Archive for the ‘reviews: cookbooks’ Category

Veganomicon

September 29, 2009

I could sum up Veganomicon in four words:  this book is incredible.

But, you know me, I could never leave it so succinct.

Veganomicon is not the book for everyone, and I can’t say it’s the first book I would recommend to a fledgling plant-eater.  Many of the recipes are a little long on the ingredient lists, some are a bit complicated on the process.  Only a few recipes have photos, so new cooks might worry if theirs is turning out the way it should.

That said, if you want to impress your non-vegan acquaintances, this is the way to go.  Veganomicon has just the right mix of comfort foods and gourmet vegan fare, “veganizing” staple dishes like Macaroni Salad and challenging even seasoned vegans with original recipes that will wow the stagnant palates of omnivore guests.  I pull this book out when I want something different, when I want something that tastes like it came from a restaurant, and when I am ready to hunker down in my kitchen and pull out all the stops.

The Potato-Kale Enchiladas are a staple in our household, although we just tried them with the pepitas for the first time (worth it!) and got rave reviews at a recent potluck.  After getting a good deal on apples, I made the Apple Peanut Butter Caramel Bars and had a hard time putting the fork down they were so good.  The Banana Chocolate-Chip Bread Pudding is actually the reason I purchased this book, so needless to say, it’s an incredible twist on an old favorite.

Logistically speaking, the cookbook is well set-up.  The index is very complete and recipes are easy to find.  The photos are full-color and together in the middle of the book if you need inspiration.  A set of symbols lets you know which recipes are quick, which can be made with easy-to-find ingredients, and which are diet-friendly.  There are typos here and there, but it’s not an annoyance–it’s actually kind of nice, because it’s a sign that a real person wrote it and it wasn’t just lifted from other sources and edited to death by a mega-publisher.

Isa and Terry do not disappoint.  If you’re a new cook, consider these recipes a goal to aim for.  If you’re a seasoned vegan looking to spice up your weekly menu, you owe it to yourself to make this book the newest member of your family.

Ginger Crinkles and Lemon Sugar Cookies

September 20, 2009

Vegans are not particularly famous for cookie-making.  Cupcakes yes.  Cookies, not so much.  Vegan cookies are finicky and have a tendency to turn to crunchy little bricks if they are baked even 10 degrees too high, or 45 seconds too long.  I exaggerate, but you get it.  A dessert that’s child’s play in the omnivore world takes a little more work for vegans.  Instead of trying to find just the right recipe, I sometimes give in and just buy an ABC or a Liz Lovely (can I get an amen, vegans?).

I do love a good cookie, though, and miss the memory of helping my mom roll the dough into balls and put them in little rows on the cookie sheets.  The kitchen made warm by the oven, the scent of ginger filling the house, sneaking bites of cookie dough out of the mixing bowl…those were the days.  These are two recipes that live up to my (and my mom’s!) standards for homey goodness.

Ginger Crinkles

Ginger Crinkles

I started with this recipe on Eating Well and made a few changes to make it vegan and a little more to my tastes.  First, I used granulated sugar for the cookies themselves, then rolled them in the raw Turbinado sugar as the recipe states.  I substituted 1/4 cup applesauce (natural, unsweetened) for the egg.  And instead of the wheat pastry flour, I used a 50-50 mix of white unbleached all-purpose flour and wheat flour.  They are a versatile cookie; you can under-bake them just a smidge for the folks who like a softer, moist cookie, or you can over-bake them by a minute or so to make them a little thinner and crispier, more like a gingersnap.  They travel well and stay soft for a day even when not in an airtight container.  I brought them to a potluck nestled in a cake box with some tissue and they were almost as good as they were right out of the oven.

Which is another point I should mention:  these cookies smelled so good that I could not stand the anticipation and actually ate a few right out of the oven.  Literally.  Despite burning my mouth a little (it was totally worth it).

