of them repeat the same recipes.  There are only so many ways you can make tofu scramble and basic seitan before you run out of variations.  Which is why it’s fun to come across something a little different from time to time, like Aine Carlin’s Keep It Vegan.

keep it vegan cover

Image courtesy of Kyle Books

Formerly an actress, Aine Carlin now writes about food and lifestyle over at Pea Soup Eats. Keep It Vegan is her first cookbook and it brings together a rather random amalgamation of plant-based recipes in categories like “Breakfast, Brunch & More,” “Midday Meals & Simple Suppers,” “Something Special” and “Sweet Treats.”  There’s also a smattering of sides and sauces to go with main dishes or use on salads.

There doesn’t seem to be any particular rhyme or reason to the recipes chosen.  Offerings range from a butternut squash mac and “cheese” with kale to a tart with asparagus, mint, peas and caramelized red onions.  It took me a while to find a rhythm when flipping through this one, but a few recipes stood out.  Like the Buddha Bowl Parcels, for example.

vegan buddha bowl parcel

These little foil-wrapped packets take the concept of “the bowl” and make it even easier.  Instead of having to juggle grain/protein/green/sauce and get it all together, you toss a combination of sweet potatoes, onions, red peppers and kale in the oven for an hour and cook some rice at the same time.  When it’s done, you open up the packet, dump it on the rice and boom!  Instant bowl of delicious simplicity.  There’s even a sauce consisting of rice vinegar, hot sauce and soy sauce (which I left out because I’m not a fan of salt) cooked right in with the veggies in the packet.

buddha bowl parcel served
Just one problem–no specific “protein” component!  I solved that by cooking some lentils along with the rice.  Which, by the way, was beautifully seasoned with cardamom pods, cloves, anise and strips of lemon peel.  Lacking anise, I tossed in a pinch of Chinese 5 Spice.  When all was said and done, it had a lovely combination of sweet, spicy, bitter and sour flavors.  I just made this again the other night and loved it just as much as the first time!  It’s a great “go to” meal with almost no cleanup to deal with.

I also threw together a batch of the Coconut, Date and Almond Granola.

coconut almond date granola closeup
I enjoy having granola around to mix with vegan yogurt or put on oatmeal, but it’s hard to find a prepared version that isn’t full of oil and sweeteners.  This recipe has both, but since you make it yourself, it’s completely adaptable.  I substituted applesauce for the oil and swapped out some of the almonds in favor of chopped pecans.  I also had some big flakes of coconut on hand that I was going to use in another recipe, but which worked quite well here in place of shredded.  There’s also a generous helping of pumpkin seeds and chopped dates, both of which I absolutely love!  All in all, it’s a relatively healthy granola that isn’t hard to make.

Imagine my surprise when, upon tasting it, I discovered that it tastes exactly like Honey Bunches of Oats.  I’m going to tell you a secret.  I don’t miss a whole lot of non-vegan foods, but Honey Bunches?  Oh boy.  I mainlined that stuff when I was younger and keep wishing someone would make a healthy, vegan version of it.  Aine Carlin did, however unwittingly.  This has all the flavor without the six thousand sweeteners, caramel color, canola oil, whey or artificial additives.  I could seriously sit down and eat a whole batch of it.

My most recent experiment out of this book was the Hole Mole Chili.

hole mole chili keep it vegan
In all honesty, I’m not sure why I went for it.  I’ve tried things with mole sauce in the past and could never really warm up to it.  I like chili and chocolate together, both as chili chocolate and as chocolate chili, but there’s something about the flavor of mole that seems sort of flat to me.  I felt the same about this chili–which I think doesn’t do it justice.  It’s good chili, packed with veggies and beans with a lot of options for toppings including avocado and pan-toasted tortillas.  I just personally feel that mole is missing some kind of flavor I’ve come to expect in chili.  Unless it’s a mushroom chili, I tend to prefer spicy-sweet or just plain hot!

Overall, I wouldn’t say Keep It Vegan is a terribly accessible book for the uninitiated plant-based eater, but if you’re been into vegan food for a while, there are several adventurous recipes to try.  One that I have my eye on for summer squash season is the Crusty No-Knead Carrot & Zucchini Bread.  It’s a simple, quick recipe with no yeast, no rising time, no kneading and–bonus!–no oil!  There are even nuts and seeds in it for some crunch.  If you want to try it out now, check out the recipe below!

