I am a little embarrassed how long this recipe took to get up. I made it months ago, but them Vegan MOFO had a challenge for green. So I bumped up my priority to post that cocktail over this one. Then time just went by, then Wolfie switched to “one nap” and I just lost a large chunk of my alone time. So here I am FINALLY posting this.
So I mentioned in my previous cocktail that supposedly 70s cocktails are the new “it” thing. I am not sure about that, I am not one to keep up with trends (boozy or otherwise) but I always had a soft spot for white russians.
Yup- I can hear it. Your skepticism about my love of white russians. And I don’t blame you. Who wouldn’t think of The Dude, in his ragged jammies sloshing in dairy all willy-nilly in his glass. I think some of my favorite things about it is how simple it really is to make. And if you don’t have a creamer, well, you can just have a black russian.
Bum typical Millenial me, I can never just let this drink be. I need to switch things all over with my hipster garbage, even removing the “Russian” out of “White Russian,” and even taking away the “white” out of it. I can hear some old white man screaming “political correctness out of control!” I will admit, I like my recipe, but there isn’t much similar to the original inspiration.
So pretty much I had a bottle of creme de cacao and didn’t know what to do with it. I also had a bottle of Maca Mocha by Rebbl. I love this stuff, so many umami, rich, bitter, and chocolatey flavors. So I thought, why not mix cocoa liquor with cocoa drinks? You can easily sub this with any chocolate plant milk. I’ve done with chocolate ripple and chocolate soy milk, and both yummy.
Are you are wondering what type of creme de cacao do I use? You can easily find some that are vegan at your local liquor store. The creme isn’t for cream, but for the creamy texture from the sugar. You can see on barnivore, all “creme de cacao” are vegan, but the Godiva chocolate liquors ARE NOT VEGAN. And if you are wondering what the difference between “brown” and “white” creme de cacao, it is simply the color (which doesn’t make a difference with this drink.) Feel free to sub it with chocolate flavored vodka, especially if you don’t like your drinks too sweet.
The easy answer for the coffee part of this drink is to use Kahlua. They are vegan, so that is pretty easy. But I’ve been eyeing up this beautiful bottle of Grind Espresso Spirits. It is pretty much a hipster version of Kahlua, coffee flavored rum.
Sadly for my non-drinking readers, there isn’t any real “virgin” version of this drink. So I am sorry about that. But it is a really yummy drink for any chocolate and coffee lover.
I remember working at coffee shops right when cold brew really started to become a thing. Every store had their own method. One shop we would purposefully make espresso shots to keep in the fridge so an iced latte wouldn’t be lukewarm. Another shop would intentionally brew coffee to pop in the fridge, and other would take the old coffee and dump it in a jar, making a big mix of old cold coffee. Yum. I pretty much scoffed at cold coffee because of this reason. It was bitter sludgy and nasty.
But as I drifted further and further away from getting free coffee (aka I stopped working at coffee shops), I had to make it at home. I had the bright idea to make cold brew espresso, and suddenly learned to love cold brew. I also learned it is INSANELY easy to make at home. I understand why cold brew coffee is so expensive in store, but it requires minimal work overall.
Making a recipe for this is a little silly. I kid you not when I say all you need to do is grind beans, put in a mason jar, add water. Shake. Sit. Shake. Sit. Shake. Sit. Then filter after several hours. Then you have a concentrated delicious mix. I love it because I can add chocolate milk and kind-of get an iced latte.
Since the “recipe” is so simple, I’m giving you some great tips to make sure you have a successful cold brew. Your welcome for saving you tons of money.
Skip the fancy machines (aka the slow drip method)
This is why I didn’t like cold brew coffee in the old days, slow drip machines might look cool, but don’t have as robust of a flavor of more modern cold brew coffees. I remember my Brother-in-law getting a Toddy cold brew system, and not being very impressed by it, especially with it high retail price tag of $73. The coffee lacked some flavor notes from the hot variety, and just wasn’t as robust. I also remember a local coffee shop having this ridiculous and even more expensive hourglass cold brew machine. Sure it might make a great addition to your steampunk decor, but I found it had the same short comings.
So what are the methods to use? We are using the immersion method (if you want to be fancy), but all you need are beans, a grinder (if they aren’t pre-ground), water, and a mason jar. If you can’t wait for hours for your coffee to brew, you can try out the Japanese Method, where you brew hot coffee directly over ice. Alexa and I had this method once in Asbury Park and it was super yummy.
Beans need to be good- but not top notch
When I told Alexa that I was going to make a cold brew coffee guide, she immedietly said she had go get some good beans. Which isn’t needed. No, you shouldn’t use garbage beans, but the cold brew method is a little more forgiving than hot. Like I mentioned before some flavor notes get skipped in the cold brew method, notably the acidity levels are a lot lower. If you want, use the beans on the bottom of your bag that is a few weeks old, but don’t buy mystery beans off the sale shelf.
Grind for “french press”
You picked out your beans, and now you need to grind them. Over grinding them will result in a really bitter brew. I like bitter a lot so I am not too torn by this. It is also hard to get an even thick grind when you grind the beans at home (unless you have an insane machine like this) so if you buy a whole bag, grind it at the store or coffee shop. Can’t use it quickly? Freeze it.
How many beans?
The rule of thumb is one pound of coffee beans to one gallon of water. Which, I assume you don’t need a gallon of cold brew. So the more practical quarter of a pound of coffee beans to four cups of water. I’ve seen most people say about 1 cup beans to 4 cups water. To fit in a mason jar I do 3/4 cup beans, 3 cups water.
How long will it last?
Cold brew will last 2 weeks in the fridge. How companies make their cold brew last so long in the grocery store, I don’t know. If you dilute the coffee, then won’t last as long.
REMEMBER! It’s strong!
What I like about this method is how STRONG the coffee is. It is double the strength, which means I can add ripple chocolate milk to it, and it is very similar to a latte. So remember to add water to your coffee, or plenty of ice. Or just drink straight, but keep in mind you’ll need a smaller amount.
