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Vegan for the Holidays

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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 we feature a round-up of unique vegetarian cookbooks. Each one focuses on a different aspect of vegetarian or vegan cooking.

Sea Vegetable Celebration

By Shep Erhart and Leslie Cerier

Book Publishing Company, 2001

Paperback $14.95

Author Shep Erhart and his wife Linnette have been entangled in seaweed for 30 years. They founded Maine Coast Sea Vegetables in 1985 to serve a growing customer base eager for freshly harvested seaweed. The pair discovered wakame growing along the Maine coast in 1971 when Linnette leaned over a ledge and saw what looked like the familiar wakame she used to prepare their miso soup each morning.

Encouraged to spread the word, Shep teamed up with cookbook author and lover of sea vegetables Leslie Cerier to cull through the Maine Coast Sea Vegetables' recipe files to create a unique presentation of vegetarian offerings. Others, credited in the book, lent their favorite sea vegetable recipes as well.

Sea Vegetables Beginning with Alaria esculenta, a wild Atlantic wakame and progressing to arame, dulse, hiziki, kelp, kombu, laver, nori, sea palm and wakame, the authors give a brief description of each type of sea vegetable. They describe the taste and offer suggestions for using each variety. Details on how sea vegetables grow and take in nutrients are covered as well.

History reveals the Chinese used seaweed as food before 600 BC, while the Vikings packed these nutritious foods to take on long voyages. While most Americans have only a passing acquaintance with sea vegetables, the Japanese have been incorporating them into their everyday foods for ten thousand years.

The authors tell us that sea vegetables offer numerous health benefits and provide all 56 minerals and trace minerals our bodies require for physiological functions. These amazing foods contain from 10 to 48% protein that is similar to egg white protein, while providing the ideal ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids.

In discussing the medicinal benefits, the authors cite studies of many experts. Few people may be aware that in traditional Oriental medicine, sea vegetables have been used to lower cholesterol, decrease high blood pressure, and treat cancer. Epidemiological studies suggest it is possible that seaweeds may be responsible for the low rates of breast cancer in Japan.

Shep informs readers that dogs, cats, fish and other pets enjoy sea vegetables and also derive health benefits from the bioavailable minerals and other nutrients. In addition, indoor and outdoor plants will blossom and thrive with a feeding or two of seaweed fertilizer. Sea vegetables are one of the beauty secrets of the Orient. These sea plants are credited for the healthy hair, skin and fingernails of Japanese women.

The recipe portion of the book presents over 100 dishes with ideas for appetizers, spreads, dips, and snacks that introduce food combinations like Hot and Tangy Tapanade and Vegetarian Caviar that both feature dulse flakes. Included is an excellent recipe for a seasoning mix that takes the place of salt at the table: Heavenly House Spice Mix that features dulse.

Breakfast dishes like Flax Date Nut Cereal and Nori-Onion Omelette are enhanced with a measure of laver, kelp, dulse or nori. The soup section prefaces the recipes with suggestions for presoaking sea vegetables and offers Basic Sea Vegetable Broth, miso soup, bouillabaisse, and chowder. Without time-consuming preparation, sea vegetables can ease their way into salads, vegetable dishes, and even main dishes. Pictured opposite the recipe for Dulse Vegetarian Pizza is an attractive color photo of a tantalizing pizza, one of four full-color photographs in the book.

Though you may think it uncommon to find sea vegetables in desserts, they are ever present in recipes like Apple Blueberry Walnut Pie that has a generous portion of dulse. Here the authors have presented recipes for Candied Kelp, Dulse Fruit Cobbler, and Mocha Custard along with numerous suggestions for using agar.

Though the book is vegetarian, most recipes are vegan, and all provide nutritional analyses including figures for calcium that occurs in impressive quantities in sea vegetables.

A more extensive nutritional analysis chart appears at the end of the book just before a full page of resources. The sizable bibliography indicates these authors sought information from a multitude of research documents. Following the complete index is the Measurement and Metric Conversion Chart.

An excellent choice for learning about the impressive nutritional properties of sea vegetables and how to incorporate them into everyday meals, Sea Vegetable Celebration offers an array of unique recipes that are easy to prepare. Reasonably priced, the book also makes an ideal gift for those who favor a macrobiotic diet.

Vegetarian Comfort Food

By Jennifer Warren

Whitecap Books Ltd., 2001

Paperback $19.95

Though vegetarians are fully committed to their meat-free diets, many hold nostalgic memories for the familiar flavors and aromas of the comfort foods they used to eat. Now a return to delicious comfort foods is not only possible, it comes alive, this time without the meat in an all-vegetarian cookbook filled with old-style recipes.

Author Jennifer Warren became a vegetarian at age seventeen, a decision that concerned her parents who operated a restaurant that served familiar comfort foods like shepherd's pie and stew with rich gravies. Jennifer had to learn to cook for herself. Her first year was a struggle as she poured over vegetarian cookbooks whose recipes didn't satisfy her yearnings for foods with homestyle flavors.

