Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars
Author: Aimée Wimbush-Bourque
Publisher: Penguin Canada (2015)

I often joke that I live on a farm – between the spacious backyard packed with various gardens to the literal cattle and sheep over the back fence, it’s easy to forget that I’m actually in a fairy major suburb of Toronto. That said, I’m still mentally a rural girl and have a passion for the art of homesteading – particularly making my own pantry items like jams and sauces, baking my own bread, and dehydrating leftover garden or local produce. Those techniques are about as far as I can go, but fellow Canadian, food blogger and now author Aimée Wimbush-Bourque takes it a step farther – both online on her website Simple Bites ( and in her new book (named for two of my favourite things): Brown Eggs and Jam Jars.

Brown Eggs is definitely a season-oriented cookbook, with distinctly marked chapters for each quarter of the year as well as a preface of Useful Ingredients (xvi) and Helpful Tools and Equipment (xxii). These sections are further broken down into richly photographed sub-chapters with recipes prefaced by a heart-warming story from Wimbush-Bourque’s family life. Even if the particular dish never makes it to your own table, reading why the author adores it herself is entertaining and truly captures your heart. The recipes themselves are everything I’ve loved about her blog since finding it – no fuss, whole-food concoctions that don’t “preach” a certain diet or lifestyle. Brown Eggs is simply a book full of good food to feed your family. All this said, most dietary lifestyles can enjoy at least some of the dishes in this book, although modification will be required for vegetarians and vegans for the majority of the main courses.

Roasted Ontario Peach BBQ Sauce!
Roasted Peach BBQ Sauce (p. 81)
Given the author’s location in rural Quebec (on a third of an acre of land backing onto a maple forest), it is not surprising that a large quantity of honey and maple syrup is utilized – a fact that can cause some items like the delicious looking Chocolate-Beet Sheet Cake (p. 204) to be rather expensive for “city folk” to pull off. It is worth noting, however, that most of the maple syrup Wimbush-Bourque calls for is only in the “sugaring off” seasons, where most sugar shacks offer decent prices. Desserts aside, total sugars in Brown Eggs are kept to a minimum – usually no more than a few tablespoons, if any). Instead, fruit and naturally sweet vegetables are brought forward – a hearty serving of Honey Ginger Sweet Potato Puree (p. 225) only has ¼ tablespoon of the namesake sweetener, but it is worth noting that a dark, flavourful variety (chestnut is my favourite, while buckwheat is my mom’s) really shines through. Even the rich, smoky sweetness of the book’s Roasted Peach BBQ Sauce (p. 81) is almost exclusively from the caramelized, nectar-oozing fruit, augmented with apple juice and just a whisper of honey. I particularly enjoyed Wimbush-Bourque’s take on traditional cranberry sauce – Cranberry Clementine Relish (p. 224) – because it wasn’t cloyingly sweet, and was bright with the citrus, berries and a touch of vinegar. All the recipes I tried in this book were easy to follow, albeit slightly difficult to find in the sense that they are not organized within the sub-chapters by type (i.e. appetizers, mains, desserts). I haven’t tried any of the “basic” pantry items like the Mayonnaise (p. 35) or Strawberry-Honey Jam with Orange Zest (p. 152), but if the need arises I’ll know where to turn.

Cranberry Clementine Relish
Cranberry Clementine Relish (p. 224)
While full-on homesteading life is not for everyone, anyone can do one or two things to bring less processed, more local and overall delicious food to their table. Brown Eggs and Jam Jars by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque is definitely a fantastic place to start, and is gorgeous enough for any coffee table too!

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Dehydrator Bible

The Dehydrator Bible
Authors: Jennifer MacKenzie, Jay Nutt, Don Mercer
Publisher:  Robert Rose (2009)

The art of preserving food has always been crucial to the livelihood of humans around the globe. Ancient peoples savoured (often accidentally) fermented vegetables, fruit in honey, salted or smoked meats and dried perishables of all kinds, eventually documenting and refining their processes so that future generations could continue eating year-round, regardless of the season. With the invention of modern refrigeration, flash freezing, vaccuum-sealing and untrapasteurization (not to mention worldwide import/export trade) making essentially every food accessible any time, the "old fashioned" methods of "putting by" at home are slowly, but surely, becoming extinct. Before home preserving practices completely dry up, I strongly suggest taking a look at some of the dedicated manuals out there and trying your hand at the craft yourself. The Dehydrator Bible by Jennifer MacKenzie, Jay Nutt, and Don Mercer sets out to encompass everything you could ever want to know about this method of homesteading, from times and temperatures to dealing with the question of what to do with it all at the end.

