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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 review two cookbooks. One focuses on singles, teens, and the young at heart while the other places emphasis on the preparation of organic whole foods.

Vegan Bites: Recipes for Singles

By Beverly Lynn Bennett

Book Publishing Company, 2008

Paperback $15.95

At last a vegan cookbook carefully conceived for the needs of singles, teens, and the "young at heart" has arrived at the bookstores. Thanks to savvy chef, food writer, and cookbook author Beverly Lynn Bennett, cooking for one doesn't have to mean preparing a huge pot of beans and eating the same food again and again and again for the entire week. Long overdue, this book also addresses the needs of young adults who have chosen the vegan path while still living at home with their non-vegan parents.

In Vegan Bites: Recipes for Singles Bennett shares the epiphany expressed by many vegans who look back at the sixties and seventies as a time of citizen activism for positive change. She says, "… we share life on this planet with other animals, and we need to work together as friends and not fight, harm, hurt, or eat each other. It's so simple and yet so true." The youth of today is proactively working to bring awareness about animal abuse as well as environmental degradation caused by agribusiness.

New vegans, especially teens and young adults, are often uninformed about wholesome nutrition in general, but especially about how to thrive on a vegan diet. The author provides a nutritional overview of their dietary needs and tell her readers that, "Most people are unaware that the human body doesn't require the milk or flesh of animals to remain healthy … " Vegan Bites

Be a Smart Shopper is a chapter that informs the reader it's best to start with a shopping list in addition to looking for the in-store specials. Reading labels is a must and allows the shopper to compare ingredients to find the best value. Going organic supports the farmers, health workers, human health, and the planet, but if it doesn't fit the budget, she suggests buying one organic item at a time. She encourages her readers to support local farmers, buy small amounts of fresh seasonal produce to avoid spoilage, buy pantry items like beans, nuts, seeds, flours, and sugars from bulk bins in small quantities, store bulk items in airtight containers, and minimize the use of plastic bags by washing and reusing them.

Gearing Up: Useful Equipment is a handy list of pantry essentials and basic kitchen equipment from baking dishes to pots and pans, knives, measuring cups, and all the nitty-gritty items one needs to set up a new kitchen.

Invaluable to both new and experienced cooks is the handy grains cooking chart that includes grains many people may have never encountered like buckwheat groats, spelt berries, millet, and quinoa. A host of culinary tips covers suggestions like following a recipe exactly the first time, juicing several citrus fruits in quantity and refrigerating or freezing them for convenience, and incorporating leftover meals or single ingredients into salads, stir-fries, soups, or casseroles.

One Week to a New World is the perfect guide for newbies and launches young vegans on a great start with a full week of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and treat menus. For breakfast nothing beats the boost of antioxidants blended into the Berry Power Shake with its hidden leaf of purple kale adding that all-important mineral--calcium. Weekends are perfect for spending a little extra time in the kitchen to pop a few homemade Sweet Italian Sausages into the skillet. Pair the sausages with Bennett's Hacienda Home Fries made from garnet yams to dine like royalty.

Salad lovers will enjoy salad even more with Tasty Toppers like the Garlic-Tahini Dressing or the Dairy-free Ranch Dressing that also doubles as a dip. Those yearning for a cheese sauce to spoon over steaming baked potatoes need hanker no more and can turn to Special "Cheese" Sauce made with nutritional yeast flakes and soymilk along with tasty seasonings.

For those chilly nights that call out for a warming soup, Ginger-Carrot Soup sounds perfect and it lists no more than eight ingredients. Even heartier is the Vegetable Patch Chili brimming with veggies and beans and plenty of zesty seasonings. For serious eating, the all-American sandwich is well represented in Bennett's repertoire with great tempters. PB&J just got pumped up with raisins and sunflower seeds and became Nana Nutter Roll-ups. Flour tortillas and pita breads become the wraps that hold the Vibrant Vegetable Cornucopias and Sun-dried Tomato Falafels.

Better Than Takeout features main dishes like Tex-Mex Bean Burgers and Savory Mushroom-Vegetable Patties that make four servings each--perfect for sharing with a couple of friends. Global inspirations shine through in Dishing up Dinner with flavorful entrées like Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil and Bayou Beans and Greens with no shortage of Side Dish Sidekicks like Mexican Maize and Quinoa Medley that features a colorful array of veggies tossed up with cooked quinoa.

One of Bennett's specialties is the art of vegan baking. Either Quick Cornbread or Banana Nut Bread becomes a great partner to any hearty dinner dish while sweet wonders like the Rich Dark Chocolate Cake and Double Chocolate Brownies await the panting chocoholics. Even treats for the non-baker are covered in the book.

Vegan Bites: Recipes for Singles by Beverly Lynn Bennett makes it easy to become self-sufficient in the kitchen with a neat collection of original creations that are super-easy to prepare and easy to fall in love with. When new cooks encounter unfamiliar ingredients, they can find answers in the extensive, detailed glossary that explains all. Vegan Bites offers fun cooking and tasty eats and may even become a springboard that sparks interest for a young person to become a vegan chef.

