Fuss-Free Vegan: Book Review and Recipe

We love comfort food in our house and have a go-to group of recipes we make often.  Recently I was given the opportunity to review a newly released cookbook focusing on everyday comfort foods.  Even more interesting, all the recipes are vegan.  I was so excited to have a look at it and make some of the recipes.  I’m always looking for more plant based healthy recipes.

Fuss-Free Vegan was written by Sam Turnbull, creator of the very successful It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken blog. She wanted the recipes in her cookbook to be hearty, satisfying, simple, scrumptious, quick, easy and most importantly trustworthy.  She uses real ingredients that can be found in any grocery store, making it easy to make these dishes for dinner tonight. Sam basically created vegan versions of comfort food favorites that are easy to make, easy to serve and easy to love!

Rice Paper Bacon
Rice paper Bacon

I tried four recipes from the cookbook.  The first recipe I tried was the Insanely Good Rice Paper Bacon.  Ok, well, I have to agree, it is insanely good, easy to make and…I already had all the ingredients I needed to make it in my pantry.  It is so creative and unique, I was quite blown away.  The sauce, alone, could be added to other dishes to give them that irresistible smoky flavour.

Another recipe I made was the Macho Nacho Popcorn Seasoning.  It is awesome and my panel of popcorn loving taste testers heartily approved of it.  I love nooch and vegan parmesan but had never experimented with turning it into a seasoning mix.  It can be used anywhere you want that awesome nacho flavouring –  tortilla chips, on top of tacos and other Mexican dishes, or on popcorn.  So easy and simple!

Umami Lettuce Wraps (photo by Sam Turnbull, used with permission)
Umami Lettuce Wraps (photo by Sam Turnbull, used with permission)

I love finding great recipes that use lentils, and this one is a keeper!  Again, using ingredients I already had at home, I made these delicious Oh Mommy Umami Lettuce Wraps.  Flavours of ginger, soy and sesame infuse the lentils along with optional hot sauce.  They are then served in fresh lettuce leaves. They were the perfect light, simple, kid-approved lunch, and they only took about 25 minutes to make.  The best part is, thanks to Sam, I get to share this recipe with you!

I also made the Easy Tofu Frittata.  Although the dish was colourful, and the flavours of mushrooms, spinach and red pepper were nice, my family really didn’t care for the texture.

I only made a small sample of what the cookbook offers. There are many unique and creative recipes. I’m looking forward to trying the creme brûlée, mushroom philly, the bbq veggie burger and several of the vegan cheeses.  Sam has a sweet, happy, fun style that makes this cookbook a very enjoyable read. Overall, Fuss-Free Vegan is a very approachable cookbook that offers great ideas for easy, vegan comfort cooking.


Serves 4


¼ cup soy sauce (gluten-free, if preferred)

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 Tbsp agave or maple syrup

2 tsp sesame oil

½ tsp your favorite hot sauce (optional)

1 Tbsp light oil, like peanut or canola oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 cup red lentils

2 cups vegetable broth

½ cup walnuts, chopped


1 head of butter lettuce or iceberg lettuce, leaves separated but kept whole

1 medium carrot, cut into match- sticks or grated

2 green onions, chopped

2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds


  1. For the sauce, in a small bowl, mix the ingredients together and set aside.
  2. For the lentils, heat the oil in a frying pan over medium – high heat.  When hot, add the onion, garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, until the onion softens and begins to brown.
  3. Stir in the lentils and then the vegetable broth.  Turn the heat to medium – low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes, until all the broth is absorbed and the lentils are cooked.  Stir in the walnuts and about half of the sauce mixture, or to taste.
  4. To serve, take a leaf of lettuce, fill it with the lentil – walnut mixture, top with carrot, green onions, and sesame seeds, and spoon as much sauce as desired over it all.  Fold it like a taco and munch away.

Recipe from Fuss Free Vegan: 101 Everyday Comfort Food Favorites, Veganized. Copyright © 2017 Samantha Turnbull. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Thanks to Sam for providing a complimentary copy of Fuss Free Vegan to me for my review.  All opinions are my own.


Pickled Beets

These quick pickled beets will instantly add bursts of colour to your table. Use them to top a citrus or green salad or add to a sandwich or burger.  They look so fancy, but they only take 30 minutes to make. I’m already planning more to give as gifts.

