You are here

Favorite Omni Cookbooks Review

I like to get new ideas for food from "regular" cookbooks that I borrow from the library.  I've decided to review the cookbooks as I go.  

Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More

The author, Carole Walter, has taught cooking classes for over 20 years and it shows in the directions.  She'll spend two pages directing you on how to make a basic recipe.  At first I thought, "I already know how to measure flour, I don't need a paragraph on it."  By the end, following her tips lead to my first successful attempt at making great scones. hehe.  The detail she offers in this book on technique is worth the read.  Plus, most of the recipes are veganizable.  She uses unsalted butter, so for many of them it was a matter of reducing the salt added to take into account the sodium in Earth Balance.

This is a well organized book.  Sections include pound cakes; coffee cakes; muffins & quick breads; biscuits & scones; yeasted coffee cakes; brioche, croissants & danish, strudel; and glazes, frostings, and spreads.

Walter, Carole. Great coffee cakes, sticky buns, muffins & more 200 anytime treats and special sweets for morning to midnight. New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2007. Print.


Small-Batch Preserving

This is my favorite water bath canning recipe book.  It makes small batches; the title doesn't lie.  Most of the recipes make four to seven cups of preserves.  This is perfect if you're buying store-bought produce instead of growing your own or aren't blessed with a generous neighbor/friend.  Not everyone likes the same things, so I can mix and match what I give because I don't have too much of any one thing.

It includes a nice explanation of the function of fruit, sugar, pectin, and acid in sweet spreads.  It could do a better job at identifying the length of time for processing.  Canning at higher altitudes is processed for longer than canning up to 1,000 feet in elevation.  The processing time for most of the sweet spreads is listed on page 22, but the amount of time to add to that, based on altitude, is buried on page 12.  Not a good thing.

It includes sections on jam; jelly; marmalade; conserves, butters and curds; sugar spreads; pickles; relish; salsa; chutney; sauces; and flavored oils and specialty vinegars.

Topp, Ellie. Complete book of year-round small-batch preserving over 300 delicious recipes. Buffalo, N.Y: Firefly Books, 2001. Print.


The Bread Bible

Rose Levy Beranbaum is Alton Brown's prototype.  She explains the chemistry of bread and, at the same time, makes bread approachable in easy to understand steps.  What I really like about her recipes is that the ingredient quantities are listed three ways:  US volume (cups, tablespoons, etc.), by weight in ounces, and by weight in grams.  I am told that the most consistent results come from weighing out ingredients, so I am pretty excited by having the options.

I borrowed the book from the library because I recently had a great salad of mixed baby greens with grilled red bell peppers, kalamata olives, and capers with a balsamic vinegrettte on top of flatbread, cut pizza style.  The flavors of the salad marinated the flatbread so that by the time I got to the soft yet chewy bread, it wasn't soggy or anything, but richly glazed with flavor.  Flatbread recipes in The Bread Bible include pizza, focaccia, and pita.

I've seen a lot of instructions on how to make sourdough starter and they were all complicated.  Her method seems easier than others.  It still takes five or more days, but without the production of the other starter methods.  I'm going to start it this weekend.

Chapters include:  1) The Ten Essential Steps of Making Bread; 2) Quick Breads, Little Quick Breads (Muffins, Biscuits, and Scones), Little Yeast Breads, and Batter Breads; 3) Flatbreads; 4) Soft Sandwich Loaves and Dinner Rolls; 5) Hearty Breads; 6) Sourdough; and 7) The Brioche Family of Breads.  In addition, she discusses the merits of different brands of ingredients and equipment.

Beranbaum, Rose Levy. The Bread Bible. Boston: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003. Print.


Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant

I was clearing through books and came across this one.  I forgot I had it.  The last Moosewood cookbook I browsed was heavy on cheese, so I hadn't really looked at this cookbook although it's been in my collection for years.  This cookbook is organized by region and a lot of recipes are naturally vegan or easily veganizable.  I don't think it's worth full price to a vegan, but I'd recommend it if it's at the library or at a library book sale.

My favorite thing about this recipe collection is that serving variations follow many recipes.  For example, in the Italy chapter there is a recipe for risotto.  It takes 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese.  That can be veganized with a blend of nutritional yeast, ground walnuts/almond/pine nuts, and a pinch of salt.  I can make risotto and freeze it in portions to eat for work lunches without ever having the same meal twice.  With all of the variation ideas, I can essentially use whatever ingredients are leftovers from other meals to combine to create new flavors from a single base dish and because I'm not a fan of grains, I have more ideas about how I can up the veggie content of the meal and still get the density of the rice. 

Base:  risotto
Option 1: risotto with celery and peas
Option 2: risotto with asparagus
Option 3: risotto with dried porcini
Option 4: risotto with vegetable puree
Option 5: risotto with grilled vegetables
Option 6: risotto with green beans and sun-dried tomatoes
Option 7: risotto with sauteed minced red peppers and winter squash
Option 8: risotto with spinach (fresh or wilted)
Option 9: risotto with chopped artichoke hearts
Option 10: risotto with pesto
Option 11: risotto with fresh parsley or other herb
Option 12: risotto with grapes
Option 13: risotto with nutritional yeast sauce
Option 14: risotto with broth to make a soup

The cookbook includes the following chapters:  Africa South of the Sahara; Armenia and the Middle East; British Isles; The Caribbean; Chile; China; Eastern Europe; Finland; India; Italy; Japan; Mexico; New England; North Africa and the Northeast African Highlands; Provence; Southeast Asia; and Southern United States.