- 3/4 cup of coffee beans (ground for a french press)
- 3 cups filtered water
- 2 mason jars (you can make 1 work)
- Ceramic pour over drip OR a funnel OR mesh strainer
- Coffee Filter (I used The Coffee Sock) OR cheese cloth
Putting it All Together:
- In a 4 cup mason jar (or you can even use a well cleaned old tomato sauce jar) pour 3/4 cup ground coffee beans. You may want to use a funnel, or make a quick one out of paper.
- Pour in 3 cups of filtered water. Twist the lid on and give a good shake.
- Let the mason jar sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours, nor more than 24. Shake periodically, though it isn’t needed.
- When you are done soaking the beans, take your second mason jar. Set up your ceramic pour over drip, funnel, or mesh strainer over the clean empty mason jar. Line with a disposable coffee filter, coffee sock, or cheese cloth.
- Take the coffee filled mason jar and give a shake to loosen the beans. Pour through the filter into the empty jar. You may need to pour in installments as the coffee drips down.
- If you are using a coffee sock, I like to squeeze out any extra water. DO NOT DO THIS with a cheesecloth or paper filter as grinds can come through.
- Twist a lid on the filtered coffee and place in the fridge. Good for 2 weeks
I decided I should write a review for this book since Sarah Kramer wrote on her social media that her publisher wouldn’t be reprinting this cookbook. A bit of a bummer since this was favorite out of her three books (How It All Vegan and Garden of Vegan) as it has such a large selection of recipes, tips, and tid-bits.
After reading Jenny Marie’s cook-a-long monthly challenge, I thought it would be fun to share some posts reviewing the book as well. If you have a blog with a review (specifically of the recipes), leave a comment and I will add you to the list.
None. Same as How It All Vegan, there are no photos, at least of food. There are various photos of Sarah between chapters and I am guessing of her posing with various fans (and Vanilla Ice). The photos are in black and white, and are there just to be fun, keeping the pages visually interesting.
La Dolce Vegan is set up a little differently from Kramer’s first two books. She starts by talking personally, her struggles with the new book, going solo, what to write about, cookers burn out, etc. She lays the ground work- this book is about fast and easy recipes. Cool. Then she talks about staying on the vegan track, and little tips here and there about common reasons why people stop going vegan. I like how she keeps with her themes of giving useful information about veganism, but tries to not be too repetitive. She then has a whole chapter on random tips in the kitchen, which only takes a few minutes to read. There are always little bits of helpful information in there.
After the introductions she has the following chapters for recipes: Breakfast, Appies & Snacks, Salads & Dressings, Soups, Entrees, Sauces, Side Dishes, Desserts, Baked Goods, Faux Fare, Odds & Sods, and DIY. The DIY section clearly aren’t recipes. It is like a little punk pinterest chapter with little bits and ideas to use some of the “junk” around the house. I personally didn’t use any of these ideas, but there are some fun ones. It is also worth noting that the Desserts and Entree sections are subdivided into smaller categories. There are A LOT of entrees and A LOT of desserts to choose from.
It is funny reading both How It All Vegan and this book from front to back, and seeing the difference in writing styles. You can see how Tanya’s voice comes through. I find Sarah Kramer’s overall writing style a little more scattered brained and light hearted. Some descriptions are purely submission letters, as not all recipes are written by Sarah, or simple a joke that has nothing to do with the recipe. There are so many recipes, that I understand that it is overwhelming to write a description for each one, and that it would probably get repetitive anyways. I mean, I am not sure how often people actually READ the descriptions anyways.
This is Sarah’s love letter to the fans. Clearly. It is also the most realistic cookbook to use in day to day life. They are short, simple, and made mostly for 2 people. The book is very transparent about which recipes are Sarah’s and which ones are made by fans. And you could be asking why release a book with so little recipes made by the author, but I like the idea that Sarah cherry picked the best recipes and put them in one book.
One of the things that I love about Sarah Kramer is that she is very friendly and seems to be very grateful for her fanbase. She is usually non-judgemental and doesn’t post much that seems “flaming angry vegan.” I am not 100% sure who is the best audience for this book, as I know a lot of beginners like to have photos of the recipe. I understand this want and need, it can be hard to feel inspired to try a recipe otherwise. But if you can look past that, there are a lot of great recipes in here, and one that could keep you busy for the entire year.
Here are my individual recipe reviews. Two things to note- since most of these recipes are all ones I’ve made over the years, some are just ones I remember. Some recipes I am pretty sure I’ve made but can’t remember any specifics. I also left links to any recipes I found online. Normally I only link approved recipes, but this book is out of print, and there wasn’t that many available. I came to conclusion that the links, if anything, might encourage readers to buy the book if they liked the recipe.
In typical fashion I am late with this post. Part of it is the crazy un-napping Wolfie decided to start doing. They are just much shorter than normal, which means I might have to spend some time at night getting some blogging done. But here you go guys!
Reading: I have about 100 pages left of Wool. I picked it up since I saw it on a list of top cyberpunk novels to read. Annoyingly it is a series of short stories, stitched together as a book, making it mostly just annoying to figure out where to start. But I started with the right book, and Amazon was having a sale on the e-book so I thought why not? I am really loving it, and I might even read the following stories afterwards. A rare thing for me to do.
Crafting: Well, for the month of April I want to get into sewing a bunch of bonnets because I SOLD ONE! Horray! Getting those first few sales can be hard on Etsy, since you don’t have a track record. I really hope the person who bought the bonnet enjoys it.
