Review: “Vegan Yack Attack on the Go!” by Jackie Sobon

If you’re a vegan, and especially an American vegan, chances are you have heard of Vegan Yack Attack. Maybe you’re a fan of Jackie Sobon’s excellent blog, or perhaps you already own her first book, “Vegan Bowl Attack!” Possibly, you follow her column in VegNews magazine. As a food photographer, she has also illustrated some of my favorite cookbooks, like “NYC Vegan” and “Superfoods 24/7.” Many readers value illustrated recipes, and as we say in German, ‘das Auge isst mit’ (‘the eye eats, as well’). In any case, you know you’re in good hands with Jackie.

Requesting books by popular authors is a game of chance because publishers get TONS of requests, and so I consider myself particularly lucky to receive a preview copy of “Vegan Yack Attack on the Go!” Many, many people online have expressed frustration when it comes to putting meals together quickly, or coming up for lunch ideas for school and office. In this book, you will find answers in form of dishes that come together fast, can be made ahead, or both.

After a blissfully short introduction (I’m not big on intros), new vegans especially will find the first chapter, Vegan Eating Made Easy, a huge help for creating a kitchen well stocked with basic necessities. The Helpful Tips and Tricks are helpful indeed to ensure maximum enjoyment of your culinary creations and also a word on oil-free cooking. I would like to point this out in particular, because all too often comments show up by reviewers who have neglected to actually read the entire book and then complain that they ended up returning it for not accommodating an oil-free lifestyle!

But on to chapter 2, Quick Breakfasts, Snacks, and Treats. Here you find 14 recipes to suit your preference, from smoothies and floats to bars, cheesecakes, and chickpea scramble to burritos. Chapter 3, Prep-Ahead Recipes, contains all-purpose items like trailmix, overnight oats, crackers, popcorn, and even mushroom jerky. As a huge fan of overnight oats, I have put the Overnight Peach Pecan Oats on my “must try” list before the preview expires. This chapter isn’t all sweets and snacks, though: you’ll also find a recipe for Freezer Black Bean Burritos and Millet Sweet Potato Soup Bags, for example. Please note that from here on out, recipes may require several steps to prepare different components; be sure to read the entire recipe ahead of time and plan accordingly. Then, you will have a fridge and freezer filled with dishes that will reheat or can be assembled in no time at all.

Chapter 4’s Lunchbox Stuffers primarily consist of wraps, sandwiches, and salads, but there are also empanadas, spring rolls, and even a Veggie Sushi Bento Box. Chapter 5, Meals in 30 Minutes or Less, has the wonderful subtitle ‘Home-Cooked Meals for the Hangry’, people like me who sometimes (or maybe as a general rule) want dinner RIGHT NOW! Whether you crave a filling stew or chilli, a hefty burger, or your favorite comfort food, chances are you’ll find something here. Personally, I have been experimenting with exotic -read: beyond crumbles and lentils- taco fillings, so I am looking forward to testing the Sheet Pan Squash Tacos. If you’re a fan of the pressure cooker, try the Pressure Cooker Pesto Spaghetti Squash. Chapter 6 addresses Bulk Cooking, featuring an international potpourri of recipes, like kluski, pierogi, and Middle East-inspired dishes, and even a seitan roast made in the slow cooker.

My favorite chapter, though, is Chapter 7, Food on the Move, because it contains loads of things that can go on the grill. It is, after all, finally summer, even in Indiana! Because these recipes are quite portable (even if the caveat Some Assembly Required is given), these can go with you when you’re invited and not sure your host will be able to accommodate your dietary needs. There are quite a few dishes I’m itching to try, like the Cauliflower Curry Grill Packets with Yogurt Sauce, Campfire Banana Splits, and Beer Can Pulled Cabbage, which is why this book has been placed on my wishlist: I need my own copy!

