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Where are the non-starchy vegetables and salads? No seconds for me...
on April 25, 2013
I wanted to like this book and kept trying new recipes to see if I find at least a few to use on a regular basis, but unfortunately it's been a huge disappointment. I was hoping to find recipes that use interesting flavors and combinations of vegetables... I thought for sure there would be plenty of great salads, recipes using interesting fruit and vegetable combinations, asparagus, bok choy, beets, mushrooms, maybe some nuts and seeds, too.
The book seems to be heavy on starches especially beans and chickpeas. I am only finding one recipe that uses asparagus (Balsamic Braised Asparagus), just a couple that use mushrooms, which most people know how to make anyway (Portabello Steaks and Steak (Mushroom) & Pepper Fajitas). Even green beans seem to be missing for the most part. There are many recipes that allow you to create sauces and vegan cheese using tofu, but very few for preparing tofu itself to have as the main course.
I agree with other reviewers that many processed vegan products are used. TVP is required for tacos, chimichangas, spicy sausage, baked ziti, Mexicann chorizo, chili--basically where a meat eater would use ground meat. Gimme Lean product is used in meatballs, breakfast sausage patties, bacon bits, and Cajun meatloaf. Several recipes call for liquid smoke. I liked having the nutritional information listed with each recipe, however, the amount of sodium is not shown (only fat, carbs, protein, fiber, and sugar).
Some of the recipes that I made so far... I should mention that I'm in my mid 30's and have at least 10+ years of experience cooking 4-5 times a week. I can follow most recipes quickly and easily and rarely make something my family doesn't enjoy eating. I am health-conscious and watch the amounts of fat, salt, and sugar in my cooking. Some of these recipes were ok, but just not good enough for me to want to make them again:
Afrikan Kale and Yam soup (ok)
TVP Tacos (fine, but needed a lot of salt and spices to taste flavorful)
Hawaiian Chickpea Teriyaki (tasted fine and easy to make with fresh mango but a bit high in sugar for a dinner entree)
Mexican Cabbage (just ok--I make another cabbage dish that is much better)
Hippie Loaf (veggie meatloaf w/black beans; came out crumbly, would not make again)
Portobello Steaks (ok; similar to most portabello cap recipes)
Baked Onion Rings (made with garbanzo flower and no oil; came out dry and crusty--not in a good way)
Red Lentil Dal... Something is off about this recipe and I think it may be the amount of garam masala it calls for (2 tsps when only using 1/2 cup of lentils). Potentially, 1 whole tbsp of coriander and 5 tbsps of tomato paste may be too much as well... Tomato paste can be quite bitter. I doubled the amount of lentils and still the dish was inedible (very bitter tasting) even when served over brown rice. I suffered through a bowl then into the trash it went, organic lentils and all! I've made Indian dishes in the past and get Ethiopian and Indian take out a few times a month. I've never had a problem with how they were flavored. Later I noticed that even in the same cookbook, most other dals call for much less garam masala (see the spicy Ethiopian stew Yemisir W'et). Compared to the Red Lentil Dal, this recipe calls for twice the amount of lentils (1 cup) and only 1/2 tsp of garam masala (instead of 2 tsps). I'm not saying the same ratio of lentils to spices should be used in every dal (obviously) or they would all taste the same, however just wanted to point out that the Yeisir W'et, which the author describes as spicy, uses a LOT less! A few days after making the Red Lentil Dal for the first time, I pulled up several other lentil dal recipes online and at most, they call for 1/4 to 1 tsp of garam masala for the same or higher amounts of lentils (I guess I should have known better than to use 2 tsps). Went back to make the Happy Herbivore recipe again a few days later, tripled the lentils, decreased garam masala and tomato paste, and the dish was fine.
I considered making the Nutty Spread, which is a lower-fat substitute to plain peanut butter and blends regular peanut butter with beans and agave nectar. I quickly realized that while the amount of fat would be significantly less (about 25% compared to just peanut butter), the amount of protein would be cut in half, carbs and sugar would each be increased by 50%. I opted to just continue using small quantities of my regular peanut butter.
Decided to give the book one last try and make the famous Black Bean Brownies, which the author claims can be mistaken for real brownies and has been one of her most popular recipes. Unfortunately, they came out looking like brown tofu and tasting like ripe bananas with agave nectar. I knew my bananas were ripe so I omitted the sugar like the author suggested. The resulting dessert may be fine if you're craving something (anything) sweet, but to me, it tasted nothing like brownies and had no chocolate flavor at all. I'm sure the recipe can be improved (I could use greener bananas and more cocoa), but at this point, I am just not willing to experiment and potentially waste more ingredients.
If you're looking for fat-free or low-fat Vegan fast food, 30-minute type meals, this book may be great for you, but it did not work for me. I have since purchased the Veganomicon (by Moskowitz and Romero), which in my opinion is like the classic "Joy of Cooking" cookbook, but with vegan recipes. The recipes are a little more labor intensive but I have loved everything I've tried so far and am excited about cooking once again.