Thursday, October 06, 2011

My review of vegan cookbook Blissful Bites: Food bytes from an inspired chef

Blissful Bites is a very impressive new vegan cookbook. The author, Christy Morgan, could easily be a  professor of vegan or macrobiotic cooking at a culinary university - her book seems that comprehensive. As it turns out, she does in fact teach classes on her own.

Great resource for new or expert cooks
This is an excellent book for novices or for cooks expanding their skills. The first pages cover "pantry basics," or how to stock the kitchen. Christy recommends various kitchen tools, from specific knives and cutting boards to steamer baskets and sushi mats. The book includes lists and descriptions of her favorite spices, vinegars, condiments, flours, grains, natural sweeteners, oils, cooking techniques, etc. I'm sure I'll use it as a reference book for cooking materials.

I like...
I especially like that this cookbook is vegan, for health reasons and because the livestock sector contributes about half of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. I like that she has a variety of recipe categories: breakfasts, appetizers and soups, salads, vegetable sides, whole grains, proteins, desserts. The recipes I've tried have all been delicious, and relatively easy. I've especially enjoyed the "Lentil-coconut Curry," the "Fiesta Quinoa Salad," and "Orange-kissed Almond Macaroons" (fantastic!!).

Macrobiotic influence: local and seasonal
Christy doesn't say that her recipes are macrobiotic, but she does acknowledge a macrobiotic influence: "Along my path to bliss, I studied macrobiotics as part of my holistic nutrition training." I do see macrobiotic elements in her recipes. For example, the recipes are grouped seasonally, to help the reader make use of local and seasonal foods. (Great for reducing our carbon footprint, thank you Christy!) She also avoids refined sweeteners and honey, using alternatives such as maple syrup and agave nectar.

Sweet / sour aspects
Some macrobiotic cooks seek sweet and sour tastes, and I notice that Christy uses vinegar and/or sweeteners more than I usually do. For example, her "Sweet Potato Puree" calls for 2 T of vinegar. "Kale Salad with Curry-coconut Sauce" lists 1 T of maple or brown-rice syrup. The "Marinated Portabella Steaks" and "Lemon-kissed Brussels and Butternut Squash" include both vinegar and maple syrup. In addition, she sometimes includes either a "sweet" spice (nutmeg, cinnamon) or a sweet fruit (cherries, pineapple) in an otherwise savory dish. I'm not a big fan of vinegar, or of sweets in savory dishes. I changed my mind about preparing a few of the recipes after noticing vinegar or something sweetish in a grain, vegetable, or protein dish - such as nutmeg in her polenta fries. I do applaud her for breaking away from the usual, and wish my palate were more adventurous. For those of you who like sweet and sour flavorings, you might really love this approach.

My challenge as a cook....
Whole grains are strongly emphasized in macrobiotic cooking, and Christy has 26 recipes for "Whole Grains and Carbs," almost all of which look very inventive. I especially enjoyed the "Millet Mashed Potatoes." For more dinnertime staples, she also has 24 "Vegetable Sides" and 24 "Compassionate Proteins." My particular challenge as a family cook is coming up with plant-based protein dishes every day for supper. We eat a lot of beans at our house. One reason I liked The Happy Herbivore cookbook so much is that Lindsay Nixon provided so many recipes that could be used as vegan entrees. I'd like to see more recipes with significant sources of protein in Blissful Bites.

Hearty recommendation
Overall, it's easy for me to recommend this vegan cookbook by a principled, professional, and very creative chef.  If you're looking for imaginative and original vegan recipes, you'll find this book chock full of them.  In addition to its bounty of information, the book is loaded with full-color photos.  It's a great book for a holiday gift, and I would especially recommend it for those seeking new experiences in vegan dining.

Keywords: Blissful Bites Christy Morgan The Happy Herbivore Lindsay Nixon vegan cookbook vegetarian cookbook carbon footprint macrobiotic

1 comment:

Cookware Reviews said...

Thanks for the great review. I'm not sure I would have been interested in the book but your review has given me a better understanding and I am looking forward to reading it now.