 Crusty no-knead carrot and zucchini bread
makes 1 x 1 lb loaf
reprinted with permission

crusty no knead bread keep it vegan

Image courtesy of Kyle Books

Bread making can often cause the most confident of cooks to tremble at the knees. All that yeast activating, kneading, resting (and not to mention waiting!) is enough to send anyone straight to the supermarket shelf to grab a loaf of the white stuff… and who can blame ’em? Luckily not all breads are created equally—and some involve even less effort than choosing a store-bought batch from your local bakery. This crusty no-knead carrot and zucchini version is one such recipe that requires nothing more than throwing everything together in a bowl and having enough patience to let it bake for the mere 30 minutes it will take to turn miraculously into one of the easiest breads you could possibly muster.


1²⁄3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting (QV Note: White whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour would also work!)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme, plus extra for sprinkling
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 carrot, grated
1 zucchini, grated
3/4 cup plant milk, such as soy, almond, or oat
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons mixed seeds, plus extra for sprinkling

hummus, to serve (optional)


1 Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

2 Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl with 1/2 teaspoon salt and set aside. Squeeze the grated carrot and zucchini to remove any excess liquid and season with a little pepper. Add the carrot and zucchini mix to the dry ingredients and stir well.

3 Make a well in the center and pour in the plant milk, and then gently fold using a spatula, ensuring not to overwork the mixture. Stir in the walnuts and seeds.

4 Dust a little flour over a work surface and a baking sheet. Turn the mixture onto the surface and shape into a rough oval about 12in in diameter.

5 Transfer the dough to the baking sheet, score the top with a sharp, floured knife, and sprinkle with a little more salt, thyme, and extra seeds.

6 Lightly dust the loaf with flour and bake for 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom. Let it cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before slicing or tearing. Serve warm and generously spread with hummus.



Review & (Rice!) Recipe: Vegan Pressure Cooking by JL Fields!

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JL Goes Vegan has been on my blogroll pretty much since I started reading vegan blogs.  I enjoy looking at her recipes and reading posts about how her journey to and through veganism has grown.  When she first began posting about using a pressure cooker and how much she loved it, it grabbed my attention.  So much so, in fact, that I’m now the proud owner of two pressure cookers: a big one for canning and a smaller one for cooking up beans and making meals.

I love my pressure cooker for home-cooking beans because it’s so darn fast.  I can soak a bowl of them overnight and cook them while I’m eating breakfast.  And I’ll admit that’s where my cooker gets the most use.  However, you also can’t sneeze at the fact that it’s possible to make an entire meal literally in minutes with one of these suckers.  What other kitchen gadget lets you dump in a bunch of veggies, legumes and grains, lock on the lid and go about your business while the entire meals cooks itself?

People like Lorna J. Sass and Jill Nussinow are wizards at coming up with recipes that make the most of pressure cookers to create delicious, quick-cooking meals.  Now JL has joined their ranks with her own cookbook, Vegan Pressure Cooking.

vegan pressure cooking cover

Image courtesy of Fair Winds Press

I was gifted with a copy of this fun little book to review, which made me a happy camper since I wanted to have a look at it when I heard it was coming out.  It starts off with a quick introduction and FAQ for pressure cooking, then dives right into recipes for beans, grains, veggies, soups, stews, one-pot meals and even a few desserts.

The recipe offerings are diverse, ranging from Apple Pie Steel Cut Oats to Asian Adzuki Bean Chili.  Some use dry beans while others make use of canned for even faster cooking.  You’ll find basic instructions for cooking batches of plain or seasoned grains as well as vegetable side dishes to accompany a variety of meals.  For a book that’s only about 170 pages, it packs a lot in!

I started my test run of the book with Chick’n Lentil Noodle Soup.  Using vegan “chicken” seasoning, soba noodles and lentils along with veggies, it’s meant to mimic the ever-popular comfort food.

no chicken noodle soup vegan pressure cooking

JL’s picture of this is WAY prettier!

Now, I have a recurring problem with the amount of liquid called for in recipes not being enough for my pressure cooker.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I keep the pressure too high, which lets too much steam out.  When cooking beans in large amounts of water, this isn’t much of a problem, but when you’re trying to make something that needs to absorb water without burning…yeah.  It can be an issue.

