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Trio of vegan cookbooks offers savings that are savory and food that's a delight to see and taste
"Mastering the Art of Vegan Cooking" is by Annie and Dan Shannon. - photo by Lois M Collins
Several challenges vex those who are new to vegan cooking. It's initially difficult to figure out what a balanced diet looks like without any animal products, including dairy or meat. Options may seem somewhat limited and costs high. But with a good cookbook, some clever ideas and a plan to save money, delicious becomes a daily and affordable habit.

"MASTERING THE ART OF VEGAN COOKING," by Annie and Dan Shannon, Grand Central Publishing, $25, 336 pages

The Shannons start with the basics what goes in the pantry, what gets tossed and how to organize it then walk the reader through some simple but valuable things to know about cooking, such as how and why to toast quinoa, getting the most from a farmers market and how to prepare dried beans.

Many of the tips focus on saving money, such as the economic advantage of dried vs. canned beans, or practical and tasty ways to use leftover marinades and sauces.

But the star of this beautifully presented book, which is fun to thumb through to simply admire the gorgeous pictures, is the variety of recipes. For breakfast, try fresh blueberry blintzes made with soy milk, tofu, vegan cream cheese and applesauce; or smoky butternut squash scramble. The roughly 30 lunch offerings include Thai vegan chicken slaw, artichoke heart salad, chipotle avocado sandwiches and other easy, tasty ideas. Or for dinner, one can make simple Yankee pot roast with wheat gluten instead of beef, tater tot pie, chili-stuffed sweet potatoes or one of several stews.

The meals are colorful and take advantage of exciting taste combinations. And the desserts are decadent and delicious, but also heart healthy and inventive, as well.

"ROBERTO'S NEW VEGAN COOKING," by Roberto Martin, Da Capo Press, $32.50

This book is a sequel of sorts for Roberto Martin. It doesn't have as many basic tips, but it provides everything a cook needs to make staples and sauces, then launches into some exquisite taste combinations. It's an especially good cookbook for someone who has been vegan for a while, knows his or her way around the kitchen and is not afraid to try different combinations.

One can even forget the recipes and still enjoy the book, which is sure to launch an adventurous cook on a quest to create other delicious and unusual flavors. Consider these simple sauces: chipotle nut cream, cilantro chimichurri sauce, pecan pesto or basic homemade ketchup.

Among the best sections is "big bowls," a chapter featuring a dozen soups and suggestions for cooking, straining and serving them. The salad section is full of surprises, too, including a delicious curried chickpea salad. Some of the ingredients listed in recipes are unfamiliar that's part of the fun of a good cookbook. Dinner recipes include everything from "no rice fried rice" to beefless bourguignon.

"VEGAN WITH A VENGEANCE," by Isa Chandra Moskovitz, Da Capo Books, $22.99, 276 pages

Isa Chandra Moskovitz's book kicks off with lists, from what kind of equipment a real cook needs to which foods and spices a well-stocked pantry will have. She offers a comprehensive look at egg substitutes, including ground flaxseed, applesauce, banana, tofu and yogurt, as well as when each works best.

Each chapter has tips from Fizzle (her 12-year-old cat knows how to dish on topics as diverse as hing powder use in Asian dishes to roasting garlic or pureeing soup in a blender).

The food is beautifully depicted with dozens of photos that capture the color of each dish. Vegan dishes, perhaps because they're heavy with bright fruits and vegetables and spices, tend to ignite the imagination, fire up the taste buds and get those stomach juices going. It's packed with delicious food and suggestions that will make time to eat something to celebrate.
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