Is Angela Liddon’s follow-up cookbook a tad predictable, or a life-saving, must-have kitchen essential? Short answer: both.
When I bought Oh She Glows in 2014, I was new-ish to veganism, but not to Angela Liddon’s work. For years, I’d followed her journey from a veggie-curious amateur cook to one of my favourite vegan authors on the web. She could make you feel like she was your girlfriend, your sister, your sweet co-worker who was always bringing oatmeal cookies in.
That’s the vibe I got from her cookbook too. There was something about the book that felt so personal and exuberant — sometimes to a fault (i.e. “life-affirming” nacho dip). I could go on and on about how bright, accessible and lighthearted the book (and the blog, back in those days) came across, but I’ll sum it up now: as much as I’m not as big of a fan of her anymore, there is no doubt that Angela Liddon was a big inspiration for me to start blogging.
While the Oh She Glows brand has grown significantly and made a few creative changes that I’m not a fan of, I still ultimately chose to buy, read, test and review the book. Why? Because the woman knows how to create a recipe.
Let’s just get into the good, the bad and the “meh,” shall we?
The theme of this book is “everyday” cooking. Don’t mistake that for “express” cooking — there’s still a lot of recipes with multiple elements and advanced prep required.
Its not the end of the world — it isn’t, after all, called Oh She Glows Express or Oh She Glows and So Can You Using a Hot Plate in Your Dorm Room. It’s not a straight-up lie, unlike the “Minimalist” Baker. And the recipes that my partner and I have made in the past week have actually all been pretty easy, but of course, we are 1) seasoned cooks and 2) two people.
There’s definitely less of a focus on shareable appetizers than the last book, which I admit were my favourite part. Instead, there’s more emphasis on hearty, “family” meals like soups, pastas and noodle bowls.
The line-up of recipes may make this book a bit less “fun” — you probably won’t be reaching for it before your next potluck — but it certainly makes it more practical to have around in the kitchen. The main courses are all balanced and are designed to make you feel full and satisfied. There’s also an even bigger focus on accessibility, with more focuses on nut-free alternatives which is really great for vegans with other food restrictions. (Side-note: I haven’t mentioned it on this blog yet but I’m temporarily on a low-FODMAP diet for health reasons, so I definitely appreciated the gluten-free recipes and the easy subs for cashews).
Another big difference is the visual aspect. This might very well be the only cookbook I own where essentially every recipe has a photo, which makes so much difference when you’re looking for something yummy to eat. Unlike the first book, this one was photographed not by Angela but by food photographer Ashley McLaughlin.
The aesthetic is definitely more clean and artistic — lots of whites, overhead shots of rustic plates filled with colourful vegan food. Interestingly, I’ve found the choice off-putting. The minimalist approach ends up leaving the cookbook with no real variety from recipe to recipe, and does not provoke that feeling of, “Damn, I want to eat that.”
The unfortunate thing is that I find the vast majority of the food to be far better in this book than the last. It’s so tasty and original. But I don’t necessarily get hungry looking at it. Maybe it’s the lack of tantalizing close-ups or the overly simplistic layouts.
That said, give these recipes a chance. Some of my favourite:
- The Satiety Smoothie (although the recipe contains my current least-favourite-for-whatever-reason-I-can’t-put-my-finger-on phrase, “stick to your ribs.” Just say “filling,” please);
- Magical “Ice Cream” Smoothie Bowl;
- Chocolate Dreams Protein Smoothie Bowl;
- Strawberry oat crumble bars;
- Roasted breakfast hash;
- Sun-dried tomato pasta (our number-one fave);
- Loaded sweet potatoes;
- Nine-spice mix; and
- Coconut butter (which isn’t so much of a recipe as it is just processed coconut, but damn it’s good).
A few last notes: lots of recipes in the book are either repeats or only slight updates from recipes found in the last cookbook or on the OSG blog. Some recipes have even been available to the public for a couple years now. Other recipes also really just seem like variations on old recipes (like the tropical overnight oats, or the coconut chia seed pudding) that don’t really feel like they needed their own recipe. Don’t even get me started on how avocado on toast apparently needs a whole page of a cookbook. And are two thumbprint cookie recipes really necessary?
Still, the “homemade staples” chapter, probably the most repetitive from the last cookbook, also ended up being one of the most useful because of the new recipes that really make great go-tos in your fridge.
The verdict: While the sequel lacks the same excitement and visual appeal as its predecessor, the luxurious-yet-practice recipes still make it a must-have for every kitchen.