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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 exceptional vegan cookbooks that offer appealing recipes. One offers guidance in dealing with family members who have not adopted a vegan lifestyle. The other features American classic food modified for the vegan table.

Click here for a review of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics

Kitchen Divided:
Vegan Dishes for Semi-Vegan Households

By Ellen Jaffe Jones

Book Publishing Company, 2013

Paperback, $19.95

Successful author Ellen Jaffe Jones thrives on stimulating challenges. Her first book, eat vegan on $4 a day, surely provided some stirring moments in meeting the dollar limitations during the book's creation. In her new book, Kitchen Divided, she shares her own approach to living in a household where not everyone is vegan. Kitchen Divided is a profound cookbook that offers a philosophical approach to living harmoniously in a household with differing food choices. She is vegan--her family is not.

But rather than making the issue divisive, Ellen employs her mother's one-word jewel of advice: "tolerance." Recognizing the joy of her happy marital relationship and that dietary and lifestyle choices were the testy subjects, she set out to find ways to join together at mealtimes, rather than creating roadblocks.

Kitchen Divided With the awareness that she is not the only vegan facing this challenge, she says, "Instead of asking your partner to change, see how you can bridge your differences and make life in the kitchen easier, calmer, and more pleasant for both of you." She offers several approaches to cooking and food shopping, pointing out both positives and negatives of each method and suggests the family communicate openly to reach ways to accept both dietary and lifestyle philosophies.

This author recognizes food is a powerful lure and seduces rather than preaches what her family should or shouldn't choose to eat. The key is in her recipes that provide the path to flexibility.

Following a brief guide explaining some of the ingredients and meat and dairy alternatives is a breakfast section packed with a variety of delicious smoothies and an enticing recipe for Cheddar Drop Biscuits. Would a non-vegan notice the recipe features vegan cheddar? With their pleasantly cheesy flavor, these biscuits provide a delicious beginning to anyone's day.

The abundant soup and salad sections offer creatively composed recipes blessed with generous quantities of fruits and vegetables and provide many opportunities for the non-vegan to include other choices. But Ellen allays many of the concerns by using meat and fish analogs. As example, her recipe for Nothing Fishy Ceviche includes vegan prawns or shrimp that enjoy a lengthy basking session in a delicious lime-juice marinade.

Every good cook knows the value of tasty sauces, dressings, and marinades that infuse foods with satisfying flavors. The flavor-drenched recipe for Creamy Dill-Mustard Dressing or Sauce could add the finishing touch as a topping for baked tofu, tempeh, vegan seafood, or other analogs. Mushroom aficionados might fall in love with Creamy Mushroom Sauce over pasta or grain dishes.

Ellen Jaffe Jones Ellen says, "Main dishes are often the most contentious course in a divided kitchen." This creative cook handles the common myth that meat must occupy the center of the plate by dishing up recipes that zing with flavor and leave room for hearty additions like tofu, seitan, or tempeh. Meet-in-the-Middle Main Dishes feature tempters like Some-Like-It-Hot Curry and a bean-packed Chili Sin Carne.

Beautifully photographed in glorious full color opposite page 85 is No-Beef Bourguignon, a dish that may bring on sensations of extreme temptation. Packed with the earthy flavor of dried mushrooms, burgundy wine, and vegan beef tips, this recipe would leave no one missing the meat.

Readers will find no shortage of appetizers and side dishes and will definitely want to save room for Common-Ground Desserts. With today's busy households juggling schedules, home cooks will love the simplicity of making desserts that take little time, yet deliver the sweet treat everyone loves. Date and Nut Cake, with only six ingredients, is a dream come true for dessert lovers who will be able to assemble this tantalizing dessert within minutes.

Several full color photos throughout the book, along with sepia-like photos introducing the chapters, add graphic appeal. Home cooks will appreciate the nutritional analysis provided at the end of each recipe, allaying any worries about protein deficiency.

Kitchen Divided is an excellent resource that addresses the dietary concerns that plague semi-vegan households. Ellen Jaffe Jones meets those challenges in her own household and passes on a multitude of handy tips and delicious recipes, along with a bit of easy-going philosophy that change does not come easily and can be intimidating. She aims to entice and win over the non-vegan rather than demand change. Perfect for a Kitchen Divided, this volume is actually ideal for any household that appreciates tasty vegan food.

Jazzy Vegetarian Classics:
Vegan Twists on American Family Favorites

By Laura Theodore

BenBella Books 2013

Hardcover $26.95

Jazzy Vegetarian Classics Jazz singer, cookbook author, and jazzy TV cooking show host Laura Theodore cooks up another delicious number in her new cookbook Jazzy Vegetarian Classics. A natural in the kitchen as well as on the stage, this author showed an early interest in food and enjoyed watching her mother and grandmother cook with enthusiasm.

Too busy developing her singing and performing career, Laura didn't cook until she left the comfy nest and needed to survive. Recipes from her mother and grandmother provided the basics, but turning to her jazz improvisation skills, she began to develop her own versions of those family favorites.

The Jazzy Basics is an excellent guide for newbies with its helpful glossary of ingredients, and offers valuable advice on incorporating dried and fresh herbs, including using, storing, and growing them.

Menus Made Easy, a brilliant cook's tour of suggested menus for every occasion, incorporates recipes in the book. Each menu is accompanied with mouth-watering, full-color photos. And because music is such an integral part of Laura's world, she orchestrates each menu with a Jazzy Music Pick, her musical choice for that menu. The Giving Thanks menu is a dazzling array of brilliant celebration foods that would whet anyone's appetite.

A must-have for everyone who cooks is a repertoire of great sauces, dressings, gravies, and toppings. Home cooks will find a treasure of tasty choices. Anyone feeling like a little nibble or nosh will enjoy unique treats like Tortilla "Fried" Mushrooms and White Bean Cashew Dip.

For breakfast dishes that rock, look no further than Tofu Ranchero, an herb and spice-infused tofu scramble topped with a creatively cooked Southwestern sauce. Rocky Mountain Toast is an innovative cheesy tofu version of the American classic eggs in the hole.

Laura Theodore Muffins galore, tasty soups, delicious side dishes, and a mountain of salads round out everyday meals, while pasta dishes like Festive Stuffed Shells and Polenta Pizza stand apart. The entire chapter of main dishes features so many exquisite entrees even non-vegans would love to come to dinner. Earthy dishes like Savory Mushroom Stroganoff and Jazzylicious Shish Kebabs make vegan dining pure delight.

Cookies for every pleasure include irresistible treats like Oatmeal Lace, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Mom's Turtle Cookie Squares, and Coconut Vegaroons, with Holiday Sandies to round out the Christmas cookie tray.

Cookbook browsers will have no doubt that among Laura's favorite foods are desserts. That section is a decadent head trip with its very jazzy, innovative desserts creatively finished with frostings, toppings, drizzles, and glazes that just make one want a bite of everything. "I must admit, I think this [Black Forest Pecan Pie] is the most decadent dessert I have ever created," she says.

The exceptional graphic design makes this book a jazzy banquet that delights the eyes and stirs up a strong desire to taste every recipe. Jazzy Vegetarian Classics is one delicious vegan cookbook that hits all the right notes and offers appealing improvisations on familiar American standards. The recipes tantalize with an upbeat tempo and they really swing.

Click here for past book reviews

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