Vegan Biz Profile: Vegan Heritage Press

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Our third entry in the Vegan Biz Profile series is Vegan Heritage Press, an independent publisher of vegan cookbooks. Vegan Heritage Press is based in Virginia.


Tell us about Vegan Heritage Press.

In 2006, I decided to make a clean break from the work-a-day world and move to the mountains. I’ve worked in various aspects of book and magazine publishing for many years and I wanted to put my skills and experience to use for something positive that could make a difference in the world. As I’ve been vegan since the late 1980s, starting Vegan Heritage Press seemed like a perfect way to merge my skills with something I’m passionate about. So, in 2007 I founded Vegan Heritage Press as an independent book publishing company that would publish vegan cookbooks. By spring, VHP will have six titles in its list.

What are some of your newest releases people can pick up for the holidays?

I’m extremely excited about our two new titles: World Vegan Feast: 200 Fabulous Recipes form Over 50 Countries by vegan cooking icon, Bryanna Clark Grogan. Bryanna is a fount of knowledge and her recipes are amazing.

Our other 2011 title is The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes, a wonderfully creative book by Betsy DiJulio, Arranged by the seasons, this book helps you cook your way through the year using seasonal ingredients.

One of my goals at Vegan Heritage Press is to publish cookbooks to round out my list with books that cover a wide range of needs in the vegan community. So, for example, those who want to create vegan versions of their favorite diner food and other comfort food will enjoy American Vegan Kitchen: Delicious Comfort Food from Blue Plate Specials to Homestyle Favorites by Tamasin Noyes.

For those who need quick 15-minute pantry recipes and want to know how to eat well when the power goes out, there’s my own book, Vegan Unplugged: A Pantry Cuisine Cookbook and Survival Guide. It includes 80 great pantry recipes by Robin Robertson, who also wrote our flagship title, Vegan Fire & Spice: 200 Sultry and Savory Global Recipes.

In the spring, I’ll be publishing our first raw cookbook, though it will be something brand new and interesting for everyone who is raw or experimenting with raw. Stay tuned!

What kind of challenges have you faced as a small press?

As the publisher of a small press, I have to wear a lot of different hats. That can be challenging, but it’s also very rewarding and fun. I’m fortunate to work with some great freelance graphics designers, editors, proofreaders, and marketing consultants. And I enjoy the one-on-one relationships I have with our authors. Many people like the idea of working with and supporting vegan businesses.

One challenge is to resist bringing out more than two titles a year. I limit the number because I believe a title needs six months of promotion. The big publishers can’t afford to do this—they usually give a book six weeks or so, and then it’s “sink or swim.” With two titles per year, I can turn on a dime, react to market trends via the social media, and work hands-on together with the authors to spread the word about what I believe to be valuable and wonderful books.

Who’s one of your favorite cookbook authors that you haven’t worked with yet?

Is that a trick question? There are so many great cookbook authors out there, I couldn’t name just one, but it’s probably someone I haven’t met yet that will have the next great idea for a vegan cookbook. And of course, I’ve very much enjoyed getting to know the wonderful authors I’ve worked with at Vegan Heritage Press and I think of them as family. I can’t help but extend that to all vegan authors and vegans in general.

Tell us about another vegan-owned business that you love that other people may not know about.

I really like what’s being done on Vegan Etsy. It’s great to see so many talented vegans on one site. All kinds of crafts, art, jewelry. I love the images posted by Josh at the Herbivore Clothing Company about how important it is for the vegan community to support each other. And the Vegan Etsy site is a great shopping alternative for fantastic hand-crafted gifts and keeps your dollars in the vegan community.

Triple Cookbook Review: Venturesome, Veganopolis, and Baking

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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!

99 Cent Vegan Guide

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Back in my early days of begin vegetarian, Erik Marcus was one of the first vegans I talked to and met up with. I remember meeting him for a breakfast in Ithaca when my wife and I were in town visiting Farm Sanctuary.

Erik’s always been one to try new things in terms of book promotion. A while back, I remember him giving away free PDF copies of his first book, Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating. And now, he’s drastically dropped the price on his most recent book, The Ultimate Vegan Guide. The paperback price has been slashed from $14.95 to $8.95 and the Kindle price has dropped to a mere 99 cents!

Getting a 99 cent book about veganism onto a family member’s Kindle should be a great way to plant the seed in their mind. It should be interesting to see how this experiment of Erik’s works out.

