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It is no secret I really like Terry Hope Romero and Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Sometimes I feel like the vegan world is crammed with feel good Californians, so having some snarky New Yorkers with killer food makes me happy. Since Terry and Isa both started to write their own cookbooks, it has always been interesting to see how each person cooks. Romero seems to write about specific topics- whether it is a specific world cuisine, salads, or in this case- protein.

Photos

There isn’t a photo for every recipe, but then again, do we need that? Answer- probably not. I mean we don’t need to see what a smoothie bowl looks like more than once. But the photos that are in the book are beautiful and fun. Instead of JUST featuring the recipe, the photographer arranges the recipe as if it is just being arranged in the kitchen.

The photographer worked with Terry Hope Romero for her sister book Salad Samurai and for Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book Isa Does It. As I praised with Isa Does It, the photos look as if you walked into a working kitchen, but somehow with the perfect lighting and the perfect amount of mess. Although the photos are clearly staged, it does give the recipes a sense of approachability that encourages people to make them everyday.

Set-up

Romero takes a quick approach, giving you an introduction and some protein basics. This is probably a good thing since she uses protein powders in so many of the recipes. She talks about the basic different powders and why she chooses to use one in a certain recipe and not another. I am a little disappointed that she doesn’t include soy protein isolate, or at least explain why she doesn’t like it. It use to be THE protein for vegans.

She then touches base for other common ingredients she uses and talks about some cooking basics. Most people can skip this section but if you never cooked brown rice before? Well Romero has you covered so you don’t have to pause that podcast to google “how to cook brown rice.” Heck I even used her coconut bacon recipe in that section.

Recipe categories? I liked how she divided them up: Unstoppable Smoothie Bowls and Granola; Stealthy Protein Pancakes, Waffles, and Much Much More; The Protein Bakery Basket; Super Toast: Savory and Sweet; Protein-Packed Patties and Burgers; Better Than Ever Burger Bowls; Grain and Noodles Bowls; and finally Sweet Treats.

Writing

As with all Terry Hope Romero’s book, I am always impressed with her writing. It is always open and very relatable. She more or less mocks the pseudo-enlightened statements that are the so common ever since M.F.K. Fisher. She also has no visible typos or issues with the recipes- oh wait except for one. Her chickpea eggplant hemp veggieballs have no hemp in them. It bothers me endlessly. But truthfully, this is the least amount of issues I’ve seen in a cookbook where there is always one or two ingredients out of place or letters missing.

Overview

It seems there is a divide in the vegan world over this cookbook. A lot of vegans complain that it feeds into the “protein complex” that America has. Which is sad because Terry Hope Romero addresses this in the introduction. She, for the most part, wrote this book for weight lifting vegans. And I have to say, I think this is super helpful. I know Alexa would love this book since she is a big crossfitter, and is a flexitarian. She would like to avoid dairy and eggs, but when you are surrounded by a world that loves the paleo diet, it is hard to learn about vegan protein. This book would be perfect for her. Terry’s recipes recommends cheap protein powder, aka not to use Vega (though some recipes need that, like the smoothie bowls)

What I also love about this book is that there are lots of tips to save your recipes. Many people don’t live with their significant other, or eat the same thing as each other. So I hear lots of vegans say that they can’t make a full recipe because it will go to waste. Romero gives lots of notes on which recipes you can double and freeze. This has been nice for me since I am expecting so I am stocking my freezer up for sleep deprived post baby me. 

Right now, protein isn’t on my list of things to pay attention to. I’ve been getting what I need, and probably should be eating more whole grains (as a pregnant lady that is) But once I deliver I probably going to dive into this cookbook. I find that this has lots of recipes that are very warming, and don’t use as much fresh produce. So testing out these recipes while I have my CSA is a little bit of a struggle.

Otherwise I love this book. I will be using it a bunch in the future. If anyone is a vegan weight lifter, even with light weights, they will probably want to pick up this book. Terry Hope Romero uses protein powder, yes, but I think she varies the types making it friendly for lots of vegans. I am still a little sad she ignore soy protein, but hey, she likes to use tofu so that’s okay.

Wanna Skip the Protein Powder?

As mentioned above, some of the biggest critizism has been how much the recipes use protein powders. I have to point out a few things if people want to save some cash. One tip would be to skip the hemp protein powder and only get the rice and pea protein powders. I got NOW protein, which isn’t the best for smoothies, but works well with these recipes. You can get most of the rice and pea proteins for $6-10 per pound depending on the size you buy. I super recommend getting these for the baked goods and burgers as the protein powders help with binding (think of eggs and how their proteins work in traditional baked goods)

Wanna skip protein powders overall? Well, some of the recipes aren’t going to be high in protein, but you can do almost everything in the first chapter with the smoothies bowls. But there is almost always a non-protein powder recipe in each chapter. Quick way to find them is to look at the savory recipes over sweet. So you want to check out the end of Stealthy Protein Pancakes, Waffles, and Much Much More, and almost all recipes are protein powder free in Super Toast: Savory and Sweet and Grain and Noodles Bowls.

