Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Vegan Cheat Sheet
I wish I'd had a book like The Vegan Cheat Sheet when I went vegan in 2004. I learned most of what I know about veganism from cobbling together information from various books and blogs and being a creepy lurker on the Post Punk Kitchen forums.
But The Vegan Cheat Sheet by Amy Cramer and Lisa McComsey puts all that stuff into one pocket-sized (okay, maybe for a slightly oversized pocket) guide. They devote a chapter to debunking vegan myths (i.e. going vegan is expensive, vegans are weird). They provide a list of common animal ingredients to watch out for. They talk about where to get your vitamins and minerals. The break down how to cook just about every whole grain there is. There are travel tips for eating vegan on the road, and there's even a guide to vegan options at fast food and chain restaurants.
They even provide a 21-day meal plan using a combination of recipes from the book and suggestions for what to order when dining out. My only issue with the meal plan though is that it doesn't seem to account for leftovers if you're doing the vegan thing solo. But if you have family and you're sharing food, the plan could work for you.
And of course, there are plenty of recipes! There are simple, three-step recipes for newbie vegans who don't care to spend much time in the kitchen. And there are menu plans for vegan parties (Latin fiestas, SuperBowl parties, Mother's Day, Thanksgiving, etc.).
I opted for one of the recipes from the "No-Brainer" chapter — the BBQ Kale Over Sweet Potato.
When I saw "BBQ" and "kale" together, I knew I had to try this. It isn't BBQ in the traditional sense though. This recipe uses canned vegan baked beans for the 'cue part, and those are mixed with black beans, kale, red and yellow peppers, and fresh corn. It's all simmered in a pot together. Then you can serve it over a baked sweet potato or a bowl of polenta. Delicious and simple.
This recipe, like all the recipes in the book, is oil-free. Cramer and McComsey subscribe to the Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn school of thought on oils, which is that there's no such thing as "heart-healthy oil." I'm not a big fan of that theory. I'm no nutritionist though, so who knows? But I like to use olive and coconut oils in my cooking, and I'm not afraid to straight-up deep fry some shit. But oil isn't needed in every recipe, especially if you're looking to lose weight. I certainly didn't miss oil in this kale dish.
Overall, this is an awesome book. It's definitely going on my recommended list of gifts for my newbie vegan friends!
On an unrelated note, one of my fellow Memphians has written and illustrated a beautiful children's book about eating plants called The Unpopular Pea (& Carrot). It's all about teaching kids to stick to natural foods and avoid processed and sugary stuff like doughnuts, soda, and candy bars. Author/illustrator Elle Valentine is taking pre-orders for her book on her website. Check it out!!