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Vegan Living: Vegan Brunch

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I love breakfast. I get annoyed at people who skip breakfast and go straight to lunch just because they woke up at noon. I think restaurants that serve breakfast all day deserve an award. And Fat Tuesday should come once a month -- breakfast for dinner!

Breakfast hasn't been as interesting since I went vegan and gave up bacon, scrambled eggs and Entenmann's Raspberry Danish Twist. There are vegan options for breakfast -- bagels topped with Tofutti cream cheese, pancakes made with soy milk, mock sausage, which many grocery stores carry. But vegan breakfast just didn't have the excitement and glitz that I wanted for my first meal of the day. Until now.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz's fourth cookbook, Vegan Brunch, brings that excitement I've been craving along with a big helping of creativity. With over 175 recipes, there is something for every cooking ability and every taste. The book's theme is sweet and savory recipes, and Moskowitz does a nice job of incorporating flavors from around the globe, like the Chili Cashew Dosas and Ethiopian Crepes.

I wanted to start with something familiar, and since I really like the recipes in "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World," which Moskowitz wrote with Terry Hope Romero, I flipped to the baking section of "Vegan Brunch."

The Coffee Chip Muffins were not as sweet as I thought they would be, but that's actually a good thing, seeing as how they are meant for breakfast. I thought they would taste more like the Cappuccino Cupcakes in "Vegan Cupcakes," but once I accepted them for what they were -- muffins, not dessert -- I really liked them. The recipe only requires easy-to-find ingredients that you probably already have, and the mixing process is quick and simple. Many grocery-store brand chocolate chips are accidentally vegan, and if you're feeling fancy, Ghirardelli chips are also vegan.

After the muffins, I turned to the very first recipe in the book -- the Tofu Omelet. I have never had an omelet, vegan or not, and this recipe intimidated me. I don't know if it was because it has to be flipped or just because I had no reference for comparison, but I was nervous. Unfortunately, I got so preoccupied with worrying about the omelet itself that I missed the section entitled "Fillings: It's What's Inside that Counts." Instead of heeding Moskowitz's suggestion to make a sauce for the omelet, I just stuffed some roasted asparagus and chopped tomatoes inside mine. The result was bland, but I refuse to be intimidated by this dish. Next time I am going to add the black salt that Moskowitz recommends because of its "sulfuric taste that is reminiscent of egg yolks," but which I left out because I got too hungry before I found it at a store. And I am definitely going to spend more time making the insides.

The Classic Broccoli Quiche, which is in the savory section of "Vegan Brunch," became one of my favorite recipes when Moskowitz posted it on her blog. It requires enough chopping and sautéing and pulsing in the food processor to make you feel like you're making a gourmet dish, but the recipe is straightforward and easy to follow, so it doesn't give you the urge to throw the crust frisbee-style against the wall in frustration. It's a creative way to get a serving of broccoli and any other vegetables you mix in and the flavors are perfect together. The quiche also travels well (in case you're not the one hosting brunch this week) and if you take it to work for lunch, get ready to make your coworkers jealous.

Even if your only kitchen equipment is a hot plate and a microwave, "Vegan Brunch" is still an entertaining and informative read. Moskowitz writes in a friendly, conversational style and provides lots of confidence-inspiring tips and explanations for those of us who don't know the first thing about Swiss chard or what type of spatula makes crepe flipping easier.

Moskowitz also includes tips for hosting a brunch, a list of ingredients that appear in many of the recipes in the book, and my favorite, notes about which dishes can be made a day or two ahead of your brunch. That way breakfast is a breeze, even if I don't wake up until it's technically lunchtime.

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