Cookbook reviews by Rachel: The Sexy Vegan  »

Overall Rating: C
: B
Level of Difficulty
: Intermediate to Advanced; most recipes unnecessarily complicated
Best for
: People with lots of time to spend in the kitchen and who want to spend it on hearty, dude-friendly food

I kind of love Brian Patton, author of The Sexy Vegan. He’s basically what you’d get if  John Hodgman and Ellen DeGeneres had a baby and the kid came out with Hodgman’s self-conscious nerdiness and Ellen’s dietary choices, plus hyperactivity. Patton recently tweeted a link to this yearbook photo. He makes silly jokes in his cookbook, starting with the title. He seems like the kind of friend I’d love to have at every potluck, especially the ones that involve drinking games until 2 a.m.

Thing is, friends like that don’t necessarily write the best cookbooks.

Like Brian himself, the book made me smile on nearly every page (in a Will Ferrell-meets-Shakespearean-puns kind of way: ”New England Blam Chowder: I cleverly change the C to a B and BLAM! We’ve got a delicious vegan chowder”; a dish called “My Balls”). But it’s been sitting on my shelf for months and the only time I’ve managed to use it is when I forced myself to so I could write this review.

The problem is not that these recipes don’t work or aren’t good. The problem is that they’re unnecessarily complicated, and Patton gives no hints or advice to convert them into something suitable for the everyday, after work, home cook. He doesn’t even acknowledge that he’s asking a lot, he just continues his charming-dude act. 

Oh Brian, you’re just too high maintenance! 

One entree that sounded amazing and that I considered making, Barbecue Ribz, involves flipping to SIX OTHER RECIPES. These include things like “Crazy Shit Vinegar” (a relish and flavored vinegar with peppers and carrots you could in theory make ahead of time and have on hand if you’re a member of the cult of Brian Patton) and “Blackened Seasoning”, which is just a spice blend, but seriously Brian, don’t make me mix it up ahead of time or do math and shit! I hate that! Just tell me what spices to use! The Millenium Cookbook isn’t even this complex!

And Millenium food this ain’t. The dishes I managed to accomplish—by taking a special, specific trip to the grocery store and planning way ahead—went over well with some nonvegan friends at a dinner party, but they were homey, not gourmet. Definitely not the kind of thing you’re glad you saved a whole afternoon for.

The Blam Chowder was not very clammy but a yummy, hearty, creamy vegetable soup. What really made it was the smokey flavor imparted by the tempeh bacon. But I cheated and used store-bought tempeh bacon, not Patton’s recipe (which takes a sub-recipe, liquid smoke, vegan Worcestershire sauce, and at least eight hours to marinate).

The jambalaya was like a chunky pepper/tomato sauce over rice; again, what made it was the sausage. Patton’s recipe for seitan sausage is more involved than say, Isa or Terry’s (it includes a cooked potato and mashed white beans), but it resulted in a softer texture which was a nice change. But the dish would have been just as delicious if he’d billed it as fast food, told you to make some rice while you chopped some veggies and opened a can of tomatoes, then added some Field Roast afterwards. It tasted basically like that. Not worth my whole day.

Final Verdict: An amusing but ultimately inessential addition to the growing vegan cannon. 


CLOSED: Win a copy of John Schlimm’s Grilling Vegan Style!  »

Hey good-looking! You like to grill? Summer’s right on our doorstep, here in the northern hemisphere, and John Schlimm, author of The Tipsy Vegan,* has a new cookbook to teach us vegans how to grill as seriously as those meat-eaters. It’s called Grilling Vegan Style, and you totally want to own it.

This book looks extensive, too. Learn how to grill watermelon! Sandwiches! Pies! S’mores! Basically everything you can physically place on a grill, John Schlimm will teach you to grill, but, you know, Vegan Style, because dang it, barbecue isn’t just for dead animals.

Impress your friends this summer at the park with your grilling genius! Finally host those backyard barbecues with the skills to back up all that panache (I’ve always loved your panache). Show the grilling fanatic in your life that you, too, have mastered the art of cooking over an open flame!

Want a preview? Here’s a trailer:

Can’t see the video? Watch it on!]

We’re so excited about this because we have a copy of Grilling Vegan Style to give away! All you have to do is leave us comment telling us either your highest vegan grilling achievement, or your greatest vegan grilling disaster, by noon PDT on Friday, May 18. We’ll pick a winner and send the book your way! Even if you live outside of the 48 contiguous states of America! So please, comment, enter, and get ready to spend the summer reeking of smoke and pride of accomplishment.

*Endorsed by Megan Rascal!

Update: Contest is closed! Thanks for playing, everyone!


