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 :)


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