Monday, June 6, 2016

My review of Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind by Vanessa Barajas. Often when one decides to “go Paleo” the question of dessert comes up. Vanessa Barajas has the answer in her delightful Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind. Yes, you can have dessert, but make it a special occasion and not an everyday happening. Her book offers a selection of tasty salads, casseroles and sides, but the main focus is on very special desserts that look and taste amazing. The book is well laid-out with the usual how-to’s, tool selections, tips about flours, leaveners and general terminology in chapter one. The recipes follow. I particularly liked the Duck fat Fries (p. 90) that use russet potatoes and truffle salt. Loaded mashed Cauliflower (p. 92) is filled with bacon, onion, egg and fresh chives, so tasty you’ll never miss the cheese. My favorite recipe in this section is the Chipotle Chicken Salad (p. 102), a combination of shredded, cooked chicken (I used rotisserie chicken from Costco) with diced celery, red onion, mayo and chiles in adobo sauce. In the lengthy dessert section, I was particularly drawn to the Spiced Maple Pear Tart (p. 192). Pear tart is a family favorite at Thanksgiving and this is on the must-try list for this year’s celebration. It calls for a Holiday Spiced Crust (p. 174), apple juice, maple syrup, bosc pears and full fat coconut milk. Other recipes include Crème Brulee, several gorgeous cakes, cookies, cashew clusters, chocolate-covered toffee and cookie dough fudge. Truly decadent, but fully Paleo creations for that special occasion. The recipes are easy to follow and outstandingly photographed. There are troubleshooting tips plus instructions for making items such as chocolate curls and ways to decorate cakes (Check out the jaw-dropping creation on pages 233 and 234—a Caramel Maple Fig Cake in four layers!). If desserts are your thing, this is the book for you. If you haven’t gained five pounds just feasting your eyes on all this decadent loveliness, follow Vanessa’s instructions and you’ll be crafting show-stopping desserts in no time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The New Yiddish Kitchen by Simone Miller & Jennifer Robins - my review

I review a lot of Paleo cookbooks, consequently, my bookshelf overfloweth with cookbooks. Nevertheless, when I read about The New Yiddish Kitchen by Simone Miller and Jennifer Robins, I had to have a copy. Not only do I follow a Paleo diet, I also keep a Kosher kitchen. Most Paleo books are awash in pork and seafood recipes. Not this one! The New Yiddish Kitchen features gluten-free and Paleo Kosher recipes for the holidays and every day. This is a beautiful hardcover book with exquisite photography—a photo for every recipe. Additionally, the Bubbes (grandmothers) comment on each dish, throwing in a bit of Yiddish slang. Simone’s and Jennifer’s humor shines through the food descriptions, making one want to try each dish. I’ve only had the book less than two weeks and already have made several of the recipes. More on that later. The book is divided into eight sections: Appetizers and Soups; Grain-free Breads and Crackers; Not-So-Traditional Deli Fare; Pastured Meats and Main Courses; Garden-Fresh Salads and Veggies; Naturally Sweetened Treats; Dairy-Free Condiments and Sauces and Holiday Menus and Tips. There’s even a Yiddish glossary to keep you from going meshuga. Now to the recipes: my husband loves hummus, but the ones in the store are made with garbanzo beans—not Paleo. Jennifer and Simone have created a Roasted Squash Hummus (p. 19) that will make you forget all about “store-bought.” This one calls for cubed butternut squash. I used a box from Costco and saved myself some work. I tried the Challah (p. 52) with success. I bought the silicone challah mold since braiding gluten-free dough is impossible. Next I made the Balsamic Braised Short Ribs (p. 122). This recipe calls for boneless short ribs, which I found at Costco. When the meat is done, remove it to a plate and reduce the remaining sauce by half, then pour it over the meat. The resulting sauce is absolutely delicious! I also made the Savory Lamb Goulash (p. 133) and loved it. Ground lamb combines with peppers, potatoes, carrots and onion and is seasoned with cumin, paprika, smoked paprika and turmeric. The Pan-Roasted Chicken with Figs and Olives (p. 129) was superb. I used bone-in chicken thight for this dish. Next time I’ll use prunes instead of the figs. I served it with Dilly Slaw (p. 163), a delightful slaw variation (be sure to use fresh dill). Also included in the recipes I tried is the Israeli Salad (p. 164). This one, like the Dilly Slaw, keeps well in the fridge. The Pan-Fried Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Pine Nuts (p. 168) was a hit with the hubby, as was the Honey Dijon Asparagus (p. 175). So far, every recipe has been very tasty and easy to prepare. Can’t say enough good things about this book. Get yourself a copy. You’ll be glad you did.

