Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My First Cookbook Review

I cant even believe how many amazing vegan cookbooks there are out there right now! I know I have about 15-20 out on my bookshelf right now and about 10 more on my Christmas wish list. One book that caught my eye even when it was only available for pre-order was Vegan Diner by Julie Hasson. Julie is a busy woman! She and her husband run a vegan food cart in Portland (Native Bowl is totally on my to-do list), writes some kick butt cookbooks, family life, judging Vegan Iron Chef comps, and more! You can check out Julie's blog at and check out Facebook for the Vegan Diner page.

When I first got the book in my hot little hands was literally giddy! I love the cover even, bright and clean with classic diner style. I flipped through and read each recipe name and the little blurb and felt like I could hear Julie's voice. I love when that comes through in a cookbook, making you feel like the author actually loves these recipes and wants to share them with you. The book starts out with a great intro to the ingredients you will find in the book that you may not be completely familiar with and a list of equipment as well. All the ingredients were pretty standard fare and I think the only ones I don't have in my pantry were soy curls and malt powder which I am now on the hunt for. Always a good start when you don't feel like you have to seek out a bunch of different products to use the book.

The day starts with breakfast and so does Julie. There is something for everyone in the section from granola to apple spice coffee cake to two different scrambles and even donuts! In my house breakfast is usually a sweeter one like waffles or pancakes so I decided to delve into the Crispy Banana-Cinnamon Waffles! I was intrigued by the secret ingredient of these waffles, crispy rice cereal, and the flavors of banana and cinnamon are a favourite around here. First off I loved that Julie went with a mix of whole wheat and all purpose flour and there is no sugar in them either! Now these are waffles I can feed my family and not feel any guilt about. And you know what's great...they taste awesome and are so quick to make too! I swear I had them together before the waffle maker had preheated, now that's quick! They taste like warm, crisp banana bread, the cinnamon was just right and even without anything on top they were perfectly sweet and tasty. The maple syrup we drizzled on top just heightened all the flavours and made them feel extra special. The recipe says it makes a larger batch and it does, I got 12 pieces out of one batch which is awesome because we had extras leftover that I put in the freezer for a few quick breakfasts down the road.

Mac taste testing the batter for the waffles
Crispy Banana-Cinnamon Waffles

Next up is a chapter dedicated to breads! Mmm bread! It had English muffins and burger buns, garlic dill bread and biscuits. I read through and was amazed at how quickly the burger buns went together so I just had to try them. How can 5-6 ingredients and like 40 minutes prep/rise and 15 minutes of baking produce a burger bun?! It just seems like that should be more complicated but it's really not! These buns are not like the ones I get at the store...they're better! They are soft and tasty and amazing! I won't be buying those buns with all those words I can't pronounce anymore for sure. These are so quick and easy I could easily make them the day that we are planning to have veggie burgers. My son helped me shape the buns and was quite impressed with himself as well. He opted for no sesame seeds and couldn't even wait til they cooled to try it. He had half of one with butter while it was still warm and really enjoyed it. He was enjoying it so much I had to try! Then at lunch time later on that day he asked for the other half of his bun with almond butter and jam. He's really diggin' these buns!
Soups, Salads and Sides was up next and I dove right into those All-American Beer Battered Onion Rings! I love onion rings and now only eat them when I make them. They are definitely a treat now but that's okay...they're supposed to be! Haha! Unfortunately I didn't catch a picture of these but that just shows you how good they were! I wasn't thinking about cameras or pictures, I was thinking about eating up some onion rings. The batter is lightly spiced which adds a nice flavour to the coating, nothing worse than a bland onion ring. The instructions are to deep fry them in a deep pot but I opted for using my deep fryer since I'm a little bit of a chicken when it comes to deep frying. I like that the fryer tells me the temperature of oil as well. I served these up and everyone dug in and loved them! They taste just like what you would get at any diner, they weren't overly greasy (hey they are fried after all!) and they were really easy to put together. A+ in my books!

For the Main Course, I decided to let my husband pick. He flipped through and he went with Philly Seitan Sliders. I have to agree...they look awesome in the picture so it wasn't a hard sell for me. Ours were less slider more sub bun sized since I wanted to make these for a weekday supper and it needed to be quick and that's what we had on hand but they were so delicious, I don't think it mattered what kind of bun it was on. It has thinly sliced seitan sauteed with onions and peppers all stacked onto a bun then drizzled with a cheesy sauce! I highly recommend the optional cheese sauce with the addition of umi plum vinegar. Without it, it was good, with it, it was perfection. Ryan really enjoyed these as they were something he always ordered pre-vegan when we were out somewhere. It's nice to be able to whip up a great vegan version of them anytime. They are so quick if you make the seitan ahead of time and the cheese sauce only takes minutes and a good blender to make.

Look at that cheesy sauce!? So good!
Now for the sweetest part, DESSERT!! Julie didn't just give you a few to pick from, she gave you 24 desserts! Come on now, that's awesome! I have a major sweet tooth so I'm happy when a cookbook doesn't skimp on the best part. I decided that I couldn't make just one dessert for this review...I had to make two! I picked one that I thought Ryan and my mom would enjoy and one that I though Mac would enjoy so everyone could have something sweet. I went with the Ooey Gooey Brownies for the chocolate lovers (aka Ryan and my Mom) and Oatmeal Raisin Cookies for the non-chocoholics (that's me and Mac). First I made the oatmeal raisin cookies and will admit I had a bit of trouble with them. I baked them and they spread like crazy so the next batch I halved the dough and didn't flatten them and then they worked perfectly. They taste great and are easy to put together for sure! Mac really loved them and happily shared one of the gigantic ones that spread with me. I even dipped mine in a glass of soy milk which I don't usually do but this cookie seemed like it would be even better if you did.

The Ooey Gooey Brownies went much easier. They are so quick to put together I think it took longer for my oven to preheat! They baked perfectly in 20 minutes and the icing was so easy yet so tasty. Got to love when it works out like that, tasty doesn't always mean complicated. I served them up to my in-laws as well as Ryan and my mom and everyone really loved them. They kept saying how fudgey and chocolate-y they were and they all had at least two so that's a ringing endorsement! I will definitely be making these again and again since they are one of Ryan's new favourites.

After all the yummy things we have tried from this book so far I can definitely highly recommend it to anyone who loves diner classics and pretty much anyone who loves food. Everything we tried so far has been delicious, quick and easy to make. I will keep cooking my way through all the recipes since it was honestly very hard to narrow it down to these few for this review. It would have been a very long (alright longer) post if I had made all the recipes that initially jumped off the page at me screaming "Make Me!"

Now go show Julie some love and pick up a copy of Vegan Diner, if you haven't already! Or maybe you will win one sometime soon...maybe from this very blog! (Check back tomorrow!)


  1. Oh yum! Nice pictures! I love how similar your cheesesteak looks to the ones I recall from my youth. Or like the idealized memory cheesesteaks of my youth...

    Vegan Diner has been on my to-buy list for some time now and this post sure didn't change my mind!

  2. They taste way better than they look if that's possible! Maybe you can win a copy tomorrow!

  3. The Philly Seitan Sliders do look really good though, how can they taste better. I'm drooling - no exaggeration- over your pictures

  4. Mmm, looks like a great cookbook. I'll have to see if I can track a copy down over here.

  5. You have made me so excited to cook from this book! I just got it over the weekend!

  6. Wow, everything looks so great that I just bought the book! I can't wait to try the rolls & the seitan cheese steak.

  7. I'd love to win this book and the first thing I would try is the brownies of course!(:

  8. great pics! i got this book kind of impulsively, and have not regretted it! so good.