Cooking with the VegCookBook Club (part 2)

In my last post, I shared the recipes I made and books I cooked from in March, April & May as a participant in the VegCookBook Club.

Now, get ready for 3 more cookbooks and lots of recipes from June, July & August!

But first, I thought it would be fun to share how I first learned about the VegCookBook Club – a true story of kismet!

Okay, I guess it’s not too exciting – I first read about the VegCookBook Club last summer in an article published in the VegNews Newsletter –  3 Ways to Share Your Love of Veg Food.  The first ‘way’ mentioned was the VegCookBook club and I instantly added Britt’s blog to my RSS feed (Google Reader, at the time), and then continued to read the rest of the article…  Here’s where the surprise came in…

When I got down to the end of the article (‘way’ #3) I unexpectedly saw my own blog’s name in print and could hardly believe it. ‘Way #3’ was The Lean Green Bean’s Foodie Pen-Pals (which is incredibly fun, by the way).  Of the 1,000+ participants in this monthly food swap, the link to one of my blog posts was included as an example of a great swap.  (Note: Foodie Pen-Pals is not a 100% Veg exchange, but my monthly partners always made sure to accommodate my dietary requirements, likes & dislikes).  My blog is pretty small so seeing my name in print does not regularly ever happen to me, so I was floored.  I now take this as a sign that I was destined to participate in the VegCookBook Club since we were both mentioned in the same article about a Love of Veg Food :-)

Speaking of Sharing a love of Veg Food… here comes the results of a lot of VegCooking!

June: Meatless by Martha Stewart

Were any of you subscribers to Whole Living Magazine?  I was crushed when the magazine closed it’s doors earlier this year.  This cookbook filled a void in my heart since the style of the recipes was very much like what I had come to expect from Whole Living – creative yet simple recipes with an emphasis on whole grains and fresh veggies.  While this is not a Vegan cookbook, I was able to find plenty of recipes to make that fit my lifestyle.

My all-time favorite recipe from the cookbook was the Orzo Salad with Roasted Carrots & Dill below.  This beautiful salad was a perfect example of what the cookbook does best – takes simple ingredients like Carrots and Whole Wheat Orzo and makes them POP with a sprinkle of dill, a squirt of lemon, and a dash of olive oil, salt & pepper.  I also added a can of Cannelini Beans to make it an entree and looked forward to having this as my lunch everyday for an entire week.

Clockwise from Upper Left: Orzo Salad with Roasted Carrots & Dill; Meatless; Mashed Potatoes, Chickpeas & Vegetables

 

Another favorite from the book was the recipe for Mashed Potatoes, Chickpeas & Vegetables which I had for dinner served topped with garlicky kale.  Sure, Mashed Potatoes are typically a side-dish, but with beans & veggies mashed in, why not make an entree out of it?  I’ll surely be making this again when the weather turns cold.

The three other recipes I tried were all tasty & relatively simple, though they won’t be advancing to my list of ‘Favorite Recipes’ that I keep handy for meal-planning purposes :-)

These recipes were:

  • Bulgur Salad with a dressing of Carrot & Pistachio Pesto – the Pesto was beautiful, but I think I over-pestoed my Bulgur and it came out very sweet.
  • Chickpea & Roasted Cauliflower Curry – I really enjoyed this dish, though I think it could benefit from some additional complexity in the seasoning
  • and Aloo Mattar aka Pea & Potato Curry – This was really tasty, but I eat a lot of curries, so it’s got a lot of competition.

Left-side: Bulgur & Chickpea Salad with Carrot-Pistachio Dressing
Right-side: (top) Chickpea & Roasted Cauliflower Curry; (bottom) Aloo Mattar aka Pea & Potato Curry

 

Overall Review:  I really enjoyed this cookbook for its beautiful photos and focus on whole foods.  I got the sense that these recipe were well-edited to strip the ingredient lists down to only the essentials for each dish. In truth, I’m not planning to add this cookbook to my collection since there’s a good number of recipes in here that call for eggs & dairy, but I will definitely be keeping this book in mind for holiday shopping this year.  I think it would be the perfect book for anyone who wants to try having more Meatless meals.

July 2013 – Eat Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton

 July was a BIG month for the VegCookBook Club.  Eat, Drink & Be Vegan was our book of the month and I’ve never seen the participation in the club so high before, including the level of my own participation – just wait till you see how much I cooked from this book!  

I’ve been a long-time follower of Dreena’s blog but had only tried one or two of her recipes before.  After cooking from her book for the entire month of July, I’ve officially become a Fan-Girl and now want to buy not just this book, but her entire collection.  Her recipes really struck the balance between Healthy & Flavorful, whereas I find that most of my cooking experiments err too far to one side of that equilibrium.  I honestly felt like everything I made from this book was a potluck-worthy success, which I rarely can say about my cooking :-)

Clockwise from Upper Left: Eat, Drink & Be Vegan; Banana Pecan Rice Pudding Pie; Broccoli Cashew Teriyaki Stir-Fry; Sweet Potato, Peanut Butter & Chickpea Stew; Thai Chickpea Pizza

 

Some of my favorites included:

  • Banana Pecan Rice Pudding Pie – I’m still dreaming of this sticky sweet & cinnamon-y breakfast.  I only wish it made more as the portions were somewhat small for my appetite.  The picture above is actually a double-batch!
  • Broccoli Cashew Teriyaki StirFry – My favorite part of this recipe was that the Teriyaki Sauce for this is made from scratch and surprisingly easy!
  • Thai Chickpea Pizza – Robin Robertson’s Muffaletta Pizza is still my favorite pizza, but this one is a very close second and I’ll definitely be making it again.
  • Sweet Potato, Peanut Butter & Chickpea Stew – The flavor of this soup is inexplicably good.  I also love that it’s pretty low-fat since the recipe calls for just a small amount of Peanut Butter compared to similar soups.
  • Bean & Corn Tortilla Lasagna with Avocado – I have actually been looking for a recipe for a Tortilla Casserole for a long time.  I’m not a huge fan of most non-dairy cheeses, so I was looking for a recipe that could hold it’s own without any cheese or ‘cheeze’ whatsoever.  Thanks to the layer of baked avocado, this is the recipe I’ve been searching for!

