Cookbook Reviews

Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker: 200 Recipes for Healthy and
Hearty One-Pot Meals That Are Ready When You Are by Robin

I have more than one of Ms. Robertson's cookbooks. She has a well-
respected place on my cookbook-bookcase, and I don't say that lightly.
However, I do believe that sometimes people let their enthusiasm run
away with them. More on that in a minute.

I've had more than one crockpot over the last 20 years. I like them;
some people don't. I use mine primarily for things like soups and stews,
things that can comfortably cook all day.

Ms. Robertson expands the world of the crockpot. Beginning with some
very helpful basics about crockpottery, she covers the menu from
appetizers through beverages (including condiments!). Her love for this
kitchen gadget shines through on every page.

Like I said, I believe sometimes enthusiasm runs away with people, and I
believe that there's a time, a place, a right way, and a wrong way to do
nearly everything there is to do.

As far as I'm concerned, not everything belongs in a crockpot. For
example, there's a recipe for baked potatoes. There's so much wrong
with the concept of baking potatoes in a crockpot that I almost find it
painful to read. I may be (I am) finicky about how to bake a proper
potato, but of all the ways I can think of to blaspheme one, a crockpot
has to be the most extreme. Same thing with pasta dishes; lasagne, for
example, and macaroni and cheese, both of which are included in the
book. My feeling on this is that some things just don't really need to be
cooked for four to six hours on low.

All that being said, there are a lot of good recipes, and really good
information in this book. Beans (especially seasoned ones like barbecue
beans, or baked beans) are a natural for the crockpot, and Ms. Robertson
provides not only specific recipes but also a master recipe for cooking
beans in general. Soups, chilis and stews are thoroughly explored. The
vegetable recipes, besides those that are supposed to be cooked forever,
like stewed tomatoes or cabbage, have me a bit squeamish; I have issues
with mush and I can't see how cauliflower can be at all crisp when it's
been cooked for six hours. Stuffings and stuffed vegetables are covered
in detail, including one completely unique (as far as I know) recipe for
yuba-wrapped vegetarian haggis. Knowing all about haggis, I'm not sure
I'd want to get into even a vegetarian version, but if you want to celebrate
Robert Burns' birthday in high style, here's how you do it.

Fruit butters and conserves lend themselves handily to the crockpot, but
what about cakes and breads? There are plenty of recipes for you to
explore. There are a few breakfast recipes for those who don't mind
sleeping with an electric appliance running (I don't mind, personally)
and the book finishes out the meal with a selection of beverages.

There are some really appealing recipes in this book. The Corn
Chowder In Winter recipe is very good (although I left the tomatoes out
as they have no place in any chowder in my opinion.. let's not even get
into the Manhattan/New England argument), Not Your Mama's Pot
Roast, and Sweet and Sour Cabbage are among my favorites. The
Congee Anytime and Old Fashioned Vegetable Soup also rank high for

This book is a good resource for someone who'd like to get into
crockpottery. There's plenty of good solid how-to and background on
how to choose, how to use, and little tips and tricks. (At this point I
should mention that Ms. Robertson recommends an appliance timer for
certain situations. I couldn't find one, and emailed her to ask about it,
and received a very lovely reply with lots of references and links the
same day.) I do think that the enthusiasm sometimes pushes things a
little over the edge (baked potatoes don't belong in a crockpot!!) but
there's loads of inspiration here for veering off into your own personal

If you've got a crockpot hiding out in the back of a cabinet that you'd like
to fire up, or if the idea of crockpotting is appealing to you but you're not
sure what you'd need, or you'd like some new ideas because you're tired
of making the same four recipes in the crockpot your mother-in-law got
you fifteen years ago, or if you're planning a huge Highland party for
Robert Burns' birthday, then you may want to check out this book. You
probably won't use all the recipes, but you can pick, choose, and take
what you need; there's plenty in here to work with.

