Have you ever visited the YumUniverse? I have! It is the most wonderful place created by Heather Crosby full of resources and experiences geared towards learning about and supporting plant based, gluten free eating. I first became acquainted with the YU a few years ago when Crosby published her first book: YumUniverse. At that time I was a new mom with a budding interest in cooking (I’ve spoken before about how the birth of our daughter made me more aware of the type of vegetarians we were — bread, pasta, and cheese — and how I realized that I wanted us to set a better nutritional example for her. After years of immersing myself in whole food, plant-based cooking I can say that our diet now is completely different than the one we started with) and I appreciated what a positive message Crosby put out into the world. Anything is possible and no limits should be placed on what plant-based eating could/should be defined as. She recognized how challenging it is for someone to face a lifetime of eating habits and traditions and embrace something new. Scary? Yup. But she’s got a whole support system set up on the YU — recipes, books, meal plans, etc — for you if you need it.
There is a misconception that plant-based eating is cult-like, which can be a little threatening to those who are new to this way of cooking and eating. Don’t worry — no borg-like chanting: “Join us! Join Us!” Those of you who are not gluten free or plant-based may be feeling like this doesn’t or won’t apply to you but here are the three words from Pantry to Plant that will open a whole new world for you: You do you. Simple. So simple. You take whatever way you feel most comfortable cooking and eating and you use this playbook and adapt the templates to suit you (as you will notice I use regular wraps and pasta — do what works for you). You make the rules!
What the Yum Universe Pantry to Plate cookbook is are a group of 30 recipe templates (I’ll explain this more in a moment) and 100 plant-based, gluten-free recipes that you can use to create amazing meals! Some cooks are really adept at cooking without recipes and knowing when to add certain ingredients and what flavour-profiles work together. This is what I really loved as soon as I opened this book — the “choose your own adventure” style of cooking presented in each template. My first “test” of the cookbook was to find a template that I could use to make supper. I hadn’t been to the grocery store and all I had was some homemade pesto, bell peppers, and zucchini. The template that seemed to match what I had in my fridge and pantry was the ‘Banzo Bakes (‘Banzo flour– short for garbanzo/chickpea — is used in this template to make a warming, comforting
, skillet of a meal. The look reminds me of a frittata and the texture reminds me a little of polenta). This template, just like all the others, begins with the must-have-no-matter-what ingredients and then it leads you through different options you can use (or not) to built your bake. While I could have served this with a side salad we ate it on it’s own — even my toddler ate her slice! By using the chickpea flour it was a great way to incorporate beans without having the texture of them. My first try using one of her templates was a success and it was fun! I was able to prepare this meal quickly, get it on our table, and have very few dishes to clean afterwards. For any busy people out there having no-fuss, home cooked meals is solid gold.
Someone out there may be thinking, “But I like using recipes!” That’s o.k.! For any template in the book she offers recipes that you can use too. For example, there are the recipes: Harissa Swirl ‘Banzo Bake or Rainbow Chard & Golden Raisin ‘Banzo Bake if templates aren’t your thing (yet). The point is that this cookbook is full to the brim with options that allow you to (as it states on the front cover) “Improvise Meals You Love from What You Have!”
Over the weekend I gave her recipe for Za’atar-Spiced Lentil Wrap a try and it was delicious! Wraps are a perfect, easy lunch — you can roll up a whole meal and toss your knife and fork! I loved the spiced lentils with the hummus and I thought the fresh veggies were a perfect accompaniment. Even with the recipes she gives suggestions to try — for this recipe she suggests mixing in some roasted veggies. Doesn’t that sound great?
One of the applications I see this cookbook lending itself well to is cooking with kids. As you can see in the photo below my three year old is adding ingredients to the Breakfast Cookies we’re making. I can only imagine that as she gets older (and her non-existent reading ability becomes existent!) template cooking like this will offer her opportunities to explore cooking in a way that no other cookbook-cooking could. Plus, what is more fun than being able to create your own dish from elements you choose? The scaffolding that the templates offer is perfect for the emerging cook. What a great way to get the whole family involved! Also kids can really develop good eating habits by learning to make and enjoy their own food!
While there are so many great things to make in the book (and I’ve barely even scratched the surface!) I have, um, “tested” the template for Cookies a couple of times. My first attempt had us gobbling down some fairly DELICIOUS Chocolate-Butternut Squash Cookies w/ coconut & chocolate chunks (and a hint of cinnamon). The next batch was so different but still sublime — Buckwheat Flour, Pecan, & Chocolate Chunk Cookies. So. Many. Options. I think this is may favourite thing (or at least one of my favs) from this cookbook.
The first thirty or so pages of Pantry to Plate help to introduce you to what the cookbook is all about from tips & tricks, techniques, to ingredients and homemade staples. All this background information really helps when you start to freestyle from her recipe playbook. The rest of the book is organized into 4 main chapters: Good Morning, YumUniverse!, Munch & Lunch, Main Meals, and Sweet Tooth. If you’re curious to see what I’ve been whipping up from Pantry to Plate, check out my special Instagram hashtag #theeatworthyyumuniverse or visit my Facebook page — as I cook I’ll keep adding pictures!
As I’ve been showing this book to my friends what has made them really curious is the idea that they won’t need an entirely new pantry of ingredients and that the templates and recipes offer a comprehensive but uncomplicated way to make delicious, whole-food meals. YumUniverse Pantry to Plate is a great primer for anyone wanting to build on their cooking skills or just to change up the same-old recipes that are in rotation week-in-week-out.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank The Experiment Publishing for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.