People become vegan for multiple reasons. For Aine Carlin, it was the way she felt and a sense of being much less than 100%. And that’s in her twenties.
She converted. Overnight. This book is about her journey but it is not a pamphlet to convince you to join her. It’s an explanation and an invitation. Even if you don’t take the plunge she did, you’ll find in Keep It Vegan many, many recipes that will certainly satisfy you and probably get you, too, closer to feeling your old 100%.
The 100+ recipes represent a philosophy, not a revolution. There are many friends here, as you will see, plus, it’s true, some distinctly vegan ideas. It’s a matter of ingredients, just eliminating the proteins and dairy, and then making wise use of grains and vegetables to fashion exemplary meals.
In her chapter Breakfast, Brunch, & More, the first recipe is from the early 1900’s, Birche Muesli. Here oats and rice milk are completed with raisins, hazelnuts, soy yogurt, agave, and shredded coconut. It seems a sparkling way to begin the day. There are pancakes here, a Rosemary and Pear Stuffed French Toast, a Toasted Breakfast Burrito, and even a Breakfast Brownie with a Strawberry Bottom. Your day can begin with no sense of sacrifice.
Midday Meals and Simple Suppers is where this book shines. Vegan or not, these ideas are one that you surely will want to try. Fifteen ingredients go into her Wholesome Minestrone, a dish that you can sense is worth the effort. There’s an Arugula Soup with Roasted Garlic Baguette that should make you happy for either lunch or dinner. I don’t have any sense for what Sweet Potato and Kiwi Soup might taste like, but I really would like to find out. The Hole Mole Black Bean Chili would be a welcome feature at any restaurant in Texas — I don’t remember ever seeing cinnamon in a chile recipe before. Again, something tempting. If Tex-Mex is not your forte, if you are more of an Italian aficionado, her Pea and Lemon Risotto should please.
Sometimes when you eat you want Something Special. The ideas here are clever twists. I like the Bloody Mary Bruschetta, complete with vodka and celery no less. The Asparagus, Minted Pea and Caramelized Red Onion Tart is so pretty you don’t want to eat it. Perfect cocktail food, and, yes this chapter does include a Strawberry Margarita. There’s a Shepherdess Pie with Sweet Potato Topping that can be a side, but might tempt you into being the main dish. The Mexican-Style Lasagna of course does not have meat or chees, but they won’t be missed because of the layers of tomatoes, sweet potatoes, tortillas, corn and beans.
We all love a meal with “other” things. Sides and Sauces round out our meal, complete the plate, and keep us happy. There’s a Pistachio, Parsley and Walnut Pesto that can be added to pasta or potatoes. Or used in place of mayo in a sandwich. The Cumin-Spiced Carrots balance the heat with some agave or pomegranate molasses. Dotted with chopped parsley, this is a beautiful dish, one you might put on a holiday table next fall. The Simple Potato Salad has two whole tablespoons of capers, plus pickles and scallions and vinegar. It may be simple but it has a high pucker factor.
When you reach the last lap, Sweet Treats, you are ready to complete an entirely vegan meal and do it with pleasure. Vegan baking, with its no dairy restriction, can be a challenge. I’m not sure what the brownies, made with vegan margarine would taste like, but I’m happy to try the No-Bake Strawberry Vanilla Cheesecake with a Cashew Crust. Lemon Curd, made with coconut milk, is still going to be deeply lemon but now with some contrasting tropical notes. And then, and then, there are the Baked Bananas in a Citrus Rum Sauce, complete with cinnamon, star anise, and date syrup.
After reading Keep It Vegan, I have stopped thinking of “vegan” as a four-letter word. It’s an approach with appeal to millions and an idea we might call consider. Or at least sample. There are serious ideas in Keep It Vegan that you would enjoy making and eating. Maybe we could all become semi-vegans?