Archive for Cookbooks

Cookbook Review: Eat More Plants

I’ve known Desiree Nielsen for quite a few years, so I was pretty tickled to learn that she’d gotten a cookbook contract a while back. I’ve been looking forward to the publication of Eat More Plants, which happened in October of last year. 

It took me a while to get a copy (thanks, Cassandra!), and then Christmas got in the way of recipe testing, but better late than never, right? 

When I test a new cookbook, I like to make a minimum of 3-5 recipes, and try recipes from different parts of the book. 

I’ll talk more about the recipes I tried and how I liked them in a bit, but first I want to address the first third or so of the book, which is all reference material. 

Desiree is a registered dietician, and her knowledge is vast. I haven’t eaten meat since 2016, and there were plenty of patches in my life before that where I was vegetarian, so I think I know quite a bit about the plant-based lifestyle. The first 80 or so pages of this book are all information, and I learned stuff. If you are thinking of heading in a more plant-based direction with your diet, reading this first part of the book could be invaluable. Desiree talks about how to successfully be plant-based in a healthy, balanced way. She talks about protein, fibre, and how to get the essential vitamins and minerals you need, but on a plant-based diet. 

Tofu Mole Eat More Plants

Tofu Mole

It’s worthwhile to note that this book is 100% vegan and gluten free. I’m not gluten free (I’m not even 100% vegan), but I have quite a few friends who have multiple allergies, and the best way for me to feed them is by cooking gluten-free vegan. I find it hard. I find the gluten-free part harder than the vegan part, obviously (given that I wrote a vegan cookbook myself). So I’m always really impressed when gluten-free vegan recipes actually taste good. 

On to the recipes! 

Harissa Carrot Salad Eat More Plants

Harissa Carrot Salad

Here’s what I made: Chipotle Tofu Mole, Harissa Carrot Salad, Seedy Crackers, Avocado Panna Cotta, Healthy Breakfast Cupcakes with Salted Chocolate Frosting, and Chickpea Panisse with Edamame and Lemon. 

Avocado Panna Cotta Eat More Plants

Avocado Panna Cotta

Generally speaking, I liked them all. The solid winners for me were the Panna Cotta (I’ve made quite a few vegan panna cottas, and it’s a challenge to get the texture just right). This dessert was the perfect, silky texture, but also had a citrusy punch. It was really good. I also was super impressed by the Breakfast Cupcakes (recipe below!), which, to be honest, I would not eat for breakfast. These were dessert for me. But I find, in general, that gluten free vegan baking is hard. The final result is either dry and chalky or falls apart because it’s got nothing to bind it. These cupcakes were moist and delicious. I’m unsure about the tahini frosting. A lot of people find tahini bitter. My friend that taste-tested these for me loved them, though, frosting included. 

Chickpea Panisse Eat More Plants

Chickpea Panisse with Edamame

The Tofu Mole was delicious, and I loved the Harissa Carrot Salad (I’m obsessed with harissa at the moment). The Chickpea Panisse was a new idea for me–it’s like making polenta, but with chickpea flour, which is better for you because it’s higher in protein–but for me, the dish didn’t come together. Maybe needed a sauce? 

Overall, I recommend this book highly, especially if you are, or are looking to be, gluten free vegan. It’s a very challenging diet, and Desiree’s expertise makes it much, much easier. 

There’s also a great section in the book where she meal plans for you for 21 days, if you want to do a reset now that it’s the new year. It’s kind of like having your own personal dietician. 

And now, a recipe! 

Healthy Breakfast Cupcakes Eat More Plants

Healthy Breakfast Cupcakes with Salted Chocolate Frosting

Healthy Breakfast Cupcakes with Salted Chocolate Frosting

(Excerpted from Eat More Plants by Desiree Nielsen. Copyright © 2019 by Desiree Nielsen. Published by Penguin an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.)


  • 1½ cups (375mL) almond flour
  • ½ cup (125mL) gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup( 125mL) cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon (15mL) ground flaxseed
  • 2 teaspoons (10mL) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (2mL) ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon (2mL) cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon (2mL) salt
  • ¾ cup (175mL) unsweetened soy milk
  • ¼ cup (60mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • ⅓ cup (75mL) pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (15mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon (15mL) liquid from canned chickpeas (Aquafaba)
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) pure vanilla extract

Salted Chocolate Frosting

  • ½ cup (125mL) raw tahini, room temperature
  • ¼ cup (60mL) pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup (60mL) cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon (1mL) salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon (0.5mL) cinnamon


1.      Preheat the oven to 350˚f (180˚C). Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or nonstick silicone muffin cups.

