What does it mean when a food is labeled "vegan?" To put it simply, a vegan diet means the elimination of any trace of animal products from the food.
Many foods we all eat on a daily basis are vegan, so, just because something is labeled "vegan" doesn't mean non-vegans can't eat it.
A very basic way of putting it, is no meat, dairy, eggs or honey. There are varying levels of vegans, but this is the basic gist.
Many more people have become vegetarian and vegan in recent years, more so than there has been in the past - myself included - now a vegan of nearly half a year.
More vegan options and alternatives are becoming available at restaurants and grocery stores, not to mention cookbooks.
Every vegan has most likely found themselves buying up every vegan cookbook that catches their eye.
"350 Best Vegan Recipes" by Deb Roussou, published by Robert Rose Inc., is one of the first cookbooks I tried when I became a vegan, and it has not disappointed me. I use the cookbook on a very regular basis - sometimes making the same recipes multiple times.
The book begins with a table of contents, and ends with an alphabetical food index. Acknowledgments follow the table of contents as well as an introduction from the author. It then goes into tools and equipment the cook may need to prepare some of the dishes, as well as provides a list of foods the cook may consider purchasing to stock their vegan pantry.
A few of these items that I too use regularly include agave nectar, vegan butter or margarine (I prefer Earth Balance), vegan mayonnaise (I prefer Vegenaise) and tofu.
The first recipe section of the book is titled Vegan from Scratch. This section shows you how to make your own soy or almond milk, sour cream, mayonnaise, broth and other food items needed as ingredients in the recipes to follow. I made the mayonnaise and it defiantly worked for me in a pinch and it was really easy to make too.
The second section is Small Plate Starters. The Chesapeake Bay cakes - much like crab cakes - was the first recipe I used from this book, and they were delicious. Just thinking about them is making want to make them again.
The next sections include breakfast; breads, rolls and crackers; and vegetables and salads. The main dishes typically have quite a few ingredients, but don't let the long list scare you.
You always can leave out a few things if needed, or change things up in some cases. Sometimes I even add additional spices to the recipes for my particular taste. The fragrant rice-stuffed peppers and parsley, lemon and potato risotto are just two of the recipes on my list of things to make.
The soup section is great too.
Now that it is fall, soup is a great way to warm up on cold days. I have made the French onion soup and it was so good. It makes six servings and I must have eaten it all in about three days by myself.
I also made the mushroom and wild rice soup (without the rice) and shared it with a friend. The soup was delicious, but I could have done without the woodiness of the thyme. My dried thyme had lots of hard stems, which was distracting to an otherwise yummy bowl of soup.
In the sauces, dips and spreads section, I made the classic pesto sauce several times and I added some sauted veggies to the pasta and sauce and it made a great dinner. If you don't have pine nuts, or if they are too expensive, a co-worker told me to use walnuts, which work just as nicely for the pesto as the pine nuts.
The next section is dressings and spice blends. I have made the ranch dressing many times and brought it to picnics and parties where vegans and non-vegans alike enjoyed it with veggies, salads and as a chip dip.
The last two sections are cocktails, drinks and smoothies followed by sweets. There is something for everyone and to suit every mood inside this cookbook. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for some great meatless, vegan-friendly meals.
The book is 408 pages, 24 of which are full-color photographs of prepared items from the recipes and sells for $24.95, according to the publisher.
With the colors of a Spanish landscape, this richly flavored one-pan meal is fun and festive. Dinner on the deck and a pitcher of sangria; now that's relaxing. As cooking with seasonal vegetables produces superior flavors, use green beans if asparagus is unavailable.
Serves 6 to 8
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1large fennel bulb, trimmed and cut 1 into bite-size pieces
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups short- or medium-grain white rice
2 cups warm water
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon saffron threads or ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts in water, drained
3/4 cup sliced drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
8 ounces thin asparagus or green beans, trimmed and halved
1/3 cup green olives
3 tablespoons chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
Spread in paella pan, cover and heat in a 350 F oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
When garlic is browned too quickly it will become bitter. If sauteing with other vegetables, add garlic toward the end of the browning process.
To ensure time with your guests, make the paella up to 1 day ahead. Refrigerate cooled paella in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
French Herbed Strada
Delicate herbs of the French countryside come together to create a sophisticated and light-as-a-feather strata well suited for a springtime brunch.
Serves 6 to 10
To clean leeks: Leeks are grown in sand and are sometimes difficult to clean.
A good method of cleaning is to vertically slice through the white and light green leaves, leaving most of the dark green leaves intact. Grasp the leek by the dark green leaves, fan out the bottom white and light green portions, exposing much of the inside of the leek, and run under cold water.
1tablespoon olive oil
2 large leeks, thoroughly washed and sliced
8 ounces thin asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 3-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 loaf (1 lb) day-old vegan French bread, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 package (12.3 ounces) firm silken tofu
4 ounces medium regular tofu
1 cup plain non-dairy milk
1/4cup dry white wine
2 tablespoon cornstarch
2teaspoon Dijon mustard
1teaspoon onion powder
1/4teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
Place a large skillet over medium heat and let pan get hot. Add oil and tip pan to coat. Add leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes. Add asparagus, garlic, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and pepper and cook until asparagus turns bright green, 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from heat, stir in bread and transfer to prepared baking dish.
In food processor, combine silken and medium tofu, milk, wine, cornstarch, mustard, onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and turmeric and process until very smooth.
Add tarragon and herbes de Provence and process until blended. Pour mixture over vegetables and bread.
Cover strata and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight for bread to absorb custard.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove strata from refrigerator and allow it to warm to room temperature. Uncover and bake in preheated oven until slightly puffed and firm, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Let stand for 6 to 8 minutes before cutting to serve.