Unplanned Purchases

Sometimes my shopping impulses get the better of me. Last week I stopped by the Book Outlet on a whim -in a rare moment of freedom I bolted out the door and landed on the edge of their annual warehouse sale. A box of books for $30. The parking lot was packed. The clerk in the front of the store, which was eerily quiet, stated that it was “a free for all back there.” The whole back of the warehouse was set up with tables and cardboard bins. Books were strewn everywhere. What the hell was I doing there? I’ll just do a lap around the perimeter, I told myself, and then I will go do something more productive and save my money.

The gateway into the madness was the children’s section. I can always justify buying books for my kids, or as gifts. Next were the design and gardening books. I figured that the methods of pruning roses probably wasn’t going to be revolutionized any time soon, so those older books were safe to buy. There were a few design books that I thought looked not too dated, and some good references for building materials. Then came the cookbooks. So many sad, sad, cookbooks. So few vegetarian or vegan cookbooks, and so many focused on diet and weight loss. I guess that’s good that the vegan books are not yet remaindered, or maybe I was just late to the sale and they were all snapped up. As it turns out, I did manage to nab a few good ones, or at least, enough to make my $30 box feel like it was going to do more than just fill out my bookshelves.

The first one was decidedly non-vegan and non-weight loss. IMG_5330

I guess I was feeling rebellious. And I don’t know if I ever will host a Christmas cookie exchange, because that means that someone has to eat all of those cookies and it had better not be me, or my kids! But I figure I can veganize the recipes, the photography is great, the design is very cute, and the ideas are endless. Just what I need: more baking in my life!

Then my heart fluttered a little when I saw Gene Baur mugging with his sheep.

IMG_5329

This is a book that I would actually pay full price for, just to support Farm Sanctuary (I guess I’ll have to figure out another way to do that). The dust jacket is ripped and there are marks on a few of the pages, but I consider it to be a great score. And we’ll see if he really knows how to cook after all! Plus, my uncle was named Gene, and there are actually two Genes on the cover. My uncle Gene would probably be more likely to chase after Baur and Stone with his rifle and then hunt down all the livestock – this is a man who had a bumper sticker that read: Do us all a favour, shoot a Liberal. He was colourful, made his own deer sausage, and kept a spotless house. All types of Genes.

The third is another blogger-turned-cookbook author, Michael Natkin. It promises a flavour revolution. It’s not vegan, so hopefully it won’t rely too much on dairy and eggs. A quick look reveals lots of whole grains, fresh herbs, and again, pretty pictures.

IMG_5331

Finally, a purple hardcover practically jumped out of the discount bin straight into my hand. It was none other than Mollie Katzen‘s latest. I have had my Moosewood tomes for almost two decades now, and it is nice to see how the vegetarian cookbook has evolved from a cutesy, unpretentious, unillustrated paperback to a sexy, glossy, hard selling hardcover (the photo here doesn’t do it justice).

FullSizeRender

So far I’ve tried one recipe from there, the Asparagus, Roasted Red Pepper and Chickpea Salad, and it was received very well at a family gathering.

IMG_5286

I was looking for a new way to do asparagus. The dressing is a simple vinaigrette with a touch of sweetness from the agave. The flavour combo of roasted red peppers (from a jar), chickpeas, and chunky asparagus spears is really nice! I made it the night before and it was totally great the next day – I just added a squirt of lemon and some salt and pepper to freshen it up. Again, the book is not vegan, but it certainly is vegan-friendly, and I’m never scared to make substitutions where I see fit.

It’s nice to get a new haul of books, even if it was totally spontaneous and not necessarily what I would put on a wish list.

Now on Instagram!

IMG_5092

The Vegan Cookbook Academy is now officially on Instagram! I’m so glad the handle wasn’t already taken. It’s also a public account, meaning you don’t have to ask to follow us, and you won’t see any photos of children or wallpaper in various stages of removal or other weird stuff. All vegan food, all the time. I will do my best to credit the recipes by either naming the book directly or tagging the author, most of whom are on already on instagram, as any successful vegan celebrity chef should be.

We are gearing up for another meeting of the VCA, so stay tuned for the review! More recipes to follow in the meantime, I promise.

 

Cookbook Review #3: Isa Does It

Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week (2013). Isa Chandra Moscowitz

Happy New Year! And of course, if we are keeping up with resolutions, one of mine is to post a) on time, and b) more regularly. It was already last year that we had the third meeting of the Vegan Cookbook Academy! Ok, it was just over a month ago, time to stop the drama.

I acquired this book in September, and as you can probably see from my most recent blog posts, became a little obsessed with it. All 11 chapters and 320 pages of it. According to Amazon, the shipping weight is a whopping 3.2 pounds! The cover shows Isa being her sassy self, but once the dustcover is peeled away (dustcovers never last in my house, because the kids just rip them off), a bright green background highlighting a red bowl of alphabet soup is revealed. One group member found the choice of soup photo a bit peculiar, highlighting an unsophisticated recipe that doesn’t play to high end foodie culture, but seems aimed more towards families with small children. While this book is not family un-friendly, it doesn’t specifically target kids and from my experience, caters more toward an adult palette. But I think the photo does fit with the text, which is more of memoir of her relationship with food and cooking in the context of her upbringing, and the role that family and community continues to play in her path from tiny Brooklyn flat-dweller to vegan chef superstar. For many, myself included, Campbell’s soup is nostalgic. Many of her recipes are recreations of old childhood favourites, which seem to either originate from a Russian grandmother or a can, while others are sophisticated enough to bust out at your fanciest dinner party.

