Tag "Vegan"

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, then you probably already know that for the past few months I’ve been drinking an awful lot of juice. Green juice, beet juice, carrot juice, pear juice, pineapple juice…JUICE. Not the stuff you buy in a bottle, but freshly pressed, nutrient and mineral-rich whole, raw, unpasteurized juice. I can’t get enough of it.

Beyond just drinking an occasional glass of juice here and there, I’ve actually gone as far as doing two juice “cleanses,” each three days in duration. If you’re not familiar with the world of juice cleansing, the most basic premise is that for a specific length of time you consume nothing but freshly pressed juices—no solid foods at all. (Note: This is not the same thing as Master Cleanse or any of the other lemon-water cleanses. With a juice cleanse you are typically consuming between 1000 and 1500 calories per day—it’s not a starvation diet.)

I’m not sure exactly what initially put the thought of doing a juice cleanse in my head, but the first time I did it I was coming off a run of eating really, really poorly and drinking more coffee every day than I really care to admit. I desperately felt like I needed to “reset” my eating habits, rid myself of cravings for things my body doesn’t want or need, and put myself on a generally healthy path of eating well.

I can only speak for myself here, but I know that when I stop consuming something for several days at a time, generally no longer crave it anymore. This was certainly true when I gave up dairy a couple of years ago, and when I gave up all artificial sweeteners a year before that. I basically don’t have a sweet tooth anymore. My hope with doing a juice cleanse was that I’d rid myself of the constant cravings for fries, bagels, coffee…all of the things I love that are fine in moderation, but bad news when consumed excessively. If you’ve hit a point where you’re consuming three bagels, a large order of tater tots, and a couple of gigantic iced coffees on a typical Saturday, there’s a problem. (Hello, myths of veganism!)

Rather than run out and buy a juicer right away, I decided to see what kind of options are available locally for fresh juice cleanses. The answer is A LOT, at least in New York City. After much Googling, Yelping, Twittering and speaking to actual live humans, I decided to go with BluePrintCleanse. They deliver for free in NYC, and their prices are pretty much in line with the rest of the juicing companies in this area.

I chose the mid-level cleanse, Foundation, and ordered a three-day supply. I scheduled the delivery a few days in advance so I’d have time to prepare (basically limiting my diet primarily to raw fruits and veggies and cutting out caffeine—since I already have a vegan diet, it was really just a matter of eliminating the processed foods, since meat and dairy obviously aren’t a part of my life), and had everything delivered to my office. The fresh juices BluePrintCleanse sells are raw and unpasteurized, so they have a very short shelf life—they’ll only delivery three days’ worth at a time, and it all needs to be refrigerated immediately. They arrived in a cardboard box with tons of ice packs and a free cooler bag sized for transporting a few bottles at a time.

And so I was off! Honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal for me in terms of self-control. I already love green juice so the taste wasn’t an issue (if anything, I found the pineapple-based juice a little too sweet, but I’m definitely in the minority), and it’s such a large volume of fluids that I really wasn’t hungry at all. A lot of people say they feel a desperate need to chew while cleansing, but that didn’t happen to me. My digestion was fine as well. The only really torturous part was giving up coffee, but even that was only horrible (headaches, exhaustion, moodiness) for the first two days when I was preparing for the cleanse. By the time I was on day three of drinking juice, I wasn’t even thinking about coffee. I wasn’t even really thinking about food, frankly—I kind of wanted to just keep drinking juice forever.

How did I feel during the cleanse? The first day I felt a little tired, but I suspect that was lingering caffeine withdrawal. Generally speaking, I felt GREAT. I slept really well, I didn’t feel bloated or “stuffed,” and more than anything, I had a sense of control. That might sound a little weird, but I don’t like feeling like I have no self-control when it comes to food. Either you understand where I’m coming from with that or you don’t, I guess. At any rate, I like being disciplined about what I put into my body. Moderation is hard for me when it comes to eating.

Then day four arrived, the morning after my last juice. Time to break the cleanse! The first thing I ate was some cut mango with sea salt, and it was delicious. It tasted so flavorful and satisfying. I also had a tiny cup of coffee, and let me tell you—if you stop consuming all caffeine for a week, that first cup is an AMAZING thing. I wanted to crawl inside of that cup and live there forever. How nice to actually LOVE a cup of coffee again and not just feel compelled to drink it out of necessity or routine!