In the final chapter, Chapter 8, you will get ideas on creating your own staples. Besides the usual suspects, tomato sauce, pesto, cheeze sauce, and mayo, you’ll also get some out-of-the-ordinary variations, like Berry Rhubarb Chia Jam (so psyched to find the far-too-neglected rhubarb here!) and Buckwheat Taco Meat. The latter found its way into my frying pan last night: it was easy to put together, smelled heavenly, and tasted quite good, although the buckwheat I have seems to have a peculiar flavor that doesn’t entirely go away even among all those spices. As I have noticed this in a buckwheat-based smoothie bowl before, I can honestly say it’s the grain, not the particular recipe, and results may vary. Still, I’m looking forward to taco night!

If my math is correct, you get a total of 107 recipes to keep you well fed and happy. The vast majority comes with a photo, so there is no guesswork as to what the final result might look like. Each recipe has a sub-heading with useful information, like ‘under ten ingredients’, ’30 minutes or less’, ‘gluten-free’, ‘soy-free’, etc. Most come with helpful notes at the end. Haters of “exotic” ingredients will love the fact that everything can be bought in a regular supermarket, at least here in Podunk, IN, with the exception of kala namak, which I found at the local Indian grocer without any fuss. And of course every recipe tells you how many servings you’ll end up with. What I really appreciate is the table of contents at the beginning of every chapter. As is common in vegan cooking, you will not find nutritional information for the dishes included.

“Vegan Yack Attack on the Go!” is published by Quarto Publishing Group – Fair Winds Press. I received a preview copy in exchange for a review via the publisher and Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

On the Go

Review: “Cook, Share, Eat Vegan” by Áine Carlin

Since going vegan roughly two years ago, I have joyfully spent more time in my kitchen trying out recipes than ever before. Anything by Isa Chandra Moskowitz is usually a winner, as are recipes by Ella (Woodward) Mills. And now, there is Aine Carlin, blogger, actress, and fashionista, who has just released her third cookbook, the somewhat oddly titled “Cook Share Eat Vegan: Delicious Vegan Recipes for Everyone.” Her second book, “Keep It Vegan,” remains another of my favorites, thanks to her down-to-earth, non-preachy writing style and the ease of her recipes. The writing style remains in the new release, the recipes are getting a little more demanding in parts. That means that alongside quick and easy dishes like Angel Hair Pasta with a Lemon, Dill & Walnut Sauce, there are some that require a bit more prep work. Fortunately, sauces, dips, and salsas can be made in advance, and the dishes still come together fairly fast. No complicated techniques or exotic ingredients are required, either.

This time, the book is divided into chapters according to the primary flavor compound: Zesty, Fresh, Spice it Up!, Grains&Goodness, Nuts’n’Seeds, Earthy, Sweetly Does It, and finally Baking Brilliance. I started bookmarking recipes to try and ended up running out of flags, so I simply started in Chapter One and have cooked my way through from there. So far, every recipe we have made has been enthusiastically received, and the picky husband has even made repeat requests for a few, namely the Pea & Rocket Chickpea Flour Pancake, the Watermelon, Watercress & Cucumber Salad, and My Favourite Penne alla Norma. You can probably tell that I simply did not want to wait to find out when the book would be released in the US and pre-ordered it from Europe. Incidentally, it has been available here since May 1, as well.

Another fact I really appreciate about this book is that there are no repeats: no “fluffiest vegan pancakes”, no 115th recipe for the perfect guac, no “cheesiest mac and cheeze”. Instead, you get innovative takes on taco night, pasta dishes, and pizza, right along with a shlew of exotic-sounding combinations like Melon, Avocado & Butter Bean Salad (next on my list, by the way). Because of the huge number of recipes, you can find dishes for every season, from Green Bean Summer Rolls (dinner tonight) to Spicy Mushroom-Stuffed Calzone to Savoury Fid & Walnut Stuffing Slice and Chestnut & Miso Soup. I don’t know how long it will take me to get through this book, but I know I’ll be happily cooking out of it for some time to come!

Is there anything I don’t find so hot? Yes, there is. It appears Ms Carlin has jumped on the bandwagon to promote Himalayan pink salt. Unfortunately, salt is not a sustainable resource, nor is mining it environmentally friendly, especially in a fragile eco system. Stick to your favorite table or sea salt, instead.

