What’s the first thing you look for in a new cookbook? I go for the photos. Some of my cookbooks are hand-me-downs and thrift store finds, and the black and white photos illustrating many of the dishes are revolting. Looking at them is incentive to start that diet you’ve been putting off by avoiding the pictured dish. I want appetizing pictures in delicious color. Following the photos, I look at desserts.
The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook offers neither a large selection of desserts nor photographs. The included photos, bound into the center of the book, offer a delectable tease of the goodies found within. While the dessert offerings are few, the authors make up for that with something even better—appetizers and snacks. Let’s face it, the best meals are finger feasts—smorgasbords of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres that bring tears of joy when contemplated.
Instead of concentrating on what The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook may lack, let’s have some fun and look at what it contains. Authors Neal Barnard, MD, and chef Robyn Webb serve up 125 recipes that forgo meat, animal products, and nasty animal byproducts (yeeesh, just the thought of byproducts is scary!). Dr. Barnard is the author of the best-seller, Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes as well as seven other health and nutrition titles. This man is seriously into nutrition. But what about taste?
Barnard and Webb’s recipes are especially appealing to those who are not fans of TVP (texturized vegetable protein). When I visit a vegetarian/vegan restaurant, I don’t want to eat things that are made to look like meat; I want veggies. Okay, so I’m old school. I’m also not vegetarian; meat makes cameo appearances in my diet, and if I want something that looks and tastes like meat, I’ll eat meat. Usually, I do not.
The first fifty pages of The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook serve as a primer on vegan cooking, the health-benefits of a vegan diet, and nutrition. If you’re hungry, skip them and move on to page 55 where you will find breakfast: green chile and oyster mushroom crepes. Anything with mushrooms is a winner, but these crepes can also be filled with blueberries or strawberries as the authors suggest, or anything else you may like in your crepes.
Many of the dishes contain curry, a spice I do not use, but it can be replaced with any number of the cook’s preferences (like ginger. And remember, they don’t use horses to make horseradish.). Try the “Kalamata Olive, Caper and Basil Pizza,” and you won’t miss the cheese and suffer only 197 calories in 1/6 of the pie. One of the great advantages of vegan dishes is that so many of them are very low in calories and fat (after all, there’s no animal fat in them).
I thought that the olive pizza was going to be the mother of all vegan pizzas until I discovered the next two recipes: “Yellow Pepper, Mushroom, Tomato, Spinach, and Basil Pizza,” and “Pepper, Mushroom, Tomato, Spinach, and Garlic Pizza.” (I confess, mozzarella sometimes makes an appearance on my version.) As always, I encourage cooks to “switch it up,” using ingredients they like or prefer, and—in the case of homemade pizza—one might prefer to go with a ready-made, instant, or mix crust.
For the appetizer lover, there are plenty of spreads and finger foods and, for those who crave comfort food, there’s stuffed cabbage (without any meat substitute! Yum!). Sometimes my taste is rather pedestrian, and there are enough recipes containing corn, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes—not all together, though—to satisfy my craving for my favorites.
Ethnic dishes, main dishes, soups, desserts—there’s plenty to tempt you in The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook. Also included are sample menus, a three-day menu plan, a shopping list of nearly everything any vegan cook could desire, metric conversions, and—my favorite—a list of suggested vegan convenience foods.
Bottom Line: Would I buy The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook? With vegetarians and vegans in my family, I need it on my kitchen bookshelf, but—let’s face it—there are plenty of offerings that everyone, regardless of diet, can enjoy.