When I went vegan in 2004, there were only a handful of beginner's guides to giving up eggs, dairy, and other animal by-products. For the most part, I had to wing it by piecing together articles from various zines, advice from vegan friends, and random facts from the internet. Now there are so many great guides to help people transition into veganism. I have to say, I'm a little jealous.
One such book — Going Vegan: The Complete Guide to Making a Healthy Transition To a Plant-Based Lifestyle — is the latest work by my bud Joni Marie Newman and Gerrie Lynn Adams.
The book is part info-guide and part recipe book. There's a chapter on going vegan for health with very specific instructions about what to eat daily (one ounce of nuts or seeds, 3-5 servings of fruit, eat only whole grains, etc.). There's a chapter on going vegan for the environment, and most importantly (in my not-so-humble opinion), there's a chapter on going vegan for the animals with touching personal stories of farm sanctuary animals and their former lives on factory farms.
As for the recipes, I was a bit surprised to find the book is totally oil-free. My first thought was, "What?! Joni helped write an oil-free cookbook?" If you're at all familiar with Joni's other books, you know that she doesn't typically shy away from indulgent and delicious recipes that call for oil. In fact, one of the reasons I love her books so much is because she cooks the kind of food I like to eat — decadent, comfort fare that's full of flavor. I'm a firm believer that oil in moderation is good for your health and even better for your soul.
That said, I do appreciate a low-calorie meal. Eating less calories from fat means I can drink one extra beer or have that extra slice of cake. Hey, it's all about balance, right? And if anyone can develop an oil-free recipe and make it taste amazing, it's Joni and Gerrie. Joni wouldn't pass off a recipe that didn't taste amazing, oil or not. And Gerrie lives every day oil-free, so she's mastered the art of oil-free cooking. And some recipes include ingredients that already have a bit of natural oil, so that helps.
Honestly, I didn't miss the oil one bit in these Falafel-logs with Cucumber Relish.
Yes, that's a hot dog-shaped baked falafel. It's the perfect shape for wrapping in a pita "bun" and heaping with cucumber relish. And since the relish (cucumber, tomato, dill, parsley, and garlic) is made with tahini, it's got plenty of good fat without added oil. Even though I typically fry falafel, I really think this one works better baked. It has wheat gluten and chickpea flour in the dough, so it has the texture of a steamed or baked vegan gluten sausage with the taste of falafel. Bonus: The full recipe is on Joni's Just the Food blog!
I also made the Spinach & Artichoke Dip.
I'm used to the Vegenaise-laden spinach dip at Imagine Vegan Cafe (omg, it's so good), but I always feel like I've eaten a million calories after I devour a bowl-full. This oil-free version was a tad tangier than I'm used to, but it really grew on me. And I loved being able to scoop out a giant portion (much bigger than what is pictured in this tiny plate, mind you) and just stuff my face with it, guilt-free.
Going Vegan would be an excellent beginners' guide for someone looking to go vegan for health, especially people who need to be on oil-free diets to reverse serious SAD-diet related illnesses. And it's also just an excellent resource for vegans like me, who want to balance out that extra cupcake or two with a healthy, low-cal meal.