Last week in Part I we kicked off this series with a much-deserved nod to some of the foremost books and films shaping compassionate people today. Whether on behalf of animal welfare, environmental protection or human health, the selection embodies the great potential for positive change we each possess. Go movers and shakers! And kale!

This week we’re taking a different tack. Get ready to cook and bake your way to an ethical kitchen. If there’s someone on your gift list who enjoys culinary pursuits, this guide is essential to completing their cookbook collection. From fancy to fast, apps to dessert, breakfast to dinner and back again, the following titles have much to offer any chef. Whether you are (or your recipient is) just breaking into the world of cooking or you (they) are a vittles veteran (like the alliteration?), there’s something for every level.

Read on to hear a bit about each book and its respective attributes, plus a little feedback on a recipe or two from each. Also, comment below for a chance to win a copy of the Candle 79 Cookbook. A prominent plant-based restaurant on the Upper East Side of New York City, frequented by the likes of Woody Harrelson and Kevin Bacon (I know because I’ve seen them there), you do not want to miss snagging this as a gift to give or your own go-to tome. Good luck!

Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook

There are so many reasons to love author – and chef extraordinaire – Kim Barnouin. If writing the award-winning Skinny Bitch (with co-author Rory Freedman) wasn’t enough, now she’s gone and crafted my favorite cookbook to date. If I could pick a single recipe to live on for the rest of my days, it would be her Caramelized Pear & “Cheese” Crostini with Balsamic Reduction. Holy heck is this hors d’oeuvre unbeatable, in taste, texture and simplicity! Since first paging through the book when it arrived about a month back, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve whipped up this dish. But, don’t take my word for it; I served them at a party I hosted at my apartment and they went like vegan hotcakes. Guests couldn’t get enough. My copy is littered with tabs to remind me which mouthwatering recipes I want to return to stat, like Sweet Pea Soup, Beet and “Cheese” Napoleon Salad with Candied Pecans and Shallot-Balsamic Vinaigrette and Veggie Pot Pie. I’ve also made her Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Sauce, which is melt-in-your mouth delicious and also simple to prepare, and these Mini Lemon Cheesecake Bites with Strawberry Sauce. OMG, so good and the perfect size for a modest midday indulgence. I also appreciate how the book opens with practical tips and useful information, such as a list of The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen. She discusses buying seasonal, the eleven worst food additives on the market, and a few facts about the ever hot topic, soy. There’s an herb and spice chart loaded with info, as well as a recommended shopping list for the perfect pantry. Need I say more? Indeed, there’s more that could be said, but maybe you just buy it ()? While you’re at it, peep Barnouin’s Skinny Bitch: Home, Beauty & Style, “A no-nonsense guide to cutting the crap out of your life for a better body and a kinder world.” It’s a kick-ass rundown of everything from cleaning products to furniture, cosmetics to accessories and well beyond. An encyclopedia of sorts, it proved for me a real page-turner. I was blown away by some of the realities she laid out. Buy it .

Candle 79 Cookbook

What can I say? Candle 79 is a New York institution, an organic and delectable mecca for carnists, vegetarians and vegans alike. It sets the bar for plant-based delicacies and offers a menu filled with difficult decisions (thanks to Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos, Jorge Pineda). Bring home the best with their recently released Candle 79 Cookbook, an entryway into their exquisite kitchen. Once I had the hardcover in my hands, there was no telling which recipe would command my attention first. I went with brunch. Their brunches are the best. My rendition of their Butternut Squash, Mushroom & Sage Crepes with Sage Aioli proved impressive. Not as pretty, perhaps, as when they serve it to me, but darn near in all other ways. And it’s easy to do, too! The crepe recipe alone may change your life. It reinforces the fact that eggs are overrated and replaceable, in case this was weighing on your mind. Other dishes on my must-try list are the Tempeh with Mole Sauce, Saffron Ravioli with Wild Mushrooms and Cashew “Cheese” and Heirloom Tomato-Avocado Tartare. From unfussy to fastidious, this gourmet book offers some of the most inspired dishes around. Much like their restaurant menu. I don’t care where you reside; bring the best of Manhattan home. Comment below for a chance to win a copy. One winner will be chosen a week from today, so get commenting! And don’t forget to leave a means to contact you! If you don’t win, no matter, it’s well worth the dough. Buy it .

