I’ve always felt books make the best presents since they are gifts of knowledge. Books with recipes come with extra goodness because they show the recipients how to cook real food at home. So during this season of giving, I hope you’ll join me in sharing vegetarian know-how with family and friends with the gift of a plant-centric food book.

My regular readers may recall I’ve already reviewed more than 20 vegetarian books and cookbooks published this year. What sets the following books from 2014 apart is how particularly well-suited they are to holiday giving.

They include books for kids, teens and adults and for everyone from newbie cooks to kitchen experts. Many of these books make great gifts for meat eaters, too, since eating meatless meals is something everyone can enjoy.

Here are my picks for the best vegetarian books from 2014 to give as gifts this holiday season.


“Lena of Vegitopia and the Mystery of the Missing Animals”

By Sybil Severin, illustrated by Carlos Patino

Best for: Vegan preschoolers and elementary school students.

Price: $17.99

Recipes: One vegan recipe

Photos: No photos, but full-color illustrations on every page

Part of a new wave of vegetarian and vegan-themed children’s literature, this hardcover book is a fairy tale set in a vegan kingdom. The book begins when lettuce farmer Lena Lentil Beans learns that baby animals across the kingdom have gone missing. She soon joins forces with Princess Vegi-Terry-Anne and the two set out to find a foul-smelling castle that is the home of outcast and meat-eater Carnista. We soon learn the sickly villain wants the baby animals for her dinner plate.

But since this is a vegetarian fairy tale, the animals are saved and the villain is transformed when she eats a piece of carrot cake made by Lena.

My 1 1/2-year-old son still doesn’t know that many people around him eat animals, so he was puzzled the first time we read it. But since then, he’s asked me to read it many more times. For older vegetarian children who are aware that some people eat animals and some don’t, the book provides an engaging story that celebrates vegetables and reinforces the vegetarian values of compassion and nonviolence.

As a bonus, the book closes with the recipe for Lena’s Vegan Carrot Cake.


“At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well”

By Amy Chaplin

Best for: Food lovers, serious cooks, long-time vegetarians, fans of Angelica Kitchen, people who read cookbooks like novels, vegetarians who lean vegan and Aussies.

Price: $35

Recipes: Vegetarian, with more than “90 percent vegan” recipes

Photos: Full color throughout

A former head chef at Manhattan’s famous vegetarian restaurant Angelica Kitchen, Chaplin grew up in a food-centric, mud-brick home on a community farm in New South Wales, Australia. As an adult she cooked in Sydney before moving to Amsterdam to work as the pastry chef at a Japanese macrobiotic restaurant. Then she traveled to London and started a vegan, wheat-free catering company before heading to New York City, where she joined the team at Angelica Kitchen.

She now works as a private chef and has cooked for many celebrities, including Liv Tyler and Natalie Portman.

This polished, hefty book offers up extensive health food ingredient advice and tips (such as soaking grains, cooking beans and making nut milks). It also offers dozens of pantry staple recipes and more than 150 restaurant-quality dishes. Recipes include Herbed Black Quinoa Muffins with sweet potato and caramelized onions; Kabocha Chestnut Soup with nori sesame “leaves”; Squash Blossom Orecchiette with aged sheep’s cheese and red chili; Heirloom Bean Bourguignon with celery root mash; and Almond Butter Brownies with sea salt.


“The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian: How to Look Great, Feel Fabulous, and be a Better You”

By Rachel Meltzer Warren MS, RDN

Best for: Tween and teen girls who lean vegetarian or have already taken the plunge.

Price: $12.99

Recipes: Vegetarian, with dairy-free and egg-free noted

Photos: None

Written for newly vegetarian and “veg-curious” teens, the book starts with a multiple-choice quiz to determine “what type of VegHead you are.” Warren, a registered dietitian, then gives information on various paths to vegetarianism – everything from Meatless Mondays to “The Vegxception” (vegetarians who eat bacon) to “The Cold Tofurky.”