Cookbook review: Eat Raw, Eat Well, by Douglas McNish!  »

When Vegansaurus gave me the chance to review Douglas McNish’s new cookbook, Eat Raw, Be Well, I consented enthusiastically and chomped at the bit until it arrived. I love making raw, vegan, gluten-free food (obviously) that isn’t too complicated or hard to prepare. In my opinion, overly intricate raw food cookbooks do more harm than good for the aspiring raw food chef. Sure, the pictures are nice, the descriptions fanciful, and their promise of gastronomic decadence enticing—but once casual chefs attempt some recipe with a mile-long ingredient list and super-complex instructions, they often grow discouraged that they drop raw food preparation altogether. I think that’s so sad!

When it comes to feeding myself, my friends, my family, and my dearest, I prefer recipes that favor simplicity and easy-to-digest combinations. I heard that this cookbook focused on easy-to-prepare recipes that don’t go overboard with ingredients required to make everything. Eat Raw, Eat Well recipes range from super-simple, three-ingredient raw cauliflower popcorn (nutritional yeast! salt! cauliflower!) to dishes that will take a bit more time to prepare.

This book has tons of recipes for the very beginner chef, including some great tips on how to make them on the left. Before reading this book, I reached into the knife drawer at my communal household in Glendale and pulled out whatever seemed cleanest. Now, I often search for the pairing knife that we keep sequestered in a special drawer when possible, because Mr. McNish says it’s good to do that and I think he’s right! Now I cut with ease and confidence, bitch.

The publishers gave me permission to post one of my favorite recipes in the book, the Pesto-Coated Carrot and Parsnip Fettuccine (page 236).

This dish is a great way to get as many healthy ingredients into your body as possible without having to sacrifice any of the things you love. The softness of the root vegetables makes it reminiscent of traditional al dente pasta.

Makes two servings

3 large carrots, peeled
3 large parsnips, peeled 3
1 Tbsp. cold-pressed (extra virgin) olive oil (15 ml)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided (60 ml)
1 1/2 Tbsp. fine sea salt, divided (22 ml)
3/4 cup cold-pressed hemp oil (175 ml)
1/2 cup raw shelled hemp seeds (125 ml)
3 cloves garlic
3 cups chopped fresh cilantro leaves (750 ml)

1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel carrots and parsnips into long, thin strips, dropping into a bowl as completed (see Tips) Add olive oil, 1 tsp. (5 ml) lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp. (1 ml) salt, and toss until vegetables are well coated. Set aside for 10 minutes, until softened.

2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process hemp oil and seeds, garlic and remaining lemon juice and salt, until somewhat smooth but the hemp seeds retain some texture. Add cilantro and process until chopped and blended, stopping the motor once to scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Add pesto to fettuccine, toss well and serve.

Substitute an equal quantity of parsley leaves for the cilantro.

Toss the fettuccine from Step 1 with another sauce, instead of the pesto.

Peeling the vegetables lengthwise produces the long, thin strips required for this recipe. For best results use a Y-shaped (slingshot) vegetable peeler. When using a regular peeler, you can glide down the length of the vegetable to make one long, thin strip.

If you prefer, combine the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl before tossing with the vegetables, to ensure even integration.

I am not a big fan of agave and kind of think it’s gross, so I was happy to see the desserts go light on them. In general, Eat Raw, Eat Well's recipes are nutrient-rich and focus on using low-glycemic, healthful ingredients. There are better books out there if you're just getting into raw food. Raw Food for One and Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine top my list for raw beginners, but I think this book would be a very good choice for the beginning to intermediate raw food chef. Happy uncooking to you!

Recipe and photo from Eat Raw, Eat Well by Douglas McNish © 2012 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

This is Vegansaurus raw correspondent Sarah E. Brown’s latest post! Read more by Sarah on Vegansaurus, and visit her personal blog Queer Vegan Food.


Cookbook Gifts: Sometimes you just want dinner to be classy! Enter the ladies of Spork Foods  »

Look, I am never going to tell you that your meal is not fancy enough. Most of my cooking is of the “What’s in the fridge today?” variety. But maybe you are throwing a nice dinner party, or you want to make a dish with which to impress and shock all your omnivorous friends: “That’s right, it’s vegan!” In those circumstances, Spork-Fed—the new cookbook from the ladies of Spork Foods—will help you out.

Spork Foods is a gourmet vegan food company based in Los Angeles that is operated by two sisters, Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg. The offer vegan cooking classes in person and online, and in the fall they released their first cookbook, Spork-Fed.

The recipes in this book don’t look easy to execute, but they do look delicious. They cover a variety of meals and situations, from brunch to appetizers to desserts, and the suggested menus at the beginning of the book are helpful for the culinarily stunted (like, uh, me). The carrot soup with mint oil, corn fritters with lemongrass, and glazed tempeh particularly stood out for me. I also appreciate that they mark the recipes that are gluten-free.

If you’re looking to step up your game in the kitchen, this is a good one to pick up.

