I am a huge fan of all things The China Study and this book is no different. It’s a plant-based family cookbook written by Del Stroufe, an accomplished, chef and recipe creator.
This book is a little different than most of the books I talk about on this blog because this is not “vegan” per se, even though it is. Rather, it is “whole foods, plant-based” which is essentially the same thing but different. Here’s why.
Veganism is an ethical stance based on abstaining from eating animals and using animal based products whereas a whole foods, plant-based (WFPB) diet is based purely on health reasons. There is evidence, ahem, see The China Study, that shows that eating a WFPB diet can reduce and/or eliminate many diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
What does this mean? It isn’t just semantics, it’s ingredients. The recipes in this book are different than perhaps you are used to because they are free from oil and sugar and use little to no salt. You may be thinking, oh no, but will the food taste good? It will!
The recipes are super simple, call for not a lot of ingredients, and use interesting substitutions like tofu in salad dressing, potatoes in cheese sauce, and beans in brownies and “nutella” style spread. Everything is incredibly healthy and nourishing and you will soon realize you don’t need as much oil, sugar and salt as you may think you do.
Ever since I did my month-long oil-free experiment back in September of 2013, I have significantly reduced my oil intake. I am about 80% oil free now, maybe even 90%. I water sauté vegetables and make most of my salad dressings with cashews or tahini. If I am using oil, it is usually to pan fry tofu or tempeh for a quick dinner or to butter my homemade bread. But the butter is homemade too so at least I am controlling the ingredients. As for sugar, I don’t use cane sugar unless I am making cake or cupcakes and that is just for parties, so I take a pass there. If I am making cookies or other baked goods, I try to used coconut or beet sugar. And salt? Well, a few pinches make everything taste better! So I guess you could say, I am a whole foods, plant-based vegan (WFPBV!)
Anyway, let’s get to the recipes. There are over 100 including plenty of family classics that will be familiar to you like Mac & Cheese, Sloppy Joes, Creamed Corn Casserole and Biscuits and Gravy.
My favorite is a chorizo made with millet. Millet! I never ate chorizo in my pre-vegan days but all of a sudden these plant-based versions are really talking to me! And the really exciting news is that I got permission to reprint the recipe below. Others among my favorites are the the MLT, a portobello mushroom bacon BLT, the Portobello Reuben, the Thai-style Peanut Noodles, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Tofu Yung, and the plant-based Cobb salad with easy stovetop mushroom bacon.
The only thing I am not crazy about in this book are the salad dressings made out of tofu. I am not a fan of using tofu in that way; I prefer to use nuts or tahini to make my oil-free salad dressings.
In addition to the recipes, there are “At Home with the Plant-Based Family” callouts, super inspiring stories and interviews with people who advocate a plant-based diet, who have transitioned to a plant-based diet along with tips for transitioning to a WFPB way of life and for getting kids involved in cooking.
Speaking of interviews, I had the opportunity to interview Del. I love the way he thinks about food. And remember to check out the Chorizo recipe below and follow me on Instagram (@lisasprojectvegan) to see what else I am making from this book!
LPV: Del! Thank you for talking to me. I have a few of your cookbooks and what I love about them is how easy the recipes are. And this book too! Especially for kids. You make cooking easy. Can you talk a little bit about your philosophy?
DS: My philosophy of cooking has evolved to become about whole foods that are tasty and simple to prepare with ingredients that are easily accessible for most consumers. Let’s face it, most people don’t cook as much as our parents used to, and eating out is not healthy. I also believe that if you are going to get people to make changes in their diet, you should make the food familiar to them, and we do that in this cookbook with recipes like Grilled Cheese or Mac and Cheese—familiar foods made with healthy ingredients—that also taste familiar, and good.
LPV: One way I know I am going to like a book is if there are recipes that I have already made myself. And there are some in here. But, the millet chorizo, brilliant. The MLT, also brilliant! How do you constantly come up with new ideas?
DS: I feel as if I am just getting started with creating new recipes. Everywhere I look I see ideas; my goal is to make them healthy.
LPV: I notice a lot of recipes call for silken tofu. I am not a fan of tofu being used that way. What is your recommendation for the dressings or other recipes? Any possible subs?
DS: One of my favorite substitutes for silken tofu is pureed cauliflower. It is versatile like tofu and takes on the flavor of whatever you do with it. I use it to make everything from mayonnaise to cream sauces.
LPV: I love the interviews with different plant based folks. They all give such great advice. What is your favorite piece of advice?
DS: If you are just starting out on this new way of eating, take it one recipe at a time. Don’t feel like you have to have a whole cookbook’s worth of ideas. Most people cook the same 8 to 10 recipes over and over again.
LPV: What is your favorite recipe in the book?
The cheese sauce. I like how it can be used in a variety of dishes to make different things—mac and cheese, grilled cheese, pizza, etc. If I can pick a second favorite, it is the Mediterranean Meatballs. They too can be used in a variety of dishes
LPV: And lastly, what is your favorite recipe ever?
DS: I make an oven fried tofu that is crispy and garlicky without oil. It makes me very happy.
LPV: Maybe one day you will share that one with me!
Official Chorizo Hash photo from the book!
I never liked sweet potatoes growing up unless they were in a casserole covered with marshmallows. And I had never had chorizo until a friend invited me over for brunch one Sunday and served a version of this dish. It was a favorite of her children, who eagerly gobbled it down and asked for more. I asked for more, too. This dish is a good one to let the family help with chopping and measuring, preferably on a lazy weekend morning.
Serves 6 to 8
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 (10-ounce) bag frozen corn (about 11/2 cups)
1 recipe Chorizo (recipe below), coarsely crumbled
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
Sea salt and black pepper
Sauté the onion and red bell pepper in a large saucepan over medium heat until the onion is translucent and starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Add water 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time to keep the vegetables from sticking to the pan.
Add the garlic, chile powder, cinnamon, cumin, and allspice and cook for another minute.
Add the sweet potato and corn and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the crumbled chorizo, lime zest, and lime juice to the pan, season with sea salt and black pepper to taste, and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.
Makes 14 to 16 patties
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups millet
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch ground allspice
Sea salt, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°F (or 425°F if you plan to serve these as patties).
Combine the water and millet in a 2-quart saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook the millet until tender, about 20 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well.
Using a 1/4-cup measure or small ice cream scoop, shape the millet mixture into patties and place them on a nonstick baking sheet or a regular baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (If you will not be using all the patties right away, stack them between sheets of waxed paper and pack them into a ziptop bag. Freeze for up to 1 month.)
If you will be using the chorizo to make hash or tacos, bake the patties at 350°F until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Turn the patties over and continue to bake for another 10 minutes. If you will be serving these as patties, bake for 10 minutes at 425°F, turn them over, and then bake another 10 minutes.
NOTE FOR THE COOK
For the millet to work as a binder in this dish (to hold everything together in a patty), you almost need to overcook it. If it seems crumbly when you first make it, add 2 to 3 tablespoons more water to the pan, cover tightly, and let it cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. The millet should hold together when pinched between your fingers or pressed against the side of the pan.