3.150 BEST MEALS IN A JAR (Robert Rose, 2016, 192 pages, ISBN 978-0-7788-0528-1 $19.95 CAN softbound) is by Tanya Linton, once a writer and producer for Home & Garden TV but now a partner in a TV production company that specializes in lifestyle programming. There have been other Mason jar cookbooks but they tended to be dessert or baking oriented, utilizing the 250 mL size. Here Linton goes on to extend the category to include all forms of food courses: salads, soups, rice bowls. For example, with salads, you layer in the dressing first, followed by heavier/harder foods, and then top with leafy greens. Provided that you keep the jar upright at all times, then you just dump it into a salad bowl (presumably at your desk or at a picnic). It works, but I would prefer using just the wide-mouthed jars for standardizing and ease of access for eating or dumping. I've wrestled with too many jars with small openings such as the Mason jars for two or one litres. The vessels are convenient: glass is healthy, assembly is efficient with wide-mouthed, food is fresh, cleanup is quick using a dishwasher, and portion control. Bonne Maman jam jars (from France, 250 and 500 or so mL) are used for drinking and can be used for non-preservation food, but they have no twist on lids as Mason jars do. So best to keep them upright. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements.
Audience and level of use: those needing lunches or portability
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: breakfast burrito in a jar; Santa Fe rice bowl; pulled-apart chicken parmesan; bulgur wheat Greek salad; pizza soup; BLT salad; tuna, white bean and arugula salad; fried egg rice bowl.
The downside to this book: more emphasis could have been made on wide-mouthed jars.
The upside to this book: a good variety of preps, especially the "hearty meals".
Quality/Price Rating: 87.
4.A New Allergen-Free Cookbook, by guest reviewer Ann Tudor
"Today's post is another in my occasional series of cookbook reviews. This one is Pure Delicious, by Heather Christo (Pam Kraus Books, Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2016).
"Heather Christo is a long-time foodblogger whose daughters' health crises forced her to change her mind about food allergens. A lot of cookbooks these days cover gluten-free or dairy-free cooking, and there are a lot of vegan cookbooks. But Heather Christo's book offers recipes without gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, or cane sugar.
"The book is a beauty, well bound and generously illustrated. In addition to telling Heather's own familial journey, the first fifty pages offer great information and encouragement for anyone who suspects that food allergies might be causing problems. How do you set up your kitchen for this new way of cooking? How do you bring your children on-side (although, in her case at least, the elimination of severe stomach pain was very persuasive). How do you eat out? This introductory material is essential and nicely presented, given how overwhelming a task it can be to implement wide-ranging dietary changes.
"The heart of the book is the 250-odd pages of recipes, divided into: Soups and Chilis; Salads; Appetizers; Sides; Baked Goods; Pizza and Burgers; Pasta; Mains; Desserts; Breakfast. Anyone struggling with preparing family meals while avoiding eggs, dairy, etc., will embrace this book. Every recipe is safe. Every recipe is do-able. Just open the book and choose a page.
"As the author points out, you won't need to apologize for any of these dishes. This is "straight-up good-tasting food that is packed with naturally wholesome ingredients and nutrients" (p. 56).
"An excellent book. Anyone who cooks for people with food allergies should have it."
5.COMFORT AND JOY: cooking for two (Countryman Press, 2015, 216 pages, ISBN 978-1-58157-342-8, $24.95 USD hardbound) is by Christina Lane, who also wrote Dessert for Two. She has been specializing in small batch meals for every occasion. Here she concentrates on comfort food, southern US classics, and family favourites, with another section on desserts for two (15 more recipes). She does a good job of scaling down, always a difficult task (as is scaling upwards). Still, overall, the collection is on the sweet side with a large chapter on brunch (over 70 pages) with pancakes, muffins, oats, and the like. Lunch has 13 preps, mainly chicken and/or cheese. Dinner has 10, mostly poultry and shrimp. Then there is a range of small stuff such as pastas, casseroles, finger foods – useful for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: empty nesters, singles, couples.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: Thanksgiving dinner for two; apple cider-glazed chicken breasts; sheet pan supper; shrimp 'n' grits.
The downside to this book: needs more recipes, especially savoury ones.
The upside to this book: great looking photography.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.
6.EAT BETTER, LIVE BETTER, FEEL BETTER (Appetite by Random House, 2015, 298 pages, ISBN 978-0-14-752976-3, $27 CAD paperbound) is by Julie Cove, certified holistic nutritionist. Here she advocates an alkalize lifestyle (which cured her of debilitating back pain, see www.alkalinesister.com). It is a four-step program to re-do your diet, detox your body, and focus on long-term health issues. Healthy bodies have a pH of 7.365. Eating too much acidic food leads to a lower pH level, and, coupled with stress, promotes poor health. So, as she says, we need to "alkalize your life". There's a food chart, ranging from highly alkaline (broccoli, kale, spinach) through mildly alkaline (grapefruit, almonds) and neutral (flax, walnuts, dates, hummus) and highly acidic (alcohol, coffee, beef, eggs, pork, deli meats, mushrooms: all the gout foods!). Basically – 75% of your meal should be alkaline, hydrate, exercise, and reduce stress. 150 recipes cover all courses. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: those looking for diet changes or feel they have too much acid in their lives.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: coconut avocado; breakfast salad (blood orange, kale, golden berries); vegan crunch Thai green salad; hummus and veggies wrapped in chard leaves; red quinoa bites with oregano and sun-dried tomato marinara sauce.