The November Recipe Redux challenge is to make a sweet or savory, naturally colored, nutritious dish. I instantly thought beautiful dark red beets would be the perfect choice for this challenge. Beets are in season right now and I couldn’t resist getting some different varieties.  I think the mix is even prettier!

I am using beets more than I ever have before and in so many more ways than in soup.  They can be added to veggie burgers, smoothies, hummus, or even juiced. Beets are also wonderful for baking. Pureed cooked beets can be added to cakes or brownies where they add a delicious moist texture. How do you use beets?

Red, Gold and Pink Beets
Red, Gold and Pink Beets cut various ways for Beet Pickles

A mandoline slicer is helpful to slice the beets evenly and cleanly.  I used it to cut the golden beets.  I added the julienne slicer to the mandoline to cut the red beets.  For the white and red striped beets (pink) I used a spiralizer.  Prepare the beets first by washing, trimming the ends and any blemishes off.  Peeling is not necessary but I did peel the yellow beets to show off their gorgeous golden colour.

Pickled Beets
Pickled Beets

Pickled Beets

Makes 3 jars

6 beets

Zest from 2 oranges

2 inch piece of ginger, sliced

12 black peppercorns

3 allspice berries

6 whole cloves

2 cups vinegar

2 cup water

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

Directions:  Wash jars and set aside while you prepare the beets.  Wash beets, trim ends and peel if you prefer.  Cut them as you like and pack into jars.

Prepare brine by heating water, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices.  Heat until boiling and simmer until salt and sugar are dissolved.  Pour on top of beets and let cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate at least 1 week to develop flavours and up to 1 month.

Check out all the colourful, healthy sweet and savoury dishes by following this link: recipe-redux-linky-logo

Roasted Squash with Hazelnuts and Pomegranate

This beautiful dish is perfect for a special occasion but it is so easy and delicious that it really works for any day.  It makes a wonderful side dish, and could be used as a main dish or as part of a salad. It can be served either hot or at room temperature.  Don’t you just love the versatility? You need this!

I love to use buttercup squash for this dish. In the stores, it is often labeled as kabocha.  Buttercup squash has the deepest, most intense, orange colour and thick dense flesh that when roasted has a buttery, slightly sweet, slightly nutty, very satisfying flavour.  It is not a watery squash and roasts beautifully, much like a root vegetable, firm but tender and creamy inside.  Simply roasted with orange zest, olive oil, salt and pepper, that alone is a delicious dish.  Top it with hazelnuts and pomegranate arils and you really have something special.

Hazelnuts add richness and make the recipe more substantial.  They have a mild, sweetly nutty taste and add some crunch. Roasting improves the elegant, distinctive flavour.  To roast hazelnuts place on a baking sheet in a low oven, about 300° for 10 to 12 minutes or until they smell toasty.  When cool enough to handle, rub the hazelnuts between your hands to remove the skins. I have tried towels but find it really makes a mess of my towels and my hands work just as well.  I suggest roasting more than you need because it will be hard to resist sampling them.

The finishing touch is the pomegranate.  Lively, sweet, tart, garnet coloured arils from pomegranate add some acidity that balances the creamy squash and rich nuts.  This unique fruit brightens the flavours of the whole dish and most importantly makes it pretty!  Although there are several methods of getting the arils out of the pomegranate, I prefer to make a small cut in the flower end (the end that looks like a little crown), enough to open it up with my hands and pull the pomegranate apart.  It naturally breaks into section pieces and preserves most of the arils intact.  Although it is unlikely that we would ever find a farm that grows squash, hazelnuts and pomegranate, somehow they are all in season at the same time and taste terrific together.

Roasted Squash with Hazelnuts and Pomegranate
Roasted Squash with Hazelnuts and Pomegranate

To turn this dish into a salad, start with a bed of salad greens and top with roasted squash, hazelnuts and pomegranate. Dress lightly with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of fresh orange juice, salt and pepper. Toss together and serve.  So easy and so delicious.

