Cookbook Reviews by Rachel: Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas  »

Overall Rating
: A-
: B
Level of Difficulty
: Beginner to Intermediate
Best for
: Anyone looking for no-fuss ways to veganize their family celebrations.

You know how they call that time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s “the holiday season”? There are holidays all year round, it turns out. (Flag Day: June 14). What would fill the “seasonal” aisle of the grocery stores otherwise? So while you might think a cookbook called Vegan Holiday Kitchen should get reviewed in like, November (which happens to be when everyone else reviewed it), it’s with an eye to strategy and not simply a result of laziness that I bring you this late March report. This cookbook covers not only Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah, but Passover, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, and Independence Day. Plus brunch, which I guess is its own holiday.

PSA: Passover starts after sundown Friday, April 6. Easter is Sunday, April 8. Holidays approacheth! Do you have a plan?

Nava Atlas had a clear purpose with this photo-heavy offering: honor tradition, add the vegan element, and create special-occasion meals that are fun, not stressful. To that end, her recipes tend to the simple and don’t shy away from shortcuts (canned lentils?!). But the lack of elaborate preparation or unusual ingredients makes this a really awesome resource when you’re looking to cook in someone else’s kitchen (like I did for Thanksgiving), or if you’re short on time, or if you just think complicated recipes are scary.

I’ve made a lot of stuff from this book over the last six months (though it’s not an everyday go-to), but somehow I failed to photograph most of it. Here’s the Red Wine-Roasted Brussel Sprouts everyone loved in November (pre-roasting):

And here’s a sandwich I made on the Vegan Challah, which came out really delicious, if not quite as flaky as the original (secret ingredient: squash!):

While some of the recipes are restricted to particular holidays or seasons (Passover = lots of matzoh, July 4th = grilling), it’s also fun to mix and match. At Christmas, we brought Moroccan-Flavored Tofu with Apricots and Olives, in theory a Rosh Hashanah offering, to a friends’ house for fancy dinner; it got devoured with compliments. 

Atlas is a good communicator: The recipes are written clearly and are easy to follow, and each is labeled at the top if it is or could be soy-, gluten-, or nut-free. I’ve wanted to tweak some of her instructions (less sweetener in the Agave and Mustard-Glazed Green Beans, for example), but haven’t had any disasters or failures, praise be.

My only major complaint is that, especially in the Thanksgiving and Christmas chapters, Atlas shies away from star-of-the-show, protein-heavy, centerpiece dishes that I think are pretty key to a vegan celebration. Stuffings and pilafs abound; hearty stews and tofus do not. Perhaps this is a rebellion against Tofurky, but I want my protein, dammit.

Anyway, this book will be my #1 go-to for figuring out what to cook in my mother’s kitchen to bring to a seder next month. I’d wanted to try the matzoh balls before writing my review, but I’ll just have to post about it later. 

Final verdict: Solid, crowd-pleasing recipes designed for simplicity. Especially valuable for the wealth of Jewish recipes, more than I’ve seen collected anywhere else.


A Page in Vegan History: The Depression Cake!  »

I don’t think this is the oldest vegan cake recipe ever, but it’s HELLA old! Just like my grandpa! My grandpa turned 93 last week and so my mom made him his traditional birthday cake: The Depression Cake. This eggless, butter-less, milk-less recipe comes to us all the way from, you guessed it, the depression. And it’s all vegan! It’s funny that my grandpa’s favorite bday cake is vegan because he thinks veganism is for yuppies. But! Butter and eggs were expensive! Still are. Leave them for the yuppies, gramps! Join the vegan team.

Here is my grandpa, back in the day and now: 

He really was a rocket scientist. Also an expert gardener and woodcarver! And lover of Depression Cake. 

Here is the recipe from my mama, a slight variation on my Great Grandma Helen’s recipe!:

Depression Cake

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup hot water
2 cups raisins (I used raisins, currants, & golden raisins)
1/3 cup shortening (I used earth balance)
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves

Cook above for 5 minutes, cool.

Add 2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 cup
chopped nuts.

Bake in 9x12 inch pan at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.

