Beans beans the magical fruit. The more you eat the more you… LIVE! Beans are loaded with protein and fiber among other important nutrients we all need. “The USDA recommends that adults eat more than three cups of beans each week for maximum health benefits three times more than the current average American consumption.” You can easily surpass 3 cups a week with this cookbook. The Great Vegan Bean Book contains any and every dish you can ever imagine using beans in one book. Even DESSERT! I’m sure everyone has heard of using black beans in brownies. Blah, blah, blah. Well, this cookbook goes beyond that. This cookbook was written by Kathy Hester, whom wrote The Vegan Slow Cooker. I absolutely love The Vegan Slow Cooker so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book.
My one complaint about the book are the cooking methods. Kathy is a genius when it comes to the slow cooker but that genius doesn’t always translate well to the stove or oven. I had a few issues with the recipes I chose which I will get into. Other than that I found GVBB to be a wonderful addition to my collection. Her flavor combinations are always spot on. I also love the unique pairings that she comes up with. The number one reason I wanted this book was that 99.99% of the recipes are either soy-free or has a soy-free option. Most of the recipes are also gluten-free. For those concerned with consuming an excess amount of oil almost all of the recipes are oil-free or you can simply substitute the oil using water or broth. Another bonus: beans are cheap! So if you’re on a budget, like we are, then consider this cookbook to be your friend.
Kathy must be a bean expert. She provides loads of information about beans in the beginning. She even offers some solutions to the “side effect” of consuming beans (don’t pretend like you don’t know what I mean). So no using that as an excuse for not getting your 3 cups a week. Since dried beans are more economical, not to mention a healthier option, than canned beans Kathy gives detailed instructions on how to cook each bean, as different beans require different cooking times. I highly recommend ditching the canned beans. I started cooking my beans from scratch a few months ago and I will never use canned again. It’s easy (especially if you have a slow cooker), budget-wise, and healthier.
Before having GVBB in my possession I never knew there was such a thing as an heirloom bean. It turns out there are several varieties of interesting beans in existence. Of course, these neat beans do cost more than the usual ones we are all familiar with but now I’m curious and would love to try some of the ones she suggests. Kathy has a list of online resources in the back of where you can find such beans if you happen to also be curious of how to obtain them.
Now for the recipes…
1. Double Chocolate Devil’s Food Cookies (Bean-A-Licious Sweet Treats, p. 172)
The day after I received this book I was looking through all the recipes and came to the desserts. I happened to have all the ingredients on hand and I was craving chocolate so I gave it a try. Well, I didn’t have the chocolate chips but I figured carob chips would work just as well. I made the cookies slightly bigger than she instructs so I came out with 28 instead of the 36 it yields. They turned out to be light and fluffy resembling muffin tops which is why I have nicknamed them. These may be the easiest cookies I have ever made. It took a very short time to make. We thoroughly enjoyed devouring them within 24 hours.
2. Inside-Out Enchilada Casserole (Casseroles, Pastas, and More, p. 136)
You know me and my Mexican food. I couldn’t pass up this recipe. The seasonings and ingredients consist of everything I use on a daily basis and probably things that are in your pantry as well. I appreciate the addition of a veggie not commonly found in enchiladas. You can swap that veggie out for another if you prefer. I did have a problem with the tortillas (as you can see) which has nothing to do with the recipe. Kathy does mention if you hate rolling enchiladas skip that step and turn it into a layered casserole; exactly what I had to do halfway through struggling with the bad tortillas I got. I believe the cooking time on the stove before he goes into the oven was too long so I shortened it and everything worked out. One of the main reasons I wanted to try this recipe was because of the Vegan Cashew-Bean Queso that you make for the topping. I should have greased my baking pan though. I didn’t think I needed to but the queso stuck pretty bad to my Pyrex. Although this was messy and looks nothing like the picture it was still delicious. Looks don’t matter half as much taste.
3. Vegan Cashew-Bean Queso (Noshy Beans, p. 58)
This queso is amay-za-zing! I love everything about it. I was surprised at how creamy it came out as well. I didn’t think is was going to be since she does not have you soak the cashews. I did however add more spiciness to it since we love our food to be nose-dripping hot. In the recipe for the enchilada casserole she suggests adding more liquid to make the queso thinner and more pourable. Well, I did and it was. It turned out perfectly. I can’t wait to make this again!
