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Book Review: China Study Family Cookbook

Continuing on in the series of cookbooks based on the acclaimed, and essential book, The China Study; this one focuses on families. Rather than just be a cookbook though that is loaded with recipes and no tips, Del Sroufe makes the transition easy for all. There are not only cooking tips, but recommendations on items to stock your pantry with in advance so you aren’t pulling your hair out looking for an ingredient.

One section of the book that I loudly applaud is the inclusion of cooking with your kids. My wife loves to bake with my sons. Being more of the savory cook, I always thought it would be hard to cook with these guys but I feel ready to try and approach the idea.

The book is a marvel to look at. The pictures are as simple as the recipes and let the food show itself and not get swallowed up in a busy backdrop. The layout is clean and recipes are as straightforward as you get. What I really appreciate is all the tips on each page. Even if you are a novice cook, the tips will break down certain techniques to help you get the result you want with the dish. Some of the recipes have less than 5 ingredients, hows that for easy?

I’ve spoken with some folks lately that talk about how involved vegan/ plant based cooking is; this book shatters that belief. Most of the recipes can be made with ingredients you have in your home, or can go down to the local grocer to get. Most of them are not niche items and can be made by those of any skill level, such as the homemade corn chips, potato wedges, sweet potato hummus or sloppy joes. Heck, you can make the corn and black bean salsa for those chips nearly as easy as the chips themselves.

There are some that are more adventurous recipes though such as the Mediterranean Loaf which I can’t wait to try. I’m really looking forward to making some of these dressings and sauces though. I’ve been getting really bored with the usual and these will give me a little liberty when trying to create flavors I used to enjoy. I appreciate that companies try to make vegan version of things like thousand island dressing, but they are processed and have preservatives in them to make them shelf stable. The recipes don’t have that and are much more fresh because you make them. The plant based mayo sounds like it’ll be fantastic.

The things I’m really looking forward to try and make is the chorizo. I’ve been trying to perfect my own jambalaya and again, have been trying to do it with less processed foods. Having some roots down in Louisiana, spicy foods and heat are most certainly my thing, The ingredients here are all whole foods and this recipe is mouth watering.

You can find more info out about this book and order it at http://www.benbellavegan.com/book/the-china-study-family-cookbook/

Book Review: YumUniverse Pantry To Plate

Heather Crosby, the founder and author behind YumUniverse.com, has created a follow-up to her first book which is appropriately titled “Yum Universe.” This second one is less about the “how to” and more about “doing” when it comes to living plant-based.

The recipes are concise and as straightforward as you can get. If you are just coming into this way of eating, it can seem daunting. It’s easier than you think though, and Heather lays out a path to create recipes from the ingredients you already have at home. The recipes all include a template in which you can manipulate it to fit your needs or palate, or you can follow some of the one’s she has built off of the same template.

The recipes are all plant-based, or like she prefers to call them, “plant-inspired.”  While those are witty phrases, they are not all completely vegan. No, there is not meat or dairy; there are a couple that include honey though. Semantics aside, like all the other templates you can ad-lib ingredients. For the recipes that call for honey you can use things like agave or my favorite sweetener Bee Free Honee.

Last week I was able to share the recipe for Sriracha Mac with you, I hope you’ll check it out and let me know if you ever end up making it. I’ve got a busy few weeks ahead and look forward to making this, as well as some of the other recipes from the book. My family is pretty picky and a fair amount of these recipes will be right up their alley.

The book is very well put together and the pics are absolutely stunning. Having worked in the print industry for years (before cable), I appreciate books that are laid out well and are fluid from page to page. Amateur cooks and skilled pro’s will surely enjoy checking this book out.

You can find YumUniverse Pantry To Plate at The Expirement Publishing site or you can certainly search for it on Amazon.

Book Review: How Not To Die

One of the quickest growing, and largest, resources available online is Nutrition Facts. It is a resource site based on the research of Dr. Michael Greger as well as an aggregate of compiled research of other medical field professionals. What makes Nutrition Facts different from a lot of the other sites is the frequency of the information that is posted and how it is presented.

