16

Cookbook Review: Isa Does It

This is kind of a big updated review. I’ve blogged about recipes from Isa Does It in the past, but as it’s a favourite book of mine and I’ve been using it again a fair bit lately, I figured a new review was in order (with better photos *cough*).

So even though I’ve had this book since it came out in 2013 (that seems aaaages in vegan years), I still enjoy leafing through it from start to finish. It’s also a book I buy for presents, along with a few of the ingredients as a sort of gift hamper. The full title is Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week, published by Little, Brown and Company. I’ve found the recipes easy and delicious and nothing in the book feels like there’s loads of prep.

The book begins with introductory sections that cover food prep advice, equipment, stocking your pantry, cutting up tofu and tempeh and a short section on a few common allergens (gluten, nuts and soy) with Isa’s suggested modifications.

The first chapter is Soups. Poor soups, these are the chapters I always leave until last because I’m not really in to making soups as a general thing. Every time I make a great soup from a cookbook, I feel I have to rethink the old soup chapters. This applies to Isa Does It, because I really like the Harira with Eggplant and Chickpeas. This soup is more like a big meal as it also includes angel hair pasta. This was really filling and thickened up over the next day or two (when I took this photo, it had thickened up a lot but I prefer it this way. Makes it less likely to slop everywhere while I’m carrying it to the tv to watch the latest X-Files):

Isa Does It harira

Wild rice is one of those things I always buy but then it kinda sits there sulkily until I can find a recipe I like. Most times I find a recipe and promptly forget about it. The Wild Rice Soup with Browned Seitan Strips looked perfect because as well as the wild rice, it contains red lentils and white beans. The soup is flavoured with dried thyme and tarragon. I left out the seitan strips and used some curried pumpkin bites instead (Syndian label). Like the Harira, this soup thickened up a fair bit the next day. Even though it’s summer here, I made this on a cooler day trying to pretend it was autumn:

Isa Does It wild rice stew

There’s a great pasta chapter and I decided to brave Brussels sprouts and make the Olive Angel Hair pasta with Seared Brussels Sprouts. I try hard to like sprouts but mehhh sprouts, you know? Still, when prepared well I don’t mind them, I just don’t go out of my way to try and like them because I know that relationship is doomed to be a bust in the end. And why waste time on that WHEN I CAN LOVE POTATOES. Anyway, I did go out and buy sprouts to make this recipe. It was quite nice and I’m glad I finally got to use the white balsamic vinegar that’s been sitting in the pantry for ages. I should have seared the sprouts more but I was hungry and wanted to eat. I would buy sprouts again to make this recipe, it had basic flavours of onion and garlic but the addition of toasted walnuts and the olives ramped it up a bit:

Isa Does It olive sprouts pasta

From the Stews, Chilis and Curries chapter I jumped all over the Red Sweet Potato Curry with Cauliflower and Adzuki Beans. Eeeexcept I didn’t have cauliflower (I used broccoli) and no adzuki beans either so I used tofu as the protein source. I added in some extra veg and had it on brown rice. Loved this and would make it again, the sweet potato is roasted them mashed and incorporated in to the sauce:

Isa Does It sweet potato red curry

There’s also a fab Stir-Fries and Sautes chapter. I’ve made the Cast-Iron Stir Fry with Avocado, Basil and Peanuts a few times though I always used Thai basil and no avocado. I was a bit sceptical about using regular basil (as the recipe states) because I just felt Thai basil was better suited. In the photo below I used regular basil as that’s all I could find at the market, but it worked well. Similarly, I was a bit iffy about avocado in the stir fry but it also worked well here too. Now let’s play spot the cat hair!

Isa Does It cast iron stir fry

The Omaha Yakisoba with Red Cabbage and Corn was another gamble because red cabbage and corn are things I don’t go out of my way to eat. Kinda like Brussels sprouts. I can take them or leave them, but mostly leave and I would take them as a sort of dragging them reluctantly behind me. Maybe accidentally deliberately leaving them at a bus stop or something. Anyway, moving on, I went out and bought some of the packaged precooked udon noodles specifically for this recipe. Then after I’d chopped everything up and got things cooking, I couldn’t find the noodles. I turned the place upside down and of course they were in the last place I looked. Obviously, because I wouldn’t keep on looking after I’d found them, but that’s what you get for not cleaning your kitchen and piling crap on top of the one shopping bag you neglected to unpack. So I was quite frazzled when putting this together as it was almost a noodleless version. I added some extra veg and I promise you, the noodles are under there. I really enjoyed this, red cabbage corn and all:

Isa Does It Omaha yakisoba

The Sticky Orange Chicky Stir-Fry has such a gorgeous photo in the book. I really really wanted to love this recipe but it kinda didn’t work for me in the end (bear in mind though that this recipe has received great reviews on lots of other blogs!). I made the steamed chicky seitan cutlets and they were okay but for me, the flavours in them (quite sage-y) didn’t quite go with the orange sauce. In a more Mediterranean style dish, I would happily use the seitan cutlets but for this recipe, next time I’ll use tofu as suggested by Isa for a variation. Separately, I like the cutlets and the sauce:

Isa Does It orange chicky seitan

This is the Curried Peanut Sauce Bowl with Tofu and Kale from the Bowls chapter. I make this with brown rice and always enjoy it:

Isa Does It curried peanut sauce bowl

For a breakfast, I made the family Sinfully Wholesome Waffles (I made the blueberry variation). These did have a slight health foody kind of taste to them but that’s cool, it wasn’t unpleasant. Just more ‘healthy’ tasting than the other waffle recipes I make. I made a batch to freeze and they reheated all crispy like in the toaster:

Isa Does It wholesome waffles

I love this book and flipping through the pages for this blog post, I realise I’ve cooked quite a bit from it. So from start to finish, looking through the chapters (titles written in caps), here’s what I’ve made before and my thoughts:

SALADS

Roasted Yellow Beet Salad with Warm Maple-Mustard Dressing: easy to make and has a nice crunch with the pecans.

Dragon Noodle Salad: with a peanut butter based dressing and pad thai noodles, this was a winner before I made it.

Kale Salad with Butternut Squash and Lentils: my salad of choice if I have to entertain or take a dish somewhere.

 

HANDHELD

Bistro Beet Burgers: I love love love these. Just love ’em. And I don’t really like beetroot.

Island Black Bean Burgers with Nectarine Salsa: I enjoyed these but used too much of the Jamaican curry powder I’d bought just for this recipe, so there was a slightly bitter aftertaste. The salsa is great and I’d definitely make these again, with much less of my curry powder.

Korean BBQ Portobello Burgers: I think this is when I first bought kimchi. I love the marinade for the mushrooms (liquid smoke!). I remember this being messy to eat, with juice running down my hands but daaamn it was good.

Shiitake Banh Mi: love the almond chili spread component. I made one version with tofu instead of shiitake.

Roasted Vegetable Romesco Sandwiches: I made these for myself when we went on a holiday and I knew I wouldn’t have anything to eat, so I decided to make this for the trip. Good choice, I really liked the Romesco spread.

Ancho-Lentil Tacos: my favourite go-to taco filling. The problem with this dish is I eat half of it from the pan before it gets to taco/burrito filling stage.

 

PASTA & RISOTTO

Sunflower Mac: I remember liking this overall but finding it a little on the sweet side.

Roasted Butternut Alfredo: I love butternut pumpkin but found this was too sweet (I’m not keen on sweetness in pasta sauces).

Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Penne with Broccoli: I recall reducing the amount of cashews in the sauce and it worked well.

Tofu-Mushroom Stroganoff: really liked this. Perhaps slightly on the sweet side because of the cashew base but definitely a recipe I’d reach for if I was in a stroganoff mood.

Lentil-A-Roni: love this, pasta with lots of lentils and a little bit of cashews in the sauce, so not too sweet.

 

STEWS, CHILIS & CURRIES

Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings: loved this, but made my dumplings too big so they were tennis ball size. Lovely flavours.

Smoky Incan Stew: another favourite, flavoured with chipotles in adobo sauce and full of black beans, quinoa and corn.

 

STIR FRIES AND SAUTES

Beefy Asparagus Stir-Fry with Fresh Herbs: great flavours here. I use tofu instead of the seitan.

 

BOWLS AND A FEW PLATES

Roasty Soba Bowl with Miso-Tahini Dressing: this was the recipe that got me liking the miso-tahini combo. Before that, I used to feel a bit sick (seriously). I never believed miso and tahini should go together but this recipe changed my mind.

Citrus-Tahini Bowl with Bok Choy and Grilled Tofu: great tofu marinade here with orange, lime, ginger and sesame oil.

Pizza Bowl with Greens, Sausages and Olives: to make this section short I should just say I love all the Bowls recipes I’ve tried from this chapter. This recipe can be thrown together quickly if you have some sliced and cooked vegan sausages ready to go.

 

SUNDAY NIGHT SUPPERS

Chandra Malai Kofta: this was the dish a lot of reviewers were suggesting to make. It took me a while to get around to it but I loved it.