Dried Blueberries
Dried Wild Blueberries

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to make food shelf stable indefinitely (or at least longer) is dehydrating. Removing the water from foods reduces the likelihood of spoilage greatly and allows for higher volume per gram ratios - a boon for backpackers or bikers - and saves freezer and fridge space for fresh, local foods. Dehydrating preserves nutrients and (in most cases) flavours, and allows even the most casual homesteader to have a "just in case" section of their pantry primed for unexpected guests or financial stress. All these benefits can cost as little as $40 for a serviceable dehydrator, and for the truly obsessed more upscale models can be purchased for upwards of  $200.
Teriyaki Tofu Jerky
Tofu "Jerky"

This book is filled with lots of ways to not only dry your own foods at home safely, but ways to use them too. Some of the recipe are a bit hit-and-miss texture wise (like Teriyaki Orange Simmered Beef (p.122)) especially if you are used to eating 100% fresh. However, other recipes like Pear, Raisin and Walnut Chutney (p. 160) and Mushroom, Garlic and Rosemary Soup (p. 96) seem to be made for the technique. Desserts, snacks and quickbreads abound as well, and are a great first choice for those learning to cook with dried food. Black Forest Cookies (p. 203) and Secret-Ingredient Fudgy Brownies (p. 208) are on my to do list for sure!

If you're looking to try a new way of looking at food and cooking, why not try a new method? The Dehydrator Bible will open your eyes to a delicious, nutritious world - and I'm sure you'll be hooked too.

Saucy Simmered Teriyaki Tofu Bowl
Teriyaki Orange Simmered Tofu (p. 122)

From the Back Flap:

This 50,000-copies-sold bestseller on food dehydration has been updated!

Whether you grow your own food, buy it locally from farmer’s markets or farmstands or even buy it from a regular supermarket, seasonality still affects its price and abundance. Therefore, it makes sense to preserve food for those times when it’s not as plentiful, or not available at all. Drying food is a wonderfully tasty and easy way to do this.

All of the wonderful original recipes are still here. What has changed is that the “Dehydrating Foods” section has been expanded to include even more comprehensive and complete information about dehydrating foods, along with even more tips and techniques.

The book includes more than 150 recipes for dehydrating herbs and seasonings, fruits, vegetables, meats and fish, and more than 250 delicious recipes that actually use the dehydrated foods as ingredients so you can put home-preserved food to work for you in your home, RV, boat or campsite.

The easy-to-follow drying instructions and time guidelines will make even a novice cook feel like a seasoned professional in no time. So plant a few extra rows of tomatoes or beans, pick a heap of strawberries at their peak or buy that big basket of freshly harvested carrots. Then load up your dehydrator. You’ll be thrilled to be cooking with your own dried foods the whole year through!

Available on Amazon

Monday, November 23, 2015

Vegan Everyday: 500 Delicious Recipes

Vegan Everyday: 500 Delicious Recipes
Author: Douglas McNish
Publisher: Robert Rose (2015)

Veganism isn’t the easiest diet for many people to get their heads around – considering that animal-based ingredients are everywhere (from supplements to “fortified” orange juice and even soy-based cheese and meat alternatives!) consumers almost need a university science degree to adhere to the “cruelty free” standards of living these days. While there is compelling evidence s,that a meat free (or mostly meat free) diet is better for your heart, liver, kidneys and digestive system, a lot of new vegetarians and aspiring vegans tend to turn to meat and dairy analogues for the bulk of their diet. The occasional soy burger or “unchicken” stir fry is rarely an issue, and is a convenient, quick meal mid week – however, forgetting the basic fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains out there that are not only cheaper, but more nutritious, is the pitfall most of the “mainstream”, non-chef vegans I know fall into. Toronto-based vegan chef and author Douglas McNish is aiming to bridge the gap between time consuming, nutritious ingredients and delicious, simple meals in his new book Vegan Everyday: 500 Delicious Recipes.

