Cookbook Review: Vegan Sandwiches Save The Day!

asian eggplant sandwich

Vegan Sandwiches Save The Day! by Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes is a cookbook I flip through often. The recipes sound fabulous and the photos are great. I just wanna pick the crispy bits of seitan off the page!

But I have to confess I’ve done this book a great disservice. See, even though I looked through it a lot, I decided the recipes were a little in the too-hard basket because quite a few of the recipes require you make other recipes first. So I would put the book away and always mean to make something “when I have more time”.

What an error that was! After enjoying some sandwiches at True North in Coburg recently, I was determined to get this book out and make at least a handful of recipes. I’m so glad I did! I also realised that it was hardly as time consuming as I previously thought!

My first sandwich was the French Tofu Salad with Grapes. Pan fried pieces of tofu are then tossed in a kind of thick dressing with vegan mayonnaise (I didn’t have any and used a soy cream cheese instead which worked fine), onion, celery, white wine vinegar, toasted slivered almonds, chives, Dijon mustard, thyme, parsley, dried tarragon and dried herbes de Provence (which I didn’t have). Served over some baby spinach on my last piece of (toasted) fancy bread, this was fantastic. As for the grapes… I didn’t have any and wouldn’t have put them in anyway. The recipe variation notes say you can use some minced apple. I had some applesauce in the fridge so I mixed that up with the cream cheese, so it was sort of mayonnaisey in the end:

French tofu salad sandwich

I had an eggplant that needed to be used up, so I went for the Asian Eggplant Sandwich. I only made half the recipe, so I could use the eggplant for another sandwich. This sandwich is another winner. The eggplant is pan fried in some sesame oil, garlic, ginger and sesame seeds. The sauce for the sandwich is made with tomato sauce (ketchup), tamari, rice vinegar, sambal oelek (I used a little chilli paste) and peanut butter. Sounds good, right?! I kept the salad part simple with undressed shredded carrot, lettuce greens and red onion (I left out the cabbage and rice vinegar). Vegan mayo on the bread, some coriander (cilantro) to garnish and then you go stuff your face. The sandwich has its lid on in the top photo up there:

asian eggplant sandwich

Some readers recommended I make the Chickpea Shawarma. This was another wow sandwich for me– chickpeas baked with apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, vegan yoghurt, curry powder, onion powder and garlic. There’s a tahini based dressing and then you assemble it all with some tomatoes, greens and fresh parsley. I used toasted Turkish pide rolls:

chickpea shawarma chickpea shawarma

The Almighty BLT was up next. Truthfully, I’ve never been a fan of tofu slabs in bread. This recipe calls for tempeh bacon (that recipe must be pre-made) but I turned it in to tofu bacon instead and it worked fine. This sandwich has a spread made with vegan sour cream (or yoghurt), vegan mayonnaise, capers, red pepper flakes, onion powder, garlic and sundried tomatoes. I toasted the Turkish pide rolls (they taste blergh untoasted) and added the tomato, red onion and salad greens. I didn’t have any avocado but I’d definitely try to use it next time. After this sandwich, I’m happy to have tofu slabs in a burger:

tofu bacon BLT sandwich

I made the Green Monster Bread– one of those recipes in the book that you can use for a number of the sandwiches, but I handed off to that too-hard basket. But there’s nothing hard about baking simple breads! This bread is made green by blitzing up some leafy greens (aragula or spinach in the book) along with other wet ingredients. Instead of a loaf I made rolls. Arthur loved it, I found it a little too sweet for a savoury kind of bread so next time I’d cut the 2Tbs of sugar down:

green monster bread

green monster bread

With my leftover raw eggplant, I made the Marinated Eggplant Sandwiches. I made the eggplant a little differently to the recipe, which calls for the eggplant to be prepared with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, Cajun spice mix, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke. I marinated the eggplant in all that and pan fried it, which is different to the recipe, but I think it still turned out fine. The tofu is marinated with white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, nutritional yeast, onion powder and garlic. I don’t have white balsamic vinegar and used the ‘regular’ dark kind, crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. It turned out a little regular-balsamicy but still fine enough. I used one of the Green Monster Bread rolls spread with a little vegan mayo and salad greens:

marinated eggplant sandwich

I am so, so glad I decided to give this book a chance. Really, there’s nothing all that time consuming about the recipes I prepared. Make your tofu or eggplant or whatever then you have stuff in the fridge to use for your sandwiches. So for a little prep work, you have a few day’s worth of sandwiches readily available. You can see more examples of other sandwiches over at Where’s The Beef?