The downside to this book: some superfluous photography.
The upside to this book: lots of tips and advice, and the resources listing.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.
7.THE POWER GREENS COOKBOOK (Ballantine Books, 2015, 282 pages, ISBN 978-0-553-39484-9, $22 USD paperbound) is by Dana Jacobi, author of over 15 cookbooks (including Williams-Sonoma books). She also blogs and freelances cooking and food articles. Here she gives us 140 healthy preps for dark leafy greens, covering the range of soups, salads, mains, small plates, sides and condiments. The 15 power greens range from arugula to watercress – these are basically what writers mean when they talk about plant-based foods. They protect against diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, eye and muscle fatigue, and sagging lustre-less skin. Aha – that latter gets some people! Recipes are coded for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and/or 30 minutes or less in prep time. At the back are the basics – separate sections on the greens, with an index to each one's recipes, The master index is at the far back. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: those looking to improve their health or want plant-based recipes.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: popcorn trail mix; carrots with wild arugula pesto; avocado and watercress tartine; collard greens cacciatore; broccoli leaf, edamame, and corn succotash; roasted red peppers stuffed with kale; avgolemono soup with arugula.
The downside to this book: I have no idea why the basics are at the back; most books have it upfront.
The upside to this book: she makes use of romaine, parsley, beet greens, Brussels sprouts.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.
8.CHICKEN (Ebury Press, 2015, 256 pages, ISBN 978-00-91959-72-2, $49.99 CAD hardbound) is by Catherine Phiipps, a food columnist for the Guardian in the UK. It is a British- oriented cookbook, with references to local butchers, etc. As the subtitle indicates, "over two hundred recipes devoted to one glorious bird". And of course, it is a USEFUL bird, for flesh that is fried, flambeed, roasted, BBQ, smoked, stewed, grilled, poached, put in a sandwich or salad, made into soup and stock. There is a variety here: the question is whether a reader would pay fifty bucks for what used to be commonplace in Better Homes and Gardens, Sunset, Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart, et al. It is a different time now, with a need for photos and spices and some updating of the classics. Brining is relatively new for home use, as is sous-vide. So are international flavours such as butter chicken. But offal seems to be just liver and hearts – what happened to gizzards (e.g. salade landaise)? You'll also need organic offal: nothing else will ever do. Preparations have their ingredients listed in metric for weights and avoirdupois for volume measurements, but there is no overall table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: millennials, those looking for just a chicken book.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: chicken with red peppers and green olives; chicken tagine; chicken and onion suet pudding; chicken with coriander, garlic and sour orange; red mole chicken; chicken broth with rice, mint and lemon juice; confit legs.
The downside to this book: pricey
The upside to this book: good photos and spicing.
Quality/Price Rating: 86.
9.EATING IN THE MIDDLE (Clarkson Potter, 2016, 240 pages, ISBN 978-0-7704-3327-7, $27.99 USD hardbound) is by Andie Mitchell, a Yahoo Health columnist and author of It Was Me All Along (which chronicled her weight loss). Now in her debut cookbook she presents those dishes that helped her lose weight: healthy meals packed with flavours. The seven log rollers come from other cookbooks and blogs and magazines. Over the course of 13 months she lost 135 pounds. This is how she did it. It's arranged by meal, breakfast to desserts, and promotes "mostly wholesome" food. A lot comes from the Mediterranean and South-East Asia. She gives lifestyle tips and many variations in the memoirish portions, but it is mainly about making the mouth and tummy feel satiated with spicing. Each prep comes with headnotes on some aspect of eating food. Nutritional information is given, as well as use of low-sodium broths. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: those looking to lose weight.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: sweet potato hash; jerk shrimp salad with mango and avocado; lemon cream risotto; white pizza with roasted garlic and eggplant; Asian chicken salad; ribollita; petite turkey lasagnas.
Quality/Price Rating: 87.
10.SWEETER OFF THE VINE (Ten Speed Press, 2016, 249 pages, ISBN 978-1-60774-858-8, $24 USD hardbound) is by Yossy Arefi, a food photographer and blogger. It is arranged by season, with subheads for type of plant. So for Spring, there are sections on herbs, rhubarb, strawberries, and cherries. For summer, it's apricots, berries, melons and more. For fall, it is grapes, apples, pears and more (including squash). And in winter we'll need cranberries, citrus, and dates. Good divisions. She's got a larder of preserved accented fruit such as preserved lemons or unsweetened cranberry juice. And some year-round essentials of chocolate, vanilla, pastry, creme fraiche. As a true baker, Arefi has just about everything scaled. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements, but there are some tables of metric equivalents.
Audience and level of use: those desiring baked goods and desserts.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts:
The downside to this book: nothing really, it is a first class effort.
The upside to this book: good photography and ingredient scaling.
Quality/Price Rating: 89.