When I first went vegan, there weren’t as many vegan cheeses, veggie meats, condiments, etc. Now I find that pretty much any novelty product I used to eat before being vegan I can find a vegan version of in the store. This is great, but as vegan meats and cheeses are my weakness sometimes I go a bit overboard. This is not a post on dieting, I swear, but lately I’ve started to become more aware of a connection of feeling tired and cranky when eating too much vegan processed food. Coupled with all the traveling and eating out and I’m trying to learn to make more meals using whole foods and not relying on ready-made products.
You’d think this would actually be easier, since all I need is simple vegetables, beans, grains, etc., no trip to the vegan grocery store, etc., but this type of eating is actually totally foreign to me. I ate out a lot growing up and definitely did not come from any sort of hippy family. Throwing together some complicated meal using vegan substitutes comes together way quicker in my head then pulling together 4-5 whole ingredients with some spices, oddly enough.
So, you see why I needed help. I’m still in the process of re-training my brain and learning more about whole foods. I by no means am going to cut out all processed food all the time, but now that I realized I have a culinary weakness, I must conquer it! Plus it’s way cheaper and I am still detoxing from five months of travel over the last year.
I have asked around and scoured the internet for good cookbooks that don’t rely too much on ready-made vegan products and focus more on whole foods without reaching into the crazy obscure vegetable land. Below is what I found. Some of the cookbooks I own, some not, which I’ve noted below. The cookbooks are in no particular order.
(Paleo Vegan) – I am not on a paleo diet by any means, but I still like the idea of challenging myself to different ways of cooking and this book caught my eye during Vegan Mofo when I stumbled upon Chic Vegan’s review of it. It’s supposed to focus on “fresh, whole foods such as nuts and seeds, fruits, vegetables, wild-crafted greens and mushrooms, and healthy fats (as well as the occasional cheat of beans or grain-like seeds)”. So it’s almost grain-free as well, for those of you who don’t do gluten.
(The Great Vegan Bean Book) – I am a sucker for books that focus on one specific type of food. I don’t know what it is, it started with The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook years ago. Perhaps it’s just simpler for my mind to process…all I have to do is stock up on that item and then I can make all the recipes in the book…huzzah! Anyway, the recipes are mostly either naturally soy- and gluten-free, or written with soy- and gluten-free options and for those who are into it, the book is also written with consideration for those avoiding oil and has great review on Amazon. The white bean Pecan Paté, Roasted Root Veggie and Kidney Bean Hash, Southern-style White Bean Gravy and Lemon Coconut Chickpea Muffins particularly caught my eye. This is at the top of my to-buy list once I cook through some of my current cookbooks more.
(Straight from the Earth) – This book is actually written by the owners of a farm and focuses on fresh produce and whole foods. Some recipes that caught by eye were the Quinoa Banana Skillet Bake, Slow Simmered Beans with Tuscan Kale, Thai Lettuce Rolls, and Very Chocolately Chocolate Brownies. Also the Eccentric Caesar because I am obsessed with caesar salad.
(Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons) – Another theme cookbook and this one is just in time for winter! The book is arranged by season based on what ingredients are more readily available at that time and there is even a section of selection of accompaniments such as quick breads, dumplings, muffins, and scones. The review on amazon confirm it stays away from hard-to-find ingredients, but it does seem to use some vegan cream in recipes. Everything in moderation, right? The Sweet and Sour Sauerkraut Soup and Mac and Cheese soup especially caught my eye.
(Blissful Bites) – Right off the bat, the Amazon description says this book is about “how to make healthy, delicious, animal-product free meals without a lot of effort.” Healthy vegan food for lazy people? Perfect. Also arranged by season, the picture on the cover makes me hungry and recipes like Macro Mac-n-Cheese, Peanut Soba Noodles and Raw Chocolate Mousse caught my eye.
(Vegan Indian Cooking) – Once you stock your spice collection with the necessary spices, this book focuses on mostly whole foods with vegetables, beans and grains. I love me some Indian food, so an all-vegan Indian cookbook sounds right up my ally. Recipes that caught my eye were Besan Poora (Chickpea Flour Crepes), Street Corn Salad, Jeera Aloo (Cumin Potato Hash), Punjabi Khardi (Chickpea Flour Curry with Veggies), Band Gobi (Punjabi Style Cabbage), Samosas, Cabbage with Mustard Seeds and Coconut, Methi Palak Aloo (Fenugreek Spinach Potatoes), Sweet and Sour Potatoes, and Spicy Plantains. Yum.
(Vegan Italiano) – I got this cookbook for about $2 used on Amazon and brought it back to Germany with me. The cookbook isn’t fancy and there are no pictures, but if you can get past that it’s filled with lots of simple recipes with not too long ingredient lists with no strange ingredients or vegan meats, cheeses, etc. in sight! I am especially excited to try out some of the risottos, the Spinach and Eggplant and Zucchini, the different pasta dishes and the Grilled Peaches and Apple Cake desserts! It is exactly what I was looking for, all simple whole ingredients that don’t need to be processed down. I’ll let you know how it goes once I cook more from here, having trouble deciding where to start!
(The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen) – From the same series, this one I also got for $2 on Amazon used, but it focuses on Mediterranean foods in general, not just Italian. I like it because even though a lot of the recipes only have 4-5 ingredients, I’m not so familiar with Mediterranean cooking so wouldn’t have necessary thought of the different combinations found in the book. Also Sicilian Eggplant Relish, Catalan Grilled Vegetables with Almond Sauce, Black Olive Bread, Zucchini-Lemon Couscous, Greek Currant Cake, Braised Pears in Red Wine, Squash Gnocchi and Mushrooms Stuffed with Bread Crumbs sound delish. Again, if you can get behind the fact that there are no pictures it’s a winner. Plus at $2 on Amazon you can’t go wrong, right?!
(The Oh She Glows Cookbook) – I can’t do a whole foods cookbook round up without mentioning the Oh She Glows Cookbook! I bought this when it first came out and it’s pretty great. It has a picture for every recipe and some good everyday recipes on stuff like how to make your own granola bars, almond milk, etc. I’ve only made a few recipes from the book so far but I quite like it. The Luxurious Tomato Basil Pasta picture will make you drool all over the book and it was super delicious, plus I really, really, need to make the Life-Affirming Nacho Dip in there that everyone is raving about. I need my life to be affirmed by nachos.
(Isa Does It) – Somehow I do not have this book yet. While I believe there are some vegan processed products in there like seitan, I’m adding this up here as when I asked the internet “What are your favorite cookbooks for mostly whole foods, simple vegan recipes” the resounding answer was Isa Does it! Vegan MoFo this year alone was an ode to this book, so perhaps I ought to jump on the bandwagon.
Now, since the holidays are coming up, even though I am trying to cut down on my cookbook addition, I would not complain if one of these ended up in my stocking. Going through these books again to write this post has me totally hungry and wanting to buy all the cookbooks!
Have you tried any of these cookbooks? What did you think? What are your favorite recipes from the cookbooks you’ve tried? What other cookbooks focused on simple whole foods do you recommend? Let me know in the comments!