Otherwise, I’ve been busy recipe testing for like a bajillion books so I haven’t making too much. I am ALMOST done with my friend’s cross stitch, and when that is finished I will be busy with a million other cross stitch projects. *sigh*
Watching: Well, This Is Us has finished it’s season, and pretty much the other shows we watch as they air are back, The Goldbergs, Speechless, and Once Upon a Time. I think the quick things I need to put out there to the world is that it is a little exhausting that Speechless is taking the “but I want to make films!” route. It felt a little out of left field for the character, and because it’s the whole basis of The Goldbergs. And I am really feeling the newest season of Once Upon a Time. It is a little bit of shame the series just didn’t start with this current reboot. Less Disney hokeyness, a little darker, and much more diverse casting. It is like the writers knew exactly what I was thinking. lol
But otherwise we are catching up with The Path. We watched the first season then never picked it up again when the second season started up. Now we finished the second season and working on the third. I am really enjoying it.
Wolfie: Oof. This has been a rough week. He has been trying hard to skip naps, and also now is tall enough that he can turn on and off the light from his crib. Ugh. Luckily nighttime is just fine- but I have fallen behind in blogging, reading, and general mental alone time. We moved his crib and rest of his bedroom around, and Wolfie was REALLY frigging confused. I guess it had been the same for since he was born. The good news is that as I am currently typing this, he is sleeping MUCH longer than what he has been. *crosses fingers* maybe we will have a happy baby?
So remember those 9 teeth? Well we have 10 teeth… and they proceeded to keep on coming up over the next few weeks. Yikes. And remember that TV I was talking about? Welp, he is a regular ol’ couch potato now. He now walks over to the remote and signs for more. So now we are reserving it for super pooped baby occasions. But he now likes to watch Sarah and Duck, a British kids show, and OK Go music videos. Since he likes the OK Go videos, I am thinking about making a playlist of visually awesome music videos that I use to watch all the time, and maybe pull out some of my experimental videos from the shelf. As far as I’M concerned, I’m teaching my kid about art. Or something lol.
Exercise: A little here and a little there, that’s my current goal really. I try and get a 20 minute workout whenever I can, and it is never consistent. I’m find with that really. The weather has been all over so I haven’t been able to go for consistent runs like I’ve been hoping for. Heck, all this crazy weather I haven’t been able to WALK consistently. Wolfie refused to go for a stroller walk in the cold 40 degree weather since he has been in the warmer temperatures.
Listening: Hmm.. nothing that I can pick out in particular. I’ve been just trying to catch up on podcast episodes, and trying hard not to get Gavin’s songs from his toys or the Itsy Bitsy Spider stuck in my head.
Apparently there is an estimated trend for tacky 70s cocktails. These new- er old- drinks have got me playing around. What is a little nicer about these drinks is that they are a little more forgiving. Very shelf stable, and no fancy fortified wines that I need to use in a few weeks. The downside is that I don’t have many of the hard liqueurs used for them.
The star of 2017 was probably The Grasshopper. The drink is pretty simple, 1 part creme de cacao, 1 part creme de menthe, and 1 part half and half. I tried this drink, just subbing the half and half with coconut creamer from Trader Joe’s. My god was it terrible. So nasty.
Seems like the trend is less about how tasty the cocktail is, but more like a challenge for a bartender to make an edible version of this drink. Some infused the mint into the half and half, some have infused the mint and cacao nibs with vodka, but I am still a little puzzled by this trend. Maybe I just need to invest in better spirits? Nope. That is too hard. All the places I went to only have creme de menthe and creme de cacao that was $12 and under. So it seems the grasshopper is doomed to general public.
But it got me thinking, what I liked, disliked, etc. And I decided we needed more body to the cocktail, and included some aquafaba to get a nice texture to the drink. I also like the mint-coconut flavors, which naturally made me decide to ditch the cacao, and add matcha.
What I love about cocktails is that I can spend a lot of time perfecting a recipe. I only have to make ONE and I can easily just make it again the next day, or if I am feeling up to it immediately after making the first drink. I think I perfected this cocktail so here are some tips to make it sucessfully:
CREME DE MENTHE: I have a huge passionate hate for peppermint schnapps. I am not sure what, by definetion, makes a schnapps different from flavored vodka, but peppermint schnapps is my arch-enemy from college. It made everything it touched taste like peppermint extract mixed with bleach. So what makes creme de menthe better? Sugar, duh! The “creme” refers to the creamy texture the sugar adds. I am sure if you are in a jam, or already have *shudders* peppermint schnapps or minty vodka, you just need to add a little simple syrup to your drink.
AQUAFABA: Many classic cocktails use raw egg whites in the drink. You don’t have to be vegan to get a little queasy from this idea. but it does give a really interesting texture to the cocktail. Making it thick and foamy. Just putting in a small amount of aquafaba will transform a cocktail. Just put in a teaspoon and shake your drink like your life depends on it.
Don’t feel like opening a can of beans? That’s fine. It does nothing for the actual FLAVORS of the drink. But I would follow the long shaking instructions as the melted ice helps mellow some of the booze in the cocktail.
MATCHA: Although mint, matcha, and coconut are all flavors I love together- I will admit this: I used matcha for March’s MiniMOFO. I bought a clear creme de menthe since it is more versatile, but lacks that green color. I first tried using Pique Tea Crystals, but I was surprised by how bitter they were, and the color was more like pee-yellow. I LOVED the bitter flavor paired with the syrupy mint, but I knew it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you don’t have tons of cash and can’t find inexpensive matcha, I would recommend pique. I EVENTUALLY found a cheap and small package of matcha, though the more you shell out, the better quality.
So, this isn’t a grasshopper, and I don’t care. I think this result is MUCH better. It is easy to make, and the ingredients will last for awhile. And the best part is sipping up the bitter foam at the end of the drink.
I might be a little immature, as I find anything with the word “balls” a little funny. But they are all over the world, everyone in different countries take food and roll them into round shapes. Here are just a few vegan recipes I get a go. These are purely ones that are savory, not sweet. Those will be saved for another recipe round up.
I saw this recipe and thought- I have a lot of turnip in my fridge- this recipe will be great! Sort-of. Lets talk about prep before the taste. The recipe calls for 4 cups grated turnip, claiming one smallish-medium turnip would yield that much… WHAT?! I grated probably 8-9 turnips (mind you I made a double batch) and tried to lightly fill the measuring cup, and ended up taking away a whole cup of turnip from the recipe (half a cup for the a non-double batch) This drives me nuts! Please include weights! So people can have a better idea if they are using about the right amount.
