My friend Bernadette from New Classic Recipe (https://newclassicrecipe.com) came up with the wonderful idea to have an on-line cookbook club with some of her blog buddies. What a fun, and great way to choose a recipe or two from the books, cook them, and review them. Then, you decide if the book is worth you shelf space! Please go to her site for other reviews.
The cookbook informs us on the cover that it is composed of nourishing plant-based meals to keep you glowing. It is divided into main dishes, sides and small bites, meal-worthy salads, hearty soups and stews, treats and drinks, and sauces, dressings, and spices. In her introduction, Angela Liddon says “Oh She Glows for Dinner is going to provide you with tools, tips, and tricks to help you get more plant based meals on the table, and in the process, you’ll hopefully fall in love with so many vibrant, balanced, and downright irresistible recipes.”
The book has a lot of good tips on storage, leftovers, substitutions, and other variations which I found handy.
I chose two to cook: Festive Bread-Free Stuffing Balls and Ultimate Creamy Salt and Vinegar Scalloped Potatoes.
First, the scalloped potatoes
Scalloped potatoes are definitely part of my childhood and one of my favorite potato comfort foods, and I’ve made my mom’s recipe vegan on more than one occasion by simply substituting plant milk for dairy. She never used cheese in hers.
I loved the idea of salt and vinegar potatoes. This recipe is very different than what we’re used to. It used very thinly sliced potatoes (2 mm) a cashew-based cream sauce, and a “Vegan Parmesan” topping. I was promised that I would fall into a heavenly trance. That’s a tall order, and sadly it did not deliver.
Not quite a big hit
It was OK, with just the slightest hint of the vinegar, not enough salt (I took her at her word and added tiny pinches) and pretty creamy but not ultra, and after reheating was not creamy at all. The potato flavor was lost under the nutritional yeast sauce, but most importantly, it didn’t taste anything at all like scalloped potatoes. A few onions might have gone a long way. My husband liked it (he likes the flavor of nutritional yeast), but doused it with pepper; there was no pepper in the recipe, which I also thought it needed, potatoes being potatoes.
Recipes within a recipe
The dish involved making the cashew sauce, in a blender, which involved pre-soaking them over night. We also had to make the vegan Parmesan cheese, another step and a food processor. Not counting the soaking time of course, the recipe took an hour to make, not 25 minutes, as noted. Definitely not a weeknight dinner side dish.
The Festive Bread-Free Stuffing Balls took lots of steps, dishes, etc., and 50 minutes rather than 30 to prepare. I made these while the potatoes were baking.
I’m not sure why these are called stuffing balls and not lentil nut balls or something because they didn’t have a stuffing-like consistency. They tasted all right, but were dense and a bit dry and definitely did need a sauce, which I didn’t make since I’d spent so much time on everything else with these two dishes. We later simmered them with some pasta sauce I had in the fridge; they held up nicely, and tasted much better.
Lots of nuts
If you or anyone in your family has a nut allergy, this is not the book for you. A great many of the recipes use nuts or a sauce or condiment made from nuts. There is a lot of nutritional yeast in recipes as well, with a pronounced flavor, which some like and some do not.
There are a lot of cross referencing to other recipes or sauces in the book, and with the two recipes I made I had to keep things bookmarked, and was frequently turning back and forth, sometimes with mucky hands. There’s a whole section of “Glow Getter Meal Plans” that have you thumbing back and forth with instructions like “Follow steps 3 (see tip below) through 5 and step 7” and you have to keep referencing back and forth to different recipes. I didn’t think any of this section was helpful.
Please give me a black typeface!
The typeface, as with many these days, is colored grey rather than black and thus is harder to read! Why are they doing this? Additionally, one of my pet peeves with this book is the overuse of the “glow” references in just about everything. Sloppy Glows, Glow Getter Meal Plans, Glowing Lentil Soup, Glow Green Pasta, you get the idea. The first couple of references were silly, then just tiring.
The bottom line – to buy or not to buy
The bottom line is, if you have never cooked vegan, don’t start with this book, you will be overwhelmed with the number of steps and sometimes convoluted instructions, and recipes within a recipe, with varying results. If you have cooked vegan for years, there are a lot of recipes that you might like to try, and some good sauces and condiments. But be prepared to spend more time than the recipe states, and to add what you know it is going to need. Like onions! Or pepper. Not a candidate for my book shelf.
