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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarian Reading

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 that contributes to vegetarian enlightenment.

This month Vegetarians in Paradise presents a Cookbook Roundup of some of the books that have crossed our desk during the last few months. All of the books reviewed would be excellent additions to the bookshelf of anyone preparing vegetarian meals.

Vegetarian Magic

At the Regency House Spa

By John B. Nowakowski

Book Publishing Company, 2000

19.95 paperback

It's not often that you can have an executive chef spoil you with scrumptious vegan spa food without actually going to the spa. Now you can indulge often by simply turning the pages of Chef John Nowakowski's cookbook, Vegetarian Magic, to enjoy an imaginary feast after a challenging decision of what to prepare first.

Vegetarian MagicChef John spent 15 years working in the high-stress world of hotels and resorts before realizing it was important to make changes in his own life, his diet, and his environment. At the Regency House Spa, north of Miami, Florida, he found the opportunity to do exactly that while developing recipes that nurtured good health. His professional experience provided the background, while his creativity took the foreground in his approach to serving flavorful healthy cuisine.

With his brief introduction, the author makes it quite apparent that he is anxious to lead the reader into the kitchen and get right down to the nitty gritty of the book--the recipes. While the Appetizer section offers some familiar starters like Chickpea Hummus and Guacamole Dip, some exceptional offerings stand out. One can easily picture the dramatic presentation of the Eggplant Napoleon with its stacked layers of sliced eggplant, red bell pepper, red onion, red tomato, yellow tomato, and soy cheese.

Chef John assembles his dishes with a flair for visual appeal, such as his many salad offerings with dressings that exhibit originality. The numerous mouth-watering sauces are where his professional experience is revealed. He recognizes that the secret of an outstanding dish is in the sauce, and his sauces are exceptional.

For potato lovers, there are eleven savory potato dishes. The entreé section offers rice, tofu, pasta, and ethnic dishes, while the vegetable chapter includes an uncommon recipe or two such as Spanakopitas and Yuca Home Fries.

Would a professional chef have the heart to leave anyone unsatisfied and yearning for a sweet fix? Not Chef John. How about an Apple-Pear Phyllo Tart or Cappuccino Mousse with Carob Chips? There are many delectable desserts for the sweet fanciers.

Glancing through the book, one can easily agree that the recipes not only sound appealing but also are easy to prepare. Many cookbooks written by professional chefs are riddled with complex processes, unique ingredients impossible to find, and daunting lists of ingredients. In Vegetarian Magic the directions are clear, simply expressed, and easy to follow with ingredients most vegetarian households would have on hand.

Vegan is alive and well in Vegetarian Magic with an abundance of successful recipes to bring pleasure and feasting to the table. Even the novice cook can discover new joys in cooking successful preparations with Nowakowski's well-defined recipes.

Only one ingredient that appears in many recipes throughout the book gives us concern. Several of Chef John's recipes call for soy cheese, rather than vegan cheese. Our experience with soy cheese is that it invariably contains casein, a milk protein. A novice vegan may not be aware of this.

Miso Cookery

By Louise Hagler

Book Publishing Company, 2000

Paper 10.95

Louise Hagler, a well-seasoned author, has taken miso, a traditional soyfood, and soared into uncharted territory with over 70 unique recipes that spotlight her creative flair. She even traveled to North Carolina and spent a few days visiting the American Miso Company for a first-hand look at how this wonder food is produced. She eagerly shares her learning experience with her readers.

For newcomers to the vegetarian path, miso may be unfamiliar. Those who have eaten in a Japanese restaurant, no doubt have enjoyed miso soup without realizing its nutritional benefits and versatility as a seasoning. Miso Cookery

In her introduction the author informs her readers that miso is a cultured and fermented paste that ranges in color from creamy beige to chocolate brown. Flavors, too, can vary from mild and delicately sweet to robust and quite salty. Miso's attributes include its beneficial bacteria and enzymes that aid digestion, its high protein, and other quality nutritional benefits.

Louise presents an excellent suggestion to start the day by replacing that acid-producing, addictive morning cup of coffee with a cup of "morning miso" with its energizing, nourishing, and alkaline producing qualities. Unpasteurized miso even contains small amounts of vitamin B12, a vitamin lacking in most vegan foods.

