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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So Much More Than Just a Cookbook
Sarah Matheny, aka "Mama Pea", is a mama you can relate to. You're sure to fall in love with her and the rest of the "peas" as you laugh out loud at their family adventures. She truly invites you in to all facets of their life and inspires you to go meat-less or less-meat. Her recipes are simple, delicious and please even my "MEAT! MEAT! MORE MEAT!" husband. Mama Pea is...
Published on July 26, 2011 by N. Grubbs

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202 of 210 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my ideal book...but it could be yours.
Let me start out by saying that I'm 23, have no children, and only found Mama Pea's blog after the book was released, three facts which undoubtedly influence my review. Additionally, I was a bit hesitant to order the book because I struggled to find a review that didn't begin with, "I found Mama Pea's blog x months/years ago" and knew that these were fans doing what we...
Published on August 26, 2011 by Kait


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202 of 210 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my ideal book...but it could be yours., August 26, 2011
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This review is from: Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love (Paperback)
Let me start out by saying that I'm 23, have no children, and only found Mama Pea's blog after the book was released, three facts which undoubtedly influence my review. Additionally, I was a bit hesitant to order the book because I struggled to find a review that didn't begin with, "I found Mama Pea's blog x months/years ago" and knew that these were fans doing what we do best: supporting their champion. I understand and respect this but it does make it hard to find a balanced review. That is what I hope to offer here.

Things I liked:

-The index which is BY ingredient. This is time-consuming for the author but oh-so-helpful to the reader when they have x, y, or z going bad and need to use it STAT!

-The pictures of her food are beautiful and I love that there is one for almost every recipe.

-The glossary at the beginning of the book. It super useful, especially if you are new to the world of vegan/veg cooking. I especially liked her inclusion of the Dirty Dozen although I would have liked a note about how this changes every year.

-Every. single. soup. recipe. I'm kind of obsessed.

-The twists she put on vegan classics (e.g. Mini Tofu Frittatas, lentil meatballs, etc).

-Mama Pea offers serving suggestions for different recipes.

Things I didn't like:

-The heavy reliance on processed foods. Given Mama Pea's disdain for the processed foods she gave up, this was a HUGE disappointment and the biggest factor in my rating. Earth Balance, Lightlife products, Tofutti, Veganaise...they are not only present (which is to be expected) but used often. While the book does not claim to be a whole foods cookbook, Mama Pea makes it very clear that she doesn't like non-vegan processed foods. Furthermore, these products are rather expensive while their homemade counterparts (made of beans, tofu, etc) are much cheaper.

-Sugar, agave, and more sugar. Many of the recipes had a lot of added sugar and/or called for agave, another surprise since a) both of these products are pretty processed and b) there is a large body of research regarding their negative health effects. To be fair, there are about equally as many recipes that deem sweetener "optional" but I was not expecting to see it on so many pages.

-Mama Pea's focus on appearance. My favorite story was with Teriyaki tofu when Mama Pea talks about letting her curly hair go. The picture that accompanies it is the most beautiful one in the entire book and I wish this theme of self acceptance (rather than taming the wild curly beast or harping on Pea Daddy) wound its way more so through the book.

Things I'm on the fence about:

-The stories. Some were frigging hysterical. Others, completely heartwarming. And others...distracting. I would have liked more recipes and less stories or at least shorter ones.

-The family photos. Part of me found them heartwarming and part of me thought there were too many for safety's sake more than anything. I would have preferred less, as cute as Gigi and Lulu are.

-The desire to not identify as vegan. On one hand I get it (the vegan community can be very judgmental, it allows her to appeal to a wider customer base, it is less intimidating for those who aren't vegan, etc) and on the other I just don't (she cooks vegan recipes and the vegan community could use another wonderful, welcoming voice). I totally respect her decision and while this did not directly affect my rating I have no doubt it will surprise others who are unfamiliar with her blog.

