One of the most difficult aspects of becoming a vegetarian was how (I thought) meals and gatherings would change once I didn’t eat meat, as so many of the annual celebratory meals include it. A Christmas turkey, an Easter ham, or the roasts my mom would cook for me when I would fly back to Edmonton for a visit — it seems that the meat is front and centre. But what I’ve come to learn is that it’s not the food (really) it’s the people that are important. Food and fellowship go together, and, what Jessica Prescott‘s Vegan Goodness: Feasts does is to present recipes that foster sitting down with friends and family to eat and talk. Prescott offers a range of vegan recipes for entire meals, the perfect potluck sides, and all the extras (sauces, condiments, etc.).
What I appreciate about Vegan Goodness: Feasts is that none of the recipes are complex or overdone but the results look wonderful. Who knew that by poaching pears with frozen blueberries in water that you could end up with such swoon-worthy results? A deeply hued outer layer with a delicate, cream-coloured inside it, well, pairs perfectly with so many things. Making whole food ingredients shine using simple techniques is one way to invite home cooks of any ability to create beautiful meals.
With over 70 recipes, the book is organized into 9 main chapters: Brunches & Pit Stops, Grazing & Finger Foods, The Beloved BBQ, Meals to Build Together, Planning Ahead, Seven Sides & Seven Salads, Condiments, Sprinkles, & Basics, Special Occasion Sweet Treats, and, Six Simple Sips. Prescott also offers helpful information on Kitchen & Pantry Staples as well as Grain & Legume Cooking Times and Techniques at the beginning of the book. Often vegan cooking can be intimidating for first-time or non-vegans and what this book does is allow those who are new to this type of cooking and those who are well-practiced ways to be inspired without feeling overwhelmed. I found shopping for the recipes to be simple as the ingredients were easily sourced from my local market. Nothing that was difficult to find either.
While Vegan Goodness: Feasts presents a way to cook for gatherings big and small, I found that I have been leaning on the recipes for my day-to-day cooking. Instead of making all the components for her Bruschetta Forever sharing platter, I decided to mix-up the recipe for Garlic White Beans to serve on toast (bruschetta’s cousin!) with freshly sliced tomatoes. Such a quick and easy meal for a Saturday lunch! And, since I was out of cannellini beans, I used Romano beans instead — this is an example of one of those universal-type recipes where you can sub in any bean and still get a great result. Another recipe I was curious about was Prescott’s recipe for Tofu Feta. The recipe offers a great approximation of what actual feta tastes like — briny with a kiss of garlic, oregano, and dill. Once tofu is properly pressed of any extra moisture, cubed, and then left to marinate it has an eerily similar texture to feta. It’s been great to have on hand to add to salads and grain bowls.
For the past decade as I’ve lived life in the plant-based lane, I’ve tried just about every non-meat gravy there is (even improvised a few) and, what I’ve found is that often the gravy recipes are overly complicated (in the number of ingredients and steps) and lack in both flavour and texture. So, when we arrived home late yesterday afternoon with no firm plans for dinner, I quickly turned on the oven to get some veg roasting and I flipped to Prescott’s recipe for Onion Gravy. At first glance, the ingredient list was small and the directions short. As it turned out, it was one of the quickest gravy recipes I’ve ever made! I had the gravy ready in around 20 minutes and, when my husband and daughter came in from playing ball hockey, they couldn’t wait to try the cooking that smelled so good. Rich and velvety with so much flavour! Just how gravy should taste, and I could tell by daughter’s nod of approval that this is one recipe that I’ll hold onto.
Reading through Vegan Goodness: Feasts I’ve come to realize that what Prescott is aiming for are low-stress ways to feed people. For example, her recipe for Baked Coconut-Milk French Toast is perfect for a casual weekend brunch because once you pop the casserole dish into the oven you’ve got nothing but time to visit. As an added bonus everyone gets warm French Toast at the same time instead of frying it in batches and then trying to keep it warm in the oven until all the toast is cooked. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how this vegan version of a classic breakfast dish would turn out. As I drenched the thickly-sliced bread in the coconut milk-banana mixture it seemed soggy and I couldn’t imagine how it would turn out. Miraculously after baking for 1 hour and flipping the slices halfway through the resulting French Toast tasted great, and it had a very similar texture to its non-vegan counterpart.
This compact 8.3″x 8.3″ cookbook offers many great vegan menus and meal ideas for any type of gathering, celebration, or just a regular weeknight. Jessica Prescott inspires home cooks to use simple, whole food ingredients to create beautiful dishes to share with family and friends. Vegan Goodness: Feasts will expand your plant-based repertoire with delicious results. If you’re curious to see what my family and I have been feasting on then checkout the custom Instagram hashtag #eatworthyVGFeasts or my dedicated Facebook post.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Raincoast Books and Hardie Grant Books 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.