By: Satyavati Devi Dasi

A Good Cook... Ten Talents by Frank J. and Rosalie Hurd

This lovely cookbook dates from 1968 and is written from the perspective of the Seventh-Day Adventist (although this is never explicitly mentioned), with copious quotations from Ms. Ellen G. White on the subject of diet. Frank J. Hurd, as a medical doctor, brings his 
professional viewpoint as well as personal opinion into the health aspect of vegetarianism.

Despite the use of the word 'vegetarian', this book is essentially vegan. Soy products are used extensively, and simple directions for soymilk, soy yogurt and tofu are provided. A glossary, list of nutrients, instructions for food combining, a chapter for babies and the religious perspective of vegetarianism is explored.

The myriad of recipes spans everything from sprouts to salad dressings, and breads to gravies. Multiple variations on eggless mayonnaise, tartar sauce and Thousand Island dressing are among the 36 recipes in the 'Salad Dressings' chapter. This book is nothing if not thorough. 

All the recipes are uncomplicated and simply written, focusing on maintaining foods as close to natural as possible. Excellent recipes fill 
the 'miscellaneous' chapter for things you don't even realize you need; homemade baking powder, egg yolk substitute, carob syrup, how to make homemade sauerkraut (start with 45 pounds of shredded cabbage and go from there...), a recipe for vinegar-free dill pickles, and how to make fruit jams using agar-agar. And there's more than that in there!

The pictures are truly 1950's, but the recipes are progressive for their time and actually still are. There are too many good recipes in here for me to enumerate; too many really great things to try to list them all. I will say that there's a recipe for Cashew Gravy that even my husband loved.

This book can be had in a couple of varied editions costing anywhere from $5.00US all the way up to $50.00US. Buy it used for cheap, but buy it. This is a book you'll want to have on hand.

By: Satyavati Devi Dasi

The Vegan Health Plan: A Practical Guide To Healthy Living by Amanda Sweet

I have quite a few vegan cookbooks. Mostly this is because I don't eat eggs and an appalling number of 'vegetarian' cookbooks include them. Of course, when I cook from a vegan cookbook, I go on and use regular dairy products, though, and I don't have any guilt.

Virtually every vegan cookbook I own has an extensive section on nutrition. Having references and basic information is great, but it can get tiresome after a while. For example, in The Vegan Health Plan you have to plow through 116 pages before you get to the first recipe. I suppose that I should expect this kind of thing in 'A Practical Guide To Healthy Living'; it appears to be written with the complete novice in mind.

A couple of things struck me about this book right off. First, a lot of the recipes depend heavily on breadcrumbs. Secondly, a lot of the recipes weren't so much 'recipes' on their own as they were 'variations' of a previous recipe. That seemed to me like just filling up pages with more words than you really need.

As in other of my cookbooks, this one was written by a lady from the UK, and I had the typical 'need-a-dictionary' reaction (although I'm getting better..) to the ingredient lists. Measurements are given in both metric and apothecary, and oven temperatures are listed in Celsius, Fahrenheit, and that mysterious 'Gas Mark'.

Despite all this, there are some really superb recipes in this book, easy to follow and written with a practical approach. I particularly like the Bean And Vegetable Crumble, and the Tofu, Peanut and Macaroni Savoury. The chapter on Savoury Sauces, regrettably too short, is one of the shining stars of this book. A hefty selection of desserts and other sweets rounds out the recipes.

One unusual and eminently helpful feature of this book is that Ms. Sweet notes which recipes do and don't freeze well. Usually it's up to trial and error to find out which dishes survive and which ones deteriorate into an unrecognizable mass in the freezer. This book takes the guesswork out of that.

This book is a great place for a new vegan to begin; it has lots of valuable background, lots of nutrition information and basically lives up to its name presenting 'A Practical Guide To Healthy Living'. While perhaps a bit too elementary for an established vegetarian/vegan, quite a few of the recipes are excellent, and as it retails very inexpensively used ($3.55 US and up), I would say it's worth the purchase.