How have things been post-cleanse? Pretty great, actually. My diet is incredible now! I eat really, really well—tons of veggies, fresh fruits and whole grains. I constantly crave raw vegetables. Sometimes I lie in bed and fantasize about kale. Really. On the few occasions when I’ve eaten poorly, I don’t feel good afterward. Not sick, but not good. I find myself thinking a lot about what the foods I eat can do for me nutritionally rather than how they’ll make me feel emotionally—and that’s a good place to be. I’ve lost about 20 pounds in the past three months (!) without even trying; a nice side benefit for sure, even though that wasn’t my goal.

I know there’s a lot of pseudo-science out there are about the benefits of fasting and cleansing and “detoxing,” and while I don’t know how much I buy into some of the more wild claims, I do know what juice cleansing has done for me, and I plan to make it a regular part of my life. I’m thinking maybe once every season? I’m also going to buy a juicer now that I’m confident it won’t just sit around gathering dust.

If you have ANY questions about my experience with juice cleansing, please feel free to ask. I hadn’t planned to blog about it when I started, but after getting so many questions on Twitter and Instagram, I figured there must be some more interested people out there! I’m definitely not an expert, but I’m happy to share what I do know. I’d also love to hear from others who have done juice cleanses, or even those of you who are just fellow juice fanatics!

BluePrintCleanse is actually having a 21% off sale on Fab this week, so if you’re interested in trying it out at a discount, this is a good opportunity. If you don’t already have a membership, this link will function as an invitation to join.

On a related note, have you seen Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead yet? It’s basically a documentary about the wonders of juicing. It’s a little bit overly-inspirational (what can I say, I’m a born cynic), but sometimes that’s a good thing. If nothing else, it’ll make you feel like you can have some control over your physical health and well-being by taking very simple and direct measures. It’s a good movie, and you can watch it for free. Worth the hour and a half.

Daniel and Max came over for dinner last night, and I used the meal I prepared as an excuse to try this crazy spicy peanut butter I’ve been fantasizing about. I also wanted to try out one of the recipes in the Teany Book. (I’ve written before about my intense love for Teany and their vegan turkey club sandwich in particular, as well as my goofball appearance in the book!)

Here’s what I put together combining the two…

Soba noodles and veggies with spicy peanut sauce (vegan & gluten-free*)
Serves 4

Spicy peanut sauce
2 tbsp The Heat Is On peanut butter from Peanut Butter & Co.**
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp sesame oil
4 tsp liquid amino acids***
2 tsp brown rice vinegar
2 cloves minced garlic

4 large carrots, cut into thin strips (I used a peeler to make ribbons)
1 cup sugar snap peas, julienned
2 cups red cabbage, shredded
1 tbsp green onions, chopped

9 oz dried buckwheat soba noodles*
2 tbsp sesame oil

4 tbsp crushed peanuts
lime wedges

Prepare the peanut sauce first in a big bowl. You can just whisk all of the ingredients together by hand, no need for a food processor or anything like that. When all of the veggies are prepped, put them in the bowl with the peanut sauce and stir everything up.

Follow the directions on the soba noodle package, taking care to not overcook them. With buckwheat soba, it’s important to rinse them very well in cold water as soon as they’ve finished cooking, otherwise you’ll wind up with something mushy and gross and unappealing. It’s OK that the noodles will be cold after rinsing! This dish actually tastes best cool/room temperature rather than hot. Toss the noodles with sesame oil.

Divide the noodles into bowls, put the veggies/sauce combination on top, and sprinkle with crushed peanuts. Serve with lime wedges, and enjoy with good friends and a nice view! We ate up on the roof of my apartment building, a spot I will never cease being grateful to have access to.

*Soba noodles are gluten-free IF they are 100% buckwheat, so check the package to make sure if this kind of thing matters to you. I use Eden brand. People with true gluten allergies should make sure the brand they buy is certified gluten-free, since contaminants can always be an issue.
**If you can’t find this fancy peanut butter, just use regular peanut butter with some chili sauce mixed in to taste.
***You can use gluten-free tamari instead of aminos, or soy sauce if you don’t need it to be gluten-free.

