My Sweet Vegan — Book Full of Vegan Desserts: Review of Hannah Kaminsky’s Dessert and Baking Cookbook

While still preparing for her first year in university, Hannah Kaminsky created My Sweet Vegan: Passionate About Dessert (Fleming Ink, ISBN 978-0979128615), a cookbook full of tasty desserts and baked goods that don’t use dairy, eggs, honey, or other animal ingredients, but definitely do not pale in comparison to their “normal” counterparts. Many of them are even gluten-free.

First, it must be said: My Sweet Vegan looks gorgeous. It is a real coffee table book. Many vegan cookbooks only have a photo insert in the middle, but this book contains photos of all the recipes—all taken by Kaminsky herself. It is stylishly laid out and pleasant to browse.

Many Types of Desserts
My Sweet Vegan contains sweet breakfast foods (like muffins, French toast, scones, granola, and even a sweet focaccia bread), cookies, bars, cakes, cupcakes, pies, tarts, candies, crumbles, and other desserts, like Pumpkin Toffee Trifle and Hazelnut Ravioli. Strangely there are two frozen desserts (Brilliant Berry Parfaits and Green Tea Freezer Pops), but no ice cream recipes. Considering its focus on sweet stuff, this book makes a great complement to The Vegan Table

Perhaps there could have been one or two raw food “baked goods,” as raw food desserts are getting more and more popular. Also, there are only complete recipes — there’s no chapter for dessert sauces, creams, or frostings, which would be great since many people have trouble imagining how these kinds of recipes could be vegan. The recipes generally don’t list any adaptations or variations, which is also a bit of a shame.

My Sweet Vegan is certainly not a health or dieting cookbook, even though it is vegan. Kaminsky uses ingredients from tofu to nut butters, maple syrup, and coconut milk to create decadent desserts from Triple Threat Chocolate “Cheese” Cake to Maple Pistachio Crémes. No nutritional information is listed (which might be a good thing).

The ingredients are introduced in the beginning of the book, but sadly some of them may be difficult to find in not-so-vegan-friendly areas. Traditionally, vegan cheesecakes have been made with tofu, but many recipes in this book use vegan cream cheese, which may be difficult to find, and the same goes for vegan “sour cream” and marshmallow fluff.

Mouthwatering Flavors
Many of Kaminsky’s recipes are creative and innovative. She doesn’t hesitate to combine pomegranate with ginger and chocolate with wasabi. Green tea makes several appearances—including a new twist to the traditional tiramisu! Kaminsky turns Peach Melba into a layered cake, chocolate chip cookies into a pie, and Pina Colada into mini bundt cakes.

The tested recipes all turned out delicious. Butterscotch blondies were very sweet and butterscotchy, the zesty cranberry crumb muffins had an amazing texture (though the testers found them a bit too heavy on the orange), and the strawberry spirals impressed with both their fruity taste and their elegant appearance.

The cashew créme pear tart packed a bunch of rich caramel flavor—the gluten-free crust of the especially impressed the testers. Like many of the gluten-free recipes in the book, it was based on almond meal.

Everyone who enjoys sweets should consider getting My Sweet Vegan, and all vegans (and those who are allergic to milk or eggs) even more so. Even though most recipes aren’t gluten-free, there are so many of them that those avoiding gluten might want to get the book. The allergy index at the end makes it easy to find recipes without gluten, peanuts, treenuts or soy.

The Vegan Table: Stylish Cookbook with 200 Recipes for Entertaining & Dinner Parties

The Vegan Table: 200 Unforgettable Recipes for Entertaining Every Guest at Every Occasion (Fair Winds Press, ISBN 978-1592333745) is the second cookbook from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, the author of the much-praised The Joy of Vegan Baking. As its name suggests, The Vegan Table is about serving food to guests, whether it’s a romantic dinner for two or a big party.

The book has the appearance of an impressive coffee table book. The layout is both stylish and convenient and there are full-color photos of almost every recipe. There are so many recipes it can be a bit overwhelming at first.

Somewhat confusingly, the book is not divided into food categories but into menu suggestions, so appetizers, main dishes, dips, drinks, baked goods, and desserts are scattered throughout the book. This reviewer would have preferred the traditional approach with different types of foods in their own sections.

Despite what you might expect, The Vegan Table is not really a “gourmet” cookbook. Some of the dishes are quite fancy – like the purple potatoes filled with cashew cream and walnut sage breadcrumbs – but mostly it is more like tasty homestyle cooking, occasionally with an ethnic flair. There are also holiday recipes from Passover to Christmas.

