Saturday, August 29, 2015

Complete Guide to (Even More) Vegan Substitutions: Review and Giveaway

Back in the day, when I was a wee vegan, there weren't many vegan cook books out there. I think I was already vegan for a couple years before I bought my first all-vegan cookbook ("How It All Vegan" by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard). I had been a vegetarian since age 14, so I had a number of vegetarian cookbooks with recipes that were vegan or mostly vegan, but I also frequently engaged in the lost of "veganizing" non-vegan recipes.

i had a ponytail back then

Of course it's wonderful to have vegan cookbooks coming out of our ears these days (remember when you felt a moral obligation to buy every vegan cookbook that managed to get published? ha ha). But there's also a part of me that misses the adventure and mystery and reckless abandon of the time when there was all that veganizing going on. 

you can't tell in this picture, but this book is a really great & user-friendly size

Well, now there's a new cookbook that does it all! "The Complete Guide to Even More Vegan Food Substitutions," by Joni Marie Newman and Celine Steen is both an excellent cookbook full of appealing recipes, and a very thorough guide to learning how to make your own veganizing decisions. It's so cool! 

The book is broken into sections based on what is being substituted: Milk Substitutions, Cheese Substitutions, Egg Substitutions in Savory Dishes, Egg Substitutions in Baking, Chicken and Beef Subsittutions, Seafood Substitutions, Bacon Substitutions (a whole chapter!), and also a chapter called "No Mimicking Meat." Plus, there is an extensive "Complete Chart of Vegan Food Substitutions" ~ including all the possible substitutions you could imagine. Again, I must say, it's so cool! 

Mushroom Broth Powder

This homemade broth powder was easy and fun to make, and was called for in several of the dishes I made. It's a quick zip-zip in the food processor, and suddenly you've got a lovely umami blast to add to your other recipes. I love that The Complete Guide to (Even More) Food Substitutions includes so many recipes for kitchen staples like this.  I still have about half of this batch left, and I put it in a spice jar so that it will last until I need to make another batch. 

Cook-Off Chili with Roasted Corn

One of the features that I really like in this book is that every once in a while they'll have a two-page spread, and on the lefthand page is a non-vegan recipe, while on the right is their veganized version of the same recipe. Substitutions that they made are highlighted and clearly explained... all so that you can start to understand the art and science of veganizing recipes.

This is one of the recipes in the book that includes a non-vegan (aka "original") version of the recipe on one page, and then a veganized version on the opposing page... along with the authors' thoughts and ideas on converting the original recipe into a vegan adaptation. It's really interesting to read, even as an experienced vegan.

Let me tell you, this is a really great chili recipe!! I have plenty of chili recipes in my life, but this is one of my new favorites for sure. I absolutely loved the flavors, and the edition of the roasted corn -- which was as easy and very worthwhile addition. My other favorite chili is the one with Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes from Appetite for Reduction, but not everyone is up for Brussels sprouts in their chili, if you know what I mean. I think this is now my favorite "traditional" chili recipe. I'm already looking forward to making it again.

Scallion Kale Pudla

Yum yum yum yum! Lately I've been on a real pudla kick. In case you don't already know about these savory veggie pancakes made with chickpea flour batter... you should check out Kittee's inspirational pudla post from quite a while back. The recipe in this cookbook is a great variation with a slight twist of East Asian flavors, and packed full with scallions and kale, both of which I love. I made this for breakfast a few days in a row and really loved it.

Cauliflower Taco Crumbles

Genius Idea! These little cauliflower crumbles were so easy to prepare and were so tasty. Cauliflower isn't as high-protein as seitan or tofu, but it actually does have a pretty good protein level - and it's also super yummy and healthy and low-cal. This minced cauliflower (I used a food processor) is mixed with a rich array of seasoning and then roasted until just a little chewy. So good!

the crumbles put to use in delicious tacos

As you can see, we had a lovely little taco night with these crumbles, along with some good salsa, some fresh yellow tomatoes, guacamole, and cabbage. Such a great summery dinner.

Sassy Hot Sauce Chickpea Sticks

MmmmMmmm. Imagine Torta di Ceci (aka Farinata) + Polenta + Umami Blast, then cut it into little french fry shapes, and roast it all up... and that's what you've got here. These little babies were rich and dense and somewhat irresistible. I dipped them in some homemade ranch dressing, as per their suggestion, as that was a great idea. I gave some to Mr. VE&T, but then I "accidentally" kept eating his. Oooops!

