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

16 thoughts on “Cookbook Review: Isa Does It

  1. Good thorough review, I’m a huge fan of this book! The breakfast section is especially sublime – I think they were the first vegan pancakes I ever made. All of Isa’s books are so spot-on with flavours.

  2. Isa certainly is a rock star in vegan cooking – Terry and Isa Veganomican certainly kick started the snowballing of vegan cookbooks..I have to admit I have a few of Terry and Isa’s cookbooks, not all. I do have this one, but have to admit I haven’t cooked from it yet, I will have to change that this year.

  3. I love this book – have made lots of the recipes though nowhere near as many as you – that is really impressive. But it is one of my most useful recently books. If it wasn’t really late I would sit reading this review with the book beside me to refer to but as it is I just nodded at all the ones I loved and made a note to check out the rest you rave about. I really want to try the olive angel hair pasta and was really impressed by the marbled banana bread. I also loved the chocolate gingerbread cookies,

    • I like the feeling of finding something new when I flip through the book, even though I’ve read it hundreds of times 🙂

  4. What a fun review! Isa Does It is easily in my top 5 favorite cookbooks. It’s the one I often recommend to people who are just getting started with vegan cooking, because the recipes are manageable but the results are insanely good. I enjoyed seeing some of the things you’ve made, because it’s easy to keep repeating with IDI.

    • yes!!! Even here in local vegan communities, every time someone asks for a cookbook suggestion Isa Does It is always recommended 😀

  5. We’re still getting very good use out of this book too – the tofu/satay/kale bowl is on regular rotation in our kitchen. My only failure has been those waffles. I did the adaptation where you add fresh blueberries and the batter stuck to my waffle iron in big globs! I think we ended up frying the leftover batter as pancakes.

    • that’s happened to me too but not with an Isa Does It recipe. Oh actually I think it was with the polenta waffles from Vegan Brunch. The waffle iron died and I had to finish everything in a frying pan.

  6. Ooo ooo! Is the cat hair in the far middle right of the bowl? I love the idea to give a few vegan staples along with the cookbook, I’m totally going to borrow your idea. As always, everything you make and photograph appeals to me 🙂 <3

    • actually I wonder if the cat hair was more a thin strand of basil stem? Not sure! I’ve sometimes picked things out thinking they’re hair when it’s food.

  7. I love this book! I think I have made most of the things you have mentioned here, but there were a few I hand’t made so it is always fun to get ideas for the next time I pull this book out. It is such a great book!
    Brussels sprouts are amazing. 😛

  8. I love this book but I definitely haven’t made all the recipes you have so it has been useful to hear your reviews of the recipes. I love the stroganoff and lentil-a-roni and dilly stew. I made the waffles last week and they didn’t work out, but I see from your lovely waffles that it was my fault!

Commentsopoulous