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Criticisms of Vegan w/ a Vengence

I got this book a couple weeks ago and I've yet to make anything out if it. 

Everytime I look through it, searching for a recipe to try, I become overwhelmed.

It all seems so difficult and time consuming.  So many of the recipes have 15-20 ingredients and several have over 30.  And looking at those ingredients, I'm guessing the recipes are anything but "cheap" as the cover claims.  I mean really, hijiki?  Cardamom pods?  Pomegranate molasses?  I'll have to drive all over town if I want to try one of the entrees.

I really want to make this book work.  They really do sound like tantalizing recipes.  But I'm also frustrated.  And the thing is, I'm really a pretty good cook and have lots of good cooking skills.  It just seems as if it's all so much work.  I guess I'll have to start with one of the simpler side dishes and work up from there.

I'm wondering if anyone else feels this way or if I'm totally alone on this.

I understand where you are coming from.  VWAV is an ok-good cookbook, but not my favorite by any means.  There are a lot of unfamiliar, expensive, or hard to find ingredient despite claims (by the author and reviewers) to the contrary.  My favorite recipes in the book are breakfast (tempeh sausage crumbles, Fronch toast, the pancake recipe is good, waffles. . .) and dessert recipes (lemon gem cupcakes).  There are a lot of other good recipes in the book, but many do take work--either on the finding ingredients end or the actual cooking end (or both).  The Sweet Potato Crepes w/ Cilantro-Tamarind Sauce were just such a recipe for for me, and the end product was really good, but I'm not sure they were worth the trouble to which I went.

Hope you find some recipes that you like.

Elizabeth

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  I mean really, hijiki?  Cardamom pods?  Pomegranate molasses?  I'll have to drive all over town if I want to try one of the entrees.
I'm wondering if anyone else feels this way or if I'm totally alone on this.

Well I've never even heard of hijiki or pomegranate molasses. I am quite sure they would be unavailable in Spain and would cost a week's wages if they were. Sounds like those "TV chef" cookbooks published in London; basically it's "dig me" cooking. It's like they're saying "ohhh I am so cool, I know all about these esoteric ingredients and have this charming little man who supplies them by FedEx". The "Frugal Gourmet" was like that...frugal may mean "no waste" but I don't think that includes spending big bucks to airmail special ingredients across the world....
Sorry, gibbering again.

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i think because the basis of a vegan diet is so simple (fruits, veggies, grains and legumes) people feel they need to overdo it.  VWAV was on my amazon wishlist, but i'll probably end up taking it off, if only because this website has become the ultimate resource. 
I do have one cookbook, Student's Go Vegan , which (because it is geared toward poor people with minimal cooking skills) is very straightforward and easy to follow, and goes over the basics.  i would reccomend it to a new vegan like myself.

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try the cookbook: Vegan Planet

most of the recipes require redundant ingredients, so, they're all good investments, and the recipes are relatively  more simple than VWaV.

I also try to get "inspired" by the recipes, and use the ideas to make simplifie versions.

:)

http://www.amazon.com/Vegan-Planet-Irresistible-Recipes-Fantastic/dp/1558322116/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/104-0152355-5707123?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1181411701&sr=8-1

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i'll defend the book. i really like it. but i also have a pretty well stocked pantry (spice wise--thank you bulk bins at local co-op for making it cheap!). many of the recipes have a lot of spices/flavoring things that i use all the time, so for the most part i dont look at the recipes and go YIKES!!

also, if you are missing a spice or something i find things still turn out well. it seems the examples you pull out (pom. molas, etc) you make it sound like everything in the book has "strange" things you can't get at the local store. i don't believe this to be the case. there are a few where this is the case but most can easily be made picking up a couple things if you have a stocked pantry.

and on that note, yes, a stocked pantry with spices does seem daunting, but buying in bulk really does help if you can find a source. i regularly make things from this book, with modifications at times to fit what i have in the house, and i'm living on $10k a year-- by no means am i saying these things while sitting in some privileged economic position.