You know, it’s funny—a year ago today, we spent New Year’s Eve at home, eating nachos, drinking wine and painting the living room black. And also watching Lifetime movies, even though I didn’t mention that in my post. This year we’re at home, we’re eating cookies, drinking coffee (me) and vegan white Russians (Evan), and painting the dining room black. And watching Saturday Night Fever. Progress!

Our stove has been busted for a while (the top burners were usable, but not the oven) so roasting and baking stuff has been impossible lately. This morning the repair guy came ($130 for what literally took about 5 seconds and involved tapping a knob with the back of a screwdriver…ugh), so tonight I made the most of the restored service and made a really good dinner to send off 2011.

For the main dish, I made Hottie Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens (SO GOOD…but then every recipe Isa writes is awesome) and a side of roasted carrots. I’m usually not big on cooked carrots, but seriously, these were AMAZING. The key is cutting them thinly enough and roasting them long enough that they get tender (not mushy!) and caramelized and crispy at the edges.

Make however much you want!

You need: Carrots, olive oil, garlic, coarse salt.

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Step 2: Peel some carrots. Cut them into strips that are roughly 1/2″ thick and 2–3″ long.
Step 3. Put the carrots in a mixing bowl.
Step 4. Add a few glugs of olive oil (how much depends on the amount of carrots you’re making) and some coarse salt. Toss to coat!
Step 5: Slice a few cloves of garlic in half lengthwise. Toss into the mix.
Step 6: Spread everything out on the cookie sheet and roast for 40—50 minutes. Just keep an eye on them. You want nicely shriveled and maybe even a little charred here and there, but not burnt to a crisp.
Step 7: YUM.

For dessert, I made Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles. OMG. Like I said, everything Isa comes up with is magic, and these are no exception. They’re nice and soft and chewy, chocolatey, and just the right amount of spicy. Mine didn’t get all crackly on top like hers did (maybe because I used coconut oil instead of canola oil), but ooooooohhhhh. So good.

Alright, it’s time for me to get back to my paintbrush. Happy New Year, everybody! Best wishes for a happy and healthy and productive 2012.

Every two years, right when the weather starts to tip into I-wish-I’d-worn-my-heavier-coat-today temperatures, I like to repost my chili recipe. It’s old news for those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, but I think it’s nice to have a reminder every now and then anyway! And if you’ve never tried my chili recipe before, well…you really don’t know what you’re missing. It seriously is the best chili ever.

ANNA’S VEGETARIAN CHILI (vegan, actually)
Makes 6–8 portions

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 tbsp chili powder*
28 oz can crushed tomatoes with basil**
14 oz can black beans**
14 oz can kidney beans**
1 cup corn kernels
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions, carrots and garlic; sauté until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add yellow pepper, jalapenos, celery and chili powder; cook another 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans (with liquid), corn, salt and spices. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in bulgur wheat. Cover and simmer at least 30 minutes (I usually let everything simmer for a couple of hours to let the flavors really develop, but it’s okay to take it off when the veggies and bulgur are soft), stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Just as you’re taking the chili off the heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar. I know it might seem weird to put it in, but trust me—it really does make the chili taste extra amazing.

*What we call “chili powder” in the US is actually a blend of several spices. Please don’t use 2tbsp of straight cayenne pepper! If blended chili powder is not available in your part of the world, you can add an extra tbsp of cumin, and then just add your cayenne a pinch at a time to taste.

**I take the easy route and use canned beans and tomatoes. You can soak dried beans and use fresh tomatoes if you prefer, of course, but you will want to add water to make up for the liquid in the cans.

As always, I’d love to hear what kinds of modifications and variations you’ve made to this recipe, since it is really flexible. I’ve subbed chickpeas and edamame in place of kidney beans plenty of times, and I often use farro instead of bulgur wheat depending on what I have in the house. I’m really partial to Muir Glen’s fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, and using ancho chili powder in place of regular changes the flavor of the whole thing completely. Sometimes I sprinkle a little Daiya on top if I have it, but it’s definitely not essential.

