Dreena Burton’s The Everyday Vegan (2001, Arsenal Pulp Press) is one of those great general purpose vegan cookbooks, the type that you can lend to a non-vegan friend and they’ll get a lot out of it. Dreena’s latest, Vive le Vegan!, takes the next step with an even better batch of recipes.
Both The Everyday Vegan and Vive le Vegan! accomplish one important thing: they collect recipes that are accessible, but not the same ones you’ve seen a hundred times before. You’ll see a lot of ingredients you may not be familiar with, but used in such a way that you’ll be anxious to try them out. For instance, the recipe for Miso-Curry Roasted Potatoes takes basic yukon potatoes and tops them with miso, one of those ingredients that a lot of people don’t find until they become vegan and start exploring international cuisines for the first time. It’s an easy dish with complex flavors. And if filling, spicy meals are your thing, the Last-Minute Chili and Taco Filling will do the trick.
Breakfasts are well-represented with some wonderfully delicious, but easy choices. The Orange Mango Smoothie and Creamy Raspberry Oatmeal are both healthy choices, but the real stand-out comes in the form of Apple Oat Pancakes. We’ve made this recipe more than any other in Vive le Vegan! so far. It’s one of those recipes that as you’re making it, you think, “There’s no way this will turn out,” but magically, it does. The fresh slices of apple are the perfect compliment to the the oatiness (oatiness!) of the pancakes.
The Apple Phyllo Strudel was a bit tricky since we had never worked with phyllo pastry before, but the end result was a deliciously crispy and lightly sweet. Other desserts came out equally as well. I made the Pineapple Lemon Bars for a potluck and they got a good reception (though I think I ate more than everyone else combined… I had trouble keeping my hands off of them) and the homestyle chocolate chip cookies will be going into my cookie repertoire. But the real winner in the dessert chapter is the recipe for Coconut-Lime Cookies… holy crap they’re good. Thanks to the tanginess of the lime and the sweetness of the coconut, I’d rank them among the best tasting homemade cookies I’ve made.
In addition to the all the great recipes, one small–but very important–thing that Dreena and her publisher got very right with this book is the format. It’s attractively laid out, easy to read, and best of all: all of the recipes are listed in the table of contents rather than just the section headers. See, around our house, we rate recipes on the front page of each cookbook by noting the page number and + (good!), – (don’t make again), and ~ (requires changes) and then a longer comment on the recipe page itself. With all the recipes listed up front, we can put our notations right next to the recipe name and see everything at a glance, making life just a tad easier. It’s the small things, folks.
While The Everyday Vegan offered up a solid introduction to veganism, Vive le Vegan!‘s big bonus is the “Feeding Your Vegan Baby and Toddler” section. Dreena’s done a lot of research on how to properly introduce foods to baby to avoid potential food allergies while also exposing them to a wide variety of flavors. It’s a handy guide and I’m glad Dreena shared what she learned.
The Everyday Vegan is a very good cookbook, but Vive le Vegan! is a great one, one that we’ve come to rely on. Dreena’s also been quick at responding to my stupid questions (“How much oat flour should I use if I don’t want to grind oats myself for the pancakes?”)… there’s something nice about that personal touch. I don’t think e-mailing Julia Child would have worked so well.
Well done, Dreena! We’re anxiously awaiting the next one to see what you come up with next.