Ultimate Creamy Salt-and-Vinegar Scalloped Potatoes
Recipe from “O, She Glows for Dinner”
- 1 batch Garlic Cashew Cheese Sauce (below)
- 1 batch Vegan Parmesan (below)
- 2 pounds (900 g) Yukon Gold or yellow potatoes, peeled
- Fine sea salt
- A few generous pinches of fresh or dried thyme leaves, for garnish (optional)
Prepare the Garlic Cashew Cheese Sauce, followed by the Vegan Parmesan, and set both aside.
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Liberally oil a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish, making sure to coat the sides and bottom completely.
Using a mandoline, slice the peeled potatoes into very thin (less than ⅛-inch-thick/2 mm) slices (no thicker, or they’ll take a long time to cook through).
Spread a single layer of sliced potatoes over the bottom of the casserole dish, just barely overlapping, covering the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle a small pinch of salt over the sliced potatoes. Pour a scant 1 cup of the cashew cheese sauce over the potatoes so it covers the potatoes’ surface completely, using your fingers or the measuring cup to spread it out. The sauce will look thin and watery, but will thicken while baking.
Repeat this layering process until you have used all the sauce and sliced potatoes, five layers with sauce the last. It will look like too much sauce, but will firm up as it bakes.
Sprinkle all the parmesan over the sauce. Cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil., and cut slits in it to let the steam escape.
Bake for 1 hour, then remove the foil and check for doneness by sliding a knife into the center of the casserole. There should be no resistance; if there is, replace the foil and bake for 5 to 15 minutes more, then test again.
Serve with a sprinkling of thyme leaves, if desired.
For the Garlic Cashew Cheese Sauce:
Place one cup of cashews in a bowl and cover with boiling water for an hour, or soak in cold water overnight. Discard the water once soaked.
Transfer to a high-speed blender (I used my regular blender) and add 1 ½ cups water, ¾ cup (60 g) nutritional yeast, ¾ cup grapeseed oil, ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, ¼ cup white wine vinegar, 8 medium garlic cloves, 1 ¼ teaspoons fine sea salt, and 1 tablespoon sriracha (optional, but recommended). Blend for 1 to 2 minutes, until very smooth.
Note: all I tasted was nutritional yeast.
For the Vegan Parmesan
In a food processor, combine 1 medium garlic clove (4 g), ½ cup (80 g) raw cashews or pepitas, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, ¼ to ½ teaspoon fine sea salt. Process into a coarse meal, 10 to 15 seconds.
Festive Bread Free Stuffing Balls
Recipe from “O, She Glows for Dinner”
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 (8-ounce/225 g) package cremini mushrooms
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cups (25 g) stemmed kale leaves
- 1 cup (25 g) fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. (65 g) gluten-free rolled oats
- 1 (14-ounce/398 ml) can lentils, drained and rinsed, or 1 ½ c.
- 1 cup (100 g) walnut halves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon fresh, minced)
- 1/3 cup (40 g) dried cranberries, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) ground flax
- 2 1/2 teaspoons (12.5 ml) sherry vinegar
- 3/4 to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Add the oil to a large skillet and turn heat to medium. Finely chop the mushrooms until they’re roughly the size of peas. Add chopped mushrooms to the pot along with minced garlic and a pinch of salt. Stir until combined. Sauté for about 6 to 8 minutes, until the water from the mushrooms cooks off, reducing heat to low if necessary to prevent burning.
Meanwhile, put the kale and parsley into a food processor and p 20 to 25 times, until the size of almonds. Don’t overprocess. Transfer to a small bowl.
Finely chop the cranberries and add them to the bowl of greens.
To the processor (no need to clean it out!), add the rolled oats. Process until they resemble coarse flour, about 30 seconds. Add the drained lentils and walnuts to the processor and pulse 13 times, until the walnuts are pea sized. Set aside.
To the pot with the mushrooms and garlic, add the cranberry greens and herbs and sauté for a minute and turn off the heat.
Stir the flax and water together in a small cup, then add to the skillet and combine. Add the lentil mixture and combine, adding a little water if necessary, usually about 2 tbsp., so the dough sticks together easily. Salt and pepper to taste.
With wet hands, roll into 18 to 20 balls and place on prepared sheet.
Bake 20 to 23 minutes or until lightly golden on the bottom. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
All was not lost. I doused the stuffing balls in left-over pasta sauce and they tasted much better. I also took my husband’s suggestion and sliced the scalloped potatoes (now quite firm) and gave them a quick fry in olive oil at breakfast. Both turned out well.
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