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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 cookbooks. One features low-fat recipes for weight loss and health improvement. The other pulls out all the stops in creating bite-size vegan party foods.

Click here for a review of Better Than Vegan

Vegan Finger Foods:
More than 100 crowd-pleasing recipes
for bite-size eats everyone will love

By Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes

Fair Winds Press, 2014
Paperback $22.99

Vegan Finger Foods Two successful cookbook authors, Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes, teamed up to create Vegan Finger Foods and help their fans party 'til dawn while feasting through the night on the best-tasting little vegan tidbits ever.

The authors suggest adopting a new dining etiquette to fully enjoy the recipes in this book, one that celebrates using the fingers to ravish each morsel in just a few bites.

Celine's credits include coauthoring 500 Vegan Recipes, The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions, Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites, Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day, and Whole Grain Vegan Baking. Her outstanding food photography makes for delightful page turning in this book.

Tamasin is noted for authoring American Vegan Kitchen and Grills Gone Vegan. She coauthored Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day and Whole Grain Vegan Baking with Celine.

The brief glossary helps explain some of the unique ingredients that may be unfamiliar, such as berbere, an Ethiopian spice blend, or harissa, a spicy Moroccan red pepper paste. This section also explains where these items are readily available.

Three icons help to identify whether a recipe can be made ahead, is quick and easy, or has gluten-free potential. A recipe may contain one or more icons to help the home chef plan a party menu.

Chapter 2 features Veggie-Centric Finger Feasts like the Harissa Carrot Zucchini Cups gorgeously photographed opposite page 30. This visual treat begins with inch-thick slices of zucchini scooped out to form cavities, then grilled and filled with well-seasoned grated carrots and spicy harissa. Another lovely presentation in this section is Kale Cucumber Cups filled with finely chopped and well-seasoned, marinated, and massaged kale and sesame seeds. Spice enthusiasts will revel upon tasting Baked Jalapenos filled with a pungent cashew and bean-based mixture, topped with crushed cornflakes, and baked until golden.

Celine Steen Stuffed and Dipped showcases finger foods packed with tantalizing fillings and sauced with amazing toppings that just might start shy party guests talking. Recipes like Sauerkraut-Stuffed Seitan Rounds, Baked Buffalo Tofu Bites, and Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Skewers make recipe browsing a delight.

Bread-Based Bites become ingenious finger treats made from a base of homemade bread dough or prepared breads stacked with colorful, flavor-drenched toppings. A twist on the familiar cream cheese and pepper jelly becomes Hot Pepper Toastwiches enticingly pictured opposite page 114.

The last chapter, Sweet Little Somethings, also turns desserts into tasty little finger nibbles. Cinnamon Glazed Nuts or Tahini Caramel Popcorn makes the perfect tidbits to pop into the mouth for a crunchy sweet bite. Irresistible to the max are the cute little Better Buckeyes, an easy make-ahead treat to put the finishing touch on an evening of amazing grazing.

Tamasin Noyes Menu Suggestions are a listing of party themes and recipe suggestions that balance make-ahead with quick and easy choices. This listing is a blessing to anyone planning a gathering focused on finger foods.

The pages of this book are printed on smooth, thick, and sturdy clay-coated paper that brings out the very best in photographs that are stunning from the start. Numerous photos grace these pages and provide a plethora of temptations to anyone browsing. The recipes are so well conceived that even a quick browse might make a person hungry.

Vegan Finger Foods is not a how-to-be-vegan cookbook. Instead it's all about the most eye-appealing and mouthwatering recipes to help readers put party foods on the table with panache! The book is a must-have for anyone who enjoys entertaining. With this volume on the kitchen counter, everyone can prepare inspired party foods that wow the fussiest guests.

Chef Del's Better Than Vegan:
101 Favorite Low-Fat, Plant-Based Recipes
That Helped Me Lose Over 200 Pounds

By Del Sroufe with Glen Merzer

BenBella Books, 2013
Paperback $19.95

Cookbook author and chef Del Sroufe weighed 475 pounds even though he followed a vegan diet. Quite amazing is that on a vegan diet, he has lost 245 pounds. If this sounds mysterious, it's not. "I'm living proof that, at least as far as health goes, simply avoiding animal products isn't good enough if you're eating the wrong foods. It's not enough just to be vegan," he says.

