Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Book Review: Vegan Unplugged
by Jon Robertson with recipes
by Robin Robertson

I had never given emergency preparedness much thought. But when my refrigerator gave out last week, I was very glad I had a copy of Vegan Unplugged: A Pantry Cuisine Cookbook and Survival Guide to get me through a week of living refrigerator-free. It could have been an expensive week of take-out and eating out, but we had some of the best home-cooked meals ever, made them with simple, inexpensive ingredients, and prepared them in lightning-fast speed—thanks to this wonderful book.

While the recipes in Vegan Unplugged are phenomenally easy-to-prepare and delicious (and worth the cover price alone), it also offers priceless solutions to a variety of challenging situations like eating vegan while traveling, when visiting non-vegan family and friends, when camping, remodeling, when the power goes out, and on those days when you just don't feel like cooking.

Within its pages you'll learn how to shop for a safe, reliable, and efficient non-electrical heat source and stock your pantry with everything you need to create a bounty of delectable globally inspired pantry cuisine. With recipes like Curry-Spiced Pumpkin Bisque, Thaiphoon Tofu Stir Fry, Asian-Style Vegetable Pancakes with Dipping Sauce, and No-Fuss Chocolate Fondue, your meals will taste more like painstakingly prepared gourmet cuisine than making-do-with-what's-in-the-pantry fare. Bear in mind that these recipes are not to be put on the back burner only to be called upon when disaster strikes or when you're on the road. The recipes are all completely flexible, and you can upgrade them with fresh ingredients for spectacular meals anytime.

So what did we eat for dinner while the fridge was out? We started with Kitchen Sink Capellini made with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, chickpeas, black olives, capers, and basil over angel hair pasta. I added some greens, as I wanted to start using up the produce I had before it spoiled. This gorgeous dish was so scrumptious, I'll be making it again and again.

Tuscan Chickpea Stew is a delightful combination of garbanzos, potatoes, artichoke hearts, and roasted red bell peppers. Again, I upgraded the recipe with some lovely purple kale. Colorful and delectable!

I first saw the recipe for Samosadillas on Jon's Facebook page. It looked so good, I had to jump right in and make it. And we enjoyed it so much the first time, I made it again last week. This recipe turns a samosa on it's head by wrapping its curried potato filling inside a warm flour tortilla. It's a fabulous   fusion of Indian and Mexican food.

Moroccan-Spiced Vegetable Stew starts with an enticing medley of dried mixed fruits (I used blueberries, cherries, apricots, raspberries, and raisins), green beans, onions, carrots, tomatoes, and chickpeas, infused in a fragrant blend of cinnamon and cumin. Served alone, with warm pita, or over couscous or rice, you couldn't ask for a more sensuous dish.

Whether you're the kind of person who plans ahead for emergencies, or you just want to sink your teeth into some super delicious, easy-to-prepare dishes, Vegan Unplugged is a must-have. You'll come back to its recipes again and again. Want to win your very own copy? Head on over to the new Vegan Heritage Press blog, and enter to win a copy of one of three great books: Vegan Unplugged, Vegan Fire & Spice, and American Vegan Kitchen! (But before you head on outta here, check out the recipe below, and please leave me a comment letting me know which one of these dishes made your mouth water or your tummy growl.)

To whet your appetite, here's the recipe for Samosadillas from Vegan Unplugged excerpted by arrangement with Vegan Heritage Press. Copyright © 2010. Enjoy!


1 16-oz can white potatoes drained, or 3/4 cup dehydrated potatoes, rehydrated (I used 1 fresh russet)
1 4-oz can green peas, or 1/4 cup dehydrated peas, rehydrated
1 4-oz can hot or mild diced green chiles, drained
2 Tbs raisins
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs curry powder
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
Salt and black pepper
4 flour tortillas
1 small jar chutney (I used tamarind chutney)


1. Place the potatoes in a saucepan and mash them with a potato masher or ricer. Add the peas, chiles, raisins, soy sauce, curry powder, coriander, cumin, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and heat over medium-high heat until hot, stirring as needed, about 5 minutes.

