Review of Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary

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Children’s books about animals can either be really awesome or really depressing. The ones that teach children about animals’ personalities and their individual likes and dislikes are great. The books that make fun of them or end up making light of things like eating eggs or bacon are pretty evil.

And there’s a new breed of books coming out that are explicitly vegan-friendly, like Maya Gottfried’s Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary. Maya’s fun (but not overly cutesy) poems are a perfect match for the paintings and sketches by Robert Rahway Zakanitch. The animals featured are all actual residents (past or present) of Farm Sanctuary.

Rather than go into any further detail myself, I thought I’d get some help from Rasine to review this book. Here’s the audio (with some sections edited out for brevity and clarity):

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You heard her. Go buy a copy! (And become a fan of Izzy and Morty on Facebook, since they came up in our discussion.)

Triple Doozy Catch-Up Review (and a Giveaway)

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Three mini-reviews for you this time around, to start making up (again) for lost time. If you just want to enter the contest, jump right to it.

In Search of the Lost Taste

I’ve been a fan of Microcosm Publishing for a number of years. Though I was a latecomer to the DIY wonder that are zines, I’ve been able to make up for lost time by ordering hand-drawn comics, zine anthologies, and, most importantly, cookzines (and though I’m sure they exist, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a non-vegan cookzine). Though I’m a regular Microcosm customer, they’ve also sent along a number of items to review and I’ve been pretty poor about keeping up.

The latest item they sent along was a copy of Joshua Ploeg’s In Search of the Lost Taste. Ploeg is a traveling vegan personal chef that wrote the entertaining A Chef’s Tale travel zine based on his time on the road as a traveling chef. If you’ve read A Chef’s Tale you’ll be ready for the unique approach Ploeg takes in In Search of the Lost Taste.

A combination cookbook and surreal tale of a tomato and aliens, Ploeg’s latest is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Ploeg takes pride in combining seemingly incompatible ingredients and creating something amazine out of them. Where else have you seen recipes like:

  • Bamboo, Radish, Leek Hearts & Fried Gluten in Spicy Coconut Milk Sauce
  • Cherry Wontons with Plum-Brandy Sauce and Yam-Mango Ice Cream
  • Orange and Vanilla Tart with Mint & Pineapple Glaze
  • or, Beet Pancakes with Creamy Dill Sauce & Wild Mushroom-Walnut Spread

While the book is aimed at the more adventurous eaters (I wouldn’t, for example, choose one of these recipes to serve to your grandmother-who-only-eats-beef as her first introduction to vegan food), you won’t find yourself thinking, “Oh man… another ‘Basic Hummus’ recipe?!!”

Thusfar, we’ve only tried one recipe (Potato-Cucumber Salad with Onions & Sweet-Sour Parsley Vinaigrette, which, by the way, makes a metric asston of food). It was very tasty and leaves me anxious to explore some of Ploeg’s more avant-garde recipes. (And the illustrations are great, too.)

Want a copy? You’ve got two choices:

  1. Tweet the following phrase: “Hey, @thevegblog, I want to win a copy of ‘In Search of Lost Taste’! #losttaste” On Tuesday January 26th at 9am eastern, I’ll pick a winner. I’ll ship anywhere in the world. Maybe even to the moon.
  2. Pick up a copy at Microcosm or AK Press for well under $10.

“Peace To All Creatures” Zine

The world can never have enough vegan-themed zines, so I was happy to see another one hitting the shelves last year titled “Peace to All Creatures.” Designwise, it’s quite nice, with an attractive color cover, nice photography (including a shot by yours truly in the second issue), and articles split into three categories: animals, veg diet & health, and social & green issues. The zine is edited by Pippi Howard from Colorado and Jessi VanPelt from Orlando (yes, seriously, it’s a zine that’s not produced in Portland!) and all of the writers in the first issue are women. There’s a little something for everyone here, from an article on vegan diets for dogs to a piece about pet snails and a feature about green art studios.

Given that non-glossy vegan magazines are slim pickings these days, it’s nice to see a well-written, well-designed zine like “Peace to All Creatures.” Sure, there are a thousand vegan blogs out there today, but it’s really nice to have something like this to leave out on your coffee table for visitors to flip through. Well done, Pippi and Jessi!

You can buy the first two issues on Etsy. And of course, there’s a Facebook page as well.

