Friday, November 06, 2015

DIY Vegan ~ Book Review, Recipe, and Giveaway!

Way back at the first VidaVeganCon, in 2011, I met so many wonderful people who are still friends of mine today. Two of the great people I met were Lisa Pitman and Nicole Axworthy. They're both bright-eyed, thoughtful, and present people. They've collaborated on many projects together over the years, and now they have a beautiful new cookbook called "DIY Vegan." I was delighted when they asked me to be a part of their book's blog tour. 

Full disclosure, these gals are my friends, and their publisher sent me a copy of the book for review. That said, wouldn't it be awkward if I didn't like the recipes? Ha ha. Happily, I was not concerned, and it hasn't happened! As you'll see below, I've made a number of things so far, and really enjoyed them all! 

But first... a few things about this book. The subtitle is "More than 100 Easy Recipes to Create an Awesome Plant-Based Pantry." In the last year, I've reviewed two other books that are similar - Miyoko's "Vegan Homemade Pantry," and Celine and Joni's "Complete Guide to Even More Vegan Food Substitutions." Each of the three books has something different to provide, and I think they're all great books. I'd say that "DIY Vegan"'s niche is really in very wholesome and appealing recipes, with uncomplicated ingredients, natural and healthy recipes, no refined sugar (they use natural sweeteners instead), and lots of gluten-free options...  You won't need a dehydrator or a stand mixer or anything like that. I found the recipes to be very appetizing without becoming so complicated or decadent that I'd only consider making them once or twice a year. There are very few specialty ingredients called for, but even with straightforward ingredients, the dishes I made were compelling and delicious.

DIY Vegan focuses on recipes for pantry basics, and then in many cases also includes recipes for how to use the mix or sauce or seasoning you've created (for example: along with a recipe for pancake mix, there is also a recipe for the pancakes). 

The recipes in DIY Vegan cover a really broad range! 
Some of the recipes I still have bookmarked to try include: 

Cream Cheese ~ Easy Cheese ~ Buffalo Mozzarella ~ Date & Fig Cashew Cheese 
Pecan & Raisin Rice Crackers ~ Coconut Bacon Chips ~ Chia Cereal
Thai Peanut Sauce ~ LP's Worcestershire Sauce ~ Maple Masala Mustard
French Onion Dip Mix ~ Sour Cream and Onion Popcorn Shaker
Peppermint Patty Hot Chocolate Pucks ~ Lemon Curd ~ Caramelized Chai Popcorn

So, you see - that's a wide range! From sauces and staples, to breakfasts and dinners. 
From cereals and snacks, to drinks and desserts. 

Salsa Verde

The first thing I made was Salsa Verde. The whole thing took about 10 minutes and was so delicious! All summer I've been eyeing the tomatillos at the farmers market, but I hadn't bought any yet this year. I thought I had missed my chance, and was feeling a little blue about it. Then I spied some at the market and knew what to do! This recipe was super easy, and super flavorful, which is a pretty great situation. In this case, DIY Vegan doesn't tell you what to do with your salsa, but you didn't really need them to, did you? Here's what I did:

Top: Tacos from "Vegan Tacos" with grilled seitan and eggplant
Bottom: Simple corn tortilla + Chao cheese Quesadilla with my bright green salsa*
*I have been eating a lot of these.

Nacho Cheese Sauce

Mmmmmm! Doesn't that biz look tasty? Well, guess what? It is tasty! I'm pretty much always game for trying a new nacho cheese sauce recipe, and I've tried and enjoyed many. This one might be my new favorite! It's super thick and creamy, made with white beans and steamed sweet potatoes (good nutritional value!), perfectly seasoned, and generally fun to eat. Veggies with queso is one of my favorite healthy lunches, and so I enjoyed my nacho sauce with steamed romano beans and a big batch of roasted cauliflower. This good stuff is all gone, but I am planning to buy more sweet potatoes tomorrow so that I can make more. I love this recipe. 

White Chocolate Chips

Long time readers will know that I am a big fan of white chocolate, and I saw this recipe and got super excited. At first, I made a mistake and measured my cocoa butter after melting it rather than before melting it (oops.) So then, I basically just doubled the other ingredients and ended up with a big batch of white chocolate. This won't be a problem, but it was kinda funny, since my original vision was to use the white chocolate to decorate some black cat chocolate truffles for Halloween. I just needed some little kitty eyes and noses! Now I have a bunch of white chocolate in the fridge, awaiting further culinary inspiration. The flavor and texture are really good - rich and creamy and vanilla-y. In the end I didn't get these done in time for Halloween, so I made them for one of my yoga classes instead, and they were happy! 