Asopao de Frijoles
We have a winner!!! Mr VE&T loved this dinner so much that he actually said "I'm making out with this." ha ha / ew? Anyhow, we both loved it. It was easy and quick to make, low-cal, and packed with flavor. This recipe is a veganized version of a Puerto Rican stew that is traditionally made with chicken -- instead, this recipe uses black beans. The flavors are abundant and rich, without feeling at all heavy or overdone. I also loved the addition of capers and green olives, for a little special touch... This recipe is definitely going on our re-make list.

Overall Thoughts:
I think this book is totally great as a cookbook: it's chock full of super appealing recipes for meals, and it also contains many recipes for elemental vegan substitutes that you can make yourself: things like broth powder, creamer, yogurt, cream cheese, seitan, bacon, ricotta, vegan butter, etc etc. The layout is clear and easy to use, with one recipe per page, many beautiful pictures, and clear indications of which recipes are soy-free, gluten-free, no-added oil, quick-and-easy, and so on.

I also think this book is super useful as a resource for learning to veganize your own favorite recipes and family recipes from your pregan days, if that exciting world of veganizing recipes is of interest to you.

In addition to the copy I was sent to review for this post, the publishers have also offered to send a copy to one winner from the USA or Canada. To enter, please just leave a comment on this blog post -- tell me about something you've successfully veganized, or un-successfully tried to veganize, or just dreamed about veganizing. Maybe this book will help you in your quest! I'll pick a contest winner in one week, using the random number generator. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Super Fancy Miyoko Creamery Vegan Cheese Party

Our gal Miyoko is on fire! Super Vegan Phenom Miyoko Schinner is busily promoting her stellar new cookbook "The Homemade Vegan Pantry" (read my glowing review here) and adding more cheeses to her line of Miyoko's Creamery Products. I saw Miyoko speak on a panel at the VidaVeganCon Conference and it was great. She seems to be bursting at the seams with ideas and energy and passion and commitment!! 


Five glorious boxes of vegan majesty! I must say, I absolutely love the Miyoko's Creamery packaging. It's classy and elegant and beautiful. When you open the boxes, each cheese round is carefully wrapped and sealed with a sticker. It all makes you feel very elegant. I like pretty things and I appreciate the work that goes into making something feel fancy and special.

a note about the shipping process:
These were sent to me from Miyoko's Creamery for review, and I must say, the shipping worked quite nicely. I think they were sent via 2-day shipping, but when they arrived, they were in a very tidy, thoroughly insulated box and the ice packs (and the cheese!) inside were still cold. If you're considering an order, you can rest assured that the shipping method will keep your cheese cool!


What's a girl to do with five lovely rounds of Miyoko Cheese? 
Invite some vegan friends over for a Super Fancy Vegan Cheese Party! 
(Duh! )

I invited my friends Sophia & Max and (my new vegan friend) Connie over for an evening of cheese tasting and sampling. It was so much fun eating and comparing notes and laughing and generally just having a gay old vegan time. 

Here are the cheeses all laid out on my nicest cutting board. Is it weird that I have more than 5 cheese knives? Fellow VidaVeganCon attendees will spot the lovely cheese knives we each got from Miyoko's Creamery in our swag bags. Up to this point, my cheese knives have been more useful for dips or spreads at parties... but it finally feels like the World of Vegan Cheese has gained enough momentum that I'll actually be busting them out more and more often for fancy cheese plates!

Nerd Party

Warning! We did indeed have a classy affair, but it was also tres serious, with much sophisticated nerdery going on. When my guests arrived, they were greeted by a glorious spread, but also by some homework: tasting cards and pencils so that we could each annotate our thoughts of each of the different cheeses. I looked online for ideas about what questions to ask, and my friends later ribbed me about the redundancy of a few of them. Whatever! I may have 5 cheese knives, but I'm still a vegan for god's sake. I wasn't sure what kinds of cheese questions to ask about cheese, but this is what I came up with: 

First Impression: / Appearance: / Consistency: / Favorite Pairings: / Overall: 

Cheese Tasting Go-withs

In keeping with my nerdy nature, I looked up ideas for cheese parties online and got lots of ideas about what sorts of nibbles were most frequently paired with fancy cheeses. I had so much fun coming up with ideas, and I basically went with every suggested item that was already vegan.