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Just adding my 2 cents here...I have really been wanting to try the BBQ Pomegranate molasses tofu and I found pomegranate molasses at Whole Foods, I think it was about $4.50 for a decent size bottle.  I have noticed since getting the book my spice collection has dramtically increased, not than I'm complaining!  I found a mom & pop spice store in my neighborhood.  They have every spice you can think of (well, they've never not had one I needed) and they are priced between $1 - $2 an oz.  So something like that might be helpful. 

The recipes do take me a bit longer than recipes I find from VegWeb but they are usually worth the time.  Happy cooking!  :)

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I have really been wanting to try the BBQ Pomegranate molasses tofu and I found pomegranate molasses at Whole Foods, I think it was about $4.50 for a decent size bottle. 

at first i was like, what is this stuff? there are recipes online to make your own-- it is essentially concentrated pomegranant juice. Trader Joes sells bottles of "pomegranate syrup" for $3 something. i picked it up and use that-- works fine for the recipe.

i think being veg*n and doing your own cooking really requires a spice collection. they are pricey at the grocery store but if you find a bulk source (co-ops, some farmers market stores, "ethnic" stores) it is well worth it. most of my spices were under $1 (most were in the 23-40 cent range!) getting them bulk at the co-op. it does look expensive since many are 10 + bucks a pound but you are only getting a fraction of a pound.

i am interested in this students go vegan book. a lot of the veggie books i've seen (don't think any were vegan but i'm not sure) aimed at students were horrible-- stuff like top ramen and lots of cheap carbs (vs. whole grain carbs). hopefully it has some good stuff in it.

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I love VWAV.  Like Baypuppy, I keep a stocked pantry.  I really wouldn't say that anything that I have made from this cookbook was difficult or time consuming.  And I like that the recipes in VWAV don't tend to be repeated in other veg cookbooks.  I hate buying cookbooks like that, or worse, the cookbooks that are so simple that I've already made a lot of the recipes just by using my brain and thinking, "hmmm, this and this would be good."  And yeah, I have cookbooks like that.  
Sounds to me like you may be more comfortable with the Sarah Kramer books.  They're good, too, but a little simpler.

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I also like the book, though I've been flummoxed by ingredients like, as you've all noted, pomegranate molasses. My solution has been just not to let it totally stall me. If I don't have an ingredient, like the above, I sub something I think will work. In the pomegranate barbecue sauce, for example, I use regular molasses. It's delicious, and I can't believe I'm missing out on all that much. It's still fantastic sauce. Hijiki might be a bit more complicated, though you can definitely buy it online and a little goes a long way. I LOVE hijiki, but I can't think of a sub for it! For spices, ugh. They're so freaking expensive if you can't buy them bulk. Like baypuppy, I don't know what I'd do without my coop. Basically, I'd just say don't let it get you down. Get creative. I'm sure that's what Isa would counsel. Not to be all "rah rah" and all that!

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I have just gotten a copy myself.  I was taken aback by the same things you were, Asenath.  Isa would say to use her cookbook as a jumping off point and that following it to the letter is not required and not recommended. 

I consider I keep a well stocked pantry and many, many spices, and I would be hard pressed to come up with some of these things.

I am having more luck with VCTOTW, also by Isa and I am sure it will be used within an inch of its life.  I can't wait for red velvet cupcukes, but alas it is 95 degrees here and way way too hot bake!  Sigh...winter will come and when it does, I'll bake cupcakes every few days.

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While I really like VWAV, I agree with Cates about some of the recipes.  I am just out of college, so my spices are really basic: stuff like cardamon pods and coriander and turmeric and saffron are just stuff I never got around to buying.
Here are some suggestions for places to start, nothing too crazy, ingredient-wise: Pancakes (nothing weird there), Sweet Potato Fries (subbed other spices), Black Bean and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers, Mango Tofu, Italian Marinated Tofu...I've made these and I didn't need to buy anything new (except produce and tofu).

I wouldn't say that the recipes are expensive, however.  They just sometimes involve not-so-common spices and ingredients.  If you use them often enough to make it worthwhile, the recipes are still relatively cheap.  I guess the exception to this is the Pomegranate Molasses which I've never heard of and would have no idea how to use in any other recipe lol.