4. Creamy Chickpea and Rice Casserole (Casseroles, Pastas, and More, p. 139)
I had the biggest issue with this recipe. It calls for a Dutch oven or oven-safe pot because it starts out on the stove and finishes in the oven. I am not lucky enough to own a Dutch oven so I used the only pot that I thought was also oven-safe. The pot worked but the recipe didn’t for some reason. The casserole is to bake in the oven for an hour then all is supposed to be well and done and ready to serve. Unfortunately, the rice was not done and it wasn’t even close to being done. I had to finish it back on the stove letting it boil for 30 minutes and it was still a little crunchy. Other than that this dish was excellent it just took a really long time. It was definitely creamy thanks to a special ingredient I have never used in a casserole before. The recipe calls for a DIY Poultry Seasoning that Kathy provides in the first section of the book. Somehow I overlooked this and used a spice blend I purchased from Penzey’s called Creamy Peppercorn Dressing Base. I liked it since it added a strong pepper taste and it was perfect since the casserole is creamy to begin with. If I make this again I will probably skip the oven step and cook it all the way through on the stove to see if it helps with the rice.
5. Pineapple Rum Beans over Coconut Lime Sweet Potatoes (Sultry Stews and Hearty Chilis, p. 114)
As I was flipping through the book figuring out what I wanted to make first this recipe really stood out. As I previously stated, Kathy’s flavor combinations and unique pairings make her recipes irresistible. This recipe is no different. I hardly cook with alcohol since we don’t drink much but I happened to have a mini bottle of rum in the pantry so this was perfect. I never would have thought to throw all of these wonderful flavors together but it all works magically. I didn’t change a thing for this recipe and you shouldn’t either.
6. Blueberry Almond Oatmeal Pancakes (Morning Beans, p. 44)
I loved these pancakes! I lucked out and actually had the flours it calls for. We aren’t gluten-free so it’s rare we have different gluten-free flours in the pantry. These pancakes are completely gluten-free as long as you get gluten-free oats. My husband made these but I know that they took quite a while to cook. We have an electric griddle that we use to cook pancakes on and he had it set to 350 degrees. Still they are worth it. Also, I believe he used a 1/3 measuring cup to scoop out the batter and we ended up with 13 pancakes instead of the 10 it yields. We never have pancakes leftover so this was nice that it made so much. I was able to have a quick breakfast the next morning. Always a plus since I don’t have a lot of time to eat breakfast on the days I’m taking care of Twila by myself. You must try these pancakes. We had breakfast sausage seitan (take a peek at the previous post if you’re curious about that) along with ours.
7. Beluga Lentil Borscht (Nutritious Soups, p. 72)
This may sound dumb but I never considered lentils to be a bean. If they’re in this book they must be. I’m okay with that, I love me some lentils! Just as the title of this section says this is one nutritious soup. I don’t have much to say about this one other than it is a fabulous cold-night-warm-you-up cozy kind of soup. Something I love about this recipe is that Kathy also gives you directions to make it in the slow cooker! We all know I love my slow cooker (if you didn’t now you do). However, I made it on the stove. She suggests topping off your bowl with some vegan sour cream or her recipe of Cashew Cream (also in the book). Instead I used a plain coconut yogurt from So Delicious. Their plain Greek style yogurt is pretty similar to sour cream in my opinion. I will definitely be making this soup again!
8. Summer Solstice Oven Pesto Risotto (with Winter Variation) (Casseroles, Pastas, and More, p. 155)
Last but not least, another rice dish. This recipe has the same cooking method that gave me problems with the Creamy Chickpea and Rice Casserole. I wanted to give it another shot. I’m glad I did! The rice didn’t have a problem cooking in the oven with this recipe which leaves me to conclude that the reason the other didn’t work is because it was long-grain brown rice. You have to be careful with this one though. Kathy warns not to leave it in the oven too long or it will get mushy. Well, I left it in there a little too long and it got mushy. I really don’t care though I still enjoyed it. If you love risotto and hate standing over the stove stirring constantly until it’s done then give this recipe a try. I did opt for the winter variation by using acorn squash instead of the summer veggie it calls for. It worked just fine. When I make this again I would like to add a little more seasoning. It tasted slightly bland but that’s just me. I have to kick everything up a notch with some hot sauce.
In conclusion I do recommend this book. Pro: easy to follow instructions. Con: some adjustments may be needed with instructions. Overall there are too many good recipes to pass up in this book. A few hiccups will not stop me from enjoying the rest! To reiterate this book is a must-have for those on a budget and those who are looking for tasty soy-free/gluten-free/oil-free vegan dishes. I don’t share recipes because I feel that is not my place to do so since I’m not authorized to. However, some of the recipes I discussed here can be found online. Click here to go to Kathy’s website where she does have some of these recipes.