I did plan on making one or two of the seitan recipes but will get to that in the future. I also planned on making one of the many great looking sweet recipes but seeing as we’re still a little loaded up with Halloween treats, I want to avoid making any additional sweet treats for a long, long time  😉

So, to sum it all up, I love this book. It’s helped me rediscover a love of fancy sandwiches. Previously I’d just slap something mega boring together for a mega boring sandwich. But with some extra effort now, I can have mega fab sandwiches in a jiffy. And I’ll definitely be making the Green Monster Bread again!

Do you have Vegan Sandwiches Make The Day? Is it on your wish list?

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A Few Recipes I’m Really Enjoying

pumpkin pie custards

We’ve had typical Melbourne spring weather, which means we have some very warm days followed by some really cold days. To give you an idea, a few days ago I got sunburnt. Today, as I type this, I’m rugged up in my dressing gown and heating up lavender bags to keep warm. The other night we had crazy thunderstorms of the window-rattling-I-can’t-sleep variety. All this means BAKING.

I love the cooler days because it means I can turn the oven on and get a heap of baking done. The aim is always to bake things to freeze so we can enjoy them on the hotter days. But you know, lots of things mysteriously don’t make it to the freezer. Anyway, here are a few recipes I’m loving lately. First up, Banana Ginger Medjool Date Mini Loaves by Joann at Woman In Real Life. I don’t have mini loaf tins (HOW has that happened?! I have mini hearts, mini flowers, mini fancy things I never use, but I don’t have cute mini loaf tins?!), so I baked this in a regular larger loaf tin. I only had half the ginger specified in the recipe but it turned out great regardless and I think the full amount of ginger would be just as great. I put this on my autumn leaves sandwich plate so I could pretend we are actually in autumn here and distract myself from the awful reality that is the approaching summer:

banana ginge rdate loaf womaninreallife

To keep with the autumn theme (which is more like me desperately hanging on), I made this pumpkin pie from Plant Powered Kitchen. Dreena Burton’s recipes are popular in my kitchen and this pie was great. The filling has the perfect level of sweetness for me– not that sickly sweet, or even a-bit-too-sweet sweetness. Just right. Unfortunately I screwed up with the base and you can probably tell how dry it turned out. There are dates in the base (you chop everything up in a food processor) and when I went to the get the dates, all I found was an empty container, so I used sultanas instead. They did the job but the real problem was going to get my almond butter and seeing I only had half of what the recipe needed. Gah! I had to add a little almond milk to get the mixture to stick together but I should have added a bit of oil.  Still, it all turned out fine and my mum loved it:

Pumpkin pie

No idea how the pie plate ended up all sticky and dirty looking on the outside, considering the pie was cooked on the inside:

pumpkin pie

Another Dreena Burton recipe I made was Cinnabon muffins. I used wholemeal spelt flour though I think white spelt would be a little lighter. For the topping I just mixed up cinnamon and sugar and left out the chopped dates. Arthur and DeeW loved these and demanded I make them again. Who am I to refuse…

Cinnabon muffins

Then, because I can, I decided to put one of the muffins in the panini press. Have you ever had a cinnamon donut in a sandwich press?! DO IT DO IT. Must have ice cream or cream to go with it. Vegan of course tastes best 😉

Cinnabon muffins

To use up the last of the pumpkin puree, it was back to Plant Powered Kitchen again for Dreena’s Pumpkin Pie Custards. These are awesome!  The recipe has a brulee topping and the whole fam stood around the table excitedly as Husband tried to (theatrically) get the mini flame thrower going. It didn’t happen. Maybe there’s an anti-dork setting? Then I tried to shove the ramekins under the portable grill but they didn’t fit so we admitted defeat. Aaaanyway, I used less sugar in the recipe because the butternut pumpkin was quite sweet. I had mine with coconut cream, though it’s fine without:

pumpkin pie custards

pumpkin pie custards

I’ve got more baking lined up, while the weather is still okay for having the oven on. I’m feeling envious, reading all the blogs from the other side of the world and seeing all the autumn/pumpkin/cinnamon recipes coming back!



