Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker Review

Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker: 200 Ultra-Convenient, Super-Tasty, Completely Animal-Free One-Dish Dinners by Robin Robertson (Harvard Common Press, October 2, 2012)
slow cooker

To the uninitiated, the word “vegan” often brings to mind time-consuming recipes with unfamiliar ingredients. Robin Robertson’s Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker, however, is full of healthy, compassionate recipes that can be made using the time-saving kitchen stand-by for all meals, from breakfast to dessert.

Slow cooking was first made popular by busy working parents who could throw a handful of ingredients in the pot in the morning and return after work to a warm dinner. Robertson–the author of 19 previous vegan and vegetarian cookbooks–can recommend several other reasons to use the slow cooker — from saving energy and keeping the kitchen cool in the summer to creating a complex combinations of flavor by cooking with low heat for a longer period of time. (It’s also easier to make large quantities of food that can be spread out over many meals.)

“There is something almost primal about slow cooking that warms the soul,” Robertson proclaims in the opening chapter. From there, she provides helpful tips for chefs new to slow-cooking, such as which size and style to buy and how to compensate for cooking time variables. Beyond the expected favorites–chilis, stews and soups–Robertson includes lovely surprises like applesauce-walnut cake, three-way pumpkin bread pudding, and piña colada cake. One section focuses entirely on creating condiments like butternut butter, stone fruit jam and barbeque sauce “from the crock.”

Any foodie looking to save time (and calories) would love Robertson’s venture into vegan slow cooking.  This has become one of my very favorite cookbooks!

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for bringing this book to my attention!

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What Makes Olga Run? Review

What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives by Bruce Grierson (Henry Holt and Co., January 14, 2014)

Olga

Bruce Grierson, award-winning freelance writer, woke up one morning feeling much older than his chronological age of 47: “Age flooded in all at once.”  Enter Olga — a 90-something competitive runner who seems indefatigable in both body and spirit. In What Makes Olga Run, Grierson decides to unravel the mystery of Olga’s health, vitality and longevity.  He quickly learns that 70-75% of longevity is lifestyle, particularly physical exercise that involves short intense bursts of exertion, as well as continual activity throughout the day to encourage mental acuity, restorative slumber, and a positive outlook.   Like our paleontological ancestors, our bodies are designed to move.

In addition, Olga grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan with a high tolerance to cold weather, eats very little processed food, and experiences polyphasic sleep cycles, which involve two periods of sleep with a time of quiet wakefulness in the middle.  During her “night watch,” Olga massages her muscles, encouraging an interoceptive ability to become attuned to her body’s signals, which prevent her from over-extending as a competitive athlete.  Her 35 years teaching students and the personal challenges she overcame (like leaving an abusive marriage) also helped forge cognitive acuity and grit.

Grierson discovered five qualities of personality that contribute to longevity: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and a lack of neuroticism.  Throughout the course of his time with Olga, Grierson began to feel better, younger, and healthier.  Although he maintains his self-depreciating sense of humor throughout, his demeanor palpably lightens.  Olga is bound to have a similar effect on her readers as well.

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for bringing this book to my attention!

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Herbivoracious Review

Herbivoracious: A Flavor Revolution with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes by Michael Natkin (Harvard Common Press, May 8, 2012)
herbivoracious

In Herbivoracious, Natkin offers “a collection of vegetarian recipes that are so full of flavor, so pleasurable to make and to eat, and so satisfying that, if you are an omnivore, you won’t give a second thought to the fact that they contain no meat.”   Natkin first became interested in vegetarian food at the age of 18 when his mother, battling cancer, decided to try a macrobiotic diet.  This sparked Natkin’s enduring passion for food that lead to an award-winning vegetarian blog Herbivoracious praised as “cutting-edge, light and healthy.”

Vegetarians will be thrilled at the wide variety of recipes — from a beginner-friendly Aglio E Olio (spaghetti with garlic and oil) to the more challenging Chirashi Sushi.  But even the most exotic recipes are explained with clear, simple instructions that will not intimidate even the greenest chef.

In addition to recipes, Natkin includes a section on ingredients – how to choose a perfectly ripe avocado and which canned tomatoes have the best flavor – and a section on equipment.  Sidebars provide background on how to find the best ingredients, when to veer from a recipe and how to perfect a technique. Natkin believes experiencing other cultures’ cuisines can bridge differences and encourage mutual respect, in addition to providing original flavors, so Herbivoracious is quite international as well.