Lemon Sugar Cookies

Lemon Sugar Cookies

These cookies are scrumptious, and I turn to this recipe often when I want a way to sneak vegan food onto non-vegans’ plates.  As with most vegan sugar cookies, they do harden rather quickly if not placed in an airtight container, so as soon as they are cool, put them away (this is also a good technique for stopping yourself from eating them all).  The recipe is from the amazing food blog Crepes of Wrath (if you haven’t seen it yet, go now!  And join a gym because you will soon be cooking and eating way too many of the recipes.  You’ll thank me later).

My only substitutions:  use Earth Balance Buttery Sticks instead of butter, and use 1/4 cup applesauce in place of the egg.  Please, please, please, do not omit the lemon extract…it’s the secret key to success!

Cookbook: My Sweet Vegan

September 1, 2009

I cheated and borrowed My Sweet Vegan from my library instead of buying it.  After trying six of the recipes in two days, though, I’m definitely going to pick up my own copy!  Most vegan cookbooks have a dessert section, and some are even all desserts (like my personal bible, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World), but My Sweet Vegan takes it up a notch.  Honestly, everything that comes out of this book is pure gold.  Start running now because you might gain a few pounds just from looking at the photos!  Here are a few examples of recipes I tried from the book.

caramel lace cookies

caramel lace cookies

First up, a not so great photo of the Caramel Lace Cookies.  The picture’s not the best shot of the cookies, because A) my fiance kept sneaking into the kitchen and breaking pieces off while I was making them, and B)I tried to stack them up all pretty like in the cookbook photo, but it was too humid and they all got stuck together so I had to break them to get them apart.  But, they are delicious, and the recipe (which seemed like it might be a little challenging to get right on the first shot) is actually pretty easy.  Mine were a little runny and so were not perfectly circular like Little Miss Perfect Hannah Kaminsky, but it doesn’t matter.  Usually when I make these, I curl them into cones or into little dishes to scoop sorbet into (on a plate of course, they are by no means solid), or I break them into triangles to garnish other desserts like lava cake.

chocolate peanut butter bombs

chocolate peanut butter bombs

Next up are the chocolate peanut butter bombs.  These suckers are amazing.  Decadent, moist, and rich.  Basically they are a soft-baked chocolate cookie with the filling of a peanut butter cup.  PMS food anyone?  There’s really nothing else I need to say…these cookies speak for themselves.

coconut fudge

coconut fudge

Don’t expect any amazing food porn here at The Bumbling Baker.  Why?  Well, first off, I’m not only a bumbling baker but also a bumbling photographer with a little point-and-shoot.  Second, food has a way of disappearing from my kitchen before I even shut off the oven.  Take this fudge for instance.  I’ll let you in on my dirty little secret:  we ate the entire 9×9″ pan of this by ourselves, in less than 24 hours.  That should tell you something.  This fudge is probably the closest to dairy fudge, so close that The Stumbling Scientist (that’s what we’ll call the fiance, by the way)’s coworkers forgot it was vegan.  I used the raw unsweetened coconut to make this, and that made all the difference.

icebox cheesecake

icebox cheesecake

This is my version of the Icebox Cheesecake recipe.  I hate making crust, so I spared myself and got some of those little mini graham cracker crusts in the disposable tins.  I made the full recipe for the filling, though, and divided it into the crusts (it was just enough, by the way).  When they were done, I added some strawberry-rhubarb preserves and a dollop of lemon frosting.  It’s going to be difficult to go back to baked cheesecakes after this, because this is by far the easiest and tastiest vegan recipe I’ve tasted.  Sorry, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Actually, I’m going to have to apologize to Ms. Goudreau again, because I think My Sweet Vegan has just topped The Joy of Vegan Baking on my list of favorite cookbooks.  If you in any way love dessert and all things sinfully sweet, you owe it to yourself to track down this book or at the very least, read Hannah’s blog.  You won’t regret it!