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A few short years ago, cookbooks that were entirely vegan — using no meat, seafood or dairy products — had a rather apologetic tone.

With some exceptions, part of their mission was convincing newly minted vegans that, yes, they really could avoid malnutrition and death while eating only fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes.

Today's vegan cookbooks are serving a different crowd, eager cooks not worried that they'll be seen as birdseed eaters and rabbits. The intervening years have brought veganism into the American mainstream, a change wrought by several developments.

Food varieties in most grocery stores have widened, making vegan ingredients, such as nondairy cheese, easier to find. Baby boomers and others are increasingly warned against diets high in animal proteins and fats, creating more part-time vegans. The organic and whole-food movements have gained ground, too, leading more people to give serious thought to what they eat.

But you can't overlook a greater emphasis on dishes with accessible flavors, instead of relying on the food's innate "virtues," said Julie Hasson, author of "Vegan Diner" (Running Press, $19.95) and owner of a Portland, Ore., food cart. "If somebody can taste one great vegan meal, it opens their mind to eating more vegan," she said. "It challenges their preconceived notions about vegan food."

Her cookbook includes recipes for Pastrami-Style Seitan Roast, and Not Your Mama's Pot Roast, based on seitan, which is wheat gluten that can be cooked and sauced into substantial meals that are almost meaty, Hasson said.

In fact, the Pastrami-Style Seitan Roast, sliced thin and served on a sandwich, was a favorite of her Portland customers, who for the most part are not vegetarian or vegan, Hasson said. "I have seen some

vegetarian or vegan, Hasson said. "I have seen some of the biggest skeptics of all time be just blown away — ‘Wow, that was really delicious.' "

Ann Gentry, author of "Vegan Family Meals," (Andrews McMeel, $25), runs Real Food Daily, a groundbreaking organic vegan restaurant in Los Angeles.

"Most of the people coming into my restaurant are not vegetarian or vegan," she said. "They're looking for high-quality, great-tasting food in a great environment with educated service."

Vegan cuisine has spread partly because its flavors have overcome its stigma, opening the door to incorporating vegan choices into meals, she said. "You may have a pork chop on the table, but try this vegetable dish," Gentry said. "Make this salad, do this kind of salad dressing — they'll realize it isn't so daunting."

Gentry's book includes ambitious recipes, like Tofu Benedict with Roasted Corn Hollandaise, and Harvest Kale Salad with Sweet Mustard Tempeh and Saffron-Orange Tahini Dressing, that aren't good candidates for quick after-work dinners.

Some of the more intricate vegan recipes do take more work than throwing a chicken breast on a grill, Gentry said.

"Any cooking takes a little time, and it's just unfortunate that we're all living such a fast-paced life that nobody wants to take the time to be in their kitchen and nourish themselves and whoever they're cooking for," said Gentry. "You should be important enough to want to feed yourself."

> Not Your Mother's Pot Roast

For vegetables

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock

2 tablespoons soy sauce (reduce to 1 tablespoon if using a salty broth)

3 to 4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1 spring fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon ground rosemary

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds small red-skinned potatoes, cut into chunks

1 small yellow onion, peeled and sliced

2 cups chopped carrots (about 1-inch pieces)

For roast

2 cups vital wheat gluten

1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes

1/4 cup chickpea flour

1 tablespoon porcini mushroom powder

1 tablespoon granulated onion

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

1 3/4 cups cool tap water

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons Marmite yeast paste

4 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced

For the vegetables: Mix together the vegetable stock, soy sauce, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with the potatoes, onions and carrots in a mixing bowl and set aside.

For the roast: In a large bowl, combine the wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, chickpea flour, mushroom powder, granulated onion, granulated garlic, salt, and pepper, whisking well.

In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the water, olive oil, soy sauce, Marmite, and garlic.

Add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, adding a little more water as needed if the mixture is too dry. Using your hands, mix the dough in the bowl until well blended and smooth. You will see the strands of gluten starting to form. Shape the gluten into a loaf and place in the bottom of a lightly oiled slow cooker.

Pour the vegetables and stock on top. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours, or until the seitan is firm to the touch and the vegetables are cooked. The seitan will spread some across the bottom of the slow cooker.

To serve, remove the vegetables and seitan from the slow cooker. Cut the seitan into slices and arrange them on a serving platter. Surround with the vegetables and spoon the cooking liquid over all.

(From Julie Hasson's "Vegan Diner," Running Press.)

> Almond-jam thumbprint cookies

2 1/2 cups raw whole almonds

1 1/2 cups oat flour

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or barley flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup apple juice

1/4 cup neutral cooking oil

2 teaspoons almond extract

About 3/4 cup raspberry preserves, apricot preserves, or apple butter

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper. Pulse the almonds in a food processor until they form a fine flour. You'll want to leave some small bits of the almonds to lend a nice, crunchy texture to the cookies.

Stir the ground almonds, oat flour, pastry flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl to blend. Whisk the maple syrup, apple juice, oil and almond extract in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until blended.

Using a 1-ounce ice cream scoop (about 2 tablespoons), scoop the dough in mounds onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. (If you don't have an ice cream scoop, just roll 2 tablespoons of dough into a ball for each cookie.) Using the end of a wooden spoon, make an indentation about 1/2 inch in diameter that goes to the bottom of the cookie, but not through the bottom.

Spoon the preserves into a pastry bag or a small resealable plastic bag. If you're using a plastic bag, use scissors to cut 1 bottom corner off the bag. Pipe the preserves into each indentation, mounding them just above the top of the cookie. The jam will melt down as the cookies bake.

Bake the cookies until they puff and become pale golden on the top and bottom, about 25 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to cooling racks and let cool.

The cookies will keep for two days, stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 36 cookies.

(From Ann Gentry's "Vegan Family Meals," Andrews McMeel.)

e-mail: agalarneau@buffnews.com