Mastering the Art of Vegan Cooking by Annie and Dan Shannon

Typically, I’d rate a cookbook with no photographs or images around 2 stars; it really does make such a different to know what the dish should look like and how it should be presented – especially for us novice cooks. But I was impressed with the recipes – there are some really creative items in there as long as you can find the ingredients (having a Whole Foods nearby helps a lot). But what really stood how is the emphasis on saving money – from using leftovers in other recipes, analyzing coupons and club cards, and even putting cost per portion in each recipe. I found a lot of very useful information beyond just the recipes.

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The book breaks down as follows: Introduction, Mastering the practical pantry, Developing your shopping strategy, Breakfst, Lunch, Dinner, No more leftovers, Special occasions, Conclusion, Index.

The introduction has some excellent tips on everything from buying to storing food – from tomatoes to squash, pasta to flour. The authors suggest cataloging everything in the pantry and kitchen – most people probably already have several meals ready to make from what’s already there (needing only an ingredient or vegetable). It’s all to be practical, frugal, and make smart decisions when deciding upon meals. The smartest, of course, is avoiding the most expensive meal ingredient: meat.

Recipes are varied – from cinnamon roll pancakes to banana churro waffles, smokey butternut squash scramble to tofu ‘egg’ salad, lemon Tahini fattoush to not-cho everyday chilidogs.

Recipes have serving size, serving cost, introduction information, ingredient list, and then directions in block paragraph form and large font size. The book is two color (blue and black) and uses two fonts to differentiate ingredients from directions. Again, no photographs or much formatting is done but I really like that the author added at the end of each recipe what could be made with leftovers/extra ingredients so there was no waste.

Admittedly a lot of the ingredients threw me for a loop – e.g., I had no idea there is a Vegan Bisquick mix. And for expats or those living outside of major metropolitan areas, you’ll be needing to track down things like Vegan mayonnaise, tempeh bacon, vegan liquid smoke, nutritional yeast, etc. The author does give resources on her website and at the back of the book for those living in North America.

Of a more personal note, the author mentioned that the change in her lifestyle was necessitated by the loss of her baby late in a pregnancy and then later potential loss of a second pregnancy while this is being published. While I feel for the author and her loss(es), I wish she had not gone into the detail of her loss (though I understand why it was important to her and would not minimize that). it’s just – it is hard to shake off the misery and reminder of the pain of those who have gone through similar loss and admittedly does color my interest in the book. It’s a raw reminder every time I see the cover now and has taken away the pleasure I would get out of food and exploring the recipes. It’s subconscious – but it’s there, unfortunately.

Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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