The Conscious Cook

Chef Tal Ronnen’s cookbook opens with a forward by author Kathy Freston, followed by an introductory note from him; “Welcome, Meat-Eaters,” it begins, closing with, “I promise, you won’t miss the meat.” Already, this book is off to a great start. No joke. Also no joke, this book is the most beautiful of the bunch. This one wins in terms of aesthetics, from the photographs to the typography. Win-win-win again. It’s a full color book with images of nearly every single solitary recipe (always a plus). It’s a true work of art. More than a recipe book, recipes are interspersed with useful information on plant-based proteins, superfoods, sea vegetables, mushrooms and so on. “One of the most celebrated vegan chefs working today, Ronnen became known nationwide as the chef who prepared vegan meals for Oprah Winfrey’s 21-day vegan cleanse. He has since catapulted to fame, catering Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi’s vegan wedding, Arianna Huffington’s party at the Democratic National Convention and the first vegan dinner at the U.S. Senate.” Who wouldn’t want this go-to guide in their kitchen? It’s the perfect gift, especially for men. Why? Because guys like learning from other guys. And Ronnen’s a guy. A talented guy who’s obviously a whiz in the kitchen. I decided to try my hand at Gardein “Chicken” Piccata. Not only was it easy to make, it was also delicious and scarily akin to the “real” thing. Pro poultry folks will love this dish, I guarantee it. And it’s light years more heart healthy than the kind containing animal muscles. I promise! Other recipes that had me at hello? Split Pea Soup with Tempeh Bacon & Chipotle Cream, Peppercorn-Encrusted Portobello Fillets with Yellow Tomato Béarnaise & Mashed Potatoes and Artichoke Ricotta Tortellini with Saffron Cream Sauce. Snag a copy here. I recommend getting two, because you’re not going to want to give it away once you get your hands on it.

Vegan Holiday Kitchen

Attention hosts and hostesses of the world, this cookbook was written for you. Nava Atlas brings the best of the best when it comes to reinventing traditional recipes. And the book doesn’t skip a beat, offering something for every occasion. The Jewish holidays? You can bet they’re in there. Easter and Independence Day, too, among others. From comfort food to the barbeque, Atlas makes sure your bases are covered year-round. I made a few things, my favorite so far being the Hot Artichoke & White Bean Spread. I served this at the party alluded to earlier and, again, guests were intrigued and delighted by the rich, creamy dip, perfect for crackers, baguette slices or fresh veggies. Others I’m dying to try include Mock Chopped Liver (Cashew, Onion & Mushroom Pâté), Vegan Challah and Corn Fritters with Cilantro Sauce. I’d have to say that this book wins for aligning most perfectly with the holidays, given the title and contents. The New York Times seems to share this sentiment. Be the hostess with the mostess and pick up a copy .

Vegan Diner

This cookbook, by Julie Hasson, is just what you’d expect; diner staples done cruelty-free and healthfully, when possible. From my experience with the recipes so far, I’m smitten. A full color collection of the classics, I tried my hand at Cinnamon Orange Rolls and Fluffy Biscuits. With the latter I paired the Hollandaise Sauce with Tarragon & White Wine. Yum times three. As for the former, OMG. Cannot stress enough how awesome I am in the kitchen. Just kidding; all praise can be attributed to the recipe. But, seriously, these breakfast buns are to die for. Fortunately, no animals did. Paired with a sweet glaze, these babies went fast. And there were only two of us eating them. (Bashful face.) Next time, I’d like to try subtracting orange (amazing as it was) and substituting raisins and toasted pecans. Either way, wow. Other recipes on my to-try list include Quick & Hearty Chili, Chocolate Mint Truffle Pie and the Mocha Malt. I tell you, once someone begins experimenting with these recipes, friends will be jonesing to visit their house after hours rather than the ordinary neighborhood haunt. If you enjoy diner style food, which, if it’s vegan I do, too, this cookbook is a kitchen essential. Cop a copy .

The Happy Herbivore

Heart-healthy alert! This book boasts “Over 175 Delicious Fat-Free & Low-Fat Vegan Recipes.” Even The China Study’s T. Colin Campbell endorses it! And that’s saying a lot given how conscious he is of adhering to a wholly virtuous diet. Frankly, the recipes I followed were so tasty, I was surprised to just now read that subhead. In honor of the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I made Traditional Stuffing and Thanksgiving Gravy, aptly named because the two went together remarkably (also because the book offers several other gravies). And, I’ll tell you, I’d make that gravy again any day of the week. It was that good. I don’t know what I’d do without mushrooms, which are a key ingredient in this gravy. It’s rich and thick and flavorful and doesn’t want of anything, least especially animal fats. Yikes. Nope, none of that artery clogging stuff here. Both dishes were a hit with everyone, as I attended a dinner party catering to carnists and veg-heads alike. I made a few modifications to the stuffing, using half white bread when the recipe called for whole wheat only, but that’s just a trick I picked up from my mom. My experience with this book was a win. I recommend it to anyone trying to eat better but hesitant to sacrifice flavor. I can’t blame you there! Other recipes what whet my appetite that I’ve yet to try include Meatball Subs, Baked Shells & Cheese and the Ultimate 7-Layer Dip. Yes please. Purchase .

Everyday Happy Herbivore

Author Lindsay S. Nixon returns, this time with recipes that can be prepped and on the table within thirty minutes. Think Rachael Ray minus the hot dogs and heart disease. No offense EDWRR fans, but come on. Step it up! I made the Lemon Basil Pasta, which was light and refreshing and oh-so-easy. So simple it was almost criminal. When you don’t have tons of time and don’t wish to fall prey to the takeout menu (or worse, fast food), there’s nothing better than a breezy recipe to satisfy you and yours. This literally took fifteen minutes. The fresh lemon juice filled in for olive oil and the lemon zest added texture and a subtle kick. The trick with the tomatoes was brilliant. You’ll have to pick up a copy to know what I’m talking about. It’s something I’m going to implement in myriad dishes moving forward. Other ones I want to try? Marmalade French Toast, Eggless Egg Salad and Cauliflower Manchurian. Want to be fast and full flavored in the kitchen? Grab this cookbook, stat. Buy it .