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One of the first concerns I had when going pregnant is how my veganism would fit into it. I’ve heard of many healthy pregnancies with vegan women, or various advice for families that are vegans. But when saying telling family that I was pregnant most asked if the whole vegan thing was healthy or not. So I did some research and tried to find some books to help. Answer? Pretty much I had nothing to worry about.

What to Expect: Eating Well When You’re Expecting
Written by Heidi Murkoff
This was a book I found at my local library book sale. For a buck, why the hell not? I clearly knew it wouldn’t be vegan but I figured I could apply the information towards a vegan diet. The book was longer than it really needed to be, and it seemed like there was a lot of repeat information. Don’t eat too much, but more importantly don’t eat too little. The author stresses the role of calcium, which is important but she recommends a dairy overload. I was a little pissed by all her dairy suggestions (aside from my personal opinion that dairy is more cruel than meat) is that she completely ignores the fact that most plant based milks contains just as much calcium as cows milk, many contain more. In her defense that wasn’t the case 10 years ago (which I specifically remember.)

What I found more confusing was her system of tracking nutrition. She stressed the following nutrients: calcium, protein, iron, betacarotene, vitamin d, vitamin b12, and vitamin-c. So to keep track she suggests tracking the servings of food for several different categories: 3 protein, 4 calcium, 3 vitamin c, 3-4 green leafy and yellow fruits/vegetables, 1-2 other vegetables, 6+ whole grains and legumes, iron rich foods (no specified servings), 4 fat/high fat foods. Confused already? I get what the author is doing, dividing fruits and veggies up by how nutritionally dense they are. Plus many of these servings will overlap, for example 1 cup cooked collard greens falls under green leafy veggies, vitamin c, and calcium. Many of the whole grains and legumes also count as half a protein serving. The book gives examples or serving sizes for qualifying foods but since the vegan foods tend to overlap it is kind-of hard to keep track of it all. I personally find it easier to just track the calories on Cronometer, but I know that isn’t always a possibility for people.

Then there are other tips, like how to eat healthy in unhealthy situations, which many vegans already know since they have to know how to eat in non-vegan situations. There is a chapter of foods to avoid, which again mostly doesn’t involve vegans since 90% of the off limit foods are cheese and meats of some sort. 

So what are the good parts of the book? Well it was very reassuring to see that healthy eating when pregnant is pretty much the same as eating healthy in general. Yes there are some larger requirements such as iron and calcium. The book also goes over information about eating after giving birth, giving really interesting information about breastfeeding. I was surprised to find out that you need more calories to breastfeed than when you are pregnant! 

This is a book I have no plans to keep. It is going to be donated right back to the library. It isn’t totally useless. The book does some reassuring that a vegan/vegetarian diet is obtainable, which is good. But I don’t like how it recommends 3 servings of protein when most of the whole grains are half a serving, so in theory getting 6 whole grain servings would fill the 3 protein serving requirements. Okay it doesn’t work out perfectly that way but I get a little annoyed when the author stresses that we get too much protein in our diet, then puts it down as a requirement in her book. Most people are probably not going to count the whole grains as half a serving and cut down on the meat.

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The Everything Vegan Pregnancy Book
Written by Reed Mangels
Type in vegan and pregnancy in Amazon and this book pops up. I checked my library and they carried it, so naturally I checked it out. Sadly it was largely not helpful for me, a vegan who is pretty well educated in diet. The book largely focuses on diet breaking down most of the chapters by important vitamin, minerals, and macros that pregnant women should focus on, which are things most vegans learn about- protein, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and iron. The only new information is pretty much zinc and iodine, which most vegans don’t think twice about.

Otherwise the author goes through the basics about pregnancy, but doesn’t go into the specifics of how it relates to pregnancy. In fact she doesn’t explain many things. There is a birth plan checklist in the back, and some questions are left unexplained. Do hospitals make you get enemas? What are they shaving?! I am still not really sure if these are optional “hippie-dippie” options or just something all hospitals do. I am going with optional since I haven’t read them ANYWHERE on ANY blog or book, and I’ve read people talking about pooping, puking, and peeing during childbirth/post birth. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

That being said this book isn’t garbage. I think it is great for anyone who is looking to go vegan in the middle of pregnancy, or just started to make the transition before conceiving. It will be reassuring to parents that you read the book and your child won’t be iron deficient. As for a veteran vegan, there is no information about what types of treatments or drugs that aren’t vegan, which was what I was really hoping for.