Collective, Moosewood. Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant/Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant. New York: Fireside, 1990. Print.


This is an interesting and helpful thread. I have loads of cookbooks that aren't vegan and also use them for inspiration. I'll have to add some reviews too. The coffee cake cookbook sounds really good! Thanks for the review. The Bread Bible is a great book. How did your sourdough starter turn out, Humboldt Honey?


Ha!  I know, bp.  My lack of love for most grains may inspire me to cheat and try making risotto with spelt instead of arborio rice.  I felt very Bubba talking about shrimp when posting that.

teslaca, I'd love to read your cookbook reviews!  Day one of starting her sourdough recipe was a matter of blending organic rye flour and water.  Now I have to wait to see if I messed that up.  I'm perplexed by my ability to blow some inanely simple step in a recipe.  (In case anyone wants more info about one of the cookbooks, I've been adding the citation.  I just go here --> and type in the ISBN number and the site creates the citation for me.)


Here's a review I wrote some time ago, Humboldt Honey. It's a very interesting book that I picked up at a library sale for 50 cents. It's out of print, but still available on Amazon at various prices.

Himalayan Mountain Cookery by Mrs. R.M. Ballentine, Sr.

This is a great little spiral bound book I picked up at a library sale back in September. The recipes are easy to cook from and the book has taught me about the foods of Northern India and Tibet.


Utensils and Cooking Oils
Spices and Herbs
Basic Plan for a Balanced Meal


Relishes, Chutneys and Raitas
Beverages and Soups
Sweet Dishes

Glossary and Index ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I've really enjoyed reading this older vegetarian cookbook. It's a great introduction to foods and dishes from the region it covers. Thirty-one pages in the beginning give a great description of the ingredients and utensils used as well as how to plan a menu that is balanced. The chapter describing the spices used is particularly interesting. Along with describing the flavor, what parts are used and what sorts of dishes the spice is generally used with, the author also notes what medicinal and nutritional properties the spices exhibit. (Oddly, in this chapter there are two pages 19 and 20.) Tips on how to use American appliances like pressure cookers, or how to make meal preparation quicker are noted in the menu planning section.

Each main ingredient chapter begins with an introductory text describing the ingredients and giving basic preparation instructions.

The recipes are one per page and are easy to read. All text is in very dark brown. Preparation times and number of servings is given, too. Short, usually single sentence head notes introduce each recipe. The recipes are written as a hybrid of the newer style format with the ingredient listing followed by instructions and the old, paragraph style where the ingredients are woven into the narrative. The main ingredients are presented as a list at the beginning of the recipe; throughout the instructions, spices are listed when used in the cooking steps.

Because of the large number of spices sometimes used, this system works surprisingly well for me. It does make it slightly harder to see at a glance if you have everything you need to make a certain recipe, but if your spice cabinet is well-stocked, you only need to check the main ingredients list. The spices are printed in all capitals, and in bold, so they do stand out somewhat. I did find that it was easier to keep track of the spices when cooking by having them, along with their amounts, listed in the instructions.

I found the recipes to be simple, straightforward and very well-suited for everyday cooking. The ingredients, beyond some spices, are all easy to find ingredients you are likely to have on hand already. The dahls use mostly mung beans - split or whole - and they're available in many supermarkets even. Vegetables that are American staples like broccoli, onions, green peas, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes and green beans are called for. I'm sure other vegetables would be used in India, but using ones we have readily available makes all the recipes accessible.

The only ingredient I can't find adequately described is soy powder. I'm not sure exactly what she is calling for. It's in a few recipes, but I didn't see a description of it. I suppose soy protein powder from the health food store is probably what is intended. Anyone think it may be something else?

There is an interesting quote on the back of the book where the author's biography is printed: "Grounded in the cooking tradition of rural South Carolina, where rice, corn, local beans and peas and leafy vegetables are staples, she found the food of Northern India a familiar terrain." Interesting idea.

The first recipe I tried - Potato and Onion Subzi - was great. It was, for me, a unique way to prepare a favorite combination of onions and potatoes. The only change I made was to boil the potatoes instead of using a pressure cooker.

Some recipes I have also tried, or would like to try include: Vegetables with Celery; Kashmiri Sag; Kaccha-Pakka; Peas Palak Paneer; "Brown Rice" (white rice colored with browned onions); Pullao; Khichari; Green Rice; Whole Mung; Quick Doshas; Dahl on Top; "Chocolate" Dahl; Garbanzo Stew; Crisp Chapatis; Leaf Cake; Indian Style Tea; and Spiced Tilk. The recipes that are not vegan already can easily be converted, usually with only one substitution.

Book Title: Himalayan Mountain Cookery
Author(s): Mrs. R.M. Ballentine, Sr.
Category: Indian
ISBN: 0893890154 - although this same ISBN on shows a different cover (and it's a paperback) than the one I have

Publisher: Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy
Publisher address: 1505 Greenwood Road, Glenview, IL 60025
Date published: 1976
Edition: first

Description: soft cover, spiral
Illustrated: sketches at chapter headings
Photographs: no
Pages: 188
Retail price (at time of publication): US$3.50

Log in or register to post comments