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Blissful Basil: Over 100 Plant-Powered Recipes to Unearth Vibrancy, Health, and Happiness Paperback – December 20, 2016
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“A pleasure to browse and inspiring to plan menus with, Blissful Basil is enthusiastically recommended for personal, family, and community library cookbook collections."
Midwest Book Review
Ashley’s blog, Blissful Basil, won over both my heart and stomach, and now her cookbook has done the same. As always, her recipes are filled with mouth-watering creativity and nourishing ingredients. But above all, they’re infused with love, and her firm belief in the power of wholesome, plant-based foods to promote happiness and well-being. . . . The Blissful Basil cookbook is bound to become a household staple for seasoned vegans, new’ vegans, and non-vegans alike.”
Angela Liddon, New York Times bestselling author of The Oh She Glows Cookbook
Ashley Melillo’s Blissful Basil has it all: sumptuous, creative recipes, bold and beautiful photography, and plenty of user-friendly tips on how to easily transition into plant-centric cooking. What’s most special about this collection, though, is the power of Ashley’s personal narrative of healing through colorful, nourishing, and wholesome meals. These are the recipes that transformed Ashley’s life, and her passion and gratitude shines through each and every bite.”
Gena Hamshaw, author of Food52 Vegan and Choosing Raw
This is way more than a cookbook. It’s a coming of age story . . . that happens to have really incredible recipes and beautiful food. Ashley is a true inspiration and her encouraging, non-judgmental, and nurturing wisdom makes you feel like anything is possible.”
Jessica Murnane, author of One Part Plant and host of the One Part Podcast
Ashley’s Blissful Basil cookbook is beyond beautiful! Ashley is one of my all-time favorite bloggers and now authors because her recipes are always colorful, nourishing, and inspiring. . . . Along with her delicious recipes, she adds a beautiful piece of her soul to each project.”
Kathy Patalsky, blogger at HealthyHappyLife.com and cookbook author
I’m pretty sure my life will be 200% improved once I make the sweet potato cinnamon rolls with maple glaze. This book is full of practical information about ingredients, techniques and new ways of thinking about how and what we eat. It’s a must for anyone looking to get more thoughtful with what’s on their plate.”
Emily von Euw, creator of the food blog This Rawsome Vegan Life and bestselling author of Rawsome Vegan Baking
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Here are some other specific things I'll note:
-A good many of the recipes call for raw cashews. If you for some reason have a cashew allergy or difficulty procuring them, or do not own a blender or high quality food processor, you might struggle with the book. Having said that, while it does require a blender, there's a fascinating vegan nacho cheese recipe in this book which includes a surprising ingredient (I won't spoil it) and no nuts at all.
-Beyond just the cashews, in general quite a lot of the savory recipes include dairy analogues of some kind, but always homemade from scratch. If this isn't your scene, then steer clear, but the recipes seem generally designed to be tasty rather than trying too hard to mimic the dairy version, so I didn't find it annoying.
-There's a pretty big section on smoothies/drinks/breakfast sweets. This is a whole category of recipes that do not interest me in the least, but the book is quite extensive and I didn't feel like these recipes were filler material that detracted from the book for my purposes. If you don't care about smoothies etc. either, go ahead and buy the book anyway, there's still plenty for you in it!
-The author Ashley shares some of her personal story and it did very well to set the scene for the kind of food she enjoys, connects with and inspired by. I appreciated this very much. I however did feel like this section of the book could have benefited from a bit more copywriting, the narrative is a bit rambling and changes style partway through. This isn't my primary purpose for buying the book, so I don't care that much.
-The one thing that did bother me was that a couple of recipes explain that the potato must be measured "very precisely", but then the recipe doesn't even list a weight for the potato, which is the only way to actually measure precisely. *Shrug*
Overall the flaws are few and small, and this book is wonderful. Two thumbs up from me!
I love Ashley Melillo's bright and gorgeous blog with all its inspiring recipes and I ordered her book as soon as it became available. I so wanted to love it... but I don't... and yet I do. It's complicated.
First, let's talk about the layout. At first glance, the book seems gorgeous with all its colorful photos. But it's a real pain to use in the kitchen for two reasons:
- the very (very) small font which is kind of light grey. It's a nightmare to try and follow a recipe when you're cooking dinner and it's dark outside.
- the small format of the book + the length of the recipes which cause them to usually spread over two pages. Again, not convenient to have to turn the page when you're in the middle of cooking something and your hands are all wet/sticky etc...
But what about the recipes? Hit or miss. When I say "Miss", I don't mean outright disasters. Just that they're not on par with the gems which are to be found throughout the book.
What I've made so far:
- The Beet Balls: Excellent. This was the first recipe I made and it encouraged me to continue cooking from the book when the next two recipes I tried were only so-so. These purple beauties have a true depth of flavor found in the best restaurant foods. Even people who can't stand beetroot will be sure to love these faux-meatballs. Proportions and directions were spot on. Nothing to change.
- The Creamy Turmeric Cauliflower Soup with Shiitake Bacon: So-so. I loved the Shiitake Bacon (shame they're almost impossible to find in my little corner of the world) but the soup didn't do anything for me. It was nicely creamy but the flavors didn't mesh very well and the cauliflower was kind of lost under the spices.
- Buckwheat Risotto: Very nice. Although I would adjust the seasoning if I made it again. It cooked perfectly. The author always gives top notch cooking instructions for grains.