Continue reading

Rainy day pick-me-up

I’m noticing a trend: on dark and chilly days, I make soup, bake something, and write a blog post.

IMG_4428Today’s soup, from Angela Liddon’s Oh She Glows, was 10-spice vegetable soup with cashew cream. I haven’t been using this book very much lately, for two reasons. First, I overdosed slightly in preparation for the book club meeting, using it once or twice almost every day. Second, I got a new book to overdose on in preparation for the next meeting, so OSG has been collecting a bit of dust. But it’s nice to go back to an old favourite, especially on a soup day. The soups are always so great, this one included. The key is the 10-Spice Blend: smoked paprika, oregano, basil, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder (which I had to omit this time because I bought it in bulk and didn’t transfer it to a jar and the bag must have gotten wet at some point resulting in onion powder rocks), black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, and salt all combine with the tomato and cashew cream soup base to make a wonderful broth. It is also nice to have a chunky, rather than pureed, soup – the broth is always my favourite part. The recipe called for chickpeas and spinach, but romano beans and kale substituted wonderfully. The leftover soup pot is still sitting on the stove, and I take a swipe of it every time I walk by.

Continue reading

Soup, salad, and a little dessert

It’s starting to get cold in these parts. Time for some good old comfort food to get ready for the winter. Because winter is coming, right? Once again, I’m presenting a trio of recipes, because I’ve been cooking up a storm and am behind on my blogging.

I’m still going through my new favourite cookbook, Isa Does It. There are so many recipes in this book, and I think I’m going to seriously try to make every single one of them. What better place to start than the very first recipe in the book, Alphabet Soup.

IMG_4012This did not come from a can, but I have to say that the recipe captures the essence of the Campbell’s formula. Onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, peas, thyme, tarragon, alphabet pasta, and a hint of agave sweetness are simmered in vegetable broth and a cup of tomato sauce. No indication of a specific tomato sauce is mentioned, so I just used whatever pasta sauce I had in the fridge. I had lots of fresh parsley on hand which made for a nice garnish. Served up with soda crackers, it’s a soup that will take you back in time.

Continue reading

Catsup/Ketchup/Catchup

Is there a rule about blogging in which you are never allowed to pine about how behind you are on posting and you promise that you won’t ever let it slide again but are pretty sure that no one will ever believe you because you don’t believe it yourself?

Ahem.

Anyways, I’ve been delving into the latest selection for the Vegan Cookbook Academy, Isa Chandra Moscowitz’s lovely tome, Isa Does It. So far, I have to say we are hitting the mark almost every time. Here are a few samples.

IMG_3940 Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings

This was the very first recipe that I flipped to when I opened this book – it literally fell open to this spot. I’ve been craving a dumpling stew recipe for a while now and I am pleased to report that this recipe delivers. I made this on one of the last hot days of summer, but I’m thinking of it as a preview for the cold wintry days that are just around the corner. No fancy vegetables here, just good old onions, carrots, potatoes, and celery in a “lower-fat roux.”  The dumplings are pretty dense but do a great job of soaking up the sauce.

IMG_3969Kale Salad with Butternut Squash and Lentils

This one has convinced me of the benefits of keeping cooked lentils on hand in the fridge. Roasted squash tossed with kale and lentils – talk about your power salad! The dressing is gingery Dijony garlicy with sweet syrup and tangy vinegar, and ties all the super foods together fabulously.

IMG_4128Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was intrigued by the promise of the chocolate-rosemary combo. Everyone raved about them, but I’m a little surprised that I didn’t love them as much as I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong, I inhaled one as soon as it was cool enough to touch – there are few greater chocolatey pleasures than a fresh baked cookie with gooey melted heaven stringing out and falling on your chin as you pull the cookie away from your mouth. I do have to say that they were perfectly baked (pats self on back). Definitely different, but I don’t feel that the rosemary is essential. More of a special feature cookie, and it sounds impressive to guests, so bust this one out for the holiday party season. Now that I think of it, this is the perfect Christmas cookie. And I just got two new rosemary trees, as if I needed an excuse to do more baking.

I have several other posts worth of recipes to get through for this book alone, but I think that’s enough for now. The meals never stop around here, and this book has already garnered much praise from my friends and family.

IMG_4125

Scallion + Mint Pesto

IMG_3744I have an abundance of mint in the garden. I find mint a bit tricky to work with, as it easily overpowers everything (just like in the garden – it will take over if not contained!). Luckily, GOOP‘s scallion + mint pesto from It’s All Good does a great job of making the mint a feature without being too overbearing. The scallions have enough of a bite to balance the strong mint, and the bright flavours are rounded out with garlic, lemon juice, toasted almonds and olive oil. I cut the salt from 1.5 to 1 teaspoons, but that’s a personal preference that might also be influenced by the type of salt you are using. I find that this pesto has quite an oniony bite that mellows out after a few hours in the fridge, so if you don’t like a strong onion taste then don’t despair until at least the next day. It’s great in wraps, on toast, by the spoonful, or on steamed/roasted beets (as featured in the book’s chapter on vegetables). I’ll be harvesting my mint before the frost so that I can make this pesto well into the new year.