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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 feature a book that presents simple recipe ideas for the mom who wants to feed healthy meals to her vegan family.

Vive Le Vegan!

By Dreena Burton

Arsenal Pulp Press, 2004
$19.95 Paperback

Dreena Burton's nesting instincts have a unique twist. Seems she is able to give birth to a book and a baby almost simultaneously. So it was with her first cookbook, The Everyday Vegan, published only six months after the birth of her first child. Vive le Vegan!, her new work, appeared the same month her second child was born. While her new responsibilities occupy much of her day and leave little time for fussy cooking, Dreena applies her creative talents and offers a myriad of innovative ways to present nutritious and flavorful dishes using whole plant-based foods.

Often, people who follow animal-based diets imagine it would be impossible to adopt the vegan path. Dreena has discovered the opposite and has found that travelling the humane road proved easy, pleasurable, and enlightening. She demonstrates that a busy mom can prepare delicious, everyday, plant-based meals for the family without the stress many new mothers experience. Yet, most of her recipes demonstrate a unique flair for the vegan table.

Vive le Vegan The Breakfast and Brunch section along with the Muffins, Baked Goods, and On-the-Go Snacks section provide a banquet of ideas for comfort foods like Apple Oat Pancakes, Fantastic French Toast, and Blueberry Bounty Muffins. The exceptional items include two wheat-free recipes: Totally Nutty Bars and Squirrelly "Scones."

Home chefs who get into the routine of preparing the same dozen recipes over and over will appreciate the refreshing flavors and textures from foods that have never had anything added or removed. Dreena's Kamut Bean Stew featuring fresh vegetables like onions, celery root, and celery along with dried herbs, whole kamut grains, and canned beans appeals to the homemaker searching for a quick and tasty family meal. Possibly the Pumpkin Seed-Coated Lentil Patties seasoned with mild curry paste, coriander seeds, garlic, and apple cider vinegar is another recipe that will stir the creative energies and entice the home chef into the kitchen.

Treats the little ones can eat out of hand are plentiful with temptations like Carob-Coconut Pecan Cookies, Chocolate Hemp Squares, Hazelnut Cardamom Chloe Cookies, and Kamut Hemp Chews while the grown-ups may want to devour the more sophisticated Raspberry Frosted Cake with Chocolate Cream Center.

Feeding Your Vegan Baby and Toddler, one of the highlights of this volume, features a mini-book within-a book. With the guidance of her naturopathic doctor and lessons drawn from her own stay-at-home mom experience, Dreena has much to offer new moms. The chapter is rich with helpful advice on breastfeeding, a new food introduction schedule, and a detailed list of foods for each stage of growth from six months to two years and how to prepare these items at home.

Reading this section, new moms will quickly have the scoop on organic foods, commercially prepared baby foods compared to homemade, and food preparation tips. Good old-fashioned mom-to-mom talk includes going with the flow when your child expresses food dislikes. Dreena relates the experience she had when her daughter rejected the homemade, pureed organic beets she had prepared. Inexperienced, she persisted and succeeded in getting several spoonfuls into her child only to have a messy cleanup when her baby vomited the bright red mess.

To aid the novice home chef, two guides for cooking grains and beans cover the cooking times and quantities of water as well as cooking tips. Suggestions like washing all grains before cooking, toasting grains to prevent them from becoming sticky, and two methods of soaking beans before cooking provide valuable information to anyone new to preparing whole foods.

Dreena Burton Because she frequently uses ground oats, roasted peppers, and toasted nuts and seeds, she presents Cooking Notes on these foods. Her section on Hemp Foods offers a concise guide for hemp products that are still new to many but are now appearing regularly on natural food grocery shelves. She presents nutritional figures and practical uses for items like hemp seed oil, hemp seed nuts, hemp seed nut butter, hemp protein powder, and hemp seed flour.

The extensive Glossary is packed with helpful information and cooking tips such as informing the reader that arrowroot powder is used as a thickener much like cornstarch and uses the same proportions of powder to water.

Though Vive le Vegan! contains neither color nor black and white food photos, the book is graphically appealing and has a user friendly layout. Highlighted notes throughout the book indicate which recipes are wheat-free or which have a wheat-free option. Handy hints in the form of sidebars accompany most of the recipes and frequently suggest alternative ways to enjoy the recipe.

Ideal for anyone who enjoys cooking, Vive le Vegan! will be especially appreciated by mothers of newborn infants who can learn the appropriate times to introduce specific foods that are known to create problems for babies' immature digestive systems. Not all the recipes are geared to feeding baby, though. There are plenty of tasty down-home dishes for the adults as well. The book is packed with useful recipes that have clearly written instructions. For anyone living outside the United States, some metric equivalents are provided for quantities in ounces or pounds and for oven temperatures as well. Vive le Vegan! truly does offer "simple, delectable recipes for the everyday vegan family."

Reviewed June 2005

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