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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 or books that contribute to vegetarian enlightenment.

This month we review two tend-setting cookbooks. One presents recipes for a diet that can reverse chronic health problems. The other brings joy to the table at dessert time.

Click here for review of Ani's Raw Food Desserts

The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook

By Neal Barnard, MD and Robyn Webb

Da Capo Press, 2010
Paperback, $18.95

The magic bullet to fight hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and cancer is not being developed in a scientific research laboratory, but exists in the kitchen where the preparation of delicious vegan food is the ideal prescription for alleviating many health problems.

In The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook, Dr. Neal Barnard and Robyn Webb team up to present "125 Easy & Delicious Recipes to Jump-Start Weight Loss and Help You Feel Great!" Dr. Barnard, President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, is the author of numerous books that discuss the benefit of a low-fat vegan diet. In books like Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes and Turn Off the Fat Genes, Barnard presents information on the efficacy of a vegan diet that is grounded on extensive research. Because he realizes many people will have difficulty transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, his books always include easy recipes that promote good health.

Co-author Webb, who holds a master's degree in nutrition and is Food Editor of Diabetes Forecast magazine, has authored six cookbooks including titles like The Diabetes Food and Cooking Bible and Diabetic Meals in 30 Minutes or Less.

Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook The co-authors divide the book into two parts: Get Healthy and Recipes and Menus. In the Get Healthy section, approximately one-fourth of the book, they present the case for the vegan diet and the research behind it to support their views. Dr. Barnard discusses his study in 2003 to determine whether a vegan diet could reverse diabetes.

"The nutritional approach we chose had three parts. We avoided animal products, kept oils to a minimum, and avoided sugary processed foods."

He also went on to say, "After all, we did not simply reduce meat in their diets and boost their veggies a bit. We cut the meats out completely. We cut out dairy products and eggs, too. And we really emphasized the healthiest foods--vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans." This same nutritional approach is the basis for this book's recipes that have an added advantage because they can be prepared in thirty minutes or less.

Cooking novices will appreciate the section Stocking Your Kitchen: The Essentials that suggests Seasonings and Condiments; Beans Grains, and Pastas; Rice Cookers; Canned and Bottled Goods; Other Pantry Staples; Refrigerated Nondairy Products; and "Fast Food."

The heart of the book, Part 2: Recipes and Menus, presents recipes and menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as ideas for snacks, dips, and desserts and entertaining. A Three-Day Menu Plan will be especially useful to those wanting to launch themselves into a healthy eating plan.

The writers emphasize the importance of beginning the day with a nutritious breakfast. They report studies that have shown, "People who skip breakfast actually end up eating more over the course of the day and have higher cholesterol levels, compared to people who start the day with breakfast." The Get Healthy breakfast provides options like Banana Ginger Pancakes, Spicy Spinach Frittata, and All-American Scramble on Pumpernickel Bagel along with recipes for smoothies, hot cereals, hash, and crepes.

Robyn Webb Low-fat lunch might feature Udon Noodle Salad, Cajun Bean Soup, Tempeh Burgers with Pineapple Salsa, or even a Hummus Pizza. Over two-dozens choices of salads, soups, stews, wraps, and patties give newbie vegans choices for mid-day dining.

Dinner without animal protein on the plate becomes a positive experience with tasty dishes like Quinoa with Navy Beans and Almond, Cassoulet, and Zuppa Di Lenticchie. The soups, grain dishes, sides, and vegetables recipes in this section will ensure that the healthy dieters will not envy their carnivore friends.

The Snacks, Dips, and Desserts may keep people from reaching for items loaded with sugar, fat, and cholesterol. Barnard and Webb suggest cutting up carrots, celery, and melons and keeping them in the refrigerator for instant snacks. To accompany the veggie snacks, they provide recipes for salsas, spreads, dips, smoothies, and special popcorn with recipes like Chipotle and Tomato Salsa, Basil Pesto Spread, and Curry Popcorn. While this section is not lavish with a number of desserts it does offer pleasing treats like Fruit Kebobs with Peach Cream Dip, Chocolate Cherry Nirvana, Raspberry Cake, and Baked Apples in Phyllo Dough.

"Often it can seem daunting to stick to a special diet on special occasions--let alone serve one," the authors say. To keep the proceedings delicious and vegan, they provide menus and recipes for four distinct dining affairs:

  • Italian Feast
  • Tapas
  • Summertime Party
  • Asian Twist

The book concludes with A Three-Day Menu Plan and appendices that offer a Quick & Easy Shopping List, Convenience Foods, and Metric Conversions. An eight-page centerfold displays photos of twelve mouth-watering creations.