Get It Ripe:
A Fresh Take on Vegan Cooking and Living

By jae steele

Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008

Paperback $23.95

A whopping 150 recipes invigorated with fresh flavors just happened to have found the perfect home in jae steele's Get It Ripe, a cookbook packed with innovative recipes and lifestyle information that evolved from her own journey to the vegan path.

Her food philosophy is summed up in the introduction when she tells readers that her whole-foods recipes are "not just for animal rights activist types or those who are allergic to dairy or intolerant to wheat, this book is also here to help uncover both the delectable goodness and health benefits of choosing foods that the earth naturally provides. This is a vegan cookbook for everyone." And for those with food sensitivities, jae has designated the recipes with symbols that denote gluten-free, soy-free, nightshade-free, and raw.

Reading the extensive material that precedes the recipes is like attending a class on vegan home economics, learning vegan nutrition, making the dietary transition, living in a non-vegan world, considering the yin and yang of foods, and managing the daily food regimen.

Break It Down, The Ins & Outs of Digestion is a chapter that offers the reader an understanding of the body's digestive process to better appreciate how healthful foods offer more benefits. Jae even tells the reader how to beat the dependence on antacids, an over-the-counter remedy a multitude of Americans rely on everyday for relief from indigestion. Get It Ripe shows the reader how to really take care of the body by giving more thought to everything one consumes. Vegan Bites

When a Peach Ain't Just a Peach makes a convincing case for purchasing organic produce and even examines the practice of irradiation. Readers can find a helpful listing of the dirty dozen foods that contain the most pesticides and the clean thirteen that contain the least contamination.

The chapter on what items to stock in your pantry and where to purchase them points out the advantages of shopping at food co-ops, visiting farmers' markets, and supporting community farms or CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). Invaluable information is imparted to the reader about food labeling, a challenge shoppers face when they see words like conventional, GM/GE, natural, organic, and whole foods.

Getting to the heart of food preparation, jae covers the kitchen tools she finds important and discusses those that release the least toxins into the food, like glass, enamel, bamboo, wood, earthenware, and ceramic cookware. Silicone is also considered a safe material. Getting Started urges the home cook to read the recipe "from start to finish so there are no surprises." She stresses the importance of washing produce before using, offers cutting and slicing techniques, and explains that more nutrients are contained in the peel but peeling removes some of the pesticides in conventionally grown items.

The reader will find everything needed in this comprehensive volume that contains charts for cooking beans and grains, details on sprouting, and numerous tips on turning out great baked goods.

Drink Up starts the day with a host of unique beverages like Turmeric Ginger Tea and includes a detailed explanation of each ingredient's benefits. Jae says her recipe for Chewy Fruit and Nut Granola Bars makes the perfect breakfast on the go, while a more leisurely morning meal might feature Li'l Blue Corn Cakes made with blue cornmeal, millet flour, applesauce, and maple syrup. This author loves to bake and treats her readers with a recipe for Almost Focaccia Bread, a far healthier combo of ingredients than the standard focaccia.

Stunning full-color photographs offer a host of temptations that inspire the reader to head for the kitchen, haul out a heap of ingredients, and enjoy innovative dishes like Pesto White Bean Bowl or Coconut Cauliflower Chana. Also beckoning is a photo of the Portobello Burger glistening with a glaze of Homemade Ketchup, layered with tomatoes and sprouts, and accompanied with Sunchoke Oven Fries. And who can resist the selection of mouth-watering cookie varieties pictured in the dessert section of the book?

This author has covered the whole range of recipes including dips and spreads, salads and dressings, sauces, soups, main dishes, cakes, pies, cookies, and other treats. The recipes all contain wholesome, natural from-scratch ingredients with directions that are clear and easy to follow.

In addition to supplying readers with an abundance of tasty recipes, jae includes a chapter on cleansing and detoxification. While many people recognize the benefits of a detox cleanse, they may not know how to begin the process, manage their diet during the cleanse, and follow with appropriate choices. But they need look no further than page 248 for the details.

The Appendix offers 17 creative menu ideas compiled from the recipes in her book that may offer a culinary travel experience while dining at home. Examples of international dining might take one to an imaginary Mexican fiesta one night, a Mediterranean dinner another, and an Italian feast on a weekend evening. The Resource List that follows is actually an extensive bibliography.

Cookzine author, holistic vegan nutritionist, and dedicated vegan blogger, jae steele reached into her metaphoric, cruelty-free bag and pulled out Get It Ripe, an impressive volume of not only a bountiful array of delicious recipes, but also a storehouse of kitchen-wise techniques, nutritional guidance, and enough inspiration to give a new vegan a great foundation for a new, healthier lifestyle.

Reviewed November 2008

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