Okay, so first of all – I'm interrupting regularly scheduled programming to do a special report on an incredible book (and giveaway!).
I would definitely say I'm a connoisseur and collector of vegan books (both cookbooks and awesome informational books like The China Study and Mad Cowboy), and it's a rare thing to find a book that really is both.
One of the things I really liked about this particular book is the three distinct sections.
Section 1 – Why
As in, why eat plants? Heather begins with her journey to YumUniverse, but rounds out this section by having us look at at the food industry, clever advertising, and the Standard American Diet (S.A.D…which is just sad…) and it's affect on obesity and health. My favorite line, on page 28, states “the Standard American Diet is composed of 25% animal products, 62% processed foods, and only 5% of calories from fruits and vegetables.”. Wow. We eat more food that come in a bag or box from a factory than we do natural foods that grow in the Earth. And she presents all of this information in a non-judgmental way.
This section also talks nutrition – because lets face it, the first thing EVERYONE asks when you say you've gone vegan is “where do you get your protein” (insert annoyed eye roll here). Really…everyone becomes a nutritionist when you start to do something that might go against the grain, yet most people know very little about what nutrients are important and in what percentages. But Heather provides great info on fiber, protein, Vitamin D, Calcium, probiotics, oils, soy, and others so you can know what you're eating is meeting all the requirements your body has.
Section 2 – How
Here, we're advised to make this a workbook and not a cookbook. Dog ear the pages (she even suggests some to do that to!), load it with sticky notes (my personal favorite method), write on it, spill on it, and use it as a guide. She answers questions like – how do I start? How do I handle eating out? How do I set up my kitchen and what tools should I have? It's the practical stuff no one really tells you as you start to ditch the boxes of crap and bust out the kale!
Section 3 – Eats!
And this is where I stop babbling and start cooking. I made many, many things from this book, and loved them all. I also did what Heather suggested in section 2, and made these my own and changed things up when I needed to. As a nut-free family, that's something I'm always going to do, and I knew that by the time I got to this section I had the author's “permission” to switch things up. So with that, here's what I made, here's a recipe I made…and how I modified it.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Nothing says, “Fall is here!” like a creamy bowl of Butternut Squash Soup with Granny Smith apple.
1 butternut squash about 8″ long
1 teaspoon sea salt + a pinch
Pinch of black pepper
¼ cup cashews, soaked
6 sage leaves
3 cups veggie stock
1 tablespoon coconut oil*
1 shallot, diced
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and diced
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Slice squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and discard. Brush open faces of butternut squash with coconut oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place squash face down in a baking dish and roast for 45 – 60 minutes or until soft.
- In the blender, blend together cashews, sage, and stock until smooth. Leave in the blender and set aside.
- Heat a large stockpot to medium, add oil, shallot, and Granny Smith apple, and saute for 5 – 7 minutes. Then add to the blender mixture.
- Once squash is cooked, scoop out the flesh. Add it to the blender and puree until smooth and creamy.
- Pour blender contents into stockpot, heat to medium, and season with remaining salt and additional pepper to taste. Serve warm.
Add chopped kale, cooked quinoa, brown rice, or buckwheat for texture.
You can also roast your squash diced in cubes, or steam it (saves about 20 minutes but you won’t get the roasted flavor).
Try equal amounts of sweet potato, Hubbard squash, or acorn squash instead of butternut squash.
Use this soup as a decadent sauce over gluten-free noodles, veggie noodles, cooked quinoa, brown rice, or buckwheat.My modifications:
I skipped the cashews entirely. I thought about using soaked pumpkin seeds or a mixture of cornstarch in water, but decided to just try it without – and you know what – it was great. Plenty creamy, and didn't seem to miss the nuts. Also, I didn't have sage leaves, so I just sprinkled it with pumpkin pie spice, and it was divine.
In addition to this recipe, I made socca with Herbs Du Provence, a black bean soup, crispy chickpeas, and traditional cole slaw. And I have a ton of other sticky notes to run through in the near future!
I also asked Heather a couple of quick questions! Here are her replies!
This book is so much more than a cookbook. It's also a research book, nutritional guideline, and workbook to transform one's life easily into a plant-based one. What was your motivation for taking such a holistic approach to this book?
It was important to me to create a comprehensive book that had everything in one place. There are many reasons WHY we want to consider eating more plant-based foods (I detail them in section 1), and there are delicious recipes to EAT (150+ in section 3), but the heart of the journey, the HOW (section 2), is what people really need to make a sustainable lifestyle change. How to shop, how to plan, how to prep the kitchen, how to deal with social situations, how to sprout, how to bake, etc.—the list goes on. YumUniverse is not only recipe inspiration, but it’s the know-how, tips and tools you need to transition, change habits and/or fine-tune, whether you’re a newbie to this approach or a seasoned veteran.
What advice or substitutions would you suggest for your readers who are, due to allergies, forced to be nut-free?
In the book and, with each recipe, I provide adaptation suggestions to help folks adjust for their particular dietary needs. In general, when cashews are called for soaked and blended into a recipe, macadamia nuts (sweet or savory recipes) and/or sunflower seeds (sweet or savory recipes), even plain hummus (savory recipes), can often be used as substitutions. When nuts are called for to add crunch or texture to a recipe, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, kale chips, pumpkin seeds, etc. can be used.
When we have an allergy to a food, take off the “deprivation” lens. Approach diet with a curiosity and excitement about what we can eat. I never really experienced the variety, flavor, and possibilities of food until I had “limitations” to navigate. Get creative, break some rules. Discover.
This is the part you've been waiting for right?? Have I convinced you yet how much you want this book? Even as a vegan for many years (my 7 year veganversary is TODAY), it's amazing to find a book that is so inspiring and refreshing, and not just for the dishes (and many of them are nothing like I've seen before), but the informational content is well. It's a good read all around.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that all the recipes are not only vegan, but gluten-free and soy-free as well.
So what do you have to lose? NOTHING. So please leave a comment below about why you'd like to be in the running for this book, and I will do a drawing on December 12th! Which should mean…you get this in your stocking this year!!