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Vegan sandwiches, get in my mouth.

So after my cookbook lovefest, I got tons of offers pouring in for me to review cookbooks!

Okay, not really. But months ago, I asked Celine if when her new book came out, I could get a review copy. Not just because I like free things, but because I knew it was going to be a winner. The vegan cookbook market may be a little saturated right now, but is there another sandwich book? I don’t think there is! And after knowing Celine online for years I knew i’d be getting interesting recipes and her gorgeous photos, and I was not disappointed. Here she teamed up with Tamasin Noyes, author of American Vegan Kitchen, which was her first book and has done amazingly well.

One big concern that I did have was picky-husband-compatibility. My husband hates almost all vegetables and I find a way to make a vegetable that he will tolerate an average of once every three years. None of these are in raw form. Obviously sandwiches in general mean lettuce, tomato, etc. So before doing anything else, I immediately flipped through looking for Brian friendly recipes. Now if you have your own picky eater to serve your mileage may vary based on what they will and won’t eat (for instance, my husband likes yellow mustard, but won’t eat whole grain or any other ‘fancy’ kind), but there are plenty of sandwiches that have no raw vegetables, no veggies at all (like the Peanut Butter Banana Bacon Sandwiches), or it has mushrooms or avocado, which he does like. Relieved, I flipped back to the beginning.

The tips section is short but sweet, mostly telling us how to keep the sandwiches travel-friendly. There is a short pantry list, half of it is stuff you probably know what it is (but any good cookbook assumes that this is someone’s first cookbook), the other half explains some less-familiar things like soy wrappers and maca powder. There’s also a list of the recipe icons.

Onto the recipes! Obviously the bulk of the book is standard toppings-on-bread sandwiches, but that doesn’t mean they’re boring. There are classics that you would expect like the BLT, Reuben, and Meatball Sub, there are a ton of internationally inspired sandwiches. Many of the short recipe descriptions are a mini history lesson of these sandwiches from around the world, so the book is a good read, which is important to me. I think my favorite sandwich upon first sight was The Dagwood, which is inspired by Blondie and Dagwood! I also enjoyed that Celine and Tami’s husbands both got to design their dream sandwich for the book. I am only mildly offended that I myself wasn’t asked to put my dream sandwich in the book (j/k, j/k).

There are smaller breakfast and dessert sections, some may not technically be sandwiches, but I am technically not ever going to disqualify an Oreo Wafflewich from going straight into my mouth. The last chapter covers some basic recipes, like three kinds of bread. I immediately recognized the cinnamon swirl bread from when Celine was going to put out a zine, I can’t say that it’s the exact same recipe but if it is, I can tell you that it’s awesome! There are also recipes for the various ‘meats’ used in the book.

One thing that’s great is that not a single recipe calls for vegan mayo (that I could see). All of the spreads and dipping sauces are recipes in the book, and the recipes that have them are listed in the index in the back. Some people have an issue with any pre-packaged vegan substitutes in a book, I don’t as long as the bulk of the recipes don’t need them/they aren’t things you can make at home. I did see a recipe which calls for non-dairy cream cheese, but if you can’t get that at all there are many recipes on the internet and I think there might be a recipe in Celine’s past book, Vegan Substitutions.

And finally, pictures: there are many. Not of every recipe and I didn’t count them, but they are by the recipe and not an insert in the middle. Celine took all of the photos and she has a really simple food styling…style. You can see some pictures from the book here.

My only complaint about the book is that the recipes aren’t listed in the book contents or at the start of each chapter, but that’s easily solved by writing the page numbers of stuff I want to be sure to try on a sticky note and putting it on the inside cover. A very minor issue in a book that hits every other note: visually stunning, interesting recipes, good writing.

As for what recipes I tried, not as many as I would’ve liked. For some reason, I got hit with really bad allergies this summer. I don’t remember most of August except as a blur of sneezes, no matter what I took or didn’t take. My time in the kitchen, or upright outside of work, was very limited for the last half of the summer. I picked the book up from the post office on my way home from work and fell asleep reading it on the couch.