Here you see, Baguette slices, Late July Classic Rich crackers, dark Danish Rye Bread, water crackers, fresh basil leaves, and sun-dried tomatoes.

More Elegent Cheese Pairing Options

This was the less savory side of the table: roasted delicata squash half-moons, cucumber slices, halved cherry tomatoes (from our garden!), fresh figs, Charentais melon slices, black and red grapes, fig jam, and agave. So much beauty all on one table! I loved that I finally got to justify owning so many small, darling little plates and dishes for this party.

Oh, and of course there were apple slices!
and heart-shaped mini-plates!

My friend Sophia also brought along some beautiful steamed beans from the farmers market. We thought it would be a good idea to have something green and crisp and fresh on the table... and it definitely was appreciated. With all the rich cheeses and carby little crackers and breads, it was nice to clear the palette and take a green bean break every once in a while.

My beautiful plate, Round 1 (of many)

We had such a good time nibbling at our cheeses and then trying them with different pairing combos, and sharing our thoughts. As soon as everyone sat down with their plates, there was a hush across the room as we each began (very seriously) tasting our different cheeses and thinking about them and jotting down notes. Poor Max took this whole affair so seriously that he was still taking notes by the time the rest of us had pretty much eaten everything on the whole damn table. After a while, we each went around and read what we had written and shared our thoughts and impressions with each other. It was so fun!

We came up with ideas for other tasting parties - like a miso party and a make-your-own-sodas party. Note to self: it's fun to combine good food, good friends, and a healthy dosage of nerdery.

Our completed tasting cards

Overall, there were two categories of cheeses: soft & spreadable vs. firm and sharp. The spreadable varieties we tried were the Winter Truffle, Sundried Tomato Garlic, and Double Cream Chive. The Black Ash and Sharp Farmhouse were firm and sharp. 

All of the cheeses are made with a cashew base, and of the varieties we tried, all but the Winter Truffle are also made with Chickpea Miso. There is definitely a consistent current of miso flavor through all the varieties made with it. The creamy cheeses all had a very similar texture to one another, as did the two sharper varieties. 

What follows is a flavor-by-flavor break down, with some of the thoughts and impressions we had from our tasting party: 

Winter Truffle

Consistency: Soft and creamy. This was by far the softest of the cheeses we tried. It's made with coconut oil, and didn't really stand up to a long exposure at room temperature. It was definitely good that we had only put out half the wheel. That said, it was also super spreadable. A few of the tasters felt it was just too soft and melty. I would definitely recommend keeping it cool until the last moment. (Actually I think this would be a good idea with all of the softer cheeses, since they are partly made with a base of coconut oil) 

Appearance: As you can see this cheese is speckled throughout with mushrooms, which gives it a lovely, earthy appearance.

Favorite Flavor Pairings: Dark Rye + Roasted Winter Squash

Overall Thoughts: I really loved the umami flavor of this cheese, which surprised me a bit, because I am generally not a mushroom fan. Here, the mushrooms impart a rich earthiness to an already rich cheese. The aroma is also very nice and earthy. There were mixed reviews on this cheese, mostly because of how soft it was, but I was a fan. I also think this is a very unique product in the ever-expanding world of vegan cheeses, and that was part of why I enjoyed it so much. 

Double Cream Chive

Consistency: Soft and Creamy, Rich and spreadable

Appearance: We all appreciated the pale green hue of this cheese, and the visible abundance of chivey specks throughout the cheese

Favorite Flavor Pairings: Cucumber + Tomato + Baguette
Late July Rich Crackers*
(*in many cases we found that these crackers had too much flavor to compliment the cheeses, but here they paired really nicely together. In general, the water crackers had a much more neutral flavor but still provided a nice crunch and a foundation for the cheese and any other goodies)

Overall Thoughts: This was one of my top two favorites! Of the varieties we sampled, this is closest to the Boursin cheeses that I loved as a kid. This cheese is rich and smooth and imparts a definite chive flavor that's perfectly balanced: you definitely taste the chive, but it's not at all overbearing. I can definitely see myself getting this one again and again. I think it would be really great on sandwiches!

