For some reason, when people think vegetarian, vegan or any form of alternative nutrition-based lifestyle, they equate it to boring, flavorless, twig eating. This really is not the case; in fact, it really is the opposite. When you open your mind and your palate to alternative nutritional options, you open yourself to limitless possibilities in the world of flavor. Case in point: Plant Pure Nation. This is a thick, illustrative and educational book full of variety and great information. Unlike a lot of cookbooks, this one offers up context and rationale on the “why” of going plant-based, and even provides real human stories. This book is a combination of novice vegan recipes and more advanced ones. I would recommend watching the documentary film PlantPure Nation for more insight into the lifestyle.
Chapter: Getting Started.
Often, getting started is the hardest part of any change, including changing nutrition practices. It requires a good shop and a little bit of adjusting one’s routine of what goes in the grocery cart and into your pantry. The book’s description of not only what you need in your pantry but also what to expect when it comes to texture and flavor is fantastic. Not everyone knows what to expect out of Bulgur wheat the first time they try it, or even what Sucanat (it’s a brown sugar substitute for baking, by the way). This chapter also covers tools one needs for their kitchen, including the next dream tool for my own kitchen, the Vitamix blender. The substitution section is helpful as well: I would have not have known that one can substitute animal-derived ricotta with a tofu version. This section concludes with a discussion of how to keep one’s plant based diet simple. A few tips and you can be on your way to making big changes in your day-to-day eating habits.
Now: onward to the good stuff — my favorite stuff — the food. I sampled recipes from each of the sections and found all of them full-flavored and delicious.
Breakfast and Brunch:
Baked Apples: I will be honest, the Sucanat was not easy to find at first, but a little trip to Whole Foods and I found just what I was looking for. I ended up using pecans over walnuts due to a flavor preference. This was a great breakfast for one of the first snowy days that we had this year. Even better was that it didn’t feel “alternative,” it was just delicious. The orange zest really made all the flavors pop, and I used a mixed bag of raisins to add even more sweetness and texture.
Gingerbread-Blueberry Pancakes: There are just so many blueberry options in the breakfast section, and that made me so happy because blueberries are awesome – sweet, juicy and colorful. Their antioxidant properties are an added bonus. I have never used molasses in pancakes before, and it gave them a new depth of flavor. No sauce, syrup, or extras are needed for this breakfast staple.
Watermelon Smoothie: Want a way to blast off the winter blues or to welcome the summer sun in a glass? Make the Watermelon Smoothie. In winter, buying organic watermelon is a real treat. The mix of ginger, orange, strawberry and, of course, watermelon are invigorating.
Banana Bread: I have never made banana bread like this before, in that I have always made a quick bread. I left the nuts out of this recipe our of personal preference, but I’m sure that it would turn out delightfully with them too. What I liked about this bread that I was able to use it with a bit of almond butter for a quick lunch on the go, or warmed in the toaster oven with tea for a perfect snack. I did find the bread needed to bake for about an hour in my oven (350ₒ C) and it tented after 30 minutes.
Naan Bread: This is the first time I made Naan bread, and I would like to say I did a fairly good job flavor-wise. I wasn’t super happy with the end visual result the first time, but pretty well nailed it on the second go.
Snacks and Appetizers:
Cauliflower Buffalo Bites: Simple and easy to make, this was a crowd-pleaser. It was a nice alternative to the greasy finger snack that is normally served during a family get-together. Using a less spicy sauce might get people who don’t normally get their vegetables in to pick this option over something a little less healthy.
Dips and Spreads:
Hummus: This is a classic in pretty much in everyone’s fridge now. I like this version because it is lower in fat than some more traditional recipes. I did as Kim’s Hints suggested and added some extra veggies and lowered the tahini. By adding a few extra spices and herbs and some roasted artichoke hearts, I made a hummus that really stands out against the store bought brands.
Southwester Black Bean Dip
Greek Salad: This salad has easily become one of my favorite dishes from this cookbook, mostly because it is super easy to make. I make the onion marinate when I get home for the day and then the rest when I am ready to sit down and eat. For what I would call a “simple salad,” it is filling and tasty.
