seitan is my motor



December 2011



My Cookbook of the Year: Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites

Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman did it again. They wrote another fantastic cookbook. Their newest one is called Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites. As a tester I was able to try many recipes already before the book was out. After it got published I held a beautiful copy in my hands pretty soon. And even though I already had tried so many recipes, this book has become a very important ressource. It has been a lifesaver for us, expecially since we didn’t have the time and energy to spend hours on meal planning and shopping for a couple of weeks. Many recipes call for easily acessible ingredients and can be found in a regular grocery store. The instructions are very clear and most of the recipes are easy to make.

The book is divided into seven chapters. One of them is about useful kitchen items, baking & cooking tips, and important ingredients. The other six provide recipes for breakfast, main dishes, side dishes, breads, condiments & sauces, and of corse there’s one devoted to dessert, too.

If you are a breakfast person, you can find lots of outstanding meals in the first recipe chapter: Piña Colada French Toast with Candied Macadamia Nuts, Cocoa Kahlúa Pancakes, Banana Split Waffles, Hickory-Smoked Breakfast Strips, Tofuevos Rancheros, Chorizo and Egg Frittata and many more great items that will probably make you feel like your kitchen has turned into a five star restaurant. Especially if you are like me and a star fruit in your oatmeal was the fanciest thing you ever ate for breakfast. One thing I made quite often were the Super Streusel-y Muffins. They were wonderfully easy to prepare and I would freeze them and take them out whenever I needed a quick breakfast or a snack. Oh and did I mention the Altella Rolls? Brioche dough filled with almond chocolate spread. Brilliant.

The main course recipe section has lots of wonderful soup and stew recipes: We loved the Mulligatawny Soup and the Stew-Tatouille served with TVP Chorizo. When we had friends over P. made a huge pot of the Lentil and Bacon Pot o’ Stew which was served with an amazing batch of Tempeh Bacon. For Christmas Eve we made the I Would Do Anything for (Meat)Loaf, which was so tender and savoury that we gobbled it down in minutes.

The Patatas Bravas Frittata is made with an ingredient you would never guess: gluten powder. This results in a great texture and a very filling meal!

There are several pasta dishes we really loved as well: Pasta Alla Formiana, Sautéed Cheese Tortellini and Twice-Baked Spaghetti. I wasn’t able to take a decent picture of the Pasta alla Formiana, but that doesn’t say much. We reached for a second helping pretty soon.

My favourite recipe of all times (not only in this book) is definitely the Eggplant Parmigiana. P used to make this kind of dish for me and our friends very often before I went vegan. Since then we really missed it and were never able to find a proper substitute. But now that this genius recipe is available, we finally have one of our favourite foods back! (And our friends are finally coming over for dinner again.)

These Spicy Chickpeas can be found in the chapter about side dishes. We usually make a whole batch and eat them as a main course because we love them so much!

You could probably write a novel about German potato salad because there are so many different versions. In the North we like our potatoes drenched in mayo. Celine and Joni provide a recipe for a Southern German variation made with lots of browned onions, bacon bits, and vinegar. I would never have thought I would say that (because I always used to think that it was totally absurd to prepare a potato salad in another fashion than with mayo) but I really love that version, too!

Now let’s finally get to the second most important part of the book (at least for me): the section about bread.

I tried the Sweet Whole Wheat Rye Bread and really liked it! It was so different from the rye breads we can get here in Germany: they usually rely heavily on sourdough and do indeed taste “sour”. Since I am so used to this kind of bread I would never have thought of rye as the main ingredient in a sweet bread. But this recipe turned out to be another of my favourites!

German soft pretzels are also different from US-American ones. First of all they are made with food grade lye and not with baking soda. And secondly, nobody would ever think of adding peanut butter to the dough. Which is the worst mistake in history if you ask me. I loved these pretzels so much! (I have to admit that I cooked mine in lye and not in baking soda. But not because I didn’t trust the recipe. I just have tons of that stuff sitting in my kitchen pantry.)

Another recipe I found very intriguing was the Pinto Bean Tortilla Roll recipe. Beans and tortilla chips added to the dough? Yes, please!

If you think shaping a roll is boring, you should definitely try the Garlic Knots! They are fun to make and will definitely impress your guests.

Like Celine’s and Joni’s other books this one provides lots of sauces, condiments and other staples that you might want to make from scratch for a couple of reasons.  Tofu mayo, tofu sour cream, parmesan, or cheese sauces for example. The Hemp Almond Parmesan has become our favourite parmesan recipe, but if you don’t have access to things like coconut flour or maca powder, the Walnut Parmesan Sprinkles are great, too. We often made the Mozzarella and the TVP Pepperoni to put on our pizza, too.

Another thing we really love is the Altella Spread (recipe on Celine’s blog). I have to admit that we aren’t the biggest fans of nutella. I never liked the taste of cocoa powder combined with cheap oil. This vegan spread is so much better and we made it a couple of times. Especially since it is made without oil and with real chocolate.

The best part of the book is – of course – the dessert section! There are so many wonderful ice cream, pudding, pie, cookie, bar and cake recipes to choose from that we had a hard time deciding what to make first.

This peanut butter ice cream barely made it to the freezer.

For Christmas this year we made the Apple Pie with Pecan Crust (recipe on Celine’s blog). I know that a pie crust can be a pain to make. Not in this case. You can put it together fast and easy. And the the combination of apples, pecans, and cinnamon is just perfect.

Now that you have reached the end of this epic review, you can probably guess that this book has become my favourite cookbook. I think I never cooked as many items from one single book so far. What I like most about it is the fact that it is a book about comfort food. But to me it seems that Celine and Joni have reinvented that whole concept with new and innovative recipes! So if you want to try something new and fancy and crave something rustic and down to earth at the same time, I can recommend this book! We’ve cooked from it on a weekly basis not only for us but for our friends, too. And there wasn’t a single thing we didn’t like.

P.S. If you want to win a copy (and live in the USA), hop over to Celine’s blog by New Year’s Day at noon PST and leave a comment.

Happy New Year!



    • Mihl