Saturday, September 17, 2016

Danielle Walker's "Celebrations" cookbook review

There are a TON of cookbooks on the market today for literally every cuisine, cooking method, diet, health concern, personal preference, etc., out there.  Looking specifically at paleo and gluten-free cookbooks, what does it take to stand out?  Unbeatable flavors, innovative recipes, ease of cooking, and perhaps beautiful photos that make you salivate.

Danielle Walker has a track record of delivering just that with her Against All Grain website and two cookbooks (AAG, Meals Made Simple).  I found her in 2012 when I began my own paleo journey and was doing quick internet searches to find recipes.  Every (free) recipe I tried from her blog were just delicious.  When I bought her first two cookbooks, I literally fell off my chair after each recipe I tried because they were just so freaking delicious.  I didn't miss grains one bit!!  Earlier this year, I found out that Danielle was releasing her third cookbook Celebrations on Sept 27. I was so excited to have more tasty recipes from a fellow foodie whom I have come to trust, respect, and admire.  When I made it onto Danielle's cookbook launch team, I couldn't have been any more honored or excited!




As you may have guessed, the premise of the cookbook is grain-free recipes that fall under various holidays or celebrations all year long (e.g., New Year's Eve, Easter, Mother/Father's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas).  I received the cookbook a few weeks before public release and literally could not stop cooking from it!  My family kept raving about every single recipe I made, which is a testament to Danielle's foodie awesomeness.

In her latest cookbook, Danielle has truly recreated grain-free versions of old favorites and creatively came up with brand new ones.  As a bonus, the photos are simply gorgeous to look at!  While linked to particular holidays, the recipes can be enjoyed at any time of the year. The recipe index in the back is particularly helpful for seeing all the recipes available, broken down by meal type (breakfast, salads, soups, sides, main events, desserts, drinks).  Furthermore, each recipe comes with helpful "tidbits" and "make ahead" tricks.  Plus, the book lays flat- no need to find a heavy paperweight!!

As for the negatives... many recipes call for an electric mixer or blender.  As someone who hates cleaning, I mixed the ingredients by hand in a bowl & wooden spoon, and they all came out just fine :)  Also, many recipes require ingredients that aren't easily available in traditional grocery stores (e.g., cacao butter, raw cashew butter, light-colored raw honey).  This is a common challenge in paleo cooking and you may have to take a trip to Whole Foods or place an order from Amazon.  However, I've subbed other ingredients (e.g., roasted cashew butter, regular honey) and it turned out fine.


Whether you are paleo, gluten-free, clean eating, or simply just want to eat scrumptious homemade food, I wholeheartedly recommend this cookbook!!!  Now, let's see what's in store in Celebrations...



Carnitas on tostones with persimmon salad and "my heart beets for you" smoothie!
(NOTES: Pulverized the plantains in my food processor instead of frying & smashing.  No persimmons available yet so subbed a peach instead)





Fork-and-knife ribs, skillet "corn" bread, and heirloom tomato / watermelon / basil salad!
(NOTE: No heirloom tomatoes around here so subbed jersey tomatoes. No cast iron skillet so used a regular skillet. The "corn" bread was actually really easy to make and uses basic ingredients that you probably have on hand)



Leftover BBQ sauce from the ribs were used on these split chicken breasts.  Deeeeelish, and such an easy weeknight meal to make! #gainz





Blackened salmon with stone-fruit salsa, served with homemade ginger ale.  Peach cobbler for dessert :P 
(NOTE: My grocery stores do not carry pluots so used a plum instead)

 



 
 Mummy dogs (i.e., pigs in a blanket) // Corn dog muffins with baked "beans"!
(NOTE: These mummy dogs are a family favorite and something I really missed when going grain-free. It's soooo nice to finally be able to enjoy them again!  The recipe says to chill the dough for 24 hours.  My family was too impatient so I made this after chilling the dough for only 4 hours. They came out a little chewy - but still yummy - so I am going to try again with chilling it for all 24 hours.  For the baked "beans', I omitted topping it with bacon before putting in the oven.)





BLTA burger on lettuce leaf "bun" with roasted garlic cauliflower mash, mimosa bar, and whoopie pies!
(NOTE: Used turkey instead of beef for the burger.  Cauli mash was a little loose - but still delicious - fresh out of the food processor.  After a night in the refrigerator, it had the consistency of traditional mashed potatoes)


....These pics are just a sampling of all the deliciousness that you will get in her new cookbook.  More to come!! :)


Finally, Danielle is traveling across the USA plus Canada on the Celebrations book tour so feel free to come out and meet her (plus get your cookbooks signed)!  If you're in the NYC area, please join me in welcoming Danielle to the Big Apple on Tuesday, Sept 27 at 6pm at the Barnes & Noble in TriBeCa (97 Warren Street) as she kicks off her book tour!