No exotic gourmet or vegan ingredients are needed, though some a bit surprising ingredients like tempeh make frequent appearances. Most recipes don’t take particularly long to make, though those that do are clearly listed as “advanced preparation required”. The majority of the dishes are healthy and some can be made completely fat-free.

The book makes a very finished and polished impression. It has got everything! The recipes are detailed and include metric conversions of U.S. measures, nutritional information, tips and other information. Allergy information is listed under the title of every recipe. There are generally no adaptation ideas for recipes, however.

There is also a wealth of information about cooking in general, as well as throwing different types of parties, including preparations, decorations, toasts and even edible flowers.

Recipe Test Results
The Cuban black bean soup was hearty and the banana flavor did not come through too much, but it was a bit on the bland side. Mashed potatoes with caramelized onions turned out tasty. The onion, caramelized according to the instructions, could perhaps have been slightly

The beetroot bundt cake with its whopping one pound of pureed beetroot was very tasty with a lovely red color, although even baking it a little extra time resulted in a cake so moist and dense that some might have called it under-baked.

The real star of the tested recipes was the broccoli with garlic “butter.” Even with using the listed amount of sauce and a little less broccoli it seemed like there could have been more sauce, but it was absolutely fantastic nonetheless.

Overall this reviewer was happy with the recipes, but personally would probably try them out before serving at a fancy party.

Vegan Lunch Box by Jennifer McCann: Cookbook Full of Healthy and Tasty Dishes For Kids & Adults

When Jennifer McCann started her blog Vegan Lunch Box back in 2005, she probably had no idea what a success it would be (or who knows, maybe she did). After winning several blog awards it saw the daylight in print form in 2007. The self-published book quickly sold out, but now Vegan Lunch Box (Da Capo Press, ISBN 978-1600940729) is available again.

The book is divided into two sections. The first 50 or so pages list lunch menu ideas, including special ones like Easter and Thanksgiving menus and Ethnic “adventures” from Japan to Greece. The menus are followed by almost 250 pages of recipes. According to the foreword, all the foods have been rated five stars by the author’s seven-year old son James, who originally inspired her to start blogging.

The first glance into the book is a bit disappointing: no pictures? Luckily the first impression turns out to be false. There is a full-color picture insert showing about a dozen incredibly cute bento boxes containing melon balls, cookie-cut sandwiches, sushi, and mini vegan pizzas. Just looking at them makes one think “Who says I can’t have a lunch box”?

Most dishes are simple and contain fewer than ten (often just 3-5) ingredients. The recipes generally have detailed instructions, and the more exotic ingredients are explained. There are also short, informative guides, like a guide to getting picky kids to eat things they don’t like.

Tasty and Healthy
The simple recipes and the fact that the foods are meant for a kid’s lunchbox might lead one to think that they are bland, but this is far from the truth. There are vegetables in tarragon vinaigrette and Ethiopian and Thai foods. There is a wide variety of different vegetables and other ingredients. All the food is adult-friendly and most of it also omnivore-friendly.

There are dishes from all major categories, from salads to stews, even a few drinks. For some reason there are very few pasta dishes. The majority of the foods are healthy and nutritious. Some desserts, like vegan fudge, are obviously a little less healthy, but there are dozens of baked goods full of nutritious ingredients like spelt, barley, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. There are even fat-free and sugar-free banana oatmeal cookies.

This book is well-suited for those with allergies, as all of the recipes are milk-free and egg-free. Compared to many other vegan cookbooks, the book uses tofu, tempeh, and other soy products sparingly. Most of the recipes are gluten-free, including many baked goods. At the end of the book there is a list of recipes that are nut-free, soy-free, gluten-free, or wheat-free.

The tofu “fish” sticks were not all that fishy, but tasty nonetheless. They definitely ask for a sauce or a dip, though. “The best brussels sprouts” convinced this reviewer that brussel’s sprouts not only aren’t that bad, but that they are in fact delicious. While only slightly cheesy, cheesy roasted chickpeas prove that a simple recipe can produce addictive results. The back-to-school chocolate chip cookies were wonderful (perhaps not a surprise).

Vegan Lunch Box is highly recommended to every vegan who has kids. It should probably be recommended to every vegetarian, even if they don’t have kids – and everyone who wants their kids to eat healthier, vegan or not.