Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cookbook Review: The VB6 Cookbook

The VB6 Cookbook
Mark Bittman
Clarkson Potter, 2014

Some of you will think I'm off my rocker just to mention a cookbook with "vegan" in the title. But I've learned over the past few years that vegan cookbooks often are great sources for vegetable-heavy recipes (seems obvious, doesn't it?). When you eat lots of vegetables (like we do), you don't need or want every dish covered in cheese, butter, and the like. Sure, they taste good. But ultimately, that's not good for you, and you also will end up eating fewer vegetables because the heavier sauces fill you up.

Enter the VB6 plan: Mark Bittman's way to eat less meat. Essentially, you pick a meal of the day to eat a moderate amount of animal protein and abstain the rest of the day. For him, that's dinner, hence the title (which means Vegan Before 6:00). He wrote an entire book on the subject that is quite interesting (he wrote a similar book called Food Matters a few years ago that some of you may be familiar with). I read the VB6 book and decided to give it a whirl just for kicks. Amazingly, some health problems I had started to clear up. I've since come to the conclusion that that was due largely to my increased consumption of whole grains and lots of produce rather than eliminating most animal products. I'm no health professional, so who knows.

When I had the chance to review The VB6 Cookbook, I jumped at it. I'm a book reviewer in my other life, and I love getting books from publishers to review. Unfortunately, this cookbook is not as good as I'd hoped it would be. In the VB6 book, Bittman lays out a fairly approachable way of eating, mentioning very do-able breakfasts and snacks. In The VB6 Cookbook, however, many of the recipes seem a bit odd or out of reach for the average home cook in terms of simple appeal. There is also a 28-day meal plan demonstrating how to make the plan work. I've seen similar schedules in other "diet" cookbooks, and this one falls prey to the same pitfalls: every single meal in a given week is different. No one I know cooks (yes, cooks!) a different breakfast AND lunch each day of the week. For a change in eating habits to work, it must be easily accessible to the average person who is probably feeding a family on the side and/or going to work and/or has other commitments. A few repeats (perhaps the same breakfast every other day for one week) would make this far more doable, especially if someone is making slightly different meals for the rest of the family at the same time.

I've tried a handful of recipes from the book. Some of them were too big a change for my family to embrace (bulgur for breakfast, anyone?). And some were delicious. There is one delicious smoothie recipe in particular that I plan to put on this blog! Oh, and a quinoa salad recipe.....

The book is well organized. Like many of his other cookbooks, Bittman gives many substitutions and variations for the recipes--always a plus. He also includes many helpful charts for vegetables, grains, and beans; these charts show how to cook the ingredient, what it works well with or in, and similar types of information. If you're new to cooking whole grains, beans, and vegetables, this kind of information is very helpful. If you own several of Bittman's other cookbooks already, you will already have access to much of this information (although I'll admit it's prettier and easier to navigate in The VB6 Cookbook.)

All in all, definitely a library checkout to test drive before you buy.

For more information, check out the following:

"I received this book for free from Blogging for Booksfor this review."

Monday, July 21, 2014

Citrus-Asian Slaw

Another slaw recipe from Weight Watchers that is delicious and uses up our CSA veggies nicely. Yes, this is the same picture of produce from my last slaw recipe, but I promise the resulting taste is different. Bonus: this recipe also uses jalapeños AND it specifically calls for radishes (which I added in extra to the last recipe). Add some sliced chicken or cooked shrimp on top for a crunchy salad lunch!

Citrus-Asian Slaw
~Weight Watchers

  • 2 c. shredded carrots (white or orange)
  • 2 c. shredded cabbage (red or green)
  • 1 c. sliced fresh radishes (or less--use what you have!)
  • 1 c. jicama, shredded or cut into matchsticks (cucumber makes a fantastic sub)
  • 1/3 c. minced scallions or red onion (or even white!)
  • 3 T. minced leaves--this is a lot, so leave out if you're not a mint fan
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and minced (or other hot peppers)
  • 2 T. orange marmalade
  • 4 t. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 t. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 T. sesame seeds, toasted
  1. Combine carrots through jalapeños. 
  2. Combine marmalade through seeds. Pour dressing over slaw mix.
  3. Eat right away or store up to a few hours (cabbage will soften slightly as it sits--which might make this more appealing to tentative cabbage eaters).
~Serves 4-6 as a side dish; 2-3 as a main topped with chicken/shrimp

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

CSA Week ?? (7/16/14)

I've been the poster child for absent-mindedness this summer.... evidenced in part by the fact that I totally don't care. Hence I have no idea what "week" we're on. And were it not for the fact that my children faithfully remind me that it's market day, well, I'd probably forget to pick up the veggies at all! Not because we don't enjoy them, but because I've been blissfully unaware of the day of the week for most of the summer.

And today, we decided to park farther away and ride our city's very fun free trolley closer to the town square with some friends. All had a blast, and my empty CSA box to trade in for this week's full box is still enjoying its ride. Thankfully, I left the empty box and not the full one (and didn't leave any children, either)! And thankfully, Isaac was nice enough not to hold that against me :-). [Side note: our first year, we picked up our veggies downtown from Adam Colvin. The next two years, we picked them up at a park near our house from Caleb Colvin (the boy in line after Adam). This year, we're picking up our veggies downtown again from Isaac--the next one down. And, for those of you who aren't part of our CSA, I'm pleased to announce that Adam just got engage over July 4th... We feel a teensy bit like part of the family, so Congratulations, Adam!!]

It feels more like early fall than summer today, but our produce is nice and summery (except for those gorgeous greens--how can the Colvins manage those in July?!).

  • 1 bag onions
  • 1 bag red-skinned potatoes
  • 1 bag assorted yellow squash (um, Squash Casserole anyone?!)
  • 1 quart box tomatoes
  • 1 pint box grape tomatoes (and these have been amazing, folks)
  • 1 small bag assorted chili peppers
  • 1 head Romaine lettuce*
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 bunch white carrots with tops