Roasted Squash Hazelnut and Pomegranate Salad
Roasted Squash Hazelnut and Pomegranate Salad

Roasted Squash with Hazelnuts and Pomegranate

Serves 8

6 cups buttercup squash*, cut into cubes (about 1/2 large buttercup squash)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Zest of 1 large orange

Fresh black pepper

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts

1/4 cup pomegranate arils

Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

*Other squash or even pumpkin will work but the texture may vary.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper. Put olive oil, orange zest, black pepper and salt in a large bowl.  Mix together and add squash cubes.  Toss to coat and spread out on baking sheet in a single layer. Roast until done, about 30 minutes.  Place in serving dish, top with chopped roasted hazelnuts, pomegranate arils and chopped parsley if using.

Hot and Sour Miso Soup

What do you do when you are sick? What do you eat, or try to eat? This is the soup I turn to. Every time. I’ve been making this soup for over 15 years. It is my feel better healing soup.  Everyone needs one of these.

I found the foundation of this recipe in 2000 from the August Chatelaine Magazine. The recipe for Hot and Sour Soup got my attention. Especially the sentence under the title: “This version of hot-and-sour soup skips the cornstarch that makes some commercial varieties of this Asian favourite thick and gloppy.”  I love the flavours of hot and sour soup but didn’t really care for the texture, so I was excited to try this version.  It was amazing.

Miso is a wonderful addition to this miracle soup. Miso adds an extra umami flavour and has many health benefits.  Miso is a source of probiotics which add beneficial bacteria to the gut to support digestion. An even quicker soup recipe is 1 cup of broth and 1 tablespoon of miso.  This makes a nutritious flavourful broth to help you feel better quickly.

Hot and Sour Miso Soup
Hot and Sour Miso Soup

The October Recipe Redux Challenge focuses on recipes to promote a healthy gut. “With cold and flu season upon us, the best defense may be good gut health. Since much of our immune health begins in the gut, show us your healthy, delicious recipe to bolster gut health.” Look for the links at the bottom of the post for great ideas to help keep you healthy all winter long.

Hot and Sour Miso Soup

Serves 4

1 litre vegetable stock*

2 shiitake mushrooms

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon finely grated ginger

1 tablespoon soy sauce*

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

1 teaspoon honey

100 grams soba noodles

150 grams tofu, chopped into small cubes

1 tablespoon miso

1/4 cup water

3 green onions


spicy peppers, minced

shimiji mushrooms


Heat vegetable broth and add garlic, ginger and shiitake mushrooms.  When hot, turn to simmer and add soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili sauce, honey, soba noodles, and tofu.  Heat until noodles are soft.

Is a small bowl, combine miso with 1/4 cup water. Stir to dissolve.  Add this to the soup. Heat gently.  High heat can destroy the benefits of the miso.  Add green onions and garnish with cilantro, spicy peppers, and shimiji mushrooms.

*I recommend using lower salt varieties as the miso adds sodium as well.


Pumpkin Muffins

Making Healthy Choices

Pumpkin Muffins Pumpkin Muffins

I love fall.  I love the changing leaves, the bright blue skies and cool crisp mornings.  I especially love fall produce and tend to bake more as the season changes.  I use winter squash and pumpkin a lot.  They are so versatile.  They are unique in that they are quite often used for both savoury and sweet dishes and are delicious either way.

Pumpkin Muffins Pumpkin Muffins

The pumpkin (or squash) and the buttermilk keeps these muffins deliciously moist.  The spices add lots of flavour and when they bake they will perfume the house with aromas of pumpkin spice.  Adding the whole wheat flour or another whole grain flour like barley adds fibre and more nutrients.  These muffins are also low in fat and low in sugar.  They are perfect for make ahead breakfasts, school lunches or snacks.  I may or may not have even topped them with a little…

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Sheet Pan Eggplant Souvlaki

Eggplant is in season and I have been having fun experimenting with new ways to use it and of course enjoying traditional recipes too. My favourite Eggplant dish is Baba Ganoush, often referred to as poor man’s caviar for its silky smooth texture. Lately,  I am finding eggplant is surprisingly versatile and I’m excited by some new recipes I have been developing. I hope to post my Baked Eggplant Unparmesan soon.  What is your favourite way to enjoy eggplant?

Eggplant is a very healthy choice.  Eggplant is very low in calories, is a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals, and contains important phytonutrients.  There is interesting research being done on potential health benefits to the brain and the heart from the antioxidants in eggplant.

