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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Balsamic-Maple Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potato
Section: But I Hate [Insert Vegetable Here]
Recipe: Taste Space
This recipe I gave to my husband to cook when I worked a late night. It seemed easy enough for him to figure out. It seemed pretty easy, chop and toss. But there were some extra steps to ensure a great dinner, such as making a balsamic glaze to serve on top of the roasted veggies. It is worth it since the dish was amazing. The only problem I had were the sweet potatoes, they didn’t cook all the way. This could of been because I don’t have a very good oven. But aside from that, it was smooth sailing. Easy side dish that probably will be made for Easter this year.
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Section: Not Soup Again!
I was NOT a fan of this soup. I’ve made my own Broccoli Cheddar Soup that I loved, but this was a stinker. I think it depended too much on the nutritional yeast, and I think the chickpeas work against the flavor. I also thought the soup was too thin. When I think of cheesy soups, I think of something a little thicker. Perhaps I would of been more accepting of the flavor if it was called Broccoli Chickpea Soup? Maybe.
Buckwheat Banana Bread Pancakes with Peanut Butter Syrup
Section: What About Brunch?
These pancakes had a lot of little steps that seemed a little pointless. Like I am not sure if curdling the milk made much a taste difference. I also might of just blended up the wet ingredients together because the banana lumps actually made it hard to flip the pancakes. But I have to say the show stopper is the peanut butter syrup, which is pretty much peanut butter mixed with maple syrup. It was amazing and stole the show. I might not make this exact recipe for the pancakes again, but I am whipping up this syrup again.
Falafel Tacos with Sriracha-Tahini Sauce
Section: Where Would I Get My Protein?
Recipe: Keeping It Kind
This recipe is actually an amazing weeknight meal. Aside from my kitchen being so small that taking out the food processor is a pain, it is a super meal. All you need to dirty up is really the food processor, a baking tray, and cutting board. And while the falafels bake, you can clean up most of the dishes. Brilliant! The dinner made pretty much spot on what it would make- granted if you eat only two tacos. That can be hard since they are so tasty, but two tacos has 16 grams of protein. Not too bad considering my husband at three- which would be 24 grams of protein. Downside, I think the sriracha-tahini sauce was a little too thick, but then again I was getting to the bottom of tahini where they was very little oil.
Kabocha, Caramelized Onion & Porcini Mushroom Pizza
Section: I’d Miss Pizza
I did not use the pizza dough recipe in the book, and I used a little bit of already roasted squash that I froze from earlier this year. Aside from those two modifications, I followed the recipe exactly. My husband liked the pizza a lot, but there were a few things I would of done differently. Turner uses dried porcini mushrooms, and asks for a lot. I think I might of used fresh mushrooms instead since that probably would be less harsh on my wallet. I also felt like it needed some sort of “cheese.” I wish there would of been just a small sprinkling of mozzerella, or maybe scoops of tofu ricotta.
Maple-Baked Beans & Cornbread Casserole
Section: I don’t want to be left out at potlucks and family get-togethers
My husband loved this dish. I think it went on top of his favorites list. This dish can take awhile if making it from 100% scratch, the BBQ sauce from the book, cooking beans, etc. But if you use store prepared items it is a snap to put together. Also I’ve made other cornbread casserole dishes, and I found the cornbread has a weird taste. This one didn’t, and I guess it is because of the maple syrup. So this is a winning recipe in my book!
There a few things I didn’t like about the recipe, like the cornbread top is probably 3/4th of the dish. I probably would double the bean part and keep the same portion of bread. This could just be a portions thing. I also thought the dish was just a smidge too sweet. Again this can be a taste thing, but I would cut just a little sugar from the recipe next time.
Potato Sauerkraut Soup with Sausage Crumbles
Section: Not Soup Again!
This dish got made because I was in a jam. I didn’t have a properly planned dinner, and had to think of something fast. I had all the ingredients for the recipe short of the sausage crumbles. I figured it was fine and had bread to dunk in the soup. I made minor changes, didn’t peel the potatoes for extra nutrition, added little higher broth to water ratio, and sour cream made from cashews instead of tofu. The end result was amazing. I love it, but my husband went bonkers for it. This will probably be a new staple in the kitchen for us.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Section: Wait, is Chocolate Vegan?
Recipe: The Vegan Chickpea
I am a little torn on these cookies. They are yummy, but cookie? I mean isn’t that a stretch? They are so fluffy and puffy they feel a little bit more like muffin tops than cookies. They were great but there are two things I wish she mentioned in the book. One is be careful about overheating the butter, I didn’t put much thought into it and mixed in the chocolate chips, which melted into the batter. I got a cool marbling effect instead. No big deal. Second thing is that these cookies probably taste better the next day. Toss them in a bag or a well sealed container overnight, and they get even more moist. I’m not complaining.
Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Bars
Section: You Can’t Bake Without Butter or Eggs!
These bars were so-so. They weren’t bad, you wouldn’t have to force me to eat them. The problem is that they use up a lot of maple syrup and don’t make that many bars. They also use 8 dates that are suppose to blend up in 3 tablespoons of milk, and I just don’t see that happening. I was left with a thick chunky sauce, but the baking process softened the dates to a point where you couldn’t find any chunks. Overall these bars’ taste doesn’t match the price tag.
Sesame-Sriracha Tofu Sandwiches
Section: Tofu Doesn’t Taste Like Anything
Aside from pressing, freezing, then thawing the tofu, this dish is fast to make. It is definitely something you need to plan ahead during the week. I was really surprised how nicely the crumbled tofu stayed in the sandwiches! This was bursting with flavors and I would be happy to plan these again.
Note About the Book: This book was received by a blogger’s book giveaway, and all options of the book are honest.