Nirvana Enchilada Casserole: I made this before the book was released (I think this recipe was put up early). It requires more prep work but wow, it’s a great recipe. The components are broken up in to the potato prep, enchilada sauce, filling and white sauce (based on cashews).

 

BREAKFAST, BRUNCH AND BAKES FOR THE MORNING

Scrambled Chickpeas: I much prefer chickpeas than scrambled tofu and this recipe is simple but flavourful. Probably my number one chickpea scramble recipe.

Puffy Pillow Pancakes: Puffy. Pillow. Pancakes. Need I say more?

Carrot Cake Pancakes: NEED I SAY MORE?

Coconut French Toast: Need I… okay I will say more, this version of French toast is also dipped in dried coconut before frying. Delicioussss.

Lemon-Blueberry Load: a favourite with the kids, and me. I don’t make the optional glaze as the cake is sweet enough on its own.

Marbled Banana Bread: another favourite, though I tend to only make this with one child at home because both want to do the marbling… fun times. Don’t overdo it with the marbling like I did on my first bake…

 

DESSERTS

Rosemary-Chocolate Chip Cookies: yep, rosemary with chocolate chips in cookies. And it works brilliantly! I loved playing guess-that-taste when I gave these to people.

Jumbo Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies: because the words jumbo, oatmeal, raisin, cookies go so well together. Love these!

Chai Spice Snickerdoodles: love chai spiced anything so these were great.

Norah’s Lemon-Lemon Cookies: lemon cookies rock, I made these as part of gift packs one Christmas.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake: tasted great but stay tuned for my 2016 Bloopers and Outtakes at the end of the year…

Strawberries & Cream Bread Pudding: oooooh this one is so rich, I have to be careful not to eat too much. It’s all mooshy coconut milk soaked in to bread and just beautiful. I’ve made a version with mixed berries. I leave off the optional glaze because the pudding is fine on its own.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake: I healthified this by using chickpea liquid (aquafaba) in place of the oil. This cake was okay, I don’t expect great things from a cake with zucchini because often chocolate zucchini cakes for me are just chocolate zucchini cake. I had it spread with a little tahini.

 

I have all of Isa’s books (some co-authored with Terry Hope Romero) and always refer to them frequently. When people ask for vegan cookbook recommendations, an Isa title is always recommended. There’s a good reason for that, she’s simply a rock star when it comes to vegan cooking!

Here’s a photo I took of Isa when she was in Melbourne a couple years back.

isa1

14

What I Ate With More Cooking From Isa Does It

Chandra Malai Kofta from Isa Does It

I haven’t done a What I Ate in aaaaages. If you followed me during MoFo you probably got a fair idea of what I ate, thanks to the many (failed) experiments and leftovers I got to eat…

I’ve been doing a lot of juicing recently so a lot of what I’ve eaten looks like this:

rainbow juice

I had loads of green juice. Juicing is funny. Some days, the thought of more green juice makes me want to barf. Other days, it’s all I want. And on other days, I can only handle a small amount of cooked food before I feel a little blergh and wish I had a juice instead. And I didn’t style this shot with the rainbow blocks on purposes, I had to hurry up and take a damn photo because one of the cats is a serial food photo bomber. Or stylist, or wannabe taste tester, as you will see further down:

green juice

I had made some satay style tofu and then had no idea what to do with it. This was a really lazy meal because I couldn’t be bothered chopping up veggies but I got some token green in at least:

ludosataytofunoodles

I made the roasted potato and fennel soup from Isa Does It. I always leave Soups chapters until last when I buy a new cookbook and rarely go back to them, but this time I had a stack of fennel I needed to use up. This soup was fantastic and the roast fennel flavour was perfect. You wouldn’t guess it from the photo. I just wanted to eat it and not mess around with green bits and drizzles of oil!

roastfennelpotatosoup

I made a variation of the chickpea scramble. If you haven’t tried a chickpea scramble (with whole chickpeas that you moosh a bit) do it do it. Especially with black salt:

chickpeascramble

I finally made the Chandra Malai Kofta recipe from Isa Does It. The kofta and the sauce, made with cashew and coconut milk, are divine. I will be making this when I have people over for a meal! For myself, I’d leave the cashews and veg broth out of the sauce and go for a coconut cream base. I had so much of the sauce left over long after the kofta disappeared, so I added in some cubed roasted potatoes for another meal. Aaaand here’s my quality assurance manager. He’s one of those annoying bosses who shows up EVERYWHERE. And I mean everywhere:

chandrakofta1

“Why does coriander always fall shiny side down?”

