on February 12, 2008
I'll admit that I'm a little biased because I shot the photos for this cookbook, but I'm very happy about how it came out and recommend it without reservation for anyone looking for quick, healthy meals that don't require a trip to the health-foods store for ingredients. Some of the things I like about it are...
1. It has a light, airy layout that's fresh and appealing and filled with Nava's delightful illustrations.
2. The 160 delicious recipes take less than 45 minutes (and often less than 30) to prepare.
3. Each recipe has a nutritional analysis.
4. There's a pantry supply list tailored to the recipes in the book.
5. Menu suggestions accompany most recipes.
6. Most ingredients are available at your local supermarket.
7. Each page sparkles with Nava's wit and wisdom. I enjoyed reading about how her family, led by her 10-year-old son, became vegan.
Some of my favorite recipes are Pink Bean, Quinoa, and Spinach Soup; Seitan and Polenta Skillet with Fresh Greens; Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Cashew Butter Sauce; and Our Favorite Chocolate Cake. The cashew butter sauce, in particular, has become a staple in my kitchen.
Probably what I like best about this book is that it is busy-person tested. Nava wrote it while raising a family and working on her graduate thesis, a sure sign that these recipes fit right into a hectic lifestyle.
When I hear the word "express" in the name of a cookbook, I immediately think packaged mixes, fake meat products, and premade ingredients. So I was pleasantly surprised to open Nava Atlas's latest cookbook to find lots of quick, easy meals that can made from whole, natural foods.
For busy vegan families, "Vegan Express" can't be beat. The recipes really are quick, delicious, and healthy. My family really loves soup so we started with the Nearly Instant Corn Soup made with coconut milk and curry paste. It was impressive enough to serve company while being ridiculously easy to make. Nava listed the White Bean and Escarole Soup as one of her personal favorites so I had to give it a try. She was right - it was yummy, even with kale substituted for the escarole.
Not in the mood for a hot soup, the book offers a large selection of salads - both as main dishes and sides. We really liked the Thai Tossed Salad coated in Coconut-Peanut Sauce and the refreshing Cauliflower and Carrot Salad. I'm looking forward to trying the Warm Potato and Black Bean Salad with Red Peppers and Artichokes as well as the Creole Coleslaw.
There are plenty of hassle-free entrées to choose from. I have my eye on the Paris-inspired Seitan and Mushrooms in Paprika Cream and the Tortilla Casserole topped with homemade vegan sour cream. Pasta dishes include Pasta with Roasted Vegetables and Olives and we just loved the Creamy Pasta with Asparagus and Peas (an excellent dish for spring!) Kid-friendly meals include five kinds of pizza and three versions of the Big Quesadilla. Each entrée includes suggestions for side dishes and serving ideas.
We love beans of all kinds so we really enjoyed the section: Glorious Grains and Bountiful Beans. The Lentils with Greens and Sun-Dried Tomatoes were wonderful and we also enjoyed the Paella Vegetariana. There is also a variety of tasty dressings and sauces. The Pineapple Salsa was especially good.
Since no one is ever too busy for dessert, the book also includes sweets. My nine-year-old daughter made the Dense and Fruity Banana Bread which she proudly packed in her and her sister's lunch boxes (until my husband found it and finished it off!) Next on her list to bake are the Walnut-Cinnamon Crumble Coffee Cake and Chocolatey Banana Pizza.
"Vegan Express" is a necessity for busy parents. It's so nice to come home after a busy day and be able to put together a tasty, healthy meal that looks like I spent hours in the kitchen. And it's nice to have a cookbook that's simple enough for my daughter (a beginning cook) or my husband (a non-cook) to use. I highly recommend this cookbook.
Review by Cathe Olson as seen on [...] .
My spouse and I own all the requisite vegan cookbooks, but this one holds the beloved #1 spot in our kitchen. (Vegan with a Vengeance used to be #1 for us, but Vegan Express won out because its recipes are just as tasty, more whole-foods based, and lightyears faster.) Vegan Express has become our go-to cookbook for everything: fast weeknight dinners, leisurely weekend brunch, cooking for visiting in-laws, even baking a chocolate birthday cake for a vegan friend at a party full of omnivores. (On that note, this cookbook's fast, easy recipe for chocolate cake is AMAZING! So rich, no one at the party could believe it was vegan.)
