marenIn September 2015, I pulled out the most intimidating (and least used) cookbook on our bookshelf and challenged myself to make every recipe in the book, come hell or high water. Ten months and two days later, I crossed the finish line. That quest fanned a flame that inspired me to move on to the next cookbook… and the next one after that… and you get the idea.

It’s not as hard as I imagined to prepare complex recipes, and it’s OK to invite people over for dinner when trying new ones. The fellowship is wonderful, and I’ve yet to hear a complaint about the food. Quite the contrary, our friends have been really supportive and complimentary. And they don’t care whether or not the house is neat and tidy.

So, if you’ve got a hankering to experiment in your kitchen, I’ve provided reviews of the nine cookbooks that I’ve explored to date with pictures of the individual recipes. I’ve also shared some of my own recipes along with features on favorite foods.

Bon appétit!

I’ve continued my love affair with soups. They’ve moved from a Fall/Winter lunchtime favorite to a year-round thing. Favorites from this cookbook include Whole Beet Borscht, Minestrone, and Fresh Corn & Tomato Soup.

P.S. I’d serve Early Autumn Fruit Soup as a refreshing summer meal starter!

Whole Beet Borscht
Whole Beet Borscht
Minestrone
Minestrone
Old Favorite Green Soup
Old Favorite Green Soup
New Favorite Green Soup
New Favorite Green Soup
Asparagus Soup
Asparagus Soup
Creamy Cauliflower Soup
Creamy Cauliflower Soup
Carrot Soup
Carrot Soup
Kale-Potato Soup
Kale-Potato Soup
Corn Chowder
Corn Chowder
Gingery Tomato Soup
Gingery Tomato Soup
Fresh Corn and Tomato Soup
Fresh Corn and Tomato Soup
Hearty Pea Soup
Hearty Pea Soup
Black Bean Soup
Black Bean Soup
Early Autumn Fruit Soup
Early Autumn Fruit Soup

“Soon after people become vegetarians, they are likely to make a marvelous discovery: vegetables.”

How true! If you’ve grown up on the Standard American Diet, vegetables were a condiment relegated to a tiny space on the outer edge of the plate. Now they’re front and center in meal planning. By way of introduction, Laurel’s Kitchen provides a lot of helpful information about vegetables in addition to some suggestions on how to prepare them.

Artichokes Tellicherry
Artichokes Tellicherry
Chinese Asparagus
Chinese Asparagus
Green Beans Hellenika
Green Beans Hellenika
Spicy Green Beans
Spicy Green Beans
Whole Golden Beets
Whole Golden Beets
King Cole Curry
King Cole Curry
Brussel Sprouts-Squash Casserole
Brussel Sprouts-Squash Casserole
Brussel Sprouts and Bell Peppers
Brussel Sprouts and Bell Peppers
Bubble and Squeak
Bubble and Squeak
Greek Cauliflower
Greek Cauliflower
Tomato Kale
Tomato Kale
Crumbly Greens
Crumbly Greens
Sesame-Glazed Parsnips
Sesame-Glazed Parsnips
Zucchini Provencal
Zucchini Provencal
Stuffed Acorn Squash
Stuffed Acorn Squash

As folks who eat a lot of grains and beans, we’re always open to new ways to prepare them. This cookbook did not disappoint. The rice and quinoa recipes were quite satisfying. We loved the Tomale Pie, and the Chili con Elote, Black Eyed Peas Virginia Style, and Boston Baked Beans were quite tasty and easy to prepare.

Confetti Quinoa
Confetti Quinoa
Spanish Rice
Spanish Rice
Teresa's Spanish Rice
Teresa’s Spanish Rice
Wild Rice
Wild Rice
Tempeh a la King
Tempeh a la King
Tempeh Cacciatore
Tempeh Cacciatore
Tempeh a l'Orange
Tempeh a l’Orange
Tomale Pie
Tomale Pie
Chili con Elote
Chili con Elote
Boston Baked Beans
Boston Baked Beans
Black-Eyed Peas Virginia Style
Black-Eyed Peas Virginia Style

We sampled a lot of tasty treats in the course of working our way through several cookbooks. Our waistlines have let us know that we’ve sampled enough! So, we opted to try just a few of the recipes in this cookbook. The winner by far was Diane’s Apple Crisp. It’s a “go to” recipes that we’ve made again and again (with a little extra topping.)