“Cook Share Eat Vegan: Delicious Vegan Recipes for Everyone” is published by Mitchell Beazley.

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Review: “The Brew Your Own Big Book of Clone Recipes”

Brought to you by the folks who publish Brew Your Own magazine, this beer bible features 300 clone recipes, put together in cooperation with the original brewers and frequently including tips and tricks of the trade from these brewers. Although the introduction claims that the book is aimed at home brewers of all skill levels, it clearly helps if you have worked with more than just a Mr. Beer kit before. The first chapter, ‘Cloning Basics & Recipe Standards,’ offers a brief guide on how to analyze any commercially available beer to determine the factors that must be present in a successful clone. It also gives instructions on how to best evaluate how your clone recipe stands up to the original brew and any former batches you may have made. Ultimately, with some practice, the home brewer should be able to use these processes to create his or her own clone recipes from scratch. You can see where prior brewing experience and having established a brewing procedure comes in handy.

If you don’t want to bother with the fancy footwork, delve right in by choosing your favorite style of beer from the recipes grouped into 17 different chapters, from IPAs, Porters, and Stouts over Belgian-style and British-style Ales to Brown Ales, Pilsners, European- and North American-style Ales & Lagers to Winter Beers and much more. Every recipe comes in an all-grain or extract with grain version to accommodate personal preference.

The “Big Book” ends with a resource chapter for those needing help or wishing to connect to fellow brewers; here, you find a listing of books, websites, tools & calculations, and message boards/forums for more information. My only beef with this list is the lack of locations where the less established home brewer might find specialty ingredients. At least a couple of suggestions may have been helpful. My personal preference would also have been to give a listing of beers contained in each chapter at the beginning of the chapter instead of just jumping in. Input from my home brewing husband, when he discovered the inclusion of a Pliny the Elder clone: “This might be a cool book to have!”

BYO

“The Brew Your Own Big Book of Clone Recipes” is published by Quarto Publishing Group – Voyageur Press. I received a free copy in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own, except where otherwise stated.

Review: “Diary of a Beatlemaniac” by Patricia Gallo-Stenman

When Patricia Gallo was thirteen, the Beatles hit the shores of America, and they arrived with a flash and a bang. Legendary Philly DJ, Hy Lit, was instrumental in getting the Fab Four overseas and into the local music hall. Patty and her “Beatle Buddies” quickly become immersed in the cult around the band, writing letters on the boys’ behalf to less-than-favorable reviewers, founding a fan club, sneaking off to movies and gigs, and even befriending actor Victor Spinetti, who appeared alongside the Liverpudlians in all three of their live action films.

When I was thirteen, the Beatles were well beyond broken up, and John Lennon had been shot and killed outside his home in New York City. Instead of the Beatles, I had Depeche Mode. But thanks to my Beatles-loving father, an enthusiasm, nay, almost an obsession for their music had been instilled in me when I was a nipper. For me, it was very exciting to be able to follow Patty’s Beatles experience via the diary excerpts, newspaper articles, and interviews presented in this book. In fact, I was hooked from the get-go, to the detriment of a couple of books which had been in the reading queue much longer. I recognized the thrill, the love, the disappointment of being a devoted fan, marveled at the ingenious gimmick used to announce the arrival of the band in Philadelphia, smiled at the generous spirit of Vic Spinetti towards these young girls. Of course all things, good or not, must eventually come to an end, and when Patty graduates from high school and meets her first boyfriend, the Beatles end up taking a backseat to real life. All too soon, the story and the book were over.

If you are a longtime Beatles fan who can recite not only all lyrics, but also chords to their songs, someone who owns rarities and knows more about the band than they did themselves, this is not a must-read for you. But if you love the music of these boys who were unlike anyone else before them, or if you simply enjoy an engaging yarn, this is definitely for you.

“Diary of a Beatlemaniac” is published by Cynren Press. I received an advance copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

beatlemaniac