Meeting Danielle Walker at the Meals Made Simple 2015 book tour stop in NYC :)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

What's up?! New Chowhound recipe

Ohhh boy, it's been awhile, hasn't it??  The last couple years (!) have been filled with a crazy work schedule, landing a new gig, commuting 4 hours/day, running, CrossFitting, traveling the world, and of course... cooking!!!

Part of my new gig is to support Chowhound.com (formerly CHOW.com), which is a community-based food website with over 10 million unique visitors a month.  My role is in a consumer research capacity, but it's nevertheless awesome to work on food content.  You can check out Chowhound's professional, health-conscious recipes here: http://www.chowhound.com/recipes/healthy

As you may know, cauliflower is an incredible substitute for rice (if you haven't tried it yet, you need to!)  In fact, cauliflower fried "rice" is so chock full of vegetables that you won't miss its starchy cousin or need extra fat or protein to fill you up.  I was honored to create a paleo fried rice recipe exclusively for Chowhound:
http://www.chowhound.com/recipes/grain-free-cauliflower-fried-rice-31780


Let me know what you think!  Let's eat.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Paleo Crepes

Happy March! It is snowing outside as I write this... alas it is still winter.

I was at the mall with my mom & sister when we passed by this cute crepe stand. It was literally a made to order crepe stand, complete with the real cooking stones & gigantic spatulas. The menu was pretty solid- everything from savory to sweet with meat, veggies, fruit, chocolate, and nutella. There was one gluten-free offering, but I decided, hey, why don't I try making it myself?? And a paleo one at that!

My recipe is easy & simple, the way life should be: tapioca flour, milk of choice, & eggs. Seriously, that was it! They came out pretty good, minus a couple flipping mishaps :P  The crepes were soft, sweet, and delicious, albeit a tad on the stretchy/sticky side due to the tapioca. I filled them with blueberries, literally frozen from a bag and heated on low until the berries burst. I made another batch with the "flipping fails" with sliced bananas & a dash of maple syrup (not pictured here to prevent eye sore), also delicious!

Paleo Blueberry Crepes

Blueberry crepes, minus the flipping mishap on the right :P
 
INGREDIENTS
1 c tapioca flour
1 c milk of choice
1 egg (or 2 egg whites if you're avoiding yolks)

DIRECTIONS
1. Mix all ingredients together. Tapioca will dissolve into the milk, though it may initially feel clumpy at the bottom.
2. Heat a small frying pan on medium heat. Spray with oil. Pour about 1/3 c batter into the pan. When the bottom has cooked (edges will turn white), carefully flip to the other side and repeat.
3. Transfer to a plate. Repeat the process until all crepes are made.
4. Crepes are ready to be eaten as is, although honey or maple syrup drizzle is recommended. If using a filling, add it down the center of the crepe. I used blueberries and bananas, but the sky is the limit. Fold, roll, or stack and gobble up!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes

This winter has been absurdly awful. The midwest was ridiculously subzero, the south got snow, and all other regions were colder than usual - for longer - and got way more snow. Another snowstorm will be coming tonight and another on Wednesday. Seriously??

Cold winter days are the kind of days when it's nice to be warm and cozy indoors. Cold weekends are even cozier with a warm batch of pancakes for brunch :)  This recipe is definitely my favorite paleo/gluten-free pancake recipe so far and were a huge hit with the family! 


Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes



Adapted from Against All Grain

INGREDIENTS
1 banana, mashed
2 egg whites
1/4 c coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp coconut flour
1/3 c blanched almond flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS
1. Mash banana in a medium bowl. Add the wet ingredients: egg whites, milk, vanilla, & honey. Mix until combined and the eggs are slightly foamy.
2. Add the dry ingredients: coconut flour, almond flour, baking soda, & salt. Mix all that goodness together and all clumps are broken up.
3. Heat griddle on medium-low heat. When it's hot, spray oil on pan. Pour 1/4 c of batter per pancake onto griddle and use spatula to shape into a round shape. .
4. When pancakes start to bubble (about 4-5 minutes), sprinkle on chocolate chips. Flip and cook until pancakes are done, about 2-3 minutes. 

Tip: These are gluten-free pancakes so they are more delicate than typical wheat ones. Flipping these babies is the easiest when the pancakes are smaller (4 inches in diameter is ideal) and smaller than the spatula. Smaller spatulas tend to work better than larger ones. DO NOT touch the pancakes until they begin to bubble and the outer edges start to turn white, otherwise they will fall apart.