Sheet Pan Eggplant Souvlaki
Sheet Pan Eggplant Souvlaki

Roasting eggplant on a sheet pan is a great way to enjoy it.  The unique, spongy texture becomes tender and creamy, and the slight bitter flavour mellows and sweetens. The marinade adds richness along with lively greek flavours.  I used Japanese eggplant in this recipe as the skin is thinner and can be left on, but other eggplant could be substituted. Putting the vegetables on a skewer is nice for serving but simply tossed on a baking sheet would work fine too.

The September theme for The Recipe Redux is Sheet Pan Meals.  “We love throwing ingredients together on a sheet pan and roasting for a simple sheet pan dinner.  They make busy weeknights a bit more manageable (and clean-up isn’t bad either!) Show us your healthy take on a sheet pan meal.” I’m looking forward to getting lots of healthy ideas to try.  Check out the other sheet pan meals at the bottom of this post.

Sheet Pan Eggplant Souvlaki

Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

Zest if 1 lemon

1 1/2  teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper

2 Japanese eggplants

1/2 yellow pepper

1/2 red pepper

1/2 orange pepper

1/4 red onion cut in chunks

1 teaspoon oil (for pan)

Cherry tomatoes

Pita bread


Make the marinade first.  Combine the garlic cloves, lemon juice, lemon zest, red wine vinegar, and spices. Gradually add the olive oil and mix well. Set aside.

Cut stem and end of eggplant off and then slice the eggplant in half lengthwise.  Cut each half into 1/2 inch pieces.  Add to marinade and toss to coat.  Chop up peppers into chunks and add to eggplant, tossing to coat.  Add red onion tossing again to coat all vegetables. Marinate for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Oil baking sheet with 1 teaspoon oil. While oven is heating, put eggplant and peppers on skewers and place on pan.  Roast in oven for 25 minutes or until eggplant is very tender. Remove pan from oven, add cherry tomatoes and pita bread and return to oven for 5 minutes. Remove and serve the skewers wrapping in pita. Tzatziki, feta cheese and olives are nice additions.

Eggplant Souvlaki
Eggplant Souvlaki

Check out all the sheet pan meals from The Recipe Redux here:

Blueberry Lime Chia Jam

I first came across the combination of blueberries and lime from a very simple dessert in “Les Halles” cookbook by Anthony Bourdain.  I have made that recipe so many times … it is so simple, easy, and delicious with a surprising combination that is outstanding.  I was smitten. When local blueberries are in season, I always make it again, many times more.

There is a bumper crop of blueberries this year in the Fraser Valley, one of the prime agricultural areas just outside of Metro Vancouver.  There are many u pick places that offer the opportunity to pick them yourself, which is easy and fun.  It is a great family activity where kids (and adults) can try to fill their buckets and pails without eating them all.

Picking Blueberries
Picking Blueberries

Having lots of blueberries around is never a bad thing and I wanted to experiment with that flavour combination.  I’ve made blueberry chia jam and sauce many times, alone or with lemon, but decided to add the lime zest, lime juice and even a few mint leaves, using the flavours from that dessert. Wow, what a great combination.

Blueberry Lime Chia Jam
Blueberry Lime Chia Jam The outstanding combination of blueberries and lime with chia makes a delicious healthy jam.

To make a healthier jam, I thickened it with chia seeds.  Adding chia to your diet has many benefits.  It is high in fibre and protein, and has important fatty acids.  In addition to the nutritional benefits it has the unique ability to absorb water, making it a natural thickener.  In jam, chia takes the place of pectin and sugar.  It will not gel the way a traditional jam does but it has a spread-like consistency that works perfectly on toast or wherever you use jam.  Generally speaking you want to use 1 tablespoon of chia per 1 cup fruit.  Leave it on simmer for 10 minutes or so to thicken. Using chia to thicken also means you only need to add sugar or sweetener for taste.  When I make pure blueberry jam with chia, I usually find that the blueberries are sweet enough, but with the addition of the tart lime I added a little sugar to balance the flavor.

Blueberry Lime Chia Jam

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

2-3 fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons chia

Zest and juice of 1 lime


Add blueberries, mint and lime zest to a small saucepan and heat on low until blueberries start to soften and release their juices.  Stir frequently.  After about 15 minutes they should be cooked and sauce like.  Add sugar and lime juice and cook a little longer.  Remove mint leaves.  Add chia seeds and continue cooking for 5 minutes more.  Remove from heat and let sit.  The chia will thicken the jam as it cooks and will thicken a little more as it cools down.  Store in the fridge.