Category Archives: Cookbooks

Weekend Cooking: 3 Cookbook Reviews

Our wonderful library system (full disclosure: I work for them but was a big fan before becoming an employee) includes an extensive collection of cookbooks spanning every possible cuisine and diet. I can’t resist checking out several food-related books every week and perusing them for recipes and inspiration.

Here are three that recently caught my eye and that I thought I’d provide some thoughts for via Weekend Cooking, a feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads and open to anyone who has a food-related post to share.


One of my favorite cookbooks these days is Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: Knockout Quick Fix and Slow Cooker Recipes by Gina Homolka who writes the blog — you guessed it — Skinnytaste. I’ve checked this cookbook out of the library at least three times now and have made two stellar dishes from it.

The first was a slow cooker version of Lasagna Soup. I had some leftover vegetarian ground beef and used that instead of the actual meat. Everyone in our family liked it except The Girl, who doesn’t like soup, period. It felt like a substantial meal. I used DeLallo’s gluten-free lasagna noodles for this (the best variety of GF pasta I’ve found) and nobody could tell the difference.

The second recipe was a Sheet Pan Greek Chicken dinner that I made for the kids. It was very similar to this Sheetpan Italian Chicken on the Skinnytaste site. I think I used baby carrots, broccoli and roasted potatoes as the vegetables.

The photography in this cookbook is gorgeous and if memory serves me correctly (as this one has since gone back to the library again), the organization of recipes was very user-friendly. There were plenty of meals in this that either everyone in our family could enjoy or that lent themselves to simple substitutions or adaptations. I look forward to cooking from this one often.

Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: Knockout Quick Fix and Slow Cooker Recipes for Real Life
by Gina Homolka and Heather K. Jones
Clarkson Potter
2016
304 pages

Terry Hope Romero is one of the authors of Veganomican, which always seems to be go-to source for all things vegan, so I guess I had high expectations for Protein Ninja‘s  “100 hearty plant-based recipes that pack a protein punch.” Unfortunately, almost every recipe calls for some type of protein powder, be it pea, hemp, brown rice, etc. Although I’ve never tried it, the notion of cooking or baking with protein powders doesn’t hold much (if any) appeal for me; however, if this is of interest to you, the author gives a very good description of such powders, their uses, storage, where to buy, etc. in the opening chapters of the book.

I also didn’t find too many of the recipes to be labeled gluten-free, a category which is included among the recipe descriptors. I’m sure some could be modified to be such. Protein Ninja wasn’t for me, but this would be a good resource for those who enjoy or would like to try using protein powders in their vegan cooking and who don’t necessary need to be gluten-free.

Protein Ninja: Power Through Your Day with 100 Hearty Plant-Based Recipes That Pack a Protein Punch
Terry Hope Romero
Da Capo Lifelong Books
2016
208 pages

For whatever reason, a typical salad holds little appeal for me this summer. I seem to have some sort of aversion to lettuce lately, unless it’s in a chopped salad, yet I’m craving salads with an abundance of ingredients (with little to no lettuce). I’m buying salad-worthy ingredients at the store and farmers market, and then somehow have zero inspiration or ability to construct such a salad when I get home.

All this is why I was excited to pick up Mighty Salads: 60 New Ways to Turn Salad Into Dinner, a new cookbook from the folks behind the Food52.com website (a great source with a plethora of food articles, recipes, products, tips, and more). Immediately, they were speaking to me, with this right inside the cover: “Does anybody need a recipe to make a salad? Of course not. But if you want your salad to hold strong in your lunch bag or carry the day as a one-bowl dinner, dressing on lettuce isn’t going to cut it.”

This cookbook is divided into sections titled Leafy Salads, Less-Leafy Vegetable Salads (yes, please!), Grain and Bean Salads, Pasta and Bread Salads, Fish and Seafood Salads, and Meat Salads. This is chock full of inspiration (“Even if you never make a single recipe in the book to completion but instead create a mash-up you like better or that serves as a happy home for your leftover vegetables, we’ve done our job.”) That they have.