Here's why Vegan Express is the best cookbook we own, and why I would give the author, Nava Atlas, a hug if I ever met her:
1) Time: These recipes are fast. Most take 20-30 minutes, including prep time, and there are some in each chapter that take (no joke) only 10 minutes. We are always amazed at how quickly these recipes come together. Although we have an extensive collection of vegan cookbooks, I can say with certainty that Vegan Express is the best for busy people and families. Nava knows what she's doing here: she has two teenage boys herself, so prepare yourself for some seriously fast, seriously good food.
2) Balanced Meals: Besides being über-quick, what we love most about this cookbook is that many of its recipes are one-dish meals, meaning they incorporate a grain, protein, and lots of veggies in a single dish. Sometimes all you need to do in addition to the recipe is cook a pot of rice (but I would still consider that a one-dish meal because rice is easy and can cook while you do other stuff). The benefits of this approach are twofold: First, it's a huge time saver because you don't have to plan/prepare any side dishes; and second, you get a balanced meal without even having to think about it. However, for those who like to plan side dishes, there are some recommendations at the end of each recipe. What's more, Vegan Express is a fantastic resource for incorporating more greens into your diet -- the recipes frequently call for spinach, chard, kale, escarole, etc.
3) Taste: Delicious, robust flavors keep us coming back to this cookbook time and again. There are just two recipes that we honestly do not like, and we've made about 85% of the recipes in this book. All the others we've tried have been fantastic and merit repeat performances.
4) Variety: I'm almost embarrassed to divulge this, but we've been using this cookbook almost exclusively for the past 8 months and have not grown tired of it. Nava pulls from a variety of ethnic cuisines -- Indian, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, even American "soul food" -- and sometimes blends them to create excellent fusion cuisine.
5) Accessibility: Very easy to follow. The cookbook is divided into basic chapters: soups, grains & noodles, protein trio (tofu, tempeh, seitan), pizzas/wraps, and desserts. Each recipe gets its own page, which I find more easily navigable than, say, Veganomicon. One thing I really like about Vegan Express is how clearly the the ingredients are delineated along the side of the page, separate from the directions; there's no nonsense to sort through to find the actual recipe (ahem, Vegan Soul Kitchen). Also listed are basic nutrition facts.
6) Ingredients: Easy to find at a standard grocery. On average, there are 5-10 ingredients per recipe. The most unusual ingredients called for are saffron, shiitake mushrooms, and Hoisin sauce. There are no bizarro ingredients, like liquid smoke, in this cookbook.
Vegan Express is the best cookbook we own, and I can't recommend it enough. If you're in the market for a whole foods-based, QUICK vegan cookbook, you should buy Vegan Express right now. You will not regret it!
** Update, Feb. 5, 2010: We are still using Vegan Express as our main cookbook and continue to make 2-3 recipes from it every week. We even brought it along on two extended family vacations this past year so that we could cook fast, healthy dinners. I seriously do not know how we lived without it!
on March 12, 2008
I had never tried Nava's recipes before and received this book as a result of a contest, so decided to review it on my blog. I tested seven recipes. I loved every single one!
From the review:
"Vegan Express provides an antidote for the kitchen weary by proving the truism untrue after all: turns out you can prepare fresh, healthy, vegetable-rich dishes in less time than it takes to watch the evening newscast! Every recipe in the book, from appetizer to dessert, takes between 30 and 45 minutes from assembling the ingredients to digging your fork into that first steaming mouthful (and many take even less time)." (To read the full review, see [..]).
The recipes are very clear, easy to follow, and, most importantly, work. They are also flexible enough to allow the cook some leeway in customizing the flavors as desired. In recipes where I preferred more spice (we are spice hounds in our house), I simply increased the amounts in the original. In others, I liked the results just as they were.
I absolutely loved the Very Green Veggie Pesto Pizza, the Nearly Instant Thai Corn Coconut Soup, the Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cake, and the Butterscotch Mousse Pie.
I'd highly recommend this book to anyone looking for foolproof, easy, varied recipes that are kid and adult friendly--and take almost no time at all.
on March 5, 2008
I have made several of Nava's recipes and while some are surprisingly good, most could use a little spicing up. I also have her Soup cookbook and found this to be true for that one also. While many of the recipes sound very appealing and are certainly very quick and easy to prepare, be ready to add lots of your own spices, because she uses very few. I'm not sure if she just doesn't know how to use them or doesn't like to use them, but I think she should, then her recipes would be awesome. If you like heathy (but bland) vegan food, by all means...but personally I prefer a little spice!
