October 17, 2011
I had kind of a strange dream the other night. I had just been hired to work in a daycare center where parents left their kids while they worked or shopped at the mall. The odd thing was the kids were high school-aged students, not pre-schoolers. The students were well dressed and attractive, and were from various expensive prep schools, and they were not very amenable to following directions from the teachers. At one point I noticed the students going to the school kitchen and getting food, though a scheduled meal was not being served. I went to ask the other teacher, who happened to be Antonio Banderas, if that was OK, and saw that he seemed kind of harassed, and was rolling beans into tortillas, making burritos to serve the students.
I couldn't help but notice that the beans he was using were from the same chili recipe my husband and I had just made from The Happy Herbivore cookbook. It was awkward asking him stupid procedural questions because, um, he was Antonio Bandaras. He LOOKED like Antonio Bandaras, and SOUNDED like Antonio Bandaras so, as you can imagine, it was quite distracting. He was very nice, but so busy rolling the burritos he didn't really have time to chat, and seeing as I was pretty flustered anyway, I didn't try to make conversation. That's all I remember about the dream — or at least all I'm willing to tell you —so let's just talk about the cookbook.
To be honest, I've had a hard time writing a review of the cookbook because when I first received it from the publisher, we tried a few recipes and didn't like them. Go figure. I know there will always be recipes in a cookbook that don't appeal to me, so after taking a little break from the cookbook, we tried again. So many bloggers are cooking from The Happy Herbivore and loving it, I had to give it another shot. We made the Chili sans Carne and it was delicious. (And as you can see, it might inspire great dreams!) The chili seems pretty typical of the kind of recipes you'll find in the book — familiar, easy-to-prepare vegan comfort food — but without added fat, except for the fat that may be contained in prepared ingredients like Thai chili sauce or ... chocolate chips. Lindsay Nixon aims to provide delicious, healthy, low-fat foods that don't remind you with every bite that your dinner is healthy and low in fat.
When I made the chocolate zucchini muffins, I was really worried about how they would turn out, with no added fat except for a few chocolate chips. They were excellent — moist and tender. I served them for dessert, and everyone who ate one loved it. Although I don't cook fat-free, I generally cook relatively low-fat, low-sugar and low-salt foods, and though the muffins had no added fat, they did call for a range of 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar. While I usually use 1/4 cup of sugar for muffins, for these I used 1/2 cup, to stay true to the recipe. (Sometimes no-fat recipes tend to have more sugar and salt to compensate for the flavor and texture fat usually adds, but in general, this doesn't seem to be the case with The Happy Herbivore.) Because the muffins were so low in fat, I decided to continue the healthy theme and frost them with a version of sweet potato frosting, that I originally found on Diet Dessert and Dogs. Trust me, you can't tell this fudge-y frosting is sweet potato-based, and it makes me feel a little healthier knowing I'm not eating big mouthfuls of margarine and powdered sugar. The other little change I made was to use whole spelt flour instead of wheat.
The last recipe I tried was a pumpkin pie that makes its own crust. I love pumpkin pie a lot, and I still like my old version better, but this one was quite good, and my guests really loved it. I sprinkled it with chocolate chips for a little extra pizazz. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this might be a recipe to keep in mind. It's a much lower-fat interpretation of pumpkin pie that the usual crusted version, and I'll probably make it again for Thanksgiving.
In addition to low-fat renditions of all your favorite dishes, Lindsay offers a whole selection of interesting condiments and spice mixes (Berberé, Cajun essence, vegan Worcestershire sauce, etc.) to add flavor and excitement to food. Anyone wishing to reduce their fat consumption might enjoy this cookbook, but I think it would be an especially good resource for new vegans looking to create healthier meals while still enjoying old favorites.
I tend to cook with very little fat, and sometimes cook with no added fat, but I'm not by any means fat-free. We're bombarded with so much information, research, and expert opinions about what we should or shouldn't eat, it can get truly confusing. Is coconut oil a panacea or a highly saturated fat to avoid? Is olive oil a health-giving fat or just an unnecessary fat? Should we avoid sunflower oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil? What about margarine like Earth Balance? Should we be cooking fat-free or is it OK to sauté veggies in 2 teaspoons of oil? What do you think?
Disclaimer: The book was sent to me free of charge by the publisher. I was under no obligation to review it, or to write a favorable review. For reasons unknown to me, I was not offered payment in exchange for writing a review.