Grandpa Art likes chocolate fudge frosting on this. I just picked a
random vegan choc fudge frosting recipe from the Internet.

I also left some with just a dusting of powdered sugar.

There you go, guys! Hope you enjoy the recipe!

Happy birthday, grandpa!


Vegan cooking: There’s an app for that (and a bonus pumpkin pie recipe)!  »

Scroll down for the recipe for this pumpkin pie!

Sarah Kramer wrote the first vegan cookbook I ever owned, and now she’s responsible for the first vegan cooking app anyone’s ever asked me to review. She’s like a pioneer! Let’s send her a bonnet!

Now, I’ve mentioned before how I feel about apps vs cookbooks: books all the way. And the harsh truth is I’ve never been impressed with the recipes in How It All Vegan. So I can guarantee if I hadn’t gotten this app for free, I’d never have downloaded it.

On the one hand, I’ve had it for a couple months now and I’ve yet to get inspired to make any of the recipes. How’s that for radical honesty? I’m the worst reviewer ever! But no not really, because I think that says a lot about the fact that this app doesn’t really fit into my life.

On the other hand, I’m impressed with what Kramer’s done, and I think for some people, it could be a really great tool. The app includes 60 recipes, 10 of them brand new. You can access them by meal, or by other categories like “gluten-free” or “with video”

The videos are well-done and fun to watch; my favorite is about people who say they don’t like tofu (Kramer says that’s as dumb as saying you don’t like cake flour; of course you don’t like plain tofu! Also then she stuffs her face with cake flour. Classic).

Within the recipes, you can do all sorts of iPad-y interactive stuff, like add ingredients to a shopping list or email an invitation to come eat food to a friend.

You can’t see the list of ingredients and the list of steps at the same time, which I imagine would be a pain while actually in the kitchen, except the steps themselves are really detailed and take that into account. The photos, as you can see, are hella pretty.

Anyway, at $6.99, this is a cheap alternative to an actual cookbook, and you can have it with you even at your grandma’s house or on vacation or whatever. May this be the beginning of a flood of wonderful authors truly taking advantage of the digital format! I’ll probably just late-adopt on this trend though.

OK, here’s the recipe I promised! Sarah’s people were cool enough to let us use it! Let us know how you like it if you make it!

Pumpkin Pie from the GoVegan! w/Sarah Kramer App
App available at

I’m thankful for pumpkins, for sugar, and for this pie. Don’t worry that it won’t look ready when you first take it out of the oven—it sets as it cools.

1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
1/4 cup (25 g) flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp. vegan margarine
1/4 cup (30 g) walnuts or pecans, finely chopped

1 14-oz (398-ml) can unsweetened pumpkin purée
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegan “milk”
1/4 cup (40 g) cornstarch
1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 9” (23 cm) pie crust

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar, 1/4 cup (25 g) flour, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 2 Tbsp. vegan margarine, and 1/4 cup (30 g) finely chopped walnuts. Set aside.

In a food processor, blend together 14-oz (398-mL) can unsweetened pumpkin, 1/2 cup (120 ml) vegan “milk”, 1/4 cup (40 g) cornstarch, 1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. allspice, 1 tsp. vanilla extract until smooth.

Pour pumpkin mixture into prepared pie crus. Sprinkle topping evenly over top and bake for 40–45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve at room temperature. Makes 1 pie.


I told you I’d put up some latkes today! And these latkes are extra special because you get to make them with Vegansaurus fave, The Sweetest Vegan! She really is the sweetest. 

I love latkes like more than I love the baby Jesus. My Philly neighbor Josh makes THE BEST latkes but they have an egg in them so I haven’t had them in years. Maybe if I make him some vegan gingerbread he will make me vegan latkes! I used to use his recipe but I made them even better because I got fancy and fried them in olive oil! More expensive but so worth it! I love olive oil more than I love the Virgin Mary. 

The Sweetest Vegan has a bunch of other great recipes for this time of year including vegan eggnog and hot chocolate. Check them out!

Sorry if there was a commercial at the beginning of the video but we want money going into the vegan community! You get it, girl!


