Vegan Cooking for Carnivores by Roberto Martin

 
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"So what do you eat?" 

Ever heard that one before? If you're vegan, of course you have. In fact, I would say it lands in part of the top three questions vegans get. I do not speak for all vegans, but I hear it too often for it to be an anomaly. If you are lucky enough to have never been asked this question, or you are not a vegan, let me set the scene for you:

The person, who you just told you were vegan, looks at you with total confusion and perhaps a little horror, as they envision a life full of grass, tomatoes, and celery.

If you are not vegan, but you are open-minded, this sounds like an exaggeration or a joke. While the misconception is a bit laughable, people think that vegan often means: deprivation, starvation, and the "blandest" vegetable diet. I am occasionally surprised at how deep the lack of exposure to vegan cuisine goes. For example, I brought a fresh made juice into work one morning, and someone asked, "Is that vegan juice." I replied yes, and his/her response was, "Wait, so is all juice vegan?"

When these situations arise, my response is to politely smile and list some "normal" foods that I eat and correct false information. This reassurance only puts people at ease about 50% of the time. It is sort of like telling your five-year-old that there is no monster under the bed. She wants to believe you, but there is still that nagging doubt that says you are totally wrong. Of course, veganism and vegan cuisine are far from the scary monster lurking beneath the bed frame. But to a lot of people, they might as well be the same.

This is where Vegan Cooking for Carnivores by Roberto Martin comes in. The cookbook does an AMAZING job at demonstrating cooking that anyone, especially the non-vegans, can get behind. 

This book is a proclamation that you do not have to live on the sad and "protein deficient" diet of stewed chickweed and wheat grass. Thus, we can be compassionate AND eat the foods that we love and grew up with. For example, Vegan Cooking for Carnivores contains recipes like Tofu Crab Cakes, and Southern Fried Chick'n. These are the kinds of recipes that erase the notion of waifish vegans pining and secretly lusting after a bucket of fried chicken.

It is official, we can have our cake and eat it too! (An expression that I always thought was silly. Who would have a cake and not eat it. That is a terrible waste of cake.) In addition to its inclusive philosophy, the cookbook is supported and promoted by two notable celebrities: Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. Both are big name celebrities and are vegan. They hired Roberto Martin as their personal chef and charged him to create the recipes they loved in ways that matched their ideals and stomachs.

If you read the back of the book, Portia's quote sums it up well, "and because Ellen and I can eat everything we want with the help of our carnivorous vegan chef, we discovered that going vegan is easy."  

I really appreciate the wide variety of recipes in this book. It is really a multicultural catchall, and there does seem to be something for everyone. 

The book consists of these parts. Under each part is a delicious example!

~Pantry essentials and Basic Cooking Techniques

~Breakfast

-- Tofu Benedict with Chipotle Cream

~Lunch

-- Grilled Cheese for Grown-Ups

~Appetizers and Snacks

-- Cranberry-Apple Bread  (pictured above)  

-- Tofu Crab Cakes with Simple Slaw and Crab Cake Sauce (pictured below)

~Soups

--Rosemary White Bean Soup with Garlicky Croutons

~Salads

-- Blackened-Tofu Caesar Salad (pictured above)

~Pizza, Pasta, and Pasta Sauces

--Potato Gnocchi in Sage Brown Butter

~Entrées

--Southern Fried Chick'n (pictured above)

~Sides

--Grilled Polenta Cakes

~Beverages:

--The Perfect Scratch Margarita

~Desserts:

--Vegan La Bête Noire The Black Beast

~Condiments, Sauces, and Dressings:

--Dark Red Mole Sauce

The welcoming and nostalgic nature of this book is both it greatest triumph and its biggest flaw. If you are a new vegan trying to make the transition, having a resource like this is vital. This book offers easy tweaks to your old favorites. But, those easy tweaks often involve highly processed meat and dairy substitutions. Most new vegans or veg-curious people start with these, but I find that most vegans migrate to cleaner and whole foods diets over time.

For example, after we made the Southern Fried Chick'n, which I thoroughly enjoyed, both Cameron and I felt heavy and weighed down by our food. They tasted amazing, but we were not used to food that made us want to nap after. So, if you want the occasional treat that recreates a meaty dish, then this book is incredible. However, if you are focusing on minimally processed foods, most of the recipes rely heavily on a substitution, such as tofu, Gardein Chick"n Scallopini, and cheese alternatives. Is every recipe like this? No, but enough are that I found myself wishing for cleaner alternatives.

Overall, this is a beautiful book with incredible color photography for almost every recipe. But, I think the true treasure of the book lies within its accessibility and educational potential. For a little over 20 dollars, a vegan can reclaim their old favorite foods, and non-vegans can see that we do not just get our nutrition from kale fumes. While, I no longer cook from this book regularly, because of the processed ingredients, I do recommend this book for newbies to the vegan world. So the next time some one asks you, "So, what do you eat?" You can say, with a polite smile on your face, "Southern Fried Chick'n and Grilled Cheese." And you will have the delicious pictures to prove it!

