Cooking with the Veg CookBook Club (part 1)

For months now, my  Twitter and Instagram feeds have been overflowing with posts with the #VegCookBookClub hashtag, so it’s well past time I dedicate a full-length post to it… so long overdue in fact, that I need to write TWO posts about it to be fully caught up.  

I’ve already blogged about some of my favorite recipe discoveries throughout the months, but here’s the full scoop on the VegCookbook Club and the books I’ve cooked from so far:  

So… What’s this ‘VegCookBook Club’ thing all about?

The VegCookBook Club is Britt’s amazing concept and is one of my favorite things to participate in.  Every month I look forward to finding out what our next book will be, diving in, and seeing how everyone else’s recipes turned out.  This entirely virtual club has inspired me so much and introduced me to a wonderful online community.  Best of all, the group is so flexible and welcoming – anyone can participate as little or as much as they’d like, with so many options for how to play along. 

Here’s how it works:

    • Britt selects a cookbook each month (usually the result of a poll on her blog)
    • Anyone and everyone is welcome share what they made from the VegCookBook of the Month by posting on Twitter or Instagram with the #vegcookbookclub hashtag, uploading photos to the VegCookbookClub Flickr group, OR by writing (or placing blog-post links) in the comments on Britt’s blog
    • Britt shares what she made & what everyone else made in a weekly Meatless Monday round-up on her blog

I get most of the monthly VegCookBook selections from the library by reserving them online.  I like to think of it as a free-trial to see which books I use the most before buying any more, since I already have quite the collection!  I also love “voting with my library card” by showing the library that there’s a demand for Vegan & Vegetarian Cookbooks, which may lead them to stocking more titles in the future… and eventually to these books getting into more veg-curious hands.

A couple of the cookbooks selected were ones that I happened to already own, but even in those books, the VegCookbook Club helped me to discover recipes I hadn’t yet tried.  Every month there’s always at least one or two recipes that everyone in the ‘club’ seems to rave about and they’ve never steered me wrong!

Anyway, now for the fun part – my reviews & the recipes I’ve made with VegCookBook Club in March, April, and May, with the Summer months to follow in my next post.

March: Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

I was excited when this cookbook was selected since it was one that I already had in my collection but hadn’t used much yet.  I had spotted a copy of it at a used book store, and being a huge fan of Isa Chandra, I couldn’t resist snagging this book.

Of all the recipes in Vegan Brunch, my all-time favorite is the Sesame Scrambled Tofu and Greens with Yams – It’s colorful, healthful and absolutely delicious.  I thought it made for a fantastic savory breakfast, though Mike said he’d like it better as a dinner.  Other savory winners included the Mushroom Stuffed Poblano Peppers with meaty Shiitakes and the delicious and easy Roasted Potatoes.

For sweet dishes, everyone in the cookbook club seemed to be raving about Isa’s Perfect Pancakes.  I made them for Mike’s birthday and the texture sure was perfectly fluffy and they were pretty easy too, since Isa gave very specific instructions filled with a lot of pancake-making wisdom.  I also enjoyed the Cinnamon Apples, which were nothing out of the ordinary, but a very easy & classic version.  While I really enjoyed both recipes, neither sweet dish could top the Banana Rabanada that I made a long time ago.  This dish is a Brazilian French Toast recipe that calls for soaking the bread in a puree of bananas and non-dairy milk — Genius!

Overall Review:  Everything I made from this cookbook came out great – they are truly flavorful,  company-worthy recipes that both vegans and non-vegans will enjoy.  I love how Isa took traditional comfort food recipes and gave them an interesting twist, while still keeping them true to their roots.   I’m really happy to have this cookbook in my collection, but that being said, since it’s a niche cookbook, it’s one that I mainly use for special occasions and entertaining and not much for everyday meals.

Clockwise from Upper Left: Banana Rabanada, Vegan Brunch, Perfect Pancakes, Mushroom Stuffed Poblanos, Tofu Sesame Scramble with Greens and Yams, and Roasted Potatoes & Cinnamon Apples

April: How it all Vegan by Tanya Barnard & Sarah Kramer

I didn’t make nearly enough from this cookbook.  I only tried three recipes, which is a shame because everyone in the Veg Cookbook Club seemed to be having a lot of success.  That being said, the few recipes I tried all came out great and I’m happy that my friend Laura gifted me her old copy of this book, so I’ll have plenty of opportunities to make up for lost time.

First, I made the Tempeh Faux-Chicken Salad with Tofu Mayonnaise which came out delicious, though I did deviate from the recipe a bit to add sweet peppers & pickle juice, as strange as that sounds.  Next, I tried the Garlic Pasta Toss which allowed for a lot of customization.  We used Soba Noodles, Bok Choy & Edamame.  I was amazed at how easily this dinner came together and also how satisfying it was. 