This chili freezes really nicely, by the way. One pot will yield six very generous portions, so after you’ve gobbled down dinner, you can divvy up the rest into containers to heat up for lunches during the week.

It’s insanely hot in New York (and across much of the country) right now, but late last night Evan and I were struck by cravings for dessert so intense that we decided turning the oven on for while was worth the increased temperature. Despite being limited by the meager contents of our pantry, we managed to put together a pretty tasty treat—almond butter blondies!

(This recipe is a variation on Isa’s recipe for peanut butter blondies. I’ve never tried making them with peanut butter, but I’m sure that’s awesome too!)

Makes 12 blondies (or 4 if you have a generous “slicing hand”)

3/4 cup unsalted almond butter
1/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup almond milk (soy or rice milk would be fine, too)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat your oven to 350°F. If it’s already a million degrees in your kitchen, have a refreshing beverage on hand.

Since there was no way I was going to hand-stir refrigerated almond butter at 10PM, I used the food processor. I have really weak arms, though, so if you’re stronger (or if you’re willing to wait for your almond butter to soften at room temperature), you could just use a fork/spoon and a bowl.

1. Combine the almond butter, oil and sugar.
2. Add the milk and vanilla.
3. Mix in the flour, salt and baking powder.

The dough is going to be really thick, almost like a paste. Spread it into an 8×8″ baking pan (very lightly oiled if it’s not non-stick), and put it in the oven for about 25 minutes. When the edges are looking crispy and the top is bubbly, it’s done.

LET IT COOL COMPLETELY. Not warm, COOL. No, really. I mean it. I know it’s late at night and you really want to have a blondie NOW, but don’t do it. We made the mistake of trying to cut and eat ours after only half an hour last night, and we had a goopy, greasy mess on our hands. We should have been patient and waited.

Here’s my advice: Make the blondies at night and let them cool down. Before you go to bed, cut them into squares and wrap them up in paper towels and foil and stick them in the fridge. In the morning, you will be greeted by BLONDIE AWESOMENESS. Isa describes hers as being kind of “fudgy”, and she’s not kidding. This is serious business. I had a sliver this morning with an iced coffee on the side, and…yeah. Pretty much the best breakfast ever, if not the healthiest.

bokchoy & tofu

The other night I was gazing longingly at Isa Chandra’s avocado, basil and peanut stir-fry recipe, wishing I had all of the ingredients on hand but knowing there was stuff in my fridge (hi there, baby bok choy!) that I had to cook before it went bad. Using the basis of her stir-fry sauce recipe as a guide, though, I put together a really fast and easy little meal that I’m sure I’ll make again. You don’t even need to use bok choy, of course, that’s just what I had—any other combo of veggies would be fine (broccoli, peppers, onions, shredded carrots, or even kale, if you’re hardcore). It’s really the sauce and the crispy tofu that hold it all together.

Serves 2

1 tsp peanut oil
8oz extra-firm tofu
3 heads baby bok choy, ends trimmed
1 tbsp black sesame seeds

noodles or rice

2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp agave syrup
2 tbsp water
1 tsp Sriracha sauce
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced

Heat the peanut oil in a cast iron pan on medium-high heat. While it’s getting hot, slice the tofu, press out the excess moisture with a towel, then cut it into cubes. Sprinkle with a little pinch of salt (and maybe a little Japanese seven spice, if you have it) and toss gently to coat with oil. Let the tofu cook for 5-7 minutes, tossing every couple of minutes, until it’s nice and brown on all sides. Set tofu aside.

Keeping the pan on medium-high heat, add the baby bok choy and a little bit of water (maybe a tablespoon)—just enough to get some steam going. Cover the pan and let the bok choy cook for about 5 minutes, tossing occasionally. It will shrink down considerably as it cooks, so don’t worry if it seems like the pan is overstuffed at first.

Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and add to the pan with the bok choy. Sprinkle in the black sesame seeds. Once the sauce is bubbly, add the tofu back to the pan and let simmer for another minute or so—the sauce should thicken up a bit.

Serve over noodles or rice!

bokchoy & tofu prep

Today I was talking to my friend Janet about being tired after work and not feeling like cooking, and I followed up with a bit of my usual bragging about how I can make a decent dinner in as little as 5-10 minutes (sometimes even that seems like too much, though, which is why Chinese delivery exists). It’s true! I can make dinner that fast! And I do it all the time, especially if Evan has to work late or run an errand in the evening.