Cookbook Review: The Tipsy Vegan!  »

I got a gratis copy of John Schlimm’s The Tipsy Vegan to review for you guys! Rachel has been on a cookbook review roll, as I’m sure you’ve read, but when I saw “tipsy,” I knew this book was for yours truly. However, this is not a book of vegan cocktails like I thought! It’s all about cooking with wine and liquor. But there are a handful of cocktail recipes as well, they kick off each chapter. 

To sum up the book in three words: Fun, challenging, sassy! That’s right, sassy. The tone of the book is very jovial and lighthearted, which I appreciate. And you are encouraged to enjoy your booze! As god intended. One thing I will say is that I’m not sure it’s really a book for beginners. It’s for more of a mid-level to experienced cook. There are lots of ingredients, lots of different techniques involved, and lots of recipes requiring things like ice cream makers and food processors (which I do not have because I’ve slimmed down my kitchen accessories. Oh, life in the big city!). A bowl and spoon are not going to get you very far here. On the other end of the spectrum, this is just the thing for the uninspired cook! It’ll give your cooking a kick in the pants! The recipes and ingredients are inventive and interesting. And the book is entertaining. I’m a fan!

I tried two of the recipes: Bruschetta on a Bender and Rockin’ Roasted Potatoes With Racy Rosemary and Mustard. The potatoes, the recipe for which you can get over on NYT, had vodka in them, which I had because my first housewarming gift was a half-empty bottle of Ketel One (#classy). Both recipes called for vermouth, but the potatoes said you could use a dry white wine instead and the bruschetta said a fruity red would work too. As I don’t know what I’d do with a bottle of vermouth and you better believe I know what to do with two bottles of wine, I opted for the wine. But the book said I could!

I don’t know what you call the sauce I made for the potatoes but it was damn good! Like, I was about to lick the bowl, horseradish and all. I had a little sauce left over and I put it in a cup to save in the fridge. I’m thinking Brussels sprouts! 

The bruschetta was interesting because it called for thyme instead of your typical basil. My bro and sis-in-law were ‘bout it for the bruschetta! They both had like seven pieces. I liked it too but I did miss the basil. But there’s really no need to buy a cookbook with a basil bruschetta recipe, is there? And red wine on the tomatoes? Genius! Why don’t we do that all the time? We can from now on. Pish, I don’t even remember what life was like before red wine-soaked tomatoes!

Sweet Instagram pic of the bruschetta. Oh, Instagram, how I love you. Follow me: @MeganRascal!!!

Check it, I scored the Bruschetta on a Bender recipe for you! With permission from Da Capo Press, naturally:

Bruschetta on a Bender

Ingredients4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and very coarsely chopped
2 tsp. kosher salt
12 slices crusty French or Italian bread, about 3 inches in diameter
1 garlic clove, peeled and split
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. dry vermouth or a fruity red wine
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tsp. dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper

Toss the tomatoes with the salt and drain for 30 minutes in a large colander set over a bowl.

Under a hot broiler, toast the bread slices on both sides.

Rub the toasted top of each slice with the split garlic clove and lightly brush the top of each slice with the olive oil

Gently press down on the drained tomatoes to extract even more juices. Then transfer them to another bowl and toss with the balsamic vinegar, dry vermouth, thyme, and oregano.

Season with the pepper to taste. Spoon the tomato mixture in small mounds on top of the toasts and serve at once.

Yield: 12 bruschettas

Yay! Now you can make the bruschetta just like your pal Megan.

There are a lot of other great-sounding recipes I still want to try, namely the Merlot ice. Basically a Merlot slushy, it requires a food processor. I’m about to get one just to make it. Can you imagine? A Merlot slushy? Be still my heart! 

Before I sign off, I’ll add another point: this book doesn’t really feel like a vegan cookbook, it feels like a “regular” cookbook. It’s not really about being vegan and you aren’t making approximations of omni recipes you’ve been missing; you’re making fun and exciting recipes that are also vegan. I think omnis would certainly enjoy this book too and if not for the title, I doubt they’d notice the absence of animals products. It’s definitely a good cookbook if you’re entertaining a mixed-diet crowd! So I say check it out and get a little crazy. A little crunked, even. Go for it. 