In the Soup section, Hagler, author of six other cookbooks, tempts her readers with tasty kettles such as Onion Soup and North African Sweet Potato Soup that highlight miso as a flavor enhancer. The Spreads section offers an easy Miso Potato Topping that makes a baked potato come alive with flavor.

One of the four color photos in the book presents an appetizer of three different spreads served in mini pastry tarts--a colorful and enticing dish for entertaining that includes one of the Miso Pesto Spreads, Roasted Pepper Dip, and one of the Walnut Spreads. The Main Dish section beckons with many tempting dishes, but one that stands out shown in full-color is a Sweet Pepper Onion Quiche that would make any guest feel special.

Hagler's recipes are practical, easy to prepare and have few ingredients, the latter being a feature today's busy cooks will truly appreciate. The book also includes recipes for Salads and Dressings, Sauces and Gravies, Vegetables, Side Dishes, and Sweet Things.

We are fortunate that the publisher of Miso Cookery has recognized the value of this outstanding soy food and has chosen to make the book available to the vegetarian community. This little book is a honey and one that you'll find yourself opening regularly for that something that's easy, tasty, and wholesome.

More Soy Cooking

By Marie Oser

John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2000

Paper 16.95

In her second vegan cookbook, More Soy Cooking, Marie Oser continues her soy explorations with healthful renditions of classic traditional meals from Hearty Deep-Dish Pizza to Chicken Stew and Pepperoni Primavera to Chile Non Carne. The book is bursting with familiar comfort foods that replace the usual saturated-fat-laden animal products with wholesome portions of beneficial soy products that are easily obtainable. More Soy Cooking

The book begins with a Forward by Dr. John McDougall who offers praise for the author's gourmet approach to plant-based foods that are fiber-rich and cholesterol-free.

In her introduction, the author proudly directs the reader to look at the nutritional analysis at the bottom of each recipe. There the reader can see a side by side comparison of two distinctly different analyses, one featuring Marie's plant-based foods, and the other of traditional animal based products. The difference is striking and clearly reveals the vegan approach has much more fiber and is lower in fat. In fact, many of her recipes contain only10% of calories from fat, some even less.

In addition to a full range of toothsome recipes from appetizers to desserts, Marie presents a chart that lists the more than ample protein content of many plant-based foods. Another chart displays plant sources for calcium. For readers who wonder where vegans get their protein and calcium, this information will prove valuable.

A glossary of items familiar and unfamiliar includes information about where they can be purchased and in what form they are available. The glossary is followed by a section called Kitchen Tools, Techniques, and Tofu 101 in which the author shares her expertise on the best tools from knives to food processors to outfit a kitchen where plant-based foods are the focus.

Marie's valuable Techniques include Baking Without Fat, working with Tempeh, and making pizza and pasta dough, just to name a few. Learning the ins and outs of tofu and which type of tofu works best for specific dishes is thoroughly covered in Tofu 101, an essential lesson for novices.

If your favorite pet just happens to be a dog, you will appreciate the last recipe in the book--an easy preparation for Vegetarian Dog Treats.

The Resource Guide and Recommended Reading list are always helpful tools, especially for those who may live far from the big city. The extensive Bibliography indicates that the author has provided information that is noteworthy and well researched. Those who use cookbooks regularly will agree with us when we say that a good Index is worth its weight in gold. More Soy Cooking has a great index. All the pluses add up to a cookbook that would make a great gift as well as a valued standard on any cookbook shelf.

1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes

by Sue Spitler

Surrey Books, 2000

Paper 19.95

1001 It's an encyclopedia! It's an omnibus! It's a compendium! In matter-of-fact terms, Sue Spitler has created a whopper of a vegetarian cookbook! It's not often that many more than 200 recipes are compiled into any one cookbook. This second edition speaks of a cookbook whose popularity sent the author back to the kitchen to create more recipes for her growing audience.

This author has gone to great lengths to offer something quite unique--a giant collection of 1,001 vegetarian recipes, each with an indication to tell the reader whether it is vegan, ovo, lacto, or lacto-ovo. A brief introduction leads into a short list of ingredient information, directly followed by those1,001 recipes. Another helpful addition is the nutritional analysis that accompanies each recipe, along with exchanges for those who are diabetic.