Bean & Corn Tortilla Lasagna with Avocado

 

One of my favorite things about Eat, Drink and Be Vegan is that the book has an entire chapter of Hummus!  I tried just three of the recipes and can’t wait to try the rest (White Bean & Fresh Thyme – you’re next!).

  • Peanut & Sesame Hummus – Just 4 of us devoured the entire batch of this Asian-inspired spread over a picnic meal during a concert at Ravinia.
  • Curried Hummus – The inclusion of Raisins made this a sweet & savory spread – perfect for an afternoon pick-me up.
  • Roasted Red Pepper & Almond Hummus – This was my favorite of the 3 spreads and the best Red Pepper Hummus I’ve ever had
And best of all was Dreena’s genius creation of a Tomato-Basil Tempeh-Bacon Quesadilla using the Roasted Red Pepper Hummus.  Yeah, this one gets a trophy too: my all-time favorite Quesadilla!

Clockwise from Upper Left: Peanut Sesame Hummus, Curried Hummus, Tomato-Basil Tempeh-Bacon Quesadilla, Roasted Red Pepper & Almond Hummus

 

And there’s still more… I also tried:

  • Simple Swiss Chard – Yep, this was truly a simple recipe (and tasty too).
  • Berry Goodness Muffins – The flavor of nutmeg and lemon gave these muffins a unique twist and really brought out the Berry Goodness!
  • Creamy Basil Dressing – The whole cookbook club was buzzing about this recipe.  Mike and I really liked it, though I think it’s tart taste would have been better on greens than on the Orzo salad we paired it with.
  • and Zucchini Chickpea Tomato Curry – This blend of sweet potato, zucchini, and tomato hit the spot for a weeknight dinner.
Phew!
 
Overall Review: In case you can’t tell from all the recipes I tried in July, this cookbook is AWESOME.  Do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy – whether it’s from your local library or a store, you’ll be glad you did.  I think anyone would get a lot of use out of this cookbook, and find quite a few new favorites along the way!

August 2013 – Betty Goes Vegan by Annie & Dan Shannon

Eat, Drink and Be Vegan was a very, very tough act to follow, but luckily, Betty Goes Vegan was different enough to escape comparison.  This is cookbook is truly all about the Comfort Food and reinventing old & new Classics. It relies heavily on familiar shortcut products like Vegan Dairy Products, Mock Meats, and Bisquick, which I generally try to minimize, but I still had fun cooking from this book, making a few swaps to suit my style.  

  • Spicy Peanut Sauce Tofu Wraps – Mike and I both LOVED these wraps of veggies with Pineapple, Cilantro, Spicy Peanut Sauce & Tofu.  I cheated (or as some of my friends say – I exercised good time management) by using Store-bought Baked Tofu and this recipe was quick enough that I was able to prepare these wraps for the next day after arriving home from an evening flight.
  • Green Monstah Casserole – This casserole gets it’s name from the inclusion of lots of greens from Kale to Spinach to Green Beans.  It also calls for Mock Bacon & Chicken.  I tried out Upton’s Seitan Bacon (eh…not my favorite) and Subbed in Upton’s Traditional Seitan (yum!) for the Chicken.  This was a delicious and hearty meal, but best of all, I loved the White Wine Sauce that tied the whole thing together – I may use that sauce to experiment with creating some Monstah Casseroles of my own!

Clockwise from Upper Left: Pizza Casserole (before and after “cheese”), Spicy Peanut Sauce Thai Wraps, Betty Goes Vegan, Green Monstah Casserole, Diablo Beefless Chili Mac

  • Diablo Beefless Chili Mac – True to the classic, this is a Chili mixture that is served atop Cheesy Noodles.  I actually used Mac & Chreese for the base and loved how it combined with this Chili of Lentils, Beans, Bell Peppers, Chipotle Peppers, and my choice of Tempeh Fakin’ Bacon (my favorite!) and Upton’s  Traditional Seitan.
  • Meatlovers Pizza Casserole – I would say this was really more of a “Pasta Bake” than a true “Casserole”, but regardless it was delicious.  Unlike my regular Spaghetti nights, this one included plenty of bell peppers, mushrooms, olives and Sausage (I used Field Roast’s Italian Sausage), giving it a truly Pizza-esque taste.  I actually left off the “Pepperoni” and limited the “Cheese” to just a sprinkling of my Faux Parmesan and it was still delicious.

Overall Review: Even with my modifications, I loved every recipe I made from this book – they truly were flavorful, comforting, and fun meals.  In full disclosure, I also won’t be adding this book to my collection since it uses more processed foods than I’d prefer, but I would absolutely recommend this book as a great transition tool for anyone leaning Vegan.  I also think it would be great for anyone with a family of picky eaters – most of the recipes in the book seem incredibly kid-friendly from Cheeseburger Pie to the Elvis Smoothie!

 

If all that VegCooking left you inspired, it’s still not too late to join us in cooking from September’s book: Vegan Indian Cooking  by Anupy Singla.  In fact, you can get a FREE ~250 page .pdf download of the 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).

I’d love to hear from you!

What’s your favorite Dreena Burton recipe?

Or if you don’t have one yet, which of the featured recipes would you most like to try?