I wish I could spend all my time cooking through cookbooks... I find it SO interesting to learn how each of the recipes are going to come out! It's always a surprise! That's how I like to enjoy my time, anyway...
So considering I have shelves full of cookbooks, and it can be overwhelming to choose my next recipe, I thought I'd hone in on one cookbook per month. So for April: Spork Foods' Vegan 101 Cookbook!
I also figured, since I love cooking through all these cookbooks, wouldn't other people love a thorough review before they get started on a recipe? I can give my thoughts on each recipe before someone goes at it on their own. I always love reading through Amazon reviews before I get started on a cookbook!
Since Spork Foods wrote a book teaching cooking like they do at their cooking school, I figured that would be a good place to start. Especially because I've worked at 2 cooking schools! Their book, Vegan 101, seemed to be well-rounded, and full of a lot of special gourmet dishes that I would like. They also have a lot of unusual ingredients, which some people might find annoying, but I think it's a really good practice learning to track things down (kaffir lime leaves, chocolate stout, etc) .I really enjoyed working with this cookbook, and already have a couple of major favorites. And even though I rarely repeat recipes, there are some here I would definitely make again! (That means a lot coming from me). So in order that I made them, here's how the recipes all went down...
1) Greek Lentils with Olives and Herbs
This was a really solid recipe, which I doubled, and ended up eating over 2 days! I really enjoyed having a lentil salad in the fridge that I could quickly take out and eat, without heating it up. I don't think I'd go through the trouble of the kalamata olives again, and I don't think the dressing was anything special. This just seemed like a reliable, healthy dish to keep around the house. I might make this again, or I might try a lentil salad from another cookbook. If you're the type who likes to customize your recipes, this would be perfect for you! (I don't like to think, I want recipes already the way I want them).
2) Blueberry Tofu Ricotta Pancakes
Usually, whenever I eat pancakes, I feel like crap afterwards. But I think because there was so much tofu in this, I still felt really good after! The tofu made the pancakes more eggy, and these were just really delicious all around. They didn't come out round and beautiful, but clearly you can make it work when you stack them. My nonvegan housemate continues to rave about these. I recommend these!
3) Individual Chocolate Stout Cakes
I made these chocolate stout cakes with Veganics caterers, Emily and Doug! Although I'm usually a stickler to recipes because I want to know exactly how they come out, we tweaked these a little. They sometimes substitute half gluten-free flour to make things healthier, and as long as we were doing that, I said let's go all the way and make them gluten-free so one of my housemates can try them. I think that made the texture a little off, and I would use a gluten-free cookbook author like Yvonne Ardestani to make gluten-free treats next time (and which is clearly why Veganics only likes to sub HALF gluten-flour). Despite a bit of an off texture, we all still gobbled these up, and they had a really interesting depth of flavor with the chocolate stout! I got the exact chocolate stout that was recommended in the recipe, and it was so intensely flavored, that we were left with a whole large bottle of it that we didn't really want to drink. If I made this again, or if you want to make this, I suggest buying a chocolate stout that you'd want to drink the rest of, because this doesn't use that much.
4) Bibb Lettuce and Radish Salad with Chive Buttermilk Dressing
Well, you can learn from my mistakes here! I'm convinced that some vegan milks have sugar and vanilla in them even though they aren't labeled that way, so my unsweetened milk still produced a weird sweet dressing. Spork Foods recommends Wildwood soy creamer, and I thin the Eden soy creamer seems like the most pure ingredients for next time. So I can't really review the final product of the recipe, but maybe you can use the correct ingredients and have a better outcome than I did. I don't want people to hate on vegan recipes because of some dumb vegan milk labelling! I would really love if vegan milks said on them if they are appropriate for savory recipes or not. Let me tell you: it is SAD when you mess up mashed potatoes! Anyway, this would have been a perfect April or springy recipe had it come out like it was intended.
5) Velvety Kale Soup
Serve this to someone nonvegan who wants their vegan food delicious AND healthy! This uses a TON of kale and spinach, and still comes out AMAZINGLY delicious. Turns out, using chicken marsala flavorings can make anything super delicious- genius!!! After I finished the recipe, I realized it would have been super pretty to make the swirly heart designs using sour cream (did some quick research on YouTube and it looks really easy)! But I wanted to eat all the soup right away, so I just garnished with Follow Your Heart parmesan, which turned out to be a GREAT compliment to these flavors anyway! I HIGHLY recommend this recipe and think that you and all your nonvegan friends and family will love it! One thing not so great, though- I had a difficult time tracking down Marsala wine, and didn't love drinking it, and the recipe only used a little bit. Would be great to find a way to use up the rest of the wine!