Yield: 8 pancakes

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Primal Pumpkin Mac and Cheese (gluten-free)

Cold this winter? Love mac & cheese? Eating paleo/primal? Try pumpkin mac and cheese for a tasty twist on an old favorite. The pumpkin adds a subtle flavor that excellently compliments the traditional cheddar cheese. It was a huge hit in my house and was the perfect way to warm up a chilly snow day!



Primal Pumpkin Mac and Cheese (gluten-free) 
Adapted from Inspired Taste
Serves 3-4

INGREDIENTS
8 oz gluten-free pasta, any shape
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp arrowroot
1 c milk (any type will do)
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 c pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
2 c shredded cheddar cheese (additional 1/4 c optional for topping)

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 350 (only if baking to make a crusty top layer). Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then cook pasta according to the package directions.
2. While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a saucepan on low heat. Once melted, add and stir to dissolve. Pour in milk and bring to a simmer, then simmer for 1 minute. Mixture will get thick.
3. Sprinkle in salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in mustard and pumpkin. Add 2 c cheese and keep stirring until melted and all that goodness is evenly combined.
4. Grease an 8x8 casserole dish or other serving dish. Gently transfer pasta to dish, be careful as gluten-free pasta is more delicate. Pour in cheese sauce and gently mix everything so pasta is evenly coated. Mac n cheese is ready to eat as is, but to make a crusty top layer, sprinkle the extra 1/4 c cheese on top and bake for 20 minutes.
5. Eat that bad boy up!!!! My family destroyed it in less than 5 minutes :P


Friday, January 3, 2014

Holiday Veggie Wreath

Happy new year! Hello 2014!

Each family has their own holiday traditions. My family usually whips up a whole batch of appetizers (see last year's post) but this year, we were all really tired from... life. So, my mom & I decided to do 2 appetizers, the holiday veggie wreath and chicken wings.Yes, the wreath is not paleo, but it's only once a year and very festive :)


Holiday Veggie Wreath 
(adapted from Betty Crocker)

INGREDIENTS
4 oz onion & chives cream cheese
2 cans refrigerated dough (Whole Foods has a very good one; Pillsbury is full of chemicals)
8 oz spinach (or broccoli, chopped)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 egg white
Sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 375 (or temperature on dough can).
2. Heat a small saucepan on medium. Add a tsp of oil and cook the spinach until it reduces in size.
3. Unroll dough and arrange in a circle on a a round cookiesheet with the widest part slightly overlapping and the points radiating outward (see picture below). 
4. Spread cream cheese on the dough.
5. Transfer the spinach to the dough and evenly distribute over the widest part of the dough triangles. Add diced peppers (and/or broccoli). Only spread until you reach the end of the cookiesheet; do not put vegetables beyond the cookiesheet (why? when you flip the dough, it might fall out).
6. Flip end points of the dough triangles over the veggies and tuck underneath the wide part of the dough. 
7. Brush egg white over the dough ring. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
8. Bake for 15-20 minutes (look at timer on dough can). Wreath is done when it is golden brown. Garnish the center however you want... more food, candle, holiday decorations, or nothing at all.
9. Dig in!!! Optional: cut the wreath by crescent roll before serving. 


Monday, December 30, 2013

Back from hiatus!

Hello foodies! I am back from hiatus! I got my PhD finally and started a new job at a market research firm in NYC. In between reading, writing papers, moving from Chicago to the east coast, learning my new job, and training for my third marathon, I lost track of things!

Christmas 2013 was a lot of fun with the family. We went to my sister's place in Delaware. She whipped up some pretty awesome dishes and I took care of the desserts :)  I also had a week off from work, which was literally the first break I've had since... winter break 2012. Finishing out my PhD program was one of the most stressful things I've ever had to do, then commuting 4-4.5 hours each day for work on top of the usual 9-5 office grind made me ready for a break. I've been sleeping a lot and definitely feeling a ton better!!

Any sushi lovers?? There's a pretty good AYCE sushi place in north NJ called Arigato. $20 gets you unlimited sushi, rolls, appetizers, & hot tea. This is what my buddy Megan and I polished off!




For all the meat lovers out there - this was one hefty sampler from a Greek restaurant at a holiday party! Four lamb chops, one chicken souvlaki skewer, one pork souvlaki skewer, two Italian/Greek sausages, one lamb/beef burger patty, & a side of lemon herb potatoes. And yes it serves one.



That's it for now. More food + recipes to come!