I hate to waste food, so my first priority with quickie-dinners is to use up scraps. I never use a whole block of tofu when I’m making a recipe, and if I put the extra back in the fridge, it inevitably goes bad before I get to it. I’ve learned a trick, though, and that’s to freeze it! Cut it into strips, press out the excess water, put it in a baggie or container, and stick it in the fridge. It’ll turn a weird yellow color when it’s frozen, but that’s okay. Just make sure you take it out of the fridge with enough time to defrost before you want to use it! The coolest part about freezing tofu is that it totally changes the texture—it goes from being soft and wet to being kind of chewy and spongy. You’ve probably had tofu like that before in restaurants and wondered how to make yours taste like that. Now you know! It’s awesome.

I’m also a rice-hoarder. When we get delivery food, there’s always about double the amount of rice included in the bag than we could ever use in one sitting, so I save the leftovers. If I’m cooking rice, I make extras. If you know you’ll be eating the rice within a few days, you can put it in the fridge—otherwise, freeze it. It’s so nice to have rice all ready to go when you want it.

So here’s what I made tonight, since I was smart and remembered to take the tofu out this morning. It literally took 10 minutes, and only about 5 of those minutes were spent doing anything related to preparing the meal.

Serves as many as you need to

extra-firm tofu (cut, pressed, frozen and defrosted)
leftover rice
sesame oil
Japanese 7-spice (or some kind of spicy seasoning and sesame seeds)
Sriachca sauce

Put some sesame oil in a cast iron pan and put it on a medium-high burner. While the pan is heating up, wash and dry the asparagus. When the pan is hot, drop in the tofu strips and the asparagus—I like to do everything in one pan. Sprinkle with 7-spice.

While the tofu and asparagus are cooking, heat up the rice in the microwave (I know, I know…you can do it on the stove, too, but I usually put it in the microwave in the same bowl I plan to eat out of to cut down on dishes). Stir in a tiny drizzle of sesame oil and set aside.

Flip the tofu and asparagus after about three minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. When the tofu is nicely browned on both sides and the asparagus is bright green with a little bit of char, slide everything on top of your rice. Serve with a healthy squeeze of Sriracha sauce, and maybe an extra sprinkle of 7-spice.

DONE. Ten minutes from fridge to table, one pan, and one bowl. (See?)

grits and collards

As a New York vegan Scandi-Jew who’s never set foot south of Maryland, I fully realize I have no business even uttering the words “grits” and “collard greens”, much less posting a recipe for them. I apologize in advance for what I know is a complete bastardization of two traditional soul food staples.

The fact of the matter is, though, this breakfast is vegan, relatively healthy, and really, really yummy. Like, ridiculously so. Evan and I both wanted second helpings as soon as we’d finished, and I think I’m going to make this again tomorrow morning. And maybe for dinner one night during the week. SO GOOD.

Southern Americans, you may wish to avert your eyes…

Serves 2

3/4 cup water
3/4 unsweetened, unflavored soy milk (almond or rice milk are also fine)
dash salt
1/2 cup corn grits/polenta (NOT instant—see photo below)
1 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
freshly-ground black pepper
hot sauce (I like Cholula)

In a small pot, bring the water, soy milk and salt to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and whisk in the grits. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the Earth Balance, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and onion powder. Turn heat off, cover, and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. Serve with ground pepper and hot sauce to taste.

Serves 2

1/2 bunch collard greens
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp Earth Balance
2 cloves garlic, minced
dash salt

Wash and dry the collard greens well. Trim out the center stalk. Stack the leaves and cut into strips.

Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and Earth Balance (reduce the heat if necessary to prevent smoking), then toss in your greens and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and sautée until tender, about 10 minutes.

→ If you’re cooking both dishes (they taste GREAT together, so I recommend making both!), start cooking the collard greens right after you add the grits to the boiling water/soy milk.
→ Next time, I’ll probably double the amount of collard greens. The recipe is enough for the amount in the photo, but I like a lot of greens—even at breakfast.
→ Don’t buy instant grits or pre-made polenta. You’re looking for dry polenta/corn grits—see below:


butternut squash & kale

I swear I don’t mean to be turning this joint into a food blog! I do a lot more cooking in the winter than in summer, though, and a lot less in the way of house stuff.