Vegan Everyday is relatively unique in that it’s not simply a vegan cookbook. McNish is also a supporter of gluten-free eating, and one of the few chefs in Canada who combine the two. Vegan Everyday is perhaps a bit of a misleading title in this respect, since the recipes are both vegan and gluten free – and while generally available, affordable (and whole- food) vegan ingredients are almost exclusively called for, many consumers in smaller cities may have a harder time sourcing certified gluten free items to make recipes to the letter. This book, however, doesn’t directly demonize gluten nor wax poetic about how animal products are harming everything we hold dear, and unless medical reasons are a determining factor using “standard” versions of foods like oats and pasta do not have any bearing on the outcome of the recipes themselves.

One of the things I like about Vegan Everyday is how McNish manages to demonstrate the importance of a well stocked pantry – not only for restricted diet cooking, but in general as well. Most of the time, nutritious cooking methods are also employed, with the author relying heavily on fresh and dried herbs, whole spices and whole food flavour combinations rather than refined salt and sugar to make delicious and filling meals. The fact that this book is so restricted in its focus means that it’s not overly child- or allergy-friendly in design – only a handful of the recipes would be suitable for a “standard” American household, and for those with allergies to nuts or coconut, a different book entirely would make more sense. Those of us who thrive on visual references when cooking will find that this book is sorely lacking photos as well – more so than many other books by this publisher. The two meager inserts in the middle of the 480-page tome are only partially filled with pictures of the recipes themselves – the rest of the pages are “beauty shots” of various fruit and vegetables that have little bearing on what the book represents.

The recipes in Vegan Everyday are delicious in theory – and while paging through the book I earmarked several whose flavour combinations echoed my own tastes (like Baked Chana Masala (p. 349) and Deep Chocolate Brownies (p. 444)). However, when it came to making the dishes in question, my success rate diminished to roughly half. In general, the simple, low- or no-cook items (like Singapore Summer Rolls (p. 93) and Spinach Sautéed in White Wine and Garlic (p. 292)), while not overly original, were great successes with vegans and non-vegans alike. The soups I tried were for the most part delicious (and all certainly passable) – in fact, the Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Soup (p. 328) has become one of my favourites with a dash of smoked paprika whirled in, and while the texture of the vegan Mozzarella called for in the French Onion Soup (p. 316) was off-putting, the broth underneath was rich and definitely worth a repeat. With the holidays coming around, the Triple Ginger Cookies (p. 428) and Lemon Vanilla Biscotti (p. 437) are on my shortlist too!

Berry Oat Bars
Berry Oat Bars (p. 157)

Unfortunately, many other dishes simply fell short of being worth the time and effort to make them. The namesake protein in the Jerk Tofu, Avocado and Plantain Wraps (p. 360) was closer to a holiday spice cookie than an Island dish in flavour, lacking any hint of jerk’s trademark fire. Berry Oat Bars (p. 157) managed to be both mushy and granular in texture – the steel cut oats retained a bit too much structure after chilling and felt like overly chewy tapioca pearls between my teeth. The presentation of the bars also left a lot to be desired, as they first fell apart when I tried to remove them from the pan, then re-baked into dark, crusty cubes even after following the directions to the letter. Penne a la Vodka (p. 265) looked promising but tasted of nothing but alcohol and gummy cashews.

One of the common misconceptions about veganism is that it’s a guaranteed weight-loss diet that is automatically healthy. While I applaud Douglas McNish’s passion for choosing generally nutritious ingredients, I definitely won’t call this a “low calorie” cookbook for dieters! Vegan Everyday uses a generous amount of various sugars (usually agave nectar, which is itself a refined sweetener) and salty ingredients like miso, neither of which should have a starring role in anyone’s daily menu. Many recipes call for high amounts of naturally fatty nuts, seeds and oils as well – and while these choices also tend to provide added nutrients like Omega fatty acids and vitamins, again moderation should be exercised. With a few modifications to the recipes (which could be as simple as reducing the amount of oil, agave and/or salty ingredients) this book would better suit it’s “everyday” moniker.

