Monday, December 20, 2010

Book Review—Skinny Bitch:
Ultimate Everyday Cookbook

My hardcover copy of Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook is sitting on my coffee table instead of hiding on my bookshelf. Like its stunning author, it's just that gorgeous! If you're up against the clock and wondering what to get your favorite vegan cook for Christmas, you'll certainly score points with this book. The photographs are as sexy as any eye candy has a right to be, and the recipes are far above the ordinary—exciting enough to inspire even the most seasoned vegan gourmet.

Kim Barnouin, who is coauthor of the wildly popular Skinny Bitch, has created a collection of knockout vegan recipes. The mouth-watering photographs and descriptions peppered throughout the book made me want to sink my teeth into each and every one of them. But where to begin?

Let's see ... thumbing through the pages, I arrive at something that looks like a fusion of Asian cuisine and Italian food. (That's two-thirds of what Elizabeth Gilbert [and Julia Roberts] ate in Eat, Pray, Love!) And here are both in one sublime recipe: Asian Macaroni and Cheese. Coconut milk, miso, and Panko breadcrumbs give this dish a distinctly Asian twist.

The rich, creamy sauce makes it unforgettable.

I thought I might escape reviewing this book without embarking on a personal culinary challenge. Then the recipe for Crêpes with Raspberry Sauce beckoned to me. I've always been intimidated by the thought of making these ultra-thin pancakes. Kim made it sound easy though, and I figured it was a good time to give my new crêpe pan a workout. After a bit of trial and error, I finally figured out how to get the batter just the right consistency, and I found myself humming the melody of Jamais Seule by Loane and enjoying the process.

The raspberry sauce was simple and sweetly satisfying. Eating my homemade crêpes was like transporting my palate to Paris!

My favorite recipe in the book's entire collection is this fancy-shmancy Caramelized Pear and "Cheese" Crostini with Balsamic Reduction. You'd think that something so complex and tantalizing ought to be reserved for dinner parties or romantic rendevous, but I had so much fun making and eating them, I won't be waiting for a special occasion to enjoy them again. In all honesty, you could just give me a shmear of vegan cream cheese on toast, and I'd be happy. But add the sensuous flavors of caramelized pears and a really good balsamic (I used Bistro Blends Black Mission Fig Balsamic Vinegar), and you've transformed it into an incredible indulgence. I'll be making these lovely little canapés anytime I want to feel special.

When it came to choosing a baked good recipe, I really wanted to try the Pistachio and Cardamom Cookies. To my astonishment, there wasn't a raw pistachio to be found anywhere in Eugene! And while roasted, salted pistachios are abundant, I still wondered if there might be a pistachio shortage, so I googled it. According to at least one source in November (S. Kamberg & Co. Ltd.), the 2010 pistachio crop is at a record high, at least 25% larger than the record 2007 crop! So why no raw pistachios? No one here seems to have a clue.

So while my cookie fantasy had to go on the back burner, I settled on this enticing recipe for Pumpkin Pecan Banana Bread. (Yes, you read that right!) If you're like me, you love pumpkin bread and you love banana bread, but would you have ever thought of combining the two? (I wouldn't have.) When I peeked into the oven to see how this baby was coming along, I was amazed to see how high it was rising! (So high in fact, that it almost didn't clear the rack above it.)

Since Mark is avoiding nuts at the moment, I decided to substitute chocolate chips for the pecans. This was one seriously tasty dessert bread.

Just in case my little review has not thus far convinced you that this is a cookbook you'd love to give or receive, here's the for recipe for Kim's Pumpkin Pecan Banana Bread from Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook excerpted by arrangement with Running Press Book Publishers. Copyright © 2010. Enjoy!

Ingredients (for 10 servings):

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup almond milk (I substituted So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage)
1 cup evaporated cane sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 banana, mashed
2/3 cup chopped pecans (I substituted dark chocolate chips)


Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly oil a large loaf pan and dust with flour.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. In a separate large bowl, beat together the pumpkin purée, oil, and milk with an electric mixer until well combined. Add the sugars, vanilla extract, and banana, and beat until creamy. Stir in the pecans (or chocolate chips). Add teh flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir until all of the ingredietns are well combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 1 hour. Remove from the oven and put on a wire rack to cool completely.


Justine said...

You've done it again. This sounds like another vegan cookbook that I absolutely must have! Heading over to amazon right now.

Anonymous said...

This book looks beautiful and your photos are making me drool. (Can't wait to see the photos in the book!) Thank you for sharing the Pecan Pumpkin Banana Bread recipe. It sounds (and looks) amazing!!!

GiGi said...

Ditto what those other vegan gurls said!!!

Vegiegail said...

Awe, thank you, Justine, avegangirl, and GiGi! This really is a fabulous book, and I hope you all try the recipe, and let me know what you think.

Millie said...

all that food makes me hungry...nice job Gail.

Anonymous said...

I know what I want for Christmas! This book, (or you to come over and make those crepes for me!)

Remi said...

great post...loved the photos...the pumpkin banana bread recipe with chocolate chips is a keeper

George said...

I'm salivating. If I buy this book for my girlfriend for Christmas, I'm the one who will end up with a year worth of presents. Thanks for the great idea!

Anna (Green Talk) said...

Do you think I can use whole wheat pastry flour instead of white flour? I don't like to use white flour. Does her book use alot of sugar in her recipes.

Vegiegail said...

Thank you, Millie!

Hi Alicia! You're welcome to come over the next time I make them. But they're really fun to make, so you may want to get the book.

That's good thinking, George!

You're right, Remi! It IS a keeper!

Hi Anna! You could try substituting whole wheat pastry flour, but you may wind up with a bread that is a bit more dense. Many of the desserts in this book do use evaporated cane sugar, though you can substitute another sweetener in some recipes, and others do use brown rice syrup. But the bulk of this book contains savory recipes that do not use any type of sweetener at all.

If you're looking for a wonderful dessert book that uses natural sweeteners exclusively, I recommend Great Good Desserts Naturally and More Great Good Desserts Naturally by Fran Costigan.

VeganMarr said...

Oh, those crepes! They look so thin & crispy at the! Powdered sugar, mmm! LOL! Oh & TOO BAD about the damn pistachios!! Good idea re choc chips... tho raisins could be good too? Good grief, does sound like a good gift.

Ellen said...

I can't decide which looks best... I want them all! Great job and I will definitely go get the cookbook :)

Kelsey said...

this didn't make my list this Christmas, but my birthday is coming up!