2. Cut the tortillas into quarters. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the filling onto each piece of tortilla. Fold one side over the filling and press lightly to flatten. Set aside. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

3. Arrange the samosadillas in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. cook until lightly browned and heated through, turning once, about 8 minutes total. Serve hot with chutney.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Review: Vegan Bite by Bite
by Marilyn Peterson

Today is March 20th, the first day of spring, the eve of my birthday, and the official beginning of this year's Meatout, the world's largest grassroots diet education campaign. I dedicate this post to the thousands of caring individuals across the globe, who share the joys and benefits of going vegan with countless others, making Meatout an enormously successful annual event.

I've waited twenty-five years to say this: Vegan is going mainstream, baby. The "v" word is no longer just kicked around like some kind of hot potato with cooties or regarded as "weird," "fringe," "faddish," or "radical." Articles in major magazines and newspapers have extolled the virtues of going vegan, and millions of Oprah and Ellen viewers have heard about the multitude of benefits to be gained from eating a pure plant-based diet. Only a few years ago, most people couldn't wrap their brains around the concept of giving up meat, dairy, fish, and eggs. But now more than ever before, Americans are beginning to not only accept, but embrace the idea that eating exclusively plant-based foods is good for their health, the animals, and the planet.

I admit to cringing when I hear Veganist author Kathy Freston suggest that people "lean into veganism," because I want cruelty to end and people to stop eating animals now. But if I am honest with myself, I must take a step back and reflect that I didn't become vegan overnight (how many of us really did?) I did quite a bit of leaning myself—first giving up veal, then red meat, and eventually chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy. (The last animal foods to leave my plate forever were cream cheese, (there was no palatable non-hydrogenated and casein-free vegan option back then), chopped herring, and unagi (eel) sushi. I can still remember the last time I thought about ordering unagi, and my friend, Sangeeta, looked at me and said, "Are you sure you want to eat that? Think about the poor eel." She was so calm and gentle about it. I thought of the poor eel, and that was it for me. No more leaning.

Today there are delicious vegan options for almost every food imaginable—even vegan cheeses are starting to rival the real deal. (Have you tasted Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheeses?) And talented chef/authors like Jenn Shagrin take their culinary creativity into the stratosphere with vegan recipes for everything from scallops to short ribs and flank steak!

In perfect synchronicity with all the new vegan awareness, chef and author Marilyn Peterson, (herself a leaner for many years and a vegan for the last thirty), offers a gentle, step-by-step guide to overhauling your diet and achieving your most vibrant health in her wonderful new book, Vegan Bite By Bite.

In Vegan Bite By Bite Marilyn becomes both mentor and cheerleader, offering a clear and simple path to healthier, more compassionate food choices that can be made over the course of two stages. Stage One includes packaged comfort foods like mock meats and cheeses, allowing the palate and the body to ease into the elimination of animal-based foods without giving up many familiar tastes and textures. In Stage Two, whole plant-foods predominate, and more raw foods are included. There are no time restrictions, and readers are encouraged to lean in at their own pace. The transition is presented joyfully and light-heartedly, and as you read, you will feel as though you have a partner and friend holding your hand and guiding towards more vibrant health and vitality.

At 75-years-young, Marilyn Peterson is the perfect vegan ambassador.
How many 50-year-olds do you see every day who don't look nearly 
this youthful, trim, attractive, and fit?

The book opens by asking (and answering) the questions, "Why Vegan?" and "How?" and is peppered with thought-provoking, inspiring, and humorous quotations from famous vegans. There's a chapter on karma that connects readers to her own inner voice and shows us the connection between our food choices and our spiritual evolution.

What Marilyn succeeds at doing next in her book, is something I have done often in people's homes. She walks readers through a complete kitchen makeover, teaching them how to organize, store, substitute, and shop for healthier vegan foods. And since so much of the apprehension people have about going vegan is centered on wondering what they will eat, in Vegan Bite By Bite Marilyn offers more than 100 delicious recipes along with six-week menu plans so that readers don't even have to think about what to shop for or prepare.

In later chapters, readers will gain insightful health and nutritional information from medical doctors and be inspired by transition stories from celebrities, students, authors, and others. Don't be surprised if many of these stories sound a lot like your own. It's comforting and supportive to know that other people had the same questions, doubts, and struggles with their diets as you do. From these stories we also learn that there's no one right way or single path, and that we're all still fine-tuning and tweaking our diets.