Polenta Agnolotti with corn corn corn!  »

One of my favorite vegan chefs and friend of Vegansaurus, Mark Tinkleman, has started a food blog!: Semolina and Sauce. Recently, he posted about this Polenta Agnolotti (Wikipedia: “Agnolotti is a kind of ravioli typical of the Piedmont Region, made with small pieces of flattened pasta dough, folded over with a roast beef meat and vegetable stuffing.” Roast beef smost beef! Not this time, buddy!) with porcinis, quince, and frisee. 

If the title isn’t enough to attract you, Mark also offers a sort of corn manifesto sure to intrigue! I knew corn was messed up but Mark proclaims, “corn is a weapon of US imperialism.” Damn, son! My only critique for this recipe is MORE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!! Now, go make me polenta. 


Recipe: Lettuce wraps for your mouth  »

Any of y’all ever go to P.F. Chang’s? It was my favorite restaurant when I was but a wee teenager in Indianapolis, and one of the yummiest menu items was the vegetarian lettuce wraps. I found myself craving these this weekend, but the nearest Chang’s is on the other side of the bay, so I decided to try to make some instead. Even though I used the “wrong” kind of lettuce because that’s what I had so GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK, they were still really yummy:             Goes well with Blue Moon, 2-Buck Chuck, Absolut straight from the bottle, +c.

Accidentally Low-Carb Lettuce Wraps Ingredients

1 head of lettuce (iceberg probably works better than the red-leaf I used)
3 Tbsp. peanut oil
1 pound of tofu, pressed and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup celery, minced
5 smallish carrots, minced
1 8-oz. can of water chestnuts, minced
2 bulbs shallots, minced (PROTIP: save time by mincing all this shit together, in a food processor if you’ve got one)
1 Tbsp. minced ginger (did you know you can buy that madness in jars now?)
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 cup cilantro
Hot chili paste or sriracha, to taste


1. Heat your skillet on medium-high, and pour 2 Tbsp. of the oil in there. Once it’s hot, throw your tofu in there. Stir frequently until it’s pretty brown; this will take maybe 10 minutes. Add your ginger, coriander, thyme, and pepper. Stir for about a minute, and then add your minced mix. Take a moment to appreciate the shallot: It’s like if garlic and onion had the most beautiful, delicious baby ever in existence, not that babies are generally delicious, I mean, I wouldn’t know about the taste of babies, OKAY GOD ANYWAY.
2. Stir and cook for a while (10 minutes-ish?) until your veggies are soft. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, and as much chili paste or sriracha as you can handle. Cook for a while longer until some of the liquid evaporates. Once it’s acceptable to you, remove from heat. You might want to let it cool for a while so its sheer heat doesn’t rip holes in your lettuce.
3. Take a leaf of lettuce, put some of this mixture on it, roll it up to the best of your ability, and nom. Make sure you have a fork nearby.

Warning: These are low-carb, so if that’s bad for you, add some rice or toast or something. I would marry carbs if they were a person, so I had some popcorn later in the evening. #popcorn4lyfe


Recipe: Seasonal Affective Risotto (butternut squash and leeks, mainly)  »

The yearly end of Daylight Savings Time puts me into a funk. I’m on the brink of another major depressive episode, and the only things keeping me going are Sadie (my cat companion), wine, and glitter.

Risotto takes a while to cook, it’s a good dish to make when you want to be brooding and pensive and listen to Bright Eyes’ Fevers and Mirrors. I made it with butternut squash and leeks and a bunch of random fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, and oregano) because those things came in my CSA box (so bourgey!). It lifted my mood enough to make me finally take a shower. Here’s how it went down.

Seasonal Affective Risotto


1 decent-sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
6 cups vegetable broth
2 large leeks, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup nutritional yeast (optional, but gives it a nice fall color and a cheesy flavor)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (if you have to pick just one, choose sage)
Salt and pepper


Preheat that oven to 400 degrees F. Put the squash on a baking sheet, and mix it up with two tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Roast it for 40 minutes, stirring when you remember.

Put the broth in a saucepan, heat it to a simmer, turn off the heat, and cover.