You don’t have to be a 24/7 meat-avoider to enjoy vegan fare at least a few nights a week – nor do you need gourmet training to create filling, balanced and healthy dishes. Books like Douglas McNish’s Vegan Everyday: 500 Delicious Recipes are a great resource when it comes to basic recipes and cooking methods, as well as ideas for making up your own stellar meals. With a few stars under your belt, you’ll be ready to tackle any breakfast, lunch or dinner situation.

Available on Amazon

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Preservation Society Home Preserves: 100 Modern Recipes

Preservation Society Home Preserves: 100 Modern Recipes
Author: Camilla Wynne
Publisher: Robert Rose (2015)

It’s no secret that I spend a good chunk of my Summer and early Fall standing over a stove full of boiling pots. Whether I’m crafting a classic bread and butter pickle, marinara sauce or jam, while the garden is producing I am conserving full-tilt. There’s nothing more rewarding than cracking open a jar of peach jelly in the dead of winter that you canned from still-warm fruit in August, or being able to set an antipasto platter with pickled vegetables that you can proudly claim you made. While canning and preserving is commonly dismissed as a “lost art” that demands more time and effort than our “5-second” lifestyle can afford, pockets of professionals and would-be gourmets are trying to bring it back in favour. Camilla Wynne is one such foodie – an ex-musician turned Master Preserver, writer, teacher and founder of Preservation Society in Quebec. Her book, Preservation Society Home Preserves: 100 Modern Recipes, is now available in English and is a decadent read for anyone with a passion for preserving.

Wynne sets a mandate in Preservation Society to use as much local, seasonal produce as possible. Beyond the realm of simple strawberry jam or applesauce, recipes run the gamut from cocktail-inspired (Strawberry Margarita Jam, p.29) to dessert-worthy (Poires Belle Hélène, p. 82), spicy (Devil’s Chutney, p. 130) and even somewhat bizarre (Pickled Raisins, p. 118). Preserves of all kinds are addressed in the book as well – the contents include Jams, Marmalades, Jellies and Butters, Canned Fruits, Syrups, Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes and Savory Jams and a refrigerator preserve chapter aptly titled “For the Fridge”. Near the back of the book is a small section with suggestions on how to utilize all the delicious preserves you’ve put up (if simple toast isn’t enough!) – between the PB&J Scones (p. 176), Onion Jam Poutine (p. 168) and the Marmalade Pecan Pie (p.174), you (or your gift recipients) will never be caught wondering what to do with that jar of Christmas Clementine Marmalade (p.51) from the holidays.

The breadth and exoticism of Wynne’s choices speaks to her clear creativity and enthusiasm, keeping seasoned canners interested. Thankfully for newbies, recipes are also deceptively simple behind the list of ingredients. The book builds a foundation on solid, scientific preserving principles so readers can venture out into creating their own treats, and while the bulk of the recipes don’t use pectin (which I personally view as a “failsafe” measure that I can also use to customize sugar levels in my jams), the cooking times and temperatures are precise enough that it’s almost impossible to fail – not to mention the lack of a packaged, pre-portioned product like pectin means recipes are easier to scale back to make just a few jars.

Hélène's Beautiful Pears
Poires Belle Hélène (p. 82)
I have to admit that of the recipes I’ve made so far from Preservation Society, the Peach Jam with Bourbon and Honey (p. 25) and Dill Pickles (p.106) stole my heart and won over the family – we’re a household of peach lovers, and when they’re in season we do everything we can to gorge on the fruit. The jam was the perfect use for farmer’s market “seconds”, and tastes like that August morning at the farmstand. The pickles get a nice kick from chili peppers, and I liked the unusual addition of the dill root as well. I’m not sure what it adds to the pickles per se, but I do know the jar disappeared in short order! I also canned some of the Poires Belle Hélène for Christmas gifts, after their “quality assurance” taste test checked out with everyone who came into contact with the first jar. Other than remembering to shake the jar before serving – the cocoa settles at the bottom – it’s a no-fuss, no muss elegant finale to a meal when topped with ice cream or crumbled gingersnaps.

Preserving the glorious flavours of local, seasonal and fresh produce is not only simple, but easily varied and adapted to the tastes and needs of the canner. The flavours in Camilla Wynne’s Preservation Society Home Preserves: 100 Modern Recipes are as rockstar-worthy as her past career, with all the creativity of an artist but possessing the attention to detail not unlike a chef. Why not give your toast the treatment it deserves every morning?

