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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 two cookbooks packed with useful recipes and suggestions for vegetarian homemakers.

The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook

By Cathe Olson

GOCO Publishing, 2005
$21.95 Paperback

Blessings frequently come along in unexpected ways. The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook by Cathe Olson is one of those true blessings that lend creative support to vegetarian or vegan women planning a family, experiencing pregnancy, or are presently lactating.

Cathe shares invaluable knowledge that guides a woman from preconception, through each trimester of her pregnancy, and during postpartum and lactation. Vegetarians well know that being vegetarian in a non-vegetarian world has its challenges. But being a healthy pregnant vegetarian need not be overwhelming with the guidance of an experienced mom who has witnessed the result of poor nutrition during her first pregnancy.

Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook The author immediately gains a reader's attention in the opening pages with concise sections of important nutritional information about protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Each section stresses the importance of these nutrients to the baby's growth.

Super Mommy Foods is a chapter that covers food items especially beneficial during pregnancy and lactation. These foods include beans and legumes, blackstrap molasses, cultured and fermented foods, dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, nutritional yeast, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.

Packed with suggestions that shepherd the new mom through this new experience, the book provides sample menus, a whole-foods shopping list, and timesaving suggestions. The author provides invaluable tips on how to choose healthy options that combat strong cravings as well as helpful hints on dealing with typical discomforts that accompany pregnancy and new motherhood, such as morning sickness, heartburn, and colicky baby.

She recognizes that some pregnant and lactating women do not seem to thrive on a vegetarian diet, but she is also aware that the ethical vegan issue is important. She advises her readers to consider what's best for the baby and suggests women consult a physician if adding some animal products does not help.

Though the title of the book features the word "vegetarian," the book considers both vegetarians and vegans with recipes that offer vegan alternatives to dairy and egg products. Each recipe is followed not only with the standard nutritional analysis but also with a focus on key nutrients such as vitamins and minerals that are rarely included in nutritional analysis.

Referring to her Breakfast section, Cathe says, "These breakfast recipes are designed to nourish you at this important time of your life, but they are also excellent for the whole family." Encouraging moms to include protein and fat in the morning meal to prevent mid-morning hunger is one of her many suggestions. Great ideas like soaking oats or preparing Overnight Rice Porridge in the slow-cooker the night before help ease the morning rush. The recipe for Cream of Millet Cereal includes suggestions for substituting rice, barley, or wheat cereal in place of the millet.

To avoid the over-hungry symptoms of lightheadedness of a missed lunch she recommends planning ahead and preparing for lunch at breakfast time. While the oatmeal is cooking, prepare a salad, cook some brown rice, or mix up a batch of hummus. Numerous easy recipes for truly nutritious sandwiches fill the lunch section along with breadless lunches like Stuffed Bell Peppers and Baked Potato Lunch.

Unique pairings of ingredients are found in Cathe's soup creations. Recipes like Soothing Mint Soup, Thai Pumpkin-Coconut Soup, and Ginger-Lentil Soup make great wholesome meals. And wouldn't the Sweet Potato-Spelt Biscuits make the perfect accompaniment to those soups?

To prepare for dinner, Cathe suggests having precooked beans and grains in the freezer and pre-chopping or purchasing pre-chopped vegetables as time savers. She prepares large enough quantities to ensure leftovers that form quick meals. Dishes prepared in 35 minutes or less and recipes suitable for freezing are marked with special symbols to help the busy mom. The Rice and Bean Casserole, Mushroom Stroganoff, and Kung Pao Tofu are only a few examples of her 35-minute or less meals.

When it comes to baking, Cathe reveals herself as just an old-fashioned from-scratch kind of mom who appreciates the smiling-face rewards of serving quick breads like Apricot-Nut Bread or Barley Soda Bread as well as a host of muffins, scones, bar cookies, fruit and nut confections, and cookies. Her more fussy desserts include cakes, crisps, pies, puddings, and frozen treats. Kiddie treats are an obvious specialty. What child wouldn't enjoy Mint Lemonade, Creamsicle Smoothie, or Peanut Butter-Banana Shake?