6) Acorn Squash Fritters with Korean Spicy Sauce
I mean, there's no way these wouldn't have turned out well, based on the ingredients. Roasted squash, Gojuchang, panko... these are just packed with delicious Asian flavors. I don't usually make fritter or patty recipes because I think they're a little too involved, but I thought this would be a really interesting and unique way to eat squash. I don't really love eating a bunch of mushed squash. These are my nonvegan housemates FAVORITE recipe from the whole book! I thought they were really delicious, too. These were fun to have around, and kind of portable since I like to walk around with my food, haha. These would be a really fun addition to a potluck! This recipe is really nicely done, and it's really fun incorporating Korean flavors into my life.
7) Warm Quinoa Bowl with Chickpeas, Roasted Beets, and Dill
This was another recipe, like the lentil salad, that was so nice and healthy and tasty to have waiting for me in my fridge! I really got tuna salad flavors, and this would be the perfect dish to bring to the beach. I would definitely make this again, but I would chop up the beets and dill and mix everything together, and bring it out to a beach or picnic. It's really light, tangy, fresh, and just really tasty and healthy to reach for. Would be great with a little vegan chevre cheese, as well! I forgot how much I love roasted beets, but they are so delicious and so great to have around.
8) Creamy Vodka Pasta with Spring Peas and Bacon
This is a really rich, special dish... but they more I eat it, the more I think the tempeh bacon I used was too smokey. This made a LOT, so I would suggest sharing it with a lot of people for smaller portions! Maybe I'm just getting sick of it because I freezed a lot of it and keep eating it. It's a really creamy, delicious dish that was easy to make. I think you'll love it, but don't eat all of it like I'm doing! (As I continue to eat more...)
9) Tempeh Reuben
BEHOLD, the EASIEST AND TASTIEST recipe in the whole cookbook!!! (In my opinion, of course!) I LOVE reuben sandwiches, but I've never tried making them at home, because I figured mine wouldn't be as good as the restaurant version. My, how the tables have turned! Now I'm not sure if the restaurants will be as good as THIS version! It was SO easy to make, SO flavorful, and SO perfect. If you make any recipe in this cookbook, I suggest you absolutely make this one!!! I actually don't have a single sandwich recipe in my repertoire and I am so stoked to have this one now! I wish I had found marbled rye bread at a bakery or deli somewhere (for looks), but besides that, these are perfect and I think you will fall in love with them like I did!!!
10) Argentinean Empanadas
Behold, the tastiest and most time and labor-intensive recipe that I tried! These would be tied for number one with the tempeh reuben, but the reuben was easier to make, so it wins.... but these would also be FABULOUS to bring to a potluck!!! (Which I may bring next!) I love the savory and sweet filling with the golden raisins (I am usually NOT a fan of golden raisins), and I messed up by using ground vegan beef instead of crumbles (I had to really separate everything with the back of a spoon- a serious workout! Just get the crumbles! So it tasted more like a hamburger than a taco, still delicious though!) So not only did I maybe get the wrong kind of meat, but I ALSO think I overmixed the dough. In the last step, I would mix with a fork instead of a handheld mixer. This made it difficult to roll the dough out. This recipe made my kitchen look like a hurricane hit it, and I only made 8 of these empanadas- the recipe said it made 8, but I could have made 16 I think- but I would ABSOLUTELY MAKE THESE AGAIN because they were so delicious! They are also fun and portable and who doesn't love little handheld packages of food?? This is a SUPER great recipe to try your hand at some new skills in the kitchen- I mean, I messed up a couple of things and they still turned out amazing, imaging if you did everything right?! Or you can just invite me to a potluck soon and I'll bring them...
I hope you enjoyed this cookbook review as much as I liked cooking through and eating everything... even as a seasoned cook (LOL pun intended) I can say this still stretched my skills and made me even better in the kitchen. I think you'll love these recipes, and please tell me the ones you've tried that you love! There are still so many recipes in here I want to try, like the benedict, bloody mary, biscotti, BLT, French dip sandwich...