Double Cream Sundried Tomato Garlic

Consistency:  Soft and creamy. A little firmer than the previous two, but still spreadable

Appearance: Beautiful rich orange hue, and with tomatoey flecks throughout. 

Favorite Flavor Pairings: With Fresh Basil Leaf on Cucumber 
On Baguette + Fresh Basil Leaf + Sundried Tomato
On Water Cracker + Cherry Tomato + Fresh Basil Leaf

Overall Thoughts: One taster noted that this cheese had a nice "pizza" flavor (especially when paired with fresh basil and tomato), but on it's own the sundried tomato flavor is not overbearing at all. I think this would be really good on pasta or even mixed into the fillings of a lasagna. This cheese is very rich as far as texture goes, but not too strong with the flavor. It's got a Mediterranean flavor profile, and I think it would go nicely with any dish or dinner party in that range.

Aged English Sharp Farmhouse 

Consistency: Firm, sliceable. A little crumbly

Appearance: Beautiful golden color, the color of miso. 

Favorite Flavor Pairings: Apple
Rye Bread + Apple
Baguette + Grapes
with Sundried Tomato and Basil

Overall Thoughts: This is a delicious, sophisticated sharp cheese. It's a little bit smoky, packed with umami, and absolutely special compared to the other vegan cheeses on the market -- which tend to be more creamy chevre-type cheeses. We all really liked this cheese, and the vegans in the group were especially excited to be eating sharp cheese again, since that's not a flavor we get to experience very often! Like the Black Ash, this cheese paired really nicely with anything sweet, especially with the fresh fruits. 

Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash

Consistency: Firm, sliceable. The beautiful black ash gives a very slight grittiness to the mouthfeel, but not necessarily in a negative way. We all noticed it, and still this sharp cheese was a unanimous favorite

Appearance: That super dark ash coating on the pale creamy cheese is really striking! One taster was a little put off by the dark blackness of it at first; I guess we're not really used to eating pitch black foods. I was in the other camp though - I immediately found this cheese to be visually surprising, beautiful, and definitely very unique. 

Favorite Flavor Pairings: with Apples or Grapes on Baguette
with Fig Jam on Water Crackers
with Apple on Rye Bread
with Fresh Fig
(here, Mr VE&T just wrote "Ash is cool" -- very helpful!)

Overall Thoughts: This cheese was a unanimous favorite, we all liked it a lot! It's sharpness is strong, but not excessively so. As you can see above, the sharpness of this cheese paired very nicely with a number of the different fruity items we had out. As a former cheesaholic, it's really wonderful to experience these taste sensations again after so many years. I had forgotten how lovely and unique the sharp cheese + fruit combo is. So glad to be reunited! I also just think this cheese is crazy beautiful. It would be a striking contribution to any party table, but you probably shouldn't wait until the next time you host a party to try it. It's really good!

These cheeses are beautiful and special and would be great on a platter at pretty much any party. On their site, Miyoko's Creamery also has some suggestions for using the cheeses in recipes and I'm looking forward to trying some of their suggestions with the other half-rounds that I still have left. Since the time that I received these cheeses, Miyoko's Creamery has also come out with a limited edition version of fresh mozzarella (which sold out immediately! - I heard great things!), and they are also working on a cream cheese. The world of vegan cheeses is so exciting right now, and these products from Miyoko's Creamery are on the vanguard! Vegans rejoice!


The Abundance Diet Giveaway Winner!

p.s. I used the Random Number Generator to pick a winner for my giveaway of Somer McCowan's book "The Abundance Diet" -- and it picked #13. Guess what?? Comment #13 just happened to be from my aforementioned vegan pal Connie!! How fun! Congrats to Connie.

Sorry to those of you who didn't win. "The Abundance Diet" is such a great book, I really recommend it so highly. Also, I have at least one more cookbook giveaway scheduled before the start of MoFo2015, so you might still be a winner! xo

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Summer Dinner Party

You know what's super awesome? Finally re-connecting with old friends and having even more fun together than ever before. Recently one of my vegan pals and her husband came over for dinner. They live over an hour away, so it was a good trek that took a little coordinating. She and I first met online at the PPK, and we used to see each other more frequently, but it had been quite a while. 

