Book Review: Not Just for Vegetarians

Not Just for Vegetarians, © Copyright 2008 Geraldine Hartman

Not Just for Vegetarians: Delicious Homestyle Cooking, the Meatless Way

by Geraldine Hartman

The book for today’s review was provided by: Geraldine Hartman, Veggies, Yarns and Tails

I write AppleJade because I honor the connection between kitchen, garden, and health.  Geraldine Hartman’s cookbook Not Just for Vegetarians extends the connection between vegetables and cooking to our relationships and traditions of friends and family, and our attitudes toward our food.  Healthy living incorporates more than the mere substance of our food, and Geraldine speaks to the soul of it.

Not Just for Vegetarians reads and functions with the friendliness of a neighbor or grandmother.  Indeed, Geraldine dedicates her book to members of her family, and there is a clear influence among her recipes of friends, traditions, and memories which help to sculpt each dish.  Geraldine tells us that in her journey to a vegetarian lifestyle she has found “that the vegetarian diet can be much more varied and interesting than the conventional ‘meat and potato’ menu.”

I began experimenting with Geraldine’s book by exploring the first segment: bread.  We enter her book as we enter our grandmother’s kitchen, with a warm loaf of bread cooling on the counter and filling the house with honeyed aromas.  I am still in the learning process with breads, but I had no trouble with her “Quickie Oatmeal Bread,” and I am slowly improving with “Grandmother Sabina’s Best Bread You’ve Ever Tasted!!!”

I wander her book like I wander my pantry, seeking out unexpected treasures tucked in the corners.  I do not look in the index for refried beans under “B” for beans; instead I find them under “M” for Main Dishes – “Homemade Refried Beans”.  The result is constant experimentation.  I need only to flip through the pages until I find something that sounds interesting, and I’m off to try something new.

Thus far, my attempts at all recipes have passed “The Yucky Test” in my home.  This says a lot for Geraldine’s down-to-earth, home-comfort style: anything which is too bland, too strangely textured, or too-rabbit-food will not pass muster on our table.  Geraldine’s recipes lend themselves to spicing and modification according to taste, and she offers numerous variation suggestions of her own within the pages.

Not Just for Vegetarians is more than a simple vegetarian cookbook.  Geraldine has crafted her book to be a friendly, helpful voice to inspire creativity and experimentation with healthy food.  Books like Not Just for Vegetarians help move us away from bland, packaged foods and back into the substance and soul of our kitchens.  Regardless of whether you live a vegetarian lifestyle, Geraldine’s Not Just for Vegetarians offers recipes that will delight everyone at your table.

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Carrot Cake a la Cold Frame

Carrots from the Cold Frame, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

For the New Year I baked a carrot cake using the last of the carrots from the cold frame.  Moving the carrots gave some much needed light-and-breathing room to the baby greens, and we enjoyed an excellent cake.

Carrots from the Cold Frame, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

The pictures here do not do justice to the treasure we found when I pulled up the old carrots – one mammoth carrot, which likely weighed a full pound, and was over an inch in diameter!  It comprised half of the 3 cups of shredded carrot needed for the recipe.

I used the “Best-Ever Carrot Cake” recipe in my copy of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book 12th ed. (p.159), substituting in 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour.  I also added my own spices, which is something I enjoy.  For dishes like carrot cake or pumpkin pie, I find it hard to resist adding a pinch of ginger, a dash of nutmeg, and perhaps a touch of lemon.

New Year Carrot Cake, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

I was careful to use the finest side on my four-sided grater when shredding these carrots – if the carrot shreds are too heavy, they can sink through the cake. The cream cheese frosting was a snap, but unfortunately I made too much: remember that if you’re doing a single-layer rectangle cake instead of a two-layer round cake, you only need half the icing in the BHG recipe (p.171).

New Year Carrot Cake, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

Note: If you’re looking for something different, Geraldine Hartman offers “Carrot Cake with a Twist” and “Cream Cheese Icing” from her book Not Just for Vegetarians (p.165), and she also likes “Sam’s Famous Carrot Cake” available at Allrecipes.com.

Coming up in February at AppleJade: we will talk more about cold frames and composting, continue our discussions on health and attitude, and we will also begin exploring the world of Geraldine Hartman’s Not Just for Vegetarians.  I’ll be posting once or twice per week – stay tuned.