Reading Fanatic Reviews

Food & Cooking

When Mediterranean Mindset Meets DASH Diet by Marcella Palmer

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When Mediterranean Mindset Meets DASH Diet*

Good Book that Looks at the DASH Diet and Mindset

You can tell when you read the early parts of this book that the author is very passionate about the DASH diet as well as what she calls the Mediterranean mindset. She has blended these two concepts in this book. First she gives an overview of the DASH diet and its origins; she also explains how she came up with seven tenets of Mediterranean mindset. She then looks at the benefits of the DASH diet from a medical perspective. The next chapter seeks to bust myths about the DASH diet, like cost and restrictions. She does talk at some length about the foods that are best on this diet, and she even gives some recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At the end, she has a further tip section about how to incorporate the Mediterranean mindset with the DASH diet with very specific action plans to help you with meal planning, activity, and other concepts that support weight loss.

I’m a registered nurse, so I thought that some of what was stated in the medical section was not wholly accurate but would probably be good enough for the general reader. The book is a little repetitive in parts and could have been condensed some. Sometimes her enthusiasm overwhelms the idea she is trying to get across. In general, I agree that the DASH diet is a good one to follow as it is basically about eating whole foods. I disagree with a few of her statements. One was actually nonsensical to me. At one point, she talks about not adding sauces, salt, or other seasonings to your food—just try them as the chef intended. Well, if you’re the home chef, you will most likely be using some seasonings, or the food is going to be pretty bland and you won’t stick with a diet! There is certainly nothing wrong with most sauces or seasonings; you might need to watch for a few ingredients in sauces, but herbs and spices like oregano and cinnamon zazz up a dish. While salt isn’t strictly prohibited on the DASH diet, it is recommended to be consumed in small quantities and in balance with other minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium. This actually shouldn’t be a problem if you eat home-cooked whole foods that have only been lightly seasoned.

The recipes seemed straightforward, and most appeared to be simple to do. I liked how the author emphasized vegetarian- and vegan-friendly options within the diet. Indeed, the DASH diet is very friendly for non-meat eaters as well as those who are omnivores. I thought the tip section at the back was fantastic. I love the idea of mini action plans. They would definitely all be helpful to the would-be dieter as he or she tried to live a more healthful life, whether that’s through your food or lifestyle choices.

The Complete Keto Desserts Book for Carb Lovers by Owen Moss

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The Complete Keto Desserts Book for Carb Lovers*

Yummy-Sounding Keto-Friendly Desserts

I always find it laughable when a cookbook proclaims itself “complete.” As if that could ever be for any recipe lover. However, for anyone who is on the keto diet and is missing desserts, this book provides an ideal solution. It is jam-packed with 75 keto-friendly recipes that the author states have been tweaked from family recipes to be made suitable for the keto diet. A lot of them do sound quite yummy, including the first one, Chocolate Almond Ganache Cake. Other good sounding ones include Puffy Strawberry Scones and Decadent Butterscotch Dessert. The recipes do appear to be keto friendly, using alternate low-carb flours and sweeteners. The author does give the number of carbs per serving, and I was surprised how low some of them were.

While this is a good book of desserts that one could enjoy while on the keto diet, I do have some issues with it. First, the recipes aren’t organized in any fashion. They are just placed in random order. Desserts can be split into specific types like shakes, cakes, and candies, for instance. I would have loved to have seen this kind of organization. Sometimes you’re looking for a particular type of recipe and don’t really want to read through 75 recipe titles to figure out what you might want. I mentioned above that this book does use some low-carb flours and sweeteners. It also does use a few other ingredients that are uncommon. While the author did have a brief int section on the flours and sweeteners, he didn’t really have a section that addressed these other obscure ingredients. That would have been handy. Finally, those recipes that needed them didn’t have pan sizes. Many of the recipes don’t need them, though.

Other than these three issues, I did find this book to be stuffed with good-sounding recipes perfect for people on a keto diet.

Keto Diet for Beginners by Jesse Ryan

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Keto Diet for Beginners*

Excellent Keto Guide for Beginners

I have read a lot of cookbooks and diet books throughout my life. Lately, because of the ease of publishing such books on Amazon and other online publishers, it seems like people rush out super simple books that are cobbled together from a variety of sources and call it their own. That’s part of why I found this book refreshing. It is clear that the author has walked the talk. The author is undoubtedly well experienced with the keto diet and offers a lot of personal tips and suggestions.