Triple Cookbook Review: The Baking Edition

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Lots of catching up to do with cookbook reviews, so let’s get started with a few baking books that have piled up over the last year or two.

Ani’s Raw Food Desserts
by Ani Phyo
Da Capo/Lifelong, 2009

I’ve been a fan of Ani Phyo since her first book, Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen hit the shelves in 2007. This book focuses solely on desserts, all raw and free of wheat, gluten, dairy, and processed sugar.

There’s a nice variety of desserts here, from frozen items like Pineapple Icebox Cakes and Key Lime Kream Bars to cakes, cookies, fudge, crisps and cobblers, and sun-baked treats like scones and biscuits. As with Ani’s first book, the recipes are relatively easy to make and don’t usually require ingredients that are too off-the-wall or hard to find. Certainly her recipes are easier with something like a Vitamix on hand, but most don’t require extensive dehydrating or preparation. Ani continues to be one of the most accessible raw chefs.

I had good luck with the Coconut Ice Kream recipe, made with just five ingredients: cashews, filtered water, agave, shredded coconut, and coconut oil. It’s surprisingly easy and offers up a strong coconut flavor and smooth texture.

Also very simple and quick are Sliced Apples with Rosemary. With only three ingredients (apples, lemon, and rosemary), this an amazing little dessert that perfectly combines sweet, sour, and savory. Love it, love it.

While I haven’t had a chance to try out any of the cakes yet, I hope to make the cheesecakes soon along with some filled chocolate truffles on the side.

The book is small and well-designed (it’s basically the same layout as Isa’s cookie and cupcake books) with beautiful food photography. Definitely worth having on hand if you’re experimenting with raw foods and want to delve into the sweet side of things.

Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar
by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero
Da Capo/Lifelong, 2009

I’m definitely late to the game reviewing this one, given that pretty much everyone that reads this blog probably has a copy, but here we go anyway. Viva la catching up!

Cookies. It’s a book with lots and lots of cookies. Kind of like the cupcake book, except with cookies.

The basic chocolate chip cookie recipe is quite good, of course, as are the Chocolate Fudgy Oatmeal Cookies (known around our house as the Compromise Cookie since I’m all about the chocolate and my wife’s into oatmeal cookies). The whole wheat chocolate chip cookies are a slightly healthier version of the old classic, making use of the love-it-or-hate-it white whole wheat flour. The recipe also works well just combining half all-purpose and half whole-wheat flour. The Orange Agave Chocolate Chip cookies, however, were disappointing. With the combination of orange and chocolate, I was expecting the world.

And in the “not-a-cookie, but good anyway” category, the Deluxe Cocoa Brownies are moist and super awesome.

Reading back this review, I realize that I’ve pretty much only made chocolate chip cookie variations. Not sure what’s up with that, but there are certainly a handful of other cookies I’m dying to try out at some point, including the Lazy Samoas, Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows, and Peanut Apple Pretzel Drops.

The book’s got great photography, the familiar Da Capo “square vegan baking book” layout mentioned in the last review, and all of the wonderful added text from Isa and Terry you’d expect. The recipes are not heavily reliant on Earth Balance, so if you avoid EB, it’s not an issue. Another thumbs up for America’s favorite cooking duo.

Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free & Vegan Baking Book
by Jennifer Katzinger
Sasquatch Books, 2009

While no one in my family has any level of gluten intolerance (that we know of, at least!), I still try to keep up on gluten-free cooking and baking. With so many more people finding out that they’re intolerant or allergic, it’s helpful to have some knowledge of different flours and baking techniques so you can accommodate everyone at a dinner party or make sure all the little ones in your son or daughter’s class can join in when it comes time for birthday cupcakes.

Jennifer Katzinger runs the Flying Apron bakery in Seattle and this cookbook offers up some straight-up gluten-free goodness for anyone ready to dive headfirst into gluten-free baking. The recipes in this book are VEFH (seriously, what’s up with the vegan books that still have honey as an ingredient? Can we just list agave instead or, at the very least, use the term “liquid sweetener”?) and all the recipes are appropriate for those with Celiac Disease (meaning low-gluten flours like spelt are not used). In addition, all recipes are soy-free.