Then the recipe has a lot of steps. Cook some buckwheat, cook onion, then turnips, then mix, roll, and bake. I spent probably an hour in the afternoon getting the mix all ready. I feel like you probably could of used buckwheat flour and saved lots of time.
So what about the taste? Well, if these were the most amazing veggie balls, I might be okay with all this work. They weren’t. They were just okay. Not bad, not great, but still tasty. Yeah I used up so much turnip, and freed up a lot of space in my fridge (thank goodness) but I wouldn’t make these again because of time.
Bottom Line: Not bad, but a lot of work
File this under “WHY DIDN’T THIS WORK?!” Flavors were perfect. The sauce was amazing, and there was some leftovers that I used for leftover naan pizzas. But the kofta balls just were not staying together. The cabbage fell apart in the sauce, and I think they just needed something more to bind them together. Maybe even deep frying them? I would gladly make the creamy tomato sauce again for curry styled pizzas though.
Bottom Line: Big Thumbs Down
What I love about these Miso Tahini Oat Balls is that they aren’t a “dinner” sort of ball like a meatball, or protein replacement. These are made for mid-day snacking, which is great since most mid-day snacks revolve around sugar. It gets very annoying after awhile, and the savory snacks are usually heavy on salt and fat (hello potato chips!)
Hands down Lacy NAILED these! Everything is well portioned and doesn’t use too much of any specific ingredient, which is nice since most are kind-of pricey. The time it took to make them is low, like maybe 10 minutes of mixing, grinding, and rolling, and bake time takes as long as it would for cupcakes.
The downfall is that the balls are a little crumbly, which isn’t the end of the world. Next time I might try making these in a large brownie pan and cutting them into a bars. This might make a little bit less of a mess and make it easy to pack for on the go. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Bottom Line: These are a great snack food
These lentil mushroom balls were a recommendation from the Oh She Glows website as a good Thanksgiving dish. I figured that these would be a good protein for my dinner. The balls weren’t particularly hard to make, but took a good bit of time to finely chop the mushrooms, greens, and pre-cook some of the food.
The end result is delicious, but didn’t travel well to a dinner. To reheat the balls became dried out. Looking back, I probably would of made these balls far in advance and freeze them. Somehow I think the freezing process would keep the moisture in the balls.
Bottom Line: Eat right away, time consuming
This was a yummy flavor combo but I had a little trouble with the beet balls. They were very delicate, but that might of been because my lentils didn’t cook all the way with the instructions provided. I am wondering if a soften lentil would of resulted in a better ball?
I think my husband just wanted to have beet burgers and fries, but I kind-of liked the salad combo. Maybe because it means more dressing? Maybe because I just want more lettuce? Who knows. It is a great way to satisfy a burger craving when you know you need to cram in a few more veggies in your meal.
Bottom Line: Delicate balls, yummy combo
I saw these kidney bean koftas on Vegan MOFO, and it is worth starting out that the theme was “zombie apocalypse” aka cook with what you have at home. So this recipe first got me thinking “she should of had this sauce” or “it would taste great with this.” But that isn’t the point of the recipe. The point is give a base to your meal to work around.
These came together really easily. I technically used dried beans that I cooked up, so not in the last minute put it together spirit. But whatever. It was a long day, I didn’t even think I would make dinner, but I figured I would see how much I could get done before Wolfie freaked out. I GOT IT ALL DONE!
I made half a batch with half the curry powder and no salt for Wolfie. The other half I adding the salt and the rest of the curry. We ended up halving the size of the balls, and making sandwiches with leftover fennel slaw and chutney. It was AWESOME! I strongly suggest pairing these balls with a “wet” ingredient. A sauce, chutney, slaw, etc. Wolfie had the same idea dipping his in his yogurt and pear.
Bottom Line: Quick, yummy, baby approved. Continue reading
Awhile ago I talked about the divide in vegan restaurants in Philly. They are either for rich people with fancy cocktails or healthy eats. The other restaurants are greasy fast-diner food owned by punks. Although the gap is filling in (I also ignored to mention all the Asian owned vegan places), this restaurant falls into the greasy punks camp. In fact, I am told that many of the employees are actually part of bands, I won’t name them to protect the privacy of the individuals.
BUT I will mention the owners. Their names are all over the fucking place. I remember there being quite a few article being written about the store opening up, I am not sure if it is because local papers thought the new owners were famous enough, or if the original store was a legendary favorite (once Atlantic Pizza), or perhaps this always happens when a new restaurant opens and I just don’t notice. The owners are Kate Hiltz (manager & producer of The Bouncing Souls, and runs the label Chunksaah), Sofia Baltopoulos, and Ben Pierce (guitarist/keyboardist for Restorations). If you want to learn more about the owners, I suggest reading this interview.
The Tasty is pretty far south. Most of their crowds are locals, maybe some suburbinites (hello me!), but I doubt they get any tourists with a capital T since you need to drive to get here. Sure you can walk, but it might take awhile (it’s as far south as Grindcore House) expect to walk for 20 minutes from Center City. But I will say it is worth the trek, the food is amazing!
I went with my vegan friend Justine. she loves this place, and frequents The Tasty on weekends, particularly the day after a show. She says the place gets packed on weekends, so she was thrown off when we were one of the few people there. The place is designed to order at the front, then to take a seat. They’ll call your order up, and you pick up.
The atmosphere of this place is awesome. There are nice teal walls, mix and match plates, and tons of novelty mugs for your coffee or tea. They also have booster seats for children, which weren’t terribly amazing, but were incredibly clean. The shape of the place is unique as the building it located at a very sharp corner, making the place feel even more quaint AF. Yup, the place is just oozing adorable-ness.
