I'm good friends with many cookbooks, and in-like with quite a few others. But it's been a while since I fell in love with a cookbook. So why am I in love with Blissful Bites, by Christy Morgan, the Blissful Chef?
Cookbooks are written for health, fitness, nutrition, taste, convenience, ethics, to show off, and almost always to help people cook better & enjoy food more. This is the first one I've seen that promises bliss. I love that!
OK, so how exactly does Christie Morgan deliver bliss along with easy to make, healthy, delicious vegan food?
First, the pictures: Blissful Bites is loaded with fabulous pictures of food raw and cooked, the recipes of course, cooking tools, and quite a few of food & Christy, who looks very blissful. I'm a fool for great pictures, and its bliss to see a cookbook that has lots of them.
Second, Christy Morgan approaches food from a spiritual and healing point of view, and that is quite a tricky thing to do blissfully.
Usually the bliss gets lost in a plethora (lovely word that) of alarming statistics, dire warnings, and restrictions, until you feel that you'd rather be sick and happy than healthy and miserable. None of that in Blissful Bites!
As Christy says in her introduction, "The cookbook combines philosophies that I have found to work - for myself, and for countless other people. It can give the freedom to make conscious decisions that allow you to nourish yourself and help you connect to your bliss."
Conscious freedom, that's the key. Christy takes what she likes from different styles of cooking and aspects of spirituality, combining with her energy, enthusiasm and enjoyment of life.
The result is a new style of cooking, loaded with creative possibilities, new taste sensations, and blissful eating experiences. In other words, Christy is a master of the art of California food fusion.
Rather than being lambasted, confused and overwhelmed by Vegan, Macrobiotics, Ayurveda, Zen Buddhism, Raw, Gluten Free, Soy Free, Low Fat, we are gently introduced to the idea that food is medicine for what ails our bodies and souls. Bliss is the end result, as shown by more than 175 mouth-watering recipes.
The recipes! I loved the quote from Julia Child on the facing page: "The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude." Blissful Bites has mostly uncomplicated, easy recipes, but I chose the most complicated recipe in the book to sample! I said to myself, "What the hell!"
The sample recipe I made was Veggie Stuffed Pasta Shells (Pg. 159), which is actually 3 recipes in one. I took one look at the picture and had to make it. It tastes fantastic, it's a perfect company dish, and easy to make.
It was fun stuffing tofu ricotta cheeze into pasta shells, smothering with un-tomato sauce, then baking - then eating, nom nom! I recommend this recipe as a weekend project with kids of any age.
It helped a lot in making Veggie Stuffed Pasta Shells that I have a food processor and a pressure cooker, two of Christie's recommended pieces of kitchen equipment. I agree that they're excellent investments, although it's possible to exist happily without them.
What I can't live without is a good chopping knife. I love that Christie has directions (with pictures) for using a chef's knife, and agree with her that a good chef's knife is a necessity. I adore my Victorinox Fibrox, top rated by Cooks Illustrated, costs around $30.
Some of the equipment Christie recommends is basic no-nonsense stuff, and some of it you might not use except for her recipes. She lists an immersion blender as optional, while I consider mine essential. She finds a citrus reamer essential, while I never heard of it until I read the book. But still, if I can find one, I'll buy a citrus reamer just so I can say I own one. I might even use it!
Christie's tips for getting started, and her basic cooking and cutting techniques introduce beginners to the building blocks of cooking. I was pleased to see that she has an ordinary kitchen like me, and looks about as glamorous as I do when she cooks.
One quibble I have with this cookbook is that there is no umeboshi vinegar available in a 300 mile radius from where I live, and I have to make do with apple cider vinegar. But I can live with that.
There are a few of the usual publishing glitches in Blissful Bites (not taking away from the bliss). For instance, Christy says that raw tofu should be cooked, but the Veggie Stuffed Pasta Shells don't have that in the directions. My common sense said to bake 'em, so I did, and I advise you to use your common sense too.
I also advise you to follow your bliss and buy this cookbook!