Baked Apple
Baked Apple
Diane's Apple Crisp
Diane’s Apple Crisp
Sunshine Bars
Sunshine Bars

While we don’t eat beef often, this recipe has been in our “standard rotation” of dinners for years. It’s delicious and ridiculously easy to make. The secret to success entails getting a really good piece of meat – preferably one with a bit of marbling to ensure the end result is tender and juicy.

Pot Roast1 (2½- to 3-pound) boneless beef roast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (12-ounce) bottle of beer or apple juice
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 (16-ounce) jar Pace mild salsa
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced (optional)

  1. Trim visible fat away from roast. Place it in a crock pot. Add beer (or apple juice), sugar, and salsa.
  2. Cook and cover on high 3 to 4 hours. Add potatoes during last 90 minutes of cooking.
  3. Remove beef from pot and let stand for ~5-10 minutes before carving.
  4. Serve beef with potatoes and generous helping of sauce.

Here’s another one of our favorite recipes to serve for dinner guests. It’s takes very little preparation, tastes absolutely delicious, and cooks in one pot!

Asian Shrimp Pasta1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons hot chili oil
3/4 pound thin spaghetti
1/2 pound green beans, stem ends and strings removed
1 pound (51 to 60 per pound) fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

  1. Pour 2½ to 3 quarts water into a stock pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, make the dressing by mixing soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, and chili oil.
  3. When water boils, stir in pasta. Cook, uncovered, 6-7 minutes.  Stir in green beans and shrimp.  Cook until pasta is just tender to bite and shrimp are pink, about 1-2 minutes longer.  Drain well.
  4. Return pasta mixture to pot. Add dressing, cilantro, and green onions and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with nuts.  Serves 4-5.

Pork Loin with Peanut SauceHere’s one of our favorite recipes to serve for dinner guests. It’s takes very little preparation and tastes absolutely delicious.

1 fat-trimmed center-cut pork loin (about 2½ pound)
1-1/3 cups apple cider
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp hot chili flakes
2 cloves garlic

  1. On the night before or morning of your dinner party, cut 1/2-inch-deep slits all over pork; place meat in a large plastic food bag.
  2. In a blender, combine cider, soy sauce, peanut butter, thyme, chili flakes, and garlic. Blend thoroughly.
  3. Pour cider marinade over pork, seal bag, turn to coat, then set in pan. Chill, turning occasionally, for several hours, up to a day.
  4. Lift meat from marinade and set on a rack in a 9- by 13-inch pan. Reserve marinade.
  5. Bake pork at 350° oven until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches ~170° (roughly an hour). After 30 minutes, baste with reserved marinade.
  6. Transfer pork to a platter and let stand 5 to 10 minutes in a warm place. As pork rests, pour remaining marinade into pan with pork juices (excluding burned parts). Stir over high heat until the sauce is reduced to ~1 cup, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour into a gravy boat.
  7. Slice the pork and accompany with sauce.
get healthy go vegan

In the introduction to this cookbook, Dr. Neal Barnard sounds the alarm for the medical crises awaiting millions upon millions of American whose dietary habits set the stage for arteriosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, and a host of other life-threatening ailments. He joins with his partner, Chef Robyn Webb, in offering over 100 “easy and delicious recipes [that] will lure with their aromas and flavors” while paving the way to a heathier lifestyle.

We sampled 75% of the book’s low-fat, low-GI (glycemic index), high-nutrient recipes. They were satisfying and easy to make. They also leverage a wide array of ingredients to give the intrepid home chef a good deal of variety in daily, weekly, and monthly meal planning.

If you are new to the whole food plant based diet, the initial chapters of the cookbook cover the science behind the diet as well as helpful tips about making foods to fit your goals. The appendices provide a three-day meal plan, shopping lists, and recommended convenience foods.