There are some recipes in the back, which again is great for brand new vegans. The recipes are really simple and pretty tasty, but nothing amazing. I think I really liked her recipe for baked beans, but sadly involve a lot of baking (hello hot hot summer.) She also had an interesting recipe for cereal bars, which had a little more sugar than I would like, but that is a different complaint for a different day. Glad I didn’t have to buy this book and was able to just get it from the library.

Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide
Written by Sayward Rebhal
This is my dream book. Google vegan and pregnancy, this is the second book to come up on Amazon. I read the reviews and hesitated to buy it, it didn’t seem to have lots of information. This was very wrong of me. Yes, the book is very short, and very small (physically, it easily fits in a purse.) Sayward is treating you like an adult who probably picked up a few other books about baby making. She touches nutrition very lightly, which I like personally since as my review of What to Expect says, your diet when pregnant is pretty much the same before hand. 

Sayward hits the main vegan questions- what drugs can I take to deal with some of the pregnancy side effects? Oh she is listing BRANDS! Thank god! No joke, I read her blurb about heartburn, and saw her comment on tums, left the house, bought a container. She touches the topics of what treatments are vegan, and gives tips that she and other vegan parents had done. She talks about pregnancy, birthing, breastfeeding, and raising children. 

Downfalls? Well, the book isn’t very long, which is both nice and flawed. Yes, it made it an easy book to tell my husband to read through for any question family members might have. But I would recommend taking this book with another more clinical/thorough pregnancy book like What to Expect When Expecting. And since the book is so small it can easily get outdated. Those name brand vegan drugs could add non-vegan ingredients to them. And I know one bit of outdated information was on vitamin D. Since the book was written before the discovery of vitamin D3 that can be synthesized in a vegan form with lichen, Sayward says that all D3 isn’t vegan, and says the brand Garden of Life prenatal vitamins aren’t vegan. Since the book is so short, I doubt it will be updated with this new information.


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I have always been a big fan of Indian cuisine. I loved how it was very vegetable heavy and you had lots of different options for meals without meat. But as I went vegan I soon discovered how many of those vegetarian dishes were full of dairy. So I was happy when I found the food blog Vegan Richa. Not only did she have some authentic Indian dishes, all vegan, she also had some fun Western/fusion dishes. So when Richa Hingle said she was releasing a cookbook all about Indian food, I knew I had to get it.

Photos

I love the photos that are in this book. It is pretty important to me to have photos of food that are not traditionally made in your area *cough* Vegan Eats World *cough* The Asian Vegan Kitchen *cough* If you are buying this cookbook you probably know a little about Indian food, but not a lot. And Richa’s photos does help paint a picture of what to expect with textures, serving, etc. 

And I can’t stress enough how much this book needs lots of photos. The names of the recipes aren’t too appealing. Richa describes the dish for what it is, but let’s face it, how many different lentils can she use to keep your attention in the dal section? The photos gives a visual that stimulates the reader to pick it and make it. 

Set-up

Nothing too unique about how this book is set up. But here is something I really liked about it. Richa explains why she made the book in the very beginning. Many times I would find this a little pointless with a vegan cookbook as it comes off preachy after awhile. But I think it is important because her book is about a specific type of cooking- Indian food. Some people might pick this book up without seeing it is vegan, so the introduction can be inspiring to someone.

Otherwise it is the same ol’ same ol’ deal. There is a large section about all the different foods you will need, explaining all the Indian specific ingredients, then moving to vegan specific foods. She divides up the recipes in a way that makes it easy to plan a traditional Indian dinner. Then she has the index in the back, which is very easy to use if you are looking for specific ingredients (something I like a lot!)

Writing

Richa isn’t the best writer out there. But as a trade off she is short and to the point. She writes directions that are easy to follow. She also describes various indian staples in a quick no fuss manor. My only disappointment is that since she is so quick to describe things she glosses over the ingredients descriptions in the beginning a little too fast for my taste. But she makes up for it in the recipes, and gives a lot of details of different ways to make a recipe, where they are from, and how it may vary from region to region.

As for grammar, I think I only spotted one or two spelling errors. Nothing huge, and hopefully was fixed in the next pressing. The grammatically errors were minor and didn’t make the things confusing on what the ingredients or recipe needed. I think there was one case where a spice wasn’t listed in the steps. But Richa is so organized with the ingredients, ALWAYS listing them in order of use and grouping them by steps, that it was easy to figure out when to use the missing ingredient, which I think is much more important.

