Sometimes you get a feel for a person as soon as you meet them. When I first “met” Leah Vandervedlt, it was over an email exchange. She was looking for recipe testers for her upcoming book (which would become The New Nourshing) and I gladly volunteered. It was through this exchange that I discovered what a genuinely kind and earnest person she is. I ended up testing a couple recipes for the book — the Sweet Potato Falafels and Chickpea & Chocolate Chip Cookies. Like the author herself, these recipes were humble yet inventive and interesting. She had taken classic dishes and re-imagined them using very popular ingredients (the sweet potato and the chickpea, respectively) thus resulting in dishes that are delicious but not run-of-the-mill.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with her, Leah is a former food editor at the site Mind Body Green as well as the creator of her own site The Nourish Exchange. It’s through this sphere of health and wellness that she looks to encourage others to be kind to themselves while exploring ways to nourish our bodies with “badass” vegetables. After reading her introduction to The New Nourishing I totally agree with her idea that in order to “foster healthy connections” between our cravings and the foods we eat, we need to explore plant-based cooking that incorporates whole foods, herbs and spices. What is really nourishing — to both mind and body — are foods that create taste through fresh ingredients, seasoning, and texture. There’re no diet secrets here just a way to take care of your body by eating foods that make you feel good. No guilt. No shame. Just nourishment.
Aren’t you going to write your review? is what my husband asked me last week after dinner. I think he sensed that I’ve been lingering with this book by continuing to try recipes. Normally, I aim to try around 10 recipes from any given cookbook and then I get to writing a review. What I’ve found with The New Nourishing is that her recipes really lend themselves to weeknight cooking because they are easy to prepare and appeal to the whole family. I was overjoyed that my three-year-old loved the things I made — even with new-to-us ingredients (such as plantain) nothing seemed “weird” or unappetizing. So who doesn’t appreciate family-friendly, low-stress meals?
In the first chapter called The Basics there are the building blocks of many of the other recipes throughout the book — whether the elements are protein (beans, tofu), dressings, sauces & dips, or toppings that add flavour/texture. For example, her recipe for Barbecue Black Beans (pictured above) while tasty on their own are most delicious when they’re part of other recipes (such as the Plantain Bowl (pictured below) or the Vegetable-Loaded Nachos). The rest of the book is organized by — Breakfasts, Soups & Stews, Big Bowls, Entertaining, Savoury Snacks for Sharing, and Desserts & Sweet Treats.
It’s autumn and I’ve been craving so many fall-foods — take this Autumn Butternut Squash Noodle Bowl. By creating the “noodles” from spirialized squash and adding the earthy goodness of the mushrooms you end up with such a cozy and satisfying meal. When choosing a squash for this recipe, I found that a butternut squash with a long neck is the best. I had also chosen one that was a bit on the small-side and I found that after I put it through the spirializer I still ended up with a fair amount of “noodles”. The last little bit of squash that didn’t go through the spirializer got chopped up and put into the oven with the bottom part (which was peeled, deseeded and chopped at her suggestion so that it could be later used for other recipes or just as a salad topping). I loved that this recipe took a well-used, well-loved ingredient and made an entirely new dish. This dish provides all the comfort of a traditional pasta dish but with the extra, nourishing boost from the squash.
Even with her desserts she uses simple ingredients in a way that the final dish is satisfyingly sweet yet wholesome. Fruits, nuts, chocolate are predominately used. The cookies are fantastic (and tbh I “tested” that recipe many times — you know, just to be sure it was that good) and another favourite of mine were the Coconut Cream Peach Parfaits w/ Maple Crunch Granola. At first I was concerned that the coconut cream would make the parfait seem too rich but as soon as I tried it I realized that it was the perfect counterpoint to the sweet, juicy peaches and the crunchy granola (and it was a refreshing change to yogurt-based parfaits). Instead of denying dessert cravings these “sweets” look to fulfill those desires. No guilt or dessert-denying here because she’s redefined what indulgence is and what it’s not.
In terms of sourcing ingredients I found it very easy and not expensive. Even something that I had never eaten or cooked with before — plantains — were easily found at my local grocery store and for a very inexpensive price (two plantains were $1.50 cdn — and only one was needed for the recipe). I also appreciated how ingredients had cross-purposes — for example the butternut squash became noodles for one dish and a nacho topping in another. Even the BBQ Black Beans could be used in several recipes. What does this ultimately mean for home cooks? Loads of time saved!
All of the recipes are plant-based (which is a new term referring to foods that are vegetarian, sometimes people use it to describe a mostly-vegan diet). For the most part, the recipes in the book are vegan and a few use eggs or dairy (such as yogurt). However any non-vegan ingredients can be subbed for or omitted entirely without damaging the integrity of the recipe. If you’re curious to see what I’ve been cooking up from The New Nourishing, checkout my custom Instagram hashtag: #newnourishingiseatworthy or my dedicated Facebook post. As usual I’ll keep adding photos of any new dishes I cook up.
One things I keep touching on this year as I review cookbooks is the idea that the ways in which I experienced food as a child are quite different than the ways my child experiences food. Mainly due to the fact we’re vegetarian and I wasn’t raised as one. I’ve struggled with finding recipes that are both nourishing and comforting and kid-friendly. What I’ve found is that The New Nourishing has helped me to redefine what “comfort food” means and has helped me to push the boundaries of my daughter’s palate. To my (happy) surprise: she enjoys trying new things (it also doesn’t hurt that these recipes are delicious)! This is one cookbook that I’ll continue to enjoy because the recipes taste really great and they lend themselves well to everyday cooking.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Leah Vanderveldt and Ryland, Peters, & Small 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.