So, I was planning on posting a little something in between Cookbook Challenges about the advantages of having vegan pals to hang with, but after the iPad WordPress app ate my blog post just as I was finishing it and trying to add a photo, I lost my inspiration. I’ll probably be posting something about that again soon, but in the meantime, it’s time to tell you about the second cookbook I’m doing for the cookbook challenge: The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman.
I love this book. First of all, it’s adorable. It’s smaller than the average cookbook, and easy to pop in your bag and browse through in the train, in the tram, or on your break at work. Plus, it’s illustrated with really cute drawings of happy farm animals.
Secondly, not only is it filled with great recipes, but the authors do a great job of explaining how the right substitutes work in vegan cooking and baking so that you have a good basic understanding of ingredients to try to veganize your favorite non-vegan recipes. This can be particularly daunting with baked goods, and while I’m not there yet (in terms of veganizing non-vegan recipes), I know I’ll come back to this cookbook as a reference when I’m ready to take that step. Oh, and they’ve got a lot of gluten-free and soy-free recipes in there for folks who are sensitive to those items.
I was kind of crunched for time this week, only really having two days when I had time to cook, and a whole slew of late shifts at work. So I decided to go for three recipes I thought would work well as leftovers to bring with me for my early evening “lunch” (i.e. dinner) break.
The first was the Green Tempeh Veggie Feast, an artful combination of sautéed tempeh, leeks, Brussels sprouts, and this amazing pepita (pumpkin seed) pesto. I always love tempeh, and I’ve become a real fan of Brussels sprouts in the last year, so I knew this would be a hit. What really puts this dish over the top from “yummy, healthy greens and protein” to “oh, wow” is the pesto! The Tempeh Veggie Feast is really easy to make, and makes a shit-ton (or .907 metric shit-tons for those of us in Europe), so it’s perfect for a weeknight meal when you just want something healthy, hearty, and delicious and are happy to have leftovers. And while I really enjoyed the flavor sensations, it’s not really the prettiest dish in the world, so I wouldn’t necessarily make it for an occasion that calls for something fancy shmancy.
The same cannot be said for the other two recipes I made for this challenge. The next night I doubled up my cooking efforts and made the Denver “Quiche” and the Creamy Polenta Chili Bake. These were both AMAZING, and deceptively easy to make. Because of the ease of making these, they could definitely (and likely will) make their way into my weeknight rotation, but they are both also impressive enough to share when having folks over for dinner. The quiche is even good cold, and travels really well, so it would make a great bring-along for a potluck.
The Chili Bake combines a really simple two bean chili (I made mine a bit spicier than what the recipe calls for but that’s just the way I roll), with a topping of creamy polenta (as you not doubt astutely surmised from the name of the dish) that bakes really nicely on the top and reminded me of the comfort food experience of eating chili with corn bread. This recipe could easily be made soy free if you choose a non-soy plant milk (like almond or rice) to make the polenta, and use a bit of olive oil instead of vegan margarine. I liked the chili recipe, which uses kidney and black beans, but I might experiment with using different chili for this as well (like the Quick and Hearty Chili from Vegan Diner that I might make for the next cookbook challenge).
The real star of the show, though, was the quiche. I had no idea how easy or delicious this would be. It’s amazing how the right combination of ingredients (in this case silken tofu, chickpea flour, and nutritional yeast) can come together to make something so perfect. Add the right vegetables, some kala namak, some liquid smoke, and a veggie protein (I subbed vegan bratwurst for the suggested seitan, which I didn’t have) and you’re on your way to quicheville! Ok, it doesn’t taste exactly like an egg-based quiche, it’s true. But what it does taste like is a creamy, smoky, savory pie of goodness. Seriously, I can’t recommend this recipe enough! (And oh, dear lord, please don’t let my poorly-lit cell phone pictures turn you off of this.)
So, week two of the cookbook challenge was a resounding success. Next week, I’ll be tucking into one of the books I’ve had the longest, but have yet to make anything from: Vegan Diner by Julie Hasson. I’ve been checking out the recipes and I truly can’t wait. The only problem is going to be narrowing down what I want to make!