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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 review two cookbooks that cover a wide spectrum of unique vegetarian recipes.

The Ice Dream Cookbook:
Dairy-Free Ice Cream Alternatives with Gluten-Free Cookies, Compotes & Sauces

By Chef Rachel Albert-Matesz

Planetary Press, 2008
Paperback $25

Appealing to our ever-present sweet cravings and our passion for ice cream, Chef Rachel applied her more than 20 years experience as a natural foods chef and cooking instructor to the art of making delicious dairy-free ice cream.

Ice Dream Cookbook The Ice Dream Cookbook is the ultimate compendium of everything you need to know about making a delicious frozen dessert without dairy products, eggs or sugar. The author chooses coconut milk in place of dairy milk and gives readers a choice of agar agar powder or gelatin as a thickener and stabilizer. In place of sugar, vegans can select agave nectar over the honey alternative. Another natural sweetener, the herb stevia, is a featured ingredient in all of the ice cream recipes.

The book contains an extensive front section with the unique ingredients used in the volume and detailed information on how to use them. The book features gluten-free information and uses gluten-free ingredients for the cookie and dessert recipes.

Prepared with a full discussion of the pros and cons the many ice cream makers the author has used, you will be able to make informed choices when purchasing your own equipment. Other kitchen tools and equipment for measuring, mixing, and storing are covered as well.

Chef Rachel imparts her experience without holding back any details. Her essential techniques for success will make a very knowledgeable ice cream maker out of any amateur, especially when it comes to measuring ingredients properly and making substitutions. For the health-conscious diner each recipe includes a nutritional analysis for the regular recipe as well as a lite version.

The Vanilla Ice Dream, made from unsweetened coconut milk and a good measure of vanilla extract, is the basic recipe that becomes the springboard for a host of variations like Maple Vanilla Ice Dream or Lite Vanilla Ice Dream. With a little tweaking, the same recipe morphs into a melt-in-the-mouth Chocolate Chip Ice Dream, or Carob Chip Ice Dream, and even Cocoa Nib Crunch Ice Dream.

The flavors are innovative and demonstrate the imaginative nature of the author. Chocolate lovers will become ecstatic over the Dark Chocolate Ice Dream and its six different variations. There's even Avocado, Basil, and Ginger Ice Dream in addition to vanilla with fudge, brownie, and fruit additions. And why not explore the coffee, tea, and nut flavors like Chai Tea Ice Dream or Chunky Chestnut Ice Dream. Rachel Albert-Mates

To enhance the frozen dessert recipes, there are finger-lickin' sauces like Peanut Buttery Hot Chocolate Sauce, Caramel Sauce, and fruit sauces like Apricot, Blueberry, and Raspberry, all with variations to make dessert time a memorable experience.

The a la Mode chapter oozes with recipes for compotes, cakes, truffles, and pies, while the Additional Indulgences heat up the oven to bake cookies, brownies, and even gluten-free graham crackers, all to showcase the ice cream recipes with stand-out presentations. While a few of the recipes for the baked items contain eggs and egg whites, they are only a few compared to the multitude of offerings that can be made completely vegan.

Appendix A, B, and C are packed with resources for purchasing unique ingredients, recommended reading, and contact information for national celiac associations.

The Ice Dream Cookbook is a special volume geared to those who adore ice cream enough to want to make healthier, lower fat versions at home. Packed with how-to details, informative sidebars, helpful notes, and invaluable tips, this cookbook makes it possible for anyone to concoct a homemade, knock-your-socks-off dairy-free ice cream dessert.

Totally Vegetarian:
Easy, Fast, Comforting Cooking for Every Kind of Vegetarian

By Toni Fiore

De Capo Lifelong Books, 2008
Hardbound $27.50

Host of Delicious TV Totally Vegetarian cooking show and now author of her first cookbook, Fiore relates her journey to vegetarianism that began while she was growing up in Europe. Unlike American meat cutters who neatly package meat in cellophane wrappings, European butchers openly display whole and partial carcasses in their meat shops. Making the connection between pet animals and food animals, Toni found it increasingly difficult to eat meat and became an animal advocate and a vegetarian when she moved to Maine while in her twenties. Totally Vegetarian Cookbook

Self-taught and passionate about vegetarian cooking, the author believes anyone can become a good cook with the desire, imagination, dedication, and a trial and error approach. She brings over 20 years of experience cooking and developing vegetarian recipes modeled after classic meat-based dishes. She places an emphasis on buying locally grown foods and offers suggestions on purchasing affordable organically grown foods at farmers' markets or becoming a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).

Toni stresses de-cluttering the kitchen counters of all non-essentials like plants, mail, knickknacks, and keys to create a well-organized working space. Good lighting, too, she feels is essential and says, "When I'm cooking, I crank them up. When I'm entertaining, I turn them down."

The book includes a section on kitchen essentials like knives, appliances, cast-iron skillets, cookware, and bakeware and features an extensive chapter of pantry items that also serves as an informative glossary for unique ingredients like mirin and textured vegetable protein. While many of the recipes are vegetarian, most are totally adaptable to vegan.

The section on Light Bites features a host of appetizers that fall into the category of tiny nibbles. "My philosophy is to keep things light, and serve appetizers in moderation," says the author. Some of the many recipes that list few ingredients and are very easy to prepare include Golden Tofu Bites, Roasted Chickpeas, Garlic Confit, and Red Bell Pepper Tofu Dip.

Classic recipes like the Waldorf Salad become Blue Waldorf Salad and receive a special touch with a crumble of bleu cheese that now has a vegan counterpart. Unique dressings include the zesty Chipotle and Orange, Jalapeno and Cilantro.

Not one, but two versions of cornbread, one vegetarian and one vegan, flank the center section of beautiful full-color photos of dishes that appear in the book. Perusing the attractive photos, you will discover familiar dishes that would build any amateur cook's kitchen confidence. Toni Fiore

The book is graphically well designed and contains a host of sidebars with invaluable information from handy kitchen tips to detailed preparations and even includes cutting techniques such as "julienne."

Foods like Lentil Stew, Baked Tofu Meatballs, Barbecued Tempeh, and a variety of pizzas, pastas, lasagnas, burgers, and sandwiches all stress easy preparation. Many dishes can be made in 30 minutes or less, including desserts like Sautéed Bananas and Maple Baked Pears. The book also includes more involved preps for special occasions meals.

The final chapter of the book is a simple, two-page spread ideal for those wanting to transition to vegetarian meals. Listed under Meat Dishes, Fish, Dairy and Egg-Based Dishes are the vegetarian recipe counterparts and their page numbers for easy reference.

Totally Vegetarian takes the mystery out of vegetarian cooking and removes any misconceptions associated with the vegetarian diet. Armed with a wealth of familiar classic recipes turned vegetarian and vegan, readers will find tasty versions of their treasured comfort foods. Most of the recipes are so quick to prepare, even non-cooks won't need arm-twisting to be lured into the kitchen for a satisfying food adventure.

Click here for past book reviews

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