The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook is an excellent guidebook for anyone embarking on a journey to a healthier lifestyle. The authors suggest that readers take a three-week test drive instead of just plunging into the program. If the test-drivers notice positive results, they will be motivated to continue. The testimonials on Page 11 are the best recommendations for the dietary information and vegan recipes in this volume.

"This is the most important step I have ever taken. You have changed my life, " says Manuel of Los Altos, California. His testimonial could serve as a brief review of this book.

Ani's Raw Food Desserts:
85 Easy, Delectable Sweets and Treats

By Ani Phyo

Da Capo Press, 2009
Paperback, $17.95

Known as a diva in the raw food community, cookbook author Ani Phyo offers yet another delicious opportunity for vegans with sweet cravings to appreciate the gems she creates from fresh raw foods that leave no waste for the landfill--only organic compost for the garden. Ani's Raw Food Desserts delivers amazingly simple uncooked recipes in a stunning book that intrigues the book browser with every page.

Ani explains that raw living foods are those that are fresh and unheated, specifically fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Switching from a diet that included allergens like wheat, dairy, and gluten, she discovered that raw foods bring multiple benefits like healthy glowing skin, increased energy, and a heightened feeling of well being.

Eating raw foods contributes less garbage in the kitchen and encourages people to seek seasonal local foods that leave a lighter footprint by traveling fewer miles to reach the buyer. Ani's delicious recipes leave "our animal friends unharmed," while choosing organic produce when possible eliminates many toxins and chemicals used in conventional farming.

While this author formerly prepared lengthy recipes with multiple ingredients, she discovered simplicity and fewer ingredients allow more of the individual flavors to shine through. She offers an easy-to-read glossary of the ingredients she uses most frequently and discusses essential kitchen equipment and tools.

Each icon used throughout the book indicates a specific focus: a hand means no equipment necessary for the recipe, while a leaf indicates green living. A woman's face says there are skincare and beauty benefits; a star directs the reader to healthier foods and a greener life.

Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook The recipes are especially inviting because many are beautifully photographed in full color to show the finished dessert that may contain no more than three to five ingredients. Frozen Treats are as seductive as they are healthful with recipes like Key Lime Kream Bars. Ice Kream Sandwiches pictured on page 26 display a thick layer of Key Lime Kream Bars between two Carob Walnut Cookies. Liquid Chocolate is one of Ani's innovations that gives her the opportunity to make mouthwatering treats like raw, chocolate covered bonbons.

Cakes and Tartlets present exquisite sweets like Tiramisu that turns to cashews and cacao to deliver an amazing likeness to the original Italian version. Cupcake lovers may be drawn to selections like Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Kream Cheeze Frosting, while chocolate devotees can indulge in a host of raw desserts that rely on Liquid Chocolate to coat delicacies like Chocolate Covered Bananas, Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, and Filled Chocolate Truffles.

Crisps and Cobblers, Puddings and Parfaits, and Cookies are three chapters that spotlight old-fashioned treats like Peach and Pistachio Cobbler, Carob Fondue, and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. Another specialty for the chocolate aficionado is the Cherry Brownie Heart that will steal your heart with one glance. This dessert is attractively photographed displaying a perfectly shaped chocolate heart studded with almonds and endowed with cacao beans, mesquite powder, dried cherries, and dates. One can almost inhale the fruit-filled chocolate aroma.

When Ani puts the dehydrator to work to create an array of delicious Sun-Baked Treats, she finds it produces a similar effect to actually placing the treats outdoors to be sun-dried. Tempting is the Cranberry Scones recipe that features a fruit feast of applesauce, carrot pulp, dried cranberries, and raisins.

Sauces and Kreams put the finishing touch on cakes and cobblers while Sparkling Desserts with Wine and Champagne add pizzazz to simple fresh fruits. Throughout the book are numerous sidebars that contain helpful green living tips like the one titled Eco-entertaining. Tips like going to the thrift store or flea market to buy used cloth napkins, place mats, and dishes can save money as well as recycling items rather than buying them new.

This nearly pocket-sized book is a graphic masterpiece with eye-appealing chapter division pages adorned with a polka dotted background. Sidebars are encircled with scalloped borders on a pastel striped background. Tiny, hand-drawn illustrations of kitchen equipment appear under the title of each recipe. The visual highlight of the book, though, is the banquet of enticing full-color photos that truly make the recipes come alive.

Ani's Raw Food Desserts is a gem of a dessert book, not just for raw foodists, but also for anyone who wants to enjoy dessert to the max and still stay slim and healthy. Desserts made from fruits, nuts, and seeds are so healthful you can have them for breakfast guilt-free! Author Ani Phyo has made an art of creating exciting, raw, sweet treats with a minimum of ingredients perfect for today's busy households. No one will need convincing that this book is a winner--it's instantly seductive. Think of it as a dream gift for a raw foodist, a pastry chef, or anyone who appreciates delicious desserts.

Click here for past book reviews

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