Del grew up in a family that was used to preparing the typical caloric, high-fat, greasy, standard American meals that made many of his family members obese. He became overweight as a young child and struggled with excessive pounds all his life. While working and cooking at a vegetarian coffeehouse, he met vegans, vegetarians, and raw foodists who spoke to him about the animal cruelty connected to food production.

Better Than Vegan Eventually he adopted a vegan diet and began to veganize the restaurant's dessert recipes. When he opened his own vegan bakery, his effort to eat healthier suffered greatly as he worked long hours making the bakery a success, while slowly eating his way to 475 pounds.

After many years attempting to lose weight with numerous diets, he realized he needed help. He came to Dr. Pam Popper's Wellness Forum where he learned eating a low-fat, whole-foods plant-based diet was the right path for a lifetime. He has spent the last eight years as Popper's chef and partner, developing whole-foods plant-based recipes without oil, a major change from his standard preparations.

In Better Than Vegan, people will learn 10 important food traps to avoid:

  1. Excessive fat of any sort
  2. Excessive saturated fat
  3. Excessive protein, especially animal protein
  4. Cholesterol
  5. Excessive flours
  6. Overly processed foods
  7. Concentrated sugars
  8. Insufficient fiber
  9. Insufficient water intake
  10. Insufficient phytochemical intake

Each of the ten points is thoroughly explained.

Del admits restaurant meals are a source of excessive fats and processed foods and that it's difficult to avoid eating in restaurants completely. He advocates taking responsibility "for all that will pass your lips."

Del Sroufe A healthy kitchen needs only three knives and an inexpensive collection of pots and pans but essential is a well-stocked pantry of whole grains, dried and canned beans, peas and lentils, canned tomato products, low sodium soup stock, vinegar, plant milks, and herbs, and spices. Fresh fruits and vegetables are key ingredients to promote health.

The chef covers cooking techniques, seasoning, timing, and selecting ingredients, and explains that as people "down-regulate" their taste buds, they will begin to appreciate the natural flavors within the foods.

Invaluable in making food taste great are sauces, dips, creams, and dressings covered in the first chapter of the recipe section. He chooses these first because they are key to adding flavors and garnishes to the recipes. A particular favorite is Cauliflower Puree that begins with steaming the florets, and then, blending them with water, vegetable broth or soup stock, and sea salt. By varying the seasonings, he creates numerous flavors, sauces, and toppings to enhance other dishes.

Using Cauliflower Puree, the chef offers Chipotle Cream, Hollandaise, and Creamy Leek sauces as well as Low-Fat or Jalapeno Mayo. He brightens salads with Thousand Island or Ginger-Miso Dressing, while entrees may be topped with The Best Mushroom Gravy Ever.

The book features a few familiar items for breakfast like oatmeal with variations, but also includes a few masterful creations like Mr. Benedict and Del's Big Breakfast Casserole that look inviting enough for company.

Glen Merzer There are appetizers galore and soups for every palate, some spicy, some creamy, and others delightfully chunky. The Wraps, Sandwiches, Pizza, and Flatbreads chapter gleams with beautifully pictured temptations like Red, White, and Green Pizza and several flatbread creations that would stir anyone's appetite.

For those special occasions Del's Stuffed Beast is an appealing entrée choice that gives cornbread stuffing a great place to nestle into layers of marinated baked tofu, a very tantalizing, innovative dish for a magnificent holiday dinner.

While desserts are often sugar-loaded, fatty, and highly caloric, this chef presents treats that are indulgent, yet made with fruits, sweet potatoes, and whole grains to offer healthier options.

Better Than Vegan takes health and art seriously, offering 101 visually exciting recipes that avoid unhealthy ingredients like processed sugars, fats, oils, and white flour. Instead, this volume contributes delicious recipes from whole, plant-based foods that enhance health. The stunning photographs and food styling are testament to the appeal of truly healthy and tasty foods. Del Sroufe and Glen Merzer have merged their creative talents to produce a memorable volume for people interested in weight loss and health improvement.

Click here for past book reviews

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