Cookbook Review: Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food

by Mihl

I think I was already pregnant when Alicia Simpson asked me to test for her book project Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Food. I have to admit I was very hesitant at first. Being pregnant and eating food low in calories was the least I wanted to do. Plus, I generally don’t eat low-calorie. I am not a fan of diet books and I am not on a weight loss plan.

I didn’t own any of Alicia’s other books but I had been reading her blog Vegan Guinea Pig for ages, where she reviews vegan products for her readers. Alicia is a nutritional anthropologist and right now she is finishing her degree to become a registered dietitian (R.D.). And if you ask me, when you write a diet book or a book advising people on nutrition or how to lose weight, you’d better be trained in that field.

There are already a lot of vegan or almost vegan diet and weight loss books out there and many come with a lot of (often not very science based) claims about nutrition. Some authors tell you that if you want to lose weight, you should cut out x and y and never, ever eat z. Not so Alicia. In the introduction to her book she writes: “My policy has always been simply to eat the foods I love, exercise daily, and keep a positive attitude.” She explains that the recipes in her book are low-calorie by default, made from mostly whole foods but also with the addition of foods like sugar and oil: “When I developed these recipes, I was cooking the way I’ve always cooked: using full-fat oils, real sugar, and nothing ‘diet’.”

This attitude is what won me over to test Alicia’s recipes. I really like this relaxed approach that bans concepts like “guilt” and “forbidden foods”. And since I wasn’t on a diet when I tested the recipes, all I wanted was real food and reasonable portions. And that’s what I got. I think I completely forgot I was testing for a low-calorie book because the recipes were both tasty and filling.

Another thing that comes in very handy is the fact that this book keeps what it promises: All the recipes I tried were really quick and easy to make.

Most of the recipes are really simple and easy, made with ingredients found in any grocery store. They  call only for a few steps so that you can throw them together e.g. when you come home from work or while your ten month old tries to demolish the living room. (Okay, now I am making claims.)

(What bothered me a bit: There’s a lot of talk about calories and the word low-calorie is used a lot. I guess that’s part of the book being about exactly this and it probably just bothered me because I am not part of the target audience.)

The author provides lots of nutritional information through the book. Every recipe also comes with a couple of useful numbers: calorie count per serving, macro-nutrients, and some micro-nutrients like iron and calcium, which I found very helpful.

I tested several recipes but unfortunately I didn’t take many pictures. So when I decided to write a review, we went back to some of our old favourites and cooked them again.

This chickpea cacciatore is very versatile and can be served over whole grains like rice or quinoa, but I have to say that we liked it best with noodles. Even though it is more like a stew, it also makes a really great pasta sauce.

Our favourite salad was the Moroccan Carrot Salad which is thrown together quickly if you have a food processor. But I have to say I didn’t mind grating the carrots by hand. Alicia suggests to let this sit a while before enjoying it and she is right! Make a big batch and place it in the fridge so you can enjoy it the next day.

I really love to make chili and the next time I get a chili craving, I’m definitely going to make this recipe for Old-Fashioned Chili Beans again. You just place all the ingredients in a large pot and start cooking. That’s it. 20 minutes later you have a pot of tasty and filling chili beans!

The Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce was one of P.s Favourites. He made this for us and I think he fell in love with the Tzatziki. We had some leftovers of the sauce and I dumped them into a pan with sautéed spinach and turnip greens and it made them super creamy!

I shamefully have to admit that I made many recipes from the main dish and salad section but neglected the breakfast and dessert items for this review. Even though I didn’t take any pictures I can recommend the Blueberry Cornmeal and the Lavender Pancakes. We also made the Black Bean Sausage and there is a great granola recipes, too.

For dessert I definitely want to try the Moon Dusted Donuts and the Butter Rum Pound Cake. And since the weather forecast people on TV said something about the hottest days of the year, I’d better go and prepare some Watermelon-Basil Mock Mojitos and some Butter Pecan Ice Cream.



Maggie Muggins August 29, 2012 - 21:16

Thanks for the review Mihl! I’ve been iffy about this one for a while since A. it seemed like a diet book and B. I hadn’t heard anything about it. I don’t have any of Alicia’s other books but this one sounds like pretty good place to start, it’d be nice to have a go-to book for super quick meals when I’m feeling lazy. I’m going to be all over that chickpea cacciatore, especially when it starts to get cooler outside.

Hannah August 24, 2012 - 03:30

I also hesitated to invest much effort into a cookbook that put so much emphasis on calories, but these dishes you featured look really good! Glad to know that the healthy bent doesn’t negatively impact the flavors. I guess I do have to check it out after all.

adam August 22, 2012 - 17:43

I think vegan is naturally healthy without having to force the issue of calories etc. Just eating sensibly and moderately in my experience you never even have to think of calories. But I guess it sells, so to that extent it’s useful just to get people into the idea of vegan food.

Richa August 22, 2012 - 03:10

Ooh, i love the look of the chickpea cacciatore and the gyros. Thanks you the honest review. I’d probably get irritated with all the calorie talk. I just cant count and eat:)

Bonnie August 21, 2012 - 16:03

I love that first photo. The stew looks so warm and comforting – I need to make something like that this winter. I don’t have any of Alicia’s books, but I like the sound of her recipes and her approach to food, so I’m glad you posted this!

Lea August 21, 2012 - 10:05

Ich hatte drüber nachgedacht ob ich das kaufen soll, aber eigentlich sind ja viele vegane Rezepte sowieso “low calorie”, auch wenn man nicht das ganze Öl weglässt. DU schreibst, dass die rezepte einfach sind, sind sie auch, naja, so dass man sie in einer ähnlichen form schon von anderen orten kennt?

Mihl August 21, 2012 - 11:09

Die meisten Rezepte sind US-amerikanische Basics und so ähnlich durchaus in anderen Kochbüchern oder auf anderen Blogs zu finden.

Susan August 20, 2012 - 00:52

I got this book after some recommendations of Twitter, and your lovely post makes me glad I did. I’ve only made a couple of things from it so far, but have a few things marked to make soon.

Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy August 19, 2012 - 22:00

oh yum! that chili looks amazing!

celine August 19, 2012 - 12:12

I am so making this chickpea cacciatore this week. And possibly the pound cake. And the black bean sausage.

Jojo August 19, 2012 - 11:56

I’ve been contemplating buying this book for a while but I was worried that it may be a bit diet-y. I’m going to buy it now though, everything you made looks great & I like that it’s whole foods based but not oil/fat free.

Comments are closed.