Vegan Fire & Spice: 200 Sultry and Savory Global Recipes

I’ll come clean right now and tell you I can’t deal with hot and spicy food very well. Plus, with a three-year-old, our food tends to be on the milder side. With that in mind, I wasn’t expecting to be able to make much out of Vegan Fire & Spice. It’s certainly not because I’m not a fan of Robin Robertson’s books — the pot pie from Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes is one of my favorites and I really enjoyed Quick-Fix Vegetarian. As it turns out, we just cut back a bit and have enjoyed everything we’ve made from here thusfar (plus, Robinson notes that “spicy doesn’t have to mean hot,” so not all of the recipes are made to singe your palate).

Each recipe is marked with a number of peppers, to help give an indication of how much you can expect your mouth to burn. The book is divided into five sections (The Americas, Mediterranean Europe, Middle East/Africa, India, and Asia), each with several subsections. As with all of Robinson’s books, each recipe is given context with a short write-up and there’s an informative introduction.

Thusfar, we’ve made with success: Vietnamese Noodles with Tempeh and Peanuts (big yum!), Baked Mahogany Tempeh, the very easy and tasty Ginger Broccoli, and South African Green beans.

While this book seems to have not received as much attention as her others (including her most recent, 1,000 Vegan Recipes (!!!)), every time I pick it up, I find another recipe I want to try. It’s a good one, even if you’re a hot and spicy wimp like me.

(Edited to provide an alternate source for Joshua Ploeg’s book.)

A Vegan Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving can be a rough time, particularly for new vegans that still celebrate with meat-eating family. It’s not easy sometimes to handle the chides that come with eating differently from everyone else at the table. And, especially the first time, it can be hard to resist the comfort food we remember from our childhood. There’s been a lot written about how to do a vegan Thanksgiving, but hey, there can always be a little more, right?

So, here are some ways to help get you through the holiday season stuffed and happy.

Get to cooking!

Whether you’re spending a quiet Thanksgiving at home or braving an evening of stupid questions and taunts from 20 family members, there are some great resources online to help you get cooking and make sure that you not only have something to eat, but something to wow the rest of the family as well.

I got a peek at Nava Atlas’ significantly updated version of A Bountiful Vegan Thanksgiving e-book and it’s mighty impressive. It features 65 recipes in all, including Nava’s own as well as contributions from all your favorite veg cookbook authors and bloggers (among them: Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Dreena Burton, Jill Nussinow, and Bryanna Clark Grogan). The e-book sells for $8.95 and all profits go to “humanitarian charities concerned with hunger, microfinancing for women in developing countries, and the alleviation of human trafficking.”

Then, over at Vegan.com, there’s a guest post from Robin Robertson (author of many cookbooks, including the new and massive 1,000 Vegan Recipes). A full Thanksgiving menu is presented. The Triple Cranberry Relish and Ginger-Dusted Pumpkin Cheezecake sound mighty good. (Last year’s guest post is also still available.)

Go to a real Thanksgiving…

And by that, I mean a celebration that doesn’t involve killing turkeys. Why not hang out with some turkeys instead? Sanctuaries around the country have vegan Thanksgiving get-togethers. The one at Poplar Spring is my favorite event of the year — imagine a vegan potluck with 300 people bringing dishes. Hot damn.

Below is a sampling of sanctuaries and their Thanksgiving events.

Vegetarian and Vegan organizations also tend to do Thanksgiving meals on or around Thanksgiving, so check in with your local groups to see if there’s any thing to get involved in.

Read Things

This is a good time of year to dig into More than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality by UPC’s Karen Davis (here’s a Google Books version). The level of detail is impressive — you’ll learn something. Trust me.

Feel free to share your favorite vegan Thanksgiving events, recipes, or books.

Cookbook Review: Vegan Brunch

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Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For--From Asparagus Omelets to Pumpkin Pancakes

At this point in her cookbook writing career, I think Isa could put out a book titled 137 Ways to Cook Brussels Sprouts and it would not only be a best seller, but a favorite on vegan messageboards everywhere (Really. Her roasted brussels sprouts recipe is great.). After the success of Vegan with a Vengeance, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and Veganomicon, it’s little surprise that Vegan Brunch got such hype (and then lived up to it).

Isa’s Basic Scrambled Tofu recipe is quite good. I’d gotten so used to my own hodgepodge of spices, nootch, and turmeric that it was refreshing to try someone else’s recipe. Our first attempt came out a bit salty, but we cut back the second time around and it was nearly perfect. We also enjoyed the swiss chard frittata quite a bit.

The Perfect Pancakes lived up to their name. The secret ingredient here is maple syrup; having it in the pancakes as well as on top of them makes a big difference. We made it with half all-purpose flour and half spelt flour with very good results.

