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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 books that feature two diverse cuisines. One features traditional Southern dishes with a vegan twist. The other makes the sandwich a novel dining experience.

Click here for review of Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day!


By Bianca Phillips

Book Publishing Company, 2012
Paperback $19.95

The dirty South will soon be spreading northward and westward across the country as vegans taste the finger lickin' traditional offerings of Southern belle Bianca Phillips, author of COOKIN' CRUNK: EATIN' VEGAN IN THE DIRTY SOUTH.

Born in Arkansas, close to the muddy banks of the Mississippi, Bianca spent her early years watching her mama and grandma prepare many of the down home dishes that make Southern cooking so distinct. When she became vegan at age 24, her family supported her choice and prepared those familiar dishes without the meat, eggs, and diary.

Cookin' Crunk While the word "crunk" may be unfamiliar to anyone not from the South, it's a familiar Southern term to express excitement. One dictionary definition says it's a combination of "crazy" and "drunk." To Bianca, crunk expresses the passion and pride she takes about her Southern roots and her cleverly veganized traditional Southern recipes.

This author's Southern vegan pantry is far different from any typical Southern cook's kitchen staples, with ingredients like agave nectar, chickpea flour, Ener-G egg replacer, nutritional yeast, and "the holy trinity" of tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Each item in the extensive pantry listing explains how it is to be used in the recipes.

Just the Basics contains the essential Condiments, Sauces, and Faux Meats that are key to achieving success in preparing a delicious Southern meal. Country Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, reminiscent of the non-vegan dips that come in a dry packet, is one of the basics used not only on salads, but also is a rich, creamy dip for Fried Cucumbers or Spicy Seitan Hot Wangs.

Devising chocolate gravy made from soymilk, cocoa powder, sugar, and margarine, Bianca says, "You haven't had a true Southern breakfast until you've tried chocolate gravy over biscuits." Paired with Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits and served with Cheesy Tempeh Bacon Grits--now that's a Southern breakfast! Even the venerated Po' Boy gets a vegan makeover as it's piled high and made healthier with roasted summer squash, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, red onions, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Bianca Phillips Traditional gumbo goes on a diet and loses the sat fat as it morphs into Tempeh Gumbo, a down-home favorite. Be patient with the roux, says the author, in order to give the dish its thick, dark gravy that plays such an important role in Southern dishes.

This Southern gal puts the vegan spin on Jambalaya, typically a very meaty dish. Using her homemade recipe for Creole Steamed Sausages, a chopped eggplant, and a mosaic of herbs and spices, she provides the basics for assembling Eggplant and Creole Sausage Jambalaya, a beloved Southern favorite.

Sweet Endings is packed with a delectable banquet of Southern desserts like cobblers, pies, cakes, and puddin'. About the Tipsy Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie, Bianca says, "This ain't your grandma's pecan pie. With dark chocolate chunks, toasted pecans, and dark rum, this pie is a force to be reckoned with."

Bianca even has her readers speakin' with a Southern accent as she divulges her superb veganized secrets for preparing grits, supper dishes, soups, casseroles, savory pies, savory sides, biscuits, cornbread, sandwiches, and decadent desserts. People interested in the nutritional analysis will find it at the bottom of each recipe.

Attractively designed with appealing food styling in eight full-color photos, well-crafted, veganized recipes, and headnotes that give the reader a little taste of the Southern tradition, COOKIN' CRUNK has a compelling lure for anyone who loves to cook. The recipes are even easy and concise enough to encourage newcomers to dive in. Anyone up for a taste of Seitan and Dumplin's?

Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day!:
Revolutionary new takes
on everyone's favorite anytime meal

By Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes

Fair Winds Press, 2012
Paper $19.99

Think of an all-American favorite food, and instantly the sandwich comes to mind. But vegan sandwiches, the stunning domain of Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes in their cookbook Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! make one stand up and take notice. While many of the bread varieties they use are familiar, the fillings are unique to most Americans.

This pair of thoughtful authors recognizes soggy sandwiches are a total turnoff and can sometimes be unpleasantly messy. To avoid the problem they offer sandwich makers a number of preventive measures to assure their tasty fillings will never deliver a soggy disaster.

Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! Creative cooks often turn to uncommon ingredients to add flavor and texture to recipes. The Guide to Key Ingredients explains the unusual items, like ume plum vinegar, and tells how they're used. Some of the recipes are marked with icons that indicate they are Quick and Easy, Travel-Friendly, or Potentially Gluten-Free. Each of the recipes includes metric measurements.

Americans often prepare sandwiches for lunch or dinner but rarely for the breakfast menu. Celine and Tamasin present eleven clever ideas for a great morning start with hearty, wholesome, and gorgeous sandwiches. Out for the Count of Monte Cristo is one amazing sandwich an adventurous diner would love to share with a breakfast or brunch guest. Also included in this chapter are creative morning starters like Country Sausage Sandwiches and Berry-Stuffed French Toast Pockets.

Going Topless is not X-Rated, but it is a convincingly seductive chapter of open-faced sandwiches including exceptional Pesto Pizzas flavored with smoked sea salt and liquid smoke. Pictured on page 36 is Onion Ring Ranchcado that defies resistance. It's beautiful to look at and assembled with an irresistible filling of lettuce and tomato enhanced with a well-seasoned avocado spread and topped with killer onion rings that are spiced, beer battered, and flavored with liquid smoke and yellow mustard. Many will find this sandwich hard to resist.

The book is packed with innovative ideas for hearty fillings, finger-licking spreads, and sandwich enhancements that make each sandwich a delicious and memorable presentation.

Even the names for the chapters and sandwiches evoke pleasant curiosity. Names like Inside-Out Rice-Adilla, Bierocks, and From Russia with Love light a spark of interest. Dagwood's Special Sandwich, for instance, is a mouth-watering triple-decker filled with two kinds of delectable homemade "cold-cuts," and stacked higher with tempeh bacon, bell peppers, fresh tomatoes, onions, and pickles. No hunger allowed!

Got a sweet tooth? Dessert sandwiches fill the Sweetness Follows chapter with wondrous concoctions that bring sweet bliss to the table. Explore Oreo Wafflewiches, a double layer of rich chocolate waffles filled with a vanilla cream frosting and drizzled with chocolate syrup. Perhaps, Mango Butter & Ginger Whoopie Pies or Sesame Berry Ice Cream Sandwiches are more appealing.

Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! displays a beautiful combination of innovative graphic touches by Debbie Berne Design and stunning photography by Celine Steen. The food styling is a masterful blend of invention and tasteful presentation. Though the book is a paperback, it's extra-firm cover and high-quality paper add to the visual appeal.

Sandwich aficionados will adore Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! because they will discover "bold new ground" just like the name of one of the chapters. This pair of authors has a flair for creating definitive flavors that make each sandwich a novel dining experience. Though many of the recipes are lengthy and require a bit of time in the kitchen, they are compelling enough to entice home cooks into a sandwich-making session to relish!

Click here for past book reviews

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