The first thing we made were the Apple Tempeh Triangle Dippers, which despite me making them very unphotogenic, were simple and delicious. Pepperidge Farms puff pastry is accidentally vegan, and the filling and pomegranate dipping sauce were super simple to put together. Tip: if, in your brain fog you forget that you have to defrost your puff pastry, you can microwave it, in very short bursts and turning/flipping it a LOT to move things along. I think I only microwaved mine for 60 seconds total, and managed to get it to a roll-able state but not ‘oops I cooked it in the microwave’.

Then we made the Carnitas Sandwiches. I feel like jackfruit has yet to REALLY catch on like it should, because it’s amazing for making carnitas and bbq ‘pork’. One thing to keep in mind is that the jackfruit is supposed to rest in the fridge after cooking, so you can’t eat this right after you start. We made this in the afternoon and then the next day when Brian came home from work, I had the chili creme resting in the fridge with the guacamole, and the jackfruit browning on the stove. Brian hates tomatoes so we both had plain guacamole and then I added tomato slices to mine, on Rudi’s oat bread:

We also made the Peanut Butter Brownie Sandwiches (I keep saying we because even if Brian doesn’t directly help me, he still hangs out in the kitchen and hands me cups and stuff out of the pantry). Before reading the recipe I assumed it was: make a pan of brownies, cut into squares, insert filling between two brownies. Nope, these look like whoopie pies, but they’re definitely brownies. I should’ve flattened mine more as the sandwiches were kind of tall, but oh my god. They are so good, and so easy to make. The peanut butter filling is thinner than a buttercream, but you can stick it in the fridge for a bit to firm it up some. These have non-dairy yogurt in them, which I know is pre-packaged, but I really like baked goods with yogurt in them. I like the texture it gives them. You can keep the brownie rounds in a baggie and the filling in a container and slap yourself together a little treat whenever you please, they keep for…well, we had eaten them all after four days, so four days.

Vegan Sandwiches has been out for a hot minute, but fear not! You can still join the cool kids and order it from Amazon, Herbivore, or I guess you could venture out into the daylight and buy it from your local bookstore. Cheers!

posted: September 27, 2012
under: books, food, pictures, review

A Cookbook Addict’s Guide To Vegan Cookbooks

When I mentioned to someone that said they had a lot of cookbooks that I have over 50 vegan cookbooks, not including zines and miscellaneous books (like Vegan For Life), they were like, “Whooooooooooooa!” And I was like, “I know!” So they asked me for recommendations, and I had to fess up: I actually don’t use them a whole lot. But here is a post about how to lovingly nurture your cookbook addiction without going totally overboard.

***Also, I reference a bunch of books and authors, and i’m not linking any of them because that would take so long, you can look them up via the googles or on amazon. If I only link to some of them, that’s not fair and I am oh so lazy.***

I like to read cookbooks, but I also like to eat what the hell ever, whenever. If I try to make a commitment to making a certain recipe on a non-holiday, chances are that I will buy the stuff and then I will not feel well or it’s too hot to cook or I forgot to buy one thing or I got distracted by the tv. But I really enjoy reading them, like novels. I also like supporting the many friends i’ve made online since being vegan, it seems like half of the people I know have written a cookbook or two.

Back in the days of yore when vegan cookbooks were scarce, I bought just whatever book. Now it seems like there are multiple vegan books coming out every month, and I just can’t keep up! I don’t even try. Every few months, I buy a handful of books. I am rarely so falling over myself to get a book that I can’t wait a bit to have it in my hands. So I start by looking at a list of all of the books that have come out since my last round of purchases. Then I pick out the ones i’ve heard good things about and check the amazon reviews.

A side note on amazon reviews: you should always check out the negative reviews for a book, and I mean actually read them. A lot of the one and two star reviews on amazon for vegan cookbooks will often say: this book uses white flour/rice, sugar, oil, nuts, fat, gluten, soy, etc. and therefore is not healthy/I am allergic to one of those things. Vegan does NOT mean a diet devoid of those things, it simply means no animal products. So if the only bad thing anyone can say about a book is that it has stuff in it that they won’t eat, that is a good sign. I’m not allergic to any foods and I don’t go for that anti-oil/fat hooey, but unless a book claims to be super-healthy or not have a lot of soy/gluten/fat, I don’t think that having those things warrants a one star review. I hate olives, vegan authors seem to love them and I resist the urge to tell them their books suck because they have olive based recipes in them.

