Triple Cookbook Review: Venturesome, Veganopolis, and Baking


In my never-ending attempt to catch up on cookbook reviews, here is a trio of books that came out a while back from Surrey Books. Thanks to Surrey for sending these along for me to take a look at.

The Veganopolis Cookbook
by David Stowell & George Black
Surrey/Agate, 2010

Authors David Stowell and George Black ran the Veganopolis restaurant in Portland from 2003 to 2008. They’ve since moved to Chicago, but put together this hefty collection of recipes from the restaurant’s five-year run.

Being that these are recipes that were created to build a strong menu, they aren’t necessarily simple choices that you’ll turn to late on a Monday night. But, on a weekend with some extra time, you might want to spend the afternoon in the kitchen putting together the lasagna or Blackened Tofu Étouffée. There’s no shortage of intricate, unique, restaurant-quality dishes to be had.

Being a family that’s always eating a late dinner, we’ve only been able to try a few of the less ambitious recipes. We liked the Classic Pot Pie, but didn’t go for the spelt crust. We really enjoyed the Easy Vegan Dumplings and had good success with the simple Cabbage, Carrot, and Parsley Slaw, both served as parts of a larger meal.

There’s limited food photography and what’s there is harshly lit. Nevertheless, the food itself is the star and I suspect there’s a lot here to like for home cooks looking for something a little more advanced than the typical beginner’s vegan cookbook.

Venturesome Vegan Cooking
by J.M. Hirsch and Michelle Hirsch
Surrey/Agate, 2004/2010

Originally published in 2004 as Venturesome Vegetarian Cooking, Venturesome Vegan Cooking delivers creative, whole food vegan recipes that don’t require extravagant preparation and are elegant in their simplicity. There’s nary a mock meat dish to be found and the flavors are bright and exciting.

Our successes in this book: a super simple tofu salad, the bright tasting Zippy Zingy Pasta Shell Salad, bordering-on-too-fudgey fudge pops, and the surprisingly pleasing combination of apples and kale in the Apple-Fried Greens and Orecchiette Pasta. And one of these days, I may even be extra venturesome and try the vegan haggis, something I thought only existed on the shelf at Food Fight.

The only frustrating thing in this book is that it’s VEFH (Vegan Except For Honey). Thankfully, honey’s one of those things that can be easily be subbed for, but until we stop putting honey in recipes labeled “vegan,” we’ll keep getting served items with honey by omnis that think it’s a vegan ingredient.

I highly recommend Venturesome Vegan Cooking as one of those books you’ll keep finding new inspiration in years after it’s found its way into your collection.

Vegan Baking Classics
by Kelly Rudnicki
Surrey/Agate, 2010

When I went first went vegetarian over ten years ago, I never would have thought that the day would come where I’d see a vegan baking book and say, “Wow… another one?” It’s got to be difficult for a vegan baker today to stand out with so many excellent books already on the market. Kelly Rudnicki, who you may know as Food Allergy Mama, throws her hat into the ring with Vegan Baking Classics.

As with most baking books, a few pages are spent explaining the basics of vegan baking for those that are terrified at the notion of not using eggs in their cookies. The recipes include the standard list of breads, muffins, biscuits, cookies, bars, cakes, cupcakes, pies, and “other.” There’s beautiful, simple food photography on glossy pages for the majority of recipes in the book.

Thusfar, we’ve enjoyed just about everything we’ve made. The chocolate chip brownies are a great midway between cakey and fudgey, the zucchini bread was delicious (and we subbed in half whole wheat flour), and the Heart-Healthy Oatmeal Pancakes and oatmeal muffins are two excellent go-to recipes for breakfast. Our two favorites were the Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (we added chocolate chips and used a mixture of spelt and whole wheat flour) and the chocolate chip cookies (I have yet to make a chocolate chip cookie I didn’t like). Our only dud recipe was the dinner biscuit recipe. Compared to others we’ve made in the past, the dough was really hard to work with, though the end result was tasty enough.

The one recipe I really can’t wait to make: Snickeroos. Oh man. I loved those things growing up and haven’t had one in many, many years.

Rudnicki’s book is another worthy entry into the series of vegan baking books that are likely on your shelf. Do you need another? Yeah, sure… couldn’t hurt, right? I mean, come on… Snickeroos!

Three Things You Should Go Look At Now

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Since I’ve been a slack-arse blogger again and have fallen so far behind on cookbook reviews it’s embarrassing, I thought I’d toss something up here for you to read. A few things I’ve seen recently that I think you should see, as well:

1. Deb’s Lemonade

Don’t be scared by the picture of a yellow liquid in a jar sitting on a windowsill! This is just a simple recipe for not-to-sweet lemonade. I’ve been looking for a good sour lemonade recipe and this one just about fit the bill. I used freshly squeezed lemon juice and used just a touch less than a 1/4 cup, but I think I may want to go just a touch more than a 1/4 cup next time. It’s really nice to have a lemonade that’s not completely sweet.

2. Vegan Butter Recipes

Still trying to throw off the Earth Balance shackles? Give these recipes a shot. They look pretty good. (via Sheryl, I think)

3. King Oyster Mushrooms

Anyone know where I can find these penis mushrooms? I really want to make some Baked King Oyster Mushroom Calamari.