About Me

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Concord, California, United States
I am a sometimes-writer, everyday mama, creative failure and experimental cook. I am interested in living a beautiful life, spending time with my family and making things that I can feel proud of. When I'm by myself I'm usually outside. Don't bother calling because chances are that I didn't bring my cell phone because I couldn't find it. If you see me walking, it's because I lost my keys and if you see me with only one child... I'm probably in big trouble.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book Review and Give Away- The Market Vegan

Vegan cuisine is too often associated with 20-something hipsters sporting asymmetrical hair-do's, pierced by the dozen and half-sleeve tattoos or crunchy moms who reek of patchouli oil, shop only at Whole Foods Market and speak to non-vegan people as if they are unenlightened, animal-slaughtering, hate-mongers who house moldy colons and poisonous blood.  This is really a shame and so often makes non-vegan people feel as though vegan food is catered to a club that they don't belong to.  But, as proven by Laura Gesin in her book The Market Vegan, plant based food is for everyone.

Even if you're not vegan, you'll love Laura Gesin's new cookbook, The Market Vegan.  It is a cookbook packed with 33 vegan recipes and helpful hints, such as what vegan alternatives to keep on hand in order to make cooking easier and how to decipher vegan beer and wine from non-vegan beer and wine.  (Though as a personal only-semi-related side-note, Gesin seems to show some preference toward Toffutti products, which I don't love.  I much, much prefer the Follow Your Heart products for excellence in taste and texture).

My family is not vegan, however, my daughter Bunny is allergic to casein and out of respect for her we don't have any casein in our home (aside from the coffee creamer that I keep hidden on the top shelf of my fridge, of course).  Having a casein-free home is harder than you may think.  Often, it's much easier to just grab something that says "vegan," rather than standing in the middle of the market, trying to decode a list of ingredients.  For this reason, we eat a lot of vegan food and I do a lot of vegan cooking.  I usually tell people that everything in our house is vegan but the meat.

My favorite aspect of this book is its' very foundation.  The recipes are built on simple ingredients that most people use alread.  The vegan substitutes required to make each recipe can be found in most markets.  Any Whole Foods carries them and most health food stores will as well.  I am in Florida, on vacation and staying with my parents.  I was able to find all of the necessary ingredients in their local Publix, which was an unexpected surprise!

I'd easily recommend this book to someone who is transitioning into vegetarianism or who is newly vegan.  The recipes are accessible.  Vegan food is often categorized as "rabbit food" by non-vegan people, but I am pleased to say that these recipes are filling, healthy, rich and delicious.  They are great for people who don't have a whole lot of time to cook and meals that taste like they took hours to make, actually took less than 30 minutes (cook time included).

This review will critique The Market Vegan using three guidelines.  1.) Organization  2.) Creativity and 3.) Recipe ease and user friendliness.

The way a cookbook is organized can really make or break it.  They are sort of like mixed cd's that way.  It's important for me to be able to look through it and plan a linear meal.   I need all similar things to be organized in chapters like Salads, Soups, Starters, Main Courses and Desserts.  Or, I don't mind if things are labeled by genre.  Having Chapters in a cookbook is important to my experience when I am reading it.  I don't typically throw my astrological sign around when explaining myself, but this may be the perfect time to tell you  that I am a Virgo.  The Market Vegan isn't organized in a way that is comfortable for me and it threw me off of my game a bit.  Perhaps I am old-fashioned and used to working with cookbooks in their paper form.  I can't rule out the fact that I might be out of date and behind the times.  Truthfully, because I had my ipad, it was easy to go back to the table of contents and tap a recipe and so the table of contents became my "go-to" instead of the pages with the ingredients and pictures.

That said, once I found something that I wanted to make, I found the recipes to be conversational and very easy to follow.  The author's voice came through in the book and her recipes show a lot of heart.  At times the ingredients are not listed in the order that you use them, but the lists of ingredients were generally few enough that this didn't create too big of a problem for me.

All in all, the way that The Market Vegan was organized was not my favorite thing about it, but truthfully, it's the only negative critique that I have of the book... so I'm glad that I got it out of the way because I have so many other things to say that are positive.  And of course, the most important thing about a cookbook is THE FOOD.  So, let's get too the beef (no pun intended) of this review.

Honestly, I can't rave about the creativity in these recipes enough.  I made the Potato Leek Soup, the Vegan Chili, the Eggplant and Italian Bread "Lasagna," the Peanut Butter Pie and the White Wine Sangria.  I was also supposed to make the stuffed mushrooms but between our vacation activities and my general forgetfulness, I forgot while making my shopping list and when I realized what happened I was all cooked out!  This is really self-sabotage because it was what I was most looking forward to eating.

Each recipe was more creative than the next.  Gesin  has a very good grasp on texture and is delightfully playful with the textures in her foods.  I was most impressed by the textures and flavors in the Eggplant and Italian Bread Lasagna.   As I said in my pre-review-blog-post, I make my own eggplant lasagna and I make my own sauce.  These are family favorites and I am proud (with a capital "P") of them.  My recipe is radically different than the recipe in The Market Vegan and it sure as s%&t doesn't include scallions, celery or carrots.  Admittedly, as I was eyeing the ingredient list the New Jersey Italian California Irishwoman in me raised her skinny little eyebrow in said "Oh-kaaaay" with the edge of condescension in her voice.  But oh-my-god and ooohlala, was I surprised by how delicious this was!  I would never have used these vegetables and was thrilled by the result.  The Italian bread was layered with seasoned Eggplant and a light tomato sauce (recipe incorporated in the lasagna recipe). The result was marvelous.  The vegetables remained slightly crisp in the sauce and when layered with the eggplant the bread took on a somewhat meaty texture.  It was seriously DELICIOUS.  It was masterpiece good and wonderfully simple to make.