I didn't know if they would have a favorite Santa Cruz restaurant that they were hoping to visit, but I was so happy when she said that they would love to come to our place for dinner. Yay! I just love cooking for friends so much. I love the process of thinking about my friends and what they might enjoy, and considering all the many directions a meal might take - and what dessert would go with what dish, and what about appetizers, and so on. So, I got right to work, dreaming up a summery menu that would be yummy and special and seasonal. 


After much deliberation, I went with an Italian-summery-tomato route and took it from there. We started with a giant Panzanella salad. I looked at recipes from Vegan Italian Kitchen, Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen, and Nonna's Italian Kitchen. In the end, I used elements from each of the recipes: lettuce, arugula, loads of fresh basil (some ribboned and some torn in semi-small bits), fresh parsley, red onion, one million cherry tomatoes from our garden, and avocado (which was a nice, if non-traditional addition). The dressing was a simple oil + vinegar concoction - olive oil, red wine vinegar, a dash of balsamic, pressed garlic, a dash of agave, salt and pepper. I think this was one of the best salads I've ever made. I loved it so much. It was also extremely huge, and even though we each had seconds (possibly even thirds), there was still a little left over for the next day.

Croutons Croutons, yum yum yum

I didn't get a proper picture of the whole salad all mixed together, because I was probably too busy enjoying the company of my friends.* The thing about Panzanella, is that it originated as a way of using up old bread in salad - so an abundant quantity of bread is really a key ingredient to the salad. I used the crouton guidance from Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen - and I loved her recipe and technique. Rather than roasting (and the risk of burning) the cubed bread, you simply toast it in a large skillet with a little bit of oil. They were really good and together in the salad, the whole thing was altogether gloriously better than salad should be.

*I also neglected to get a picture of the beautiful Double Cream Chive cheese from Miyoko's Creamery and Crackers that my friends brought along. It was SO good and fit perfectly with our dinner - offering something rich and creamy alongside an otherwise light and produce-filled meal. And it was also perfect because I hadn't bothered to make any appetizers. (oops!) So, as I was finishing up dinner and grilling the polenta, we all got to nibble away happily at that lovely cheese. Tummies were happy.

Grilled Polenta Wedges with Cherry Tomato Sauce

Booya! This is an old favorite, but I hadn't made it in years. This year we are experiencing a Bumper Crop of cherry tomatoes out in our veggie garden... so I knew that our special summertime dinner party just had to feature these guys as the star of the show. This is based on a recipe from "Fresh Food Fast," a vegetarian cookbook by Peter Berley that I really like. The polenta has fresh corn kernels mixed in (of course I added even more), which makes it feel so much more lively and interesting than just a wedge of cornmeal. Also, Mr VE&T suggested I grill the polenta, which was really easy and definitely added a lot -- the grill marks made the polenta wedges so much more beautiful, and also the grilling made the exterior a little crispier and denser, while the inside stayed just as creamy as ever. So good and so easy! 

The cherry tomato sauce is pretty straightforward: a little olive oil, garlic, loads of cherry toms, and big handful of fresh basil and fresh parsley. Super easy, but somehow, also super delicious. 

Along with the tomatoes and polenta, we also each added a dollop of the mild and creamy ricotta cheese from Kite Hill -- which was a very nice addition.

Apricot + Blackberry Crisp

Of course there was dessert! I had some perfect Blenheim apricots that I had frozen recently - at the now-passed peak of apricot season, and I was looking for something special to do with them. Then, this dinner party came along, and so did a vendor at the farmers market with the world's most spectacular blackberries ever. So, my work was mostly done for me. I combined ideas for fruit crisp recipes from Fresh Food Fast and Local Flavors (by Deborah Madison), and I loved the end result! I didn't add much sugar at all (maybe 3 Tbsp?), because the fruit I was using was already 100% perfect. The recipe from FFF included a suggestion to include sliced almonds in the crisp topping, that is so good! Do it! We enjoyed our dessert with some soy vanilla ice cream. Fruity desserts + ice cream really makes me feel like summer is in full swing.

It was a totally wonderful evening, and mostly not because of the food. We just had such a great time talking about all sorts of things and laughing and exchanging ideas - we stayed up so late (and our friends still had to drive all the way home!) I was still feeling all jazzed up and happy about it for days afterwards. Good connection with good friends really is one of the best things about this crazy human experience.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Book Review & Giveaway: The Abundance Diet

The first recipe I ever made from Somer of Vedged Out was her glorious Cheeseball, and I think you all know how that ended (hint: true love forever). So, after the amazing cheeseball incident, I would say that I immediately had 100% faith in Somer's food sensibilities. Anyone who can make a vegan cheeseball recipe like that is a friend of mine.