Also — if you’re in Los Angeles online, Groupon has a deal on Spork classes right now! Get up on it!

Terri Coles lives in Toronto, where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues. We edit out all her extra vowels.


Cookbook review: Vegan Pie in the Sky makes pie vegan, delicious, easy to make  »

Here are a few things to like about Vegan Pie In The Sky:

1. It’s the latest cookbook by awesome vegan mavens Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Instant cred!

2. It comes in an adorable square shape.

3. It proves that your pies can have flaky crusts, delicious fillings, and be gorgeous baked goods without animal ingredients like butter or eggs.

Those are all pretty good selling points, I think, and plenty of reason why you should pick up VPITS, or perhaps give it to your favorite baker as a holiday gift. The book looks small, but it’s 75 (!) recipes that covers everything from making the perfect pie crust to filling said crust with deliciousness—including 18 chocolate pies!—to topping it off perfectly. As a bonus, many of the fillings are gluten-free, and you can always experiment to make the crusts gluten-free as well by using your favorite flour sub.

Look, what I’m saying is that I don’t even really like pie, and I still want to make all of these. If I haven’t convinced you yet, check out the four sample recipes on the Post Punk Kitchen site.

Terri Coles lives in Toronto, where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues. We edit out all her extra vowels.


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. 


Café Gratitude Bereavement Plan  »

It sure sucks that Café Gratitude is closing. Lucky for me, I said my goodbyes a few months ago with a slice of raw cheesecake, right after I said goodbye to S.F. Pride and right before I got on a plane and moved to Denver.

Lucky for you, I’ve had time to figure how to live Life without Gratitude. And because I’m the nicest person ever, I’m going to share that hard-won knowledge.

Gather round, grasshoppers. Here’s what you do:


  1. Admit that the best thing about the restaurant was dessert. Then buy Sweet Gratitude, the book that will tell you how to make said desserts.
  2. Flip through the book. Cry a little when you realize how hard and complicated they are and how much better it was to just pay for them.
  3. Take a deep breath and COMMIT. It will be worth it!
  4. Buy Irish Moss.
  5. Buy a kitchen scale.
  6. Buy raw coconut oil.
  7. Buy soy lecithin.
  8. Buy raw cacao butter, powder, and maybe nibs.
  9. Buy raw vanilla beans.
  10. Buy a VitaMix. Or don’t but you’ll wish you had one. Trust me.
  11. Choose a recipe. Buy the rest of the stuff you’ll need, like almonds and cashews and dates and agave and coconuts, from the grocery store. 
  12. Plan ahead. You’ll probably need to soak things for various amounts of time, from one to 24 hours. Maybe make a Gantt chart?
  13. Whip! Blend! Chill! 

That’s a lot of steps, partly because I’m making fun of it. To be honest, it really is worth it, at least for special occasions. I still haven’t tried making the tiramisu at home. But I will. And you’ll hear about it.

Look what I made! Raw lemon-blueberry cheesecake! It rocked!

Pro tips:

  • Start with some of the simpler recipes. The cheesecakes, for example, don’t need Irish Moss. 
  • Making this food will make you covet a better blender, unless you have a great one already.
  • Blend longer than you think you need to.
  • If you’re not a raw food purist, don’t be a raw food purist. Use canned coconut milk. Use the almond milk you always use. Screw raw vanilla, use regular. Yeah of course it’ll taste different but you’ll be more sane.

Thanks, Gratitude. I am grateful you existed, and grateful for the challenges you’ve left us. Though I’d still rather just let you do the work.


More holiday deals: Oh Deer! Chocolates e-book, get it on Etsy!  »

It’s that time between the two major holiday meals, where you have two choices: take it easy, eat some veggies, maybe do a juice cleanse OR GO FULL SPEED AHEAD, EAT EVERYTHING, after all, swimsuit season is so far away! I’m somewhere in the middle—I guess it’s not so black-and-white. One thing I do want to do in this time is incorporate more raw foods in my diet. And OhDeerChocolates has sprung up on Etsy at the most perfect time!

Sara Malazzo-Miller, creator of OhDeerChocolates, is selling her e-cookbook for the low price of $8, for this week only! Her 20+ cookie, truffle, and candy recipes are raw, vegan and CHOCOLATE!

OhDeerChocolates’ chocolate mousse.

Raw dessert—it’s like health food. At least that’s my motto! Sara is also donating 100 percent of the profits to wildlife rescue centers. Now that’s the holiday spirit!


Cookbooks vs. apps: a question for the readers  »

Image by neoprolog on Flickr

Lizzie Stark over at the Today Show has a pretty interesting post up about the relative merits of cookbooks vs apps. I only know this because Terry Hope Romero, author of many of my favorite cookbooks, tweeted about it:


Cooksbooks & apps are like apples and tofu: need both in my life 

You have no idea how much you’re missing on the Twitters, yo.