- Power Biscotti: Excellent ! I wasn't too sure about this recipe as I made it but everything came together perfectly. Upon biting into my first one, I wasn't won over by the taste (it's kind of unexpected) but that changed after a couple more bites and I make a batch of it once or twice a month now. They're that good. Genius use of sunflower seeds.
- Cinnamon-Almond Granola Bark: so-so. It tasted a bit bland and it was very hard to get a crunchy texture. Would try again with different flavors and a different cooking time.
- Cherry-Almond Butter Oat Breakfast Cookies: So-so as is. Maybe the Power Biscotti were just a bit too good. These couldn't compare and seemed a bit bland for a sweet treat. The texture was very soft and chewy though. So I made them a second time and jazzed them up with more flavorful ingredients and they were a hit. Recipe is very customizable.
- Superseeded Oatmeal Raisin Granola: excellent! And so light compared to most regular granolas. The taste reminded me of the oatmeal-raisin cookies of my childhood. Super crunchy. Great clusters. Would do again and again, trying out some different flavors for variety maybe. The recipe calls for aquafaba to help get those nice crunchy clusters. But if you're like me and never have it on hand because it's a pain to have to use the chickpeas or beans that come with it, don't worry. The recipe will turn out perfectly by replacing it with brown rice syrup, some apple sauce or a flax egg.
- Soft and Chewy Trail Mix Cookies: very good. I was a bit disappointed with them at first because they brought nothing new to the table when it comes to taste. Indeed, they use basically the exact same ingredients as the granola, the power biscotti or the breakfast cookies. But the texture was interesting and it would be very easy to change the add-ins to make them more flavorful.
- Classic Spicy Cauliflower Rice, Sweet potatoes and Avocado mash Bowl: So-so. I love cauliflower rice but this one was bland and couldn't boast the depth of flavor found in the Beet Balls or the Superseeded Granola for example.Uninspiring bowl for me.
- Quick Sweet Potato Coconut Curry: very good. Nice balance of spices here and super simple to make. I found the curry was at its best prepared a bit in advance and after it's sat in the covered pot for a little while. It gets nice and thick, which is how I like it. If you prefer it a bit runnier, serve immediately.
- BBQ Pulled Hearts of Palm: Bad. This was the one, truly bad recipe from the book that I tried. I ate one portion but couldn't bring myself to finish the rest of the dish over my next meals. It felt too much like eating pure BBQ sauce by the forkful.The hearts of palm looked the part but the taste was way wrong. I think they would benefit from less BBQ sauce, more seasoning and more cooking.
- Shaved Carrot Reuben with Special Sauce and Swiss Cheese: So-so. Too much cloves in the carrots. They were overpowering. And I shouldn't have added the crushed pepper flakes. They're marked as optional in the recipe and I should have left them alone as they made the carrots too spicy for me. There's something strange with this recipe. None of the different parts taste great on their own: carrots with too much cloves and spices (and they need more water than specified in the recipe), special sauce only so-so and swiss cheese with no particular taste. But if you eat everything together on a piece of bread, it works very nicely. The flavors mesh well and the play on texture is very nice. I ended up using my leftover carrots as an accent in salads where they worked perfectly.
- Caramelized Banana Sundae: Very good! Feels very decadent but actually almost super healthy. But be warned that the portions are a bit off in this one. it says "serves 2" but in my opinion, it serves 3 or 4. Especially if you are eating it after a nicely satisfying meal.
STAPLES (at the end of the book)
- Shiitake Bacon. Very good. A shame I won't be able to make it regularly because it's almost impossible to find those mushrooms where I live. I made the recipe once, with re-hydrated dry mushrooms and it worked well enough.
- Seed Parmesan Cheese: I made the sunflower seed version. Ok but a bit bland. Needed a bit of garlic and onion powder to give it more oomph.
- 10 minutes BBQ sauce. Very good and super quick to make. Although I confess adding some liquid smoke to it since that's how I like my BBQ sauce. And I cook it for 10-15 minutes to get more flavor out of it. But the 5 minutes of the recipe will do in a pinch.
- Cashew Sour Cream: ok but not sour enough. And it stayed a bit grainy. I have a very powerful food processor but no high-speed blender like a Vitamix or Blender. That might be why.
- Cashew Swiss Cheese: too thick and flavorless on its own but great in grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta etc...
So that's it from me.
Do I think it's a book worth having in your collection? Yes, absolutely. If only for the way you'll be using sunflower seeds left and right ^^ I never knew you could do so much with those little power-houses. And they're so much cheaper than cashews or almonds too. True kitchen heroes.
Is it the ultimate vegan cookbook I'll be coming back to again and again? No. The layout is not cook-friendly enough and not all recipes are out of this world. Also, on average, recipes have quite a lot of steps and can take a bit long to make (many, if not most, are in the 45 mins to 1 hour+ range). I'll keep cooking from it from time to time but I don't think it will be my go-to book. But time will tell.
So -1 star for the layout and -0.5 star for the hit-or-miss nature of the recipes = 3.5 stars. Solid cookbook with a few gems you'll want to make and customize again and again. Might up the rating to 4 stars if I find more gems to cook in the coming months.
Photos included: Power Biscotti, Superseeded Granola, Spicy Cauliflower Bowl, BBQ Pulled Hearts of Palm and Trail Mix Cookies.