2.      Make the Healthy Breakfast Cupcakes in a large bowl, whisk together the almond flour, all-purpose flour, cocoa, flaxseed, baking powder, cardamom, cinnamon, and salt to combine.

3.      in a small bowl, whisk together the soy milk, olive oil, maple syrup, lemon juice, chickpea liquid, and vanilla.

4.      Add the soy milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix until well blended.

5.      Scoop ¼ cup (60 mL) of batter into each muffin cup. Bake for 35 to 38 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

6.      Let the muffins cool in the tin for 5 minutes before carefully transferring to a rack to cool fully. The muffins will firm up as they cool.

7.      Make the Salted Chocolate Frosting in a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, maple syrup, cocoa, salt, and cinnamon until well blended. Spread on cooled cupcakes and serve immediately or refrigerate  until ready to serve.

8.      The cupcakes will keep in a resealable container in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. Bring iced cupcakes to room temperature before enjoying for best flavour.



Dirty Food

If you do a search for the hashtag #cleaneating on Instagram, you’ll find over 45 Million results. 45 Million! It would appear that we are obsessed with the concept. What is the concept, though? It feels like it’s one of those things that’s become so big, nobody really knows what it actually is. 

The concept of “clean eating” is really based around focusing on a diet high in whole foods. That means limiting your consumption of foods that are processed. The result is that you have a diet high in nutrients, plants and fibre, and low in sugars and processed fats. This is a good thing, right? Trashy Cookies JVR

Of course, and it’s how I try to eat most of the time. 

BUT–I like big butts and I cannot lie–if it’s been raining for three weeks and I’ve had a shitty day, I’m not curling up to eat my feelings with a big bowl of raw vegetables. Sorry, I’m just not. I want a Burgoo Grilled Cheese, gooey and crispy on the edges, and a pot of tomato soup to dip it into. 

Saucy Pudding Cake

Comfort food–the food that makes us happy–is the food of celebrations, of coziness, and this food is very often the opposite of clean. It’s chocolatey, and melty and oozy and fatty and sweet. 

And I think it’s wrong to deny yourself the full on hedonistic pleasure that kind of food brings.

This is the whole concept behind Juile Van Rosendaals’s (@dinnerwithjulie) new cookbook, Dirty Food. It’s unapologetic. Food is joy and celebration and sharing, and these recipes all focus on the messiness and joy in life. Because, let’s face it; life is seldom simple, it’s not often black-and-white. There’s nothing wrong with salad on a daily basis, but sometimes you just need a good grilled cheese. 

In Dirty Food, you’ll find recipes that will make people happy. Waffles, biscuits, gooey cinnamon buns. Lots and lots of carbs… tacos, sloppy joes, smashing burgers. 

Garlic Toast Crumb Spaghetti

I tested a bunch of recipes from this book, and they were all pretty delightful. There are a few more I still want to try (whipped Feta, yes please), though I’ll leave the meat ones to the meat-eaters (but appreciated the veg hack on the tacos). I mostly made desserts; I tried the Trashy Cookies, the Dirty Blondies and the Saucy Pudding Cake (which reminded me of the boxed mix we used to bake as kids). I also made the Toast Crumb & Garlic Spaghetti, which is an ode to carbs (I served a very healthy Kale Caesar on the side, okay???). 

I think the thing I love the most about this book is how Julie’s personality shines through. When you write cookbooks, you’re in a kind of box. You’re constrained by your subject matter, by the style guide… but Julie self-published Dirty Food and there’s something about it that feels like she’s right there with you in your kitchen, getting messy. It’s just plain fun. 

Trashy Blondies

Dirty Blondies

For some years now, Julie’s blondies have been my go-to. Blondies are basically brownies without the chocolate, and you can customize them lots of different ways. This one has a chocolate swirl, and I added a touch of coffee liqueur to mine as well. 

(recipe courtesy of Julie Van Rosendaal’s Dirty Food)


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda 
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 1-2 tbsp cocoa


  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. 
  2. When melted, pour into a bowl and stir in brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda and salt, just until combined. 
  3. Line an 8″x8″ square pan with parchment or butter well. and put the cocoa in a shallow dish. Scoop up large spoonfuls of batter and dip the side of the spoon into the cocoa, and then drop the batter into the pan. The idea is to get cocoa splotches randomly throughout your batter. Spread with a spoon or offset spatula, and draw lines or swirls through the batter with a skewer or a toothpick to create a fun effect. 
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and starting to pull away from the edges. Allow to cool at least slightly, then cut into 12-16 squares. 
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