|I absolutely LOVE this photo!
As most of you guys know, bloggers in general don’t get paid in money to do what they do best. Instead, they get paid in freebies- or in my case cookbooks! Basically, most of my days consist of cooking my way through a cookbook or a couple cookbooks simultaneously. My husband doesn’t seem to mind as every day he gets to experience something new on his plate and as always, he loves to give me his input. This past month or so was no different except for this time, Chuck knew that if the recipe came from Chef AJ’s book, Unprocessed, he knew it was a guaranteed winner!
|If you see this book on the shelf…GRAB IT!!!
I should actually take a moment here to clarify that my husband is not the kind of guy to tell me everyday that the meal I made for him was good like a well-programmed robot. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Sometimes he can come off as brutally honest as Simon Cowell. So needless to say, when he brags about Chef AJ’s recipes like the way he would with the likes of Sarah Kramer and Isa Chandra Moskowitz, I know I have something special that is going to grace my personal cookbook shelves for a VERY long time. Also, I did the ultimate test of serving some of Chef AJ’s dishes to non-vegans (I’m talking full-on “meat n’ potatoes” kind of friends who are actually my best critics!) and had a lot of success!
Now enough about what others think about Unprocessed…From my point of view, as a woman who is not a professional chef and would consider herself above average in the kitchen, I felt that Chef AJ tackles a lot of reader concerns from not having fancy restaurant grade equipment to not having access to a health food store. All of the ingredients in her book I bought from my local Farmer’s Market or at any grocery store. If there was an ingredient you weren’t familiar with, Chef AJ gives a great explanation or substitute! The recipes are based solely from whole, unprocessed foods (nothing from a box!)…it can’t get any simpler than that! I talk to a lot of people about food on a daily basis and based on the feedback I get, the only way a cookbook can really be beneficial and work out for the reader is that it has to be simple and the ingredients have to be accessible, even if they live in the middle of nowhere. Another rising issue that I hear a lot about are food allergies/intolerances or parents who have children who are going to schools that are completely tree nut free. Well, Chef AJ is already a couple steps ahead of you and the modifications are very simple in her recipes. Literally there are no excuses to not buy this book…There is definitely something delicious for everyone!
When you read the first few pages of Unprocessed, you get the opportunity to meet Chef AJ and learn about her journey that lead her to being such a gifted chef. In her introduction, she comes off as very honest and straight forward like a best friend and I guarantee that you will finish reading her story feeling inspired to make every recipe in her book. There was an incident in the book that really hit home for me and that was Chef AJ’s struggle to have children (For those of you just reading my blog, I mention my struggle in earlier posts and being a mom is still a miracle to me). During that portion of her story, I had to put down the book a few times to cry. It was like you wanted to reach through those pages and give her a HUGE hug of comfort and reassurance. Despite the deck of cards she was given in life, she really found her calling and I believe she is going to change the way people think about healthy (no oil, salt or sugar) vegan cuisine.
Now onto the food…Many of you who have gotten hooked on this blog were originally brought here by Rip Esselstyn and the Engine 2 Diet. This book follows pretty much the same guidelines but there is literally no oil, salt, or sugar (unlike the exception of cooking spray, raw/brown sugar, and salt in E2). I am sure once you read the “no oil, no salt, no sugar” you are probably thinking…bland, right? This was far from the case!!! In fact, I found these recipes to be far more flavorful than the ones in the Engine 2 Diet book. Like I mentioned before, I served Chef AJ’s recipes to every type of person (health conscious and not) and had nothing but success. The food was so good that it barely ever made it to my formal dining room table for proper photographs. I did somehow manage to get Chuck to take a few photos of Chef AJ’s Hail to the Kale Salad before we ate it all…
I tried virtually all the smoothies in her book as most of them were ingredients I had on hand (freezing overly ripe fruit for smoothies is a great money saver!) so most of them served as my breakfast on most mornings. All of them were very delicious and I just recently was able to make the Pumpkin Pie Smoothie as I had some leftover canned pumpkin in the fridge. I am in such a fall mood right now that I will say that it’s my current favorite 😉 The Baked Tortilla Chips were the only chips I ever made without oil that ever turned out crispy like a potato chip and it goes great with salsa! I did make the Spicy Peanut Noodles with Broccoli but I modified it by adding other vegetables like red peppers, Haricot Verts (also known as a very thin green bean!), and anything else I had on hand. There was at least 3 1/2 pounds of vegetables in it after I was done! The noodles were definitely a crowd pleaser and it wasn’t overly spicy…more like a subtle kick. I also made the bRAWnies (not a typo!) for a vegan potluck that was probably the most requested recipe of the event! Before I was finished cooking my way through this book, I had to make Chef AJ’s infamous Disappearing Lasagna. I will tell you, my husband and I are not biggest lasagna eaters. We will have lasagna once in a while but it’s not something we crave. Needless to say, after having the Disappearing Lasagna (I made the cannellini bean version) this will definitely be in heavy rotation on our dinner menu. On a personal note, I have a friend in my vegan meetup group who is allergic to BOTH wheat and soy and I felt that if I served this meal at a future potluck she would have tears of joy 🙂
Now with all this positive feedback I will reveal my only complaint…That is my frustration with cooking with gluten free noodles. No matter what you do, those suckers like to stick to each other!!! I know this isn’t Chef AJ’s fault but I know some of her recipes suggest I use gluten free noodles. Granted, I could easily just go and use regular noodles but I like a good culinary challenge and if anyone out there reading this knows how to prevent overly sticky gluten free noodles, I would be forever thankful!!!
To conclude my review of Unprocessed, I would like to end this post by giving you more information on Chef AJ and letting all vegan chefs and vegan cookbook hopefuls know that I am available to cook my way through your books (and I am VERY honest with my reviews!) and also help with any part of the “recipe guinea pig” or test cooking process by emailing me. So enough about me- more on the lovely Chef AJ…
The Chef and the Dietician YouTube show (my personal fav)
Chef AJ’s Healthy Kitchen (another great Chef AJ site!)