Warm Spinach and Mushroom Salad: This was a meal to itself. I love mushrooms. I made this one twice while reviewing this cookbook, that is how much I enjoyed this salad.
Sauces, Marinades, and Dressings:
Vegan Mushroom Gravy: This is an easy, breezy, beautiful gravy. It is smooth, with the rich taste of mushrooms. This is another great “you don’t know it is vegan unless you tell them” recipe.
Vegan Sour Cream: This was a first time for me. I ended up putting a little less agave nectar in due to wanting a more tart flavor. Does it taste like animal based sour cream? No. But as far as vegan sour cream goes, it is one of the best I have had. It was very rich and very creamy.
Spices and Toppings:
Vegan Parmesan Sprinkle: I put this on a vegan pizza I had made and it really upped the overall flavor. I am not sure how long this stuff lasts in the fridge, in that once I made it I found myself sprinkling it on everything that could use a little cheese. I guess I’ll just need to make more.
Sandwiches, Burgers, and Wraps:
Avocado-White Bean Salad Wrap: What I loved about this recipe is that it was one I could make with everything I already had in the house. And like Kim suggests, “…add even more Sriracha.”
Edamame Burger: Amazing, plus it was something new and exciting and protein packed. This was also fantastic without the bun.
Eggless Tofu Salad: Growing up I loved egg salad sandwiches. This recipe provided the alternative I needed. I skipped the fennel and added finely diced celery, red pepper, and sour pickle. Served on a slice of toasted rye bread, this was some kind of magic.
BBQ Black Beans and Corn over Quinoa: This was a great main for just me, but was also a great side with leftovers. I ended up stir-frying some vegetables I had left over from one other the other recipes and it was a perfect way to prevent leftover waste (but not necessarily preventing leftover waist).
Caribbean Quinoa: This was a super easy recipe to make that tasted a little bit exotic and had a total restaurant vibe to it. It was a nice switch up from the normal quinoa bowls I make and will be a return to recipe.
Orange Stir Fry: I am glad I gave myself a little extra time for this one, in that the prep time was closer to an hour than the suggested 45 minutes. That being said, it was well worth the effort for the bright tasting meal. I might have added a little more than the 1-tablespoon of Sriracha.
Thai Curried Vegetables: This was so simple and so good. I used full fat coconut milk. This is a meal I would like to come home to more often, so thankfully it reheated really nicely the next day. You could change up the vegetables to add a bit of variety.
Brown Rice with Nuts and Raisins: This is what my family likes to call “my hippie food.” I totally get why, and guess what? This hippie food is super easy to make and delicious.
Cajun-Style Sweet Potato Fries: They are Cajun-style Sweet potato fries, isn’t it obvious that they went over well with everyone? The combination of Cajun spice with the sweetness of the potato provided a tantalizing taste sensation. Not too sweet; not too spicy.
Soups and Stews:
Split Pea Soup: This was the only soup I had made from the cookbook. I did end up adding a little more vegetable stock to keep the soup at a creamy but not thick texture. This is a winter classic in my home so it was great to have a vegan spin on it.
Desserts and Sweets:
Date Bars: This was so easy to make and was a perfect dessert gift for a friend’s birthday. It baked up nicely and wasn’t too far off from the date bars from my childhood.
Hot Fudge Sauce: This was really easy to make and added a dessert feeling to a bowl of berries I had in the fridge. It made a fancy weekend dessert with not too much effort or mess.
No-Bake Chocolate Pumpkin Pie: At first I was like “top with fruit… no,” but then I stepped out of my dessert comfort zone and topped it with black berries and dark chocolate shaving and I was very surprised about the depth of flavor in this recipe. I made it in the morning before leaving for the day so it had a good six hours to sit.
Overall, this cookbook is a heavy attack on the “getting green” world. I fully recommend taking a look and learning some new, future classics for your own kitchen. I know that I am looking forward to exploring this cookbook some more on my own.