So what did we get? This place is predominantly breakfast/brunch/lunch. They are opened between 7am-4pm weekdays, 7am-3pm weekends. There has been rumors that the owners would like to be open later, but nothing yet. So the menu has lots of sandwiches, pancakes, and scrambles. Justine got the spinach and soysage. She ate a good portion and seemed to get it often (maybe?) So I am going with it tasted awesome, even though I didn’t have a bite of it. Basically it is a tofu scramble with their soysage, spinach, caramalized onion, and some vegan mozzerella cheese.
As for me? Well, I had something that I don’t see on their online menu. I got their cheezsteak, but I am 99% sure they had a specific option where it was covered with BBQ sauce. Their online menu has something similar with mushrooms, but no cheese. I liked my version best, so much seitan and yummy gooey cheese. Yum! All the sandwiches have an option of waffle fries, tater tots, or a salad. I went with the tater tots.
Is the place baby/kid friendly? I mean I assume so. Wolfie was way too distracted by his spoon to actually eat any of the food, but we got him a side of scrambled tofu and he ate my tater tots. Sadly the tater tots were fairly crispy so he had a hard time biting into them (he had only oven baked ones in the past.) He ate some of the scrambled tofu, but it was a little dry and not in big clumps so he had a hard time eating it with his hands. It shouldn’t be much of a problem for older children.
If you are visiting Philly with a car, I strongly recommend checking this place out. There is a wide range of prices you can spend in here. You can grab breakfast sandwiches for less than $5, or you can get a big spread like were did for $10. If you get a big spread there is a good chance you will have extra leftovers that you can save for the next day. So, come and make the trip, you’ll be happy you did. Greasy vegan breakfast foods can be hard to find in restaurants.
After reading Jenny Marie’s cook-a-long monthly challenge, I thought it would be fun to share some posts reviewing the book as well. If you have a blog with a review (specifically of the recipes), leave a comment and I will add you to the list.
This month I reviewed The Great Vegan Grains Book. I got it for Christmas this year, and I have been wanting this book for quite sometime. I wanted to know more about various different grains, and get more comfortable cooking with them in the kitchen. So let’s jump into the review!
Not every recipe has a photograph and that is okay. There is enough to sustain interest, all are beautiful and very inviting. They do a great job making the photos different enough from each other, especially when many of the dishes are pilafs, grain salads, etc. Almost all are in bowls, you know? They also make sure they take photos of dishes that need a photo- like polentas, balls, etc so that the reader understand what the dish is and should look like to prevent confusion.
This has the classic layout of modern cookbooks, a short introduction then the recipes with some random staples in the back. The staples in the back were favorites from other cookbooks from the authors. I didn’t make any of these, but they looked good. The different recipe categories are Eye-Opening Grains (Breakfast), Grains Mains for All Appetites (Entrees), Super Side It with Grains (Side Dishes), and finally Great Grains Soups and Salads (Soups and Salads.)
Some of the recipes I felt like they could of bounced in and out of the various categories. I guess maybe the “side dishes” were best described as dishes you would serve with something else, not putting into a box of “grains” “vegetable” or “protein” category.
The writing style was good, but not particularly interesting. Oof… that sounds so much harsher than what I intend it to. I think the focus of the writers are the recipes, not on their writing style. And I think that is fine and good especially since people usually just go ahead and cook.
BUT…. I have a major complaint, think this book needs more writing! Simply put I remember seeing in Susan’s review that she didn’t seem to know (at the time) what einkorn was. Well, I feel like the authors could of done something better to try and make it more clear what each grain was. I get that if you don’t read the beginning it doesn’t make too much of a difference, but I have some ideas of how to make the differences more apparent. I think pointing out these differences are super important. Especially with corn. Yup, the authors don’t know much about corn, cause they give a recipe for grits, and it isn’t definitely not grits. Pretty much grits are of a finer consistency, and they are made from hominy (lime-treated corn) making it easier to digest. Although it is a subtle difference, I think it should be noted- especially since there are so many different wheat products listed in this book. No distinction of all the different rice varieties either, which there are many that can confuse a newbie.
Lately I feel like I’ve been slamming recipe books. So I will start with the good part about this book- the recipes rock! For a book about whole grains, these recipes are really simple and easy to make. At first I scoffed at the recipes as they called for already cooked grains most of the time, but I find that it made the dinners faster to cook. Just cook the grain over the weekend and freeze, or cook in the morning before work, storing it in the fridge. Then it is all super fast cooking for dinner. With the exception of the Berbere Kamut, I think everything was pretty easy, and not too time consuming. I think the authors REALLY got creative on ways to use up grains, and they were really thoughtful about cultural appropriation but still having a wide range of different ethnic foods to feature. I wasn’t wowed by the first recipe- the chickpea curry millet, but everything else has been great in the flavor department. I can see why Tamasin Noyes and Celine Steen have so many books under their belt.
But I have to be truthful- I am VERY disappointed with this book. One, as mentioned, is that there is too much wheat in this book. I have nothing against wheat. I think it can be great. But half of the recipes I made use wheat, and boy did I gravitate to those recipes. I had to really try and seek the non-wheat recipes. Part of the reason why I picked up this book is that I wanted to variate my grains, and in western society, wheat is the most common option. I am also sure that MANY people are trying to do gluten free by picking up this book, and this quickly narrow down the options.
My second biggest complaint is because of the title. If you are naming your book the “great grains book” I expect it to be BIGGER! If the book was just “The Vegan Whole Grains Cookbook” I would of been fine, but “GREAT grains BOOK” it implies a massive selection, and the lacking of “cook” from “book” suggests there will be lots of information. I know this seems a little critical, but I think this is what I wanted and expected in this cookbook, and it clearly fell short. Maybe I am a little nerdy and outdated with cookbook expectations, but I feel like they have completely stopped providing detailed information. If I did this cookbook I would of divided it by grain, giving instructions on how plainly cook the grain, provide information of the different variations, and give a few recipes. Then maybe there would be a chapter at the end with “mixed grain” recipes. Would some chapters be longer than others? Yeah, and that would be fine.