Also, you’ll see a surprising number of people who say ‘I flipped through this book and nothing looked good’. Thanks for the help? I really should just save this stuff for the Amazon Vegan Cookbook Review Drinking Game i’m working on.

Another factor for me is definitely author loyalty, but it’s not absolute. For instance, I didn’t own Isa and Terry’s cookie book for more than a year after it was released. I was broke for quite a while when it came out so I didn’t buy any books, and when I did buy books and put them on my scale of most wanted, cookies weren’t at the top. I also don’t own a few books by other people I otherwise like for various reasons, like maybe the subject of that book isn’t something that has me falling over, or I just want another book more. Point being, if I have bought one of your books before and liked it, I will probably buy it over someone who I don’t have any experience with.

On the flip side, I bought Chloe Coscarelli’s book because everyone has been raving about it, and I knew it was filled with gorgeous photos and unique recipes. I’ve never seen her episode of Cupcake Wars and all I know about her is she’s incredibly perky and shiny, but the word of mouth was enough. I also recently bought The Sexy Vegan because I heard the writing was funny. I like humor and people who aren’t afraid to say ‘shit’. I know that most people want their books to sell well so it’s not a good idea to put cusswords in a cookbook, but still. Since I like to really read through my books, tone is important to me.

And then there are pictures. I like pictures, but I know pictures make a book cost more. Some people complain when books don’t have a photo for every recipe, I really only need a handful of pages in the center to be satisfied. I like having a visual jumping off point for recipes I want to try. Of course, these days there are about a zillion pictures on blogs from every cookbook, so if the book you really want has no pictures, just google it, yo.

The last thing I really consider is, does it fill a hole in my collection? A few general purpose cookbooks are great, but specific ones are better. Like if I want a cake recipe, I can just open up a Hannah Kaminsky book instead of digging through the dessert section of almost every other book I have. If I want low-fat, I can open up Appetite for Reduction or Blissful Bites.

Believe it or not, i’ve only bought five new books this year. Like I said, i’m being more picky. Well…then today I realized that it had been a few months since my last purchase, so I bought four more. I can quit whenever I want! Here’s what I ordered:

Wild About Greens (Nava Atlas):
I have heard good things about Nava’s books, but I have none so I decided to get one, and her newest one stood out since it’s all about greens and quite frankly, there are few ways that I like greens that aren’t spinach. So i’m excited to have a whole book of recipes to experiment with and learn from. Also, Susan from Fat Free Vegan took the pictures so I know it’s nice looking.
Let Them Eat Vegan! (Dreena Burton): I have wished for years that Dreena was my mom, even if she’s not nearly old enough to be. This is her first book in dang near five years, so i’m excited to see how she’s evolved with all of the strides that have been made in vegan cooking since her last book came out.
Vegan World Feast (Bryanna Clark Grogan): This one isn’t new, but i’ve heard lots of good things about it and I only have one of Bryanna’s books, so I thought it was time to get another one. I make her seitan tofurkey and pumpkin pie recipes religiously for holidays.
Vegan a la Mode (Hannah Kaminsky): 1. Ice cream. 2. I know it will be beautiful. 3. ICE. CREAM.

Instead of giving my opinion of every freaking book I own, I will break it down into a few categories:

The prettiest books:
Hannah Kaminsky takes amazing photos all the time. Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman always have a really cool design aesthetic that I enjoy. Isa Moskowitz has the best taste in background/fabric choices. And even though it’s out of print, Yellow Rose Recipes has illustrations by Amanda Chronister that make it a collectors item.

Seasonal eating: I don’t know how many other books do this, but Blissful Bites (Christy Morgan) and Color Me Vegan (Colleen Patrick-Goudreau) are both sectioned off by season, and Color Me Vegan is about each color of the food rainbow, so it’s also by color. The Inspired Vegan Bryant Terry) is also divided into seasons, and then separate menus complete with a recommended soundtrack. Also, if you want a catch-all holiday book, Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations (Alicia Simpson) has recipes for over a dozen different holidays/occasions, divided as such.

