Cooking for my family seems like a breeze now compared to when my daughter was a toddler, and I was trying to figure out what to make for meals. Although I’m a vegetarian now, I didn’t grow up as one and, I found that once my daughter was born, I wasn’t sure how to be one. Sure, I knew I wasn’t going to feed her animal-based dishes, but I realized that my husband and I had a vegetarian diet that consisted of tofu, cheese, and pasta (with some frozen pizzas thrown in for good measure) — light on the “vege”, heavy on the “tarian”. While I was trying to figure out what vegetarians eat, I was also trying to introduce my daughter to new foods. People wonder how Katie is such a “good eater” but to be frank, she doesn’t know any different — I found that persistence and variety were the key to how she developed her own taste. And it was books like Gena Hamshaw‘s Power Plates (review here), that were crucial in showing me how to make balanced, delicious, and enticing vegetable-packed meals. Power Plates became a “forever favourite” because I found the recipes accessible, and I could always flip open the book to find something tasty to make that my family enjoyed.
I appreciate the honesty in Hamshaw’s work, her steadfast approach to recipe development yields thoughtful recipes. With her latest book, The Vegan Week, Hamshaw shows that meal planning and prep is a wonderful way to guarantee your time in the kitchen is well-spent. When Hamshaw tells us in her introduction, “My present-day self thanks my past self for her forethought and effort” she’s reinforcing the idea that we can lighten the cooking load so that on days when life feels complicated and cooking is a chore/burden, we have provided ourselves with nourishment. The Vegan Week meets home cooks where they’re at — I find that I’m not much for planning, but I do find that batch cooking lightens my weekly cooking load, so I found this information useful to me. Throughout the beginning section, Make-Ahead Cooking For Real Life, Hamshaw walks cooks through the steps of meal planning (from knowing how to plan, looking at what she calls the “macronutrient balance,” shopping, prepping the ingredients, cooking, and storage/reheating). While meal planning can feel involved or overwhelming, she also reminds us to be kind to ourselves and shows home cooks using the How much time do you have?/Prep according to available time diagram (8) that even with an hour (or a few) we can get cooking. Even the smallest of steps will have a big impact later. If you’re new to vegan cooking, the section on Noteworthy Ingredients outlines the essential/everyday ingredients she uses throughout the book — cooking through her recipes, I found that I had much of what is called for already in my pantry or refrigerator and the rest I could buy at my local grocery store. As for the recipes, The Vegan Week is divided up into 9 main chapters: 1) Proteins, 2) Vegetables & Starches, 3) Sauces, Spreads, Dressings, & Dips, 4) Breakfasts, 5) Snacks, 6) Bowls & Lunch Boxes, 7) Stovetop Meals, 8) Oven Meals, and 9) Desserts.
What I long for in batch cooking is versatility – take the recipes for Lentil Apple Sage Patties and the Simple “Eggy” Squares. While both can be destined to be assembled together in the To-Go Breakfast Sandwiches, I found that the patties, if made a little larger, make superb veggie burgers and, the “Eggy” Squares also taste good when perched on a bed of rice, splashed with some soy sauce. Once the patties and squares are made, they can be frozen, then reheated when it’s time to eat. As a side note, the combination of chickpea flour and silken tofu in the eggy squares gives the uncanny texture of an actual egg. Since trying it, I’ve made it several more times as my family really likes it.
Saturday morning in our house is usually reserved for scones, so I was keen to give the recipe for Dark Chocolate Oat Scones a try. Easy to mix and bake, they can be frozen for up to 6 weeks (although, I know we had them gone in just a few days!). I baked these up on a Saturday morning and we continued to enjoy them for a few more breakfasts. I froze the extras and found they thawed well, with no change to the flavour or texture. Speaking again of versatility in recipes, this scone recipe could also be made using different add-ins. While the chocolate (as my husband would say) is crucial, I think that chopped dried fruit or nuts would work well too.
Winter is the time when I look for those warming, comforting recipes and, the recipe for Mixed-Potato Quinoa Stew totally fits this criterion. Red onion, garlic, chiles, and some warming spices give this stew a great base for the potatoes, greens (I used kale here), quinoa, and bell pepper. I appreciate a good chunky stew/soup that eats like a meal and, like all the recipes in this book, can be made ahead of time and frozen. Since it also keeps well in the fridge, we enjoyed it over a couple of meals. And, while I haven’t given it a try yet, I feel like this stew would be a great lunch to send to school with my daughter too.
We’ve all had those nights where there is no set plan for dinner and, it was on one of these nights that I decided to give Hamshaw’s One-Pot Pasta with Olives & Capers a try. Here, all of the ingredients are put into a large pot then left to cook – so, instead of cooking the pasta and sauce separately, they cook together. I really liked the combination of kale, crushed tomatoes, beans, olives and capers – a slightly sweet/salty taste, with the flavours infusing the noodles as they cook.
Cooking through Hamshaw’s recipes, either from her books or blog, I feel her inherent kindness through each step. I also appreciate that her recipes are nutritious and delicious (and, so beautifully photographed by Ashley McLaughlin). In the introduction to The Vegan Week, she tells us that while she can feel overwhelmed or discouraged with cooking, it’s having a recipe and a plan that helps her through. Which is why she’s written this cookbook focused on meal prep. So instead of feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, I’ve relied on her recipes and prep strategies at meal times.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ten Speed Press for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.