Stacey's favourite cookbooks

Posted by Stacey McLachlan on Wednesday, July 6 0 comments

If you're at all interested in a vegetarian or vegan diet, the best way to get puuuuumped up about changing the way you cook is to get a book full of delicious-sounding recipes with deliciouser-looking pictures. It's all fine and good to just load up on the Yves Ground Round and alter your family favourites into less meaty versions, but here is an Important Fact: vegan food that is actually designed with vegans in mind is going to be much better than your weirdo make-do Hamburger Helper.

When I decided that I wanted to move from a mostly-vegetarian-except-at-dinnertime-and-sometimes-lunch-if-there's-leftover-turkey to a for realzies animal-free diet, it meant I had to start cooking for myself: my mom and brother are staunch carnivores who are tolerant but non-empathetic to my self-imposed restrictions, and they weren't about to start making me special meals. So! To Chapters I went, emerging with my first cookbook, and that summer I tried to become a chef, with varying degrees of success.

I am not by nature a patient or particular person. There's Type A and Type B personalities, and then there's me, who falls into the "Whatever, Dude!" category. Unfortunately, this laissez-faire attitude rarely is a positive attribute when it comes to cooking and baking. I'm always forgetting the oven is on, or "eyeballing it" when I should be "getting a goddamn measuring spoon".

That being said, a good cookbook goes a long way into making you a competent person in the kitchen. They're instructive, but also inspiring, and once you start taking ownership of what goes on your plate and making sure everything you cook is delicious, nutritious, and lacking in cow-bits, it's easy to stay committed to your new diet.

The cooking section of your local book emporium can be overwhelming when you're diving into a new culinary lifestyle. Lucky for you, I have nothing to do at my job and can take the time to list some of my favourite kitchen companions (kitchen kompanians?) for recommended reading. Take a look! It's in a book! Etc. Etc.

Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

As previously mentioned, substituting vegan ingredients into butter-soaked recipes is usually disappointing. Luckily, the cookies in here are tailored to rise and harden (or whatever happens in the oven when you're not looking) in a vegan-science sort of way. The problem here, though, is that once you get to cookie baking, then you have to get to cookie eating. Not that I am in any way against a little indulgence (see my previous post), but eating 12 to 24 cookies a week while practicing a strict sedentary lifestyle is probably not the best idea even if said cookies are vaguely healthy.

Anyways! My favourite recipe (in this book and probably also of all time) is for the Cowboy Cookies. Pecans and coconut and chocolate! Just like the wild West!

Cowboy Cookies Recipe, from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar
2 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup soy or almond milk or rice milk or WHATEVER MILK but not cow milk
1 tbsp ground flax
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coconut shreds
1 cup choco chips
1 cup pecans (toasted if you're fancy!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Fold in half of flour mixture, then remaining half. Fold in coconut, chocolate chips, and pecans.In large bowl, beat together oil, sugar, brown sugar, non-dairy milk, ground flax, and vanilla. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, then let cool on the tray for 5. AND THEN PUT THEM INSIDE OF YOUR MOUTH.

Vegan Yum Yum

Do you know that awful Cher song, "Do You Believe In Life After Love"? When I started experimenting in veganism, there was a Weird Al-esque version running through my head that was basically asking me if I believed in life after cheese. Vegan Yum Yum taught me how to move on, introducing me to a little friend named Nutritional Yeast.

"That sounds INCREDIBLE!" you're probably saying. "Nutrition? YEAST? Those are my two favourite foods!" I know, right! My mouth is watering just hearing its name! Some people I know (Leanne, specifically), call it "Nootch", which is at once more endearing and more genitally-sounding. But never mind that. Nutritional Yeast is a handy, cheesey-type . . . yeast, I guess, that's super healthy for you in ways that you can read about another time. B12? That's a vitamin, right? I think it's in there. The point is, there are some recipes in Vegan Yum Yum that put it to good use and it really helped fill that empty, mac 'n' cheese shaped hole in my heart.

Mac & "Cheese" Recipe from Vegan Yum Yum
1/3 cup Earth Balance margarine
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs miso
1 tbs tahini
1 tbs tomato paste
1 1/4 cup soy milk
1/3 cup nootch
1 pinch salt

Melt Earth Balance over medium heat, add flour and whisk vigorously until a smooth paste forms. Add tamari, lemon, miso, tahini, and tomato paste and whisk until well incorporated. Slowly pour in the soy milk, whisking constantly, until it is completely incorporated. Add the yeast and mix well. Cook the mixture until it thickens, whisking often. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour it right onto noodles and eat up, or bake it all with bread crumbs on top for something a little crispier. Follow your heart!

Rebar Modern Food Cookbook

When I'm feeling like a fancy person or have somebody to impress, this is the book I grab. All the recipes have like 7000 ingredients, so it isn't always the most economical, time-wise, but the results are always satisfying. There's interesting twists to every meal in here: the folks at Rebar are always tossing in mangos where mangos don't really belong, so if you enjoy those sort of culinary shenanigans, you'll dig this book.

The Modern Food Cookbook has a lot of vegetarian (read: cheese-infused) recipes, but almost everything has suggestions for veganization. The downside is that there aren't any colourful pictures, but isn't your imagination the greatest colour printing press of all?!?!?

Baja Baked Black Beans from the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook
4 cups black beans, soaked overnight
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp oregano
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp chipotle puree
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 can tomato paste (5.5 oz)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar

Combine beans, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, oregano, garlic, and onion in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to boil, then simmer about an hour, until beans are tender. Add 2 tsp salt in final 15 minutes of cooking. Preheat oven to 350F. Stir remaining ingredients into pot. Pour or laddle into casserole dish, cover with foil, and place on a baking sheet (to catch spills). Bake for one hour.

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