I gave you my opinions on the subject just last week: books all the way, baby. Though a digital, searchable index of the books I already own would make my year. 

Anyway, I bring the question to you, dear readers. Are cooking apps the way of the future, or misguided anachronisms like Tamagotchi and, um, what else was stupid to make electronic?

Tell us what you think! Is there a cooking app you love? Should I try it? Why?


Cookbook Reviews by Rachel: Big Vegan  »

This is the first installment in a regular series in which Rachel gets opinionated about cookbooks both classic and new. If you’ve got one you’d like to see her cover, hit her up at rachel [at] zurer [dot] com.image

Chapter 1: Eh
There’s a new vegan cookbook in town and it’s enormous. But as your mom always says, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, size isn’t everything, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, and get your elbows off the table (what?).

Case in point: Even though Robin Asbell’s Big Vegan is so full of intriguing recipes that I ran out of room for my little slivers of post-it notes, when the olive oil hits the skillet, the book doesn’t always deliver. Asbell’s instructions sometimes feel wrong, other times arbitrary, and don’t leave you with a sense you’re in good hands, despite her creativity.

Chapter 2: In Which We Get Deep
As Descartes once inquired, “What’s the point of a cookbook?” Or maybe that was Plato. Anyway, the question is even more important now, with the interwebs bursting with free recipes and people trying to sell you special kitchen-friendly iPad cases. Why pay for dead trees?*

One word: relationships.

A cookbook is more than just a collection of ingredients and instructions. Like an art gallery or record label (remember those?), a cookbook curates the vast world of possibilities according to a certain sensibility. Find an author whose taste you like (HAHAHA PUN!), and it’s like finding a foodie best friend.**

Except cookbooks go beyond curating. They also teach. And as sappy Hollywood flicks have proven time and again, good teaching matters.  A good teacher sets clear goals and articulates the rules. A good teacher anticipates challenges and gives you the tools to meet them.

A good teacher is someone you trust.

Chapter 3: What smells like burnt fish?
I got a free copy of Big Vegan from Chronicle Books in September, and worked hard to test it as much as possible before writing this review. Some stuff, with minor modifications, came out great, like the version of “Lemony White Beans with Fresh Rosemary Vinagrette” I posted for Vegan MoFo and that both Meave and I found orgasmic.

I also used Asbell’s recipe for Avocado-Lime Cupcakes as the basis of my entry to the Denver Avocado Takedown. The Jamaican Tofu Chowder with Collards made a hearty addition to a soup potluck, and the Veggie Sandwich Loaves (bread with veggies baked into it) was definitely GOOD. And I should know, I’ve been baking bread like mad lately.

But here’s the thing: If I weren’t already an experienced cook, the book would have definitely led me astray. The Tofu Chowder recipe had me put the collard greens in at the end and cook them for just 10 minutes. I thus ended up with tough, icky collards.

The Crispy Sesame Kale was divine (KALE CHIPS!!), but the recipe told me to discard the kale stems. Seriously? You can’t give me a hint as to what to do with those besides throwing them away? (Hint: Put them in stock, or chop them up and add them to stir fries. For example.)

The Veggie Loaf called for “bread machine yeast”, with no explanation of why or what that was — I couldn’t find it at 3 stores, and finally used normal yeast, while ignore Asbell’s rising times, with good results.

Worst offense: The “Millter, Ginger, and Edamame One-Pot” called for adding a sheet of nori, “toasted and shredded” at the end. No further instructions. I put a sheet of nori in toaster oven. It caught fire. I put it in for less long. My husband walked in and asked, “What smells like burnt fish?” Against my better judgement, I added it to the food (trying to really TEST this, you know?). ICK. The dish was decent otherwise, but picking out shreds of nori made it way less fun.image

Chapter 4: The Bottom Line
Other pros I should mention: A whole chapter on grilling (though I didn’t manage to try any); recipes for cultured vegan cheese (still on my to-try list); the paperback has flap at the front and back that are great for saving your page. On the flip side: The majority of the recipes are beyond-weeknight complicated, and many use ingredients I don’t tend to have on hand (shao xing rice wine? Kitchen Bouquet? semolina flour?). Very few photos.

Final verdict: This is a book I’ll keep using, but it’s not a kitchen staple, and I don’t trust it.

Overall Rating: B

Creativity: A

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate/Expert

Best for: Experienced cooks looking for a challenge and wanting to expand their repertoires.

*That phrase is going to be outdated as soon as someone invents the iTunes of cookbooks and it’s worth it to buy these books digitally. But I’m sticking with it for now.

**Maybe “guru” is a better term for it, since the admiration only runs one way (as much as I like to pretend Isa’s my new BFF because I follow her on Twitter).

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