“Good Housekeeping Family Vegetarian Cooking: 225 Recipes Everyone Will Love” will appeal to a wide audience, from transitioning vegetarians (Chapter Nine is devoted to “the Flexible Vegetarian”) to vegans (vegan recipes are clearly marked with a “v”, and many recipes include sidebars on how to make a given recipe vegan).** One of my main problems as a vegetarian is how to make meals exciting; “Family Vegetarian Cooking” spices up meals with additions such as Macaroni and Cheese Deluxe, studded with peas, blue cheese, cherry tomatoes and toasted walnuts, or the Wheat-Berry Pilaf with Green Beans and Cranberries, rich with carrots, celery, onion, green beans and a dash of orange peel. There are loads of ethnic-inspired recipes like Vegetarian Souvlaki, Gingery Spinach-Lentil Stew, Vegetable Curry, Farro Risotto with Butternut Squash, Nacho Casserole, and Grilled Eggplant Caponata Salad to add zest to your meals. In addition to fresh fruits and veggies, you’ll find a wealth of grains, including farro, wheat berries, barley, quinoa, and bulgur cleverly worked into salads, veggie burgers, pilafs and casseroles. If you’re still of the mindset that “vegetarian” equals “sprouts and avocados,” you’ll find that as well, but with so many surprising (and mostly healthy) flavor combos, why not try something new tonight?
Inside, you’ll find breakfast options, soups, salads, and sandwiches, stir fries and sautés, casseroles, a chapter on grilling veggies and the aforementioned “flexitarian” chapter that caters to everyone (you use half meat and half tofu). There are many flexitarian Asian recipes in particular, including several stir fries, miso soup, and coconut curry soup. However, for those who are allergic to (or choose to avoid) soy products, the only veggie option given in the flexitarian chapter is tofu (processed soy is largely absent from the rest of the book, except for the occasional recipe calling for tempeh or soy sausage). I would have liked to see high-protein non-soy options such as seitan (wheat gluten) included. Desserts are largely fruit-based (Peach Hand Pies, Peach-Raspberry Galette, Summer Salsa with Sweet Tortilla Chips), and there are a few vegan options such as Vegan Chocolate Chip-Walnut Brownies, Deep Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes, and Vegan Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies that are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.
The recipes come together quickly by taking advantage of supermarket shortcuts such as canned beans and frozen veggies; you can speed up prep even more by purchasing prechopped veggies (onions, garlic, peppers) at your supermarket’s salad bar or produce section. Most, if not all, of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry or at your local supermarket. Handy sidebars (“It’s So Good!”) extol the nutritional virtues of the various fruits and veggies featured in recipes. Nutritional info is provided for each recipe, but one caveat: just because a recipe is vegetarian or vegan doesn’t automatically make it low-fat; the vegan roasted vegetable pizza with soy sausage and soy mozzarella clocks in at 678 calories and 23 g fat. Many of the sandwiches and main-course meals have 300 calories or more; Whole-Wheat Pita Pizzas with Vegetables = 510 calories, Syrupy Banana-Nut Overnight French Toast = 570 calories and 20 g fat (11 g saturated), Stir-Fried Broccoli with Pasta = 690 calories and 30 g total fat. However, by tweaking the recipes, you can lower the fat and calorie content if desired. You can scale back on olive oil and use smaller portions of full-fat, flavorful cheeses; low-fat cheeses lack taste, texture, and meltability. Also, try serving smaller pasta portions; Americans tend to eat drastically larger pasta portions than in Italy, where pasta is simply a first-course dish out of many. For example, the broccoli and pasta dish calls for 12 ounces dried pasta for four people; if you read pasta labels, one pound is actually eight servings. Round out your meal with a green salad, and you’ll save calories and add more veggies at the same time.
Verdict: the easy preparation and unusual flavor combinations (as well as new ideas for old standbys) make weeknight meal prep fairly painless, and the vibrant full-color photos of ingredients and final dishes are dramatic and visually appealing. This would be a good choice for your first vegetarian cookbook. Like all of Good Housekeeping’s recipes, all 225 have been triple-tested with a variety of substitutions and kitchen equipment to make sure that they’ll work in your kitchen. A handy metric equivalent chart is also provided at the back. Overall, this is a welcome addition that will be sure to appeal to flexitarians, vegetarians, and everyone in between.
(Review copy courtesy of Hearst Books)
**A note regarding the vegan recipes: I found at least two “vegan” recipes that include honey as an ingredient (Lower-Fat Granola on page 22 and the Health Club Sandwiches on page 52). Also, in the introduction, the book describes vegans as “someone who eliminates all animal food products from their diet – no meat or dairy products, poultry or eggs, or fish and shellfish.” True enough, but vegans also abstain from animal-based products including honey (you can substitute agave syrup), refined cane sugar (which is frequently filtered through bone char), and gelatin (made from boiling bones and hides).