Ditch the Wheat by Carol Lovett - a review

Three words and a cookbook that will forever change your life states the inside cover of this exciting new book by Canadian author and Paleo enthusiast Carol Lovett. Suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, Carol indeed ditched the wheat and has regained her health and an unbound enthusiasm for healthful, gluten-free eating. With a plethora of chapters that include The Why, What, and How of Paleo; Ingredients; Tools and Equipment; Tips and Tricks plus all the types of dishes, Ms. Lovett arms the reader with knowledge to begin a healthful journey. A quote from Sir Albert Howard, founder of the Organic Farming Movement states: The Birthright of all living things is health. This law is true for soil, plant, animal and man: the health of these four is one connected chain. Any weakness of defect in the health of any earlier link in the chain is carried on to the next and succeeding links, until it reaches the last, namely, man.” Pretty powerful words to start off a cookbook chock filled with how-to tips, ideas for stocking your Paleo kitchen, getting to know your fats and so much more. The recipes are outstanding, and each section is preceded with a quotation. I particularly like one by nutritionist Chris Kresser: “Think of Paleo as a template, not a rigid prescription. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach.” One of the outstanding recipes for me was the Spicy Fish cakes with Dipping Sauce (p. 212). Homemade aioli, Dijon mustard and chopped bell peppers spice up the canned salmon, but the dipping sauce, an extra-garlicky sriracha aioli makes these almond floured cakes truly outstanding. Chicken Fingers (p. 232) include a chipotle aioli dipping sauce. The Caramel Chocolate Nut Bars (p. 294) are to die for (they resemble the classic Turtles clusters), but probably a treat for very occasional indulgences. All in all, this is a great introductory book for those new to Paleo. Lovett shows how simple ingredients can be transformed into exquisite delights.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Here's my review of Diana Rodgers' The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook. Diana Rodgers’ The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook landed in my mailbox the other day and I’m blown away. This author and her beautiful book speak to me. The layout, photographs and information are everything a Paleo gal interested in not only what she cooks but WHERE her food comes from could want. I am that gal—living in the coastal mountains near a beach town, yet not far from Silicon Valley. We have acreage, an orchard, an organic garden and chickens. Diana’s book provides an overview of the many aspects of sustainable Paleo living wherein she discusses the problems of modern eating and offers instead the keys to a healthful farm-to-table method for better health. She covers the basics of raising animals—chickens, rabbits, sheep, goats, pigs and the family cow, along with a section on sustainable seafood and another on beekeeping. You’ll learn about getting started with your garden, which varieties of certain vegetables are their personal favorites, plus how to build healthy soil and how best to rotate crops to ensure steady production. The recipes are divided into three seasons. I loved the early Season recipes that include delicacies such as Stinging Nettle Soup (p. 154), gorgeous pea green with a swirl of crème fraiche on top. There’s a grilled boneless leg of lamb with garlic scape pesto and mint that set my mouth watering and a Rhubarb Ginger Sauce (p. 172) that can be used with meat or as an ice cream topping. In the dessert section there’s one recipe…for Almond Panna Cotta with Roasted Strawberries (p. 198). I’m a panna cotta fan and am carefully watching the strawberry plants in my garden so I can pluck the first fruits for the delectable dish. Midseason Recipes cover the time from July through September which coincides with canning season as well. I liked the Grilled Cinnamon Steak (p. 224) using grass-fed beef filet tail. A dry cinnamon rub coats the meat prior to grilling. Late Season Recipes (late October to mid-December) include Big Bad Rooster Soup (p. 262), a chicken soup with an abundance of fresh veggies, Moroccan Egg and Lamb Tagine (p. 266) and Hard Cider (p. 276). This one piqued my interest since we have several apple trees in our little orchard. My next dish to try will be the Rosemary Potato Stacks (p. 292), a take-off on Potatoes Anna. The book is chock full of numerous tips: how to care for cast-iron skillets, a meat doneness chart, how to render lard, how to can tomatoes and much more. The final section offers tips on living—how to have a healthy lifestyle, finding personal fulfillment, etc. While many of these are briefly touched upon, there’s a wealth of practical how to’s to interest anyone in the basics of sustainable Paleo living. For the beginner, there’s enough information to get started, and opens the doorway to additional extensive research. For the cook, the recipes alone will delight, but this book is a compendium and earns a well-deserved place on your bookshelf.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Having switched to a primal/paleo lifestyle in 2012, I’m always looking for cookbooks that support this eating plan. Some have been better than others. Danielle Walker scores high marks for Against all Grain. Not only is this a beautifully photographed work of art, the recipes are delectable, too. Danielle, who struggled for years with debilitating ulcerative colitis, gives a bit of her background and how her debut book came into being. She covers many topics in a friendly and informative manner in her topic Navigating a New Lifestyle. Here she covers some basics on paleo food ingredients (with a focus of fresh, organic and local) and kitchen equipment. Most of the rest of the book is divided into sections covering breakfasts(“to start off your morning”), appetizers (“small bites”), “soups, salads, and sides”, “the main event”, kid-friendly foods (“for the kid in us”), “muffins, loaves and morning cakes”, “sweets and treats”, “basics”, and finally a few drinks (“sip on this”). Two pages of menu suggestions—showing how some of her recipes can be combined, a resource guide and a substitutions and conversion page complete the contents. However, it would be a disservice to Ms. Walker to not go into a little detail about the book and the recipes. First of all, Against all Grain is a large format, 368-page volume with a classy folded cover and exquisite photography. The glossy pages are thick and have a quality feel to them. To keep from getting spatters while I tried the recipes, I used a stand-type acrylic book holder. I tried several recipes. Ms. Walker states that she has striven to create paleo recipes from foods she and her family knew and loved. Fortunately for me, her favorites are mine as well, so finding recipes to sample was easy peasy. I made the Thai “Peanut” Vinaigrette (p. 314) to serve with her Asian Mango Slaw (p. 106). We loved both taste and texture, however, since coconut oil solidifies when cold, I recommend giving it a few seconds in the microwave to liquefy the dressing. I also made her Currant Scones (p. 232) and found them delectable. I’m a scone lover and plan to try the Lemon Curd listed in the sweets section. Next I made the Slow Cooker Sesame-Orange Chicken (p. 130) and found the sauce way better than the sugar-laden creations in other Oriental recipes. I made the Orange-Cranberry Muffins, once with fresh cranberries and once with dried, and found them the best I’ve had. And today I made her Marinated Artichokes (p. 76) and World-Famous Sandwich Bread (p. 226). Both were very good, however, I admit to preferring Brazilian Cheese Buns over sandwich bread. (A tip from another reviewer suggests using the 7 ½-inch bread pan, which I did, with the result of a higher loaf.) My preference notwithstanding, Ms. Walker has created a gem of a cookbook with many delicious-sounding dishes. I will be making many more of the recipes featured in Against all Grain. It has just become my go-to cookbook. Thank you Ms. Walker.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Newcomer by Robyn Carr

