September 17, 2020

Review: The College Vegetarian Cookbook: 150 Easy, Budget-Friendly Recipes

The College Vegetarian CookbookWritten and illustrated by Stephanie McKercher, MS, RDN
Available now from Rockridge Press
Review copy

Stephanie McKercher is a registered dietician as well as a food blogger. Her first cookbook, The College Vegetarian, focuses on dishes that are easy and quick and inexpensive to make, and that use few ingredients and tools. This focus means that the recipes are also handy for those of us who are well past our college years.

The first chapter of The College Vegetarian is a handy reference that covers  cooking techniques, how to store the ingredients and food, and other basics. It also introduces the main ingredients for a healthy, inexpensive vegetarian diet and discusses what nutrition each provides. (It also further convinced me I could never actually be vegetarian as I don't like beans, tomatoes, or mushrooms.)

The recipes contained within The College Vegetarian are quite simple. Most involve around five steps. Some in the drinks section only have two steps. There were a few recipes that struck me as perhaps too simple for even a basic cookbook. "Lemon-Blueberry Yogurt Bowls," for instance, is instructions on how to add things to yogurt to jazz it up and add additional ingredients. But I can acknowledge that parfaits are a dish.

There were also times I felt McKercher went too simple. The "Vegan Gumbo" uses only vegetable broth. Gumbo is a roux-based soup. Now, you would need to adjust roux to make it vegan instead of just vegetarian, but with single search, I found three-ingredient vegan rouxs. I don't think it would've added that much complexity, and making a roux is an excellent foundational skill to learn for making all sorts of soups. 

I made a few test recipes. In general, I found that the times took about twice as long if you needed to chop your vegetables or do other prep that was taken for granted. Every recipe I tried was also distinctly underseasoned. I would add extra salt and pepper to taste. The strangest issue I ran into was making the "Broccoli Cheddar Strata," which called for an 8-by-11 inch glass baking dish. I have an 8-by-8 dish and a 9-by-13 dish, and another search reassured me that those were the two standard glass baking dish sizes (along with a 9-by-9 square). It's just an odd thing to mess up.

But I do think that these recipes are quite nice and a good intro to vegetarian cooking on a budget. I certainly have plenty of ideas to try out.

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