Since we hadn’t done our weekly grocery shopping yet, I put a really simple, really delicious lunch together for Evan and I Evan and myself Evan and me (GOOD GRIEF—thanks, Kate!) today using the remainder of the vegetables we had in the fridge. It took just over an hour to get it on the table, but the prep time was only about 10 minutes. (I’m amazed I thought to start it early. Usually weekend lunch is something that starts to take shape after we’ve both realized we’re starving.)

If you’ve never had kale chips before, well…you really need to hop to it. Even if you think you don’t like kale, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone not liking kale chips. They’re like ultra-thin, nutty-tasting potato chips, only way, WAY better for you. Did you know that kale is one of the most nutritionally-dense foods in the world? Seriously, it’s like magic, and you should be eating lots and lots of it.

butternut squash

Serves 2 hungry people

1 butternut squash
6 cloves garlic
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp agave nectar (or maple syrup)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp ground black peper
dash cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Peel squash and scoop out flesh/seeds., then cut into 1″ chunks.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly coated, then pour into a medium casserole dish. Roast for 50-55 minutes (turn halfway through cooking), or until squash is tender.

Serve as-is, or mash up a bit with a wooden spoon. If you have leftovers, try heating them up the next day with some brown rice.

kale chips

KALE CHIPS (vegan)
Makes enough for 1-4 people, depending on greediness

1 large bunch kale
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp lemon juice
fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 300°F.

Wash and thoroughly dry kale. Cut out the thick center stalk, then cut into bite-sized pieces (I just do this with kitchen scissors—you don’t need to be precise).

In a large bowl, combine kale, olive oil, and lemon juice. Make sure the olive oil gets all over the kale.

Spread the kale in a single layer on a couple of cookie sheets. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20-30 minutes. The time will vary depending on the amount of moisture in your kale. You want the kale to get nice and crispy and dark. Just keep a close eye on it and make sure it doesn’t burn.

When your kale is good and crunchy, you may want to put a little more salt on it, or toss it with some nutritional yeast. Whatever you do, you’re going to want to eat all of it, trust me.

butternut squash & kale

Appetite for Reduction

I get asked a lot for cookbook recommendations, and I usually decline to answer because I’m not really a “cookbook person”. Sure, I own a couple dozen that I’ve bought over the years, but I tend to either look for recipes online or just make stuff up (and then promptly forget what I did, so I can never make the dish exactly the same again).

Now, though, I have a recommendation: Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I’m one of those people who loves vegetables. I crave broccoli the way that some crave chocolate. (I crave all kinds of garbage, too, so don’t go thinking I’m being all foodlier-than-thou here or anything.) I can honestly say that despite taking a “vegetarian rumspringa” before deciding to fully vegan, I don’t miss meat. All at. Or milk, or eggs, or cheese. (Okay, that’s a lie. I do miss stinky cheese sometimes. But then I think about where it comes from, and I don’t miss it anymore.) Blah, blah, blah…I love vegetables. That’s the point I’m trying to make.

I think a lot of people get weirded out and worried by the thought of going vegetarian or vegan because they think that means they need to eat a bunch of processed meat-substitutes, many of which are really not very good for you. Sure, that stuff is fine here and there, but veggies and grains and legumes are really where it’s at. Appetite for Reduction excels in making those whole foods the stars of the plate. I like that. I have a few of Moskowitz’s other books, but I think this one is the best.

All of the recipes in the book are between 200 and 400 calories, and full nutritional information is listed for each. I try not to worry too much about that stuff, but it’s a nice side bonus. Aside from the yummy results I’ve had from every recipe I’ve tried, the best part is that the recipes are simple and fast and don’t require 8 billion ingredients or tons of prep time. That’s key for me, because if I foresee 90 minutes of cooking and a sinkful of dishes in my future, I’m all the more likely to just say, “Screw it, let’s order Chinese”.

(Oh my god, WHY am I so bad at reviewing books? I’m sorry. Just trust me, it’s a great cookbook, even if you’re not vegan.)