Vegan Meal Prep, a cookbook review

Meal prep is a topic near and dear to my heart.  I’m often prepping 4 days of breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Sundays.  I try to go for meatless for breakfast and lunch, mostly because I know that I should amp up my vegetable intake in general.  You would think about after three years of meal prep (more or less) that I’d have it down to a science, but I really don’t.

Breakfasts tend to be the same recipe, week after week, until I can’t stand it anymore.  Lunches can go either way. They are variations of the same basic recipe or simple-but-new-to-me recipes.  Dinner is the one meal that I give myself more time and freedom for experimenting. I’m often flipping through recipes all week long, trying to decide what I am willing and wanting to make that weekend.  And sometimes, I end up in a mild panic and just use a tried-and-true recipe when I’m too indecisive and running out of time.

I’ve always wanted a cookbook that did all the thinking for me, which led me to pick up a review copy of Vegan Meal Prep by Robin Asbell.  Asbell’s latest cookbook is basically detailed step-by-step meal prep instructions, from start to finish.

The book is split into three major sections.  “Setting Yourself Up for Success: Five Weeks of Vegan Meals” is the first section.  The highlight in this section, in my opinion, is Vegan Nutrition Basics. Asbell is pretty detailed: listing sources of protein, omega-3, calcium, iron, and zinc.  It’s a pretty good one stop reference if you’re fully vegan.

The second section is “Meal Prep 101: Planning, Shopping, and Prepping.”  This is where you’ll find the overview of the five week meal plan, shopping lists, and the prepping instructions for each week.

The third section is “Let’s Get Cooking! 125 Vegan Recipes”, which is broken down into these chapters.

  • Vegan Staples
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Salads, Dressing, and Sides
  • Desserts and Snacks

Here are the recipes that I’m most interested in trying:

  • Whole Grain Baking Mix
  • Lemon Pecan Muffins with Apricot Cashew Spread
  • Smoky Tempeh Taco Meat
  • Sweet Potato Chickpea Cakes
  • Barley with Vanilla Apples and Spiced Sweet Potato
  • Blueberry Breakfast Squares
  • Farro and Kimchi Bowls with Kale and Sesame Dressing
  • Farro Salad with Apricots, Carrots, and Spinach
  • Tempeh, Brown Rice, and Roasted Veggie Wraps
  • Tempeh Pasta Salad with Tomato and Avocado
  • Black Bean and Sweet Potato Curry
  • Black Bean and Squash Chili with Dumplings
  • Matcha-Glazed Pistachio Blondies
  • Peanut Butter Raisin Cookies

The things I liked most upon first impressions were the tips, variations, and “to pack for lunch” blurbs that frequently show up on corners of the recipe pages.  I also like how the ingredient lists are generally not intimidating nor filled with hard to find items.

The only critiques I have are two.  I wish nutritional information were listed.  I’ve seen other meal prep books that do. But for the purpose of mixing and matching for people who might be trying to watch their sugar intake, etc., it would be handy to have.  The other issue I have is the order of the recipe section. The whole book is planned around the five week meal plan/schedule but the recipes are in order by course. At least within each course type chapter, recipes are back in order by schedule and marked with which week/day the recipe belongs to.  If you’re planning to mix and match, then recipes ordered by course type makes sense. But I think if you’re planning to use the book as written, then having the recipes ordered by course type makes less sense.

In neither a “pro” nor a “con” comment, all of the recipes are meant to make about 4 servings.  So while I had originally planned on following a full week of recipes for this review, it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t feasible for me.  I am not trying to feed a family of four (But you might be!),

I ended up testing two recipes: Baked Marinated Tempeh, and Breakfast Protein Cookies with Dates and Pistachios.

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Breakfast cookies

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Both were easy to make.  I’ve made breakfast cookies before but it never occurred to me to use dates and pistachios.  I tend to use a lot of raisins. (In fact, I didn’t have time to get dates for this recipe so I used golden raisins which I think are milder in raisin flavor than the more familiar thompson seedless raisins.  Please don’t hate me for substituting.)  The cookies have good protein content, due to the sneaky addition of tofu, and don’t taste too sweet.  Having said that, the cookies actually use more sweetener than my typical baked oatmeal, and I don’t think you can reduce it as the maple syrup acts as part of the wet ingredients.  (Well, maybe you could increase the tofu?  Maple syrup and tofu are the only wet ingredients in this recipe.  Vanilla doesn’t count.  And like I said, it doesn’t taste too sweet so would reducing the sweetener be a futile exercise?)  The portion size is 3 cookies, and it seems to mostly sate my morning hunger.  (But I have a really high appetite in the mornings.  Sometimes I want more food.  Your mileage may vary.)

I liked the baked marinated tempeh too.  It never occurred to me to use apple juice as part of the marinade before.  I decided to mix up the baked tempeh with leftover marinade (which I cooked with cornstarch thinking i could use it as a sauce) and some cauliflower rice.  The natural tempeh flavor was not too strong in this recipe, so I think I’ll use it again in the near future. (However, the cooked marinade plus cauliflower tasted like… fish?  It’s a subtle enough flavor that I will push through it, but yeah, I’m never doing that combination again. lol!)

Overall, I recommend this book for anyone who wants to do more meal prepping, want a reasonable food budget, and have more than one mouth to feed.  Oh, and if you’re just trying to up your veggie intake (like me). I do have the minor reservations as listed above, but that might not bother you as much as it does me.

 

Reference Link:

https://www.robertrose.ca/book/vegan-meal-prep-5-week-plan-125-ready-go-recipes

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Robert Rose for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

 

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Breakfast with Beatrice, a cookbook review

I have delusions of grandeur when it comes to breakfast.