Zines: Zines used to be the best way to fill your grubby paws with vegan recipes, they’re not as popular now but there are some you can still get. Papa Tofu (Kittee Berns) is still being printed, and you can get compilations like Barefoot and in the Kitchen (Ashley Rowe) (full of her super cute drawings), Please Don’t Feed the Bears, Hot Damn, Hell Yeah/The Dirty South, and i’m not sure if Soy Not Oi was ever a zine, but it’s also old school DIY awesomeness. Leigh (formerly of Cosmo’s Vegan Shoppe, pour one out) recently put out a zine dedicated to her mom’s recipes, called Down Yonder.

Regional Cuisine: I learn a lot by reading/cooking from books that focus on certain parts of the world/country, especially since I was raised on a steady diet of Wonder Bread and Miracle Whip. Vegan Soul Food (Bryant Terry, Southern), Viva Vegan (Terry Hope Romero, Latin), Caribbean Vegan (Taymer Mason) are good starts. There are many regional cookbooks that I have heard lots of nice things about, but I don’t own.

Best themed books: Vegan Diner (Julie Hasson) warms the heart of this girl who truly misses eating at truck stops. Vegan Brunch (Isa Moskowitz) is great because who doesn’t want to eat breakfast pretty much all the time? Hearty Vegan Meals (Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman) is THE book for the really decadent, amazing, will charm the pickiest vegetable hater you know, recipes.

Healthy/simple/whole foods: Blissful Bites (Christy Morgan) for those of you trying to figure out how to cook without oil, Appetite For Reduction (Isa Moskowitz) for, as always, inventive recipes, and Dreena Burton, the original vegan mom blogger, always uses a ton of different flours and alternative sweeteners in her books. Vegan on the Cheap (Robin Robertson) is pretty healthy because it’s about making super cheap recipes, so there isn’t a lot of room for processed food.

Desserts: My Sweet Vegan and Vegan Desserts (Hannah Kaminsky) are sure to impress. The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur for all of the cookies (and a picture of every one), and out of the dessert trilogy (Isa and Terry), the pie book is my favorite because I think vegan pies of the non-fruit variety are still a mystery to a lot of people.

All purpose: My absolute favorite books that do not fit in other categories are Vegan With A Vengeance, Veganomicon (both Isa Moskowitz), and Yellow Rose Recipes (Joanna Vaught). I know I mentioned that YRR is out of print, but lucky you! You can get Joanna’s compilation of the book and her zines, Yellow Rose Greatest Hits) straight from the lady herself at joannavaught.com (I didn’t actually link it, it doesn’t count).

My top five, desert island, have used repeatedly and would die without books are: Yellow Rose Recipes, Veganomicon, Vegan Pie In The Sky, Hearty Vegan Meals, and my utterly destroyed copy of the first vegan cookbook I ever got, the one that made me so excited about being vegan:

And then when no one was looking i’d also jam Vegan Brunch and Vegan Diner in the raft to the desert island. Then a handful more. Who can only live with five cookbooks?

posted: July 31, 2012
under: books, food, pictures, products

Happy Pi(e) Day!

I won’t be eating any pie today, as i’m five days into my now annual gluten-free low-sugar Lent diet*, but I do have some photos from testing for Isa and Terry’s upcoming pie book. I was so excited to test for this one, because I want to learn how to make perfect pies, every time. I have a hit-or-miss history, so I don’t make them very often. I love being able to give and get feedback on what I make, it’s kind of like taking a pie making class for free!

Boston Creme Cake Pie

Blueberry Cornmeal Crumb Pie

Pumpkin Cheesecake (mini)

Raspberry Lime Rickey Cheesecake (also a mini)

The most exciting part? The cheesecakes are Tofutti-free! I had never made a vegan cheesecake before, and in fact I have only eaten a piece of one once, last spring from The Chicago Diner, which I wasn’t crazy about. I was never big on cheesecake pre-vegan anyway, and when I did eat it, it was mostly that Jell-o no bake kind that is overly sweet. But I lovelovelove these, and they are fairly easy to make. So get pumped for pie!



*insert my standard disclaimer that if you have a problem with people giving up things for Lent, even if they’re not Catholic, please shove it. 



posted: March 14, 2011
under: books, food, pictures

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