Tag Archives: Veganism

Weekend Cooking: 3 Cookbook Reviews

Our wonderful library system (full disclosure: I work for them but was a big fan before becoming an employee) includes an extensive collection of cookbooks spanning every possible cuisine and diet. I can’t resist checking out several food-related books every week and perusing them for recipes and inspiration.

Here are three that recently caught my eye and that I thought I’d provide some thoughts for via Weekend Cooking, a feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads and open to anyone who has a food-related post to share.


One of my favorite cookbooks these days is Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: Knockout Quick Fix and Slow Cooker Recipes by Gina Homolka who writes the blog — you guessed it — Skinnytaste. I’ve checked this cookbook out of the library at least three times now and have made two stellar dishes from it.

The first was a slow cooker version of Lasagna Soup. I had some leftover vegetarian ground beef and used that instead of the actual meat. Everyone in our family liked it except The Girl, who doesn’t like soup, period. It felt like a substantial meal. I used DeLallo’s gluten-free lasagna noodles for this (the best variety of GF pasta I’ve found) and nobody could tell the difference.

The second recipe was a Sheet Pan Greek Chicken dinner that I made for the kids. It was very similar to this Sheetpan Italian Chicken on the Skinnytaste site. I think I used baby carrots, broccoli and roasted potatoes as the vegetables.

The photography in this cookbook is gorgeous and if memory serves me correctly (as this one has since gone back to the library again), the organization of recipes was very user-friendly. There were plenty of meals in this that either everyone in our family could enjoy or that lent themselves to simple substitutions or adaptations. I look forward to cooking from this one often.

Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: Knockout Quick Fix and Slow Cooker Recipes for Real Life
by Gina Homolka and Heather K. Jones
Clarkson Potter
2016
304 pages

Terry Hope Romero is one of the authors of Veganomican, which always seems to be go-to source for all things vegan, so I guess I had high expectations for Protein Ninja‘s  “100 hearty plant-based recipes that pack a protein punch.” Unfortunately, almost every recipe calls for some type of protein powder, be it pea, hemp, brown rice, etc. Although I’ve never tried it, the notion of cooking or baking with protein powders doesn’t hold much (if any) appeal for me; however, if this is of interest to you, the author gives a very good description of such powders, their uses, storage, where to buy, etc. in the opening chapters of the book.

I also didn’t find too many of the recipes to be labeled gluten-free, a category which is included among the recipe descriptors. I’m sure some could be modified to be such. Protein Ninja wasn’t for me, but this would be a good resource for those who enjoy or would like to try using protein powders in their vegan cooking and who don’t necessary need to be gluten-free.

Protein Ninja: Power Through Your Day with 100 Hearty Plant-Based Recipes That Pack a Protein Punch
Terry Hope Romero
Da Capo Lifelong Books
2016
208 pages

For whatever reason, a typical salad holds little appeal for me this summer. I seem to have some sort of aversion to lettuce lately, unless it’s in a chopped salad, yet I’m craving salads with an abundance of ingredients (with little to no lettuce). I’m buying salad-worthy ingredients at the store and farmers market, and then somehow have zero inspiration or ability to construct such a salad when I get home.

All this is why I was excited to pick up Mighty Salads: 60 New Ways to Turn Salad Into Dinner, a new cookbook from the folks behind the Food52.com website (a great source with a plethora of food articles, recipes, products, tips, and more). Immediately, they were speaking to me, with this right inside the cover: “Does anybody need a recipe to make a salad? Of course not. But if you want your salad to hold strong in your lunch bag or carry the day as a one-bowl dinner, dressing on lettuce isn’t going to cut it.”

This cookbook is divided into sections titled Leafy Salads, Less-Leafy Vegetable Salads (yes, please!), Grain and Bean Salads, Pasta and Bread Salads, Fish and Seafood Salads, and Meat Salads. This is chock full of inspiration (“Even if you never make a single recipe in the book to completion but instead create a mash-up you like better or that serves as a happy home for your leftover vegetables, we’ve done our job.”) That they have.

Mighty Salads: 60 New Ways to Turn Salad Into Dinner
Editors of Food52
Ten Speed Press
2017
160 pages

 

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The No Meat Athlete Cookbook (spoiler alert: you don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy this one)

I’ve become somewhat of a slacker with running. There are enough reasons for that to warrant a separate post, I think, and I do want to get back to more of a fitness routine. I’m starting with walking; The Girl and I did two 2-mile walks on the beach last week and that felt good, so that’s something.