One focus of the author is to follow the guidelines of the American Heart Association that recommend a limit of 30% of calories from fat. In creating her recipes, she has stayed within their program, sometimes even bettering it with less than 10% of calories from fat.

A beginner's dream, each recipe is uncomplicated, lists ingredients that are familiar, and gives easy-to-follow directions. With so many recipes to choose from, we faced many temptations; however, we were able to single out a few of our favorites, such as the Mexican-Style Vegetable Stew and the Garden Vegetables and Tempeh Saute.

In this second edition the author provides a section called Veg Express in which all recipes are guaranteed no more than a 20 to 30 minute preparation. There are 15 of these easy prep meals from which to choose. Other sections include a wide range of recipes including Appetizers, Soups, Stews, Entrees, Roasted and Grilled Dishes, Pasta, Loaves, Patties, Sandwiches, and Desserts.

1001 Vegetarian Recipes is well-indexed, a must for all cookbooks, and a major feature for a cookbook of this proportion. The only item lacking in the book was the omission of dietary fiber content in the nutritional analyses.

Incredibly Delicious:

The Vegan Paradigm Cookbook

By Gentle World

Gentle World Publishing, 2000

Paper 22.50

More engrossing than just a cookbook, Incredibly Delicious encompasses vegan philosophy that comes through via the numerous quotes that grace nearly every page. Quotes by such familiar names as Albert Einstein, Thomas Paine, H.G. Wells, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow express the utopian wish for a merciful, meatless society.

In his introduction, Michael Klaper, M.D., says, "As a physician, I can attest that if all my patients adopted a diet based on these high-fiber, cholesterol-free foods, we would have a much healthier population." When Dr. Klaper raves about the many memorable culinary experiences, it's obvious that he has enjoyed a sampling of the foods prepared from recipes in this book.

Incredibly Delicious Full of helpful tools, the book begins with a Glossary of Ingredients that provides information about foods that are quite likely unfamiliar to vegetarian newcomers. A brief section that follows the Glossary includes helpful information on tools of the kitchen, a Metric Conversion Chart, a Vegan Baking Chart, and Guides for Cooking Whole Grains and Beans.

With Incredibly Delicious, the kitchen beginner has the advantage of well-tested, easy recipes that list familiar ingredients that can be assembled with a minimum effort. Any unfamiliar ingredients are covered in the Glossary. The more than 500 recipes offer a full range of tasty dishes from meal starters to tempting desserts.

The authors of Incredibly Delicious have taken a cookbook to a higher plateau and turned it into an "exceptional handbook." Halfway through, the book evolves into a raw experience with a section called 'Rawsome' Recipes. For those who want to explore the energizing world of raw foods, complete information covers the subjects of Live Foods, 'Veganic' Gardening and Composting, Growing Wheatgrass, and Sprouting.

The live food recipes range from starting with a raw breakfast of Sunflower Milk and Granola Mix, to plunging into a Spicy Raw Salad or Corn Sesame Chowder for lunch, then enjoying a succulent Sunny Almond Pate or a Pesto Pizza for dinner. The section on Dehydrated Breads offers many selections followed by Smoothies and Rawsome Treats.

The recipe section finishes appropriately with Just Desserts that are bound to send anyone with a sweet tooth into sweet ecstasy. Sound like the book's final pages? Surprisingly, it is not.

The authors have done the unexpected and expressed The Vegan Paradigm in the concluding portion of the book, leaving the reader with many profound thoughts to ponder. Becoming a Vegan tells the novice, "Be gentle with yourself." Healthful Hints follow with encouraging notes like, "Eat a variety of colors from the vegetable kingdom to insure a variety of vitamins."

Just as important as understanding what foods and products are considered vegan is the need to become familiar with those items that are considered unacceptable within the vegan realm. A portion of the last section is devoted to explaining Non-Vegan Products, Ingredients, and Businesses with another section on Vegan Alternatives from foods to household products and cosmetics. A valuable resource section includes Companies that Market Only Vegan Products, Vegan Mail Order Companies, Recommended Reading, Videos, and Recommended Kitchen Appliances.

About the Authors give the readers an opportunity to fully appreciate those who compiled this commendable work that expresses the Vegan Paradigm so sincerely and passionately. Anyone who loves to cook will find this book a jewel among vegan cookbooks. For those making the transition to the vegan path, the book will prove an invaluable reference guide.

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