Available on Amazon

Monday, August 24, 2015

150 Best Vegan Muffin Recipes

150 Best Vegan Muffin Recipes
Publisher:  (2012)

It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t love a good muffin. The quintessential quickbread, they are portable, pre-portioned and infinitely variable treats – and depending on the recipe, they can invoke feelings of angelically healthy sainthood, decadent sin or devilish spice. Most common renditions of the classic muffin rely on eggs, milk, or both, but not all of them – as author Camilla V. Saulsbury points out in her book 150 Best Vegan Muffin Recipes.

Vegan Muffin is a great resource for any muffin man (or woman) to have in their collection, from those who have never set foot in the baker’s kitchen to those who can whip out a dozen with their eyes closed. The book begins with a 20-page primer on muffin baking in general, from tips for Muffin Mastery (p. 6) to the equipment and ingredients you’ll need to achieve your ideal results. While the ingredients section of the introduction is specified as “vegan”, anyone can – and should – glean the information should the need to reduce or eliminate animal products from cooking or baking arise. If you only choose to read one portion of the preamble, though, make it Muffin Mastery. It was in this section that I learned the tricks to adapting recipes for different tin sizes and freezing muffin batter for a-la-minute baking – two tips that have made me a veritable “muffin queen” at home. Not only are all the recipes in Vegan Muffin free of animal products (and thus, two major allergens – egg and milk), but Saulsbury shares so many interesting variations on the theme that it’s almost impossible to get bored. Not “preachy” or belabouring the vegan views, the focus of the book is to share tasty and generally nutritious options everyone can enjoy together.

The recipes in Vegan Muffin are generally divided by their intended time of enjoyment: Breakfast (43), Coffeehouse (85) (AKA breaktime), and Lunch and Supper (113). At the end of the book is a chapter on Global Muffins (155), which definitely brings into light just how variable the simple quickbread can be. Saulsbury also includes a chapter with her Top 20 Muffins (21), which includes the mother recipe for Best Basic Muffins (22).  In general, all the ingredients Saulsbury calls for are relatively inexpensive, easy to find in decently stocked supermarkets, and often already found in many a pantry these days, putting to rest the argument that veganism is too complex or expensive a lifestyle.

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins
Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins (p. 28)
I chose to make Saulsbury’s Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins (p. 28) first, as my sister had returned from college with a taste for the cafeteria’s version. The recipe (which I made with white whole wheat flour) came together quickly, although we agreed that the lemon flavor needed a little more oomph and the poppy seeds could have been dialed back a bit. A subsequent batch with an added teaspoon of lemon extract and only two tablespoons of poppy seeds was a resounding success, and if you are baking for traditionally “non-vegan” clientele I would strongly suggest either unsweetened almond or rice milk for their mild flavours, since soy can bring a “beany” tone to the finished dish. To test out the “bake from frozen batter” guide in the Muffin Mastery chapter, I jumped at the chance to make Saulsbury’s version of one of my favourite combinations – Chocolate Avocado Muffins (p. 98). The recipe baked up splendidly both fresh and frozen, although I would suggest reducing the oil to ¼ cup from 1/3, as mine were a little greasy for my taste. The original recipe doesn’t call for chocolate chips, but a sprinkling on top gives them more of a “bakery” look and will convince anyone – even avocado-haters like myself – to have a bite.

On the other hand, I CAN make mean #vegan #chocolate #avocado #muffins !
Chocolate Avocado Muffins (p. 98)
Enjoying a freshly baked muffin was never an experience solely for the omnivorous crowd, although traditional bakeries and cookbooks can make it seem that way. A delicious variety of tastes and textures await anyone who picks up a copy of Camilla V. Saulsbury ‘s 150 Best Vegan Muffin Recipes – you need only pick one and get into the kitchen!