So did this book live up to my expectations? Mostly nope. I am a little bit more comfortable in the kitchen with certain grains, mostly wheat groats. Not so much the other stuff. Oh well. But I am still very happy to have this book because the recipes ARE good. And there are more recipes I want to try out in the future. I wouldn’t want to pay the retail suggested price of $23, but the lower Amazon and Barnes and Noble for $12-17 seems to be a perfect price in my opinion. So I recommend this book, just don’t expect an encyclopedia like I did.
Reading: I finished up The Magicians at the beginning of Febraury. I have mixed feeling about it. There was some sexist overtones, which I didn’t like. But ignoring that part, *note spoilers* I found once they got into Fillory things really picked up and was a hard book to put down. It became clear why this book has been so popular. I think I will continue to read the series, because I AM still curious about what is used in the books, and what went into the TV series. But I see why so many people didn’t like the book. I thought the summary of “Harry Potter goes to college” was very wrong. I think it would be better to say that it pokes fun at the Chronicles of Narnia series. I thought the first half of going through ALL the details of college was too much. It was so much to read to just get to the good part. I don’t think it paid off. I MUCH prefer the TV show dividing up the college experience with the initial trip to Fillory.
So after reading that I went crazy! Okay, so I had some easy reads. I am going to try and plow through the “saved” titles that I have on the app for my library. About two years ago I put Step Aside, Pops on my list, not realizing it was book 3 of a collection of webcomics. The web series is Hark! A Vagrant! In general the comics tend to be about historical figures or literature, but can really be about whatever. I loved it, and read it in 2-3 nights. My favorite one would probably be the Cinderella story. Best part are the protein snacks in her pocket XD
I also finished up Vacationland. This was a slight cheat because I started it before but I had to return to the library before I could finish it. It is a newer release so there was a waiting list. I really enjoyed it, though I think it could of been a little more polished in the story telling. There was a pretty big jump from Massachusetts-swamp to the much better Maine. I also wonder how this reads if you aren’t a John Hodgeman fan. I get his whole mocking-pretentious tone, but when reading some Goodread reviews, I don’t think it comes off as making fun of himself.
FINALLY My sister shared this New York Times Article by Michael Ian Black about talking about masculinity with boys. This has already been an issue I’ve been thinking about as a feminist mother of a boy. It seemed so obvious what to do with a girl, but I was a little nervous about a boy. But I think many of the same dialogues we have with girls, really should be talked about with boy. They can do anything, if they want to sew, sew. If the want to dance, dance. If they want to play sports, that’s fine too. I think it would of been nice for Michael Ian Black talk about gender on a sliding scale like with modern gender theory, but I understand he didn’t want to loose more conservative audiences.
Crafting: I’ve been getting REALLY close to finishing the one cross-stitch for my friend’s baby. He is now turning a year old, so I am rushing to get it done by middle of the month. So hopefully you will see completed photos soon. I will also be making a small cross-stitch for my new niece. It’ll be a simple letter cross-stitch for her nursery. I also made her this beautiful upcycled bonnet. I added it to the shop, which I can custom make in any size.
And on a quick note of OTHER PEOPLE’S crafting- I love the art by Danial Ryan. Also this guy spent forever making this sphere made entirely out of matches. It is interesting to read his experiment, and it is really beautiful looking, especially the burning of it.
Watching: O.J-a-thon! Ugh. Man, I knew O.J sucked, but now I really know he is super terrible. It is also interesting watching because I wonder how different things would be if the trial happened today. Like there was SO much support from the black community. He was the symbol of police brutality against blacks. But since of the Times Up movement, I wonder how many people would of backed him because of his abuse record. ANYWAYS, if you didn’t guess, I finally watched O.J. VS The People. It was pretty crazy to watch. I remember the trial going on when I was little, but not much. Just that it took forever, and I distinctly remember all the jurors being excused.
Naturally my enthusiasm prompted Jon to suggest the 30 for 30: O.J Made in America documentary mini series. It was pretty nice. They did ignore some of the hype that OJ vs The People covered- the hair, the jury, the nude photos, but 30 for 30 does an in-depth look at the race issues in LA and how OJ became famous. Oh and you learn how OJ was a dick BEFORE the trials. Then they covered how he got caught afterwards. It is a little sad to see that some people still have a sour taste in their mouths about “white justice” with O.J. As someone who is mostly removed from the politics of the time, all I see is a man who abused a woman, and got away with it at the time because of his wealth and fame. Such a shame.
Wolfie: Hmm… so much has been going on with our little nugget. Our museum membership ended at the end of February so I headed it one last time with Wolfie. I don’t think he really cared much about the actual art, but he liked exploring the city and playing with his food at The Tasty. My sister also came down from Brooklyn to hang with him. We took a brief trip to the Grounds for Sculpture and as always he loved doing some light walking and looking all around.
He is also getting some molar teeth. Poor kiddo. Some days he seems totally find and cool, and other days he will wake up from nap time in absolute tears. It is very odd since it skipped a bunch of other teeth, so now he has 6 teeth on top, three on the bottom. So weird. 9 teeth in total.
New hobbies? He now holds onto his head for Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes (btw why did they animate a kid who ISN’T doing the dance?!) and he also waves his hands to the song Down By the Bay. He is also starting the bad habit of watching TV. Towards the end of the day, yeah I’m guilty. I just want to sit for a little bit. So I usually put something on for me, and figure Woflie will do his own thing. Well, he has been sitting and watching maybe at the max 10 minutes of the screen, usually Planet Earth. So, I gotta keep an eye on that.
Exercise: I was doing pretty well with the Winter Shape Up program, but kind-of fizzled out during the last week. But I my goal next month is to try and run more with Gavin before his afternoon nap, so I can shower while he is asleep.
