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.

 

Granola clusters, a Kitchen Conclusion post

First of all, I’m going to try to make this a series of posts.  I’m going to try to get off my duff and post more regularly.  I aim to cook more from my cookbook and recipe collection, and I’ll post those items that I feel warrant attention (for better or for worse!).  Here’s the first of (hopefully many) posts that I’m going to call Kitchen Conclusions.

PSA – if this series title doesn’t work for you, feel free to suggest a better one.

I have to admit that I’m a fan of Bon Appetit’s YouTube channel.  I adore Claire, Carla, and Brad who are probably the staff faces that pop up most often.

When I saw Carla make cookies by mixing granola and meringue (which is actually a Claire recipe), I knew immediately that I wanted to try it out.

It also didn’t hurt that it snowed last weekend, and that I had all of the ingredients.  (To be fair, I did make a last minute run to Trader Joe’s before it snowed, because I wasn’t convinced that I had all of the ingredients.)

The process?  Pretty straight forward.  It’s a very sticky mess when you mix the granola and meringue.  Don’t stress out over meringue.  I made a sad looking meringue, and the clusters still baked just fine.  But I highly recommend using parchment paper, because it’s so sticky.

I was good and let the clusters cool overnight, but only because Carla mentioned that the clusters were very flexible when still warm.  If you absolutely don’t have parchment paper to use and you used a greased baking sheet, the clusters will need a thin, stiff spatula to help with removal.  Or maybe just try remove the clusters when they haven’t cooled completely?  One of the baking sheets I was using had leftover coconut oil greased onto it (from making the granola portion), and I regretted using it for baking half of the cookies by the morning.  They were pretty stuck on.

Having said that, I will never ever regret making these granola clusters.  They were delicious!  I ate two and had to convince myself not to eat a third – that’d be extra snow shoveling for the sake of calorie burning than I was willing to do.  Yes, I actually ran the recipe through a calorie calculator just to help convince me not to eat a third cookie.

And then?  On Monday when I was at work, I bought a cookie with me, and basically spent half the morning staring at it.  I was trying so hard to save it for lunch, and it never made it that long.  I also gave some cookies to a co-worker just so that I didn’t end up being the only person to eat all of them.  Said co-worker and her husband also enjoyed the cookies.

In sum?

Recipe level:  Easy

Would I make it again?  Hell yes.  In fact, I might make them again this weekend for a party.  Also, it’s easy to keep these cookies gluten free if you need to.

The recipe:

https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/granola-cluster-cookies

 

The YT video:

Milk Bar Life (cookbook review)

I can’t lie.  I jumped at the chance for a review copy of Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi.  I thought Momofuku Milk Bar was a fun cookbook, albeit one that I was unlikely to ever bake from.  (Good thing it was a library book.)  Many of the recipes had more steps than I was willing to follow.

 

Milk Bar Life is a very different book, even though it’s still a bit quirky.  Actually, it’s very quirky.  There are many recipes that I’m unlikely to use, not because they are complicated, but because they’re not my thing.  At the same time, there are a handful of recipes that I really want to try out sooner rather than later.

The first section is dedicated to Hand-Me Down recipes.  Overall, they are very doable.  I’m eyeing the oatmeal cookies and the bread recipe.  Many of the recipes are very retro which just doesn’t appeal to me personally.  Examples?  The cocktail meatballs, the seven-layer salad, and the cheesy onions.

Of course, since this is a Christina Tosi cookbook, there is a chapter on cookies.  There are a couple of sugar cookie recipes, banana cookies, molasses-rye cookies… nothing with a long ingredient list like her compost cookie recipe.

The third chapter is supermarket inspirations.  It is, if you will pardon the expression, semi-homemade recipes.  Again, not really my thing.

The fourth chapter is filled with recipes that the Milk Bar staff has eaten during their breaks.  It brings me back to recipes I want to try like the tex-mex curried chili with avocado raita, or the jerk chicken recipe.

The fifth chapter brings us recipes that are quick to prepare but not all that healthy for the most part.  I really have to question the inclusion of tang toast.  It scares me a little?  haha.

The sixth chapter are “weekend recipes.”  They are recipes that take a bit more time and dedication.

The seventh chapter are cookout recipes.  It starts with lemon bars, includes a couple of delicious looking burger recipes, and finishes with a few cocktail recipes.

The eighth chapter is called “craft night/sleepover.”  I guess it’s more snacks and party food.  The jellies and jams sound really interesting to me.  I think blueberry miso jelly might be the first recipe I give a test drive from this book.

The final chapter is called “going out.”  They are recipes adapted from other restaurants.  I don’t think I’ll ever give the mac and cheese pancakes a go, but the arepas de pabellon sound good to me.

I’m hoping to make a couple of recipes in the near future but I should probably learn to stop making cooking/baking announcements.  I never get anything done in the time frame that I think I will.  But, let’s hope that I do.  And when I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.