Available on Amazon

Saturday, July 18, 2015

125 Best Chocolate Chip Recipes: Quick, Easy, Fun Ideas

125 Best Chocolate Chip Recipes: Quick, Easy, Fun Ideas
Author: Julie Hasson
Publisher: (2014)

Chocolate chips are a staple in almost every Western pantry. Whether you’re baking cookies every weekend for soccer practice or bake sale, adding a decadent topping to porridge or pancakes, decorating cupcakes or simply grabbing a handful for a sweet pick-me-up mid-afternoon, the irresistible bits of semisweet goodness make any day better. While some bakers shy away from using chocolate chips in anything but the quintessential cookie – reasons usually tying into the stabilizer content of chocolate drops preventing them from melting properly – high quality chocolate chips are versatile and more convenient than chopping up a solid block. This versatility sparked Julie Hasson to write 125 Best Chocolate Chip Recipes, filled with everything you could dream of enhancing with a bite of cacao richness.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake (p. 65)

Best Chocolate Chip Recipes is subtitled “Quick, Easy, Fun Ideas”, and Hasson does everything possible to fulfill that statement. The book begins with a thorough documentation of Tools & Equipment (p. 8), Common Ingredients (p. 12) and Tips for Better Results (p. 18), which is worth a perusal even for the most seasoned home bakers. Each chapter has a title page which lists each recipe within that category, including page numbers, and the Index is cross referenced as well, making the search for your next treat truly as simple as opening a bag of chocolate chips! The hardest part about using this book will be deciding what to make first – Hasson includes an array of items, such as cakes, cookies, muffins and puddings (all more or less “common” chocolate-chipped fare), but also finds innovative ways to incorporate the morsels into drinks (Strawberry Chip “Moothie” (p. 28) anyone?), spreads (Warm Raspberry Chocolate Chip Spread (p.44), please!) and even a Chocolate Tiramisu (p. 163)!

I personally opted for a few more “traditional” recipes to break in this book and test it’s mettle. I wanted to appreciate the taste of the higher-cocoa percentage morsels I usually buy as they were, without melting and/or reforming them into purees, cocktails or flavoured candy. I was still trying to power through shredded zucchini left over from last year’s garden harvest, so Hasson’s Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake (p. 65) was an obvious first choice. I was able to reduce the oil (replacing half the volume with prune puree) and sugar (replacing one of the cups with ½ cup of a stevia baking blend) and still be rewarded with two loaves of moist, rich and perfectly chocolate-studded decadence. I’m sure the loaves would freeze well too for last-minute snacking – but ours never got that far! For a little “lighter” take on a chocolate chip cookie, I chose Hasson’s Chocolate Chip Orange Biscotti (p. 94), which plays the richness of semisweet chocolate against the fresh, fruity notes of orange zest and extract. With the biscotti, I found that I needed to use the juice of the orange as well as the zest for the proper consistency, but that modification rewarded me with even more flavourful, crunchy treats for the staff room. This recipe even lent itself well to whole grain baking, spelt flour adding a slight nuttiness that almonds would in the traditional Italian cookie. I still have a host of “chipped” treats on my list to make – as long as the waistlines of my family agree!

Chocolate Chip Orange Biscotti
Chocolate Chip Orange Biscotti (p. 94)

While they may not hold the elite status of couverture or single-origin chocolate bars, chocolate chips are undeniably a pantry workhorse. From the classic cookie to the craveable cocktail, something from Julie Hasson’s 125 Best Chocolate Chip Recipes is sure to provide a semisweet moment of bliss to your day.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook: 281 Delicious Whole-Grain Recipes

Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook: 281 Delicious Whole-Grain Recipes
Publisher:  (2015)

Muffins. Cookies. Waffles. Burgers. All fundamental parts of day to day Western eating, and all packed chock full of the latest nutritional “baddie” – gluten. While the protein, found  in wheat, barley, spelt, rye, Kamut and triticale, is no danger to most people, for the 1% of the worldwide population living with celiac disease that pesky little molecule becomes a big, life-altering problem. Thankfully, the increased (if misguided) popularity of gluten free diets has opened up a whole world of whole grain flavour and nutrition, and companies like Bob’s Red Mill are doing their part to bring naturally gluten-free grains and pseudograins safely to the table. Their latest endeavour is a cookbook full of healthy, hearty fare, all written by Camilla V. Saulsbury of the blog Power Hungry: Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook: 281 Delicious Whole-Grain Recipes.

