***Giveaway Closed – Congratulations Theresa!***
When I made my Peanut Butter Bliss Pudding I had no idea it would turn into a book review! I jumped at the chance to review my own copy of Blissful Bites: Vegan Meals That Nourish Mind, Body, and Planet and was even more thrilled when I learned that one of you – yes, YOU! – will get a chance to receive a copy of your own.
Christy Morgan, vegan chef and author of Blissful Bites, is on a “mission to help others make the connection between the mind, body and spirit, so they may live authentic, healthy, happy lives free of physical pain and mental suffering.” She is on a roll with Blissful Bites, her first cookbook, as well as her blog The Blissful Chef.
One of the things that grabs my attention about a cookbook before even delving into the recipes is the pictures. Mm, mouthwatering pictures! Not every recipe features a photo, but there’s a yummy, full color photo at least every other page, scattered throughout the book like a little trail of [vegan, whole grain] breadcrumbs, leading you to the end.
The cookbook is broken down into food categories (such as breakfast & brunch, appetizers & soups, salads & dressings, vegetable sides, whole grains, etc.) and within these categories are seasonal recipes, which make it easy to pick the freshest ingredients. There’s a nifty little menu in front of each recipe section that lays it all out for you. I love that it’s color-coded for easy identification – green for “spring,” blue for “winter,” you get the idea.
What’s nice about this cookbook is that it’s super-informative about making healthier choices and encourages you to start leaning towards a more plant-based lifestyle without being judgemental. I am not a vegetarian, but I do like to try meat-free, dairy-free and even gluten-free recipes from time to time. Whether you like to experiment or have specific dietary needs, there are special identifying icons for some of the recipes – raw, gluten-free, soy-free, low or no oil, or taking less than 45 minutes to prepare. It really removes all the guesswork!
After devouring the pudding, I was excited to try some more of the recipes and started making a list of my favorites. I wanted to make them as authentic as possible, using the ingredients called for, but I will admit this wasn’t the easiest to do. Unless you specifically shop at an organic or specialty food store (or already have these items in your pantry) you may not be able to find the exact ingredients – things like vanilla flavoring, grain-sweetened chocolate chips, coconut palm sugar, nutritional yeast, miso, kelp noodles, dulse flakes, kombu and the other sea vegatables, none of which are at my grocery store. Luckily, if you’re willing to make a special trip or do a bit of online shopping they are obtainable. Also, many of them can be easily substituted; it’s hard for me to stick to a recipe anyway!
The Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie was one of the first on my list. When I buy strawberries on sale I freeze half of them for smoothies during the warmer months and we had extra on hand since we went strawberry-picking at a local farm recently. This was a really easy recipe and easily-tweaked by adding different fruits or types of milk.
I’m in love with the sauce from the Penne with Creamy Red Pepper Sauce! The kids and I often have pasta in the evenings, so I thought this would be a good choice. I didn’t have quite enough red pepper, but it was still full of flavor and I went back for seconds. Later it occurred to me that it would make an excellent dip for chips, crackers and veggies, which of course I put to the test. I don’t usually buy tofu since I’m worried about its effects as a staple in one’s diet but I could definitely swing this once a week.
Cooking is not something I like to do in the Summer. Friday night is our homemade-pizza-and-a-movie night but there’s no way I’m cranking that oven to 450 degrees! We usually opt for salads and sandwiches, so I was curious to try the Un-Tuna Salad. We love cooking with beans – quesadillas, enchiladas, falafel, black bean burgers, hummus, you name it – so the idea of a sandwich filler with chick peas sounded like a yummy idea. It’s basically a tuna or chicken salad with chick peas instead of the meat. I used dried beans, which take longer to prepare, but the results were sooooo good! This will definitely be a staple in our diet; I’m anxious to try adding curry powder for extra pizzaz.
Dessert… my favorite! I decided to make the Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies with a few tweaks. I don’t buy egg replacer, so I opted for the flaxseed substitute instead. That, combined with the fact that I blended my own brown rice and almond flours, may have contributed to the fact that the batter was really runny. I made one cookie sheet’s worth then added some white whole wheat flour to thicken it up. Those came out better and they were all soft and had great flavor – not surprising considering the coconot oil, maple syrup and peanut butter. Care to make a batch for yourself? Knock yourself out…
Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies
1/4c vegan margarine or coconut oil, melted
1/2c maple syrup
1/3c unsweetened applesauce
1t Ener-G egg replacer, whisked with 1T water
1t vanilla flavoring
1/2c peanut butter
3/4c almond flour
3/4c brown rice flour
1t baking powder
1t baking soda
2t flax meal
1/4t sea salt
1/2c vegan grain-sweetened chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. In medium mixing bowl, beat margarine (or coconut oil), maple syrup, and applesauce until smooth and creamy. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix well. In separate bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and soda, flax, salt, and arrowroot. Mix wet into dry ingredients until well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and stir well.
Drop spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet. Using wet fingertips or the bottom of a glass, press down each cookie evenly (continue to dip fingers or glass in water to prevent sticking). The cookies will not spread much, so you can put them close together on the cookie sheet. Take a fork and press lightly on the top in two directions, to create a grid on top of the cookie. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool cookies on a wire rack.
So, who’s ready to win a copy of Blissful Bites? There are a number of ways to enter (leave a separate comment for each, being sure to include your name and e-mail address):
1. Share the love and tell someone about the giveaway (twitter, facebook, e-mail, etc.) then leave me a link to that share.
2. Check out The Blissful Chef and tell me what recipe you’d love to try.
3. Tell me what healthy eating means to you.
*Giveaway is open for 30 days and is open to U.S. residents only.
As for me, I can’t wait to experiment with the recipes and include more plant-based meals into our everyday life.