Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Green Books Campaign Review - Sweet Utopia by Sharon Valencik

This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

Sweet Utopia by Sharon Valencik
published 2009
183 pages


These easy-to-make, sensational desserts are all lactose- and cholesterol-free. Now you can create the luscious flavors and familiar textures of traditional desserts without the use of eggs or dairy. Straightforward ingredients are used to create a variety of the best cakes, cookies, pies, puddings, and other treats. Full-color photos provide inspiration for making these tempting sweets.

My thoughts:

So, my first cookbook review, and I choose a vegan cookbook? I know, it's a little crazy - I'm not a vegan- but the idea of "better for me" desserts won me over, and I had to try it. The book itself is quite nice - large pictures for each recipe make it easy to see what you are trying to make, and I felt all the recipes were explained in a way that made them seem quite logical to follow. The "green" part of this book is, of course, that all the recipes are vegan, and also that the book itself is printed on paper that contains postconsumer recycled content, which apparently saved 89 trees.

The author gives many ideas and suggestions for the vegan cook, including what to do if you don't have the ingredients you need, substitutions for many of the ingredients, and the option to make most of the recipes with non-vegan ingredients if necessary. She states that all the specifically vegan ingredients are easy to find at your local grocery store, and for the most part I found that to be true. So, how are the recipes you ask?

The first recipe I tried was Chocolate-Pecan Paradise Pie. (Here's a picture of my finished product). It was described as looking like a thick brownie pie - I thought maybe it would be a cross between a brownie pie and a pecan pie. It was....not exactly that. I thought it tasted alright, but not really like what I expected when I read the recipe. There is molasses in the recipe, and I felt like that taste came through quite strong.

It wasn't bad, but not as fantastic as I would have hoped based on the description.

I also made the recipe for Pumpkin -Chocolate Chip Muffins, but left out the chips, and baked it into a loaf. (Again, my finished product - halfway eaten!) I thought this recipe was quite good, although not as good as other pumpkin bread recipes I've tried.

I also tried to make Cappuccino Custard, but that was a pretty serious fail. It required mixing of cornstarch and soy milk over medium heat - don't let the mixture come to a boil - don't let the mixture form lumps. I tried making this twice, and each time ended up with paste. I'm sure it was my own error, but didn't have the patience to try again.

I think if you are a vegan, or interested in starting a vegan lifestyle, this would probably be a great resource. For someone like myself, who was just an interested observer, I don't think the recipes are good enough to warrant purchasing the book. However, if eating vegan is something you are interested in, there is a lot of good information in this book, and I would recommend it.

Thanks to the publisher for sending my this book to review. If you are interested in learning more about the Green Books campaign, including a list of other books reviewed, make sure to visit their website!


Alyce said...

I almost requested this one, but then it occured to me that I would have to cook. LOL! I think you did a great job reviewing this book, and enjoyed reading about the three recipes that you tested out.

MarthaE said...

I just heard about the Green Books Campaign and think that is great.
Good job on this review!
I would have had to have my DH test the recipes as I don't cook. And he RARELY follows instructions! LOL

bermudaonion said...

My sister would probably enjoy this one - she's not a vegetarian, but she cooks a lot of meatless meals.

Anonymous said...

I loved seeing the photographs of the recipes you tried! I can't say that I'd love dairy free, but I would be interested in cholesterol free! (Some of the time, any way. ;)

jehara said...

my friend faith baked vegan cupcakes for the wedding using isa chandra moskowitz's vegan cupcakes take over the world. she made vanilla with vanilla buttercream frosting, chai latte and pumpkin chocolate chip. they all were super delicious, and i have had some not-so-delicious vegan treats. the pumpkin chocolate chip ones were definitely my favorite.

Nymeth said...

I'm not vegan either, but healthier desserts definitely sound appealing!

Anna said...

Not sure this is my cup of tea, but the cover photo makes me hungry!

Diary of an Eccentric

Serena said...

Sounds like an interesting book. Thanks for the review.

Anonymous said...

I admire you for 'going vegan' for this review! I always thought that I would be so much healthier if I'd go vegetarian, but I finally came to terms with the fact that my body wants a little meat. Love the Go Green campaign!

Zibilee said...

I have a friend who is a vegan who I think would *love* this book. I am glad that you tried out a few of the recipes and that they were good. This might make a good Christmas gift. Great review!

mark geddy smith said...

I am at a loss as to why someone would post a negative comment?! it's not only counterproductive and immature, but the simple fact is, as a person that worked as a chef in the 90's and went to culinary school, I'm a professional, and not even fond of vegan cooking; but nevertheless, these recipes are spectacular on any level-and beyond delicious. It's not that i don't respect a valuable or constructive critique—but such only has merit if the person is fond of/and capable of food preparation. the PROCESS. i think these are easy to follow recipes that are spectacular, but the negative post was indicative of an individual who seemingly can't make instant pudding.

sarah said...

The whole point of the book is to show that vegan desserts can be as delicious as any dessert can be. I have had a lot of these desserts, including the pecan pie and pumpkin muffins that you turned into loaf (a taboo!), and they were all phenomenal. Nobody would guess they were vegan. I served them all to nonvegans like myself and we all went wild. I highly recommend anyone buy this book. It is gorgeously photographed and the recipes are really easy to make, and everything I have had has been to die for. You really don't need eggs or dairy for delicious desserts. I am glad this book was printed and am giving them as gifts for the holidays.

veggiegirl said...

I have to disagree with your review of this book. I've been baking away like a madwoman after I bought Sweet Utopia, and everything I've made has been a huge success! I love baking and was happy to have another dessert cookbook to add to my collection. I've probably made about 15 of the recipes so far and haven't had a problem with any of them. Vegans and non-vegans alike have loved everything I've baked. I took two batches of cookies -Mocha Almond Chippers and Fudgy Chips - to work to share with my non-vegan office, and everyone absolutely loved them. In fact, one picky eater's response was "Holy s**t those were good." I made the Chocolate Pecan Paradise Pie for a Thanksgiving party. I lasted less than 5 minutes and everyone was moaning with delight as they ate it. A friend even asked if I would make another the next day! I've also made the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins which were absolutely delicious.

I recommend this book for everyone - vegan or not.