 

Am I the only vegan on the planet who took forever to make the kofta recipe?!

14

More cooking from Isa Does It

I’ve been cooking quite a bit from Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Moskowitz lately. It’s such a great cookbook– awesome recipes and gorgeous photos mean I sit there flipping through it over and over all brainwashed like.

Isa Does It cookbook

I couldn’t go past the Roasted Yellow Beet Salad with Warm Maple-Mustard Dressing, seeing as I bought a bunch of golden beetroot from the Coburg Farmers Market a few days before. The beets are roasted, so there’s no fussing there. The dressing is a simple maple mustard combo and instead of the pecans I went for the tempeh option. The tempeh was marinated in tamari, liquid smoke, thyme and red wine vinegar.  I’m really not a big fan of tempeh so I made sure I came close to incinerating it in the cast iron pan.  I like tempeh bacon but it has to to very thin and very very super burnt. For my salad greens I used baby spinach (I would have preferred a salad mix including rocket/arugula). I liked the simple dressing but I have to confess I’m not really a beetroot fan so I wouldn’t make this for myself.  I would probably make a big bowl if I was having people over but I’d use the pecans instead of tempeh:

golden beet salad
The Tofu Mushroom Stroganoff was super easy to make. A cashew-broth base is added to mushrooms, onions, garlic and tofu that have been cooked with some tomato paste, thyme and white wine.  I bought this wholemeal fettucine in Aldi and I found it a bit too heavy so next time I’ll use a different pasta. DeeW liked the sauce but not the ‘bits’. Husband doesn’t like anything with a cashew base and Arthur won’t eat mushrooms. This would have made a simple, tasty family meal if only the fussypants humans element were removed:

tofu mushroom stroganoff

I’ve been looking for a good quinoa recipe lately and the Smoky Incan Stew was perfect.  I finally got to open my little wee can of chipotles in adobe sauce.  This photo was taken the day after I made the stew, so you can see I could have done with a little more liquid but I’m a chunky-stew girl so this was just right for me:

smoky Incan stew

To finish off the tempeh I had in the fridge, I made the Tempeh Orzilla. This is another simple, easy to make recipe with a saucy part made with broth, white wine, onion, garlic and sundried tomatoes.  For the tempeh crumbles, I chopped them as finely as possible and burnt them as much as possible so they were crispy.  Unfortunately though I had to admit defeat: like leggings-as-pants, tempeh is just not for me. As much as I love the taste of various marinades and dressing, there’s still the texture to deal with.  So long tempeh (though I really want to try chickpea tempeh):

tempeh orzilla

The cookbook photo of the Cast Iron Stir Fry recipe results in a fair bit of drooling.  The sauce is made mostly with tamari, hoi sin and mirin.  Super simple and really delicious.  Instead of rice I used soba noodles and I left out the avocado and peanut sprinkle-over bit at the end:

cast iron stir fry

For breakfast one day, I made the Coconut French Toast.  It’s your basic French toast recipe but you dip the soaked bread slices in coconut before cooking. Arthur and I loved these but DeeW refused to try any as she’s not big on French toast and thinks toast should come out of a toaster (“that’s why it’s called toast”):

coconut French toast

The Marbled Banana Bread has been made a few times. This time, I did the marbling myself.  Arthur and DeeW tend to go a little overboard so the batter goes beyond the marbled stage in to the fully mixed stage:

marbled banana bread

Arthur and DeeW had friends over so I made the Jumbo Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies.  Guess what, these friends hate raisins so I had to eat their share. WAAAAAH:

jumbo oatmeal raisin cookies

I finally got around to making the Strawberry and Cream Bread Pudding.  I threw in some mixed frozen berries as I didn’t have enough strawberries. Plus it was the Fourth of July so I put in a little red, white and blue for my American readers. This pudding is super easy to make and involves briefly soaking some bread in a mixture of coconut milk, a non dairy milk (I used soy), cinnamon, vanilla and lemon juice.  I made half of the optional icing recipe.  Everybody loved this, except Husband who really dislikes coconut in desserts (but he eats coconut based Thai curries). Naturally, I valiantly ate his share:

Berries and cream bread pudding

I really love Isa Does It and count it as a top notch favourite.  Isa’s recipes are straightforward, entertaining and delicious. There’s no stop-yerrrr-fussin-boy fussiness about any of the recipes I’ve looked at and there are so many more dishes I still want to make. Aaand now you all have the voice of Toni Childs stuck in your brains.