We can all clamor about how much we know, or are learning about how beneficial the vegetables, fruits, legumes, herbs, etc are for us; but if we don’t have evidence to back that up its hard to quantify. What’s also difficult to pass on  and translate to others is simplified and cohesive information. It would be fantastic to have that all in one place right? It is, and it can be found in Dr Greger’s book, “How Not To Die.”

Published in 2015,  “How Not To Die” is a guide to helping prevent, and possibly reverse, some of the most common medical killers. Wouldn’t it be great to not have to deal with heart disease anymore? Wouldn’t it be absolutely amazing to not have to see family members suffer from maladies such as hypertension or diabetes? Infections? How about depression?

I’ve been listening to the audio-book version of “How Not To Die” for a couple of weeks now. I had to drive up to Vermont to check out some apartments for my daughter and wanted some good material to accompany me on the trip. I was surprised to hear Dr. Greger’s voice reading me his book. That’s a touch I appreciate though, it means he is passionate about his work and wants to present it himself. Bonus is the fact he is somewhat witty in his delivery and makes even the most complicated medical term seem understandable.

That understanding is carried through in the print version. I’ve read a bunch of books, studies, etc on plant-based research and more than most of them are written like a tech paper would be; perplexing and at times over my head.  I think that approach does not help the consumer/ reader and can make things very confusing. While still using proper medical terminology when needed, Dr. Greger breaks it down and explains the point he is trying to get across. If you want to get into that chaos, the citation that he does in this book is immense and you can spend hours upon hours reading papers he researched for the book.

Each chapter is a discourse on particular ailments and diseases and how you might go about helping yourself to either prevent or combat them. Keep in mind, this book is not a prescription and the advice of your doctor should supersede anything as he or she knows you and your overall health. That said, I know a bunch of people who are skeptical of advice they might get and it doesn’t harm anyone to arm yourself with knowledge before an appointment and ask questions. “How Not To Die” certainly gives you that insight.

There are a limited amount of recipes, but where he helps the readers most in that instance is with his “Daily Dozen.” He recommends 12 daily plant-based foods that will help assist in all general health areas. I would highly recommend “How Not To Die” to anyone who wants to gain knowledge and take control of their health. Dr. Greger shows us all that it is easy to do that and to do so without complicated foods that are laden unnecessary processed ingredients.

Have you read the book yet? How has it helped you?

 

 

Book Review: Bringing Home The Seitan

bringingBetter known as “wheat meat, ” seitan is the lesser known alternative to soy based mock-meats. What tofu and soy lack in flavor, seitan becomes the flavor of whatever you cook it in. It’s also a lot less mushy than tofu and can be made in a bunch of different ways to get the texture you want.

Seitan is not a new thing though; it’s been around for hundreds of years. There no written proof of it, but it’s believed to have been discovered in Asia by Buddhist monks. It’s moved throughout Asia from China to Japan and it’s taken the form of noodles as well as an alternative to meat. Seventh Day Adventists also started using it as the religion calls for its followers to eat a vegetarian diet. I’m going a little off course here…

Since going vegan I’ve tried my hand at making seitan a bunch of times. My wife is not a super big fan of having soy based foods with every meal, so I set out to make something that’d take it’s place. It’s only been within the past year that I have had any success with it. Recently I came out with a really tasty deli style chik’n. A friend made it this past week and said that they enjoyed it. I was stoked because I came up with the recipe myself. Not being a chef, it was nice to know that something I created was good enough for others to enjoy.

I have a ton of vegan/ plant based cookbooks but I have to admit that “Bringing Home The Seitan” will become the most used. There is a recipe for any flavor you are looking for. Tonight I really wanted that flavor I remember than ham had. Of course, being vegan I didn’t want the ham but I was craving the way it was prepared. If that sounds like something you’ve heard before it’s because Gary Yourofsky said it HERE!

