October 10, 2010 by Flora Dawn
I have been a bit surprised with all the gluten free cookbooks to hit the bookstores recently and if you are like me, you are probably wondering which ones are worth purchasing? Although I love cookbooks, I like to cook with local, seasonal foods, and I rarely follow recipes exactly. I guess I love cookbooks that can inspire and inform me, so that I can dream up my own exciting flavor combinations.
Well, Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook: A Seasonal, Vegetarian Cookbook by Leslie Cerier is just the book for me. It is a seasonal, gluten-free, vegetarian cookbook full of healthy, easy, family-friendly recipes. You might be asking yourself why I would ever cook out of a vegetarian cookbook, after all if you have read my blog you know we eat meat at our house. Honestly, we eat way too much meat, and getting more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in our diets is really critical. Before going gluten free, I milled my own wheat flour and I was very conscious of cooking with whole grains. However, since going gluten free, I have been focusing on merely making foods that taste good; I think it is time to get more nutrition into my gluten free foods.
I have to admit, I was initially skeptical about the recipes, they sound so earthy. I mean, sure they were healthier than my usual gluten free fare, but would they taste good? I can assure you that YES, every single recipe I made turned out wonderful. We were most surprised by how much we enjoyed the flavor of teff. Seriously, we have been gluten free a year and why haven’t we discovered this wonderful flour? Teff is a dark grain, so it does produce much darker baked goods, but the flavor is so wonderful, reminiscent of molasses….delicious.
The cookbook has a nice introduction and goes directly into a brief description of the gluten free grains and how to cook them. I found this area really informative, with enough information to be useful, but not so much that I got bored. The author uses lots of super healthy grains, like sorghum, teff, and amaranth, grains that are often omitted in gluten free cookbooks. So if you are looking for some healthy alternatives to the usual white rice flour and tapioca starch that dominates gluten free cooking, these recipes are a nice, healthy change of pace.
The remaining chapters are: Bountiful Breakfasts, Main Course Sensations, Sushi Party, Super sides, Savory Sauces and Tempting Toppings, and Sweet Indulgences. A glossary of ingredients (which I find extremely helpful, as I had no idea what a goji berry was) and a list of resources end the book. The Table of Contents and Glossary are also very well done.
Personally, I find this cookbook to be very user-friendly, with the instructions clear and easy to follow, the font very readable, and the ingredients listed neatly on the side. Variations and tips are often provided, making the recipes very flexible and adaptable for taste or, in many, cases a vegan diet.
So far, I have tried Banana Pancakes with Cinnamon (using Teff flour), Corn Muffins, Wild Rice and Cranberry Pilaf, Cranberry-Cherry Sauce, and Maple Sugar Cookies. The recipes were all very easy and the results were delicious. We are also very excited to try out the recipes in the Sushi chapter, as we have never attempted making Sushi at home. Unfortunately, my oldest daughter as a tree nut allergy or I would have already made many of the delicious nut-based recipes, like the Chocolate Pie in a Hazelnut Pie Crust. How good does that sound?
- Healthy, from scratch, gluten free recipes, that use whole grains and no gums (I didn’t even know this was possible). And of course lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Clear directions, with plenty of tips and suggestions for substitutions, making the recipes very versatile.
- A wide variety of recipes, not just baking. I am especially fond of the breakfast chapter.
- All the recipes I tried produced flavorful, delicious results.
- Maple syrup, honey, and fruit juice are the sweeteners of choice, which was a nice change for me and I was pleasantly surprised with the results.
- Basic cooking directions for grains and how to make your own almond milk (or other nut/seed milk)
- The author is very knowledgeable about grains, natural foods, and gluten free cooking and I find her recipe creative.
- The cover is the only photograph to be found. There are some drawings of grains and veggies scattered throughout the book, but no photos. I guess we are all really spoiled by the beautiful food photography in most cookbooks. (Due to the lack of photos, I decided to include a few of my own at the end of the post)
- No yeast breads. I am still searching for the perfect gluten free bread……
- I guess this is perspective, but I found a lot of the ingredients to be hard to find and expensive. For example, Teff flour. I had to go to three stores and it cost over $7 for a small bag. However, I am now a Teff fan, so it was money well spent.
In a nutshell: This is a very straight-forward, easy to follow cookbook with recipes inspired from many cuisines around the world. The recipes often require the use of “alternative grains” and ingredients that might require a trip to a health food store, and unfortunately are often on the expensive side. However this is true of almost all gluten free cooking. I think this cookbook would be great for anyone trying to incorporate healthy grains into their diet. And don’t let the word vegetarian scare you away, these are dishes everyone will enjoy. Personally, I love the author’s adventurous attitude towards cooking; eating healthy and eating gluten free does not have to be boring or bland!