Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cookbook Review: reFresh Contemporary Vegan Recipes From the Award Winning Fresh Restaurants

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     I initially came across reFresh several years back at the local library where I brought it to the table along with an armload of other books to browse through. Along with this gem, I had also grabbed The Flavor Bible. You can read about my love affair with that book and how it changed my entire cooking world here. These two books really stood out to me and I ended up circling back around to them both in the following years for either purchase or at the local library once again.

     Published by John Wiley & Sons out of Canada, reFresh: Contemporary Vegan Recipes From the Award Winning Fresh Restaurants is written by Ruth Tal and Jennifer Houston, co-owners of Fresh. Jennifer is the main influence behind the recipes it seems, with Ruth providing more insight into the food and stories behind the recipes. At the heart of their book is an earnest wish for people to more often seek out healthy food choices and for this to be viewed as normal rather than fringe.

     To accomplish this, the authors present simple recipes that build on a few basic meal ideas. For example, they take a bowl of rice and dress it up in seven drastically different ways to show how such a basic item can be used to help stretch your budget without making you feel like you’re eating the same thing every night.

     The beginning of the book presents an essay on the approach to food and cooking, followed by a few kitchen pointers and tips, before easing right into herb blends and a few light recipes.

     One of my favorite dishes out of the book was Spicy Tomato with Chipotle and Spinach. I usually end up fudging recipes from not having everything on hand and even with omitting the roasting of the red pepper, it was still delicious. I also subbed out chipotle in adobo sauce for ½ a dried chipotle pepper plus some house-blend Mexican seasoning.

     While the book is not actually divided into sections, the last half of the book is dedicated to smoothies and juice blends you can do at home. You could probably get away with using a very nice blender, but having a juicer will keep the blender you own from burning out and will also provide you with a much finer consistency in the liquid, reducing chunks and clumps. I’m not a big juicer, but these recipes are presented in a way that is very consumer-friendly with easy to follow directions and recipes that taste delicious.

     You can find the book on Amazon for $6.00 as of this writing, and I’m sure it will stay under $10 for quite some time. This would make a great reference book for new cooks, those starting on a healthier lifestyle, or anyone looking to get out of a cooking rut.

     Let me know if you’ve read this and what you enjoyed about it. Any recipes or ideas that were winners for you?

- Patricia

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