6 Days of Vegan Cookbook Reviews {#4: Vegan Holiday Kitchen}

by JL Fields on December 4, 2011

What?! Day four of the “6 Days of Vegan Cook Reviews!” already?

Time flies when you’re having fun!  We began with Celebrate Vegan (you can still enter to win a copy, open to anyone in the world!), followed by Eat Vegan on $4 a Day and Superfood Cuisine.

Today I am incredibly pleased to review Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas.

Isn’t it a gorgeous book?  The cover, and all of the stunning food photos throughout the book, were shot by Susan Voisin, who you know as the Fat-Free Vegan! I am a huge fan of both Nava and Susan which is why I simply couldn’t wait to get my grubby little hands on this special book.

Nava Atlas is the author and illustrator of many vegetarian cookbooks, including Vegan Express, Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons, The Vegetarian Family Cookbook, and The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet (you can find all of her books here, which includes her fiction and non-fiction works, as well).  Her new book on leafy greens, Wild About Greens, will be on the shelves in the spring of 2012. (One word: kale)

After reading Vegan Holiday Kitchen I was left with this overriding thought.  Yes, of course, it’s perfect for the holidays or special occasions. But it’s a rather perfect “food is activism” book, too.  Nava’s recipes are delightful to eat, Susan’s photos a vision to behold and anyone would want to dig in and enjoy the tasty eats and treats.

Nava begins the book by offering basic tips for holiday cooking. These include making collaborative meals so that one person isn’t stuck cooking; even if you are the lone vegan bring enough for everyone (food is activism); plan your holiday meal a week ahead of time; and, wait for it, she does not suggest make ahead tips because she thinks a fresh-made dish tastes better (me too).

In each chapter Nava includes, naturally, tons of recipes, but she also offers some terrific tips and menus.  A sampling:

Thanksgiving:  A compassionate way to celebrate the holiday everyone loves.

You’ll find five recipes for stuffing, as well as information on how to bake winter squashes and pumpkin and how to prepare homemade breadcrumbs.

Christmas and the Holiday Season:  Festive fare for holiday parties and dinners, plus sweets to give and share.

Nava offers two Christmas menus, nine recipes for sweet treats (great gifts!) and tasty appetizers and tips that include this one:  start with “an abundance of cool-weather vegetables — preferably organic–including a variety of squashes, pumpkins, apples, pears, sweet and white potatoes and other root vegetables…”

Jewish Holidays: Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Hanukkah:  Celebrating the major festivals with a blend of nostalgia and updated traditions.

I loved this chapter because this Buddhist doesn’t know much about the Jewish faith. Nava describes the Passover table and Seder Plate and includes an Ashkenazic Seder menu and a Sephardic-Style Seder menu.  She also informs the reader that vegan matzo balls recipes made with tofu are not always acceptable because they are made with beans (“beans and bean products are not consumed during Passover week”). She subsequently offers a Vegan Matzo Balls recipe with quinoa (soy-free, nut-free, plus a gluten-free option).   The Rosh Hashanah menu of mixed traditions looks delicious!

Easter:  As the earth reawakens, lively menus feature spring flavors and fresh produce.

Nava’s Easter menu includes Potage Cressonier (Creole Potato and Watercress Soup), Roasted Seitan, Peppers and Portabellas, Lemony Asparagus Risotto, Spring Greens with Citrus Dressing, Roasted Baby Carrots and six dessert recipes (Hello! Classic Carrot Cupcakes).

Independence Day and Summer Entertaining:  The ultimate vegan grilling guide, plus lost of cool summer dishes for easy entertaining.

Vegan newbies (and “oldies”) will appreciate Nave’s tips on grilling plant-based proteins and vegetables and she goes into detail on how to grill tofu, tempeh, and seitan (thank you, Nava!).  She offers 11 grilled recipes, including Grilled Pepperonata with Vegan Sausage, and 14 cool dishes for summer, including Corn Fritters with Cilantro Sauce and Summer Tomato Salad with Peaches and Pecans.

Brunches, Appetizers, and Potluck Dishes (yummy recipes for all kinds of occasions!)

In this final section of the book Nava offers up easy and hearty brunch fare with three brunch menus. The Southern Comfort Brunch menu includes Hoppin’ John (Black-Eyed Peas and Rice), Simple Garlicky Greens and Apple and Broccoli Coleslaw.  She also has wonderful pate, spread and dip recipes for appetizers.

I made a recipe from the Thanksgiving section, Red Quinoa Pilaf with Kale and Corn, and I asked my friend Megan to make the Ginger Cookies from the Christmas section. (Readers, I’m reviewing six cookbooks — I enlisted help!)  I asked Nava for permission to reprint the two recipes and she graciously agreed. She also offered to provide one of Susan’s photos for the Pilaf, which is far lovelier than mine!

photo by the fabulous Susan Voisin

Red Quinoa Pilaf with Kale and Corn (Makes 8 or more servings)
from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas
Reprinted with permission from the author

This nutrition-packed side dish is so hearty that with the addition of some beans, it could be a simple entrée. Black beans are a perfect fit for this.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups red quinoa, rinsed in a fine sieve
  • 3 cups prepared vegetable broth or 3 cups water with 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 1 bunch kale (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 to 4 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cooked fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
  • 2 jarred roasted red peppers, cut into strips, or 1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, or more, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine the quinoa with 3 cups broth in a medium saucepan. Bring to a rapid simmer, then cover and simmer gently until the broth is absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. If the quinoa isn’t quite done, add an additional 1/2 cup broth (or water) and continue to cook until absorbed.

Strip the kale leaves away from the stems. Discard the stems, or slice them very thinly. Cut the kale leaves into narrow strips. Rinse well and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet or stir-fry pan. Add the garlic and sauté over low heat until golden.

Add the kale, stir together, and cover; raise the heat to medium and cook until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring frequently for 4 to 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a serving container and serve at once, or cover until needed.

This dish has everything I love: greens (kale!), grains, veggies and lots of flavorful spices– I added black beans to my pilaf, as Nava suggests. The recipe includes ingredients that I almost always have on hand.  It’s as delicious as you think it will be.

What’s better after a hearty vegan beans, greens and grains dish than vegan cookies?

photo by my equally fabulous friend Megan

Ginger Cookies (Makes about 2 dozen)
from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas
Reprinted with permission from the author

This spicy cookie is the perfect companion for tea or vegan hot cocoa.

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup natural granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2/3 cup applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 2 tablespoons molasses or barley malt syrup
  • 1/2 cup raisins or currants

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Combine the first 7 (dry) ingredients in a mixing bowl plus the optional flaxseeds and stir together.

Make a well in the center and add the applesauce, oil, and molasses. Stir together until the wet and dry ingredients are completely mixed, then stir in the raisins.

With well-floured hands, pinch off pieces of the dough to form 1-inch balls. Arrange them on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Flatten slightly with your palm.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies begin to turn golden brown. Let stand for a minute or two, then carefully move with a spatula to cool on plates.

Neither Megan, nor her husband and daughter, are vegan and all three raved about these cookies!  They are moist, flavorful and the amount of ginger is the perfect spice to compliment the sweet.

Add Vegan Holiday Kitchen to your cookbook library.  Better yet, set it on your coffee table.  Let everyone “ooh and aah” over the creative recipes and vibrant photos!

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