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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise

Vegetarian Books

Each issue the VIP birds endeavor to soar to the highest literary peak to peck out the most unique, informative, and accomplished book that contributes to vegetarian enlightenment.

This month we present two books that support health in uniquely different ways: one by emphasizing gluten-free ingredients, the other by celebrating the raw food lifestyle.

The Gluten-Free Vegan:
150 Delicious Gluten-Free Animal-Free Recipes

By Susan O'Brien

Marlowe & Company, 2007

$16.95 Paperback

Cookbook author Susan O'Brien learned from personal experience that surviving in a gluten-centered society while suffering from gluten sensitivity can be a monumental struggle. She met the challenge head on and now helps others to step into the kitchen with The Gluten-Free Vegan.

Susan tells her readers that she, too, suffered from "foggy brain" and a host of other unpleasant symptoms and discovered how much better she felt after eliminating gluten from her diet eight years ago. Statistics show that 10 percent of the population suffers from some level of gluten sensitivity. Both celiac disease and Chrohn's disease are linked to gluten intolerance or allergies. She discusses celiac disease and the connection between gluten sensitivity and autism. The author says though oats are gluten-free, they may be contaminated during processing on equipment used for other grains with gluten.

While food manufacturers struggle to produce healthy non-trans-fat snacks to stock their vending machines, Susan wonders why they don't turn to fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other plant-based foods. She recommends reading labels carefully to find those labeled GMO-free and buying organic foods, especially those purchased from local organic farms to assure freshness. Included are listings of those non-organic foods most and least contaminated with pesticides.

Gluten-Free Vegan Noting a growing trend toward eating raw foods, Susan offers several recipes that have not been cooked, like her Tropical Pudding Pie. Contrary to the view of people who think the raw food movement is a passing fad, the author says it's here to stay because of its health benefits.

The book includes sections on sugar alternatives, shortenings, oils, egg and milk substitutes, gluten and wheat substitutes, foods to avoid on a gluten-free diet, and a guide for cooking grains.

While the recipes in the appetizer section include familiar favorites like salsa, hummus, and guacamole, soups like the chunky Bruce's Favorite Curried Apple and Cauliflower Soup stand out with its featured ingredients plus walnuts and onions, all spiced with curry powder and fresh cilantro. Other recipes in this section that could tempt a hungry vegan include the Roasted Tomato Soup and Thai Vegetable Soup.

Quinoa, the gluten-free grain of the Incas, plays a big role in Susan's salad creations with fresh dishes like Mexican Quinoa Salad, Quinoa and Vegetable Salad, and Waldorf Salad. Quinoa even stands in for bulgur wheat in the Mock Tabbouleh Salad.

Main Dishes put brown rice, Arborio rice, rice penne and noodles, sorghum flour, and quinoa to work in a host of tasty creations. Unique are the hemp tortillas that wrap around Yam Enchiladas with Pomegranate Sauce.

With Susan's delicious morning starters like Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes, Breakfast Risotto, Coconut Pancakes, and Granola, breakfast becomes a delight not just for gluten sensitive diners but also for anyone who loves a hearty morning meal.

Although the book does not contain nutritional analyses, the recipes are filled with a wide variety of fresh ingredients that are key to a healthy vegan diet. Assuring the home cook there's plenty of protein on the menu, the author features nuts in many of the recipes.

Those who enjoy baking, can roll up their sleeves, grab their rolling pins, and turn out delicious Baking Powder Biscuits made with brown rice flour. The Cranberry Granola Bars recipe begins with homemade Granola and replaces gluten grains with sorghum and brown rice flours. Even the gluten-sensitive who thought they could never enjoy another pizza, can now turn to Susan's Pizza Crust recipe that relies on Bob's Red Mill All Purpose GF Baking Flour.

The dessert section is a welcome blessing filled with 22 delicious desserts featuring cookies, puddings, cakes, cobblers, and brownies all created with safe ingredients for those on gluten-free diets.

Because many of the unique ingredients like sorghum flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, and arrowroot powder are not common items found in supermarket chains, the book includes an extensive resource list.

The Gluten-Free Vegan is a rich source of 150 delicious and healthful recipes for anyone, but especially for those who suffer from health problems caused by gluten-containing ingredients. Today, many gluten-free products appear on grocery shelves, but few are geared to the vegan lifestyle. Susan O'Brien's book offers welcome relief at last and will, no doubt, become an invaluable kitchen staple.

Clebrating Our Raw Nature:
Plant-Based Living Cuisine

By Dorit

Book Publishing Company, 2007

Paper $14.95

The raw food lifestyle is ablaze with contagious enthusiasm that affects its growing numbers of devotees with that same bubbling vigor. Those who follow a raw diet say they are living within the laws of nature and in time develop an inner wisdom and intuitive sense about what foods are in harmony with their bodies.

