When I saw a copy of Kris Carr and Chad Sarno’s Crazy Sexy Kitchen at my local library, I didn’t hesitate to slip it onto the top of my stack of books. After all, its gotten some crazy sexy reviews.

When I got home, I flipped right to the recipe section of the book. Over the past week and half, I’ve tried out a number of recipes. They’ve all been enjoyable, and I’ve found a couple of keepers that fit some gaps in my usual repertoire. The book seems well researched to me. There probably isn’t a dud in the whole book– I wouldn’t hesitate to try a new recipe out even on a night when company was coming for dinner.

Quite a lot of the book is devoted not to recipes, but to philosophy and kitchen preparation. Usually this strikes me as “preaching to the choir;” you could rip out that section in all of my cookbooks, and I couldn’t care less. However, over the years the reasons for my vegetarianism and veganism have shifted and evolved, as has the vegan community’s. Crazy Sexy Kitchen is part of the era of “beyond vegan.” You’ve probably seen phrases like “plant-strong” and “plant empowered” replacing the term “vegan.” Kris Carr clearly explains the reasoning behind eating non-inflammatory foods, rejecting “milk and dairy mumbo jumbo,” cutting back on gluten and sugar, and paying attention to food pH and raw foods. This is veganism at its most vibrant, and I call it “beyond vegan” because it goes beyond just looking at a product label to see whether or not animal products are in it.

I was happy not to skip the sermon part of the cookbook for once, because it has gotten me thinking about my eating habits in a new way again. It’s not a bad thing that mostly I’m a vegan out of habit– who has the energy to re-evaluate their diet every single day? Over the years, though, when ever I’ve gotten complacent, new shifts in attitudes, available foods, and research have helped me to develop and deepen my relationship with food and veganism.

Sure, some of the photos of Kris Carr are a little much, and her peppy, fun style of writing, while refreshing, might just be a little exhausting to read at times. Bear with it to reap the rewards, and remember that you can always skip to the back of the book and try out a recipe or two for a little bit of a break.

Here are some of the recipes I tried out, and what I think of them:

The first recipes I made were Sage Polenta with Nana’s Marinara. I’m a huge fan of polenta, but I usually make mine plain and then jazz it up with sauce later. I enjoyed the taste made with almond milk and sage, but if you’re going to chill the polenta to cut and then fry, the recipe calls for too many onions– they cause the polenta to crumble. Nana’s Marinara is a great basic tomato sauce, and I’m glad they included it. Too often cookbook authors ignore the basics, thinking every cookbook already has that recipe, and so therefore you end up having to go online just to find, say, a banana bread recipe even though you own 13 cookbooks.

Another night I had, as part of my dinner, some Super Simple Wok Veggies. Yes, I can stir fry without a recipe– but using one reminded me to jazz it up with vegetables that I don’t normally include, like water chestnuts.

To pair with the veggies, my husband made me Madeira Peppercorn Tempeh. Man, was this stuff good. However, he says it was very complicated, and I can attest that it took him a long time to make it. Was it worth it? I can only imagine myself making this in the future if I make a big batch of it. It’s too disheartening to spend hours on a meal that gets wolfed down in minutes. But I must admit, I found myself thinking “whoa, I’m eating meat!” when I had leftovers the next day. I normally don’t think it’s necessarily a complement when people say “and you can’t even tell it’s vegan” or “even meat lovers will ask for more,” because I love vegan food and think it can stand on its own merits. Also, since I have been a vegetarian or vegan for the majority of my life, I don’t actually know what meat tastes like anymore, so can I really say these things? But this is a little bit like what I imagine meat tastes like, only it’s not all fatty and with a weird texture.

The recipe I was most excited– and nervous– about trying out was the Crazy Sexy Goddess Smoothie. I am not one to usually put veggies in my smoothies, but since Kris Carr wrote “drinking your produce will literally change your life. Green juices and smoothies are the most important part of my daily practice,” I knew that I couldn’t truly judge this book without trying out a smoothie recipe. The verdict? I hardly could tell there was spinach in it– this is a true beginner’s smoothie. I had only dipped my toes in the waters of green smoothies, but trying this one made me eager for more. Maybe next time I’ll have enough courage to make one that is actually green!

Although I enjoyed all of the recipes I tried, I found Hearts-of-Palm-Style Crab Cakes with Remoulade to be a keeper. Guest chef Tal Ronnen surely has some chef genius going on. Why have I never seen making patties from hearts of palm before? The texture is perfect! His flavorings are delicious, and the remoulade is spot on. I’ll bring this one out for company in the future.

Perhaps the recipe that I will make most often from this book is the Save the Tuna Salad. Made from soaked almonds and sunflower seeds, it tastes nothing like tuna– thank goodness! It has a palatable texture and, thanks to the sea veggie, some delicious umami taste to it.

I also tried the Mediterranean Wrap with Cashew Cream Cheese, which is something I enjoyed, but probably won’t make frequently– it was an expensive recipe.

If I have any complaint with the recipes in this book, it is that some of the recipes are expensive, while others too complicated for me to imagine making. If someone else wants to make me Vegan “Clam” Chowder, I’m all for it, but there’s no way I’m making cashew cream, kombu broth, and smoked mushrooms all separately, just to have a bowl of soup. Though who knows? I say that now, but it looks really good…

I can always take this cookbook out from the library when I want to, and that makes me happy. I don’t feel the need to get my own copy, however. Like I said, the writing style isn’t for me, but mostly, it’s because I feel that no matter how good these recipes are, most of the recipes included aren’t recipes to live on. It feels more like a showcase cookbook for company. The “main events” don’t always contain protein or other elements that would balance most sides I usually eat, and much of what I tasted didn’t necessarily make me feel more vibrant and healthy compared to how I normally eat. For most people, these things might not matter, but they do to me because (shh, don’t tell) I don’t actually like to cook. I like to eat. And this is a cookbook for a cook, not for an eater who happens to have to cook in order to eat. In my daily life, I reach for the same cookbooks again and again, ones with recipes that create leftovers that you can re-heat, make meals that aren’t prohibitively expensive, and are very filling with lots of protein and veggies. If they don’t dirty a lot of dishes in the making that’s even better. I like a diner kind of cookbook with food you serve American style. This is not that cookbook. This is more of an upscale restaurant kind of a cookbook, where they use watercress as a garnish, arrange everything artistically, and at the end of the meal you are still hungry. But at least it tasted good.

And it does. It’s crazy, sexy good.