The premise is quite simple. Eat more fruits and vegetables, limit meat to one meal a day, cook more often, and avoid processed or refined foods as much as you can. In VB6 (Vegan Before 6), New York Time’s Mark Bittman lays out his strategies for better eating and healthy living with simple recipes. The first half of the book is a compilation of Bittman’s research on the vegan-way, the health benefits of his new lifestyle, de-villainise carbs, and provides helpful calorie and vitamin charts as well a 28-day meal plan. The remaining half are the recipes.
The titled philosophy, Vegan Before 6, should be taken lightly. Eating vegan throughout the day and indulging in meat (and dairy) for dinner is what worked for Bittman. While his approach will not work for everyone, simply increasing the amount of vegetables (and decreasing processed food) should result in some noticeable improvement to your metabolism and overall health. Makes sense.
Below are three recipes I’ve tried. They were all easy to follow and very versatile.
Breakfast & Snacking: Fruity Nut Butter
Have you ever wanted to make your own nut butter? It’s surprisingly easy provided you have a food processor. Bittman’s suggestion to add fruit and lemon juice lightens the spread (reduces calorie density of the nuts) and gives it a bright, fresh note. I went for a combination of almond and cashew with frozen mangoes. My spread came out a bit too watery – I should have thawed out the mangoes or increased the amount of nuts for a creamier texture. (Other combinations are apple & walnut, pear & pecan, apricot & pistachio, blueberry & macadamia nut.)
Building Block: D.I.Y. Bread
The Building Block section of the book provides a list of recipes for altering as you see fit. They’re quite basic at first glance, but they make up the core dishes all homecooks should know. The recipes include a tomato sauce easily transformed into a salsa, marinara or a meat sauce, a vegetable stock, and instructions on cooking grains and beans. Since I’ve been on a search for more bread recipes, I couldn’t pass on his D.I.Y. Bread. The same dough can be used to make sandwich loaves, flatbreads, and even breadsticks! I added fresh thyme, dried basil, diced scotched bonnet peppers (Jamaican chile), and minced garlic to what became a focaccia. It had a good crust and moist crumbs, and most important of all, flavour.
Lunch: Now or Later Vegan Burgers
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the chickpeas vegan burger was disappointing. The texture was too mushy, it didn’t firm up as much as I wanted to, making it rather awkward to eat in sandwich form. I would rather break it down like a crumbled sausage and eat it on top of a bowl of steamed broccoli…or maybe add it to a sauce.
Like all of his recipes, you can replace the chickpeas with any other types of beans…red kidney beans, lentils will all work. Carrots are replaceable with squash or sweet potatoes. You can add any types of spices, I went for a Jamaican spice mix, but chile powder or toasted crushed cumin are lovely options as well.
To be honest, I’m not convinced vegan or vegetarian burgers are worth making. If I wanted vegetables or beans in between buns, I’d rather have them whole and roasted to keep them crunchy for some texture…it’s just unappealing to bite into a mushy thing.
By the way, there are no pictures in the book! Not that it matters. VB6 is more of a resource guide than a cookbook. It’s chock full of information and devoid of that mild condescending tone some vegan proponents wield when discussing their diets…
VB6 goes on sale today. It’s worth a look if you’re near any Chapters Indigo.
Disclaimer: I received the book for review from Random House Canada. All opinions expressed are my own.