Cookie Dough (made into cookies)

These cookies were quick and easy to make and came out really tasty. They're gluten-free (oats + almonds are ground to make the flour), oil-free (but full of almond butter!), and call for un-refined sugar. My almond butter was oddly liquidy, so I doubled the oats, and that was a good idea. I also brought these to my yoga students and they were a big hit! No left overs! I like having sweeties around, and sometimes I like to go all out on big decadent full-throttle treats. But most of time when I want a sweetie, I just want a little taste and I'm happy if it's also not a super rich or huge thing. These cookies are perfect for that! They're a cute little size, yummy, and one or two will happily do the trick. 

this is me, showing up to teach class, with my mat, my binder, my purse, and TWO different treats! 
The week of Halloween I usually bring my class treats, but this year I just didn't think of it until after class... at which point everyone confessed that they had all most certainly noticed! ha ha. So I promised them treats the following week - and I kept my word! 

Savory Egg Mix

I was intrigued by this recipe! The mixture is a dry mix of seasonings and starches and a few other goodies... all whisked together. Then, you can use the mixture to enhance your tofu scrambles or for french toast. It makes a lot, and I was running low on nutritional yeast (vegan failing!)... so I only made a half batch, which was still plenty. I put some to use in a tofu scramble, following the suggested recipe in the cookbook. I really liked it! It gave my scramble a great texture and flavor and was also great as leftovers. Even with a half batch, I still have plenty left over for future scrambles! 

Sweet Ginger Stir-Fry Sauce

Ha ha, what a silly picture. I was trying to make it look special. Because actually, it is special! This sauce took all of 10 minutes to throw together... and then I had dinner pretty much ready to go:

The Stir-Fry

Once you've made the sauce, DIY Vegan suggests cooking up your favorite "VIPs" (Very Important Plants) hee hee. They gave some suggestions, and I loved the idea of including bok choy and mung bean sprouts, two foods I don't buy often. I also used a red bell pepper, a block of black soybean tofu, and two summer squash. I dry-fried the tofus first, set them aside, then sauteed all the veggies. Heat up the sauce, add it in with the sprouts and viola! dinner is ready. The sauce makes 1.5 cups, which is enough for 3 moderate stir fries or two big ones. This dinner was so delicious and healthy and satisfying and quick. We both really loved it.

I was really excited to make this again the next day. Tragically, my little jar of sauce tipped over in the fridge and spilled everywhere. I was sad about the mess, but even more sad that I had lost some of my precious elixir. I plan to make this again pronto and have it on hand. It was so easy to prepare that I think this would be something I could even cook up for a really healthy and satisfying lunch.

Here's the recipe for you, so you can try it and have an excellent dinner ready in a matter of minutes:

Sweet Ginger Stir-Fry Sauce
Makes 1½ cups (enough for 3 stir-frys)
One of the easiest ways to increase your vegetable consumption is to add a stir-fry to your weekly meal plan. But pass up the shelf-stable bottles with the ingredient lists you’d rather ignore, and create your own ready-to-go, saucy-sweet ginger goodness. This recipe makes enough sauce for three batches of stir-fry.

1/3 cup Bragg Liquid Aminos or tamari
¼ cup pure maple syrup
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons blackstrap molasses
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1½ tablespoons arrowroot powder

1. Combine all the ingredients, except for the arrowroot powder, with 1/2 cup water in a small airtight container. Shake it to mix well. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

2. When you’re ready to make a stir-fry, in a small saucepan, just before you turn on the heat, mix sauce and arrowroot, using 1/2 tablespoon of arrowroot powder for each 1/2 cup of sauce. Stir until all the lumps are dissolved. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat and cook until it

3. Sauté your favorite VIPs—very important plants (e.g., mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli, bok choy, watercress, cashews, mung bean sprouts). Once everything is heated through, pour the sauce over your veggies and stir until everything is coated and glistening in all that goodness. Serve warm.

* recipe shared with permission, copyright Nicole Axworthy & Lisa Pitman, St. Martin's Griffin publisher 2015

Hoorah! The publishers have graciously allowed me to offer a copy of DIY Vegan to one lucky winner! This contest is open to anyone in the USA or Canada. To enter, please just leave a comment here and tell me about a pantry staple that you enjoy making from scratch, or that you would like to learn how to make. I'll pick a winner in one week, on Friday the 13th (spooky!)


  1. OOh, I got this book to review too, but I haven't had a chance to use it yet. All this stuff sounds so fun!! Can't wait to get started.

  2. Ooh, neat! I've always wanted to know how to pickle things, but those white chocolate chips are also calling my name... What a cool book!

  3. I make vegan sunflower seed margarine that the family loves and we get to avoid palm oil!

  4. I make my own salad dressing and mayonnaise.

  5. This book sounds awesome! I make cashew cream all the time for savory things (soups, alfredo, etc) and sweet things! From your descriptions it sounds like this book was written for my cooking style. Om nom nom...