On medium-low, heat the remaining oil in another saucepan or wok or something big with some sort of sides. Throw those leeks in there, and saute until soft. I like to poke the spoon through the center of each leek slice so that the layers become kind of a cone, and then I laugh and ponder my existence.

Once the leeks are soft, add some garlic until it smells reeeeeeal nice. Pour the rice into the pan and stir for a minute or two. Then you want to add the wine:

Get one of these tiny bottles of crap white wine, and drink what you don’t use. You… might be sorry?

Stir some more until the wine is absorbed. Then you will add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring all the while. Every time you add some broth, stir until it’s absorbed before you add more. While you’re stirring, you’ll have plenty of time to think — about your nonexistent career path, your latest failed romantic endeavor, that time you farted at Burning Man. Then know that things can only go up from here.

Half an hour or so later, when all six cups of the broth are absorbed and you are all cried out, add the squash, nutritional yeast, and herbs, and cook until heated through. Add salt and pepper if you need to, but I don’t think you will. Take a deep breath, slap some bread on your plate, and smile for the first time in weeks.


Raw Vegan Thanksgiving Class with Heather Haxo Phillips  »

You know those sayings, “Time flies” and “The older you get, the years just whiz by”? Well, they are popular because they are true! It’s already November! When did this happen? I’m not ready to put the barbecue away and pull out my heavy coats (okay, sweaters—I do live in California*). November means Thanksgiving! Which means not participating in eating turkey anymore, but still hanging out with the friends/family and eating so much it hurts! Right? Does everyone do that? Has any one else just given up and started wearing sweatpants fashionable yoga pants to the table?

Some vegans eat raw and they like to stuff their faces over the holidays with delicious, healthy, raw foods. For you, Bay Area raw or raw-curious foodists, Chef Heather Haxo Phillips is here! She not only has a new book coming out just in time for Thanksgiving, she’s also hosting a workshop/dinner in Oakland. Jordan attended one of her classes before and really loved it, so that’s something to think about, too!

Heather’s fancy book!

In case you don’t particularly like clicking on links for information (I know there are a few of you out there), let me list the details for you.

Healthy Holidays: A Survival Guide is Heather Haxo Phillips’ second book. It’s rumored to be filled with over 50 recipes from famous raw food chefs, travel tips and conversation pointers. You can buy it as an e-book or in print form here.

Phillips’ Thanksgiving Workshop/Dinner happens on Sunday, Nov. 20, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Encuentro (202 Second St., we love it there!), and tickets cost $75. Foods that you’ll possibly be learning to make yet definitely EATING as your elegant holiday dinner include: cauliflower bisque; pecan pâté with marinated wild mushrooms and truffle oil; winter greens salad; holiday croquettes in savory sauce; shallot green beans; almond stuffing; mashed notatoes; cranberry orange relish; chocolate ganache truffle pie; and pumpkin pie with cashew caramel sauce.

Hey! I like raw foods! I like eating! I make a really good date, if someone wants to bring me/pay for me. What? It’s the holidays. I’m broke.

*That was for you, Chicagoans! Don’t be mad. I know there is more to Chicago than the winter and seriously, after this post, I’m TOTALLY going to start acknowledging that. Last post poking fun at Chicago winters. Seriously. Totally serious here. It will never happen again.


Vegan MoFo: Pumpkin Oatmeal  »

It’s motherfucking pumpkin season, folks. Every year around this time, I gorge on the sweet squash by inserting it into as many concoctions as possible. The amazing flavor and lovely color herald the fall holidays, my favorites. So when I woke up this morning with a headache brought on by far too much wine last night, I needed something sweet, bright, and comforting. Hence this pumpkin oatmeal was born:

Pumpkin Oatmeal for One

1 cup water
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 can pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. agave nectar (or maple syrup, or sugar, or whatever)
assorted pumpkin-esque spices (allspice, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg—OR just some pumpkin pie spice)

Put water in saucepan and bring to a boil. When it’s boiling, add everything else, and reduce the heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s as runny or dry as you like. Add raisins or nuts or something if you’re nasty. Eat away your hangover.

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