The Abundance Diet really offers up some seriously satisfying abundance!
(That's me on a giant mountain of copies of The Abundance Diet, in case you can't tell) 

So, I was super stoked when Somer invited me to receive a review copy and participate in her book's blog tour. The Abundance Diet is a really great book that takes all of Somer's amazing food prowess, and directs it toward healthy eating. The book is actually set up to be a complete dietary plan that you could follow for 4 weeks -- there are meal plans provided, and shopping lists that are even different for 1 person, 2 people. or 4 people. I've been thinking about following her program for a whole week to try it out, from what I can tell so far, the meals would taste fantastic and I would feel great about the way I was eating.

So far though, I've mostly explored the dinners in the book - to immense satisfaction and delight! All the recipes in The Abundance Diet are vegan (obvs!) and gluten-free and refined-sugar-free, and many of them are also oil-free, if that's something you're interested in. However, they are absolutely not flavor-free! The recipes I've tried have been creative, delicious, satisfying to eat and pretty to look at, and as popular with Mr VE&T as they were with me.

Here's what I've made so far:

Chipotle Corn Chowder
I am a big fan of corn soup, and every summer I make sure to make a few of my old favorite recipes before corn season is over. Well, it looks like I have another new favorite to add to my annual corn chowder list! This soup is oil-free, but does have fat from soaked and pureed cashews. The soup is also thickened with a bit of tapioca starch, which gives it a lovely creamy thickness without any odd flavors. The end result is a super creamy and surprisingly sweet (from the corn!) chowder with a perfect kick of heat (from the chipotle powder) and the perfect amount of chunky veggies throughout. Wholeheartedly recommended without reservation!

Homestyle Mexican Casserole
Um. We ate this entire casserole in two days. Supposedly it's 8 servings, but I guess we were hungry... and enthusiastic. This oil-free casserole comes together quickly, with a quick sautee of beans, veggies and spices, and then a rich cashew & nutritional yeast-based cheese sauce is mixed in, and the whole thing pops in the oven. Absolutely delicious: great combo of crunchy veggies and creamy sauce, perfectly spiced, and satisfying to eat.

Chile Rellenos Casserole

OH YES. I made a double batch of this casserole for a small family dinner party. There were 7 of us there, 4 of us were vegans (one of whom prefers to eat gluten-free), and then the other half "omnis." This dish was a universal HIT and the entire casserole dish was wiped clean of every remaining crumb. When I was a little girl, my grandma had a casserole dish that she used to make for all sorts of occasions called "Chicken Ole." I had forgotten all about the legendary Chicken Ole, but half way through dinner, my cousin Lisa said "This tastes like Grandmommy's Chicken Ole!" -- and it really did!

This dish was just wonderful and not like anything I have eaten in my last 15 years of veganism. I'm really grateful for that. This casserole took a little while to assemble and cook, but the end result was so special that I will absolutely make it again and again. Inside the casserole are green chiles (from a can) stuffed with Somer's Fresh Vegan Mauxerella. I had to add a little extra tapioca starch to the mauxerella, and cook it a little longer than suggested... but it eventually came together. Then, there is a thick, eggy batter with chickpea flour poured over all the chiles and baked. I baked it a bit longer than the recipe suggested, just for a slightly firmer and less eggy consistency. I totally missed the point that you were supposed to pour the enchilada sauce on it and put it back in the oven (read the recipe, dummy!), but it was great with the sauce poured over it too. Hands down, a new family favorite.

Blueberry Peach Tart
   (~ and Somer's All-Purpose GF Flour Blend)

Woo Hoo! I also made this dessert for our family dinner and I just used whatever summer fruit I had on hand: some white nectarines, some plums, and some blueberries. At the book's suggestion, I made a double recipe in an 8-inch springform pan for a larger group, and the result was perfect. This recipe is sweetened with dates and dried apricots (no added sugar) and is also gluten-free. I added about 1 cup extra oats to made the crust/topping mixture a bit more hefty, and we all loved it. This dish also came home from the party completely cleaned out. Not bad for two un-charted recipes brought to a dinner party, huh?