Overview

I can not stress how much I love this book. I got my copy for Christmas, and accidentally had two people get it for me. My Mother took the extra one and found out that she loved the book too. I can only hope that she gives lentils another try because I am falling in love with the potentials of dals. They are so cheap and are very versatile.

What I also love about this book is that there is a lot of ingredient overlap. Many cookbooks that focus on a specific cuisine or cooking style can sometimes fall into the trap of requiring ingredients that are only used in one or two different ingredients. I have many of these ingredients in my cupboard, granted I have a well stocked pantry. And if I don’t have it, I have found a few other recipes that use that lentil that I had to buy, or whatever spice I had to buy.

I love this book and I think it is one of my new favorites. I will probably use it as much as Isa Does It since it uses a wide variety of foods and they are simple to make. None of the dishes are particularly hard, and usually don’t take long to make. Some take a little longer to make, but usually has a lot of down time. I recommend this to anyone for weeknight dinners, and anyone who loves Indian food and wants to make some at home.

Recipes

This cookbook I tried my best to pick at least one recipe from each section of the book to show all the variety that is available. If there was a recipe available online legally, I left a link for people to try it out before buying the book.

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With the Christmas season here, there is a good chance you are making cookies. And I thought it would be a good time to try out a bunch of recipes from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. It is a classic vegan cookbook that covers the topic of… well… cookies. It goes a little further covering bar cookies, brownies, and biscotti. Some of the cookies I made for christmas, and some I’ve made in the past for daily eating.

Photos

There are lots of photos in this book, I would say about half of the cookies have a photo. All are well lit and beautifully photographed. All the cookie photos are places on brightly colored backgrounds, making the photos very kid friendly (which let’s face it, we all remember the joys of cookies as kids.) There are enough photos to spark the reader in making new cookies, but I do have a problem. There are a few cookies that are nicely clipped to have white backgrounds and randomly show up in recipes. For example the Mexican Snickerdoodles show up in the recipe for Chocolate Marmalade Sandwich Cookies. At first I found this confusing, until I noticed the same cookies photo appearing over and over again.

Set-up

The book starts with some cookie basics which truthfully I skipped. I started to read it, but it can be painfully boring to the seasoned vegan baker. BUT it is filled with important information to a new baker. For example, I think my husband could read it and feel more confident about the different flours out there. There is even a section that have various troubleshooting situations. So if your cookie doesn’t turn out right, you can fix it.

They divide the cookies up by drop cookies, wholesome cookies, bar cookies, fancy cookies, and roll and cut cookies. When flipping through, it is easy to go from one section to another without ever noticing. I think this is true for all of their baking books. I am not really sure if I care too much about having “sections” or not. 

Writing

The book has the usual fun writing styles of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. They really make you feel comfortable with baking, and make veganism seem less exclusive. They also make you smile for the “fancier” cookies, they aren’t that hard, you got this. The directions are easy and to the point, making it easy to tell if I need a stand up/hand mixer or just a big wooden spoon.

Overview

I love this cookbook. All these cookies have been winners, though I wish or rather could see this book being much bigger. Compared to the vegan pie in the sky and the cupcake take over the world, I feel like there are SO many types of cookies that I wish this book could be just a little bit bigger. There seem to be a large amount of drop cookies that used oatmeal. There also aren’t many of the classic Christmas cookies that you might find with Christmas tree decorations, or other classic cookies I grew up with. I know they can’t cover ALL cookies ever made, but I feel like there are so many that aren’t easily interchangeable like how a cupcake can be paired with different frosting to make a new flavor.

But everyone loves the cookies I’ve been making, and there are so many new inventive flavors. Carrot cake cookies? Grapefruit? Tahini lime? And out of all the cookbooks there are the least amount of “weird” vegan ingredients. Meaning I would feel pretty comfortable giving these recipes to an omni baker, who wouldn’t have to go out and buy new ingredients.

Below are all the cookies I made from the book- which is a lot. They are so good, and I recommend buying this book for any vegan who needs to make cookies from time to time.

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Many blogs have featured this newer cookbook on vegan casseroles. Since so many blogs had giveaways, sample recipes, and glowing reviews, I wanted to give the book a try. Which is a little weird since I never really grew up on casseroles. At least “all-American” casseroles. Sure we had mac and cheese, lasagna, and tuna noodle casserole. But that was mostly it. When I started to cook I was always intrigued by casserole recipes. They were so exotic and foreign to me.

So I can’t say if Julie has put all the classics in this book, but many looked familiar. She features both American classics (beans and rice, chili casserole, nacho tots) and more traditional cuisine (stuffed peppers, lasagna, mac & cheese). The overall goal of the book was to make quick dinners that give the comforts of casseroles, but were vegan and not too heavy on fats and calories.

