Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Simple Recipes for Joy by Sharon Gannon

Sharon Gannon, the founder of Jivamukti-style yoga and the Jivamuktea cafe, has put together a collection of recipes that embody the practices of ahimsa, a nonviolent yoga principle, to produce simple, nutritional, vegan meals. My friends in New York City have always told me about the Jivamuktea cafe as it is one of the best places to get fresh, vegan food in the busy city. Now, for the first time, Sharon reveals the secrets behind the cafe's acclaimed menu.

In the first twenty or so pages, she talks about how the meat and dairy industry have brainwashed most Americans. "In America, Froot Loops, a highly processed, high-fructose, genetically modified, corn-based breakfast cereal, is cheaper to buy per serving than a piece of real organic fruit." She states, "Everything that is good for us and good for the environment has been stigmatized with the label alternative while foods that are harmful to our health and the health of the environment are called  normal or standard and that is sad." Agreed.

She goes on to talk about the impact on the environment and all life on this planet. She states, "When you have a simple choice to be kind or cruel, why not choose to be kind and, by doing so, contribute to raising the level of joy and happiness in the world?"

She later tackles frequently asked questions about the vegan diet, offers cooking tips, and details how to stock your kitchen to prepare for cooking. The recipes include soups, pasta and sauces, dressings, salads, dips and spreads, grains, beans, tempeh, tofu, and seitan, vegetables, potatoes, toasts, sandwiches, smoothies, teas, and desserts.

So what about the recipes? The recipes were so simple that I had a hard time imagining how to make a meal out of them. I found the 30 sample menus in the back of the book really helpful as they put these simple recipes together into two- to four-course meals. I tried four of the recipes.

The first one I made was a real winner! The Curry-Tahini-Shoyu Noodle Soup is a one-pot meal filled with fresh vegetables, aduzuki beans, tofu, and udon noodles. It is so delicious! It's a mildly spicy Japanese country stew that is perfect for a chilly evening with friends and family.

Next, I made the Pasta with Pesto. It was super easy to make and turned out great. It was an oily, basil-rich sauce with a touch of nutritional yeast to give it a cheesy, chunky consistency. It wrapped around and coated my fusilli noodles just right.

Next, I tried The Most Simple Dressing. All you do is add olive oil and lemon juice over greens and you are done. The only flaw with this recipe is that it doesn't state how much greens to use. My advice is to use at least an entire pound of greens with this dressing. I only used a bowl and it soaked my greens so much that they were almost inedible.

Lastly, I tried the White Bean and Kale Soup. Everything about this soup sounded good -- a warm broth filled with cannellini beans and kale. It turned out to be a wholesome soup, but lacked a bit of flavor.  I'd recommend it if you are looking for a simple, wholesome soup, but if you are looking for a lot of flavor, you may want to add a bit of paprika or even sriracha to it.

So, all in all, the recipes in this book are about as wholesome and simple as can be. In some cases, I thought they were a bit too simple.  If you are a new cook looking for very healthy, plant-based recipes, then this book will give you a solid foundation from which you can continue to build. If you are a very seasoned vegan chef, then you may be a bit bored with the simplicity of the recipes. But, no matter what, I'm sure you will love the pictures and you will learn something in the 300+ pages. This hard-backed book is very professionally done and the layout makes it very easy to read and follow. The book goes on sale today on Amazon for $29.86. Order yours now here.

Full Disclosure: Although the cookbook was provided to me for free to review, that in no way influenced my veracious opinion.

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