-The use of the word "simple". I felt some recipes were ridiculously simple and others were rather time-consuming and more complicated, especially the baked goods. Marinating tofu for an hour isn't a complicated task but simple, to me at least, implies easy-to-find ingredients (most are, some are a bit more foreign or expensive), quick preparation, simple preparation techniques, and easy instructions. Her recipes were about 50/50 I felt.

Overall:

While I can't say that I love the book or that it'll be my new go-to, there are certainly a number of recipes that caught my eye for their novelty and interesting characteristics. If sugar and processed foods had been less prevalent, this would have easily received another star or two. If those aren't things you worry about, and especially if you have kids, this is a great cookbook for you. Otherwise, I'd say to keep looking.

UPDATE (25 Sept 11):
If you try only one recipe from the book, go with the Lemon Lentil soup. It will change your world!
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too much processed food and meat and dairy substitutes, and little creativity., November 29, 2011
By 
Sarah "SEC" (Perth, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love (Paperback)
It's taken me a while to write this review because I feel like a traitor given all these five star reviews from her other blog readers. The problem is that this book just isn't good. Yes, her fans will like it because she's Mama Pea, and she's hilarious. However, I am a big fan of her blog (and have made a number of her blog recipes that I actually like), yet I found the recipes fell far short of expectations. To explain:

- As another reviewer noted, there is a heavy reliance on processed foods. If you're not a vegan, why would you want to use the vegan (artificial) replacements? I don't think it's the way to show people that a plant-based diet can be delicious...because, even with all the great new vegan products out there, they are still just that - products, not real food.

- These recipes appear to be made to appeal to a rather bland palate. I recognise that this was made to suit a particular audience, and clearly I am not it.

- I could make any of these recipes without the cookbook. In fact, almost identical ones are in many of the cookbooks I already own. I knew before I bought this that it may not offer many recipes that are unique to those I already have in my cookbook collection. It was worse than I expected, and frankly I own a lot of other books that offer a far wider selection on top of the ones in this book.

- If you've been reading Mama Peas blog for any length of time, you will recognise many of the stories. For me, that was disappointing because I really REALLY wanted to like this book, and I thought the stories would do it. They make me laugh daily on her blog, but these were rather 'ho hum', especially when the stories culminated in rather average looking meals. However, I think if you hadn't been reading, you would think these stories were great. And if you are an average American omnivore looking to add more plant-based meals to your diet, I think you would like this book to.

- For me, the recipes simply weren't inspiring. I am a long-time vegetarian/vegan, and an avid cook. I am also a lover of foods that are, well, rather un-American (or at least I already know how to make the few classic American recipes, veganised, that I do like). And let's face it, the few recipes that aren't just simple American dishes are basically just one-pot meals that kind of resemble some other country's cuisine (e.g. the Thai and Indian dishes).

If you're someone who is an inexperienced cook, looking to transition to a more plant-based diet, or just a lover of her blog, then this book might be worth it for you. If you have other vegetarian or vegan cookbooks, are proficient in the kitchen, and have been vegan or vegetarian for longer than about 6 months, then I really don't think it's worth it. There's some fierce competition in the vegan cookbook world these days, and to my mind this book just doesn't measure up.

ETA: I've made a few more recipes since this post, and I'm now changing the review from 3 to 2 stars. It really doesn't have anything in it that I would make again. It also doesn't help that Sarah speaks from a place of moral superiority in this book about her family's diet, yet she's recently made the switch to eating animal products again without any explanation. The benefit of bloggers who write cookbooks is that you get to know more about the person behind the recipe, so I think it was in completely bad form for her to continue to portray herself one way to sell cookbooks even though she's clearly had a change of heart. A change of heart is fine, but bloggers who get book deals owe their readers (and customers) an explanation, as it is the relationship between writer and reader that gets them that book deal in the first place. Sarah, on the other hand, has been openly hostile to readers who have genuinely asked about her change in diet.
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49 of 60 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too Much Mommy, September 5, 2011
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This review is from: Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love (Paperback)
I understand this woman is a mommy blogger, but this book is full of painfully cute stories about and glossily posed pictures of her two "adorable" children. If you've ever watched "The Next Food Network Star" and seen how the judges pressure the contestants to connect every recipe to some maudlin family story, you'll know what I'm talking about. I wouldn't have minded the stories so much if they were more realistic and less cute, to an extent, but all I really wanted in a cookbook was recipes. How many pictures did this woman need to include of her kids with food smeared all over their faces?

