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For many of us, the Holidays are no longer about presents, like they were when we were kids. As a grown up I really enjoy the opportunity to meet up with friends and family over a drink, or a meal, and really spend quality time together joyfully in the spirit of the season. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the holidays! The amount of decorations that adorn my 700 square foot home is ridiculous and Christmas music blares from my car stereo as well as my house all month long. It's just the buying of "stuff" for the sake of buying "stuff" that really gets to me.
If your vegan friends are anything like me, they don't want any more stuff. No more lotions, body washes, or candles. (Because there's a good chance they contain some sort of animal product or were tested on animals and aren't a suitable gift anyways, so...) No more trinkets, picture frames, or bric-a-brac that cannot be used. (Because quite a few of us really are trying to cull down and simplify, getting rid of "things" we don't need.) And unless you know we collect or have an appreciation for a certain vintage era mushroom shaped salt and pepper shaker set, please, just don't waste your hard earned money buying us any more stuff.
Thankfully my family has pretty much sided with me on this one. The kids, of course, still get gifts, but the grown ups have a strict if-you-didn't-make-it-yourself-you-aren't-allowed-to-give-it stance. Which means, a lot of us make food gifts. Cookies, candies, Orange Chipotle BBQ Sauce, Spicy Dill Pickles...all kinds of yummy stuff. My sister even takes it up a notch with non-edible home made bath salts and body sprays made with essential oils. But you get the idea, right?
Now, before I keep going, I want to say that I don't hold it against you or your family if you still give gifts. If that's your thing...awesome! Have fun! And if there are any vegans on your gift list this year, give them the gift that will keep on giving for years to come; A vegan cookbook! Because cookbooks, my friend, are not junk. They are romance novels full of tasty delights. A good cookbook, like any good book, will whisk you away into a fantasy land where finishing salts and dreamy sauces dance together to create culinary masterpieces.
Some really awesome vegan cookbooks came out this year and I am going to share with you a couple of my favorites below, but, I would be a very bad cookbook author if I didn't remind you that I have written and co-written 10 vegan cookbooks that also make excellent gifts. In fact, my book Vegan Food Gifts not only makes a great gift but also shows you how to make lots of, well...vegan food gifts! So click on the cookbook tab above to check out my cookbooks. <end of self-promotion>
For this post I am going to feature two of my favorite vegan food bloggers turned cookbook authors. They are both amazing ladies (and I am lucky to also call them friends!) who not only create delicious vegan food, but capture it beautifully through their breathtaking (not to mention mouthwatering) photographs. That's right, folks, I am talking about the impressively talented, sassy, yet refined, thoughtful, creative, and funny Amber St. Peter of Fettle Vegan and Jackie Sobon of Vegan Yack Attack. Both of these ladies dropped a major flavor bomb on us this year with their new cookbooks and both of them were gracious enough to allow me to share a recipe with you.
I'll start things off with Amber's Homestyle Vegan. If you don't already follow Amber on Instagram you really should. Her posts are always colorful and full of incredible photography. And if you don't follow her blog, Fettle Vegan, you are really missing out on a lot of recipes, product reviews and more. I highly recommend subscribing! I would consider Amber's style of cooking to be classic comfort foods with a healthful twist. She's really incredible at veganizing traditional family favorites, effectively turning them into new and healthier classics without sacrificing any of the flavor.
In her new book, she dives right into the recipes! No long intros about ingredients or technique (which I happen to love reading, but in this case it works nicely so that there are no pages wasted on text and instead the focus is on the recipes and the gorgeous photos.) As you flip through the pages, you will notice the high gloss pages filled with a lot of pictures. Pictures, are in my opinion, crucial in a cookbook. This book does not disappoint with a PHOTO OF EVERY SINGLE RECIPE! The chapters are laid out in a refreshingly different way. Instead of the standard morning to night, she starts with breakfast, but quickly moves to hearty entrees. Then it offers up food to feed your friends (though I might argue every recipe in this book is shareworthy!), crowd pleasers, straight up comfort classics, baked goods, bevvies, and finishes it up with pantry basics.
The technical stuff: The recipes are very well thought out and laid out nicely on the page. No flipping pages to finish the recipe. Each recipe gives the ingredients in Metric as well as Imperial measurements, which is super helpful for ingredients like flours who are more actually measured by weight than by volume. The book is also bound beautifully. The pages are sewn in, so no worries about the pages coming loose with lots of kitchen use. This method of binding also makes it so the book lies flat on the counter. Even better!
Now let's talk about the food. Amber has done an amazing job of recreating her favorite childhood comfort classics with a healthier, vegan twist. And she does not leave out any of the flavor! So far I've had the Bacon-Less Baked Beans, the creamy Tomato Basil Soup, the Jalapeno Cornbread, the Sloppy Chicks, and the Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. Every single dish has been perfect!
Overall review: 5 big fat stars! The food in this book will satisfy even the pickiest of palates. The recipes are straightforward, easy to follow and most ingredients can be picked up at your local supermarket. Buy this book for new vegans, seasoned vegans, non-vegans looking to add more plant-based recipes to their repertoire and every vegan you know's mom who never knows what to make when the kid comes over.
Amber was kind enough to share a recipe from the book with us to get you as excited as I am about this book! Lo and behold, Amber's Baked Butternut Squash Mac 'N' Cheese. Try not to lick the screen, okay?
Baked Butternut Squash Mac 'N' Cheese by Amber St. Peter from Homestyle Vegan
Photo by Amber St. Peter. Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Baked Butternut Squash Mac ‘N’ Cheese
by Amber St. Peter from Homestyle Vegan
My mom made a mean baked mac ‘n’ cheese when I was a kid. Cheesy, ooey-gooey and covered in crispy bread crumbs—it was one of my favorite meals! This butternut squash version blends the sweet and savory flavors of winter squash into a cheesy sauce to make a meal that’ll totally take you back to childhood. I covered mine in bread crumbs, too. Mom would be proud!
- 6 cups (840 g) peeled and cubed butternut squash (1" [2.5 cm] cubes)
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
- 1 lb (454 g) elbow noodles
- 1 ½ cups (360 ml) unsweetened almond milk
- 2/3 cup (80 g) nutritional yeast
- 3 tbsp (45 ml) lemon juice
- 1 tbsp (14 g) Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1/3 cup (50 g) bread crumbs