The recipes in this book offer something so similar to the tastes and flavors you used to enjoy; you’ll find yourself in the kitchen more often. I felt truly joyful and excited to make some of the recipes. The leftover ham, which both of my boys ate with big smiles on their faces, was set aside and sliced for sandwiches. I am looking forward to a ham and Chao cheese sandwich for lunch at work tomorrow.

Seriously folks, what might have taken time and effort to scroll through Pinterest to find a good seitan recipe for whatever flavor or occasion is now whittled down to one resource. “Bringing Home The Seitan” can and will be all you need for any wheat meat recipe you are looking for. I am super pumped to make the buffalo chicken which, in just a couple days, I have been given permission to repost the recipe from the book. Sorry but you’ll have to wait, and come back, to view the recipe.

All in all, this is the holy grail of seitan. Not only are there specific recipes, but there are some that are open to interpretation and let you have the liberty of tweaking to your liking. Seitan has got me back in the kitchen again, well more than I was, and I hope to make many more of these and come up with some creations of my own after learning some of the basics here. You should check this book out 110%!!

Purchase “Bringing Home The Seitan” at http://ulyssespress.com/?books=bringing-home-the-seitan

Freakin’ Out Friday 9.16.16

healingveganwayThere’s much to freak out about this week! I’ve had a few different new items that I’ve tasted and have used some great products which are all worthy of a FOF post of their own. That said, what I’ve really been enjoying over the past few weeks is the new book by Vegan Fusions Mark Reinfeld; Healing The Vegan Way.

I’ve made a few of the meals from the book so far and the biggest hit in my house has been the Jamaican Patties, which the published and Mark have agreed to let me share. You can find the recipe at the end. Jamaican patties used to be one of my favorite foods. Similar to an empanada, Jamaican patties are a dough filled pocket of sorts with savory contents. With the addition of turmeric and cumin these had more of an Indian vibe to me, and I’ve been really enjoying those flavors lately (maybe I haven’t had a ton of Jamaican foods?). On to the rest of the book though…

There’s a vegan book out there for everyone, we all have our favorites. Whether it’s a simple recipe you are looking for, or something with a little more zing; most recipe books just tell you how to cook it yet leave out the benefits of each ingredient. “Healing The Vegan Way” is not only a cook book but is a prescription for achieving whole health through smart use of ingredients and flavors.

I’m no Mark Reinfeld, but I know my way around a kitchen just enough to be dangerous. So one thing I really like is the template recipes. What he does with these is list the basic components of a recipe. For instance to make a hummus you only really need three base components; bean, seasoning and and ethic component based on the flavor profile you are looking for. With these templates, even the most fearful cook can gain the confidence to try something new in the kitchen and maybe create a new dish they’ve never tried.

Besides dishes, there are a plethora of sauces, spice mixes and more. As I mentioned above, I’ve been wicked into Indian flavors so I made the spice mix Mark recommends and it’s amazing to use in curry. I have plans to make the dressings for salads too. I’ve tried some decent, and I stress the decent on the lower end of decent, pre-made vegan salad dressings from some well known companies. I have a feeling making my own, per Marks masterful instruction, will provide for much better salad enjoyment.

Whether you are a novice in the kitchen, or a seasoned pro, I absolutely recommend Healing The Vegan Way to you. Like I mentioned, it’s more than just a cookbook. Nowhere does the book insinuate that food can substitute for doctors orders, but at the same time, as the saying goes; you are what you eat. This book will provide all the necessary building blocks to not only eat cruelty free, but also to provide you with optimal health.

Now onto the recipe…

Jamaican Patties

Yield: 6 patties | Prep time: 30 minutes, Cook time: 40 minutes,

Total time: 70 minutes, Serving size: 1 patty,

Number of servings: 6

Jamaican patties are traditionally a filled crust thought to be a cross between Jamaican cuisine and the British pastry, created when the British arrived in Jamaica. With a nutritionally balanced trio of bean, grain, and carb in the form of lentil or pigeon peas, potato, and spinach, experience the taste of Jamaica straight from your own oven.

