Having been vegan for several years and vegetarian before that, it may come as a surprise that this was my first Moosewood cookbook. I knew when I ordered it that there would likely be many recipes that called for cheese, eggs, etc., but I hoped there would at least be enough of a vegan presence that I could keep this cookbook in my "go to" section. I was not disappointed: about 70% of the cookbook is either straight-up vegan or veganized with minimal effort. At this point, even though I've made only 10 recipes (I normally like to make 15-20% of a cookbook's repertoire before writing a review), I believe I've gotten an accurate sample and a feel for tone of the cookbook. As I meander through the rest of it, making two or three recipes from it each week, I will update this review if my general impression changes.
I follow a whole-foods approach to cooking and eating, with lots of fresh veggies, whole grains, legumes, and other natural proteins (tofu and tempeh). This particular Moosewood iteration, Cooking for Health, is a great fit for me because it is entirely whole foods-based and very healthy. There are no faux meats or heavy cheese sauces, but there are tons of veggies, which I love. I feel great eating the recipes out of this cookbook and never have to compromise on nutritive quality, because it incorporates foods that I already eat in ways that are inspired, wholesome, and delectable. The recipes let the true flavors of the food shine through while being complimented -- not overpowered -- by spices, herbs, and aromatics. Additionally, many of the recipes in this cookbook take 30-35 minutes, with most clocking in at an hour or less.
Here are the recipes I've made:
1. Greek Lentil Burgers: Good. Relatively easy to make, yet somewhat bland-tasting when the recipe is followed exactly. This recipe actually calls for eggs as a binding agent, but we used Ener-G egg replacer. As my husband, who is also vegan, and I were making these burgers, he didn't like the flavor until we added some Bragg's and vegan Worcestershire sauce to the mix. Might make again.
2. Tempeh-Quinoa Burgers: Wow, excellent. Easy to make, great tasting, super healthy, and filling. Cooked sweet potatoes are used as the binder, so this recipe is straight-up vegan. Would make again.
3. Broccoli Rabe with Beans: Very good. I loved this one! So simple and quick, yet so flavorful and nutritious. Would make again.
4. Spanikopita: Bland, but with lots of potential; tasted better the next day as leftovers. Surprisingly easy to make, although time-consuming because of all the prep work. This recipe incorporates TONS of greens (two bunches each of kale and spinach), which we loved. We subbed one block of extra firm tofu for the crumbled neufchatel/feta cheese the recipe calls for. Will probably make again but will add more tofu (two blocks) and some Bragg's to the greens before wrapping them up in the phyllo dough.
5. Mushroom, Peanut, Tofu Stew with Greens: Very good; hearty and flavorful. Thick enough to be used as a "curry" and served over rice. Both hubz and I enjoyed this one with no changes to the recipe. Would make again.
6. Deconstructed Japanese Lunchbox Salad: Excellent. This dish was surprisingly filling, considering it's basically salad greens, brown rice, tofu, and some veggies. We liked this recipe with no alterations. Would make again.
7. Latin Corn Soup: Slightly eccentric but very good. Another hearty and flavorful dish with tons of veggies. We ate this with no changes to the recipe. Might make again.
8. Adzuki Bean and Spinach Soup: Average. Kind of plain; better once we added some Bragg's and cracked pepper. Probably would not make again.
9. Greek Tomato-Yogurt Soup: Very good. We easily substituted soy yogurt (instead of dairy) and used fresh tomatoes instead of canned. I also added a few avocado chunks for color, although the recipe doesn't call for it. I really enjoyed this soup, but hubz didn't like it so much; said it reminded him of gazpacho (which I love and he dislikes). Would make this again for myself.
10. Italian Lentils: Amazing. This dish is so hearty and delicious, and it can feed 8 people (or more) if you serve it with a grain (we like it with millet). We have since made this dish three more times, changing the recipe only to add zucchini.
This cookbook is huge: 300 pages of recipes, not including the introduction or the index (350 pages total). It's arranged in a typical way, beginning with breakfast and baked goods (none of which are vegan except for the Vegan Cornbread), eggs, appetizers, salads, and soups. It then moves into more main-dish chapters like burgers, stir-fries, casseroles, beans, and pasta. Finishing the cookbook are chapters on side vegetables and then desserts. About 70% of the desserts are straight-up vegan.
Strangely, there is a separate chapter on stews that was placed a full 130 pages past the soup chapter. Maybe this is standard cookbook organization, but I found it inconvenient that soups and stews were not even placed in chapters adjacent to each other. If I'm in the mood for soup, I would also be interested in stews and would love to find them all in one go. Personal preference, I guess!
There are brief commentaries throughout the book that discuss the glycemic index, fats and oils, phytonutrients, antioxidants, seaweed, legumes, veganism, raw foods, sugars, etc. These vignettes would be most informative for the beginning vegetarian or whole foods cook; and while I found them interesting, there wasn't a whole lot I didn't already know.
Other than the placement of the stews chapter, my only other gripe with this cookbook is the lack of labeling. The vegan recipes aren't labeled as such in the table of contents, in the index, or on the recipe pages themselves. This likely won't be a problem for non-vegans; but if Moosewood had had the foresight to simply add the letter "V" (or "V option") to denote vegan (option) recipes, it would have saved me, and doubtless many other vegan readers, tons of time.
So exactly how vegan is this cookbook?
Roughly 60% of the book's recipes are straight-up vegan, with absolutely no substitutions or omitting of any ingredients. Another 10% of the recipes call for dairy ingredients but are veganized with minimal effort without drastically changing the flavor or nutrient profile of the dish -- like subbing for milk, butter, or mayonnaise, or omitting a negligible amount of shredded cheese as garnish. These two categories (vegan and easily veganized) are what I consider, for my own purposes, to be "usable" recipes, and they make up about 70% of the book.
Another 15% of the recipes have dairy ingredients that would take more effort to substitute, like eggs in baked goods (should I use flax? banana? Ener-G?). And finally, another 15% of the recipes call for dairy ingredients that, if omitted or subbed, would drastically change the flavor of a dish or render it totally unrecognizable. These two types of recipes are in my "throw away" category, when subbing is just not worth it. Luckily, vegans will still get about 140 usable recipes out of this cookbook -- not too shabby. However, had I not gotten this cookbook through the Vine program, I don't honestly think that I would purchase it. (Why would I, when I could just buy one of the hundreds of amazing vegan cookbooks already out there and not have to worry about substitutions?)
So, in short, although vegans may prefer to stick to strictly vegan cookbooks, I think that this Moosewood iteration would be a great resource for those who enjoy a whole foods-based, vegetarian cooking style and are looking for a huge collection of healthy recipes.