Since teens who go veg often face a barrage of nutrition questions of the “Where will you get your protein?” variety, the book provides the information to answer those questions and eat well.

Warren also dives into how to find a vegetarian meal in the real world, exploring everything from school cafeterias to eating dinner with your parents to finding hidden meat-based ingredients in prepared foods.

The book concludes with a section of recipes, featuring dishes such as Veg McMuffin, Asian Chopped Crunchy Salad and Chocolate Power Mousse.


“Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F***”

By Anonymous (see below)

Best for: Fans of the blog; fans of profanity; manly men who eat health food; white people ready to talk about race; foodies; cookbook collectors; and adults-only Yankee swaps.

Price: $24.99

Recipes: Vegan

Photos: Full-color throughout

Written as an alternative to the polite but preachy tone of much health food prose, Thug Kitchen shocked, awed and entertained us when it hit the blog scene in 2012 – it was peppered with expletives and dripping with attitude, seemingly borrowed from gangsta rap (though I always had my doubts). Once the cookbook (with 100 mostly new recipes) came out, Thug Kitchen was outed by the website Epicurious as a pair of white twentysomethings living together in Hollywood – Michelle Davis and Matt Holloway.

The revelation of their skin color prompted a lot of criticism, including comparing the pair’s stunt to whites acting in blackface. A thoughtful critique by popular vegan chef and fellow cookbook writer Bryant Terry, who is African American, said Davis and Holloway got it wrong, anyhow, as traditional African American diets are mostly vegetarian. Much discussion and the cancellation of some planned appearances by the authors ensued, but it hasn’t stopped the book from zooming up to the No. 2 spot on Amazon’s best-selling cookbook list (it’s No. 25 overall). The couple says their confident, macho tone is meant to empower the average cook and show that health food isn’t just for the elites. Love it or hate it, the book devotes a full chapter to “The Munchies” – featuring party food like Sweet Corn and Black-eyed Pea Dip; Roasted Sriracha Cauliflower Bites with peanut dipping sauce; and Blended Earl Grey Lattes. And its main dishes all scream comfort food with offerings that include Mixed Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna; Sweet Potato, Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas; and Tempeh Peanut Noodles with Blanched Kale. Finally, the authors sweeten the pot with Crispy Millet and Peanut Butter Buckeyes and Coconut Cornmeal Cake.

As they write, “We didn’t grow up in wheatgrass-covered huts on some hippie commune. We are your next-door neighbors and somewhere along the way we learned to eat right. And you can too.”


“The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Happy Hour: Featuring Over 325 Recipes for Your Favorite Beer Snacks & Beer Cocktails”

By John Schlimm

Best for: Beer brewers, beer drinkers, people who host a lot of parties, people who go to a lot of parties and college students.

Price: $14.99

Recipes: Vegetarian with vegan options and 3 beer pairings for every recipe

Photos: None

There’s no need to leave home when you have this comprehensive party guide. As the great-great-great-grandson of the founder of Straub Brewery, Schlimm knows his way around a pint. As the author of 13 other books – including three vegan cookbooks – he know how to craft tempting vegetarian recipes.

He devotes a chapter each to bar nuts and dips, then follows with “Friday Night Bites” (Beer-Battered Onion Rings; Garlic Fries), “Barroom Tapas” (Taproom Tacos with green sauce; Buzzed Broccoli & Cheese Soup; and Jalapeno Potato Mash) and “Last Call Pizza & Burgers” (Flying Buffalo at the Tap Pizza; Sweet Onion Sliders and Cheesy Eggplant Burgers).

Along the way, he offers cooking, preparation and serving tips, plus DIY recipes for vegan mayonnaise and margarine. The second half of the book is devoted to beer-based cocktails, chuggers, punches and floats, such as Beertini; Jaeger Beer Bomb; New Year’s Punch and Strawberry & Ale Float.

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be contacted at [email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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