Filling:
2 small Yukon gold or red bliss potatoes, chopped small
½ cup finely chopped spinach or arugula
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup cooked lentils or pigeon peas or garden peas
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

Dough:
2 cups white spelt flour or Gluten-Free Flour Mix
Pinch of sea salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons coconut oil
6 tablespoons to ½ cup water

1. Prepare the filling: Preheat the oven to 350°f. Prepare the filling. Place a pot with a steamer basket and 1 inch of water over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, cover, and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and mash well. Measure out 1 cups for this recipe. Add the remaining filling ingredients, and mix well.

2. Prepare the dough: Place the flour, salt, and turmeric in a bowl and whisk well. Add the coconut oil and water and knead into a ball. The dough should hold together and be slightly moist.

3. Roll out the dough into a log and divide into six equal-size pieces. Roll out each piece into a 5-inch- diameter circle. Place about 3 ounces (just under ¼ cup) of filling on the center of each circle. Fold the circle in half, and pinch the edges together to form your patties.

4. Place on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. You can optionally baste each patty with additional coconut oil. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Freakin’ Out Friday 4.15.16

diningravensIt seems like every other week a new cookbook is coming out. It’s hard to get excited when they are all seemingly the same. Quinoa can only be made so many ways you know? (yes I know there’s more than just quinoa)  I do enjoy a good recipe that I can whip up in 30 minutes or less, but sometimes you just want to dig in and spend some time cooking something different.

“Dining At The Ravens” starts off with a brief intro about the Stanford Inn by the Sea in Mendocino. It’s an inspiring story of not only connecting with our inner selves, but also to connect with our surroundings. They explain some rather uncanny events that brought the Stanford to life while they worked to fulfill their dream. Trees falling on their own to help with views and landscaping? Wow, that’s some serious attunement!

This is more than just a cookbook, it seriously gets to the heart of the whole food plant based/ vegan lifestyle. For the Stanford’s it starts with the land and always comes back to the land. With compassionate responsibility given to the way plants are grown to how they are used in the kitchen to how they are composted at the end; every single step is done with careful consideration. It all matters and it means something to them, it’s inspiring to say the least.

The recipes, again, are not something you are going to start cooking 30 minutes before putting dinner out for your family. These are not beginner recipes, but don’t let that dissuade you from trying. The recipes are well thought out and explained so that amateurs such as myself can easily attempt them. There are a few that are somewhat basic, but of course the presentation and photo makes them look 5-star. For instance, with summer coming soon I am interested in trying out the Potato Salad, which looks like a recipe I can handle.

The book is absolutely gorgeous inside and out. The photos are awe-inspiring and make me wish I had the culinary acumen to make half of them. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to try though! The Dolmas? Yeah I am really looking forward to making those, they ought to go perfectly at a mid summer cookout as finger food. I also can’t wait to try to make my own veggie stock, there’s a brilliant recipe for that here as well.

All cookbooks have their place. Like I said, most are quick and practical cookbooks that are targeted at the beginner to this lifestyle. Those are super helpful as they teach us how to use certain ingredients as comparable alternatives to foods we were used to. “Dining At The Ravens” is more than that and is for those that want to take a bit more time with their food. I believe that spending the proper time to cook these recipes, the cook and their guests will truly witness something magical.

Book Review: Cookin’ Up A Storm

Cookin-Up-a-Storm_COVER_high-res
Courtesy of Book Publishing Co.

Having been born and raised on Cape Cod, I feel like those of us that live here have a closeness to whales. Growing up it was a rite of passage in a way to go on a whale watch in Stellwagen Bank.  We even have the luxury when we are fifth graders of spending a week at the NEED Program in Truro, MA learning about the environment, aquaculture and the National Seashore. My son did it last year and it was great to reflect back on my time there via his experiences. Fast forward from fifth grade and those ideas of compassion toward whales have never gone away. I’ve worked personally with members of the Center For Coastal Studies and garnered friendships with past employees. I’m going a bit off the rails here.

I remember watching my first episode of Whale Wars, admiring the fearlessness of each member of the crew. I’ve been a fan of what the Sea Shepherd Society does since then.  Who are the folks at Sea Shepherd? Read more