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pomegranate molasses.... i plan on putting some in lemonade this summer. ohhh!! it is like a favored syrup. i don't know why it says "molasses" (unless the word means something to do with something not like "regular" molasses). perhaps the spices are based on what you cook on a regular basis. i have a lot of the indian spices because i like indian food. i don't have oregano or basil half the time but i've always got stuff to make a curry!!

another trick: if you are missing 1-2 spices just don't put them in. most of the time it tastes fine. i also find with the "green ones" that they are interchangeable.... at least my tastebuds don't seem to care.  ;D

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I've never heard of pomegranate molasses, but I do have cardamom pods which I use for curries and we just had some hijiki for dinner tonight!  Perhaps it just depends on where you live and what kind of stores are available to you?

I once read a book (not a cookbook) about this woman was living in NYC and she kept on mentioning all kinds quite interesting food and spices that she ate all thetime - it made me wonder back then whether she would just freak out if she had to go live somewhere with less access to specialty foods.   :)

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I have simple tastes for simple foods.  I would be unhappy with a cookbook like that too.

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I've had VwaV for about 4 months..I've made the BBQ Pomegranate Tofu twice (I couldn't find the pomegranate molasses so I mixed equal amounts molasses and pomegranate syrup, works fine I think), the coconut rice (YUM), the chickpea broccoli casserole (very good), and the pumpkin waffles. I have to admit..these have all been very tasty, but more time consuming that what I normally make (which is 90% from VegWeb).

My advice - maybe try a recipe or two when you have some extra time (for me, that's Saturday or Sunday) so you won't feel under the gun to get dinner ready in a snap. I plan on trying more on the weekends this fall/winter because many of the dishes seem more cold weather appropriate, IMHO.

And I never let weird ingredients stop me - I just sub something I think is appropriate and keep going. For example, I've never tried nutritional yeast, and I never use any kind of vinegars, and I can't use hot peppers or spices - but I just omit, sub, whatever. No worries!

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I really like Isa's cookbooks, both VWAV and VCTOTW.  I can't wait to get her latest, Veganomicon.  For those having trouble locating the pomegranate molasses, I found it at my local grocery store, Ralph's, in the ethnic aisle.  Pomegranate molasses is super easy to make, though, if you don't have a local grocery with a good ethnic section.  Basically, you just reduce pomegranate juice with some sugar and lemon juice.  Alton Brown from the Food Network has this recipe for making your own pomegranate syrup/molasses:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,,FOOD_9936_36166,00.html

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I have that VWAV book, and I regret buying it.  I cooked a few of the simpler recipies, all except one was nasty.  The vegan ruben is very good and I highly suggest it.  The chickpea spinach curry in there...don't add cinnamin, totally gross. 

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Holy bumped thread batman!  heh

I like to read cookbooks from cover to cover for education and inspiration.  Once through with it I will then pick out one or six to make as close to the directions as possible.  There are some simple things to know about substituting items; know why its in the recipe, know a good source to replace that roll and get the quantity correct when subbing things in.

My family & I love the Black bean, corn & chipotle stew and the Sunny Lemon Blueberry corn muffins.  Rather than bother with chipotle's I buy a tub of hot deli salsa and sub it in for that and the tomatoes.  Turn the muffins into savory by cutting down on the sugar and leaving out the blueberries. 

The Fronch Toast is awesome.  My daughter claimed it was the best French toast she had ever eaten. 

On a side note: Please read up on Hijiki.  A study done this year found that it contains significantly higher levels of inorganic arsenic than other seaweeds. 

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i think because the basis of a vegan diet is so simple (fruits, veggies, grains and legumes) people feel they need to overdo it.

I agree with this member and accepting that a vegan diet is going to be simple had helped me make that great cross-over where I no longer crave the old foods with complicated flavor mixing and textures ect.

Two things I'f experimented with, califlower and cabbage, and potato and cabbage soups are both "just" a couple vegatables but they're delicious. Eating some right now in fact. They don't disappoint me because I'm adjusted to a simpler taste.

My spice rack? Salt and pepper lol 

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I understand the hesitancy around using the book. I haven't tried COOKING anything out of it, just for that reason. it's just not my style. but baking's a whole different story. I love Isa's attitude and her stories about eating cake... and her scones are absolutely FABULOUS!!!

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