Before going any further, let me be honest: I’ve made only two recipes from this book. While there are a lot of really, really tempting recipes, in many cases, one of two things held me back. For one, lots of the recipes called for a stand mixer, which I don’t have. I realize that it can be done by hand, but sometimes I just don’t feel like putting in the effort.

The biggest issue, though, is that these recipes can get quite expensive to make. For instance, to make one 10-inch square Earl Grey Tea Cake, you need three cups of maple syrup. Given what maple syrup costs, that’s easily $10 in just sweetener for just one cake. Yikes.

Some bakers may also be turned off by the use of palm oil in many recipes, given the issues that exist.

Obviously some of the flours are going to be tricky to find, too, but that’s not a criticism I’m willing to level on a gluten-free cookbook. If you’re going to get into gluten-free baking, you’ll get used to hunting down brown rice flour, hazelnut flour, and quinoa flour.

So, with all that said, let’s get to the food.

The first recipe I tried was the basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, which uses brown rice flour and garbanzo bean flour (which tends to lend a nice “egginess” to foods). While recipes with brown rice flour can tend to be a bit gritty, these cookies were quite tasty and didn’t suffer from an overly gritty texture.

For Thanksgiving last year, I made the pumpkin pie, which makes use, interestingly, of apricot puree. There’s definitely an apricot-y flavor to the pie, so it’s not traditional in that sense, but it is quite good. The texture wasn’t firm enough for my liking, but overall, I enjoyed it.

Given my lengthy commentary, you might think I wouldn’t recommend this book, but the fact is that I’ve recommended it and lent it out several times to friends with Celiac or with gluten-intolerant children. Even with its faults, it’s still quite a resource for those that still want the sweetness in their life but may not live near a Babycakes or Flying Apron.

Cookbook Review: 500 Vegan Recipes

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500 Vegan Recipes cover500 Vegan Recipes
by Celione Steen and Joni Marie Newman
Fair Winds Press
Buy Now

When 500 Vegan Recipes arrived in the mail for review a while back, I have to admit I rolled my eyes a bit when I saw the title. Here was a compendium of recipes bound for the dollar bin at Barnes & Noble. It didn’t take more than a minute of flipping through the book, though, to see that I was being a big dummy and judging a book by its cover (title).

500 Vegan Recipes has quickly become one of our favorite go-to cookbooks when we want something relatively simple, but new. While there are some old standbys in here, by and large, there are a lot of surprises and interesting twists that will keep this one on the shelf when others gather dust.

Food bloggers Steen (of Have Cake Will Travel) and Newman (Just the Food) compile 20 chapters and 500 pages of recipes ranging from breakfasts to casseroles to sides, and you know the rest. Lots of food from beginning to end in every imaginable category.

Our favorites thusfar include Butternut Drop Biscuits (made with spelt flour, oats, and butternut squash puree, they taste amazing right out of the oven getting that sweet and savory balance just right), a delicious Garlic and Sage Cashew Cream Sauce that we had on pasta but would be perfect as a pizza base (double the recipe… trust me), the budget-friendly Beefy Bacon Burgers) which take the unlikely hodgepodge of peanut butter, bacos, TVP, yeast, oil, and a few other things and make an easy and filling burger), Mac and Sleaze, and a Swiss-inspired Rosemary Apple Potato Rosti that would make a perfect late fall/early winter side.

We’ve made 23 recipes from here thusfar (still not even 5% of what’s in the book!) and only three haven’t been unadulterated thumbs up (and of those three, two were split decisions in our household). Not bad at all.

As I mentioned, while most of the recipes here are within the grasp of anyone with a little bit of kitchen time under their belt, you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. Like the nicely spicy Chorizo, Cranberry, and Cornbread stuffing or the Creamy Pumpkin Almond Sauce as a super simple pasta and veggie topper. The Raw Lemon Cheesecake is another winner I haven’t seen elsewhere (and it’s not hard, even making the raw crust from scratch). There’s a lot of international influence here, too, ensuring a range of flavors for every palate.

While there aren’t any photos in the book (not unusual for such a giant tome), Steen and Newman’s blogs have more than enough to let you see what you’ll be getting.

For well under $20 at most online stores, it’s going to be hard to get a better deal on such a huge collection of recipes that you’ll return to again and again. I recommend this one whole-heartedly.

(Just to show how slow I can be with my reviews, the authors already have another book up for pre-order: The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions and a third book in the works.)