Sunday, July 24, 2016

Top five best vegan cookbooks for newbies

By Giselle Wedemire

Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle can seem daunting at first, especially if you take the leap of faith and immediately hoof it to the nearest bookstore in search of a vegan cookbook. With so many options blurring your vision – often brimming with recipes calling for mystery ingredients like TVP, nutritional yeast, and seitan – it’s easy to get discouraged.

Though there are many great cookbooks on the market – the numbers of which increase exponentially with every passing month – there are quite a few duds in the mix. To save you from heartache and a time-consuming trip to your local bookseller, here are my recommendations for the best user-friendly cookbooks ideal for the novice vegan (as well as some of the stand-out recipes you can find in each book).

The Vegan Stoner
I’ll let you in on a secret: a lot of people don’t really know how to cook. The good news is that switching to a plant-based diet can offer a golden opportunity to educate yourself on cooking basics. Personally, I re-learnt a lot about basic cooking and nutrition when I first went vegetarian years ago, and that knowledge has been invaluable, though I wish I had had this book back then. 

Not just for stoners, this book is great for those who are a bit intimidated by the idea of having to learn how to cook. With super simple instructions, cheap and easy-to-find ingredients, and minimal prep work, the recipes in Vegan Stoner help provide a solid basis for novice cooks while allowing for a lot of creativity and improvisation if the mood should strike.

Recipe recommendations: With its great mix of tender veggies and toothsome pecans, the Southern Bowl is where it’s at. An honourable mention goes to the Fried Tofu Tacos, which really pop when assembled with some chopped parsley and Sriracha.

Vegan with a Vengeance 
There’s a saying in the Doctor Who fandom community that says “You never forget your first Doctor.” That’s certainly true for me (Matt Smith for life!), but for vegans, I think we need to have an official saying that says you never forget your first tofu scramble. 

You see, scramble is the bread and butter of an average vegan’s cooking repertoire because it not only helps to fill the void left by scrambled eggs on a lazy Sunday morning, but it also helps break down the stigma for new vegans and vegetarians that tofu isn’t scary to cook with or to eat. With that said, Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s tofu scramble in this classic cookbook is the Matt Smith of tofu scrambles for me, and even when I branch out and try (and enjoy) other recipes, I always come back to this one.

Recipe recommendations: Aside from the Scrambled Tofu, other must-try recipes include the insanely delicious and filling Tempeh Reubens (which are stuffed to the brim with sauerkraut and avocado), and the soft and chewy Raspberry Chocolate Chip Blondies that are never too sweet.

Appetite for Reduction
This book is really close to my heart because it was the second vegan cookbook I ever purchased, and I’d argue that it’s still the most used cookbook I own (if the worn condition of the book’s spine is any indication).

Though this book is billed as the vegan answer to a diet book, the recipes inside are anything but diet food. Rather, they’re bold, flavourful, and filling, with budget-friendly, whole foods at the heart of each dish. And the best part? Almost all of the recipes come together in a flash, making it easier than ever to throw together a tasty and healthy dinner any night of the week!

Recipe recommendations: The Sushi Roll Edamame Salad gives me life, and with its layers of cauliflower-tofu ricotta, rich tomato sauce, and bright spinach, the Spinach Lasagna with Roasted Cauliflower Ricotta is so good, it’d make a believer out of Garfield.

The 30 Minute Vegan
Some of the biggest misconceptions about vegan food is that it’s either bland or time-consuming to make. I imagine that if/when Mark Reinfeld, author of The 30 Minute Vegan cookbook franchise heard those common complaints, he laughed heartily and dismissively, and then cranked out this book. 

Though I love all of his cookbooks, it’s the original 30 Minute Vegan that I think really speaks to newbie vegans. This book has kickass recipes for comfort food staples like mac and cheese while introducing readers to simple yet delicious ethnic fare that tastes so good, you’d swear it was takeout. And, like the title suggests, almost all of the recipes take 30 minutes or less to come together.

Recipe recommendations: The creamy, spinach-packed Tofu Saag is the stuff that dreams are made of, while the steamy and warming Veggie Stew with Dumplings is perfect for miserably chilly and rainy days.

Have Your Cake and Vegan Too
My family very rarely buys birthday cakes – we’re very cheap, and we much prefer to go the DIY route. So it made sense that once I went vegan, I’d invest in a quality cookbook that’s dedicated to fantastic cake recipes. 

It’s been five years since I first purchased this book, and to this day, if I have a special occasion coming up that’s cake-worthy, I still turn to Kris Holechek’s handy guide for making mouthwatering desserts. Everything I’ve made out of this book has been astounding, and this book remains my absolute favourite vegan dessert book.

Recipe recommendations: You can never go wrong with chocolate cake, and Holechek's recipe for classic chocolate cake is by far the best, moistest, densest chocolate cake I’ve ever had. And if you want an easy and scrumptious chocolate cake that’s less hands-on, check out the Crock Pot Black Forest Cake. It’s a dream come true, and is even better if topped with some vegan whipped cream.

 What was your first vegan/vegetarian cookbook? Do you still use it? Let me know!

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