Everyday Gluten-Free focuses on giving readers the opportunity to enjoy great-tasting, satisfying and nutritious meals and snacks without relying on overprocessed stand-ins for bread and pasta. Noodles, in fact, are completely absent from the pages of Everyday Gluten-Free, and with the exception of two burgers, store-bought bread products are eschewed as well. Saulsbury relies instead on the array of gluten-free whole grains and whole grain flours Bob’s Red Mill offers to create treats like Olive Oil Cake with Cherries and Dark Chocolate Chunks (p. 304), Mushroom Quiche with Teff Crust (p. 202) and even French Crepes (p. 56). Most of these, especially the ones involving baked goods or batters, use Bob’s Red Mill’s signature packaged  “all purpose flour” blend – however, a quick websearch will point you to any number of satisfactory flour combinations you can make at home and keep in stock (personally, I recommend these two).  

Something I particularly like about Everyday Gluten-Free is that the recipes are not only celiac-friendly but generally nutritious as well. While I wouldn’t suggest cooking a brand new recipe from the book in the middle of a hectic weeknight – learning some of the more unusual ingredients, methods and spices is a task more suitable for a lazy weekend – once you find a few favourites  dinner can be just as fast as “regular” meals. An extra bonus is that the book’s recipes tend to contain more fibre and whole foods than the Standard American Diet, so you can have your meal and eat it too! This book is not a vegetarian tome, but there is a sizeable chapter of Meatless Main Dishes (p. 179) is included and many other chapters feature a majority of vegetarian items as well. I even had success with converting a few baking recipes in Everyday Gluten-Free to vegan or eggless goodies, making the goods safe for the other food allergies in my taste-tester group.

Like most other books published by Robert Rose, Everyday Gluten-Free has limited photography. The photos that are present in the book are curated into four “blocks”, which are worth a perusal on their own. While not every recipe is photographed, Colin Erricson manages to cram enough mouth-watering images into such a restricted space that it tempts the reader into trying the others as well. After spotting the Chorizo, Kale and Teff Soup (p. 118) mug (bowl?) shot, I was inspired to cook up a few batches of soup myself. 

Bob's Red Mill Split Pea Soup
Split Pea Soup with Chia Chutney (p. 103)

I was pleasantly surprised by the flavour and texture of Saulsbury’s take on Split Pea Soup with Chia Chutney (p. 103) – split pea soup is a favourite around here and the zippy elements of lime, ginger and cilantro elevated it to another plane. Since transport and easy enjoyment of these soups was the name of the game for us (who took Thermoses to work), I swirled the elements of the Chia Chutney into the whole pot at the end, adding an extra layer of oomph in every spoonful. I also used some pre-roasted and frozen beets from last year’s garden to whip up the Amaranth Beet Soup (p. 83) with some flair of my own – blood orange juice and shawarma spices. While these recipes were delicious, what was strongly lacking in both was salt. Most of the recipes in Everyday Gluten-Free lack this ingredient, which is a disservice to the flavour potential the whole grains, legumes and produce offer. I’m not asking for heaps of sodium chloride, but a hefty pinch of Kosher salt really turned the soups I made from vegetable water into a hearty, flavourful meal. The other issue I found with the savoury dishes, at least, was with the stated yields – the soup recipes created 10-12 respectable main course servings, rather than the 6 Saulsbury documents. Luckily, we are a family who enjoys leftovers, but if your household is more into one-shot cooking, keep the scaling of recipes in mind!

Beet and Amaranth Soup
Amaranth Beet Soup (my version)(p. 83)

Everyday Gluten-Free is somewhat more than a run-of-the-mill cookbook, even a gluten free one. The introduction is a hefty 32 page exploration of gluten-free grains, including their history, flavour, cooking techniques and nutrition, as well as a section on fleshing out the pantry with staple goods and even measuring ingredients properly. For those who already follow a gluten-free diet due to celiac or gluten intolerance, this read is mostly review. However, for those just jumping on the gluten free trend or  who simply want to cook with more whole grains, it is a fabulous beginner’s resource. What I particularly liked was that the author gave a few different methods of cooking the grains, and included important ingredients for any healthy pantry such as legumes, nuts and seeds.

There are so many tempting treats in Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook: 281 Delicious Whole-Grain Recipes that it is hard to pick a single favourite. Moreso, this book is a fantastic point of inspiration and basic methodology for readers to develop their own spins on old favourites. Who knows, the language of delicious, nutritious whole foods may just become your (gluten free) bread and butter!