But I have a few interesting articles. My sister sent this article about the sexual history behind barre fitness. She mainly sent it as we were talking about it, I liked it but only do barre inspired youtube videos because of the vibe that classes get. I think maybe we should be talking about the link with sex and fitness more, especially for women it can be helpful (outside of sexual liberation.) Basically sex is better because of a strong pelvic floor muscle, and if you know anything about childbirth- YOU WANT A STRONG PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLE! If I’ve learned anything from The Complete Guide to Postnatal Fitness is that kegals are a little more complicated than what most descriptions explain. It is an embarrassing thing, and a lot of Mother’s don’t talk about it. For many people, it goes away. For some people it is a consistent problem ranging from just a little pee to complete incontinence.
I also enjoyed this youtube exercise video roundup from Cup of Jo. I love her summaries- and makes me want to try some of these workouts. I wanna push those leaves out of my way for the “mountain climbing” workout, or just oggle at Jane Fonda’s lace body suit. Man I need that. But she tries out on of my favorite YouTubers Yoga With Adriene.
Listening: I was a big fan of Stuff Mom Never Told You when Cristen and Caroline were the hosts. The current hosts I am not in love with, but I still give a listen (most podcast hosts need to grow on you, right?) Well Cristen and Caroline have a new podcast! Unladylike! I am already in love, especially since there is a lot more solid editing going on with the episodes. So far I’ve listened to How to Ride a Bike and How to Get a Yoga Body.
What’s your favorite thing about this month?
Jenny Marie is trying to challenge herself to start using her cookbooks more. I don’t have this issue (at least at the moment) as I am use to cooking hearty meal every, fucking, day. I am sure one day I’ll have a melt down and force my family to eat steam veggies and butter pasta for two months straight. But for now, I thought I would try my best to follow along when I can.
For the month of February she wanted to cook from Isa Does It. I already reviewed this book, and I’ve cooked A LOT from it. So I thought, why not do a cookbook update? I’ll review the recipes I’ve tried since the post, and try and cook a few more recipes. Remember, these are just recipe reviews, if you want the whole overview- check out my review.
And as I’ve been doing this year with my cookbook reviews, here are some other recipe reviews of this cookbook. If you have a blog post about recipe reviews, comment and I’ll add it to the site.
Bhindi Masala with Black-Eyed Peas
Section: Stews, Chilis, & Curries
I’ve made quite a few okra curries, mostly because it is a crop that does well at my CSA and I hate eating it any other way. I was trying to see if it could switch it up with this recipe, and it was a little disappointing. It is super tomato heavy, which gives a nice burst of flavor and acidity. I am not a huge fan of the black eyed peas, as it makes the dish feel like it is in limbo between some sort of southern dish and indian food.
Overall the dish is palatable, and I think could surprise anyone who doesn’t really like okra. It removes most of the slim, and is very flavorful. BUT I think there are better okra dishes to introduce people to.
Cast-Iron Stir-fry with Avocado, Basil & Peanuts
Section: Stir-Fries & Sautees
This was one of the dishes I was able to make this month. I figured it was something new from the book, and figured why not? Naturally there is a wrinkle in recipe, I didn’t have a cast-iron skillet. I just used my wok, I can’t imagine it making THAT much of a difference. Used the suggestion times saute times, followed the recipe pretty much to a T.
The results were pretty yummy, though nothing life changing. I make a lot of stir-fries, and this one didn’t offer any unique flavors, but was still great. It was easy to follow, fairly cheap ingredients, and pretty fast once you get everything prepped. I think the unique part of this recipe is that she tops the stir-fry with fresh avocado, which my husband liked. Even though it wasn’t unique, it is a solid stir-fry recipe.
Section: Stews, Chilis, & Curries
Recipes: Isa Chanda.com
This is one of my summer favorites. When my CSA is producing tons of tomatoes, it isn’t a big deal to use up three pounds of tomatoes in one dish. In my area, that many tomatoes can cost $9 overall or $12 organic. It isn’t the worst amount of money when you consider that it makes 4 servings, etc, etc. But when your cheap like me, it is a big deal. Wait? I’ve gone horribly off track.
So I guess my whole point about the tomatoes, is that using fresh results in a very different Chana Masala than using canned tomatoes. If you used canned tomatoes, which you totally can, I find that you get two totally different dishes. Canned results in a sweet dish, and fresh results in a much more acidic dish. I like how Isa does have two different chickpea curry dishes in her book, showing the difference.
Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies with White Chocolate Chips
I didn’t use white chocolate chips for this. Too expensive, and too hard to find. But I was really happy with the end results. I love the texture and chewiness of the cookies. It has been awhile I’ve gotten such great results. I am not 100% sold on the ginger chocolate combo. I know Wolfie wasn’t a fan- though it didn’t stop him for asking for more, as if each bite would taste different. I think I will try this without the ginger, as the texture and bake of the cookies were too perfect.
Creamy Potato-Leek Soup
My husband was super proud of himself for picking the recipe, and I wasn’t impressed. I mean, it wasn’t bad. Maybe I just don’t care about potato leek soup? Both are boring ingredients, and one is expensive (the leeks) I think we made it in part because we got leeks from our CSA. Who knows. It also felt like a whole lot of work for very little return. Again, not bad, just not worth it…? Maybe that’s the best summary.
Curried Peanut Sauce Bowl with Tofu & Kale
Section: Bowls (& a Few Plates)
Recipe: Veg Kitchen
I am not sure why I find bowls so intimidating. Maybe I am afraid of all the dishes at the end? Or something. This one was pretty easy to put together. Not too many dishes, nothing was particularly hard to do. So I finally tackled it, and had mixed feelings.
The sauce was clearly the star of the show. It really made the dish. Everything else was just so-so, which kind-of made me not fall in love with the dish. Would I make this again? Possibly. I might just feel free to add a little more personality for the other components of the dish.
Edamame Hummus & Tofu Wraps
This is a super easy meal to put together. Just wiz together the edamame hummus, and grill the tofu. The wrap all up. I liked how fast these were to make, in fact they could be faster if you use prepared pressed tofu. We ate them for dinner, but I used the leftovers for lunch. I liked how “flexible” the veggies are, making it easy to modify for the different seasons. I’ve made it a few times now.