Other problems with the stories/photos - the author put the name of the recipe at the head of the chapter, then told the often long cutsey stories, after which came the actual recipes. This may have been less of a problem in the paper book form, but in the Kindle edition, it means that you have chapters and chapters of titleless recipes. So I went through the book and marked a couple of recipes as ones I might want to try, but when I go back to them, I'm going to have to scroll back sometimes 2 or 3 pages just to find out what the recipe is for. The author should correct this in the Kindle version, maybe just repeat the recipe names above the recipes.

My other concern was that she relied heavily on soy products. I know that she is vegan, but soy crops are not great for the environment, and she seems to genuinely care about such things. More important however, soy has been linked to breast cancer, so eating a lot of soy is not great. If I had young daughters I would not be feeding them so much of it, although occasional use would probably not be amiss. For women who have breast cancer in their families, soy should be eaten sparingly. I wish there was a greater variety of ingredients for that reason.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for me, not at all, January 20, 2012
By 
Jorge Araya (California, USA) - See all my reviews
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While one of my kids was very interested in this book, I finally gave in on it and bought it, to my dismay it has too much "processed foods" or "food like" substances in it, not to mention sugar. Learning to eat the right way will take more than fancy food like recipes. If you are into learning of improving your eating habits like me, I find that this book is not quite there.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Vegan and Vegatarian Recipes, October 31, 2011
This review is from: Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love (Paperback)
This book is a family photo album (mainly of the author's girls) with many, many personal stories, some two pages long, preceding each recipe. I counted a total of 53 family photos, endearing to parents and grandparents but of little interest to anyone else. You may read the stories once (that take up close to a third of the book) but disregard them ever after. The recipes are standard, mainly vegan, some vegetarian, using entirely organic ingredients. The pantry list introducing the book is also standard vegan. If you already own a vegan cookbook, you are not likely to benefit from this volume on your shelf. In spite of this criticism, the recipes are well written, easy to follow and novice cooks will have no difficulty following them. Besides the family photos there are many professional photo illustrations of the final products ranging from small to full pages. Each recipe comes with a sidebar called Pea Points giving the cook helpful suggestions and below full nutritional information. Contents pages list every recipe in each chapter--a useful way to choose one. The book is soft-cover with glossy spill-resistant pages. The index is excellent and well cross referenced.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings, April 22, 2012
By 
Kejanarama (Parker, Colorado United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love (Paperback)
I bought this book right when it came out since I too am a follower of Sarah's blog and loved most of the recipes there. Compared to the blog I found the recipes in the book a little dissapointing from the beginning. Although there are a few that I really liked and some I would probably modify a little if I made them again.

The thing that mostly my husband complained about was all the fake meat ingredients. Added to the fact that I really don't like Tofu too much - I wanted to - for Sarah, because I wanted to eat healthy and feed me and my family right - just like her. I contacted her once with concern about soy products and got a bit of a defensive snarky answer on the blog. I read the reviews here where people critized the reliance on soy products and highly processed ingredients. I'm not vegan but I started buying Earth Balance and Veganaise since the book/ blog made me think that those are in fact the healthy alternative.

Well and recently with slight changes in the blog (you have to read the comments to get the full picture)it became apparent that Sarah herself has changed her mind about soy and is no longer eating a vegan diet. Now she's saying that the family never ate a completely vegan diet - but boy did she give that impression before.

Which makes me wonder how much value this book still has? I don't think I would cook any of the recipes with meat replacement soy products anymore and just use meat/ dairy/ eggs all the previously labeled evils. But that's not was the intention of this book was.

