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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegan Books

Veganize It: :
Easy DIY Recipes for a Plant-Based Kitchen

By Robin Robertson

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017
Paperback, $25.00

Imagine our surprise when we walked over to Costco's book selection and found a stack of Veganize It! books on the table! We realized that "vegan" was now in the mainstream. Kudos to Robin Robertson for helping make "vegan" a common word in the world vocabulary.

Robertson has been hovering over her stove since the 1980s and has generated dozens of vegan cookbooks for a variety of publishers. With Veganize It! she has concocted a stunning book for one of America's most famous publishers.

In this instance she presents a guidebook for newbie vegans who may not know how to begin or need help adapting to their new plant-based lifestyle. But experienced kitchen commandos will find many useful ideas to supplement their own repertoires.

Veganize It! In the book's introduction Robertson explains her personal journey from being a meat-centric chef in the 1980s to her current role as a vegan chef- author with more than 20 cookbooks. During that time more vegan products have become available, but many of those products are expensive, highly processed, and loaded with preservatives.

"This book solves these issues by providing fast and economical plant-based solutions for all those favorite dishes that are traditionally made with animal-based ingredients," she writes. Her goal is to help "busy home cooks who want to get a great dinner on the table but don't want to spend all day in the kitchen."

She begins the book with Vegan Basics and emphasizes the value of cooking from scratch and making substitutions in recipes that normally contain animal ingredients. She also trumpets the value of a well-stocked pantry and provides a list of basic items that should be readily available in the home kitchen. Special attention is given to items that may not be in many home pantries: coconut oil, flaxseeds, nutritional yeast, sea vegetables, tamari, tapioca starch or flour, and liquid smoke.

The book is structured with chapters featuring replacements for animal ingredients that normally appear in a non-vegan meal. What follows are chapters titled DIY Dairy-Free and Egg-Free Too; Plant-Based Meats; Vegan Charcuterie; Instead of Seafood; Vegetable Steak-Out; Global Condiments, Sauces, and Dressings; Flour Power; and Sweets from Scratch.

Going dairy-free means finding replacements for both milk and cheese. Substitutes are available in markets, but for those who want to make their own, Robertson comes to their rescue. She offers recipes for milks made from nuts, oats, and coconuts as well as creams made from cashews. We've made a few nut milks in our kitchen, but haven't prepared oat milk. Frankly, there's little temptation when so many are available in stores. We prepared her Tofu Feta that turned out rather tasty and look forward to trying Chickpea Flour Omelet and Bacon-Topped Mac Uncheese.

As Robertson explains early in the book, "Although the word meat is usually associated with animal flesh, the original meaning of the word was 'meal.' In fact, the correct meaning of meat is food in general: anything eaten for nourishment either by man or beast. Meat is the edible part of anything, as in the meat of a crab, a nut, or a tomato."

Plant-Based Meats utilizes tofu, tempeh and beans as the basis for BBQ Seitan Ribs, Mama's Meatballs, Best Bean Burgers, and Burmese Tofu.

Instead of "cooked flesh" in Vegan Charcuterie, Robertson includes veganized substitutes like Haute Dogs, Tempeh Bacon, Hamish Loaf, and Spicy Italian Sausage. We loved her Banh Mi sandwich prepared with Hamish Loaf that featured white beans and vital wheat gluten. She even includes a recipe for housemade mayo.

Robin Robertson Hearts of palm and sea vegetables make the Instead of Seafood chapter a unique experience. Of course, tofu and tempeh are not left behind. We look forward to preparing her Fish-Free Fillets and Fish-Free Sticks. And since we love hearts of palm, we're anxious to try Vegan Crab Louis Palm Crab Imperial.

Vegetable Steak-Out highlights a near-dozen recipes featuring asparagus, eggplant, mushrooms, potatoes, and even jackfruit.

Normally there are a number of no-no sauces that are not on the vegan radar. On that list are names like Worcestershire, Bearnaise, pesto, oyster sauce, and mayonnaise. The chapter Global Condiments, Sauces, and Dressings makes it possible to create versions of these and many more.

Pasta, pizza, biscuits, and crackers are some of the eats presented in the Flour Power section. Newbies and old timer cooks who have never created their own pizza dough and pie dough or made their own pasta from scratch will find easy, comfortable recipes here. We especially look forward to making Cranberry-Walnut Scones and the Perfect Pot Pie.

Dessert lovers will especially enjoy rummaging through Sweets from Scratch for more than two-dozen tempting desserts. Vegan Tiramasu is a challenge for both novice and veteran cooks. Robertson took the challenge by combining recipes for Vegan Mascarpone, Scratch Cake, and Cashew Chantilly Cream plus a few additional items to create a dessert that would lead to gustatory huzzahs from the eight diners who devour it.

When we began our vegan journey almost three decades ago, we would have loved to have a book like Veganize It!. We had very little of the information about the substitutions this book handily provides. The book comes in an attractive package with eye-catching graphics and lavish full-page color photos. For the most part, the recipes are simple, requiring a maximum of three or four directions. Veganize It! is a guidebook that belongs in every plant-based kitchen. It's now in ours. Thank you, Robin Robertson!

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