[I should have just given up on the sticky notes, because I want to try Every. Single. Recipe. in this book!!]
Okay, so if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time at all, you know that I am decidedly not the type of gal to attend a rave. (Read: too old. And even when I wasn’t too old, I was too health conscious. And, well, even when I wasn’t too old or too health conscious, I was too nerdy.). So when I say, “rave,” you probably know I’m referring to the verb rather than the noun; as in, “I simply can’t rave enough about this spectacular new cookbook that has quickly assumed a place among my all-time favorites!” (And believe me, with over 200 cookbooks cramming my shelves at the moment, that is saying a lot).
Full disclosure: as with most reviews I write here on the blog, this book was provided free of charge by Christy Morgan’s publishers and I was not required to write anything positive about it (or anything at all, for that matter). You may know Christy as “The Blissful Chef,” whose blog, ebooks and live cooking classes have been offering up healthy, delicious recipes to eager masses for several years now. Christy also chronicles her culinary adventures (from LA to Texas and elsewhere), on her Facebook page.
Before we begin, however, I feel I must be entirely honest and admit that I was already somewhat biased in favor of the book even before receiving it. You see, I had done a review of one of her previous ebooks, Cooking with the Seasons: Summer Edition, last year, so I already knew I had loved those recipes and suspected I’d like these as well. Perhaps even more important, I was aware that Christy’s focus on traditional plant-based diets (vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, low fat and raw foods) jibed well with the ACD and I’d probably find lots of recipes I could eat within my dietary restrictions, with a minimum of adjustments to boot.
Well, let me tell you, this book is aptly titled. I was literally blissed out as I leafed through this gorgeous tome, which provides not only a full explanation of Christy’s approach to food and eating; a complete list of pantry basics and tools plus various chef’s techniques (now you’ll know just how to chiffonade–perfectly!); over 175 recipes organized by seasons (as well as “anytime”); but also a full resources section at the back and a metric conversion table. The full-color photos offer mouth-watering illustrations of many of the recipes, and the book’s pages are printed on thick, sturdy paper, an important detail when you plan to subject your book to repeated, regular usage (as I most definitely do!).
I literally couldn’t decide what to make first, there were so many recipes that appealed to me–and that I was permitted to have on the ACD! Should I try the Orange-Pumpkin-Ginger French Toast? Or perhaps the Asian Millet and Quinoa Pilaf? Maybe the Blissful Two-Bean Harvest Chili? Eventually, I settled on Kale Salad with Curry-Coconut Sauce, simply because I already had all the ingredients on hand.
[Damn these dark winter evenings. . . this photo totally does not do the dish justice!]
I’m going to preface this next comment by saying that the HH is a very picky omnivore. In other words, he has no trouble whatsoever eating hocks, haunches, brains, kidneys, hearts–even intestines of animals, but will balk at “veggie” foods I serve, such as grated daikon radish (“What is that? Anemic carrot?“), chia seeds (“Looks like fish droppings“) or spirulina (“Isn’t that the water you cleaned your brush in for your watercolor painting?”). Needless to say, he wasn’t thrilled about eating a salad with arame (seaweed) as a major player.
Well, we both swooned over this salad. When I first read the ingredient list, I was a bit concerned about the quantities in the sauce–it seemed like SO much spice–but mixed with the still-moist kale and arame, it was perfect. A spicy, creamy, slightly nutty coating on firm, toothsome kale with light marine influences. I simply loved it, and the HH even requested it again!
Next up was the Broccoli Salad with Creamy Mustard Dressing. If you’re familiar with that once-ubiquitous broccoli salad from buffets a few years back, this dish will evoke memories of those times. . .but vastly improved. The piquant dijon is balanced by the sweet (I used stevia instead of the suggested maple syrup); the crispy, green and fresh with a creamy sauce and crunch of radishes. An aesthetically pleasing as well as flavorful mix of ingredients.
We also thoroughly enjoyed the Wasabi Sweet Potato Salad, which had been beckoning me from the moment I first spied the recipe. I adore sweet potatoes, of course, and have had them spiced in sweet potato fries, but never with something quite so hot as wasabi. Again, I wondered at the proportions of the spice mix in the ingredients, but should have trusted Christy. The sum worked out to be greater than the parts, and I loved this salad as well (I had run out of the called-for cucumbers, so subbed radish instead; still worked wonderfully). I could have eaten the entire batch by myself!
[I swear, it’s not tomato sauce! But even tastier.]
Next up was another ingenious, fantastic recipe: the Mama Mia Magnifico Sauce, ideal for those who are either allergic to tomatoes or can’t eat nightshade vegetables (eg, those with arthritis). I didn’t tell the HH that this sauce was tomato-free, and he had absolutely no idea. When I finally let the cat out of the bag, he was genuinely surprised and commented that this was “as good as any tomato-based pasta sauce we’ve ever had.” I concur. I loved it on pasta, of course, but also used it the next day on a grain-free pizza crust, and later, defrosted, with crumbled frozen tofu for a sloppy joe lunch. You’ll be amazed by this one!
And I just couldn’t resist one more. . . while I don’t eat many sandwiches (or much bread at all, for that matter), I have always made an exception for Reubens, one of the most satisfying combinations of protein, complex carbs and creamy dressing I can imagine in existence. I couldn’t resist giving Christy’s healthified version a try. The marinated tempeh and tangy Russian-style dressing complemented each other marvelously, and the use of avocado in lieu of standard melted cheese was a brilliant way to incorporate the smooth creaminess you’d expect without the dairy or any artificial ingredients. The HH actually ate two of these (as open-faced sandwiches). With leftovers the next day, I enjoyed mine à la raw, wrapped in a crisp collard leaf, like so:
I literally can’t wait to cook through this entire book (counting the days until I can use maple syrup again. . . ), there are so many appealing recipes in it.
If you’re looking for a cookbook filled with mouth watering, healthy and flavorful plant-based recipes that are also impressive to the eye, I’d recommend Blissful Bites as your first choice. I love that Christy focuses on whole foods ingredients, low fat and low sweeteners (and when she does use sweeteners, they’re all natural, like maple syrup or brown rice syrup). If you’re on a restricted diet (as I am), this book will likely still offer up a plethora of recipes you can enjoy.
Now, go out and find your Bliss(ful Bites)!
Broccoli Salad with Creamy Mustard Dressing from Blissful Bites
Printed with permission from the author
This is a healthy plant-based take on salads you may have had at a salad bar or at potlucks. It is easy to make and will be a crowd-pleaser at get-togethers. It’s also a great way to use leftover beans. if you throw in some cooked quinoa, it makes a one-pot meal perfect to take to work for lunch.
1 large crown broccoli, cut into florets
1 large carrot, grated
1 cup (240 ml) cooked chickpeas, or 1 can (15 oz/500 ml) drained and rinsed
2 red radishes, thinly sliced
Creamy Mustard Dressing
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegan mayonnaise [I used this recipe]
2 Tbsp (30 ml) dijon mustard
1 Tbsp (15 ml) maple syrup [I used 10 drops plain stevia liquid]
1 Tbsp (15 ml) apple cider vinegar
pinch fine sea salt and black pepper
Steam the broccoli until crisp-tender, about two minutes. Remove from heat and toss with the rest of salad ingredients.
Whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl; adjust seasonings. Toss with salad and chill for 10 minutes before serving. Great the next day, too! Makes 3-5 servings.
Suitable for: ACD Stage 2 and beyond; refined sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free, nut-free, yeast-free, vegan, low glycemic.
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