By: Satyavati Devi Dasi


The Vegetarian Low-Carb Diet Cookbook by Rose Elliot

I first bought this book because I was interested in doing a vegetarian version of the Atkins diet; low carb, high protein. While Ms. Elliot does a good job explaining the science of carb-counting, and provides a nice list for the pantry, my overall impression of this book wasn't as favorable as it could have been.

There were various things factoring into this; one, eggs form a mainstay of many of her recipes. Two, there's no denying that there's a bit of a language barrier between UK English and American English. 'Courgette' 'Aubergine' and 'Swede'? You might as well be naming Hugh Hefner's girlfriends for all I know of these things. Having to have a dictionary handy just to get through ingredient lists is tiresome. I still wouldn't recognize a nettle if I saw it, and 'double cream' is one of the mysteries of the universe to me.

However, to her credit, both metric and apothecary measurements are given. I can translate metric so this wasn't as big of a plus for me as it might be for you. The cooking temperatures include, thankfully, Fahrenheit, Celsius and the arcane 'Gas Mark', so I didn't have any problems with the oven.

The recipes themselves range from pedestrian to fancy. There are some that are truly great; the Broccoli and Brie Bake is wonderful and the Divine Cauliflower Bake does live up to its name. For those who are actually dieting, quite a few of these are on the rich side; Deep Fried Camembert, while amazingly delicious, is still deep fried. There are also some shocking disasters; the Sandwiched Tofu With Soy Sauce was an absolute horror.

On the whole, this book is worth having as a resource on your shelf; any book that contains a recipe for Stilton Soup can't be all bad. I personally have never been in a store that stocks Stilton, but still, a cheese soup? How can you turn that down? And someday I might find a suitable substitute for the Stilton.

There are some nice smoothie recipes, and one for very delicious Braised Celery. Overall, it's a good buy for the money, but it won't be the one you reach for every day.

By: Satyavati Devi Dasi


The Best of Amish Cooking: Traditional and Contemporary Recipes Adapted from the Kitchens and Pantries of Old Order Amish Cooks by
Phyllis Pellman Good

Let's begin by getting one fact straight: this is NOT a vegetarian cookbook.

If you're still reading this after that revelation, then by all means let's carry on.

Most if not all vegetarians have a good handle on getting around ingredients in recipes that they can't or don't want to use. You'll need all that skill to get through this book, but if you can manage it, a whole new realm of culinary joys will be yours.

There are plenty of meat-based recipes and most of the rest call for lard or eggs; this is how the Amish eat. But there are some wonderful soup recipes, and if you've got a little 'beaf' TVP floating around your house, you can even take on the Vegetable Beef Soup.

So go on and skip the 'Meats' chapter, and move on to the vegetables. The Peas With Knepp, Creamed Celery and Fried Tomato Gravy recipes all give you a look into the kitchen culture of a people whose lives are very unlike our own. Ms. Good also includes a lot of interesting background as she presents her recipes; the way people eat says a lot about their heritage.

There are plenty of recipes for various pickles, all of which contain copious amounts of cider vinegar. If you're okay with that, this entire
chapter is a winner. The Chow Chow recipe is fabulous and it's not easy to find a recipe for watermelon pickle that can top the one here.

In the chapters devoted to various bakings (bread, cakes, pies, cookies), this book really shines. If you're competent and comfortable with egg replacers, the recipes in these chapters are stellar. In particular I appreciate the cookie recipes; they are all large quantity (up to 15 dozen) and have that simple, timeless, Grandma's-kitchen quality that never fails to please. These are the recipes I rely most heavily on in this book.

For lots of folks, this book will just have too many strikes against it-the meats, the lard, the eggs, the vinegar-to be worth buying. But for me, the sociological background, the cultural insight and the dozen or two really outstanding recipes in this book make it one I do turn to.

By: Satyavati Devi Dasi