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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Mighty Salads, a cookbook review

Wow, this post is a long time coming.  And by a long time, I mean an entire month because of shipping issues that were out of my control.  My Instagram account gets more regular activity than my blog (in case someone is interested), but that’s because it’s easier to post a photo than to collect my thoughts and try my best to jot it down in a manner that doesn’t make me sound like a rambling idiot. (Note, I am not always sure I succeed.)

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But about two weeks ago, my review copy of Food52’s Mighty Salads finally arrived at my doorstep.  People who know me best know that I don’t make salads much at home.  When I do make them, they are very simplistic.  My usual salad is arugula, tomatoes, and salad dressing.  This is not a joke.  My cooking in the last year has become about simple and functional recipes since I’m pretty much cooking every meal in advance.  In the last two months though, I’ve started to play the macro game.  (I’m trying to count my protein, carb, and fat amounts.)  And in playing the macro game, I’ve found that I’m terrible at it and often need inspiration.

I almost didn’t get Mighty Salads, but I found that other reviewer comments made me curious.  And I don’t refer to the positive reviews.  I wanted to know if I agreed or disagreed with the few negative reviews I found.  

The summation of the negative reviews I found is basically that the recipes were too complicated or used less common ingredients.  Really?

Here’s a sampling of recipes:

  • Grilled Peach and Apricot Salad with Kale and Prosciutto
  • Petits Pois a la Francaise Redux
  • Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Tomato-Cucumber Salad
  • Slow Roasted Duck and Apple Salad

Admittedly, I’m picking on the recipes that might sound less accessible based on title.  But here’s the thing: every recipe has a simplified subheading.

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Food52 mighty salads

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Grilled Peach and Apricot salad with Kale and Prosciutto is essentially a six ingredient recipe if I don’t count salt, oil, and some bread to serve with.  The subheading is “sturdy greens + cured meat + grilled fruit + crumbly cheese”.  Petits Pois a la Francaise Redux?  It’s “charred greens + charred alliums + bacon + cream dressing”.  But what if you don’t want to pick out your own greens and alliums to brown?  Looking at the ingredients list, we’re talking about bacon, sugar, paprika, romaine lettuce, and green peas for the salad portion.  The accompanying creme fraiche dressing is mayo, creme fraiche OR sour cream, buttermilk, and lemon juice.  Creme fraiche could be difficult to get a hold of depending on your location, but, in the US, mayo/sour cream/buttermilk/lemons are pretty standard items at your local market.

Meanwhile, the lamb salad is broken down as “kebabs + vegetable chunks + herbs + yogurt dressing.”  And the duck?  “Fall apart tender meat + warm fruit + hearty greens + nuts + vinegar.”

When simplified to its basic building blocks, none of these salads sound that exotic.

What about in practice, how do these recipes turn out?

Well, that’s harder for me to answer.  I did “cook” from the book.  I say cook in quotes because I was strict about keeping to the amounts and ingredients for the Grilled Mushroom and Fig Salad recipe.  Here’s what I actually used:

  • 1 lb baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • About half a bag of Trader Joe’s semi-dried green figs
  • About 4 cups of baby arugula
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese, amount unknown
  • Possibly two handfuls of regular almonds that I toasted

For the dressing, I actually kept to the recipe except for the minced shallots.  1) I got lazy.  2) I didn’t want onion breath while at work.

The original recipe was meant to serve 4, but my version was good for two lunches.  Overall reaction?  I liked this.  I should not have used Parmesan but I didn’t have time to pick up ricotta salata which was the cheese my heart really wanted to use.  (It was supposed to be Pecorino Romano but that’s not a cheese I use much.)  It was filling and good.  I wish I had marinated the mushrooms for longer than 30 minutes but I was assembling this salad at around 9pm.  And for a 9pm “OH MY GOD I NEED TO ASSEMBLE LUNCH FOR WORK TOMORROW” session, it wasn’t difficult or too time consuming at all.  (To be fair, I made the dressing earlier that day.)  Another plus for me personally?  Portabello mushrooms and cheese are decent sources of protein.

I will say that I have one issue with Mighty Salads.  I found some of the tips to be random.  For example, on the page for Freekeh, Fennel, and Smoked Fish Salad, there’s a “genius tip” regarding crunchy crumbled tempeh.  It give a gives a quick blurb on what tempeh is, and one method of cooking it.  It has absolutely no relation to the recipe on the page.  I’m mystified as to why the tempeh note is on this page.  And then I was mystified as to why there wasn’t at least one recipe that used tempeh, or at least mention in a recipe as a good substitution.

So is this a perfect book?  No.  But I will get some use out of the recipes this summer.  It also doesn’t hurt that the photos in this cookbook are gorgeous.

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/books/536117/food52-mighty-salads-by-editors-of-food52-foreword-by-amanda-hesser-and-merrill-stubbs/

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/2114326/editors-of-food52/

 

 

A weekend dinner in pictures

I was in Dutchess County, New York, this past weekend.  Do you know what that means?

Dinner at Another Fork in the Road!

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Our menu for the evening – but the chicken under a brick had been replaced by fried chicken.  And now that I think about it, I think the kimchi brussel sprouts were unavailable.  I think it was more of a kimchi sauce that was on the plate.  Something had been sold out – maybe the rabbit meatballs?

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The cauliflower appetizer.  I only tasted a little bit of it because I am anti-cilantro, but what I tasted of it was very good.

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The kale and mussel toast.  OMG!  So good!

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The scallops platter was not mine, but I think it was the best of the entrees at our table.  I think I’m probably biased toward any plate with perfectly cooked scallops.

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The fried chicken was superb!  The sauce was spicy and very red, so I think it might have had gochujang in it.  The scallion pancake was a floppy disappointment though.  I guess I can’t have it all.

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The duck and soba soup was mine.  The broth and the duck were delicious.  Yes, that is cilantro you see.  Yes, I picked it all off.  In my defense, cilantro was not mentioned in the menu description for this dish.  The soba noodles were oddly a little bitter?  I wonder if they had been dressed in sauce before being added to the soup.

If for some weird reason you’re in Red Hook, NY, or elsewhere in Dutchess County, I still recommend having a meal here.

Reference Link:
https://www.facebook.com/anotherforkintheroad/