My favorite chapter by far, is the one in which Marilyn shares her own story. It's a moving survival narrative detailing an extraordinary life journey filled with suffering, joy, challenges, and successes.

Readers won't feel stranded when they reach the end of the book, as Marilyn has thoughtfully provided supportive books, websites, and other resources for newbie vegans. One of those is her very own website, And it's filled with photos, recipes, and other valuable resources. You can even sign up for workshops and cooking classes with Marilyn!

Whether you are fully committed to taking the great vegan leap or only ready to dip your toe into vegan waters, Vegan Bite by Bite will not only answer the question, "so now what do I eat?" but will show you how to lean into eating vegan with flavor and ease.

I couldn't get through the whole book without preparing at least one of Marilyn's recipes. Eggplant Minestrone Stew beckoned to me, so I went shopping for all the needed ingredients. To my astonishment, there was not an eggplant to be found anywhere! (First it was raw pistachios—I still can't find themand now it's eggplant!) I went to three different stores, and at each one they told me they'd been out of them for several days. I had already purchased all the other ingredients, including my new favorite pasta, Ancient Harvest Gluten-free Elbows, and while I had a real craving for eggplant, I decided to substitute potatoes and carrots, rather than figure out an entirely new dish to prepare. As it turned out, this almost entirely new dish was flavorful and filling. (So good, that yes, I added it to our dinner rotation!)

Here's my version of Marilyn's Minestrone Stew (with potatoes and carrots, instead of eggplant!) Buon appetito!


2 potatoes, peeled and cut into ½" cubes
8 oz elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
1 Tbs olive oil
6 cups plus ¼ cup vegetable broth
1 medium onion, diced small
2 carrots, peeled and sliced ¼"-inch thick
4 garlic cloves, minced
1½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp lemon juice
2 15-oz cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 14.5-oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes
3 large bay leaves
2 tsp thyme, dried
2 tsp oregano, dried
1 Tbs basil, dried
1 cup packed fresh basil, roughly chopped


Boil potatoes for 10-15 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
Prepare pasta according to package directions. Rinse under cold water, drain, and return to pot. Stir in olive oil, and set aside.
Heat ¼ cup broth in large soup pot on medium-low heat. Brown the onion and carrots. Add the salt, pepper, and garlic. Stir and cook until carrots are slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients, except the pasta. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add pasta and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve. Makes 6-8 hearty servings.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Food For Lovers Vegan Queso

In the days leading up to Super Bowl Week, it was impossible not to notice the giant end-cap display at my local supermarket featuring dairy-laden tortilla chips and queso dips. Not long after that, I reviewed Nacho Mom's Fire Roasted Vegan Queso. (And some months earlier, I also reviewed their Ultimate Vegan Queso.) I love the stuff! It's cheesy, spicy, and fat-free. What's not to like? Then I learned about another company making vegan queso, and I thought, really? But then why not? There can never be too many vegan companies out there giving people healthier, delicious, cruelty-free options. So I decided to try Food For Lovers Vegan Queso. Like its competitor, it's cheesy flavor comes from nutritional yeast. It's smooth, creamy, and has a nice spicy kick.

It made wonderful nachos,

and really jazzed up my Chez Gourmet Oregon Harvest Veggi Burger (shown here with Trader Joe's Smoky Peach Salsa on a Dave's Killer Bread Blues Bun.

If these photos make your mouth water, grab yourself a jar of vegan queso as soon as you can. I still can't find them locally and must order them online at Pangea, VeganEssentials, and Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe. But then, you might get lucky and find a store near you that carries at least one brand. You'll save yourself a small bundle in shipping. Either way, don't miss out on enjoying such a delicious guilt-free indulgence. Happy eating!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Book Review: Speed Vegan:
Quick, Easy Recipes with a Gourmet Twist

by Alan Roettinger
And a Great Giveaway!

When I first met Chef Alan Roettinger at Portland VegFest last year, I was struck by his commanding presence. Maybe I was simply awed by his stature, or maybe it was the white chef's jacket—(they have that effect on me). But Chef Alan also reminded me of myself twenty-something years ago. Those first few years of going to veg conferences surrounded by like-minded people and all kinds of delicious vegan food made me feel very much like a kid let loose in a candy store. Perhaps he felt the same way.