Vegan Pie in the Sky

No mystery here! This book’s all about the baked goods. The compact bake book by Terry Hope Romero and Isa Chandra Moskowitz, contains 75 pies, tarts, cobblers and other treats, ideal for anyone with a sweet tooth. I tried the Voluptuous Pumpkin Pie as well as the Maple Pecan Pie. I also made the Rad Whip, a homemade take on Reddi Whip. The three were really lovely. I substituted my own basic piecrust (another one from mom) in lieu of theirs, because the apple cider vinegar it called for made me nervous, but, apart from that little switch, I followed the directions to a tee. The pumpkin recipe didn’t even require the usual pumpkin pie spice, offering its own combination of flavors found on any typical rack. I liked the homegrown approach, and so did my fellow taste testers at the Thanksgiving table. The creamy whip went splendidly, too, not only with this pie but also alongside other desserts with which I paired it. The pecan pie was scrumptious, too, though next time I’ll try the tart pan for a stiffer, shallower version. This book proves yet again the expendability of eggs, milk, butter and any other animal-derived ingredients conventional bakers believe they cannot operate without. Well, they can. A couple other recipes that caught my eye were Key Lime Pie with Graham Cracker Crust, Apple Crisp and Grasshopper Pie. When you grab this book (here), also be sure to pick up some Earth Balance butter and shortening, as well as some form of nondairy milk.

Blissful Bites

Attention healthy eaters! This book is right up your alley. And it’s intelligent. Like select titles above, it offers an entire opening section filled with intro tips and how-to-do’s (think slicing, dicing, chopping, mincing, etc.). Perhaps most special about this book is its color coordination system, aligning recipes with the season that suits. No other book breaks it down quite so well. Every single recipe is color coded, because, as you may have surmised already, eating seasonally is smart. There’s also a handy key outlining symbols for gluten-free, raw, soy-free and more. Just to make flipping through the pages a little simpler. Author Christy Morgan offers what tools are essential and acknowledges those that are awesome but extraneous for the chef on a budget, or working with limited kitchen space. (In case you were wondering, the pickle press is optional, but I want one anyway…) This is a spectacularly thorough cookbook. Despite the countless recipes, I experimented with a simple dish, the Lemony Lime Hummus. I was hankering to try others, but this Middle Eastern dip was a must for my party, so I figured why not whip up her recipe for the big bash? I went a little overboard with the citrus, but I intend to try again without getting so aggressive. It was yummy, though, and a welcome contrast to the usual garlic, paprika and pine nuts variety. So, what do I want to try next? Zucchini “Pasta” with Mint-Cashew Pesto Sauce, Micro “Mac and Cheese” and Un-Tuna Salad. Purchase this healthful and helpful book .


  • Becca

    I love that the skinny bitch cookbook has helpful hints re: best oils for cooking/baking vs. for salad dressing (based on smoke point) and also where you can get by with not buying organic which helps to save $$$, very practical, one of my better purchases in recent months!

  • Rachel

    Love this too! :)

  • gretchen

    i made the pumpkin pie recipe from isa’s new cookbook (“vegan pie in the sky”) for thanksgiving. GOOD LORD ALMIGHTY. best pumpkin pie i’ve ever had!

  • Melissa

    Candle 79 is my favorite restaurant! I would love to try some of their recipes at home.

  • Lauren

    The Candle 79 cookbook is definitely on my list. Vegan Pie in the Sky also looks delish!

  • Vegan comfort food? Music to my ears. One of the best vegan recipes I’ve tried was for a mac and ‘cheese’ that hit the spot. Also, I’d really like to lick the batter off of that mixer. Can that be arranged?

  • MP

    YUM! Candle 79 surely knows what they are doing and a little help in the kitchen is just what this dude needs. I love the mix of foods and occasions one could use these for. Great idea for the holiday!

  • [...] week we featured plant-strong cookbooks and ethical, men-centric gifts, but today it’s all about the animal loving ladies. We’ve [...]

  • What a great library of cookbooks. Have Candle and Conscious Cook, all the rest are on the “must have” list. Sweet! Love all your gift guides Nell. Spreading the vegan love. From the taste buds to to the heart, great vegan food is one of the best forms of activism! Thanks Nell!

  • Wonderful entries, everyone! Thanks for sharing. There were a few favorites but I’m most excited by the guy who’s eager to get vegan in the kitchen. “…a little help in the kitchen is just what this dude needs.” I’d really like to help him out with that. What say you ladies? MP, please contact me with your shipping address.

    Thanks and thank you to all for participating. Have you seen the more recent installments? They’re equally informative and fun. XO

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