 

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6

Isa Does It, VCIYCJ and Vegan with a Vengeance recipes

I’ve made a few more recipes by Isa Chandra M. over the past month but have been a bit slack with posting, so here they are all in one go.

Peanut Butter Criss Crosses from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I won’t ever eat peanut butter on bread or toast but in biscuits I love it:

pbcrisscrosses
The Curried Peanut Sauce Bowl from Isa Does It. Yummm:

peanutkaletofubowl

After trying the roast veg soba bowl at the Corner Hotel back in March, I had to make it at home.  This time I followed the Isa Does It instructions to the letter and I was rewarded with the same delicious meal.  I used both the lentils in the actual recipe but the next day I went for marinated tofu instead.  I’ve also made this with more veggies added in:

misotahinisobacauli

Isa’s Vegan With a Vengeance is a great book but admittedly, not one I have used all that much.  Not because there’s something wrong with it, more because I tend to stick with the latest cookbook purchases.  You know, shiny new toys and stuff.  Last week I decided to break out VWaV and I made the Ginger Macadamia Coconut Carrot Cake.  Deeeelicious!

gingermaccococarrotcake

Some weeks ago I made the Marbled Banana Bread from Isa Does It.  Clearly, my family need more practise with the marbling bit:

marbledcake

marbledcake2

 

As I’ve cleaned up my eating (again) I won’t be doing much baking and I will be adapting recipes I use to be lower in fat, or making substitutions outright.  I like that I can still use Isa’s recipes as a base and end up with something that is still super tasty!

 

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8

St. Patrick’s Day Colcannon Puffs and Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings

Every year I try to incorporate days of celebration in to our family life.  Although we do not celebrate based on religion, it’s still a good opportunity to explain to Arthur and DeeW why people celebrate a certain day or occasion and we learn about different cultures, countries and beliefs.  We watched some short clips about Ireland online and borrowed some library books.

Husband and I visited Ireland back in about 2001.  A relative was staying in Howth so we arranged to meet up, as Husband and I were living in Amsterdam at the time.  Unfortunately we didn’t get much time there and we only had two full days in Dublin so we opted for day long bus tours which took us to Newgrange.  Newgrange was built in about 3200BC so it’s older than Stonehenge and the pyramids.  Amazing stuff and we really enjoyed the tour.  My photos are all stored on backups somewhere but I found this old-camera-that-was-great-at-the-time picture of the view from our bed and breakfast in Howth.  It’s the St. Mary’s Church and graveyard:

St. Marys church howth

Naturally, green food was on the menu for today.  I didn’t make anything sweet and the shamrock cookie cutter will stay in the drawer for another year.  We’ve had our share of sweet things recently and really didn’t need more cake or biscuits.

Arthur’s breakfast was a banana-sweet potato-spinach smoothie.  Which is simply called ‘banana smoothie’ in our house, for reasons that will be obvious if you were or have a child who hates vegetables:

green banana smoothie


My breakfast was the Cake Batter Smoothie from Eat Raw, Eat Well made with avocado, orange and lemon.  Of course, after drinking it, I realised I forgot to add some leafy greens to really green it up.  But it was still kinda green, though the lighting in the photos is really bad:

cake batter smoothie2

For lunch I made Colcannon Puffs from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.  I thought they were great, Arthur rated them 60% but the kale was too much for Husband and DeeW taste and texture wise so next time I’ll use peas instead.  I used the baking option.  I think these would be great samosa style with nice curry-esque spices:

colcannon puffs

I wanted to make something along the lines of an Irish stew.  I used the Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings recipe from Isa Does It as it seemed a perfect fit.  To save time I chopped some of the veggies the day before and got a few things ready in advance.  Then once everything was in the pot, I went off to get a can of white beans but ended up having a total Mother Hubbard moment.  As in, no beans.  Whoops.  Still, it turned out okay and Husband is a bit iffy when it comes to beans in a stew.  I used four cups of broth instead of the stated six cups.  Six was way too much for my pot and would have overflowed with that plus the beans I thought I had.  I think the four cups was a good decision in my case because my stew didn’t thicken enough, so I made a Nutellex-flour roux and whisked it in.  Then it thickened up beautifully. I sorta made the dumplings a bit too big…

dilly stew2

Next time I’ll reduce the amount of potatoes and add more carrot as it seemed I was scooping out lots of potato:

dilly stew1

As always, I’m loving Isa Chandra M’s recipes and am looking forward to seeing her, Terry Hope Romero and Vegan Black Metal Chef at their live show in Melbourne soon.  Are any of you guys going to see them here or Sydney?