 

Reference Links:

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/124929/christina-tosi/

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/233918/milk-bar-life-by-christina-tosi-author-of-momofuku-milk-bar/

flourless peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips

This post is dedicated to Martyna of http://wholesomecook.wordpress.com/. The pictures in this post were not taken with my really clunky and heavy digital camera. I recently acquired a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX9 as a result of some confusion and lots of generosity. From here on out, I have no good excuses for leaving my camera at home when I go to food events like the Harvard SEAS lectures.  My WX9 is a travel-friendly small size.

Next time David Chang is in town, I’ll get you a picture of David Chang. (^_^)b

ANYWAY!

Continue reading

orange cardamom cookies

Honestly, I didn’t eat fabulous things while in Antwerp and in France.  The fanciest meal I had was on my last night there.  I had duck confit, which is one of those dishes that I usually think about ordering but then go order something else.  A couple of the people I was traveling with convinced me to order it (the other choices were salmon and cod).  It was good, and needed the accompanying sauerkraut to help cut the fattiness… but honestly?  Chinese roasted duck, the duck that I grew up with, is much tastier.  The flavor is bolder.  However, the duck confit was wonderfully tender which is something you won’t get with roasted duck.

So, here are my pictures:

Breakfast at Hotel Banks, Antwerp:

(cookie recipe inside this entry)

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Earl Grey Cookies

What is this? An update? Really?!

Yes, really. 🙂

I will admit though that I’m posting at the request of a friend. haha, I’m so lazy otherwise or something like that.

I’ve been experimenting with earl grey butter cookies. They aren’t perfect. The flavor is very subtle. I haven’t been able to keep these in my house long enough, but it’s been reported to me that the flavor improves after a couple of days. I’m still going to experiment – need to see if I can bump up the earl grey flavor a notch, but dang! they smell amazing when they are baking in the oven.

Makes about 5 dozen? I don’t know. Uh… I must admit that I lost some of the dough to the floor.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
4-5 bags of early grey tea leaves (open up the bags and crush with mortar/pestle)
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Cream the butter and sugar first. Then add the eggs and vanilla, and mix. Finally add the flour, tea leaves, and salt. Mix until well combined.

Now, you can roll these into two logs and freeze them for at least an hour, or you can fill plastic bags and roll out flat before putting into the freezer. The first method gives you traditionally round butter cookies. The second gives you the chance to make very neat squares. I’ve done it both ways.

After freezing, slice up your logs into about 1/4″ rounds. If you used the plastic bags, cut the bags open flat and cut your cookies into neat squares. Either way, your cookies should probably be about 1 1/2″ in size.

Preheat oven to 375. Space cookies 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake until edges are golden, 18 to 20 minutes.

(My oven runs hot. I baked at 360 for 16-17 minutes.)

Cookies made for Tammy Raabe Rao; photo taken by Tammy Raabe Rao. ♥

~Mikan

A Tale of Two Cookies

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Sometimes, a person comes across something so intriguing that action must be taken up at once.

I had that moment recently, and it was called Peanut Butter Rosemary White Chocolate Chunks cookies. Peanut butter and rosemary? When a blogger mentions being a trained pastry chef in a meme, you don’t take such odd recipe posts lightly.

Asano-mama didn’t sound very optimistic about this recipe, which only fueled my determination. I set about making these cookies, starting even with the rosemary powder.

I think the rosemary powder is an excellent idea in general. However, I admit that it was my stumbling point. After one whole hour, I only had 3 tsp of rosemary powder. Why? I was using a tea strainer as my “fine mesh” accessory, and this tea strainer had really, really small mesh holes. Plus, the strainer was a little deep for the size of my hands, which just made an arduous task more difficult. o_O

The most evil part of the whole night? Realizing when I went to bed that I had a strainer/skimmer that would have been the perfect size for the task. *facepalm*

Oh well, 3 tsp was pretty close to the original 3 1/2 tsp requested in the recipe. The cookies came out just fine.

So, back to the idea of peanut butter and rosemary – wow, they paired really well! Once I smelled the cookies baking, I knew that there was no question regarding the yumminess factor of these cookies. Straight out of the oven, the peanut butter pretty much was the dominant flavor. If I hadn’t known that rosemary was in my cookie, I might not have noticed it. The rosemary was delightfully subtle. Overnight, the rosemary flavor has gotten stronger, but nothing to worry over. Without question, I’m keeping this cookie recipe in my favorites.

cookie recipe here – http://clumbsycookie.blogspot.com/2009/03/pbrwcc-cookies.html

rosemary powder instructions here – http://clumbsycookie.blogspot.com/2009/03/rosemary-powder.html

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And then this morning, I tried a batch of Trader Joe’s Cranberry and Oatmeal cookies. They’re “break and bake” cookies, except without the breaking part. These cookies are frozen in their individual, pre-measured amounts. And you know what? They’re wonderful. Great for when you need to impress people (or in my case, share with my cello classmates) but with very little effort. Such a stark contrast to my one-hour-making-rosemary-powder! Plus, it’s a nice change from chocolate chip break and bake cookies.

Thumbs up for Trader Joe’s. ^_^

(I admit, there are a number of Trader Joe’s products that I’m in love with. I’m considering posting reviews and pictures of them. I haven’t totally decided yet.)

~Mikan