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:


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!


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:


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:


“Why does coriander always fall shiny side down?”


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


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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Recipes from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson

When I first became vegan, I bought a load of cookbooks.  A book that everyone seemed to recommend was 1000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson.  It was one of the first cookbooks I bought, along with Robin’s Vegan Planet. Days later, more cookbooks arrived and from there I just kept on getting more books and finding myself more attracted to the cookbooks with photos.  Because of this, books without photos didn’t get much of a second glance.

This was a shame for such a packed-with-great-recipes cookbook like Vegan Planet:

Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson

I’ve recently made a vow to go back to the start of my vegan cookbook collection and start making lots of recipes from the first books I bought, photos or not. I bookmarked loads of recipes from Vegan Planet, though it’s with a bit of a heavy heart that I don’t think my family would go for anything I plan on making. I still have hope though, as there was a time when I never would have dreamed Arthur would be asking for roasted chickpeas and homemade tofu nuggets.

The first recipe I tried from Vegan Planet was a breakfast: the Maple Cinnamon Oatmeal with Slivered Almonds and Dried Cranberries. Very nice, but I forgot to take a photo.

I haven’t made an eggplant dish in a while but I wanted to make something different from my usual Italian/Greek style eggplant dishes.  I chose the Mahogany Eggplant recipe though it meant I had to go out and buy a vegan sake (Go-Shu from Dan Murphys). Garlic, ginger, shallots, chili, sake, tamari is pretty much all there is to it.

I made the Udon Shiitake Stir-Fry with Sake and Ginger, using portabellos instead of shiitake. I made this a couple of days after the Mahogany Eggplant recipe and because the ingredients were roughly the same, I ended up mixing the two together when I was really hungry and couldn’t decide which one I wanted to eat:

mahogan yeggplant udon

I made the Three Way Sesame Coated Tofu Strips with Spicy Broccoli. I didn’t have red pepper flakes so I used a little chilli paste along with some garlic.  I served this with some soba noodles that were added to the pan with the broccoli, chilli and garlic along with some baby spinach.  I love sesame flavours so I enjoyed this.  Who says vegans don’t get enough calcium:


The Chickpea and Eggplant Kibbeh sounded intriguing.  There’s a layer of bulghur-chickpea mix and a layer of cooked onion-eggplant-pine nuts, along with some spices.  I left out the allspice, leaving only the cinnamon (though I used half the amount specified) and cumin.  I wish the family ate this.  I liked it but if I made it again I’d try some different flavours:

chickpea eggplant kibbeh

Next up we have the Tuscan White Bean and Fennel Stew with Orange and Rosemary.  I was glad this recipe called for canned small white beans as I have a large stash of cannelini beans but haven’t really been using them.  Instead of chopping up the rosemary, I chose the lazy route and threw the sprigs in whole.  I was happy with this, though I’d probably cut down the orange zest next time:


The Molasses Bread with Walnuts and Raisins doesn’t call for blackstrap molasses which is all I had, so when I was making the batter I wasn’t sure how it would turn out given the stronger taste of blackstrap.  It was very blackstrappy tasting so next time I’ll use regular molasses or maybe treacle as my jar of treacle sits there doing nothing. I made another stupid mistake here, I had taken out my bread flour to make a loaf of bread when I saw this Molasses bread recipe.  The recipe calls for all purpose flour but I used the bread flour instead of swapping the all purpose for spelt flour.  It was late, I was tired!  I mixed some vegan butter with maple syrup and had it with the molasses bread:

molasses bread

Polenta is so hit and miss with me, mostly miss.  I made half a batch using the recipe for Baked Polenta (omitting the coriander/cilantro), put it in the fridge overnight then baked the next day. Another miss with the family so I am officially now polenta-free. I made the polenta along with the Walnut Crusted Celery Root (celeriac) and Millet Croquettes. The croquettes tasted good but they were incredibly delicate. I don’t know if baking would make them firmer, unfortunately the family didn’t appreciate them enough for me to want to try again in a hurry, but I’m not writing them off just yet.  The first photo shows the millet cooking with the celeriac:


There are many more recipes I’d like to try from Vegan Planet, but for now I’ll move on to another cookbook in my collection so they all get a fair go. I’ve enjoyed cooking from Vegan Planet and look forward to using it again soon.

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