Last but definitely not least, I made the homemade Faux Parmesan Cheese which is mainly  just a combination of  ground up Sesame Seeds & Nutritional Yeast.  I am completely hooked on this stuff now and keep a jar of it in my fridge for all my sprinkling needs.  The funny thing is that I used to dislike the taste of Nutritional Yeast, and I credit this mixture with getting me to overcome that – soon after making it, I found myself nibbling on this “cheese” right out of the palm of my hand.

Overall Review:  This is a solid, beginner-friendly Vegan cookbook.  I had success with everything I made and it really is amazing how many recipes are squeezed into the pages of this  paper-back book (often, several to a page).   I think this would make a great cookbook for a transitioning vegan or for family meals, but I probably wouldn’t bring out this book for company since the recipes were pretty standard.  

Clockwise from Upper Left: How It all Vegan, Homemade Faux Parmesan Cheese, Garlic Pasta Toss, Tempeh Faux-Chicken Salad

May: Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson

By the sheer number of recipes I made, you can tell that I really had a lot of fun with Vegan on the Cheap.  This cookbook really suited my style – easy, healthful meals with an unexpected twist.  Now, I wouldn’t call it gourmet, but where this cookbook stands out is the sheer creativity.  If I wanted to make spaghetti or tacos or chili, I could just Google up a recipe… but if I wanted to try something unlike anything I’d ever had before, THIS cookbook would give me dozens of options that I wouldn’t have even imagined on my own.

My absolute favorite recipe that I tried was the Curried Vegetable Salad which I thought was as beautiful as it was tasty.  Rounding out my top three were the Garden Rotini & Chickpea Salad with homemade Goddess Dressing and the  Chocolate-Walnut Rice Pudding ( a dessert that I actually had the gall to make for breakfast).

Clockwise from upper Left: Garden Rotini Salad, Curried Vegetable Salad, Chocolate-Walnut Rice Pudding, Vegan On the Cheap

Other Vegan on the Cheap recipes that I made included:

  • Tempeh Bobotee – This interesting South African Casserole included  apples, onions, curry, raisins, almonds & tofu cream.  I accidentally doubled the tofu, so I’m not really sure what it was supposed to turn out like, but my version reminded me surprisingly of a kugel.
  • Sunday Supper Frittata – This dish reminded me of the brunch classic of an omelet + home fries, only it was all stacked.  I enjoyed it best with a generous squirt of ketchup. This comfort-food meal was very popular with Mike as well.
  • Mu Shu Vegetable Wraps – I loved the idea of using tortillas as “mu shu pancake” wraps for an Asian Stir-fry for an easy, tasty and new-to-us dinner.
  • Tuscan White Bean Pizza – I wasn’t crazy about this pizza, but I think that’s just because my hopes were too high after discovering the Muffaletta Pizza from Quick Fix Vegan, also by Robin.  That Muffaletta Pizza is the stuff my dreams are made of.

Clockwise from Upper Left: Tempeh Bobotee, Sunday Supper Fritatta, Mu Shu Vegetable Wraps, Tuscan White Bean Pizza

Overall Review:  Between this book and Quick Fix Vegan, I’m officially a Robin Robertson devotee.  Like How it All Vegan, I’d use this cookbook is more for family meals than for entertaining.  If you’re in a rut of “pasta night, taco night, salad night, repeat”, definitely pick up this cookbook for some fresh inspiration.  I also loved the Budget angle of this book.  My grocery bills definitely went down that month, though I didn’t notice any change in the quantity or quality of my meals. In fact, my bills would have gone down even further if I hadn’t taken a few shortcuts here and there (i.e. store-bought pizza dough vs homemade). This book is now officially on my wish-list, though I’ll be waiting on purchasing it since I’ve already pre-ordered Robin’s upcoming cookbook (One-Dish Vegan)!

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Check out my next post to see what I VegCooked in June, July, and August.

And if the idea  of the virtual VegCookBook club intrigues you, it’s not too late to join us for September!  In fact, you can get a FREE ~250 page .pdf download of this month’s  book , so there’s no reason not to participate! (to download, just go to this link and click the link to the PDF in the upper left-hand corner of the page).

We’ll be cooking from Anupy Singla’s Vegan Indian Cooking which I’m especially excited about because a.) the author is a fellow Chicagoan (and regularly teaches cooking classes which I hope to soon check out) and b.) not only is Indian food one of my favorites – I’ll actually BE on my way to India for a week-long business trip as this post goes live!!!!  

I’d love to hear from you!

What Veg Cookbook is your all-time favorite?

Have you ever gotten cookbooks from the library before?