Photos

Compared to most cookbooks reviewed on here, there aren’t that many photos. But truthfully, I doubt that you need a photo for each recipe. Casseroles aren’t the most photogenic food out there. But what I really appreciate is their choice of recipes to photograph. If the dish wasn’t as straight forward as a mixing all the food and baking, they took a picture. For example there was a photo of the stuffed cabbage or lasagna. These aren’t traditionally thought of “casseroles” but fit the definition. The photos that are available are beautiful and presents the foods as something delicious and appetizing. It is interesting to see some reviews online and see the not-so glamorous shots of the dishes. Not to say the blogger casseroles look disgusting, but the photos in the book are just a little more inspirational.

Set-up

The book opens with a very short intro. I think this was a smart choice. If you are picking up a book about specific vegan foods, there is a good chance you already know a good bit about veganism. You are going to know all the different vegan substitutes, which foods aren’t vegan, and the benefits of lifestyle. The book jumps right into the recipes, dividing them up as appetizers, dutch-oven casseroles, old favorites, pasta, vegetable, desserts, and “staples.” The staples section is filled with sauces, and crumbles for recipes. Although it was a pain to flip back and forth for some recipes between the nacho sauce and the casserole, it wasn’t too big of a deal. It was a little easier because by the end I started to memorize the sauce recipes, needing the flip pages less and less.

Writing

The writing is brief and to the point. This book had a small opening, and jumps rather quickly to the recipes. She keeps the length down in the recipes. There aren’t any long stories, cultural references, stories about the recipe development, just a short paragraph describing the dish. Sometimes she suggests how to enhance a dish (like in the Rice & Beans being served with lettuce, avocados, and salsa). This makes and easy read that isn’t distracting from the recipes.

Overview

The biggest criticism I’ve read about this book is how “unhealthy” the recipes are. I get it, what one considers healthy is subjective. I would say yes, these recipes are vast improvements on the originals. Casseroles are known for using cream, cheap meats, cheese, and canned soups. Some recipes use fake cheese, faux meats, and other processed ingredients. But realistically, you are using mostly whole ingredients that are commonly found in kitchens. Many of the “fakes” can be taken out, or is listed as “optional.” The serving sizes are huge and decently low calorie. I plugged in the ingredients in a calorie counter, and I found that the recipes have lots of nutrition.

 Another arguement for the “it’s unhealthy” debate is that some foods are not made from scratch. This is true, but Julie Hasson points out in the book, if you want you can make your own seitan, soy cheese, or tater tots, but a casserole is suppose to be easy to make. You can do this with ALL of your food. You can make your almond milk, bread, dog food, kombucha, beer, etc. But we as humans can only do so much. That is why bakers, butchers, and restaurants showed up. We can only do so much. It is just your decision.

I think the important thing to put into perspective are the goals of the book. Julie Hasson wanted to make vegan versions of classic casseroles. They are suppose to be affordable, which they were. They were also suppose to be to a certain degree less processed, which most recipes didn’t use processed products. And the final criteria was that the recipes were suppose to be easy. Each recipe varied on the amount of worked required, but overall they were pretty eat to make. I don’t think there wasn’t anything that my husband and I didn’t like. There is definitely some foods that saved better than others, or little tricks to making it turn out better. But overall, I would recommend this book to pretty much any vegan. 

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Back in December I entered a book giveaway on a blog, and won. A few weeks later I got a copy of But I Could Never Go Vegan directly from the publishers. Before the book, I wasn’t really familiar with the blog Keepin It Kind. I might of stumbled on the page once or twice, but never really read the website in depth. So I read this book from the point of view of an established vegan who had never heard of the author before. I read the book with any knowing the author’s preference of foods, styles, and writing.

Photos

There are photos for, I think, every recipe in the book. If the photo isn’t next to the recipe there is a reference number to where you could find the photo, usually found on the chapter dividers. This gives the reader plenty of visual inspiration, and a good look at the food to figure out if you totally fudged up a recipe. I think this is great since this is a book for new vegans. If you haven’t done lots of cooking with vegan foods, it can be hard to imagine what the end result will be, and might discourage people from making a recipe (I know it did when I first started going vegan).

There are also a few step by step photos for slightly more complicated recipes. For example for the tofu cheese log, there are a few step by step photos showing how to form the log. This is a really helpful visual since I find reading reading steps confusing if you don’t already have some knowledge on how to do it.

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Set-up

The book starts with a brief introduction. Although this is a book targeted to new vegans or flexatarians, there is little information about actual veganism. I don’t think this is a bad thing. If you are picking up this book, you probably know the basics. What Turner does is talk about the lesser known vegan foods, like for example she covers why sugar isn’t vegan.