Mighty Salads: 60 New Ways to Turn Salad Into Dinner
Editors of Food52
Ten Speed Press
2017
160 pages

 

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The No Meat Athlete Cookbook (spoiler alert: you don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy this one)

I’ve become somewhat of a slacker with running. There are enough reasons for that to warrant a separate post, I think, and I do want to get back to more of a fitness routine. I’m starting with walking; The Girl and I did two 2-mile walks on the beach last week and that felt good, so that’s something.

When I started running last fall, I went back to eating chicken. I thought I needed the additional protein for my increased workouts. That experiment lasted only a month or two because a) I didn’t really notice a difference (it’s not like I suddenly became a triathlete) and b) after 20 years of not eating meat* the stomach woes were too much. Within a month or two, I was happily back to being a gluten-free pescetarian.

Around this time I discovered the No Meat Athlete  site and podcast, which reinforced that it was definitely possible to eat a plant-based diet while partaking in high-intensity fitness activities like marathons. Even though I’m nowhere near that point — and may never be — NMA offers a lot of great information, strategies and recipes for athletes of all abilities.

I was thrilled to review The No Meat Athlete Cookbook by Matt Frazier and Stepfanie Romine  in Tuesday’s issue of Shelf Awareness. They offer athletes at every level 125 plant-based recipes providing a powerhouse of essential nutrients for strength and endurance.

“It’s everything in the food–and the remarkably complex interactions of countless nutrients–that our bodies thrive on, not a single constituent,” the authors state. Because the body also requires less time to process whole foods, more energy is available for workouts and a full recovery afterward.

While athletes are this cookbook’s focus, there’s plenty here for people who are simply interested in eating a plant-based diet.

Thanks to Shelf Awareness for the opportunity to review The No Meat Athlete Cookbook. Read my full review here.

* There was a brief period in 2011-2012 when I ate chicken. The kids and I were still living in Delaware while The Husband commuted back and forth from Pittsburgh, and it was just easier for the three of us to eat the same thing. And then I got a job where I was on the road extensively, often in rural parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. After that ended, so did my meat consumption.

 

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Cookbook Review: The Make-Ahead Kitchen by Annalise Thomas

The Make Ahead Kitchen

The Make-Ahead Kitchen by Annalise Thomas is, as its subtitle promises, 75 Slow-Cooker, Freezer, and Prepared Meals for the Busy Lifestyle.

With most make-ahead cookbooks, there’s the tendency to automatically think cooking in bulk and making enough “freezer meals” for a month.  While there are some freezer meals, this lives up to its subtitle and includes plenty of slow-cooker meals and dishes that can be prepped in advance, with only a little oven time needed for finishing.

(Except if you’re in our house, where the oven isn’t quite working as well as it should.)

This is not an exclusively vegetarian cookbook, although there are a few recipes that meet that criteria. (There are more meat-based ones, though.)  It’s also not a gluten-free cookbook, although several recipes are either labeled gluten-free (GF) or gluten-free adaptable (GFA).

Categories include Breakfasts; Soups & Salads; Appetizers, Snacks & Sides; Main Dishes; Cookies & Bars; Desserts; and Drinks. I liked that the author included a brief introductory section.  So many cookbooks have pages and pages of lists of pantry ingredients, cooking techniques, etc. Many its me, but because I read a lot of cookbooks, I just find that type of information repetitive.  This one goes right into the recipes and I appreciated that.

The Breakfast section has breads, casserole-type egg bakes, cinnamon rolls and other pastries. The Roasted Veggie and Ham Overnight Egg Bake looks good. (I would, of course, eliminate the ham.)  It claims to not be “your usual carb-loaded egg bake full of bread and potatoes.”  Plus, it’s GF.

All of the soups and salads are GF or GFA. The Thick and Hearty Split Pea Soup (sans the ham hock) sounds delicious.  Vegetarian options include The Best Homemade Greek Salad (GF) and Tomato-Feta Pasta Salad (GFA). There’s a macaroni and cheese recipe that I think would be perfect for the non-GF members of my family, especially on nights that I have to work.