I want ricotta on challah toast (or fresh fig jam and mascarpone, if I’m at Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge).  I want eggs with pepperjack cheese and avocado slices. Oooh, or something I’ve been meaning to do – seared scallops with bacon, fried egg, and grilled tomatoes.  (Yes, I am influenced by Sorted Food youtube videos.)

In a similar vain, I have ambitious plans of questionable achievement when it comes to cooking/baking Nordic foods.  Either I’m subconsciously addicted to Ikea (which probably would be true if I lived closer to one) or I’ve watched too many videos featuring Magnus Nilsson and Rene Redzepi (this is definitely true).

The reality is that I meal prep my breakfasts most of the time, and I want something quick to put together.  Lately, I’ve been making the same baked oatmeal recipe for a few months now.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m not on the lookout for new ideas.  Let’s be honest – it’s only a matter of time before I hit baked oatmeal fatigue.

When I saw the cover of “Breakfast with Beatrice” by Beatrice Ojakangas, I was intrigued.  The cover has minimalist but colorful Scandinavian inspired kitchen illustrations.  The tag line under the title says “250 recipes from sweet cream waffles to Swedish farmer’s omelets.”   It sounded like it had variety.  It had the word Swedish in it.  It was 250 recipes.  What’s not to like?

First impressions?  This cookbook is old school.  There are literally no photos.  It’s a straightforward recipe book.  Some recipes have a short introduction, but many don’t have any commentary.  (For the record, some of my favorite cookbooks are ones without any photos… Kathy Farrell-Kingsley’s “The Big Book of Vegetarian” comes to mind.  Substance is more important than appearance.)  

Before this book, I hadn’t heard of the author before.**  While her culinary heritage is Scandinavian, Beatrice Ojakangas is from Minnesota where she still lives.  There are many recipes that aren’t Nordic. In addition to recipes like hätäleipä, and cream cheese and salmon smørrebrød, be prepared to find recipes like Tex-Mex strata, beignets, colonial brown bread muffins, and old Virginia cheddar biscuits.  According to the book’s introduction, she “selected many of [her] favorite breakfasts for Breakfast with Beatrice.” 

(** Hilariously, I should have been familiar with the author’s name.  I own one of her other books, “The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever.”)

The book is broken down into these sections:

  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Savory breakfast and casserole dishes (smørrebrød and porridge recipes are filed here)
  • Pastries and coffee cakes
  • Breakfast breads (has both yeasted breads and quick breads)
  • Muffins, biscuits, and scones
  • Smoothies, jams, and preserves (FYI, there is just one smoothie recipe)

 

Normally, this is the part of the post where I like to list the recipes that I’m particularly interested in making.  However, I’m not going to, because I’m not sure that there’s a recipe in the book that I don’t want to make.  In general, these recipes aren’t trendy. They aren’t ingredient crazy or meant for a large weekend project.  Instead, they sound like the kind of recipes you inherit from a beloved family member or recipes you have fond memories of. 

I had trouble picking out a recipe test out… too many sounded delicious. I originally thought about making the wild rice and blueberry muffin recipe, but I didn’t have any wild rice in my pantry and was unwilling to buy some.  (Note to self, clean out your pantry so that you can do things like buy wild rice without feeling bad about it.)  I eventually settled on the yogurt nut brown bread recipe, which only has 8 ingredients: rye flour, whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking soda, salt, plain yogurt, light molasses, and chopped nuts.  I don’t keep whole wheat flour in my kitchen because I’m convinced that most commercially available whole wheat flour doesn’t taste very good, so I subbed with spelt flour. I also didn’t have light molasses but that was easy to substitute with a blend of regular molasses and maple syrup. Other than that, it was very easy to put together.  I didn’t need to break out a mixer for this. Using a whisk and a spatula was good enough.

In the author’s own words, this bread is “compact, dark, grainy, and rich-tasting.”  It is definitely dense and dark, but I wouldn’t say it’s grainy even though I know that it’s made with whole grain flours.  I thought it was a bit chewy (in a good way) and moist. The molasses flavor hit my tongue first, but quickly gave way to an earthy flavor.  The more bites I took, the less I noticed the molasses. I ate half a slice with some almond butter, and enjoyed that too. I think this recipe makes for a great everyday quick bread, perfect for those times I want bread but am too impatient to work with yeast.  

Later this week, I think I’ll see how it pairs with other foods like eggs, ham, or cheese.

Overall, I’m quite delighted by my initial results.  I look forward to working more from this book.  If you’re someone who loves cooking/baking, and doesn’t need to be bedazzled by fancy pictures, I wholeheartedly recommend “Breakfast with Beatrice.”  

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from University of Minnesota Press for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

Reference Links:

http://beatrice-ojakangas.com/

https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/breakfast-with-beatrice

Because I wasn’t making it up, Sorted Food’s Full English Breakfast video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1DTeah8YAs

 

My favorite breakfast treat

Let me say this upfront, this recipe is adapted from “Sesame Street B is for Baking.” It’s a cookbook for baking with kids. Originally, I got this book so that I could bake with my niece. To be honest though, I don’t think my niece has seen this book since I first got it. (In my defense, I think my niece prefers to help in the kitchen if it’s her dad doing the baking.) Regardless, I love this book so far. I’ve made a few recipes in it, and I have every intention to try some more, but I always come back to the same breakfast recipe… “the Good for Me, Good for You Oatmeal Muffins.”

I’ll admit – I am the kind of person who wakes up hungry.  So, on weekdays, I need to make sure that breakfast is already there and waiting for me in the mornings.  I’ve modified the recipe a little, so let’s call my version “Spelt Quick bread with Raisins and Oatmeal.”

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