on April 17, 2008
Since getting this cookbook, I haven't stopped using it. We have enjoyed everything I've made from it...seitan gyros,, spicy tofu triangles on a cool bed of lettuce, bok choy-edamame-cashew and orange rice, bbq=flavored roasted tempeh and vegetables, which is the first time my husband ever claimed a vegan dish for his lunch the next day. I especially liked the tempeh and green beans with shiitake-miso gravy that my sixteen year old son made. I wanted it again the next day. So awesome! I recommended it to my daughters as a must have book. It revolutionized my cooking style, since I can be the queen of a three hour recipe. I never thought any of the quick cookbooks ever had any flavor, but I risked trying this cookbook because of the positive blog reviews. I am very impressed with everything I've tried. Even cookbooks that are complicated don't always taste as good as this.
on April 14, 2008
I own most of Nava's cookbooks and I have to say that I use them often. I absolutely love this book! Its full of great recipes using nice, bright flavors and ingredients that I love! These foods will become like old friends and you're going to reach for this cookbook again and again.
One reviewer mentioned it doesn't have enough spice..so add some! Good grief! I happen to love really spicy foods, so I usually tweak recipes to suit my tastes and I assumed most people did the same thing to accomodate their own tastes or dietary restrictions. You don't need a cookbook to tell you how to do that!
Try this book! The recipes are easy to follow and taste really good! There are no "weird" products to buy, the recipes use ingredients that are found pretty much everywhere. I live in a small town in the mountains and shopping here is limited, but I have no trouble tracking down the things I need for Nava's recipes.
Another keeper, Nava!
on June 15, 2008
I don't normally write reviews, but it seems to me that this cookbook hasn't been getting the credit it deserves here. Not every vegan cookbook is for brand new cooks who need exact-to-the-tsp amounts of salt and pepper or to have their hand held throughout the recipe. No where on this cookbook does it claim to be an Introduction to Cooking 101, and to review its failure in this respect is irrelevant and misleading. There are plenty of vegan and not-vegan cookbooks that do try to fill such a need, so if you are starting out from square 1, it would clearly be better for you to begin with one of those. Not that I mean the recipes here are confusing, they are indeed clearly-written and properly thorough.
What this cookbook does promise is quick, healthful, delicious meals. And that's what you get! Many recipes from other sources purport to be speedy, but by the time you've done the prepwork you've already exceeded the recipe's supposed time. These recipes truly are quick, but they don't sacrifice fresh and healthy ingredients in doing so, either. They are amazingly varied, nicely organized, and they even provide nutritional info, which is surprisingly rare in vegan cookbooks.
I am by no means a master chef - I taught myself (slowly!) how to cook only a few years ago, by research and trial and error. But by this time I already understand how to make changes to a recipe while I'm cooking to make sure it will be to my liking. No one knows my tastes better than I do, and its hard to think of any recipes which I don't alter in one way or another honestly.
That said, I've tried many of these recipes and so far have always enjoyed them. They are truly healthy, delicious, and fast, and the notes accompanying most recipes on what to serve alongside to complete the meal are also very helpful. I know some readers appreciate hearing specific recipes that a reviewer can attest to being delicious, so a few that I've really liked include Curried Chickpeas with Chutney Bulgur, the amazing Thai Coconut Corn Soup, Pineapple Coconut Noodles, Fingerling Fries, Garlicky Greens, and Spinach-Miso Pesto. There are quick ideas pages which pop up throughout the book too, with inspiring ideas on how to throw together delicious salads, wraps, noodle side-dishes, or tofu/tempeh dishes, and provide many recipe ideas that aren't included in the official count, but are awesome and fast also.
So if you're comfortable in the kitchen, but don't have a lot of time to spend there these days, and want to eat healthy, interesting, tasty food, I definitely recommend giving this book a try.
on August 9, 2008
Nava Atlas has done a great job with Vegan Express. I am a college student and cannot afford a completely stocked pantry full of obscure ingredients. These recipes' ingredient lists are fairly short, full of easy to find ingredients. Also, each recipes included nutritional information which is very important to me. It seems many vegan and vegetarian cookbooks do not include a nutritional analysis along with each recipe. Being vegetarian, I like to know just what I am putting in my body so I stay healthy.
Definitely recommend this cookbook to anyone who has just began collecting vegan/vegetarian cookbooks. A great cookbook!
on June 23, 2008
I'm really happy with this book. Although I wouldn't say the recipes are overly memorable, they are good basic recipes that can be fixed very quickly and call for ingredients that I usually have on hand. This is becoming my go-to book when I don't know what to fix for dinner.
The only minor complaint I have (and it really isn't a complaint at all) is that I wish the recipes were laid out as meals like they are in Vegetarian Express. I like not having to flip between different sections of the book when fixing a meal.