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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 a book that shows food preparation can be cool, fun, and hip.


By Jenny Engel & Heather Goldberg

St. Lynn's Press, 2011
Paperback, $19.95

OMG, train your peepers on these fave appies we created in a few mins in the kitch. The cals are low because they're loaded with avos and brocs, but they may produce a few toots.

One of the bonuses of Spork-Fed, a collection of recipes by the Spork Sisters, is "Talkin' Sporkie," a one-page glossary of "Sporkie-isms," the language Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg use with themselves and students in their classes.

The Sporkie patter is typical of the duo who want to emphasize, "We love cooking and everything it embodies. When you make a meal, it's the perfect excuse to bring together friends and family. And when you make vegan dishes that appeal to all types of people, even better."

One unique feature of the book is the presentation of Suggested Menus sporting catchy titles like "Fancy Pants" and "It's My Party and I'll Cook if I Want To." Where other cookbooks make lists of menus, this one successfully provides four pages of visual meal pairings. Running across a typical page are three horizontal rows of thumbnail photos for suggested meals derived from the recipes. Each illustration displays the name of the recipe and the page number.

Spork-Fed So conscious that many people wanted to avoid gluten, the sisters place (gf) following the titles for gluten-free recipes. Another innovative feature of the book is The Sporkie Scoop that appears at the bottom of all recipes. It consists of two parts: FOR YOUR SMARTS presents informative tidbits about foods, some historical, while FOR YOUR PARTS is focused on health and nutrition. Footnotes here lead to sources for the information in Notes & References at the end of the book.

Accompanying the recipes in the Appetizers section, with 5 labeled (gf), are ten lavish photos that shout, "See how delicious I look. Make me." Especially enticing are the Pear, Fig, and Sage Tarts with a Roasted Garlic Aioli; Spicy Seitan Buffalo Wings coated with a zingy saffron-hued sauce; and ultra creamy Nachos with a Melty Cashew Cheese, Lemon Herb Sour Cream and Guacamole (gf).

Chilled Creamy Red and Yellow Gazpacho is one of the standouts in Soups and Salads. The two soups are poured from separate pitchers simultaneously into the serving bowl to create a special visual effect with a string of cucumbers to separate the two colors. The Nicoise Salad is appealing as well as nutritious, while Jerk Coleslaw with Plantain Strips (gf) is a unique take on traditional cabbage salad.

The extensive Sides chapter includes taste tempters like Southwest Black Bean and Corn Mini Burgers with a Smoky Paprika Cashew Cheese; Quinoa Salad with Fennel and White Beans in a Light Lemon Vinaigrette (gf); and Crispy Brown Rice Cakes with Adzuki Beans and Scallions.

DIY (Do It Yourself) cooks will find joy in Main Dishes that begins with preparing Homemade Tofu (and Homemade Soymilk) (gf) as well as Homemade "Chicken-Style Seitan." Cooks who don't want to make their own seitan, can purchase packages of this wheat meat to create Mushroom Bourguignon, Seitan Wellington with a Creamy Spinach Sauce, and Personal Seitan Pot Pies with an Herb Biscuit Topping.

Spork-Fed Homemade or prepared tofu can used to create Cornmeal and Herb-Crusted Tofu Feta Croquettes (gf) or South Carolina Barbecue Tofu Sandwich. Some of the main dish recipes use soymilk to create sauces.

That the sisters love tempeh is evident with four recipes using it as the main ingredient: Tempeh Sausages with Mushroom Gravy, Frosted Tempeh Loaf, Barbecue-Style Spelt Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Tempeh Bacon, and Ginger, Maple and Mustard-Glazed Tempeh (gf).

Readers will want to make all of the Desserts after scanning the mouth-watering photos in this chapter. Those who have been unsuccessful in creating a vegan tiramisu will find the only thing getting in the way of eating this tasty version is waiting 8 to 12 hours while it sets in the refrigerator. Cookies, cakes, bonbons, truffles, milkshakes, and even Churros and Sopapillas are all deliciously covered.

Brunch receives special treatment by providing a strong conclusion to the recipe sections of the book. Especially inviting are Tempeh Bacon-Stuffed Potato Pom Poms, a recipe to cheer about. Toasted Pecan Spelt Coffee Cake would be perfect to have on hand for people dropping in. Fluffy and moist Lemon Ginger Scones with Crystallized Ginger are ideal to "help wake you up and get you going for the day."

The book concludes with two pages of Vegan Products for Your Fridge and Pantry with information on how to obtain them. Notes & References lists Books on Health and Diet as the footnote sources of information in Sporkie Scoops.

A number of people can take bows for creating the stunning package that makes this book a visual delight. Patrick Gookin's food photography and Kevin Tseng's art direction, illustrations, and colorful division pages lead the list. Pure Design is to be commended for the striking book design and typesetting.

Spork-Fed is a reflection of the sparkling enthusiasm and creativity of Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg who have assembled a delicious vegan visual treasure chest of easy-to-prepare recipes. They successfully manage to veganize many recipes familiar in an omnivore repertoire. One of their desires is to make food preparation a fun experience. For those not fortunate to take one of their cooking classes, buying this book may be the next best thing.

As the sisters say in the introduction, "We strive to present a cuisine that is modern and sophisticated, as we want anyone who picks up this book to feel proud to serve these dishes to anyone lucky enough to sit at your table."
They have definitely succeeded.

Click here for past book reviews

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