Sifting through the recent deluge of new vegan cookbooks, it’s hard to judge a cookbook by its cover. Though some may claim to promote “healthy eating,” (and really, what does that mean?) as most do these days, it’s almost impossible to know if the author means to imply that just by virtue of being vegan that their dishes are magically forgiven of any other nutritional sins. Information overload quickly creeping out like a wet blanket over my brain, I’m grateful to have at least one reliable text to fall back on, one that can be trusted to make both nutritionally sound and tasty meals. Get it Ripe, written by my good friend Jae Steele, is so much more than a recipe book; Complete with advice on digestion, ingredient explanations for the more unusual items, cooking tips, suggestions on pantry essentials, and so forth, it’s a great place for newbie vegans to start, and still advanced enough in the recipe department to teach a few “old” vegans like myself some new tricks.
With a focus on organics and whole foods, there’s no dubious health claims or miracle diets to be found here, thank goodness. Jae is a registered holistic nutritionist, and she knows her stuff! Happy to err on the more wholesome side for a bit, I was also thrilled with her sense of seasoning- Plenty of spicy, ethnic foods, Asian flavors, and of course, a good bit of homey comfort food thrown in. No bland twigs and grass clipping-type dishes here.
Moving right into the breakfast section, the Buckwheat Blueberry Muffins immediately caught my eye. Made from whole grains, no flour at all, and no refined sugars, I was just too curious to pass them up. Impressively moist and tender, I was truly surprised at how well these lightly sweetened breakfast cakes turned out. Though I personally might enjoy them a bit sweeter, it’s true that I’m somewhat known for my sweet tooth, so I’d leave that judgment up to your own discretion. A light and fluffy treat this is not, but if you’re after a more hefty option that will keep you full and satisfied through a long morning, this recipe is a welcome breath of fresh air.
When it came time for a sit-down meal, I knew even before I had the book in my hands what I wanted to cook first. The Sesame Kale Soba was positively calling to me, leaping off the pages. Whipped up painlessly and in an instant, it was exactly what I had been hoping for: Lightly but well-dressed with a simple tamari and sesame oil mixture, the contrast between toothsome noodles, barely wilted kale, and briny sea veggies made every bite engaging. Super simple to make, utilizing very few ingredients, this is now a staple in my daily menu.
Tempted by the more complex dishes, I set aside some extra time for dinner one night and selected the alluring Andrew’s Butternut Risotto, brimming with vibrant orange squash, roasted garlic, and fresh herbs. So luscious, richly flavored and creamy were the end results, that the extra effort seemed like nothing at all. This is the sort of dish you could make for company and elicit “wows” all around the table, whether your diners are vegan or not.
Being somewhat biased in my opinions of what makes a good dessert, I opted to go for something I would normally not make for myself, so I had few previous eating experiences that might color my opinion. A childhood classic with a little kick, the Cardamom Tapioca Pudding proved to be a happy surprise. Though I used maple syrup instead of stevia, it was the perfect, light ending to a more decadent meal. That tiny pinch of spice really elevated the flavor to a whole new level, changing my initial thoughts about how boring tapioca pudding would be.
At times when I’m at a loss for what to cook, be it just for myself or for a sizable crowd, I’m happy to have Get it Ripe on my shelf. It’s a tried-and-true text that has yet to fail me, either in the nutrition or taste department.