As I mentioned in my last post, I was recently sent a copy of Blissful Bites: Vegan Meals That Nourish the Mind, Body, and Planet, the new cookbook from Christy Morgan, to review. I have been following Christy on Twitter for awhile now and her comments never fail to make me laugh or inspire me to try something new in the kitchen, so I was interested to find out what her recipes would be like.
First, a bit about Christy: she is a vegan macrobiotic chef. She was trained at The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts in Austin. She teaches classes and gives lectures about how to change your life through healthy cooking. And she has a blog called The Blissful Chef where you can find tons of information about vegan cooking, recipes, etc. It's safe to say that this chick knows her stuff!
Now, onto the book... let me start by saying that it's absolutely gorgeous. I love that it is paperback rather than hard cover because it is easier for me to use in the kitchen and lighter to carry around. Christy's introductory comments pulled me in right away because it's quickly apparent that her food philosophy is very similar to my own. She urges you to listen to your body and feed it with the foods that make it feel best. When your diet focuses on fresh, organic produce, whole grains, lean proteins, etc. you just end up feeling better -more balanced, calm, and energized. It's not about stigmatizing foods and labelling them as "good" or "bad", but simply about being intuitive. There will always be a time and place for an indulgence or two, but the goal should be to stay away from caffeine, sugar, white flours and highly processed foods, since they tend to drag you down physically. Common sense, really.
I know all of that is easier said than done, but flipping through Blissful Bites, I was amazed at how many of the recipes called to me. Christy makes eating well seem very appealing and not at all like you're giving anything up. The book is divided into categories like "Breakfast and Brunch of Champions", "Delectable Vegetable Sides", and "Healthier Desserts You Crave". Each of those categories is further broken down by season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Anytime. This really helps you to focus on fruits and vegetables that are in-season and readily available. I love that! Cooking seasonally and locally is always a goal of mine, so this is right up my alley.
Christy also marks each recipe with applicable icons for raw, gluten-free, soy-free, low or no oil, and less than 45 minutes making it very easy for people with special diets to quickly find recipes they can enjoy. Because Christy is also a private chef, she has marked some recipes as "Chef Favorites" and "Fan Favorites" based on those for which she's had the best feedback. And there are beautiful full-color pictures of most of the recipes, which always helps you to know that you're on the right track when tackling something for the first time.
I had a REALLY hard time figuring out which recipes to test first because they seriously all look so good! One in particular really stood out to me and that was the Veggie Stuffed Pasta Shells with "Mama Mia Magnifico Sauce" and Tofu Ricotta Cheeze. As someone who suffers from acid reflux, I am always looking for ways to cut down on trigger foods like tomato sauce, and the "Mama Mia Magnifico Sauce" contains no tomatoes whatsoever! I had to give it a try. The base is butternut squash (which is pretty genius, since it has a texture very similar to crushed tomatoes when it's cooked and blended) and it is given a red hue from grated beets. I was surprised at how much it looked like the real thing!
I knew it would be tough to get Johnny to try this one since he is serious about his Italian food. But I explained this was not meant to taste exactly like tomato sauce. Rather, it was more like a vegetable sauce that should be judged on its own merits. He finally gave it a shot and he totally loved it! I was equally impressed and coming away from dinner without that acid feeling in my throat was a big bonus.
My lovely mother-in-law and brother-in-law were in town this past weekend, so I thought it'd be fun to make brunch for everyone one day. The Pumpkin Spice Pancakes sounded too good to resist, so I made up a batch of those and they were very well received. They are a great spongy, fluffy consistency and are perfectly spiced. Johnny was once again the lone holdout, busying himself with his fruit salad before daring to try the pancakes (I guess he has something against pumpkin due to his dislike of pumpkin pie). I left the room for a minute or two and when I came back, he had gobbled up three pancakes and also had his foot in his mouth.
I was a bit more hesitant to serve the Sizzling Tempeh Bacon to everyone as I knew my MIL and BIL had never had tempeh before. But they both really enjoyed it and my MIL even said she would cook it at home if I gave her the recipe! You can buy some pretty good pre-packaged tempeh bacon at the store, but it doesn't really compare to making it yourself. This version is slightly sweet, salty and smoky - the perfect accompaniment to any breakfast or brunch.
I plan to cook many more recipes from Blissful Bites and highly recommend everyone pick up a copy for themselves. If you are lucky enough to be in one of the cities Christy is visiting on her book tour you should definitely go! Here are some upcoming dates:
Thursday, March 15th @ 5:30pm - Roots Market, Washington, D.C. - book signing with food samples
Saturday, March 17th @ 4:15pm - Whole Foods Tribeca, New York, NY - cooking class and book signing
Monday, March 19th @ 6:00pm - Sun in Bloom, Brooklyn, NY - dinner, cooking demo and book signing
Tuesday, March 20th @ 6:30pm - Whole Foods Market, Dedham, MA - cooking demo and book signing
For additional info on any of these events or for additional dates, visit Christy's web site here.
*** BenBella Books, the publisher of Blissful Bites, has graciously offered to send a copy of the book to one of my readers! To enter to win, just leave a comment below saying what blissful food is to you. The deadline to enter is Saturday, March 17th at 12:00pm EDT. Good luck! ETA: We can only ship to addresses in the US or Canada on this one. Sorry international peeps, I'll get you next time! ***