Eventually, she began to create her own dishes. Now, this under 30 lover of comfort foods shies away from fancy, intricate recipes and opts for simply prepared tasty dishes. Comfort Food

While the author reveres classic dishes and foods of the 50's and 60's she considers quite "retro," she has kept her recipes simple with ingredients present in every household pantry. She also recognizes there are some vegetarian items that may be unfamiliar to most new vegetarians and provides an informative glossary of ingredients readily available at the health food market.

Jennifer recognizes the importance of mastering a few basics and provides the how-to's of Reading Recipes, Pots and Pans, Things That Go in the Oven, Herbs and Spices, Milk, Butter, and how to make Vegetable Stock.

Recipes for breakfasts and brunches stick to well-known basics like pancakes, French toast, muffins, and mini-quiches with a Tofu Scramble representing an up-to-date veg favorite.

Egg Salad Sandwiches, Avocado-Tomato Melt, Welsh Rarebit, and Grilled Cheese are featured in the Sandwich section while her soup kettles sport old fashioned favorites like Cream of Mushroom, Cream of Tomato, Split Pea and French Onion Soup.

While most of her recipes represent dishes that originated in past decades like Macaroni and Cheese, she surprises the reader with occasional hip concoctions like her Asian Sesame Salad Dressing, Sweet Potato Ravioli, and Skewer-Free Vegetable Satay.

An extensive main course section includes all the familiar dishes mom used to make. Side dishes feature specialties like Faux Gras, a veggie pate that surprised a non-vegetarian who thought it was the real thing.

Desserts are clearly among the author's favorite foods with 26 dishes to please the yearnings for something sweet and memorable. From cakes, pies, and puddings she covers the subject well, including two versions of a classic dessert, Sherry Trifle #1 and #2.

Well indexed, the book contains a bounty of old-fashioned recipes transformed from their meaty beginnings into the modern vegetarian style. Though vegans will find many of these recipes challenging to convert, there is no shortage of treasures for the lacto-ovo vegetarian.

Dairy-Free & Delicious

By Brenda Davis, Bryanna Clark Grogan, and Joanne Stepaniak

Book Publishing Company, 20001

Paperback $12.95

When two premiere vegan cookbook authors combine their efforts for a culinary adventure, readers can be assured of a win-win opportunity to experience the crème de la crème of vegan taste delights. Between them, Bryanna Clark Grogan and Joanne Stepaniak have authored more than a dozen vegan cookbooks. Now they have produced yet another cookbook treasure for the vegan table. The icing on this cake is Brenda Davis, a registered dietitian and nutrition author, who lends her expertise to explain the many ways dairy products challenge a healthy body.

Davis covers the subject well, discussing how dairy products affect those with lactose intolerance and how they increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. She briefly discusses how diary products contribute to environmental degradation and how dairy cows suffer a miserable existence living their short lives on factory farms. They are forced to produce unnatural quantities of milk, fed diets unnatural to their species, are artificially inseminated every year to maintain milk production, and are sped to an unnaturally short life of four years before being sent to slaughter.

She informs the reader about the causes of food allergies, symptoms of milk allergy, and ways of determining whether someone has a predisposition to milk allergy. Readers can turn to the Testing for Milk Allergy and The Dairy Challenge pages and learn to test for themselves. Dairy Free

This author, a natural teacher, tells readers how to provide the body with adequate calcium from sources other than milk. In the chapter Building Strong, Milk-Free Bodies Davis shares her knowledge of calcium, offering pointers on how much the body needs and what causes the body to lose calcium. Included here is a helpful chart listing foods high in calcium and a section on calcium supplements.

Everything you've wanted to know about milk, how to substitute with non-diary foods, down to the specifics of Dairy-Free Dining are covered in Davis's opening portion of the book. This experienced nutritionist covers a multitude of topics from travel tips to using nutritional yeast that creates a cheese-like flavor.

In The Uncheese Book, Joanne Stepaniak introduced her readers to a wealth of original cheeseless cheese recipes that have become standard fare in many vegan homes. She continues her cheeseless journey with yet more delectables like Tofu-Cashew Cream Cheese, and Quick Tofu Ricotta Cheese. We can't wait to try the Classic White Uncheese to see how it becomes "soft, melty, and gooey when heated."

Bryanna Clark Grogan, author of Nonna's Italian Kitchen, draws from her Italian roots to offer Tofu Frittate, an Italian omelette recipe on page 92 that sounds like the ideal company dish.

Hollandaise sauce without eggs and butter? This team surpasses the classic version with their egg and dairy-free Hollandaze Sauce. Some might think pancakes and French toast are impossible to make without eggs, yet Peanut Butter Banana Pancakes and Phenomenal French Toast stand proudly eggless.