Teas and Tonics are the perfect comforts for pregnant and nursing moms that include herbal combinations for every need. This section includes Iron Booster Tonic, Morning Sickness Tea, Insomnia Tea, and Chia Energy Drink, all designed either to soothe or energize.

The handy Appendix is packed with bean and grain cooking charts, a vegetarian substitution list, individual listings of recipes high in protein, calcium, and iron, a detailed glossary, references, and resources galore.

Although The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook is centered on pregnant and breast feeding mothers' and their families, any family could benefit from lend creative support to vegetarian or vegan women planning a family, experiencing pregnancy, or are presently lactating.

More Fabulous Beans

By Barb Bloomfield

Book Publishing Company, 2004

Paper $14.95

Often denigrated and even maligned, the bean has achieved its own place of honor with books dedicated to its virtues. Barb Bloomfield, author of the successful Fabulous Beans does the honors as she returns with More Fabulous Beans filled with popular recipes from the first volume along with many new additions.

Following a brief introduction extolling the virtues of beans for our health and our planet, Barb presents information on storing and cooking beans along with a chart showing the cooking times of different beans. She briefly describes each of the most common varieties readily available for purchase.

The home chef looking for unique recipes might want to skip to the last section, Sweets and Desserts, to create a few surprise taste treats for family and friends. This brief section of only three recipes emphasizes beans in Tutti-Fruity Bars, Aduki Carob Cake, and Sweet Bean Pie that is often available from Middle Eastern street vendors in some large cities.

The heart of the book is the more than 40 main-dish recipes with temptations like Hoppin' John with Black-eyed Peas, Crowder Pea Pot Pie, and a garbanzo bean dish called Ceci All' Italiana. More Fabulous Beans

For warming up on those cold winter days, the author presents Soups and Chowders like Autumn Wheat Bean Soup and Pasta Plus Pinto Soup. For more hearty concoctions the Chilis and Stews offer an international assortment with directions on how to create Lentil-Vegetable Biryani, Butter Bean Irish Stew, and Black Bean Eggplant Chili.

Devotees of sandwiches and wraps will delight in the variety of suggestions that include burgers fashioned from soy beans, pinto beans, and lentils. Burgers, Balls, and Wraps includes the burger recipes along with Ratatouille Roll-ups with Cannelini Beans, Butter Bean Veggie Wraps with Peanut Sauce, and Meatless Pinto Balls.

Party hostesses will appreciate the easy-to-prepare Dips and Spreads that can be made in advance. Barb assures the reader, "The dips will keep at least a week in the refrigerator if your beans are fresh. Most dips are tasty when they are first made, but their flavors develop more as they sit chilled." Lentil Pate, Carrot Garbanzo Dip, and Gremolata are among the dozen choices in this section. Garlic lovers will relish Gremolata made with 10 cloves of roasted garlic.

Barb does offer suggestions for people who have difficulty digesting beans. One solution is to take a few drops of Beano at the first bite of beans to alleviate gas. What many vegetarians may not realize is that Beano, made from a food grade mold, contains fish gelatin. She reveals a new product by Nature's Plus called "Say Yes to Beans" that is completely vegetarian.

Most helpful is the table of contents that begins each section. Calorie counters and the nutrition conscious will appreciate the nutritional information provided for each recipe. The book concludes with a brief glossary.

Anyone seeking a book of healthy recipes without excess verbiage will enjoy Barb Bloomfield's More Fabulous Beans. Ideal for the busy homemaker, most of the recipes call for cooked beans, allowing the cook to use canned or pre-prepared legumes. This collection of more that 100 recipes using 14 kinds of beans is not a glitzy production, just a combination of tasty high-fiber creations presented in a simple format.

Reviewed August 2005

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