Other big-time winners (and recipients of the rare “double plus” rating in our notes): Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes (which do a surprisingly good job of capturing the flavor and spirit of crab cakes considering Isa had never actually eaten one before — do yourself a favor, though, and double the sauce… it’s really tasty), Whole Wheat Crepes (super quick and super tasty), and Red Flannel Hash (a great way to use those beets from the CSA that you don’t know what to do with).

The two recipes that I’ve enjoyed the most so far are the ones I was most anticipating. First: New York-style bagels, made from scratch. Sure, I had to get up at 7am to start making them in order to have them ready by 10, but it was totally worth it. That first morning they’re crispy outside and chewy inside and just perfect. I had no idea that making bagels at home was possible, let alone with such good results. The second show stopper: Cherry Sage Sausages. Using a nifty cooking tip from fellow vegan chef Julie Hasson, Isa pairs chopped dried cherries with a surprisingly easy to make steamed seitan sausage. Fry these babies up and you will be 100% satisfied.

Only two times so far have we come up a bit disappointed. The Chive Spelt Mini-Biscuits sounded promising but came out funny tasting — I’m betting that it was due to bad baking soda or flour, though (which means I probably shouldn’t be mentioning the recipe in a negative way, but I promise I’ll correct this review if they come out better the second time around). We were also not as happy with the Banana Rabanada as we expected. Again, I’ll give it a second chance because it just sounds so promising.

With sections dedicated to savory, sweet, sides, breads, toppings, and drinks, Isa takes you from the familiar to the exotic. The food photography is beautiful and as with her previous books, Isa’s commentary is fun, useful, and eminently readable. She’s got another winner here.

Now bring on the cookie book.

Cookbook Review: Vegan Soul Kitchen

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“I don’t eat no meat, no dairy, no sweets
only ripe vegetables, fresh fruit and whole wheat
I’m from the old school, my household smell like soul food, bro
curried falafel, barbecued tofu…”

– “Be Healthy,” Dead Prez

(Note: anytime I can quote “Be Healthy,” I do.)

Vegan Soul Kitchen

Bryant Terry‘s Vegan Soul Kitchen fills a niche that’s been long left empty: good, healthy vegan food rooted in traditional African-American cuisine. It’s one of many excellent cookbooks released this year and is definitely one that belongs on your shelf if you’re looking to get more veggies into your diet.

Our two favorite dishes from Vegan Soul Kitchen come from the “salads, slaws, and dressing” chapter and both are great for dinner or potlucks. The first is Roasted Red Potato Salad with Parsley-Pine Nut Pesto. It takes a little while to prepare, but is a really flavorful alternative to the mayo-heavy potato salad that usually finds its way onto summer picnic tables. A few pages later comes the recipe we’ve made more than any other in the book, Wild Style Salad (Rock the Bells Remix). Sure, I was predisposed to liking it given that it’s named after one of the greatest movies of all time (and the “remix” refers to one of old school hip-hop’s best tracks), but I suspect even if you’re completely unfamiliar with Fab 5 Freddy’s fine acting and L.L.’s brash teenage braggadocio, you’ll dig this salad. Its base is wild rice, four different colored bell peppers, and some raisins and cashews. The dressing is a mixture of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon, agave, and some salt, pepper, and oil. The end result is a bright, vibrant, filling salad that’s packed with protein, minerals, and B vitamins. Love it, love it, love it.

Since we’re smack in the middle of autumn here, we’ve also tried out two of the recipes from the “root vegetables and winter squashes” section of the “So Fresh and So Green Green” chapter. We enjoyed both the smooth and sweet Roasted Sweet Potato Puree with Coconut Milk as a dip/spread and the Cumin-Cayenne Mashed Potatoes with Carmelized Onions, which provides just enough of a kick without being overpowering.

Other dishes we’ve tried: Citrus Collards with Raisins Redux (a great way to get your greens – also try his Collard Confetti, made with the leftover stems, with some sugar and balsamic), Sweet Sweetback’s Salad with Roasted Beet Vinaigrette (not for everyone’s tastes, but very bold if you dig arugula, beets, and candied walnuts), and the Carrot-Cranberry-Walnut Salad with Creamy Walnut Vinaigrette (the one recipe we’ve tried that was underwhelming).

In addition to being filled with great recipes organized in unique ways (there’s a whole chapter just for watermelon!), Vegan Soul Kitchen is a really entertaining read. The stories behind some of the food are longer than the recipes themselves and each dish is given a suggested music soundtrack ranging from MF Doom to Ann Peebles to Grant Green to DJ Spooky remixes of Charlie Parker. A fan even compiled two imixes on iTunes of 170 of the songs referenced in the book.

So, a big thumbs up for Vegan Soul Kitchen. If you don’t know, now you know…