Each chapter is organized by a common excuse for not being vegan, but I could never give up cheese, substitutes are too expensive, etc. Now this idea is fun and novel, but I was worried how well it would “work.” When picking out recipes I am usually concerned with using up a certain ingredient before it goes bad, or trying to find a soup to balance out the menu for the week. Surely how helpful will this new organization system be?

It wasn’t until I hit the chapter called “But Nobody Will Come Over to Eat!” that’s when it all clicked. This book in some ways is more helpful this way. I found myself thinking “next family get together I should make all these recipes.” As a new or veteran vegan you might hit a bump in the road thinking about what to make for brunch, to serve for a family get together, or have a longing for cheese, and you just need to open to those chapters. That said some of these chapters would be made this way regardless in a normal cookbook, they just have a witty name. And I am still a little annoyed to find a smoothie randomly placed in a chapter mostly filled with dinner dishes. But this system sets a new vegan up for random experimentation rather than meal planning, which can be pretty fun for the reader.

Writing

What I like about books by bloggers is that the writing style is informal and feels like they are talking to you personally. Without knowing the Keepin It Kind blog, I could easily recognize a specific voice in the book. In fact, once I started to follow the blog after picking up the book, I can say I think the book reads better than the blog.

Errors seem to be non-existant, or hard to find. The only one I know about Kristy addresses on her blog. For the Jackfruit Nacho Supreme the published recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of agar-agar when it should call for 2 tablespoons. I would assume there will be a correction in the second pressing. Otherwise, everything seems pretty solid.

Overview

This book is great, I find it great for days where you want to cook or bake to enjoy yourself. Some recipes work well during a busy weekday, but most recipes call for a little planning or a little extra time. The book still needs the reader to flip through with an open mind. It might be a little hard to “choose” things if you are looking for just a pasta dish, or something that uses chickpeas. This is a cookbook for someone who is adventurous, or doesn’t mind a spur of the moment trip to the grocery store.

There is only two complaint about this book, one is an odd odor. This is pretty silly to point out, but it is rather odd and off putting when flipping through a book full of food. I have never picked up a book with this odd odor before, and I think I am more curious about what that smell is more than anything. Anyone have a clue?

My second complaint is more a worry. I think the people who will benefit the most from this book are flexitarians, or family and friends who are trying to understand their vegan friend. Mothers who are trying to tailor dinner time for vegans and omnivores might find this book handy. My biggest worry is if this book will sell to these people. Sure it is fun to pick it up as a vegan, but the chapters are just something fun rather than helpful. I think this book has a lot of potential to reach and convert a lot people, and I hope it does. So my “problem” with this book is more about if it was properly marketed and is reaching people who want to eat more plant based foods.

Recipes

As with most cookbooks, I tried my best to try a recipe from as many sections as possible. This will hopefully give an idea of any particular strengths in the recipe selection. But there were so many sections in this book that I could only cover some  of the recipes. If there was any recipes posted online to promote the book, I left a link.
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I received this book as a Christmas gift. It seemed like a well thought out gift since I love Asian cuisine and I am a vegan. I was pretty excited about the book since it featured recipes outside of popular regions. Hema Parekh reaches out further than India, Japan, and China and puts recipes from Burma, Malaysia, Vietnam, and South Korea. Parekh writes about how she got married and moved out of India to Japan, where she learned to cook. The book is a mixed bag of emotions for me, as I feel like there could of been so much potential for it.

Photos

All the photos are clustered in the middle of the book. I hate this sort of set up, especially since the book is divided by country instead of food “types.” The style of photography is very outdated, all the dishes have clay-red hue. I don’t think there was a photo that I saw and thought- that’s what I want to try and make. 

I wish there were more photos as most cookbooks featuring specific regions of cooking have recipes for dishes I’ve never heard of. So having a photo would help me visualize what the end result should look like. This particularly important for dishes where presentation is very important like dumplings and Japanese cuisine.

Set-up

I can’t help but compare this book to Vegan Eats World by Terry Hope Romero. Terry features cuisine from a larger range of countries, and organizes all the recipes by styles, soups, salads, curries/stews, etc, etc. Parekh on the other hand groups all the recipes by nations, then divides them up by style. So there would be a chapter from India, then listed in that chapter would be soups, desserts, curries, rice, etc. In some ways it is an easier for planning dinners, in other ways it is hard to search around. Especially since many dishes overlap each other. Dumplings are eaten outside of China, so if I was planning a meal I could include them as a side for most dinners.

