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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 books that share common attributes. Both are vegan and gluten-free.

For a review of The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Cakes and Cookies , click here

Gluten-Free Vegan Comfort Food:
125 Simple and Satisfying Recipes,
from "Mac and Cheese to Chocolate Cupcakes

By Susan O'Brien

DeCapo Life Long Books, 2012
Paperback $18.00

Gluten-free maven Susan O'Brien packs a bundle of good old-fashioned, classic comfort food into Gluten-Free Vegan Comfort Food, her new cookbook that makes gluten-free dining joyful and exciting. Gluten-free cuisine is not only a growing trend, but it also supports a healthy lifestyle by eliminating grains that cause many people digestive distress.

Author of two other gluten-free cookbooks, The Gluten-Free Vegan and Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Cooking, Susan knows her way around the world of cooking without gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, triticale, farro, durum, and semolina. She continues to explore new ways to offer recipes without these grains and enthusiastically responds to her readers' requests to provide recipes with less expensive ingredients.

Gluten-Free Vegan Comfort Food The newbie to gluten-free vegan cooking will find helpful information on stocking the pantry, learning what foods to avoid, and discovering the unique world of gluten-free flours and sweeteners. Also covered is shopping for organic foods and why it's important to avoid genetically modified food.

Everyday breakfast is often shortchanged by many people, but Susan revs up the morning menu with some of her favorite comfort items like Banana Nut Bread that uses all-purpose gluten-free flour along with coconut or sorghum flour. Maple syrup sweetens the bread, while cinnamon and cardamom infuse it with spice.

Mouth-watering Pumpkin Waffles made from scratch rely on a combination of sorghum flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour to form the base. Spicing it up is a blend of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg along with canned pumpkin and non-dairy milk to create a delightful breakfast treat. Also included are recipes for muffins, scones, smoothies, and granola. For the hearty breakfast lover, nothing beats Scrambled Tofu and Vegetables laced with an elegant touch of red wine.

For gluten-free vegans who find it a challenge to locate tasty, gluten-free bread, the author comes to the rescue with her delicious, yeast-raised Millet Bread made with millet and rice flours along with potato starch and guar gum to help bind the mixture. The bread is used in her French Toast, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, and Bruschetta recipes. Millet Bread could easily become a favorite household staple, finding its way into an array of tasty sandwiches.

Many will agree that Pizza tops the list of comfort foods. Homemade yeast-raised Pizza Crust will take a little time to prep but is definitely "worth the wait," says the author. Forming the crust is a blend of tapioca, sorghum, coconut, and millet flours along with guar gum and chia seeds as binders. A touch of organic palm sugar is added, and the crust is baked briefly before the toppings are layered.

Mention Chocolate Cupcakes to a roomful of kids and they squeal with joy. By keeping the pantry well stocked with a generous selection of gluten-free flours, Susan makes it easy for families to please the kids with their favorite chocolate cupcakes.

Seekers of comfort food recipes for the gluten-free kitchen will find Cheesy Spoonbread, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Savory Spinach Pie, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, Strawberry Shortcake, and Molasses Cookies. There's even a chapter on Kid's Favorites like Mac and Cheese and Peach and Blueberry Cobbler.

The book concludes with Acknowledgements, several charts of Cooking Equivalents and Metric Conversions, as well as a convenient list of Resources that include gluten-free organizations and companies selling gluten-free products.

Gluten-Free Vegan Comfort Food by Susan O'Brien is a golden treasure for the gluten-free kitchen. Those searching for tasty, kitchen-tested family favorites free of gluten-containing grains will appreciate the 125 irresistible delights. The book is packed with the need-to-know information and easy-to-follow recipes. Three double-sided pages of gorgeous color photos are proof that gluten-free cuisine can be visually appealing and damn delicious!

The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Cakes and Cookies:
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg Free, Soy-Free

By Laurie Sadowski

Book Publishing Companay, 2013
Paperback $14.95

When cookbook author Laurie Sadowski created her cookbook, The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread, she was merely offering the first of several gluten-free cookbooks in her long-range plan. Her second cookbook, The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Cakes and Cookies, is filled with sugar and spice and everything nice.

After a many long years struggling with her health, Laurie was finally diagnosed with celiac disease in 2005. Turning to a vegan, gluten-free diet restored her health and gave her the motivation to help others by creating recipes allowing those with gluten intolerance to enjoy baked goods that are safe, delicious, and nourishing.

In Part 1, Laurie discusses gluten sensitivities and food allergies and explains the nature of gluten and the debilitating symptoms it creates for those with gluten intolerance. She informs the reader that experienced bakers treading new gluten-free waters will find their standard baking practices ineffective and will soon be following her techniques for success.

Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Cakes and Cookies The book quickly becomes an excellent, detailed guide into the world of strange-sounding flours and starches essential to creating a multitude of delicious cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and bar cookies.

In addition to gluten-free recipes, the author appeals to those with food allergies and sensitivities by making recipes that are dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free and free of nuts and seeds, legumes, allergenic grains, and yeast. Each recipe is clearly marked with its allergy-free details.

Because reading food labels and learning what to avoid is essential to people with celiac disease, Laurie's list of terms used by manufacturers becomes invaluable. The importance of avoiding cross-contamination, both at home and when eating out, is stressed as well.

Readers will find complete information about ingredients and a host of helpful tips for working with unique items, egg substitutions, tools, and equipment.

The introduction to the recipes provides all the details any new baker could desire and covers measuring, baking, cooling, slicing, and storing, along with techniques for frosting and filling cakes.

Bundt cakes like Chocolate Chunk-Orange and Caramel Macchiato not only taste great, but also look tall, gorgeous, and very appealing. Each one comes with its own glaze or ganache topping.

The old fashioned two-layer Boston Cream Pie uses a unique combination of sorghum, millet, and tapioca flours along with arrowroot starch and xanthan gum. Ingredients like these, though unfamiliar at first, will make frequent appearances in the gluten-free kitchen.

Cupcakes are a favorite with kids and adults alike and come in a galaxy of flavors with strikingly tall toppings. For the chocolate aficionado, there's Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting, Two-Bite Chocolate Covered Cherry Cupcakes, and Molten Lava Mini Cakes with Raspberry Sauce. Even the names will entice a cupcake enthusiast to roll up the sleeves and start measuring.

The cookie chapter is endowed with tips, storage, and troubleshooting information prefacing the recipes and offers a total of 17 recipes including several old-fashioned gems like Mexican Wedding Cookies, Holiday Candy Cane Snowballs, and Mint-Brownie Icebox Cookies. Other recipes that hold a special place in the hallmark of cookie favorites include Really Good Peanut Butter Cookies and Chocolate-Hazelnut-Raspberry Thumbprints.

Completing the recipes is a special chapter devoted to bar cookies, squares, and biscotti complete with tips and a troubleshooting guide. Now gluten-free bakers can tease the sweet tooth with treats like Cashew Butter-Date Biscotti or Rich and Fudgy Brownies.

The book concludes with conversion tables for pans and measurements, a glossary of ingredients, equipment, techniques, a list of suppliers, and resources. Though the book contains no color photos, it does wear many shades of gray and features black and white photos of old-fashioned bakeries, making it graphically attractive.

The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Cakes and Cookies is a jolly window into the contagious enthusiasm the author exhibits about gluten-free baking. Few people will bake just one of the recipes. Most likely they'll thumb through the book with anticipation to choose the next sweet treat. For families with members who suffer from food allergies and gluten intolerance, this book comes to the rescue with imaginative sweets for kids parties, adult birthdays, holiday celebrations, and just for the fun of it celebrations.

Click here for past book reviews

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