This review is long overdue. I am an omnivore, with a mostly omnivorous family. Imagine my surprise when, two years ago, my teenager announced one evening (after a visit to a lovely farm with adorable baby cows) that she was going to stop eating any land animals. Turns out, there is a word for that:pescatarian. Back then, I didn't know that, and being faced with the prospect of trying to cook healthy vegetarian meals for a developing teenager made me want to pull my hair out. I worried that I would either end up with a malnourished girl, or that the food I cooked would be so unpalatable that she wouldn't eat it. I also didn't want to have to cook one meal for her, and another for the rest of the family. If she would make this journey, then so would we. I tried various vegetarian books, only to find tofu-pushing, bland recipes that I had a hard time tempting my whole family with. Then my sweet sister came to my rescue, telling me that her friend Heidi wrote a little book I might like...and she mailed me Heidi's guide.
I call it a guide because that is what we used it for in the beginning. Heidi takes the time to explain the ingredients, the basics of how to cook them, and advises on the utensils and other things needed. She scatters useful advice throughout - it isn't a book that I just pull out when I need a recipe. I actually sit down and read it for the extra encouragement I need to keep our family on-track. I have two other children, 6 and 8. They loved their hot dogs and hamburgers. I don't know any other children their age who now rave about risotto and mushroom pot pie! My husband is a Food and Beverage Director for a luxury resort. Sometimes, after hearing about the menus he puts together for his hotel, I feel a little intimidated about what I offer him at home. This is a true sign of the success of Heidi's book: my carnivorous, German husband, Mr. Foodie, LOVES these dishes. Yes, he still likes sausages, schnitzel, etc. But he will dig into the corn, coconut, and curry soup like there is no tomorrow...
Now, being more sensitive to the other vegetarians in the world, I always bring a dish from Heidi's book when I attend parties or potlucks. For our first vegetarian Thanksgiving, we were invited to a friend's home. The prospect of dining on Tofurkey didn't seem appetizing, so we made and contributed the mushroom medley fritatta and the roasted sweet potatoes to the Thanksgiving Feast. My kids had to wrestle to get some of the food we brought onto their plates! We ended up bringing home empty food containers, and I noticed there was ALOT of leftover turkey...everybody there just couldn't get enough of our vegetarian dishes.
The best part is the ease with which I can prepare all this food. I enjoy cooking - I actually collect cookbooks. So I can say from experience that Heidi has a great formula with the format of this book. She gives you the basics for the core of the dish, then she offers a chart of various ingredients you can add in order to make different dishes out of that core recipe. It really simplifies things for the reader, and the various ideas for ingredients really make a difference in preventing food-boredom with my children.
Again, thank-you, Heidi, for a well-written, well-planned guide to vegetarian cooking. We are two years into the game now (I thought it would last 6 months) and my well-worn copy of Cook 1.0 doesn't even make it back into my cookbook collection; I keep it out on my counter for quick reference. And my little vegetarian? Her new lifestyle has NOT turned her into the wraith I feared...she is 5'9" now, and a star on her school basketball and volleyball teams.