Cheddar Cheeze Soup and its variations of Broccoli Cheeze Soup and Cauliflower Cheeze Soup, Mac and Cheese, Potatoes Gruyere, and Vegetables Camembert sound like the authors bought out the cheese factory to create these hearty soups. Yet, a careful perusal of the ingredient lists reveals not a single shred of cheese, and that includes the cheesecake recipes, as well.

This creative pair of kitchen wizards applies their vegan sorcery to make dairy-free cooking a household standard. Those acquainted with their many outstanding cookbooks can count on more of their high quality, well-tested and tasty dishes. We found the recipes easy to follow, a delight to prepare. Though the book contains no glossary, it doesn't need one--the ingredients are familiar vegan pantry items.

Consider this book an excellent introduction to cooking without dairy products. It's a great gift for anyone contemplating taking the big step toward vegan living. Even if you are vegan, you may want to treat yourself to a copy of Dairy-Free & Delicious. Then you can celebrate the New Year with friends and family while sipping a very special Vegan Eggnogg (page 154).

Tasty Vegan Delights

By Gloria Lawson and Debbi Puffer

Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2001

Paperback $24.99

Though the average person rarely connects food with religion, authors Gloria Lawson and Debbi Puffer of Tasty Vegan Delights draw inspiration from their Seventh Day Adventist teachings and intersperse spirituality between the pages of their beautifully designed cookbook.

"The Eight Principles" initiated by the church's founder, Ellen G. White, that make up the brief introductory section of the book comprise what many would consider sound advice: Incredible Nutrition; Fresh Air; Exercise; Sunlight; Temperance; Your Trust in God; Lots of Water; and Energizing Rest.

Both authors, who travel internationally as health educators, are presenters of LifeStyle Seminars, two-week programs that address health concerns from a biblical perspective. Gloria has pursued her path in health education for 40 years. Debbi has six years in this field along with home-schooling her three children.

Vegan Delights The food guide pyramid presented in the introduction and adapted from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association comprises cereals and grain products on the bottom, fruits and vegetables side by side on the next level, legumes and other meat substitutes next, and oils sparingly at the top. A few concise statements on vegetarianism from the ADA follow along with a brief statement about the importance of vitamin B12 and the "don't worry" message about protein.

Each of the recipe sections is prefaced with "Treasured Thoughts," inspirational words with quotes from the scriptures. Where space provides, spiritual notes appear at the end of a recipe section as well.

Though the breakfast recipes contain many standard items such as scrambled tofu, pancakes, French toast, waffles, and muffins, the authors have created a few stand-out items like baked pudding dishes that can be prepared the day before and briefly heated in the morning. Some of their appealing morning starters include Hawaiian Barley Flakes, Breakfast Rice Pudding, and Oatmeal Surprise.

Instead of "Calcium Robbers" that come from animal protein, Gloria and Debbi provide recipes for beverages made of almonds, millet, walnuts or cashews along with a recipe for Strawberry Tofu Yogurt.

The entrée portion beckons with temptations such as Sunflower Seed Nutloaf, Tofu Spinach Patties, and Mock Sausage Patties, in addition to old favorites like Lasagna and Pizza. The vegetable dishes are numerous; sauces are given their special section; and the salad recipes have a 50's/60's kind of flair.

No vegan cookbook would be complete without basics like Tofu Sour Cream and Tofu Mayonnaise, but how many cooks prepare their own homemade Ketchup? Spreads and Dressings offer a simple blender recipe for Soy Ranch Dressing along with easy fixes like Tofu Onion Dip, Garlic Spread, and Mock Mustard.

Instead of artery clogging butter, this clever pair of authors suggests Millet Butter made from raw cashews and cooked millet. When it comes to seasoning mixes, sprouting, cheeses like Mozzarella You Can Slice, cheese spreads, and cheese sauces, they've provided the kitchen novice with all the basics.

Bread bakers and dessert lovers may enjoy the novelty of making their own homemade Whole Wheat Bagels or whipping up a delectable no-bake Pumpkin Chiffon Pie for that finishing touch.

Beginning with the slick, colorful cover, the book's graphic design makes this handsome, spiral-bound recipe collection appealing. The soft focus, full-page color photographs that preface each section carry a food stylist's touch. Recipes are titled with a type-face that resembles handwriting, while small nosegays of blue flowers accompany the pages with spiritual notes. To delineate the various recipe sections, a one-inch wide color strip borders each page, with each section featuring a different color.

The recipes are very easy to prepare with ingredients that are standard in every vegan household. Home cooks will appreciate the spiral binding that allows the book to lie flat when open. As a bonus, each recipe is followed by a detailed nutritional analysis that makes it easy to calculate calories from fat, if needed. While the authors have chosen honey to sweeten their desserts and some breakfast dishes, many vegans may wish to use alternatives.

Reviewed December 2002

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