Creamy Vegan Ranch Dressing with Kittee's Buffalo Cauliflower
My sweet pal Kittee (who is actually the one who e-introduced me to Somer) recently posted an appealing recipe for baked Buffalo Cauliflower. A bunch of folks made it and raved about it, and I wanted to join the party. No regrets, folks! These are tasty and easy and perfectly spicy and fun. I'm already eager to make them again. I didn't really grow up eating Buffalo wings -- buffalo this and buffalo that is really only something I've learned about in the last couple of years. But I know that you are supposed to have some cooling ranch dressing to go with your spicy yums -- so I blended up a half batch of Somer's Ranch Dressing. Big hit! Mine turned out super green, because I only had fresh herbs and not dried herbs.

Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini Lasagna
This lasagna is one of our new favorite dishes of all time. Like any lasagna, it took a little while to make this -- but like any lasagna, it also fed us for several days. The recipe calls for jarred pasta sauce, which is a nice time saver -- of course you can make your own if you are feeling industrious. It also called for lentils and quinoa to stir into the pasta sauce, but somehow I was all out of quinoa (vegan faux pas!). So, I used half red lentils, and half green lentils -- and we loved it so much that I might just make it that way from now on. The lasagna uses grilled eggplant and zucchini and red onion slices instead of noodles and in the end it sort of tastes like a ratatouille flavored lasagna that is absolutely great. As you can see on top, this recipe also calls for the Fresh Mauxerella cheese to be dabbed around the top.

Mmm. Mr. VE&T is totally in love with this lasagna, and has requested that this be the only dish that we ever eat for the rest of time.

Lightened Up Laksa
This soup was really wonderful -- the broth was warming and flavorful and peanutty+coconutty, without feeling heavy. The little tofu cubes are baked while you make the soup, so they really have a great toothsome texture. The recipe called for some rice noodles, but I just happened to have this odd little bag of black bean noodles that I never knew what to do with -- and this was a perfect use for them. I'll probably just make this same soup recipe 10 more times until I've used up all those weird little noodles! I absolutely loved all the different flavors and colors and textures in this soup - and I also loved the broth on its own. I actually liked this so much that I had the leftovers for breakfast the next day. 

Apple and Chai Spice Muesli
Yum! I really liked this recipe a lot. It's a simple, make-ahead oatmeal that made four generous servings. I don't have "chai spice," so I used Somer's suggestion to stew a few tea bags in my almond milk first, and that worked great. There was a pleasant, but not overbearing chai flavor to the oats, which also have shredded apples and walnuts mixed in. This was really easy to mix up the night before, and then I had breakfast all squared away for four days. I heated mine up in the microwave before eating it, and that was especially yummy.

Vegetable Pudla
Here's another quick and satisfying breakfast. Somer's Pudla recipe is provided alongside an homage to Kittee, the Pudla queen. I followed the recipe pretty well, except that I can never control myself and added way more greens than suggested. I also used collards instead of spinach, cuz that's what I had. The batter makes enough for 4 seriously satisfying veggie pancakes, so I just kept the batter in the fridge, and made myself one each day for four days. I like having a savory, hearty breakfast - especially if I can have a little piece of fruit or something to balance it out. I'll definitely be making this again and again. 

We have a new family member! 

Here's the truth. I have a number of other cookbooks to review and I had to forcibly stop myself from making everything in this whole book! If, like me, you are a great fan of Appetite for Reduction and you've already made every recipe in AfR 100 times, then I think you will also really love Somer's wonderful new book. The recipes are low-cal, satisfying, unique, and delicious enough to serve to company. There's a huge smoothie section, a breakfast chapter, salads & dressings, soups & stews, dips & snacks, main dinners, desserts, and even a bonus chapter on juicing.

I am really nuts about this new book! 

Happily! Somer & her publisher have offered to let me host a giveaway so that one lucky U.S. reader can win a copy! You can't have my copy, because I have already bonded with it and written inside it and dripped on it. So, you'll just have to win your own copy! Or win one and also buy copies for all your friends!

To enter the Giveaway - please just leave a comment on this blog post (and make sure I can contact you from your comment - or I will pick a different winner). I'll choose a winner in one week. Good luck!