  6. Hmmmm….. I really like to make my own salad dressings and I have lots of recipes to choose from now. I am intrigued by cashew cream and vegan cheeses. Haven't tried making any yet and would be a lot cheaper than buying at the store. Loved your blog post, as always :)

  7. I love kimchi, but I haven't tried making it yet.

  8. I love to make bread and pasta from scratch!!!

  9. I'm always looking for a great asian inspired sauce. The ones I've tried haven't quite hit the mark. Also, that nacho cheese sauce... I started drooling! I've heard really good things about this book. :)

  10. I do love a quick and tasty peanut sauce that I can gourmet up with whatever other pantry staples are looking interesting.

  11. I like making nut based cheeses.

  12. I want to learn to make my own ketchup; that would be cool!

  13. I make my own dressings from scratch and would love to learn how to make white chocolate chips. I'm reading this before breakfast and am practically drooling-tofu scramble for breakfast today! I would love this book-everything sounds delicious-and not just because I'm hungry!

  14. I love making my own salad dressings!

  15. Laura C.6:08 AM

    I make vegan Worcestershire sauce from scratch (huge savings) but now after reading this I am very, very interested in making white chocolate.

  16. I love making my own vegan mayo! I add some garlic too sometimes and it's super yummy!

  17. Jacky7:24 AM

    I like to make my own cashew milk and dressing, but that savory egg mix and the white chocolate definitely intrigue me as vegan items that are impossible to find in stores! (jackydlt at gmail)

  18. I sometimes make my own mayonnaise and also love to make pickled radishes. :)

  19. I love to make my own salad dressing. I also sometimes make my own nut milk or oat milk. I love the sound of this book!

  20. Wow sounds awesome! I think my favorite pantry staple to make from scratch is applesauce! Easy, but good!

  21. I'd love to make my own sauerkraut!

  22. Good memories from the 2011 Vegan Vida Con *wistful sigh*. The weather was beautiful too if I remember correctly. This book looks lovely!

  23. I don't make many staples from scratch but it is something I would like to learn to do! I think I would most like to try making seitan. that is on my snowy winter day list for this year!

  24. I make my own stock/broth since it can be pretty expensive! I just save my veggies scraps from the week (some I toss because the flavor is too strong, like beets or kale stems, or I don't feel like scrubbing clean, like potato skins)

  25. Your black cat truffles are completely adorable! Great idea, wonderfully executed.
    Thank you, Amey, for providing such a thorough review of Nicole and Lisa's book. Though I was already sure it would be pretty awesome, you've clearly shown that there was even more than I expected in there... It will be a very useful addition to my cookbook collection.

    To answer your question, there are many staples I like making from scratch, including nut- or seed-based milk, cream and yogurt. Among those I'd like to learn how to prepare myself, I count vegan Worcestershire sauce, fermented cheeses, and vegan butter.

  26. Darn it, I really really thought I was done with the cookbook purchases for the year... Guess not :)

    Intrigued by the date and cashew cheese. I am excited to try that sauce - I like that they gave Braggs as an option, and I like lime over vinegar. So sad about your spilled sauce though!

    I was talking to a co-worker a couple of months ago about pancakes, and he was totally amazed that I made pancake mix from scratch. He usually bought Bisquick or some other packaged mix that had lots of additives. Once he heard how easy it was he was converted. Of course, I always leave the sugar out of my mixes because I end up pouring on maple syrup or a fruit sauce or something else sweet :)

  27. Almond milk - so easy and so tasty! I've also made a white gravy mix from another site, and a baking mix.

  28. I like making my own mayo, but I would love to make almond butter and nut milks!

  29. I always have homemade salad dressing in my fridge and last weekend whipped up some pancake mix from Miyoko's book.

  30. I'd like to learn to make vegan white chocolate, peanut butter, and butterscotch chips.

  31. I would like to know how t o make my own ketchup and some staple dressings!

  32. Sounds like a perfect companion to Miyoko's book (those ribs... ye gods they amaze the taste buds)! I have a very money-conscious friend who wants to go vegan for a month, and I think this would really help her have a good experience (hoping that month turns into longer, hehehe).

  33. I love making homemade sauces and dressings.

  34. i make my own salad dressings, and vegan cheeses. (especially nut+miso parmesan!)

  35. I like to make nut butter from scratch.

  36. I'd like to get better at making my own bread.

  37. This cookbook sounds great! Your kitties with the white chocolate chip faces are completely adorable! I would love to learn to make vegan white chocolate chips - that's one of the things my hubby misses after going dairy free. I haven't had much like finding any.
    I LOVE making homemade cashew cheeze =)


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