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that, when I let the pressure out for this recipe, the lentils that provided the “meaty” texture for the soup weren’t done.  Nor were they done after bringing everything back up to pressure with more water.  After some strategic simmering, I wound up with a very tasty soup that did indeed have the flavor of traditional chicken noodle, but with seriously overdone noodles.  Also, much as I like soba, I think I would try this with a whole-grain spaghetti next time for a more authentic noodle texture.  (As a side note, the corn muffins from Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook make a fabulous accompaniment to this.)

Next up was the Mushroom Rice.  Because I’m a fiend for rice.

mushroom rice vegan pressure cooking

You want to eat it, I know you do.

This recipe is exactly what it sounds like: rice with mushrooms cooked in vegetable broth.  But I knew I couldn’t use just any mushrooms–they had to be really, really good mushrooms.  So I stopped by the Mariaville Mushroom Men while at the farmer’s market and spent way too much money on locally grown specialty varieties.

And it was worth every penny.

Earthy and rich, this is one heck of a batch of rice.  Again, I had trouble with the cooker starting to go dry about 15 minutes into the cooking time–I could smell the rice burning–and had to add more water.  It wound up taking an extra cup of liquid but finished up well and made the entire kitchen smell so good that I wanted to eat it all right away.

I made the full batch and ate it several times over the course of a few days:

  • With stir-fried veggies and sesame seeds
  • In a nori roll with wasabi (I’m still trying to find where my sinuses launched off to)
  • Mixed with white beans and peas alongside salad
  • On its own as a snack!
mushroom rice and veggies vegan pressure cooking

Vegan Asian delight!

The texture from the mushrooms is just the right kind of meaty without, of course, being actual meat.  Check out the recipe later on in this post to make it yourself!

The Basic Seitan, alas, didn’t come out nearly as well.  I was very excited about the idea of making seitan in the pressure cooker as I’m not a fan of having to baby-sit a pan of steaming broth to avoid the looming possibility of it becoming spongy.  The dough for JL’s version includes chickpea flour, which gives it a nice texture, and a rather unusual seasoning combination that made me raise my eyebrows.  Ginger, cinnamon and molasses in seitan?  Since I’m willing to try just about anything plant-based once, I made it as written with the exception of substituting tomato paste for the avocado oil.

The flavor?  Great.  I can’t argue with it at all.  The spices give it a unique aroma and a taste that sets it apart from most seitan recipes.  However, I must have cooked mine too high despite endeavoring to cook at “low pressure” as instructed, because–you guessed it–I wound up with soggy seitan (hence the lack of pictures).  If I try this one again, I’ll have to turn the heat down a lot more!

Last night I made the Asian Adzuki Bean Chili mentioned above.  No pictures of that, either–this time, because I was too busy sucking it down.  Curiosity drove me to buy some dry adzuki beans the last time they were on sale and I was glad to have them for this recipe.  It’s a very unique “chili” that combines Asian flavors like dulse with carrots, cabbage and beans.  Along with a little siracha and some rice, it was absolutely delicious.

Vegan Pressure Cooking gets two thumbs up from me!  The recipes are easy to follow and, thus far, totally delicious.  No matter what type of cuisine you prefer, you’ll find something that fits your taste–and your schedule–in this book.

The folks at Fair Winds Press are generously providing a copy of Vegan Pressure Cooking to one lucky QV reader!

If you’re itching to fire up the pressure cooker with some new and tasty recipes, leave a comment on this post telling me why you love pressure cooking.  Or, if you haven’t tried it yet, why you want to start!

Get your entries in by Monday, February 9th for your chance to win!

Giveaway is now closed.  Thanks for entering!

One winner will be chosen using  Good luck, and happy cooking!

Mushroom Rice
reprinted with permission from the publisher

Serve this mushroom rice with a lightly seasoned Asian stir-fry or roll it up in a nori sheet with your favorite vegetables for a hearty vegan sushi roll.  When selecting mushrooms, shiitake, cremini or maitake are all nutrient-packed flavorful choices.

mushroom rice from Vegan Pressure Cooking

Image courtesy of Fair Winds Press

1 teaspoon sesame oil (QV note: or substitute water or vegetable broth for cooking)

1 cup (70g) chopped mushrooms

1 cup (190g) long-grain brown rice

1 1/2 cups (355ml) vegetable broth (QV note: or more as needed)

1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30 ml) tamari

In an uncovered pressure cooker, heat the oil on medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and saute for 3 minutes.  Add the rice and broth.  Stir to combine.

Cover and bring to pressure.  Cook at high pressure for 22 minutes.  Allow for natural release.

Remove the lid and stir in the tamari to taste.

Makes 4 servings.

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