When I started running last fall, I went back to eating chicken. I thought I needed the additional protein for my increased workouts. That experiment lasted only a month or two because a) I didn’t really notice a difference (it’s not like I suddenly became a triathlete) and b) after 20 years of not eating meat* the stomach woes were too much. Within a month or two, I was happily back to being a gluten-free pescetarian.

Around this time I discovered the No Meat Athlete  site and podcast, which reinforced that it was definitely possible to eat a plant-based diet while partaking in high-intensity fitness activities like marathons. Even though I’m nowhere near that point — and may never be — NMA offers a lot of great information, strategies and recipes for athletes of all abilities.

I was thrilled to review The No Meat Athlete Cookbook by Matt Frazier and Stepfanie Romine  in Tuesday’s issue of Shelf Awareness. They offer athletes at every level 125 plant-based recipes providing a powerhouse of essential nutrients for strength and endurance.

“It’s everything in the food–and the remarkably complex interactions of countless nutrients–that our bodies thrive on, not a single constituent,” the authors state. Because the body also requires less time to process whole foods, more energy is available for workouts and a full recovery afterward.

While athletes are this cookbook’s focus, there’s plenty here for people who are simply interested in eating a plant-based diet.

Thanks to Shelf Awareness for the opportunity to review The No Meat Athlete Cookbook. Read my full review here.

* There was a brief period in 2011-2012 when I ate chicken. The kids and I were still living in Delaware while The Husband commuted back and forth from Pittsburgh, and it was just easier for the three of us to eat the same thing. And then I got a job where I was on the road extensively, often in rural parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. After that ended, so did my meat consumption.

 

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feeding the mother of all adrenaline crashes

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Holy mother of all adrenaline crashes.

When I tell you that I am in a nearly comatose-like zonked out state from my Listen to Your Mother experience this weekend, I am not exaggerating.

Well, okay, maybe a little. But Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, am I exhausted. I feel like I could sleep for the rest of the week. The month.

Hell, make that the rest of this year.

I don’t know how you people who do things like run marathons or perform for thousands are able to function after this kind of rush. I really don’t. I took today as a vacation day from work and after doing some errands, I spent most of the afternoon in bed.

I know this is the aftermath of an intense week, which included heightened stress — some good (pre-show prep) and some that I could have done without, thank you very much. I’ve had a jackhammer of a headache since Thursday.  I haven’t been sleeping more than a few hours per night nor eating very well. It’s Mercury retrograde. And this weather — steel-gray sky, colder than usual even for Pittsburgh — ain’t helping matters.

No wonder I want to retreat to my bed.

Time to recharge the batteries, starting with tonight’s dinner.

I wanted soup, something hearty and healthy and fast. Enter this bowl of deliciousness, right here.

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Tortilla Soup from Cook the Pantry: Vegan Pantry-to-Plate Recipes in 20 Minutes (or Less!) by Robin Robertson.  (Note that the addition of shredded cheddar is my doing.)  I really like Robin Robertson’s recipes for their simplicity and speed.

I couldn’t find the exact recipe online and since I noticed that other bloggers include a publishers’ permission when posting Cook the Pantry recipes, I’ll refrain from posting it here because I’m not interested in being sued. It’s pretty basic; you probably have something similar in your culinary repertoire.

All these ingredients are staples in our house — olive oil; garlic; chili powder; salsa; diced tomatoes; frozen corn (I used canned because our frozen corn has been recalled); vegetable broth (I used homemade stock); and black beans.  I didn’t have scallions and we didn’t miss them.  I did have an avocado and vegetarian chicken strips, which I substituted for the Soy Curls listed as optional in the recipe.

Tortilla Soup and Salad - 5-9-2016It came together quickly, as promised.  I served the soup with a simple green salad (lettuce, tomato, and cucumber, with a slight drizzle of olive oil for dressing) which was last night’s leftovers.

The Husband and I liked the Tortilla Soup. The kids, as expected, didn’t want anything to do with this.  Whatever. Their loss. They opted for leftover rotisserie chicken and nothing else. They’re 14 and perfectly capable of making their own dinner if they didn’t like what was offered.

Simple, convenient and fast. Can’t ever get tired of recipes like that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Weekend Cooking: Forks Over Knives

“Someone needs to stand up and say that the answer isn’t another pill. 
The answer is spinach.” 
– Bill Maher

Let food be thy medicine.
Hippocrates, 480 B.C. (or something like that)

I confess: I’ve let my low-cholesterol diet slip a bit.

(Okaaaaaay …a lot.)

I wouldn’t say I am completely off the wagon. It’s more like I’m hanging on by one arm while the horse is quickly gaining speed.