Eggplant & Bread Crumb Fettuccine
Section: Pasta & Risotto
This is another Jon picked recipe, that he was really proud about. I remember it clearly, I asked him to pick a recipe and listed some of the produce from our CSA we had to use up, eggplant was one. And this was a winner despite my skepticism. This was really easy to make and put together. One of those “30-minute” type of meals. If I were to guess, this was Isa’s answer to a breaded eggplant parm-pasta. It tasted great, but a pretty basic flavor overall (I mean eggplant doesn’t have a HUGE flavor).
Everyday Pad Thai
Section: Stir-Fries & Sautees
Recipe: Isa Chandra.com
I avoided this recipe for the longest time. I remember making Brooklyn Pad Thai from Vegan With A Vengence and hating it. In my defense, I had many peanut heavy pad thais, and therefore, wasn’t what I was expecting. Finally I bit the bullet and made this one, and I can safely say it is one of tried and true go-to recipes.
Most ingredients are cheap and shelf stable. I get extra pre-pressed tofu and rice noodles from my local H-Mart since they are extra cheap there. The main veggie in this dish is broccoli, and that is super cheap. It is pretty easy to prep, and super salty and tangy. The best. But I do recommend having an open mind when trying this, most American restaurants have a peanut forward Pad Thai, and that isn’t really what they are like.
Gardeny Shiitake & Chard Fusilli
Section: Pasta & Risotto
This seemed like an easy meal to quickly make, and I had chard to use up. I liked the choice of pasta because the noodles were able to cling to the sauce and veggies pretty well. As mentioned it has an earthy taste, and definitely not a dish to eat if you aren’t a mushroom fan. But I liked everything pretty well, and will probably make it again.
Section: Pasta & Risotto
I am starting to get the feeling that there is a lot of broccoli in this book. Or maybe I’ve been avoiding making broccoli for years and only now decided to try out these recipes? Or maybe it is just that 2017 was a great year for broccoli at my CSA and I actually needed recipes to use it up.
This is a super easy recipe. It was quick to make, and I can’t remember if I used whole wheat linguini or regular spaghetti. It seems obvious that I would like this since it uses some of my favorite foods- broccoli, tempeh, and tahini. My husband thought the dish was so-so. Neither tahini or tempeh are his thing.
Section: Pasta & Risotto
This is another fan favorite in the book. I made this and was pretty happy with it. This is one of those recipes that I never think about making, but whenever I do I am pretty happy with it. Funny thing is that I can’t remember why I even bother making it? And why I never think about making it again? Maybe because I never had meals like this before? Who knows. It is a very agreeable dish that almost anyone would love.
Omaha Yakisoba with Red Cabbage & Corn
Section: Stir-Fries & Sautees
I was hesitant to make this recipe since I remember making yakisoba spaghetti squash and not being very impressed. The recipe seemed so simple I was afraid I would be disappointed. The recipe had the opposite effect- it was awesome!
All ingredients are pretty cheap, which makes it easy to justify buying the more expensive frozen or fresh udon noodles. This really make the dish go from good to great. I made this dish towards the end of 2017, so I think when corn is fresh I will be making it more this summer.
Puffy Pillow Pancakes
Section: Breakfast, Brunch, & Bakes for the Morning
Recipe: Isa Chandra.com
Jon wanted to get Gavin on the breakfast bandwagon. He didn’t want to have a kid who wouldn’t like pancakes and french toast. So he was happy to try out this recipe. He liked how detailed the instructions were, which resulted in some pretty awesome pancakes. It is our go to recipe, and some of the other recipes we tried have been good, but not nearly as perfect as these.
Pureed Split Pea & Rutabaga Soup
I got a few rutabagas from my CSA and although I love the taste, I am never too sure what to do with them. So they’ve been sitting in my fridge forever. I finally saw that this soup used rutabaga and I like split pea soup, so I figured why not? Well, I ran into some problems. One is that I ran out of rutabaga. Some went bad before making, so I had to use some mystery root that was leftover from my CSA (turnip? or radish?) The second problem is that I was out of rosemary, so I used tarragon instead.
The soup was pretty easy to make, and the photo in the book does a great job of making the worlds ugliest soup look awesome. But I am not sure if I like the whole flavor of star of anise with split pea. I might have to make this another time to make up my mind. So for now I am giving this a solid “not sure” rating.
Spinach & Black Bean Burrito Bowl
Section: Bowls (& a Few Plates)
This dish was so-so. This had the same issue as the other bowl dish. Not enough flavor for the individual components. So it pretty much tasted like quinoa, beans, and spinach. I don’t think there is much to say about this, other than you are very dependent from the condiments.
Section: Pasta & Risotto
Recipe: Isa Chandra.com
This is NOT my favorite vegan mac and cheese recipe out there. But I understand that not everyone can have cashews. In fact, this is why I’ve made this recipe so many times already. My friend Justine can’t have cashews, and therefore I’ve made this recipe a few times for her. I do have some big issues- one is that the ratio of sauce to pasta is crazy! After making this the first time, I added more pasta, and I let it sit for a minute or two before serving so the pasta soaks up some of the sauce.
My second issue is that I’ve had better tasting non-cashew mac and cheeses. I really like Chloe’s Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese, it is practically perfect. By all means, this isn’t TERRIBLE, just not as good as what it could be.
Section: Pasta & Risotto
Recipe: Oregon Live
Another recipe my husband happily picked out. He was super excited about it, and it tasted amazing. I really need to make this dish more often, but for some reason I keep telling myself mushrooms are too expensive. Why I don’t know?
Anyways, this is a simple dish that packs a lot of flavors that aren’t normally thought of with vegan foods- creamy and umami. The choice of fusilli is perfect because it captures all the sauce, which holds a lot of the flavor. This recipe is one of the best in the book, which is probably why you see it on so many online sources.