All that being said there are still recipes mostly on the blog and some in the book that I absolutely love and that don't rely on soy products. But I learned my lesson that it's not just the food industry that cannot be trusted. Obviously people are allowed to change their mind and diets are always evolving and I still appreciate Sarah's blog. It just becomes slightly different when you put books out there and advocate certain foods. It would have been nice if concerns about tofu/ soy products/ processed foods and sugar would have been addressed earlier and openly.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much about her family!, September 24, 2011
This review is from: Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love (Paperback)
I got this book out from the library in anticipation of buying it and I am on the fence on whether or not i will purchase it. There are a couple good recipes in it, but the book is so annoying. I am a mom and head over heels for my daughter, but i would not write a cookbook and put a bajillion pictures and stories about her it. I want to make recipes, not read about her family. i can do that for free on her blog if i so wish. The format of the book (paperback) was hard to follow and the names of the recipes were on separate pages from the recipes themselves and in between all the pictures and stories of her kids, hard to find. I want recipes, nutritional info (which is there!), pics of recipes, that is it.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So Much More Than Just a Cookbook, July 26, 2011
By 
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This review is from: Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love (Paperback)
Sarah Matheny, aka "Mama Pea", is a mama you can relate to. You're sure to fall in love with her and the rest of the "peas" as you laugh out loud at their family adventures. She truly invites you in to all facets of their life and inspires you to go meat-less or less-meat. Her recipes are simple, delicious and please even my "MEAT! MEAT! MORE MEAT!" husband. Mama Pea is smart, witty and inspires each of us to not only eat well, but enjoy life. Her cookbook helps our meat-eating (for now) family incorporate more fruits, veggies and whole foods into our diet. The book includes gorgeous photography of her recipes and her adorable family. Filled with tips for simplifying cooking for a family...including tidbits on freezing/storing recipes and pantry staples this book is a must have for any family striving to eat healthy in a fast food nation.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiration for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, July 26, 2011
This review is from: Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love (Paperback)
Filled with delicious recipes by gorgeous Mama Pea, accompanied by photos of the beautiful Pea family, this book is an absolute delight. An inspiration for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, the book has given my vegan diet a much-needed boost. And the recipes have even impressed my meat-lover husband. Thanks, Sarah Matheny, for creating a book that has already become a great resource in our kitchen!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exactly the reason we are no longer vegetarian, December 26, 2011
By 
This review is from: Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love (Paperback)
Tofu, vegan mayonnaise, vegan margarine, non-dairy cheese, Fakin' Bacon, Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, meat-free Italian sausages, non-dairy yogurt--lots of pseudo-food in this book. "Organic" sugar is still sugar. Granted, it makes no claims to be a "whole foods" cookbook, simply meatless, which is fine. Our diet is still primarily meat-free, but we no longer use a lot of the ingredients in this book--whole wheat flour (we're happily gluten-free now), processed foods like the ones named above--not so much.

I like my cookbooks to be cookbooks, so this one just doesn't do it for me personally since it's kind of a family album as well. I don't mind a little blip letting me know that something is kid friendly or something, but entire sagas about someone's family life just aren't my cup of tea. Pictures are great--if they're only of food. This book has a lot of nice food pictures, but the number of pictures of her kids is not so great. Maybe if I made my own personal cookbook (not to sell to all of you) for my own kitchen, I might appreciate the pictures of my own kids doing funny things with food, or wearing their ballet outfits.

Overall I'd recommend "Feeding the Whole Family" by Cynthia Lair or "Whole Life Nutrition" by Ali Segersten and Tom Malterre if one is looking for a healthier way to feed one's family. Going vegetarian via the route presented "Peas and Thank You" is likely to lead to more health problems since replacing meat for tofu and beans is not really ideal for all folks. Definitely reducing one's consumption of animal products is beneficial, but suddenly switching to processed-kind-of-like-meat-and-butter-substitutes is not perhaps the best plan of attack. And definitely approach the "organic" sugar trap with caution--it's still sugar and it's in a lot of the recipes in this book.
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Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love
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