The book starts by defining what the keto diet actually is. For once in keto books, it very clearly defined in terms of percentages of macronutrients. The author even has an entire section of the book to help you figure out what that should look like in your own diet. The author also touches upon various topics that are important in keto, like the keto flu, exercise, and fasting. The author even broaches topics like when to stop certain practices like fasting and how to ease into the keto diet. The concept of meal planning is addressed, and the author does give a meal plan with lots of recipes to get you started. Most of these appear relatively simple, and I would imagine they come from the author’s own repertoire. There is a section at the end, following the recipes, about tracking your progress. Personally, I think that all the non-recipe and meal planning stuff should have been together at the beginning so that the book just could have ended with the meal planning and recipes, but this is a minor quibble. Compared to most of the keto books that I have read, this is the most detailed and will genuinely help out a beginner.

The 5-Ingredient College Cookbook by Kathy Davidson

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The 5-Ingredient College Cookbook*

Solid Information for the Young Adult Cook Plus Simple Recipes

I found this to be a fun little cookbook with some basic but interesting 5-ingredient recipes. The book starts off with a four-chapter section that goes into some cooking basics, like cooking terms, knife skills, kitchen tools, suggested pantry items, budgeting and meal planning, and safety and food storage tips. The rest of the book is all about the recipes, starting with breakfast and ending with dessert. She does have a few unusual chapters that aren’t typically in a cookbook of this size, like drinks and snacks. I liked that the drink chapter had beverages for both hot and cold months.

Right in the recipe title, the author tells whether the recipe is either vegan or vegetarian. She actually has a vegan chapter, and all the snacks are vegetarian. For some of the meat recipes, she gives vegetarian options. As a vegetarian, I appreciate all this. The recipe names usually simply state the ingredients and dish type like Easy Tortellini-Veggie Soup. For some reason, she does have some of what I would consider oddly named recipes, as if she couldn’t figure out how to put an ingredient in the proper recipe name, so she just left it in parentheses at the end. Sometimes, too, she used a plus sign in the recipe name. I found both of these affectations kind of bizarre. It actually isn’t difficult to name recipes; I have done so myself. I found myself questioning at times some of the relative amounts of ingredients. For instance, one of the oatmeal recipes called for a teaspoon of vanilla for a recipe that calls for 1/2 cup of dried oats. That might make the dish too heavy in vanilla.

The book does have some photos, but none of the recipes have one. There are pictures in the information section of things like knives and certain cuts. Each chapter does have a chapter photo. Pf course, the recipes have so few ingredients and relatively simple prep that it would be simple to imagine what they may look like.

The author clearly likes Nutella–who can blame her?–as it appears in two of the recipes. I’ll admit when I was flipping through the Table of Contents that the 2-ingredient Nutella Cocoa caught my eye. I think I might have to make that as a treat for my mother! (BTW, the other Nutella recipe was for a Nutella Mug Cake.) I am glad that the author has included a basic information section that is so detailed, though it may not be enough information for a true cooking novice. The recipes seem simple enough for even a beginning cook. They are all five ingredients, like in the book title, and the prep time is usually short and relatively easy. I have read 5-ingredient cookbooks that actually had surprisingly complex directions; this is not the case here. I will admit that I have gotten away from cooking somewhat. Even though I am not college aged, a simple book like this might inspire me to give some simple recipes a go.

The Complete Keto Cookbook by Amanda Klein

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The Complete Keto Cookbook*

Brimming with Recipes

Even though it has a very short section in front with brief articles about what the keto diet is, its benefits, and how to set yourself up for keto cooking success, this book is really all about the recipes. There are over 600 recipes in this cookbook. The author has chosen to divide this by the type of meat, with other sections on vegetables, vegan recipes, appetizers, and dessert recipes. I thought that the book would have been arranged better if some of the recipes were split out into more logical groups. For instance, each section has quite a few soups. I would have loved to have seen a soup chapter—as I adore soups and we are heading into soup season. Perhaps within that chapter—if the author had gone that direction—she could have designated the types of meat or veggies that served as the base. I would have loved to have seen other such split outs.

In looking over the recipes, I found some of them to be the typical easy kinds of recipes that people enjoy today while others were a bit more complex. Most just use regular ingredients from the grocery store; only a few called for specialty ingredients. Only the briefest of nutritional information was given. While carbs were listed, it wasn’t stated anywhere in the book whether this was net carbs or total carbs.  I thought some of the proportions between ingredients were a bit off. For instance, there was a salad recipe where a serving was one cup of lettuce with 1/4 cup of avocado.(For one thing, I can’t even imagine a salad that small; but that seems like too much avocado for the amount of lettuce.) Inexplicably, some recipes appeared in more than one section.

I thought that the sections preceding the recipes we’re mostly full of the normal information you hear about keto in these kinds of books and on popular blogs. I don’t necessarily agree with some of the information presented; I think it is just the standard stuff that is said for this diet. You can easily skip these sections and just move on to the recipes. There are no photographs in this ebook; the only pictures you will see are on the cover. I can’t really tell you if these are wholly keto-friendly, as I am not 100% knowledgeable about all of the ins and outs of the keto diet. But, however, I did find this set of recipes to be both practical and inspiring, even for people who don’t necessarily follow the keto diet.