Author Dorit says, "The well-attuned body knows what to eat, when to eat, and when to stop eating." She likens humans on the raw diet to animals in the wild who eat only when they are hungry and know instinctively the foods that are appropriate for them and how much of it to eat.

Raw fooders seem to develop a deeper relationship with their food, enjoying the touch and tempting aromas that spark the flow of saliva. Each of our senses contributes to the pleasure of eating, even down to color affecting our mood. Dorit recommends setting the table with blue as the dominant color, creating a calmer mood for those who tend to overeat.

Eating with mindfulness is important. Avoid eating when in a bad mood, standing up, or when in a hurry. These negatives can affect the nervous system and interfere with good energy for proper digestion. To improve digestive disorders, the author advises practicing food combining, a regimen that "entails eating foods that are compatible with each other in terms of digestive chemistry."

The author encourages teaching children to prepare raw foods while they are young and feel closely in touch with nature. Instead of demonstrating how to cut food with knives, she suggests families show their children how to squeeze and twist foods for juicing and tear greens for salads rather then cutting them. Parents should accept the phases children go through when they balk at certain colors, textures, or smells.

Children eat instinctively and will turn to other foods when their bodies are ready. Farmers markets can be an exciting experience for children, especially if allowed to choose the foods they would like to eat. "The more involved they are with growing, picking, and sprouting their own food, the more healthful their eating habits will be," says Dorit.

Celebrating Our Raw Nature A helpful Glossary provides good explanations about some of the more exotic ingredients used in the recipes, items like algorroba, camu camu, E3Live, E3AFA, E3 with Phenalmin, Himalayan salt, Incan berries, lucuma, palm nectar, and yacon. Since some of these ingredients are uncommon, exotic, and unavailable in chain grocery stores and even some natural food markets, Dorit supplies an excellent resource list as well as a suggested schedule for purchasing the more expensive raw items on a budget.

Some of Dorit's favorite kitchen appliances include familiar items like a high-powered blender, food processor, and juicer along with a few unique items like ceramic knives, a dehydrator, a mandoline, nut milk bags, a ceramic mill, and a suribachi.

Soaked nuts and seeds are vital ingredients in the raw kitchen. The author provides guidelines for optimal soaking times for nuts, grains, and legumes. She advises purchasing only organic nuts and seeds and storing them in the refrigerator.

Start the day by rehydrating with pure, clean water. Green drinks make an excellent morning meal, but for heartier fare, try any one of the 18 wholesome breakfast dishes like Apricot Carrot Bread, Hearty Seed Porridge, Mixed Fruit and Nut Granola, or Breakfast Parfait.

While many cookbooks offer a handful of beverage recipes, Dorit's thirst quenchers, nut milks, smoothies, shakes, fruit and vegetable juices, and digestive and cleansing beverages number in the 60's. The Digestive Calmer might be the ideal tonic before or after a jangling bumper-to-bumper rush hour drive on the Los Angeles 405 freeway.

Feeling tempted to fall off the wagon and dip your spoon into a steaming hot bowl of soup on a cold winter night? Instead, turn to the Thick and Spicy Minestrone Soup with its grand array of vegetables, apples, raw corn kernels, sprouted lentils, green peas, and chickpeas, yams, and a blast of fresh herbs.

One of the most unique appetizers is Holiday Chestnuts, a variety of nuts that tend to receive very little attention. These are first dehydrated and peeled, then blended with flaxseed oil, agave nectar, and fennel seeds. This deliciously sweet mixture can then be enjoyed as a spread on celery sticks, wrapped in lettuce leaves, or spooned over desserts.

Vegetarians are often an afterthought when non-vegetarian families plan holiday meals. Vegans suffer more, but raw fooders are lucky if they get a radish to chew on. Creative author Dorit assures a great holiday meal for the raw devotee with dishes like Holiday Vegetable Loaf, Holiday Wild Rice, and hearty Lentil Burgers.

Desserts galore include goodies that range from easy treats like Peaches and Berries or Cherry Vanilla Almond Ice Cream to those that are a little fussier such as Berry Cheesecake and Velvety Vegan Pumpkin Pie.

The last chapter of the book features liquid meals that provide a nutritional boost to those who might be recovering from illness or athletes who undergo demanding training schedules. These beverages are also helpful to raw newbies who need time to adjust to raw foods, to anyone who has had dental surgery, or for those with a fractured jaw that has been wired closed for a month or two.

While the majority of recipes are vegan, there are a limited few that contain honey that vegans could easily alter.

Celebrating Our Raw Nature by Dorit is truly a jubilant celebration of our bountiful kingdom of fresh fruits and vegetables. The recipes are uncomplicated and so easy to follow, they could tempt anyone to want to go raw. Just reading the recipes sparks the urge to gather a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables and start tossing them into the blender or food processor. We could almost taste the succulent flavors of raw!

Reviewed April 2008

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