The subtitle of Vesanto Melina, MS, RD and Chef Joseph Forest’s new cookbook, Cooking Vegan, is “healthful, delicious and easy.” That sums up the essence of this great new vegan cookbook perfectly. Billed as a companion to Vesanto’s best-selling book Becoming Vegan, Cooking Vegan includes good introductory chapters to set the stage for the recipes that follow.
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Cooking Vegan – Healthful, Delicious and Easy
Whether you are already vegan, on the path to veganism, or simply seeking a cookbook filled with healthy plant-based recipes, Cooking Vegan is a great addition to your cookbook library.
Recipes for Vegan and Non-Vegan Alike
I am not a vegan, and I don’t think that path is right for me. I do, however, garden extensively and try to eat a healthy diet rich in plant foods. And that’s why Cooking Vegan (and Becoming Vegan) was so helpful to me.
Face it, when you grow a home vegetable garden, you often have unexpected abundance. Some vegetables produce plentiful crops and you may be ‘stuck’ with bowl after bowl of kale, chard, or cucumbers. And then what do you do with them? You can freeze, can, pickle and dry them. Or you can pull out Cooking Vegan and let your creativity go in the kitchen.
While the recipes do include some exotic cuisines, there are plenty of what I call “home cooking” type recipes for vegetables that are easy to find at the local supermarket. These also make great transitional recipes for people seeking to include more plant foods in the diet. Recipes such as Vegan Chic-en Paella, “Unmac” and Cheese, Seasoned Potato Wedges and more provide healthy food for the entire family. Many of these recipes (such as UnMac and Cheese and Seasoned Potato Wedges) may also appeal to children, another great reason to enjoy this cookbook. If you struggle to get your kids to eat their vegetables, these healthy alternatives to packages foods may encourage your children to eat more nutritious foods without a tableside battle.
Cookbook and Information In One Volume
I like cookbooks that include information and resources, and Cooking Vegan fits the bill perfectly. Vesanto Melina begins the book by introducing many core concepts of veganism, such as the abundance of protein in plants (plants are actually a good source of protein.) She lists what she calls “protein-powered athletes” to shatter the myth that vegans and vegetarians are weak, listless people without the energy to engage in vigorous sports. She reviews the basics of a healthy diet – carbohydrates, proteins, fats – and includes information on fiber and nutrients.
Next, she delves into the various foods found in a well-stocked vegan pantry. This section is important, so don’t skip it. It sets the stage for the recipes to come and helps you create your new shopping list for your vegan kitchen.
Recipes for All Occassions
After the great introduction, the recipes follow. Soups, salads, main dishes and desserts follow. The recipes have fairly simple ingredient lists and easy to follow instructions. One of the reasons I liked this book was that the recipes don’t call for too many exotic ingredients. I live in a rural location, and the nearest specialty grocery stores are over an hour’s drive away, if not more. If I need an exotic spice, I tend to skip a recipe. Although a few recipes called for ingredients my local grocery store doesn’t stock, the majority used staples from the kitchen and pantry that should be easy to find at most stores nationally.
Another aspect of the recipes that I enjoyed was the suggested menus. Near each section, the author included ideas for combining recipes into holiday meals and other special meals. I can’t get enough of those types of ideas. I tend to fall into a rut with my cooking, and having a list of recipes that “go together” helps a lot.
A Good Cookbook for Healthy Vegan Recipes
Chef Joseph Forest and nutritionist Vesanto Melina have created a simple, fun, and easy to follow cookbook of healthy vegan recipes. The only thing about this book that I did not like was the heavy reliance upon tofu-based recipes. Partially this is because I am sensitive to tofu (and soy products) and cannot eat them, but I also personally do not believe that packaged tofu is all that healthy. That’s my personal belief, however, and conventional wisdom still offers tofu as a source of protein for those who no longer eat meat.
Cooking Vegan offers simple, easy to follow recipes for those immersed in the vegan lifestyle, transitioning to veganism, or simple seeking healthy plant-based recipes. I look forward to trying more of these recipes this summer as the garden’s bounty is harvested.
You can find Cooking Vegan at your local bookstore or on Amazon.com
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.