At the end of his introduction, Natkin answers the question, “Why vegetarian?”  “Because vegetarian meals are good for you, tread more lightly on our planet’s resources, and are kinder to animals.”  Add to that “simply delicious” and you have a recipe for success.  As someone who reviews a LOT of cookbooks, I can honestly say Herbivoracious can make even the most novice cook into an accomplished one.  I love this cookbook!!

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for bringing this book to my attention!

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Everyday Detox Review

Everyday Detox: 100 Easy Recipes to Remove Toxins, Promote Gut Health, and Lose Weight Naturally by Megan Gilmore (Ten Speed Press, June 2, 2015)

detox

Everyday Detox address the ever-changing landscape of nutritional fads right from the beginning:  “With all of the hype surrounding the latest celebrity diets and weight-loss products, we are bombarded daily with conflicting health news — leaving us generally baffled about what to eat.”  Gilmore (Detoxinista.com) states “detox” simply means ridding the body of toxins (drugs, alcohol, processed foods, BPA, refined sugars, and chemical additives) and then transforms the overwhelming into attainable by focusing on what everyone agrees works: “Consistently eating real, unprocessed foods is the key to naturally detoxifying and uncovering the body you’ve always desired” (ix).

In college, feeling overweight and sluggish, Gilmore began to explore a new relationship with food.  First she tried dieting, “an exhausting exercise in willpower and number crunching,” and then the trends “du jour” — low-carb, low-fat, raw food, vegan, etc.  Eventually she realized her “all or nothing” approach wasn’t sustainable — or effective.  Instead of giving up foods, she focused on the quality of the foods she ate and how she ate them.  She then become a holistic health coach and certified in clinical nutrition.

Gilmore’s recipes optimize digestion (which requires more energy than any other function in the body!) and remove toxins gently — without fasting, juicing or calorie counting.  Gilmore categorizes food in four ways: fresh fruit, starches, animal protein, and nuts, seeds and dried fruit.  She believes optimal digestion occurs when the four categories are not combined in the same meal and provides three easy steps for better digestion: 1) pick one category 2) fill the plate with non-starchy vegetables 3) wait 3-4 hours before switching categories.  This plan encourages nutrient absorption, portion control, caloric intake, and discourages deprivation. She includes a detox jumpstart –with a shopping list for the seven day meal plan — and an accessible but extensive section on Stocking Your Detox-Friendly Kitchen to maximize success.

Recipes included “no-bake coconut granola bars,” cinnamon coffee cake with macaroon crumbles, banana coconut muffins, maple pecan granola, cheesy garlic and herb cauliflower mash, crispy zucchini chips, curried sweet potato bisque, quinoa mushroom burgers, cheesy jalapeno casserole, cauliflower fried “rice” creamy pumpkin and sage pasta, and dark chocolate pudding — and so many more!  Gilmore proves that detoxing can be delicious!

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for bringing this book to my attention!

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Afro-Vegan Review

Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry (Ten Speed Press, April 8, 2014)

afro vegan

In Afro-Vegan, award-winning chef, activist, and educator Bryant Terry hopes to pay homage to the influence of the African diaspora on modern global fusion cuisine (especially Southern food) and “move Afro-diasporic food from the margins… to the center of our collective culinary consciousness.” Most importantly, he hopes to prevent illnesses like heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes caused by a meat-centric Western diet.

He begins with the foundation of Afro-diasporic cooking–spices, sauces, and heat–by reinventing classics like Ethiopian berere, Cajun blackening and Creole spice blends. An entire section focuses on okra, black-eyed peas, and watermelon, three ingredients Terry believes are emblematic of African-American cooking.

But Afro-Vegan covers everything from soups, stews and tangines to greens, squashes and roots, from breakfast fare to desserts (with no white sugar!) and beverages for all ages. Each recipe is accompanied by a song recommendation; many include suggested literary accompaniment as well, as since Terry hopes to celebrate the rich history of African-American culture both in and out of the kitchen. Near the end, menu suggestions according to the season, tips for starting an Afro-Vegan garden and a helpful imperial-to-metric conversion chart are welcome additions.

Terry (Vegan Soul Kitchen) began his food activism with the mantra “start with the visceral, move to the cerebral, and end at the political.” Afro-Vegan celebrates all three in a glorious celebration of cuisine.

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for bringing this book to my attention!

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