Hello all, and sorry for the hiatus I’ve been on the past couple weeks. Traveling makes it challenging to write, which isn’t much of an excuse, but hey. There it is. Lately, I’ve been playing around with recipes of my own, which aren’t quite ready for y’all to see, so in the meantime, I’ve decided to share what I’ve been cooking from books every month. Which I’m actually really excited to do, because I get to talk about the amazing cookbooks I’m discovering, as well as puff up the authors of said cookbooks! Fun fact, buying cookbooks makes me very nervous, because I know that buying one cookbook turns into buying twenty. And then another five or six thrown in for good measure. So to avoid this, I make sure the cookbooks I do buy are solid. As in, covered in food stains and dog-eared from frequent use. June has been pretty busy in terms of new cookbook exploring, so hold on to your hats.
Cookbook #1: One Part Plant by Jessica Murnane
This book was a gift (if by gift, you mean a book that I heavily requested as a graduation gift from the BB. A picture of the cover was sent for reference), and everything I’ve tested out of this has been fabulous. Jessica wrote this book so readers could integrate more “real,” plant-based meals into the week. Which I full support, and recommend for those trying to ease into a more plant-based lifestyle. These recipes are great for that, because they’re easily modifiable for meat-eaters, but strong enough to stand on their own. In fact, the Spicy Broccoli Rice? I’ve made if four times. The third time, I made it for a one year-old with teriyaki tofu thrown in. And you know what? He loved it. I’m going to roll with that. If I can get a one-year old to eat tofu, I can get anyone to eat tofu. But seriously, y’all. This rice is the bomb. It was one of those “say oh my god when you take a first bite” dishes. Start with steaming broccoli with garlic, adding brown rice, and a slightly spicy sauce with almond butter and buffalo sauce, and just get ready to collapse on the floor. It’s that good.
The other recipe I’ve tried from this is the Chocolate Chunk Cookies. I try healthified versions of desserts all the time, and not usually a big fan. BUT. These were great. They’re made from almond meal and almond butter, so they’re lower in carbohydrates and higher in fats (the good ones!). What I really loved about these was the salty element. If you know anything about me, you’ll know I hate sweet and salty. Honey-roasted peanuts? Nope. Kettle corn? Pass. Chocolate covered pretzels? HELL no. These cookies? Give me three. Surprisingly, the chocolate and salt balanced each other out perfectly, and MAN, do they go well heated up with a little bit of vanilla ice cream. Yummmm. I’m going to start customizing these a little, because they were a big hit. Next stop in this book? Saag Plant-Neer. It’s happening.
Cookbook #2: The First Mess by Laura Wright
I just bought this one after several months of hesitating (do I really need another cookbook? Yes, you do.); and if anything, what broke the barrier was the beautiful pictures inside. I picked it up at Strand Books in NYC (yeah, you New Yorkers know what I’m talking about), and decided it was a good idea to lug it all the way back to Colorado. Smart decisions. The first recipe I’ve tried was the Eggplant “Bolognese” Pasta. Pasta will now and forever be my one true love (sorry, Brooklyn Boy), especially when it comes with eggplant, tomatoes, and basil. This recipe required making the sauce from scratch and simmering it for almost an hour. I’ve always been a user of canned sauce, but I think this recipe converted me. I may never buy canned sauce again (okay, that may be a stretch, but it was DAMN good). What’s great about this recipe is that it uses Kalamata olives, which have a saltiness that breaks the acidity of the tomatoes.
And if you use canned tomatoes like me, that’s essential. It’s also heavy on the garlic and basil. Enough said. When I spooned the stuff on spaghetti, the extra cooking and waiting time was so worth it. And an extra test of patience? I put a slice of my grandma’s home-baked bread from Missouri (Missoura for the natives) on the side for the end. RULE NUMBER ONE ABOUT THE BREAD BASKET: DO NOT EAT THE BREAD FIRST. I know it’s tempting, because I’m a sucker for the hot bread basket; but if you eat all the bread first, you’ll have a sauce-covered bowl at the end and no spongy bread to sop up all the yumminess. You’re welcome. Next recipe to try? Roasted Chili Basil Lime Tofu Bowls.
Cookbook #3: Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
If carting back one fat cookbook home from New York seemed ridiculous enough, then carting back a second one may be a little over the top… Yeah, I also bought this one. I’ve actually been cooking from this one for a while, since I borrowed it from friend and fellow vegan foodie @sparkaninterest. This book is a brick. It’s written like an encyclopedia. It includes tips and instructions for cooking every veggie, grain, bean, the works. Every recipe has listed variations and dish combinations/pairings at the end. There are even menu suggestions at the end for entertaining. It’s a little overwhelming. The first dish I picked went alongside a salmon burger, when I was craving something that would remind me of the fish fries I had in my childhood Missouri summers. Although in those days, we ate catfish and bluegill, with homemade curly fries. So I picked Cornmeal-Masala Roasted Brussels Sprouts. I know what you’re thinking. “What the heck do masala and Brussels sprouts have to do with Southern fish fries??” The cornmeal. We used to coat and fry those fish in cornmeal until they were as crispy as could be, and that’s what I wanted with my salmon. The masala really has no relation, but roll with me here. The sprouts are coated in chickpea flour, cornmeal (YAS), Indian spices, and peanut oil. This fabulous mixture makes lots of crumby goodness, and they’re roasted in the oven for about a half hour. For those of you who have been living on Mars for the past five years, roasting sprouts is the way to go. Don’t let a boiled Brussels sprout ruin your impression of this beautiful veggie. It’s like eating a soggy sandwich. Or warm ice cream. Totally underrepresents the dish. This roasting combo TOTALLY works, and successfully reminded me of my childhood summers! Minus the masala. Again, that has no relevance. But still delicious. To be honest, I have no clue what I’m cooking next. This book is huge. But I do have my eye on the Lemon Bars… I’m a sucker for a good lemon bar. Until then, stay tuned! I’ve got much more testing up my sleeve!