The book has an introduction but only as a way for the author to say hello. She jumps into the recipes, which would be find if the purpose of the book was not to teach a new cuisine. It would of been nice to have an overview of the ingredients, subtle differences between noodles, and rice types over the countries. There is an ingredients reference at the end of the book, but I didn’t find it till I got towards the end. If anything she could of put page numbers next to ingredients to help guide readers.

The visual representations of the recipes is okay. Since the photos aren’t set up next to the recipes it can be a little frustrating and demanding of the imagination of the reader. The text for the ingredients are small, making it harder to try and piece together the end result.

Writing

There is a lot of confusion in the book, much of it is cultural. Parekh is writing as an Indian living in Japan, which makes the translated names of the dishes confusing. She lists the dish as an English translation, then puts the original name in small text next to it. For example samosas are listed as Crispy Pumpkin Turnovers (the recipe mentions how they normally made with potatoes, not pumpkin) This translation problem continues with ingredients and dishes as she mentions the japanese translation over the English. The most obvious example is that she gives a recipe for Chinese dumplings, but lists them as “gyoza.” This isn’t a problem if you know some Japanese cuisine, but most American’s would recognize dumpling over gyoza.

Aside from the cultural issues, I’ve spotted several spelling/typing errors. There are even issues with recipes, as she leaves out when to add ingredients to recipes. These are not issues that only happened once, but several times. Clearly this was a rushed publication.

Overview

Parekh’s life story seems to shape the outcome of the book. There is a large bias for Indian and Japanese food. Those two chapters make up at least half of the recipes, pushing the other nations into weak collections. This bias extends to the ingredients, listing them under their Japanese names. For example many of the noodle listed for China are of Japanese styled noodles. Yes, there is style overlapping, and some differences. But the point is that if you are making a Chinese sesame noodle, it probably doesn’t call for udon noodles.

This naturally creates confusion for the book. This is a book written by a woman in Japan, for people who probably don’t live in Asia. Some ingredients are going to be easy to find, some will not be. Because of this reason it would be extremely helpful to have a very detailed ingredients guide. Going into detail about common ingredients, and what would be good replacements. Some recipes already do this, some don’t. It also worth mentioning that I live in a culturally diverse area, I live near a Korean, South East Asian, and Indian market. I am sure there are more ethnic markets, I just never found them yet. Some ingredients are hard to find, or are very seasonal.

My other problem with the book is that is wavers back and forth from super authentic to completely not. I have no problem from straying away from tradition and giving a fun twist to a recipe. But in some ways it seems that Parekh doesn’t change things in ways that could honestly make them better. There isn’t ANY innovations to try and add more flavors. Many of us know that Asian cooking use fish and meat by products (think oyster sauce). Parekh seems to take a recipe, remove the offending ingredients, like maybe fish sauce, and calls it quits. This leaves many bland recipes. Nor does Parekh seem fully educated about vegan products, listing one recipes with worcestershire sauce, which contains anchovies. Yes there are vegan versions, but they aren’t common.

I have to say I am sorely disappointed with this cookbook. It was rushed, and I am unsure of who the audience is. Is it for people who live in Asia with easy access to the ingredients? Or is it for anyone, anywhere in the world? I can say there I found some inspiration in the recipes, but mostly because I wanted to make them taste better. All dishes seemed pretty bland and relied heavily on fats, which I am not particularly fond of. 

Recipes

This cookbook I tried my best to pick at least on recipe from each country spotlighted in the book. Since there were a lot of recipes featured from Japan and India, there is naturally more recipes tested from those countries.

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Isa Chandra Moskowitz is known for her decadent vegan recipes from Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance. Here recipes, although delicious, sometimes would be very complicated. I would hesitate to cook anything from her books since the amount of dishes seemed intimidating. Most recipes were set up by veggies sides, a grain, and a protein. Sure the tofu would be manageable, but making the rice and the veggie side? It’s all just seemed too much for two adults on a weeknight.

But then came Isa Does It. The book focuses on weeknight cooking for people who are cooking for themselves, or for two. It always felt like Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance was cooking for a large family setting, or perhaps for a pot luck dinner. Isa Does It is quick and most importantly cheap. Yes, the focus on cheaper ingredients really helped me take a dive into the cookbook. 

Photos

There are lots of photos in this book. I am so glad that the publishers ditched the grouped photos that appear in Veganomicon and Vegan with a Vengeance. I always find it hard to associate the recipe with the photo that way. Although there isn’t a photo for each recipe, majority of the recipes are covered. It is always nice to see what Isa got compared to what I got. Nothing is more frustrating than when you find out your snickerdoodle looks totally different than your friends, even with the same recipe.

The photos are beautiful, each photo is more of a scene than just the cooked meal. Each photo has a story set up, making the reader feel like they are viewing a window into the kitchen. Ingredients line up against the wall, flour spreads out on the counter, and utensils are waiting to be picked up. Some plates are plopped in a bowl for your weeknight dinner, some are plated as if you are going to a four star restaurant.

