Can a vegan diet taste delicious and leave you feeling satisfied, even if you don’t add any fat to the dishes? According to Lindsay S. Nixon: yes. The vegan New Yorker’s new cookbook, “The Happy Herbivore,” is not only all vegan but also extremely low fat. And from the recipes I’ve tried making so far, I’ve concluded that no-added-fat vegan dining can indeed be delicious!
In her introduction to the book, Nixon reveals that she is against cooking with oil; she believes most added fats (including extra virgin olive oil, when heated) are dangerous to health. Whether or not you agree with her, the gorgeous four-color photos of the scrumptious-looking vegan dishes in “Happy Herbivore” will make you want to give low-fat vegan dining a try.
For lunch today, I had the African Kale and Yam Soup — a flavorful and satisfying dish rich enough to work as a meal. The recipe begins by water-sauteing thinly sliced onions — sans cooking oils! I worried that the complete lack of added oils might make a bland and thin soup — but I enjoyed the unique mix of spices and the comforting mix of kale and yams.
But can low-fat recipes work for vegan desserts? I got an answer to that question last week, when I baked a dozen Strawberry Cupcakes using the "Happy Herbivore" recipe for a dinner for four. Again, the cupcakes had no added fat — just what was in the flour and soy milk. Yet everyone at the table — after a filling meal — ate two cupcakes each. None were vegan; one called the cupcakes “magical.”
Did the cupcakes taste exactly like “conventional” cupcakes? No. They required less sugar and were made with whole wheat flour — giving the cupcakes a more chewy texture and less cloyingly sweet taste, features preferred by people like me. No one noticed that the cupcakes had no added fat, but everyone was surprised to discover each cupcake had fewer than 160 calories before the icing.
The 175+ recipes in “The Happy Herbivore” all have nutritional information at the bottom of the pages, and come with symbols letting you know if a dish is fat-free, gluten-free or soy-free. I’m not vegan or averse to cooking with olive oil, but I think I’ll be consulting “The Happy Herbivore” for delicious veg-friendly recipes a lot this year.