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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 we review two vegetarian cookbooks, one for the cook who wants easy-to-prepare recipes, the other for the mealmaker who is interested in hearty soy entrees.

The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet

By Nava Atlas

Broadway Books, 2001

Paper 15.95

Coming up with a recipe of gourmet standing that contains no more than five ingredients can be a daunting task. Nava Atlas, a talented author of several cookbooks, has done it not just once, but 250 times in her newest cookbook. Though the book is vegetarian, there are numerous recipes that are ideal for vegans as well.

Nava says in her introduction, "Ask any time-crunched cook what they look for in a meal, and the words 'fast' and 'easy' will likely come up." The author, herself, has devised these unique, simple, and health-focused meals while raising young children, meeting work deadlines, and spending time with her husband, friends, and family. Nava Atlas

"Keeping things simple takes the frantic quality--and pressure--out of preparing a meal," says Nava. We certainly agree. She offers suggestions for stocking the pantry with items geared to make those simple preps possible, items such as prepared condiments, pastas and noodles, and canned tomato products.

She provides a form for a Weekly Menu Planning Guide to encourage planning ahead and a Shopping Guide to make sure the pantry stays replenished. A brief explanation of her Nutritional Analysis follows, and, from there, Nava wastes no time in getting to the heart of the book, the 5-ingredient recipes.

Nava knows the secret of good soup is to satisfy the soul or the spirit, as well as the appetite. In the section Simplicity in a Soup Pot she offers comfort recipes like Split Pea and Barley Soup, "Creamy" Mushroom Soup, and Leek and Potato Soup as well as unique combinations like Fresh Tomato and Corn Soup and Miso Onion Soup.

Many pages throughout the book feature suggested menus using the recipes. Sporadically sprinkled within the pages are tidbits of helpful information about using, storing, and purchasing some of the ingredients that may be unfamiliar to new vegetarians.

The Streamlined Salad section contains a myriad of unique salad combos as well as a side bar listing a number of helpful suggestions for boosting the seasoning of a basic salad, including items such as pickled beets, fresh herbs, and even dried cranberries. One of our favorite salads was the Pasta "Tuna" Salad that combined pasta, baked tofu, celery, black olives, and soy mayo.

The Zen of Grains and Beans section provides 38 excellent recipes, none with more than five ingredients. Many of them create the ideal centerpiece for any meal, while others fill in as hearty side dishes. The informational tidbits in this section appear frequently and offer solid facts about cooking and suggestions for serving.

This savvy author hasn't left the cook in the lurch wondering what to do with soy, potatoes, vegetables, sandwiches, spreads, dips, and sauces. There are many recipe choices for each. We prepared and enjoyed the Colcannon, an Irish potato, cabbage, and scallion dish, and decided that next year we'll add it to our menu in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. In the mood for an unlikely combination we prepared the Tomato-Mango Salsa. It couldn't be easier and added a pleasant zest to our meal.

Nava's Fundamental Fruit section serves up a variety of simple, healthy desserts where the fruits are allowed to shine through without disguise. Many of the smoothies use low fat vanilla yogurt with fresh fruits that burst through with their natural flavors.

The book is well indexed with recipes easy to locate by name as well as by main ingredient.

Perfect for any vegetarian household, The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet comes to the rescue of the harried mom who prepares a quick dinner between carpools as well as the working cook who comes home too tired to prepare a fussy meal. It's not only a blessing to the novice cook who enjoys an experiment or two in the kitchen but also offers success from the start to the person in transition to vegetarianism.

Meatless Meat

By Dorothy Jane Mills

Patrician Publications, 2001

Paper $20.99

Hardcover $30.99

Author Dorothy Jane Mills relates to the thousands who swear they could never be vegetarians because they simply can't give up eating meat. In fact, she identifies so well that she has created an entire cookbook dedicated to vegetarian main dishes that emulate the real thing.

Dorothy Jane, the TVP queen, recognizes that many wannabe vegetarians could be satisfied with soy-based dishes if they tasted like their familiar comfort foods and wafted familiar aromas as well. Aware that beans and rice won't cut it with the hard-core carnivores, this 30-year vegetarian was motivated to develop recipes with textured vegetable protein. Dorothy Mills

In her introductory section Dorothy Jane explains that TVP is made from soy flour after the oil has been removed. This makes the soy flour fat free. The defatted soy flour is then pressure cooked, pressed through a mold to form its various shapes and sizes, and then dried. To use TVP, the cook simply rehydrates it with hot water, then cooks it in dishes that contain well-seasoned sauces.

With a generous supply of TVP on hand, the author has created meat clones that satisfy those seeking hearty dishes that mom used to make, dishes that so closely resemble meat that new vegetarians wouldn't even miss the animal products. At times, she has even deceived her non-vegetarian guests into believing they were actually eating meat.

A world traveler, historian, editor, and author of sixteen books, Dorothy Jane brings all her skills together in presenting her exceptional cookbook with numerous recipes that appear in an uncommon format. Rather than providing the standard listing of ingredients at the top of the recipe, then naming them again in the directions, this author starts each recipe with the directions and prints the ingredients in bold type so they easily stand out within the body of the recipe.

Each recipe is prefaced with related experiences that are totally engaging. At times she describes her inspiration for creating the dish, while other recipes begin with suggestions for presenting the entrée with many variations.

While most of the recipes are created for the vegetarian, there are a number that will serve as vegan dishes as well. One of the exceptional vegan recipes is the Groundnut Cookpot, a hearty West African stew that draws its unique flavor from peanuts.

The author's many travels across the globe have inspired her to "vegetarianize" the plethora of dishes drawn from traditional international cuisines. From the Austrian, German, Swiss Seductions section are standards such as Goulash/Paprikash and Sauerbraten a la Habsburg. Her British inspirations include Cornish Meatpies and Shepherd's Pie.

While her French Connection features Bourguignon and Real Men's (and Women's) Quiche, the favorites of her American home front include Jambalaya Joy, Miraculous Can't-Beatloaf, and Sloppy Josephine. We can almost imagine the savory bouquets emanating from the kitchen.

With an even 100 all-vegetarian main-dish recipes combined in Meatless Meat, Dorothy Jane Mills' innovative work is an ideal way to introduce satisfying vegetarian fare to the newcomer. For the experienced vegetarian cook searching for a great company dish, there is an abundance of tantalizing choices.

To order a copy of Meatless Meat contact Xlibris Corporation by phone at 1-888-7-XLIBRIS or e-mail at Orders@Xlibris.com. The website is http://www.Xlibris.com

Click here for past book reviews

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