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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 books that a vegetarian cook will find invaluable in the kitchen.

Simple Treats

By Ellen Abraham

Book Publishing Company, 2003

Paper $12.95

Simple Treats is a vegan bakery that is saavy to its customers' concerns about health, allergies, and the environment and is a rarity in this world where self-indulgence seems so evident. Owned and operated by Ellen Abraham and her sister Jill, this bakery flourishes in Eastham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Simple Treats is also the dessert cookbook that was inspired by the success of the bakery and by a desire to encourage others to move toward more cruelty-free dessert pleasures.

Simple Treats Not an easy challenge, vegan baking requires extensive trials and explorations to achieve results that give a baked dessert the perfect texture, volume, visual appeal, and flavor of the standard baked products. Author Ellen Abraham and her sister spent countless hours developing sweets that didn't contain a single egg, a speck of refined sugar, a grain of wheat, or a drop of dairy products, with results that bring a sweet touch to the vegan lifestyle.

Cookie lovers, brownie aficionados, and muffin and cake enthusiasts not only will enjoy the vegan baking experience guilt-free but also may benefit from the knowledge author Ellen has gained on her baking journey.

Before embarking on the recipes, readers will learn a few tips that make vegan baking successful. For instance, bake the mixtures immediately after combining the ingredients together to take full advantage of the baking soda or baking powder's instant leavening action. Another tip is to use parchment or Silpat, a silicone sheet, to prevent cookies from sticking to the pan.

Ellen has a multitude of hints for home bakers of cakes, muffins, and breads to assure consistently good results. Just knowing that maple sugar, Sucanat, and date sugar can be used interchangeably is valuable information as is rotating pans in the oven to assure even baking in spite of oven hot spots. Her Glossary is not at the end of the book, but right up front to familiarize bakers with ingredients that vegans frequently use for baking.

Fresh fruity muffins like Blueberry, Raspberry, Apple Walnut, Cranberry-Orange, Peach-Oat Bran, and Mixed-up Berry offer many choices for a breakfast start or end-of- the-day treat. Some are laced with spices, while others feature a special topping to make them exceptional.

A featured section is the quick breads. With 15 delectable recipes from which to choose, you can find one to enjoy each season of the year and for every occasion. We put the Pumpkin Spice Bread, the Fig Walnut Bread, and even the Sweet Potato Pecan Bread on our to-do list. Scone fanciers, too, can find recipes for indulging.

With 24 different cookie recipes from which to choose, you'll have no trouble getting the whole family involved in measuring, mixing, and stirring.

Celebrate birthdays, holidays, and special events with an innovative cake like The Chocolate Cremesicle, Peanut Butter Cake, Mocha Cake, Raspberry-Filled Lemon Cake, Decadent Carob or Chocolate Mousse Cake. If these don't tempt you into the kitchen, one of the many other recipes in the cake section may be your forte.

As if a simple sweet treat weren't sufficient, the section on Cremes, Frostings, and Glazes add enhancements to bring the baked indulgence into the impossible-to-resist realm. Recipes like Almond, Cashew or Coffee Crème are tasty fillings, while Lemon Glaze or Chocolate Ganache add panache to top off a special cake.

Baker Ellen Abraham allows us to peek into her pantry with a list of items the well-stocked cupboard must contain, including important tools used in the baking process. A resource list and a handy index bring the book to its conclusion.

Following recipe instructions presents a minor challenge for the baker because they are written in a lengthy block of text. We wish Ellen had numbered the directions or had broken them into brief paragraphs.

An inexpensive gift for anyone who loves to bake, or for a family with children, or even an addition to your own cookbook shelf, Simple Treats has numerous delights to offer. The recipes are simple, easy to follow, and do not call for exotic, hard to find ingredients. None of the processes are so intricate they become a turn off. To the contrary, most of the recipes fall into the category of comfort foods. Who can resist a Blueberry Muffin, a Chocolate Chip Cookie, or an old-fashioned Carrot Cake?

The Fiber for Life Cookbook

By Bryanna Clark Grogan

Book Publishing Company, 2002

Paper 12.95

After creating six cookbooks and co-authoring another, one might think Bryanna Clark Grogan might have used up all possible ideas for delicious vegan recipes. But, thankfully, she just keeps flowing with innovative recipes for vegan delectables that inspire home cooks and delight their families.

The Fiber for Life Cookbook is yet another collection of healthy recipes for anyone following the fiber-rich vegan lifestyle or for those wanting to explore new ground and discover health-enhancing foods.

Drawn from world cuisines, the recipes in Bryanna's newest book bring favorites from many continents into our own kitchens with a few simple, wholesome ingredients such as whole grains and legumes. Tabbouleh, for instance, has become a familiar favorite in the U.S., yet it has traveled many miles from its origins in the Middle East. Made from bulghur wheat, parsley, tomatoes, and onions and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, Bryanna's recipe offers a healthy alternative to the fast foods that dominate today's dinner plates. In addition to the basic recipe, she suggests a host of ideas for creating variety with this single recipe. Fiber for Life Cookbook

More than just a collection of recipes, the book takes an in-depth look at fiber and how it can defeat diseases such as constipation, diverticular disease, appendicitis, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, gallstones, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Usually people struggling with those diseases follow a diet low in fiber. The author has researched reliable sources such as the World Health Organization to help her readers understand the benefits of fiber-rich foods.

Bryanna offers valuable tips for increasing fiber intake and a chart that shows fiber-rich foods and their fiber and calorie content.

Breakfast suggestions include old-fashioned grain dishes like Bircher Muesli, Fruity Oatmeal, and 3 Bears' Porridge. Special treats like Crispy Whole Grain Waffles and Oatmeal Apple Walnut Pancakes provide an enjoyable start to the day and offer plenty of fiber. All the recipes in the book are thoughtfully annotated and offer a nutritional analysis to help in meal planning.

Bryanna's breads, muffins, and biscuit recipes are all made from whole-grain flours. Even her pizza dough is high fiber with the inclusion of wheat bran and flaxseeds. The tempting Appetizers and Snacks section goes international with recipes like Miso Paté, Hummus with Greens, Muhammara, and Spicy Mexican Bean Dip.

Chilly winter nights inspire home cooks to offer up a hearty meal ladled from the soup kettle. Bryanna features many high fiber soups that offer rich flavors along with satiety. We were tempted by the Velvet Turkish Red Lentil Soup, Vegetarian Mulligatawny, or Meatless Tsar's Army Borscht, to name only a few.

Main dishes made from wheat kernels, bulghur wheat, brown rice, rolled oats, and legumes provide still more great meals that put high fiber on the front burner. Even Bryanna's desserts offer treats like Italian-Style Apple Tarts with Whole Wheat Oil Pastry. Old standards like carrot cake also use whole-wheat pastry flour rather than white flour that has minimal fiber. Alejandro's Pumpkin-Date Pudding is another high fiber dessert that is richly endowed with natural fiber foods like dates, walnuts, and pumpkin in addition to whole wheat pastry flour.

Helpful information such as a bean-cooking chart, glossary, resource list, and recipe index are included at the end of the book.

Bryanna Clark Grogan was probably born with a measuring cup in one hand and a mixing spoon in the other, tools she has used to express her love of the vegan table. The Fiber for Life Cookbook should be considered a standard family cookbook for all families, vegan, vegetarian, or not. Fiber is nature's gift to everyone. Our grandmothers knew it, but that message has somehow gone adrift over the last few decades. Hopefully, this book will serve as a reminder that foods rich in fiber can actually be delicious and irresistible.

Reviewed January 2004

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