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Vegan Planet: So Many Books, So Little Time

Sunday, May 29, 2011

 

So Many Books, So Little Time


One of the reasons I can tell that I’ve been working too hard is because I rarely have time to read for pleasure. That’s why, when our power went out last month and I couldn’t work on my computer, I was excited to have a perfect excuse to dig into the mountain of books sitting in my office. Most of the books are cookbook review copies, but there are a few other types of books sprinkled in as well. I decided to do a “round-up” post of some of the books I especially liked. Of course, it’s taken me over a month to find the time to try a few recipes from the cookbooks, and still more time to write up my impressions. But, better late than never, right? First, the cookbooks:

Vegan Bake Sale by Carla Kelly. What a terrific concept! With bake sales becoming such a popular phenomenon, this is a book whose time has come. It’s filled with information on the ins-and-outs of having a bakesale as well as great baking tips. Even without the unique “bakesale” hook, the book would be a fantastic vegan baking book in its own right with lots of creative sweet and savory recipes that will please young and old alike. Among our personal favorites are the Spanakopita Loaf, Lemon Bars, and Coconut Cookies (my husband’s a coconut-aholic!). Haven’t tried the Vanilla Crème Puffs yet, but the recipe looks genius.

The Natural Vegan Kitchen by Christine Waltermyer. Full disclosure: Christine engaged me as “cookbook coach” when she was putting together her book proposal — and I’m thrilled with the way Christine’s book turned out. It’s fun to see the progress from an idea to an actual book, and this book is a great addition to the vegan bookshelf. Christine’s approach is rooted in macrobiotics (where I began in my journey to veganism) I wish there had been a book with this more relaxed approach to macrobiotics back then. This book is proof that healthy can also mean delicious. Christine’s experience as a cooking teacher comes through in these easy-to-follow recipes. We especially enjoyed the Sweet Potato-Polenta Pancakes and the Clear Noodle Salad.

Raw Food for Everyone by Alissa Cohen. This is a well-organized and very thorough raw foods cookbook. Like the subtitle states, the recipes are from “simple to sophisticated.” It has lots of great information on ingredients, equipment, and techniques, as well as advice on putting together a raw kitchen. Even though some of the recipes seem time-consuming, the instructions are clear and the ingredients are accessible. We tend to eat more raw meals in the summer and I’ve already marked some recipes I’d like to try, such as the Eggplant Bacon and Nacho Cheese. Though I haven’t tried it, the spice-rubbed glazed payaya steak served with vegetable vermicelli in a creamy dill sauce caught my attention, as well.

The Blooming Platter Cookbook by Betsy DiJulio. Full disclosure: this book is published by my husband’s company, Vegan Heritage Press. I love the idea of a seasonal cookbook, and this book makes it easy and fun to “cook through the seasons” with enticing recipes, a great layout, and gorgeous recipe photos. Organized by season, Betsy’s creative recipes play up what’s fresh throughout the year. Among the recipes we’ve sampled so far, some of our favorites include the Spaghetti Squash Picatta, Thai Seitan Lettuce Wraps, Big Kahuna Burgers, and Spicy Baja Tacos. Swoon-worthy desserts include Sweet Potato Layer Cake with Butterscotch-Bourbon Cream, Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Tart, and Pear-Rum Cupcakes with Tea-Infused Buttercream Frosting.

Favorite non-cookbook books:

The Literary Ladies Guide to the Writing Life by Nava Atlas. As if being a cookbook author and artist weren’t enough, the multi-talented Nava Atlas has also written a fantastic book that draws from the works of twelve famous women authors, with insights into their craft as well as their observations and pearls of wisdom. Beautifully designed and illustrated, this book is a real gem, not just for women writers, but for anyone who admires the work of these illustrious literary figures. Filled with inspirational quotes and anecdotes, as well as Nava’s own reflections, I keep this book at my bedside to indulge in a few beautiful pages each night before sleep.

The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. Not a cookbook and not vegan, this reference book is a guide to hundreds of ingredients, including herbs and spices, with insights into getting the best flavor from them, as well as layering and balancing flavors. This is a book for serious cooks who want to know more about the flavors of ingredients and how to combine them.

Good Mushroom/Bad Mushroom by John Plischke III. This is a fascinating field guide to mushrooms by a leading mushrooms expert. As the subtitle states, it’s “all you need to know about the wild mushrooms of North America.” The book is filled with clear photographs and easy to understand information about the various types of mushrooms growing all over the country. The book can help you clearly identify which mushrooms are edible and which are not. I’m tempted to go searching for wild morels, but until I do, it’s fun to read about the fascinating varieties of mushrooms growing right in my own backyard!

That concludes my round-up of recommended books. I still have another stack waiting for me to review. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another power outage for me to get to them!

UPDATE:  Soon after posting, I found out about a new second edition of The Ultimate Vegan Guide by Erik Marcus (which I previously reviewed here).  This new improved edition is now available on Amazon for 99 cents for the Kindle edition and $8.95 for the paperback.

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Comments:
I've been trying to get around to more cookbook reviews myself. Loved The Blooming Platter--it's the next on my list to write up. If you get a chance, make the chocolate carrot cake. I never thought to combine chocolate cake and carrot cake, but my family LOVED it.

And Carla Kelly's book is beyond awesome. I was lucky enough to test for her. Such tasty treats!
 
Celia,
I've had my eye on that chocolate carrot cake from The Blooming Platter -- thanks for the recommendation. What a great way to eat carrots! ;) Looking forward to reading your write-up of The Blooming Platter!
 
Robin~
I'm so honored that TBPC made your list of "faves"--that's quite a bloomin' endorsement--many thanks! And your summaries of the others have me longing for them too. Hmmm...maybe I shouldn't have told my family and friends that birthday gifts were absolutely forbidden this year--kidding!
My best always,
~Betsy
 
Celia and Robin~
It never would have occurred to me to combine carrots and chocolate either. In fact, when my friend told me about her chocolate-carrot wedding cake based on a Restaurant Nora recipe, I thought it sounded bizarre (that was years ago!). But, I made it for one of her birthdays and, low and behold, I was hooked. When I became vegan, it was at the top of my list of cakes to "veganize." (And it's a tasty way to sneak a few carrots into the diets of unsuspecting children!) Thanks for the lovely feedback and, Celia, for your upcoming review.
Cheers!
~Betsy

P.S. Robin, here's hoping the power goes out again and provides you with another reading respite!
 
its funny how we could accumilate so many books and then we don't have the time to use them all.
 
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