This year’s extended winter found me spending much time in the kitchen making soup, soup and more soup. Now that temperatures are climbing again and the farmers markets are starting to offer beautiful, colorful vegetables, I’m ready to break out of my culinary rut. I turned to some of the Joplin Public Library’s many cookbooks for inspiration.


The Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook, by Melissa Costello


In the nearly 20 years I’ve been a vegetarian, I’ve made several attempts to go vegan but never lasted more than a few weeks. There’s just too much good cheese out there! But after reading “The Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook,” I might seriously reconsider.


Many vegan cookbooks feature dishes that seem impossibly bland or unappealing, or are made with difficult to acquire ingredients. However, that’s not the case with “Karma Chow.” The recipes feature excellent instructions and ingredients that you can mostly find in local specialty or regular grocery stores.


One Sunday evening I prepared an amazing Veggie Loaf with Tomato Glaze. I have tried for years to convert my mom’s meatloaf recipe to a meatless version, and this recipe is as close as I’ve come. It features French lentils for the protein, as well as brown rice, numerous vegetables and seasonings galore. I made a couple substitutions — regular eggs for flax seed eggs, zucchini for celery, regular breadcrumbs instead of gluten free — and added toasted walnuts and tomato sauce. It. Was. Delicious. Savory and filling, with a texture meaty enough to satisfy my palate but not enough to gross me out.


I also prepared the Thai-Style Tempeh Lettuce Wraps. I’ve attempted lettuce wraps before with tofu instead of tempeh and wasn’t overly impressed. But the tempeh has a dense, nutty texture that nicely complements the crispness of the lettuce and holds on to the marinade. It was also easy to throw together for a quick weeknight meal, with plenty of leftovers for a mid-afternoon snack the next day.


Other “Karma Chow” recipes – Vegan Caesar Salad, Karma Burgers and Creamy Tahini Kale – have been flagged for future menus. I’m salivating already.