Anti-Cancer Smoothies by Kristina Johnson

Anti-Cancer Smoothies*

Simple Recipes, Light on the Science

This book has a variety of smoothie recipes, from fruit to green to beverage based (tea and coffee). I don’t necessarily see the cancer connection with particular recipes or groups of recipes. Specifically, she divides the recipes based on the main ingredient or a nutrient like fruit or protein, and then says that that particular group is either good for cancer prevention, for use during treatment, or both. Nowhere does she explain how a particular recipe or a particular ingredient fits into that scheme. In the early part of the book, before the recipes, she does talk a little about how some of the ingredients relate to cancer, but much of it is general, and it doesn’t really give as much information as it should. It seems like she’s presenting information in various parts of the book, but wanting the reader to make the connections instead doing it for us. The smoothie recipes look pretty simple and tasty, so if you enjoy smoothies, you will most likely enjoy this combination of recipes. (Although they might be TOO simple; most just seem to combine a few fruits and/or vegetables with a liquidy base.) I just suggest looking past the cancer part. And this might be a small thing, but I didn’t like the stupid little cartoon of a blender that came before every recipe. There weren’t pictures of the individual recipes, which is common in little cookbooks like this, but to use the little cartoon graphic over and over and over again was just a little much.

Kick-start Your Plant-Based Lifestyle by Alyani Cook

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Kick-start Your Plant-Based Lifestyle*

So Many Issues…

I have been eating a plant-based diet for a long time now, and I don’t know where to start talking about all that’s wrong with this book bundle. The author gets her definitions confused right out of the gate. She actually contradicts herself in several places when she describes what plant-based means to her and when she differentiates terms. Here’s the first thing she says about plant based vs. vegetarianism/veganism: “Often times, a plant-based diet is confused with a vegan or vegetarian diet. While they are very similar, they are not exactly the same. The best way to describe it is that a plant-based diet is the umbrella term where veganism and vegetarianism falls under.” That was followed a mere Kindle page flip or two by this: “However, when I say ‘plant-based foods’, this means the food comes directly from plant sources. We will be going over in greater detail in the next section but all you need to know at this point is that plant-based foods do not contain any animal products like honey, eggs, milk or meat.” If that doesn’t define veganism succinctly—I would add a few phrases—I don’t know what does! She talks about this again later… while making a whole lot of assumptions about what others eat: “If someone tells you that they follow a plant-based diet, this means that their diet consists mainly of plant foods. Unless you are told otherwise, you can assume that this individual avoids animal-based products like gelatin, butter, milk, eggs, and animal meat, or they eat them very minimally. These individuals will also avoid eating plant fragments and place their focus on whole plant foods instead.” She mixing up several concepts together (plant based, whole foods, minimally processed) in a confusing fashion as if they are one here and in other places, like: “Plant foods must be whole or minimally processed. You might be scratching your head at this point; I will clarify with an example. An apple is considered a plant food. An apple pie is not a plant food, nor is it plant-based.” While health gurus may not like it, an apple pie does use a plant!

Interestingly, when she actually gets to the topic of veganism, she gets it sooo wrong. She states that there are basically two types of vegans these days: fruitarians and raw food enthusiasts. Ummm, nope! I daresay most vegans are rather more garden variety types (no pun intended) who simply eschew anything meat based or produced by animals—though I prefer to define any diet by what is included rather than what it does not. Fruitarians and raw fooders are a small fraction of veganism, not its two core modern components.

She has a very long section that looks into the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle, no matter how it is defined. Sometimes she gives actual study references, but she doesn’t usually state the year of the study or whether they have been duplicated, the latter being a cornerstone of proper scientific research. And she also does seem to draw big conclusions from small studies, which is always a danger when using research to back up claims. I would have liked to have seen a list of references to these studies at the end so that the savvy reader could actually look up the studies and draw conclusions himself or herself.

In a book that touts in its subtitle that it gives you a meal plan, I find it laughable that these two books combined only give about 20 or so recipes. In the recipes themselves, she manages to contradict herself quite often. That is to say, that she uses ingredients in the recipes that are plant fragments (which she advises against), overly processed (like vegan butter) as well as ingredients she has said you should not use or use sparingly (like sugar and oils)–and sometimes in rather large quantities. Some recipes don’t sound half bad in concept, but there are a few relative misproportions in some ingredient lists and outright mistakes. For instance, in the first soup recipe in the main book (not the cookbook), she states that you should use 50 teaspoons of salt. In the recipes that are in the main book, she did use a bizarre way of writing out ingredients, putting the amount in parentheses at the end of the ingredient line and writing fractions as decimals. So she probably meant to say 0.5 teaspoon. That bizarre way writing ingredients did not carry through, thankfully, to the cookbook portion of the bundle. Those ingredients were written out like a typical cookbook. The author should have taken care to be consistent in all parts of this bundle.