When I last went to the doctor in October, she brought up the issue of cholesterol medication. Again. And my high triglycerides. Again.

I don’t go to the doctor. I’m not interested in medication. My doctor wasn’t too interested in hearing about dietary changes, including the admittedly few that I had made. She seems to be the type who is a little too attached to her prescription pad.

Needless to say, I will be finding a new doctor.

He that takes medicine and neglects diet wastes the time of his doctor.
Ancient Chinese proverb

In the meantime, I’ve been talking via Facebook with one of my very best friends who has some similar issues and who, in that past two weeks with the support of her husband, decided to begin a “plant-strong” diet.

“You need to watch Forks Over Knives too,” she told me. Which I then did, on Wednesday.

Have you seen this documentary? (You probably have. I am the last person in the world to see every movie.) It’s eye-opening and, in my opinion, well-done. A lot of the information I’d already heard, but the way it is put together in the film – combined with real-life stories of people who have adopted a plant-based diet – is fascinating.

I know that there are some controversies surrounding this particular film and that there will always be people convinced that we need to continue consuming meat products and dairy. I’m not so sure. Forks Over Knives advocates a plant-based diet, meaning one that is primarily plant-based (no animal products), consists of minimally processed foods, and no oils.

I watched with my laptop, taking notes, but the statistics were coming too fast for me to type (even as I looked away during the visuals of the open heart operations; those were a little too graphic for my … um, taste). I found it especially interesting to see the historical connections.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Americans started to believe that we needed more protein in our diets. This coincided with seeing visuals of starving children throughout the world and the introduction of convenience and fast foods. Coronary artery disease became more prevalent, and in 1971, President Nixon and Congress declared a “war on cancer.”

Too many of us here in the United States are still fighting that war, especially when compared to other countries.

Awhile ago, my friend also told me how much she and her husband like the recipes in Lindsay Nixon’s Happy Herbivore books. This week, I discovered that my library had Everyday Happy Herbivore so, in an effort to recommit to eating better and because of being inspired by Forks Over Knives, I decided to try a few of the recipes and make some immediate changes.

On Wednesday, I made the Tex-Mex Shepherd’s Pie recipe from Everyday Happy Herbivore for dinner.

It’s incredibly simple. Instead of oil, I sauteed onions in the juice of canned diced tomatoes. I also added a little bit of garlic. Then, it’s a can of black beans and corn. (I had a bag of steamed corn in the freezer.) Top with mashed sweet potatoes, and that’s it.

I happened to think this was absolutely delicious. The kids thought it was okay but were fans of the aesthetics. (“It’s black and gold … Steelers colors!” Boo said, while he helped me stir. (That’s his hand in the photo above.) “This would be a great Super Bowl meal next time they win.”)  The Husband … well, he hated it. (He’s not quite on board with the idea of a plant-based diet while eschewing cholesterol medications. He’s somewhat of the mindset that, if the doctor says you need to be on a pill, you’re to run to the pharmacy that instant. I’m a bit – okay, a lot – more skeptical.

For Thursday night’s dinner, I made up my own vegan creation: a stir fry with a large portobello mushroom. He wasn’t too happy with that, either.

As my mid-morning snack on Friday, I had a large bowl of fruit that I purchased at Costco: strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and a plum. That filled me up until early-mid afternoon.

For our traditional Friday night pizza night, I still ordered pizza for the family but I added a garden salad large enough to share with everyone. Nobody accepted. I had a decent portion, plus two smallish size slices of pizza. (As opposed to the three slices I typically have.) I just did the same for lunch today.

Part of the issue is that these are foods The Husband doesn’t like. Vegetables, beans, tofu, fruits – not his thing. We’ve both been vegetarian for 14 years, but truthfully, most of the time that takes the form of being pasta-tarian. If there’s a classification called Italian-arian with a diet of pizza, ravioli, baked ziti, lasagna, macaroni and cheese … that’s us. We also eat a lot of vegetarian substitutes – veggie burgers and crumbles, faux chicken, etc., which can get pricey. For me, it’s just getting to be too much. I’m tired of having no energy; I’m tired of my migraines.

So, to each his and her own. I’ve decided that while I’m not going to force the issue – I’m not interested in being a nag or turning this into a battleground – that’s not going to stop ME from making the changes I want to make. There are bigger issues at play here; we have two kids; he just got over having cancer; and if I live past August 4 of this year, then I’ll officially be older than my dad when he died.

Food for thought, indeed.

Weekend Cooking is a feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone with a food-related post to share.

I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! 

copyright 2013, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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