In the introduction to Speed Vegan, Chef Alan wrote that he had started eating an exclusively vegan diet only a few weeks before going to press with the book. Like so many other newbie vegans, he reported that his body was "ecstatic with the change" and that he was enjoying more energy, needing less sleep, and was feeling invincible in all of his athletic activities. (No surprises, there!)

He also penned some of the most encouraging words about cooking that I have ever read. Among them is my favorite line:

"What will make your food extraordinary is not the recipe, or even the ingredients—it's you." 

With so much inspiration at the outset of his book, I decided to make an entire Sunday dinner with recipes from Speed Vegan. My menu looked like this:

Campari-Braised Radicchio Salad with Grapefruit
Orecchiette with Herb Sauce
Balsamic Mushrooms
Dried Fruit Compote

That sounded impressive and challenging to me, but even though all of the dishes were complex in flavor, they were also a snap to prepare!

I've been eating a lot of pink grapefruit lately, but mainly for breakfast. So finding a recipe for grapefruit salad was a real treat! Campari-Braised Radicchio Salad with Grapefruit sounded like a winner to me, not only because of the grapefruit, but for its two leafy vegetables that are seldom-enjoyed at my house—radicchio and watercress, and also for relying more on Campari than oil for its dressing. (It even comes with ideas for what to do with the leftover Campari.) The salad was alive color and bursting with a mingling of earthy and citrusy flavors!

I love balsamic, and I have a pantry filled with several varieties, so I'm always thrilled to find new ways to use them. Balsamic Mushrooms is a mushroom-lover's delight, blending together the woodsy flavor of baby bellas, the fruity acidity of balsamic, and the sweetness of agave.

Talk about a delicious way to get your greens on! Orecchiette with Herb Sauce is one of those dishes I would never have thought of creating myself. The sauce is sort of like a pesto, but not really (there are no pine nuts, basil, or cheese in it). But what you do have is a rich, creamy, green sauce made from baby spinach, watercress, fresh tarragon, and flax oil, that just kind of clings lovingly to the pasta and fills your taste buds with joy. Have you ever seen a more brilliant shade of green?

If I had been in a wine-drinking mood, this meal would have paired perfectly with a bottle of Organic Wine Works Radical Red. But as it turned out, I got to use the bottle of sweet dessert wine I'd received at a white-elephant gift exchange last Christmas to make dessert. (I knew that bottle was going to come in handy one day!) With raisins, apricots, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, and strawberries, the recipe for Dried Fruit Compote had more fruits in it than you can shake a stick at! I was able to find everything but dried strawberries, so I substituted blackberries. And in one of my most classic perimenopausal moments, my newly purchased dried apricots disappeared within minutes after taking them out of my shopping bag. (I still haven't found them!) I had a couple of dried apricots in the pantry and some prunes, so I used those instead. Delicately flavored with tangerine and served over Purely Decadent Vanilla Bean Coconut Milk Ice Cream, this dessert was a delectable indulgence.

True to the book's title, all of the recipes in Speed Vegan came together in no time and went from prep to table in less than thirty minutes, at what I consider, lightning-fast speed. The dishes were all exceedingly flavorful, which will give your dinner guests the impression that you slaved for hours in the kitchen. And why would you want to spoil that fantasy?

I loved the Balsamic Mushrooms so much, I wanted to share them with you. So here is the recipe from Speed Vegan excerpted by arrangement with Book Publishing Company. Copyright © 2010. 


1 lb mushrooms, preferably cremini or baby portabello
3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced shallots
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs dark agave nectar
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme, or 1/4 tsp dried
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper


Wash the mushrooms well and pat them dry. Quarter them, taking care to keep the stems attached.

Heat the oil in a large pan over high heat. Add the shallots and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the mushrooms and stir well. Cover the pan and cook until the mushrooms begin to release their liquid, about 1 minutes. Remove the cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, agave nectar, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, until the mushrooms are lightly glazed with a smooth sauce. Serve at once. Makes 4 servings.

Are you a fan of mushrooms? What are you favorites? Please let me know if you try this dish and what you think of it. And if you enjoyed this post, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

You can find out about all the newest vegan book titles from Book Publishing Company by following them on their Facebook page. And if you'd like to win your very own copy of Speed Vegan or one of five other fabulous vegan books from Book Publishing Company, simply click on the "Live Delicious, Eat Vegan" link below! Good luck!