And in the cookies and bars section, there is a Fudgy Gluten-Free Dairy Free Brownie that looks scrumptious.

This is a very visually appealing cookbook, with gorgeous color photographs for every recipe. Nutritional information is absent, and most of the recipes look like they might be a bit higher on the carb count than I personally would prefer, but for the occasion when you need to prepare a dish in advance, The Make-Ahead Kitchen offers many possibilities.

The Make-Ahead Kitchen: 75 Slow-Cooker, Freezer, and Prepared Meals for the Busy Lifestyle
by Annalise Thomas
Front Table Books
2016
151 pages

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #78 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.

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Cookbook Review: Carb-Conscious Vegetarian (71/99)

Carb Conscious Vegetarian

“The downfall of some vegetarian diets is a tendency to rely on white rice or pasta as the focus of the meal. After all, pasta and rice dishes can be quick, tasty, and economical. While it’s true that a little pasta or rice in moderation is harmless for most people, sometimes you can find yourself eating more refined carbs than anything else and ultimately putting on extra pounds — a telltale signal that it’s time to reevaluate what you’re eating.”  — Robin Robertson, Carb Conscious Vegetarian

This, in the proverbial nutshell, describes my approach to being vegetarian for two decades. Rice and (gluten-free) pasta are the mainstays of my go-to meals, and the former has definitely increased since going gluten-free several years ago.

Now, as I’ve mentioned in some very recent posts, I need to focus on reducing my carbs and lowering my cholesterol.  My triglyceride levels are in a super-high range and combined with the cholesterol numbers, I’m pretty sure statins are in my future.  Needless to say, I’m not pleased about any of this. The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be many cookbooks that are gluten-free AND vegetarian AND low-carb AND low cholesterol. I feel like I need to create my own repertoire of recipes. Expect to hear more about all this in future posts.

So, I’m trying to embrace this and using the need for new recipes as justification for borrowing piles of cookbooks at a time from our library, which has a very extensive cookbook collection spanning every possible cuisine, device, food group, diet and lifestyle, etc. We’re very fortunate in that regard.

Carb Conscious Vegetarian by Robin Robertson seems to be a good place to start. It’s from 2005, and a bit on the basic side with no photographs, but these 150 recipes “contain no refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, sugar, or pasta.”  Recipes using soy (including vegetarian crumbles and burgers, tofu, and tempeh) are included. Robertson describes this as a “moderately low-carb/all good carb” cookbook and includes an extensive list of food items and the carb counts for specific amounts.  She also includes an explanation of the glycemic index, including the number for certain foods. Most of the recipes are either already gluten-free or easily modified to be GF.

Recipes I’m interested in trying (none of these have any cholesterol) include:

Guacamame  (9 g. carbs) – avocado with the addition of edamame

Summer Vegetable Bisque (14 g. carbs) – the creaminess of the bisque is accomplished by pureeing the vegetables and stock

Bountiful “Big Bowl” Chili (28 g. carbs)

Victory Garden Stew (23 g. carbs)

Tabbouleh-Style Quinoa Salad (28 g. carbs)

Sloppy Josephines (18 g. carbs) – a variation on Sloppy Joes, with a note that it tastes better the next day. This sounds like it would be good to make ahead and eat for an early dinner, particularly when we are going someplace where we are unsure of the vegetarian food options.

Rich Man’s Pesto (2 g. carbs)

Wintertime Spinach Pesto (2 g. carbs)

Creamy Cucumber-Dijon Dressing (2 g. carbs)

White Wine Vinegar and Fresh Herb Marinade – for grilled vegetables (2 g. carbs)

Spinach-Mushroom “Frittata” – egg free (10 g. carbs)

Carb Conscious Vegetarian: 150 Delicious Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle
Robin Robertson 
Rodale 
2005 
243 pages

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #71 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

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