 

The Oh She Glows Cookbook

 

I have been a big fan of Angela Liddon for years now. She was one of the first vegan food blogs that I discovered. However, my allegiance to Oh She Glows does not stem from early veganhood nostalgia. Nope, it comes from a tried and tested trust. I have been making Angela's recipes for years , and if I am being honest, there was only one recipe that I did not like. Over and over, she has proven herself to be not only an artist in the kitchen, but an excellent teacher. If you are also vegan, you will know what I mean when I say that it is like re-learning how to cook when you first go vegan. Sure, my mom taught me to cook since I was twelve, but I only knew how to cook Standard American Diet foods. You know, the chicken pot pies, mashed potatoes, and microwaved broccoli. I knew nothing about preparing only plant-based foods. I, like many people, thought I would be eating rice and beans with a side salad FOREVER. However, Angela's website demonstrated and taught that plant-based meals can be delicious, drool-worthy, and satisfying. 

So, after many years of cooking recipes from the Oh She Glows website,  I could not wait until the book arrived. Yes people, I pre-ordered the book, and yes, I checked the UPS tracker five times a day, and yes, on the day it was supposed to arrive, I waited by the door with my nose pressed to the glass leaving a gross nose print.  While the mail-man was probably creeped out, I have no shame.

Now that I have had the book for a while, I can say that the excitement was well-worth it.  The book is beautiful and the recipes continue to impress. Each recipe has its own color photo that is expertly taken. Thus, the recipes are both stunning, and enticing to create. The book contains a compilation of her pantry and kitchen staples, which would be helpful for any newbie vegans, or people who just want to learn to eat healthier. 

Her book encompasses almost any mealtime or any part of a meal. Her categories are as follows (After each category are a FEW of the recipes that I have tried and found to be incredible)

Breakfast-  

Out-the-door Chia Power Donuts

Effortless Vegan Overnight Oats

Smoothies, Juices, and Tea- 

Classic Green Monster

Cheerful Chocolate Smoothie

Appetizers-

Mushroom-Walnut Pesto Tart

Life-Affirming Warm Nacho Dip

Salads-  

Perfected Chickpea Salad Sandwich

 Delicata Squash, Millet & Kale Salad with Tahini Dressing

Soup-  

Soul-Soothingg African Peanut Soup

Cream of Tomato Soup with Roasted Italian Chickpea Croutons (pictured below)

Entrées-

Enlightened Miso Power Bowl

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas with Avocado Cilantro Cream Sauce

Sides-

Marinated Balsamic, Maple & Garlic Tempeh

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fingerling Potatoes & Rosemary

Power Snacks-   

Salt & Vinegar Roasted Chickpeas

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites

Desserts- 

Fudgy Mocha Pudding Cake

Chilled Chocolate-Espresso Torte with Toasted Hazelnut Crust  (pictured below)

Homemade Staples-  

 Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Magical Chia Seed Jam

 

All of the above recipes, and many more, are packaged in this tidy book for about fifteen dollars. Which, if I am being honest, is an incredible deal. There are more than 100 recipes, most of which I have tried (and all of those have been crowd-pleasers). Thus, I declare for the price, that this book is quite the bargain.

Overall, this cookbook is wonderful. It is excellent for the healthy noobs or for the masters of vegan cooking. This book provides so many options for those seeking to eat a plant based life style, and Angela is very considerate of food sensitivities At the beginning of each recipe, she denotes things like gluten-free, refined sugar-free, grain-free, nut-free, oil-free, and soy-free. This is especially helpful for people looking to avoid certain foods. The majority of her recipes are gluten-free, sugar-free, and soy-free. So no matter what you are looking for, there are plenty of recipes for your dietary needs. 

The recipes range in ease and prep-time. However, according to her cook and prep-times, very few recipes take longer than an hour to prep and cook. Some, like the smoothies take 5 minutes, while others like the main dishes take longer. 

Perhaps my only criticism of this book is the time and skill for a few of the recipes. If you are completely new to cooking, then something like the Mushroom-Walnut Pesto Tart, may seem overwhelming. While  I assure you that it is delicious, it does take some time and finesse. So, my suggestion is that, if you are brand new to cooking (plant-based or otherwise), you may need to grow into some of these recipes. All are completely attainable, but they may require a few tries. However, if you are relatively practiced in the kitchen, you should not have any trouble  whipping up anyone of Angela's delights. As a whole, the recipes are great for all ability levels, but a few recipes are more intensive than others. So, if you are just beginning your cooking exploration, take heart, just like I did at the beginning of my vegan journey, that Angela's Oh She Glows Cookbook will mold you and guide your plant-based kitchen repertoire.