My only criticism of this recipe is that I will add baby bella mushrooms to it when I make it in the future.  I guess that's not so much a critique as a personal preference, however.  It was quite good without the mushrooms as well.

Believe it or not, the Eggplant and Italian Bread Lasagna wasn't even my favorite thing.  My favorite was, without a doubt, the vegan chili.  This chili was wildly easy to make.  It's the sort of thing that you put in the crock pot and walk away from and it just magically turns into something wonderful and delicious.  Truth of truths, I ate two bowls of it for dinner and later that night had to will myself not to go and eat another one.  Bunny even had a bowl this morning for BREAKFAST.
We enjoyed this chili with a sprinkling of daiya cheddar cheese and a dollop of vegan sour cream.  But it is also scrumptious when naked.

By far, the most creative recipe that I tried was the Peanut Butter Pie.  Having a daughter with a food allergy has been hard.  Frequently she is faced with sweet treats that she can't eat and vegan alternatives usually taste like cardboard (with the exception of the Sweet Freedom bakery in Philadelphia.)  This pie uses tofu and vegan cream cheese, which initially sparked my interest. Previous to making this recipe I thought that it could go either way.  It might be delicious and it might be a soy-disaster. I am here to promise you that you could not taste the soy in this pie at all.  I am so excited to make different variations of it in the future.  It's going to be a base recipe for my family from now on.  Upon eating a slice, I compiled a list of all the vegan people I know and when I can have them over to my house and serve this to them.  It's beyond impressive.  It's pure genius.  I could never have come up with this recipe on my own.  It took moxy and talent together and was crazily easy to make.   The texture was perfect.  The flavor was perfect!  The pie was perfect!

The photo was taken immediately after pouring the pie filling into the crust.

 This photo was taken after the pie rested in the freezer for about 2 hours.

 I also loved Gesin's recipe for White Sangria.  I consider myself a sangria connoisseur and if it wouldn't be a health hazard and death wish, I'd absolutely drink it morning, noon and night, every day.  When it comes to beverages, Sangria is my favorite thing.
What I loved the most about this white sangria is that it was light and citrusy, rather than tasting overwhelmingly sweet.  Many people do a white sangria with peach schnapps, and instead this recipe called for limoncello and vodka.  It had a really nice combination of citrus flavors and no added sugar, which I love.  

The last recipe that I experimented with is The Market Vegan's Potato Leek soup.  I normally make chunky soups and most of my thicker soups are made using a roux.  This recipe calls for the use of an immersion mixer to puree all of the chunks and create a much healthier, thicker soup.  The texture of this is amazing and I envision making it often when our Northern California days cool down .  I will likely cut back on the dried rosemary in this recipe, as by girls would prefer less.  It takes 2 tbsp of dried rosemary and I'd be more receptive to 2 tsps.  Of course, things like that can always be changed according to preference and the other flavors in the soup were perfect.

This is a picture of the potato leek soup simmering in the pot.

And here it is after being pureed. 

The Market Vegan is full of easy recipes that are user-friendly without being dumbed down.  Laura Gesin truly crafted a book of recipes that anyone can make.  New vegans who do not cook and experienced vegans who know their way around a health food store will benefit from  and savor this food.  The recipes in The Market Vegan are diverse, flavorful, filling and delicious.  They are quick and helpful to anyone who wants to put together an easy, healthy meal in a pinch or with limited time.  

I absolutely recommend that everyone get a copy of this cookbook.  Vegan or non-vegan, it's just good food.  I am itching to get home so that I can recreate a few of these recipes for my husband and friends and try out the rest.  If everything is as exceptional as what I made while vacationing, these will certainly become family favorites! You can purchase The Market Vegan on Laura Gesin's website for just $12.99!

On August 16th I'll be hosting a giveaway of The Market Vegan by Laura Gesin.  If you'd like to enter to win a free electronic copy of this cookbook, leave a comment under this post (or my review preview) that says, "I want it!"  Or, just tell me anything that you like about vegan food!  All comments will be entered and you can enter as many times as you care to.  

I will announce a winner on August 16th.  


  1. thanks for such a glowing review! I originally passed on categorizing the recipes because I wasn't sure how many would end up in the ebook. When I added 3 recipes at the end of last month, I wondered if it wasn't time ... and your comments lead me to believe it is!

    There will be 3 more additions of the cookbook through next May (free to whoever purchases the book), so the next version will be organized and include 3 more recipes!

    PS You're photos look awesome!

  2. Oh, that's fantastic!!!!

    I enjoyed your recipe's so much. I will encourage everyone I know to buy the book!

  3. Ooh, that soup looks so good! I was just rooting around for a tasty soup recipe. (I know, in the middle of summer? But with the air on, it's super cold!)

  4. There are a few great soup recipes too. There's an asparagus soup and a miso soup that both look great. I can't wait to try them out. Good luck with your entry to the giveaway.

  5. I love the way you write Anna! I will have to invest in this book. I do struggle sometimes with providing descent vegan meals to my family, especially with my small children. It sounds like this book will be big help and make my busy life a little easier! Thanks for the great review!

  6. Hey Hope. This is a really great book for families and busy mom's.

  7. Everything looks amazing! I would love to win this....I was a vegan for quite a long time, but I'm still not a fan of meat and cook vegan when I'm not eating meat. :)

  8. Aw... I miss you too Nikkol. Every so often I hop over to your blog to see if you've updated. You'd love this cookbook!!!!!!

  9. I want it! I'm so intrigued by these recipes. My partner and I are wanting to eat more vegan, more often. Eeeee. Thanks for this giveaway!