There are certainly other issues with this book, but I’ve gone on long enough. If you have an interest in a plant-based, whole-food diet, I would recommend looking at other books because this one is just too rife with errors and inconsistencies to be of much use.

[NOTE: I did not correct punctuation and usage errors in the quotes.]

Graze by Paul Dowling

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Graze*

Uneven Collection of Recipes

There is a multiplicity of ideas out there currently about the best ways to eat healthfully. One of the concepts is grazing, which means to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. This book purports to be a collection of recipes that will assist you if you want to follow that eating practice. I found this book to be an odd combination of recipes. Compared to later meals, there is a LOT of breakfast recipes. While I love a good breakfast recipe, that’s just one meal. Given that you’re meant to eat more than three meals a day if you graze, it seems odd to split a recipe book on the topic into the traditional three-meal structure. (Odd, too, that the author was VERY specific about the times of lunch and dinner in the Table of Contents.) Maybe split it into times of the day or group likes together (egg dishes, chicken dishes, soups, etc.). Most of the breakfast recipes themselves seemed either relatively simple or like any generic recipe of the type that one could find on the internet (like mug recipes or McMuffin variants). Sometimes, a recipe seemed nonsensical, like pasta salad for one. Pasta salad is definitely a dish that improves with age, so why not make it easier on yourself as a grazer and make a large batch that you could enjoy over the course of several days? That is one of the problems with many of these recipes; part of the difficulty of grazing is having to make so many dishes. Some in this book, especially in the lunch and dinner portion, are quite complex. I couldn’t imagine making four, five, or six of these recipes in a day. All I would be doing was cooking!

The recipes themselves seemed to have no consistency in format. Some recipes use imperial measurements while others use metric ones, both for quantities and oven temperatures. To make the recipes the most useful to a broad audience, each recipe should have both forms of measurement, but I would just be happy with consistency.

The book is mostly recipes. There is a very brief introduction that in places just seemed odd. For instance, here is a quote from it where I can’t really figure out the meaning the author was intending because something was left off the second half of the sentence: “After eating, you should feel satisfied and before you graze again, you want to feel, without regret.” All in all, I don’t see how this is necessarily a book that will help people who want to graze as a healthful eating technique.

The Gluten-Free Instant Pot Cookbook by Jane Bonacci and Sara De Leeuw

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, Indigo (Chapters), and Bol.de

The Gluten-Free Instant Pot Cookbook*

Yummy-Sounding Recipes and Helpful Hints

This book is so full of yummy sounding (and looking!) Instant Pot recipes and information about how to have a gluten-free kitchen! If you need such a book, because you love the Instant Pot and have gluten issues, I imagine this would be one of the go-to books for interesting recipes and helpful information. The authors start the book by looking at pressure cooking in general and the Instant Pot in particular. They talk about other tools needed and helpful ingredients. The next chapter is about having a gluten-free home and kitchen. They even give recipes for recommended flour substitution blends. The recipe sections are like those you typically see in cookbooks, from breakfasts to soups to sides to main dishes and desserts. Each recipe also mentions if it has other considerations, like if it is nut free or vegetarian. The authors give further hints and tips about gluten-free cooking within the recipes themselves. Some recipes are very creative in using the Instant Pot, like using it to make a cheesecake or a breakfast frittata. They even have some breads that are made in the Instant Pot. All in all, I found this to be a delightful cookbook with many creative and fun uses for the Instant Pot. many of the recipes sound good enough that they would even appeal to people who do not have gluten issues.

Epic Vegan by Dustin Harder

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Epic Vegan*

Fun Vegan Recipes that May Surprise You

If you’ve ever thought that vegan food is boring, this book will disabuse you of that notion! It is full of fun and tasty-looking recipes, some of which will definitely challenge what you think vegan food can or should be. The book starts with a tiny section about vegan essentials, but the book really is all about the recipes. Sections for the recipes include basics, breads, appetizers, pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and dessert. Some recipes are meant to mimic foods and textures that omnivores are familiar with, like a section on making your own fake meats; I think these kinds of recipes in particular appeal to those who are considering becoming vegan or are in the early days of following this diet. When I have tried veganism, the one thing I missed most was a creamy texture, like you get with dairy products. This book has recipes that definitely scratch that itch, with creamy dishes that don’t have dairy. Other recipes are simply wholly vegan, with no reference to omnivore recipes. A simple flip through this book will show you the creativity contained within and will perhaps inspire your own. Whether you are new to veganism or are an old hand at it, this book will most likely give you plenty of fun ideas for this way of eating.

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The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

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