Burning Down the House: The Book of Veganish

Freston, Kathy with Rachel Cohn. The Book of Veganish: The Ultimate Guide to Easing into a Plant-Based, Cruelty-Free, Awesomely Delicious Way to Eat, with 70 Easy Recipes Anyone Can Make. New York: Avery (Penguin Random House), 2016.

This month J.K. made recipes from The Book of Veganish by Kathy Freston with Rachel Cohn. Geared to teens, the cookbook has a fun semi-hip feeling to it, with chapter headings like “So I’m Veganish. What the #!&* Do I Eat?,” “Got the Munchies? There’s a Snack for That,” and “How to Deal with the Non-Vegs in Your Life.”

One chapter that caught our attention was “Team Veganish Teen,” which includes a section headed “Grandma is Really, Really Worried You’re Not Getting Enough Protein, Calcium, and Iron.” (So true!) Freston addresses the concerns of Grandma, or just about any adult, in a letter addressed to “Dear Mom/Dad, Aunt/Uncle, Grandma/Grandpa, Family Friend, Committed Carnivore.” You can read this letter, or even download a PDF of it, at http://kathyfreston.com/be-proud-of-your-kid/. This is the kind of thing that, about three words in, tends to make me teary. (Then again, as J.K. would tell you, it doesn’t take much.)

Despite this cookbook’s festive presentation, I found its contents surprisingly basic and utilitarian. Although I initially didn’t find much novel or truly exciting here, I now think this cookbook could become a reliable friend. After a while, the familiarity of some of the dinner recipes drove me into the arms of the snacks and treats: Jerk-Spiced Roasted Chickpeas, Artichoke and White Bean Spread, and ultimately the Chocolate Truffles, all of which satisfied my desire for something a little different and fun. (I substituted Pike Place Fish rub, which we had on hand, for the jerk seasoning.)

In terms of healthier meal-type fare, J.K. made a whole bunch of recipes from this book: Beans and Greens Burritos, Veg Lo Mein with Tofu, Pesto Pasta, Marinated Bean Salad to Go (a portable salad in a jar made strategically prevent wilting), Tabouleh Salad, and Chickpea Caesar Wraps. I made Noodles with Peanut Sauce.

For the most part our family liked most of the recipes, though Noodles with Peanut Sauce was an exception. J.K. and her younger brother didn’t particularly care for the artichoke dip, but Fred and I did. It was easy to make, kind of a treat, and even reasonably healthy, unlike my impression of most artichoke dips.

J.K. brought the Chickpea Caesar Wrap and jarred salad to school for lunch and liked them both, though she thought the chickpea wrap was a little too labor intensive. (Yes, friends made fun of her for eating healthy food.)

We all liked the Pesto Pasta, though it didn’t prove life-changing, and we all liked the Beans and Greens Burrito, though J.K.’s carnivorous brother pronounced the soy cheese “tasteless,” despite it being “better than the other vegan cheese” he’d tried. This burrito contained onions, bell peppers, black beans, kale, and salsa, and J.K. said it was easy to make.

We all really liked the Vegetable Lo Mein with Tofu, even though we ended up swapping Sweet and Tangy Sauce for the called-for hoisin sauce. Fred pronounced this dish “restaurant quality.”

As mentioned above, the Noodles with Peanut Sauce was not a huge hit. Ours bore no resemblance to the dish in the photo, and J.K. commented that it had “a lot of weird flavor.” Sadly, I feel compelled here to confess that this dish would have turned out better if she had been the one making it. I had added way too much peanut butter, in a misguided attempt to avoid having to clean a measuring cup. This recipe does seem worth trying again, but by someone with a more restrained hand.

We didn’t make the “Use-it-up Fried Rice,” with its accompanying slogan “Waste not, want not” and invitation to “clean out your fridge with this recipe.” This angle didn’t seem geared to teens, for whom fridge cleaning may not be a priority.

For the grand finale J.K. made the chocolate truffles at my request. The unsweetened cocoa powder on the outside was bitter, but the contrast between that and the creamy sweet-but-not-too-sweet-just-right truffle inside was what made these almost too good to be true. (She used coconut oil instead of vegan butter.)

Ollie, our bearded dragon, watched the proceedings from the sidelines with a growing sense of disdain. After clearing her throat several times to get our attention (and really, she “should only have to do that once”), she noted that letters and texts had been pouring in complaining that she hadn’t even been mentioned in the last three columns. After muttering something about chickpeas not being the only “jerk-spiced” things around here, she tossed her head and suggested we roll a few of those truffles her way.


Chocolate Truffles

(makes about 18; put them in little paper candy cups and arrange in a small box to really impress)

1 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup plain unsweetened almond milk

1/2 tablespoon vegan butter or coconut oil, melted

Unsweetened cocoa powder, for rolling

Place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl. Heat the almond milk in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil, then immediately pour it over the chocolate chips. Let it sit for about 1 minute and then stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is well combined and smooth. Stir in the melted butter (or oil) and set aside to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment paper. Scoop about 1/2 tablespoon of the chocolate mixture at a time and use your hands to shape it into 1-inch balls. Arrange the balls on the prepared baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to chill the truffles.

Place the cocoa in a shallow bowl. Roll the balls between your hands to make them perfectly round, then roll each one in the cocoa. Return the truffles to the fridge for another 15 minutes to firm up, or cover and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.