Thunder Point Deputy Sheriff “Mac” McCain has struggled to keep his family together after being abandoned by his wife. It hasn't been easy, but with the help of a family member and his longtime friend Gina, things are moving along on an even keel. Mac has decided he and Gina will get together after the kids are grown. Mac has three and Gina has one, and she doesn't want to wait. In fact she's secretly wanted to explore a deeper relationship with the handsome law enforcement officer nicknamed “Mr. Yummypants.” As their romance grows, Mac's reasons for waiting evaporate, but then their lives are turned upside down when Mac's long-departed ex wife returns to Thunder Point. What will this do to their new-found love? The Newcomer is book two in Robyn Carr's new Thunder Point series, set along Oregon's rocky coast. It takes up where The Wanderer left off with the same delightful cast of characters and a few new surprises. I love Carr's storytelling, her delicious cast of characters and the pacing that keeps me turning pages long after I've decided I need to get some sleep. While I find it hard to replace my love of her Virgin River series, I'm feeling quite comfortable with this new locale and its characters. The drama of everyday life plays out beautifully in Thunder Point.

Two of a Kind by Susan Mallery

Four years earlier, logistics expert Felicia Swift had a one-time fling with a Black Ops soldier. Now she's in Fool's Gold, helping her former crew set up the logistics for a bodyguard training school. Following this, she wants out. Felicia wants a normal life with a picket fenced house, a loving non-military husband and the requisite children. Imagine her shock when the low, sexy voice of a local disk jockey is none other than the man to whom she willingly lost her virginity in Thailand. Gideon Boylan pretends to fit in to the small community while keeping his distance. Two years incarceration in a Taliban prison where his comrades were killed has damaged him to the point he cannot do more than stay alive. However, when he sees Felicia, all the hunger returns. He can't offer her anything but a place in his bed, but for now that will suffice. Felicia needs to learn how to be normal in order to fulfill her dream, and Gideon can help her. But can they date and not become involved? Then fate throws a monkey wrench into their plans, and Felicia is the one who can help Gideon. Great story by Fool's Gold author Susan Mallery. While I loved Justice (who is like a brother—a very protective brother—to Felicia), I enjoyed watching Gideon grow. Felicia and Gideon have an exciting chemistry and the banter between them is superb. Two of a Kind is just that, a story about two misfits striving for a semblance of normalcy. How they achieve it is part of the magic of storyteller Mallery. Two thumbs up for this one.