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MSV's first giveaway! If you're not already familiar with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, this book is a fine introduction. Creator of the extensive Food for Thought podcast, Colleen has been advocating for years and has the body of work to prove it (The Joy of Vegan Baking alone is arguably the most powerful piece of advocacy ever created).

But today's Hitting the Books installment is specifically about this new edition of The 30-Day Vegan Challenge, a valuable resource for anyone looking for guidance in practicing veganism(*). Because it is a practice, and it's vital to talk about it as such to set practitioners up for long-term success. Colleen's approach is emotionally earnest and detail-oriented, and it's tough to come up with too many basic topics she doesn't cover here. There are 30 chapters, for easy digestion at a suggested rate of one per day, each devoted to a specific challenge that arises in changing your diet, like Day 9: Eating Out and Speaking Up; Day 12: The Power of Cravings: Fat and Salt Taste Good; Day 17: Demistifying Tofu: It's Just a Bean!; and Day 29: Keeping It In Perspective: Intention, Not Perfection.

It's also physically substantial, something you'll be happy to hold in your hands, show friends, and keep on your shelf.

And it's pretty gorgeous to look at.

This is a food blog, so recipes will be the emphasis in this post, but this is really a book for reference, bursting with practical information. There's time devoted to not only personal satisfaction, animal exploitation, and social interaction, but also lots of attention to nutrition, giving ample room for people who are interested in eating vegan for health reasons to come on board, featuring details about micronutrient and macronutrient concerns.

On occasion, Colleen's brand—though she's far from alone in her approach—of nutrition advice calls to mind the scene from Arrested Development in which Tobias (David Cross), faking confidence and attempting to save face after trying and failing to open a jar of mayonnaise his wife Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) can't open, drops the jar into the trash and tells her as he saunters out of the room, "You don't need the calories." Sometimes omnivores could be forgiven for thinking vegans are dodging the issue when they ask about missing the pleasures of fatty, salty food and are given a response that involves the dangers of saturated fat.

But that's not to say that Colleen doesn't emphasize choice and moderation, welcome treats, and talk about fat's importance in satiety. She does. Again, see chapter 12. In fact, today's two recipe highlights from the book are proposed answers to common none-too-healthful omnivore hurdles: bacon and cheese. Colleen's suggestion to let go of specific foods and look instead to the seasonings (and textures) that define them to fulfill our cravings is a powerful one—and one that can empower people to cook their own food, to boot. As she says, we season our food with plants. And how.

First up, bruschetta, featuring Herbed Cashew Cheese. The recipe calls for strawberries, and the called-for herb in the cashew spread is basil (with an option to add chocolate shavings to take this beauty deep into dessert territory). Since strawberry season is far away, featured here are apples atop the cashew spread made with chives.

The book calls for making the spread with a food processor, which will leave you with some texture. The styled version in the book really looks to have been made with a high-speed blender, appearing impossibly creamy. Even with soaking and processing for the longest recommended time (four minutes), you can see there's still a touch of grain remaining.

But another of Colleen's powerful, smart messages suggests getting condiments off the spoon and into dishes, where they belong. And happily, the cashew spread atop toasted baguette slices, finished with crisp and juicy apple bits was entirely lovely. Not a single reservation about texture remained. Additionally, the distinctive flavor of cashews, already toned down by the herbs and other seasoning, mellows further in this context. The end result is pretty dreamy. So much so, this spread and apple slices were served in grilled sandwich form (alongside the bean variation of MSV's Dead Simple Winter Tomato Soup) to feed a friend who came over for dinner. Compliments were made, questions were asked. A decided success.


Next up, Coconut Bacon (which Colleen has generously shared on Instagram). So much fun. With the convenience of store-bought dried coconut flakes, it's tough to think of any way to add comforting, savory flavor to a recipe with less effort. One batch makes a ton.

For those of you cool with coconut, the mildly sweet flavor goes well in pretty much all the places you want fat, smoke, and salt. Case in point: these easy, totally fun little BLT tacos, topped with a quick homemade chipotle mayo. Highly recommended.

For a book that isn't a cookbook, The 30-Day Vegan Challenge still sprinkles a hefty stack of recipes throughout. There's salad, soup, a gorgeous Mexican Chocolate Cake recipe, and a huge list of breakfast ideas (the first few chapters will likely make you crave a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she mentions them so frequently) that accompany the reasons practicing veganism is a good idea, and the ways you might increase your comfort practicing it.

To win a copy of The 30-Day Vegan Challenge, simply leave a comment below telling MSV readers about one thing that made eating more plants easier for you. It can be a dish, a cooking method, an ingredient, or a piece of information unrelated to cooking. Whatever it is, share your wisdom. If you don't have a specific revelation, just share your favorite plant food. The contest ends February 28 and is limited to U.S. shipping addresses. Winner will be chosen at random.

Good luck! Next week, you'll get a brand new recipe featuring Colleen's Coconut Bacon (so make a batch before next Thursday). See you then.

(*This post is not sponsored. The giveaway copy was obtained as a reward for my personal contribution to the Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to issue this new edition of The 30-Day Vegan Challenge.   —Amanda)