Perhaps Thanksgiving is not the ideal day for a post about cookbooks, but then again, perhaps it is. This year Thanksgiving is a bit of a challenge for us since Sarah has to eat gluten-free. We figured out that she is gluten intolerant (I’m not sure if she really has celiac disease, since she tolerates oatmeal well, but she breaks out and has stomach trouble when she eats so much as a bite of wheat/flour containing products, even playdoh! And yes, she has eaten playdoh) this summer, and really I don’t find it that big of a deal on normal days. She can eat rice and potatoes, and the only thing that really changed in our diet was that I stopped making muffins and other baked goods for breakfasts, and I stopped making pizza for dinners and serving sandwiches for lunches. We all eat a lot more vegetables and fruits now, which is a good win for the family. In any case, Thanksgiving poses an extra challenge, and I was hoping to figure out some new meal ideas in general, so I checked out Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking: More than 250 Great-Tasting, From-Scratch Recipes from Around the World. I believe I found this book via The Cooks Next Door (which, should you be in need of gluten-free recipes, often features them). It’s an exceptional cookbook. Even if you don’t need to eat gluten-free, I think you’d enjoy the recipes. To be honest, I find gluten-free baking daunting in the extreme and I don’t have time for it, so I probably won’t be making gluten-free naan, but we did try and enjoy the red curry recipe and I made the pumpkin cheesecake for my mother-in-law’s birthday. I have quite a few other recipes marked for future use.
The other challenge I face is getting meals on the table quickly. I am at work two and a half days a week, and when I get home I do not want to spend another hour and a half getting dinner ready. I read Quick Fix Meals in hopes of further streamlining the dinner making process so I can have more time to do things I enjoy like read to the kids.
I tried several of the recipes and some were not as good as they sounded (like “Artichoke-Steak Melts with Smoked Provolone and Basil Mayo”) but most were quite good (like “Coconut-Lime Chicken with Chiles”). They really are fast meals, largely owing to some creative uses of batch-cooked meats. I’m looking forward to using Thanksgiving leftovers to make “Turkey with Apples, Melted Blue Cheese, and Pecans.” Except our grocery store was celebrating Thanksgiving by charging a whopping TEN DOLLARS A CUP for pecans, so we will be omitting the pecans!
A friend whose family has a variety of different dietary restrictions recommended Bette Hagman’s books to me, so I checked a few out. To be honest, I found The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Fast and Healthy to be extremely daunting. Gluten-free baking is so complex and the results are so unpredictable (at least it seems to me). I used to bake quite frequently, but since we started Sarah on the gluten-free diet, I have stopped almost completely. I’ve made gluten-free pancakes a few times, but they are thin and weird and the other kids won’t eat them at all. I’ve also made gluten-free brownies (grainy, weird) and yesterday I made gluten-free pumpkin chocolate chip muffins that were tasty, but fell apart in a weird way. I’m sure it’s just a matter of figuring it all out, but I don’t feel like I have the time or mental energy to do that right now, so I feel daunted. Many of the recipes in this book were not our usual style of eating, so I didn’t wind up trying any of them. Perhaps if I picked up the book again when I was in a different frame of mind, I would feel more apt to try it out. Still, I did learn a lot about varying forms of gluten-free eating and what works for different people, which was helpful. Since I enjoy reading cookbooks like books, I don’t begrudge the time.
Because the whole gluten-free baking thing scares me, I really appreciated the sections in Hagman’s The Gluten-free Gourmet Makes Dessert that dealt specifically with baking jitters. She wrote a chapter called “Help! What did I do wrong!” that was instructive, and I also appreciated the chapter on “No Special Ingredients” since the mixing of things like guar gum and xanthan gum are part of my phobia. I was, however, extremely sad to see that in over 200 recipes this book did not contain a gluten-free red velvet cake. Red velvet cake is a very big tradition for our birthdays and Sarah is already talking about the one she is expecting in December. I guess I could substitute a gluten free baking mix for the flour, but the texture of red velvet cake (the actual kind, not the box mix which is just red food coloring and chocolate cake) is so specific that I fear it’s a lost cause. If anyone knows of a gluten-free red velvet cake recipe, will you please send it to me?
If you’re partial to cookbooks, perhaps these will be of interest to you. If you’ve read any interesting cookbooks or food memoirs recently, let us know in the comments!
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