Couch Potatoes love to curl up with gorgeous cookbooks and showcasing beautiful photographs, all the while flipping through the pages dreaming of hosting lavish dinner parties. The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook is one to dream over. It is that visually appealing, with interesting recipes like Mushroom Ravioli with Browned Butter/Sage/Truffle Sauce, or Black Bean Chilaquiles.

But the difference with this cookbook is that it that might actually get us in to the kitchen to start cooking! The recipes in this book are so doable. It’s no surprise, really, since the book is brought to us by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen, who basically take the guesswork out of every recipe by testing it many ways before adding it to the book. Each recipe is clearly written with a “Why this Works” introduction, providing more information about finding the best flavour… For example, the Sesame Noodle with Cucumbers and Radishes recipe works because it “relies on everyday pantry staples to deliver the requisite sweet, nutty, addictive flavor.” And the Roasted Artichokes recipe works because “steaming artichokes washes out their nuttiness”, “roast artichokes for concentrated flavors and a nice caramelization.” (And if you are an artichoke fan, you’re in luck. The artichoke is the star in nine different recipes in this book.)

Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or someone who wants to add more veggies and grains to your diet, this is the cookbook you should have. It was named The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook for a reason. It contains 700 recipes, from snacks and sandwiches, to egg dishes, and salads. You’ll find comfort food classics such as Shepherd’s Pie, and international dishes like Potato Vindaloo. The book makes a statement about vegetables as a main course in the first chapter, Hearty Vegetable Mains, which includes 45 recipes you can use to spice up your Meatless Mondays, including casseroles (like our favorite Summer Vegetable Gratin, and Tex-Mex Enchiladas), as well as stir-fries and curries (such as Stir-Fried Eggplant with Garlic-Basil sauce—which works because the eggplant is cooked first so the dish can come together quickly).


And true to form for books by America’s Text Kitchen, you’ll find detailed and easy to follow sidebar instructions for kitchen tips, like slicing onions thinly, making vegetable stock, or prepping Tunisian-Style Vegetables…All this confirms that we are in good hands with The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook, and we can stop dreaming about the dinner parties and start cooking for them!



“self improvement is an old theme in American literature”

Many books have been written about the importance of sustainable living and eating. We are beginning to understand that local food is better for our bodies, and eating and shopping local has a positive impact on our communities as well. And most of us are trying to do our best to shop local, eat local, and take better care of our planet. But what about the next step? How do you go from eating ethically, to building a community that understands these values? The Food Activist Handbook answers these questions and more.

Change is slow, but it can be done. Author Ali Berlow, who also wrote The Mobile Poultry Slaughterhouse, speaks about change from her experience. She is the founder of Island Grown Initiative, a grassroots nonprofit on Martha’s Vineyard, and co-owner of edible Vineyard.

In The Food Activist Handbook, Berlow urges readers to not only embrace sustainability, but she offers advice and suggestions on how to bring it to a larger audience. For example, Berlow says to start at the schools. Teaching children the importance of eating good food will pay off in terms of health care and diminishing food-related illness. She provides ideas on how to build a school garden and connect children to the food they eat.

There are ways to start small too, like hosting a pot luck dinner party with local ingredients only, or start a cooking club—both ways to get the conversations going. She has ideas on ways to organize a community kitchen, or to start a public seed library. With each idea, she offers guidelines on what has worked for others.

Driven to provide a healthful lifestyle for her family by her own father’s battle with obesity and heart damage, Berlow has put much thought, work, and love into finding a way to make changes. After reading The Food Activist Handbook it is hard to not to want to take some action, big or small. After all, as author and activist Alice Randall points out in the introduction, “self improvement is an old theme in American literature”, and this book is “a handbook for every eater, for every body.”

Brooke McDonough is the manager of Westwinds Bookshop in Duxbury and an avid reader of all things fiction. She has a soft spot for big, beautiful cookbooks and keeps the shop well stocked with them. She lives in Duxbury with her family.