There are even a few instructional photos of how to cut tofu and tempeh. Sure it is a pretty simple task, but it is always a good idea to try and have your food as close to the recipe as possible. You know, for consistent results. Plus, when you first start out on a vegan diet, tofu is REALLY intimidating. I mean scary.

Set-up

The book is set up to be read from beginning to end. She gives basics about how to cook, what to have, chopping your tofu, etc. It is pretty simple, not overwhelming for a newbie, but not too simplified to bore a seasoned chef. Then Isa moves to Soups, stating they are the best recipe to start when learning how to cook. They are hard to mess up, according to Isa. I would probably have to agree. Then she moves to salads, which are still pretty simple. Handheld foods are next, things like burgers and tacos, then moving to the other common dinner categories (stews, pastas, sautes, etc).

It wasn’t until the last few chapters I felt a little weird. She put a chapter for Sunday Night Suppers, which to me defeat the purpose of the whole book. These recipes are more complicated, time consuming meals that are suggested for nights that you have more time to kill. Then she moves to Breakfast and Brunch which is a big carb-fest. Considering most of the book centers around dinner, it felt a little out of place, and the recipes didn’t personally speak to me. Then she has a chapter for desserts, which isn’t the worst. I just feel like there isn’t many new recipes brought to the table since she has three different books devoted to dessert.

Writing

I was getting a little fed up, my husband kept complaining about dinner. He meant well, he would get a little bored with the dinners I picked out, and I get that. I was picking what I wanted, not what he wanted. I remember eating with his parents and getting tired of not choosing my dinners. So I handed him Isa Does It, and asked him to pick out some recipes. He read a little and came back saying how he could understand why I like Isa Chandra Moskowitz so much. He thought her writing was honest, fun, and non-judgmental.

Isa continues with her signature writing style with this book. She takes all the romanticism typically associated with food writing and pokes fun at it. My favorite example? Isa proclaimes that she created the perfect dish to eat outside on a porch, or maybe your fire escape, don’t have either, just open a window and stick your head of it. Pop culture and jewish references are still overflowing out of the book.

As for errors? I think I might of read one recipe that might of skipped what to do with the salt, but nothing that would make or break a recipe.

Overview

I have to say when my husband said his one co-worker picked up this book to try and eat less meat and dairy, I couldn’t think of anything better to start with. I think this out of all Isa’s cookbooks give a great collection of easy to make recipes with realistic ingredients. Sure the seitan and tofu might be a little intimidating, but she provides recipes on how to make you own seitan which saves lots of cash. And even if you stay away from all seitan, tofu, and tempeh recipes you can easily find recipes to make throughout the book. Recipes that are filling, and don’t need “vegan specific” foods like soy milk or faux butters.

I can safely say that this cookbook will be one I will be using over and over and over again. These recipes are perfect for everyday cooking since they are fast and use cheap ingredients. One average I don’t think I would spend more than $10 overall per dish, which divides up as being fairly cheap per serving. Ingredients are flexible so it is easy to switch out ingredients (if you own a CSA) and Isa tells you how.

This is a cookbook for vegans, omnivores, beginners, or advanced chefs that are just trying to give weeknights more flavor. I would recommend people pick up this book over Veganomicon, as you will find more recipes to make in this.

Recipes

I always test some recipes from a book to give personal reviews on it. This book, I have a ton. I could blame my husband (who I told to pick things that he wanted to eat, they were almost always soup) or I could blame how relevant this book is to my life. Ingredients are cheap and recipes are fast, which made weeknight menus revolve around this book.

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I start this review on a sad note- my book fell apart. No I didn’t love the book to death, though I do really love it. What did the book in was the binding was crappy construction. This makes me sad since this has NEVER happened to me before. Sure once or twice I might of had a 10 year old cookbook fall apart on me. But never a new one. What makes it more frustrating is that the publishing company has always made solid cookbooks.

And when I say the book was falling apart, I mean the pages were falling out of the glue binding. This usually happens over years, when the glue dries up. So I bought a binder and put each page into protector sleeves. I never really liked the covers so in the end I have the plus of having a sparkly and teal new book.

Am I saying YOUR future copy will fall apart? No. Probably not. As I mentioned before, I have gotten many books from the same publishing company that are very sturdy. But I probably will recommend investing in the hard cover version of the book. In the end it will last you longer anyways. With that gripe out of the way, please read all the GREAT and WONDERFUL things I have to say about Terry Hope Romero’s book.

Spoiler Alert: I think it is staple in a vegan bookshelf

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