What I’m Reading (Paleo Cookbook Edition)

A quick review of 15 popular paleo cookbooks! What I'm Reading: January 2016 Quick Lit #whole30 #paleo So this one time…I searched our library’s catalog for books on a certain topic, put a bunch on hold, and then a few weeks later found myself sitting on 15 paleo cookbooks. I decided to turn this odd situation into something that everyone can benefit from, and give you: my reviews of our library’s paleo cookbooks!

But really, these things are expensive, and there’s nothing worse than getting a cookbook home and realizing that you don’t want to make any of the recipes. Last month I focused on books about detox, so everyone could prepare for their January resolutions. This month’s reviews should help all of those who took on the January Whole 30 (or some version of it) and want to find resources to help them transition to the paleo or gluten-free lifestyle in the months to come.

The interesting thing about paleo is that everyone defines it differently. Some people allow dairy, some use goals milk or none at all. Some allow white potatoes. Some say “if you’re going to have a treat, make it count”, others say treats aren’t allowed on paleo, and instead stick to fruit to curb their cravings. Still others go all out with their paleo desserts, making fancy paleo approved multi layered cakes, muffins, and cookies. Reading so many cookbooks back to back makes these difference very obvious, but it’s been fun to see the variety! I’ve included a few of my favorite recipes from each so you can get a feel for what may be inside.

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Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain: Meals Made Simple: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes to Make Anytime

I have to say, I was a little disappointed in this one. I’m not sure if I just had really high hopes or I was full when I read it, but there were only a couple of recipes that made my list. I think Danielle is well known for her desserts, which do look delicious, but aren’t really my personal specialty.

Recipes to Try: Roasted Beet and Bacon Salad, Rosemary Lemon Pork Chops, Fish Tacos

Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great

Although I was disappointed with Danielle’s most recent cookbook, this one HIT IT OUT OF THE PARK! I have a HUGE list of recipes to try, and they all looked so delicious! This is one that I would invest in.

Recipes to Try: Maple sage sausage with cinnamon apples, banana porridge, chicken satay with “peanut sauce”, rosemary raisin crackers, thai coconut soup, slow cooker sesame orange chicken, granola bars, graham crackers….

The Frugal Paleo Cookbook: Affordable, Easy & Delicious Paleo Cooking

Each of these cookbooks seems to have their own angle, and hers was definitely geared to those who are on a budget (which I appreciate!). We don’t all have money for steak and fancy vegetables each night. I ended up with a VERY long list of recipes that I want to try, but the major drawback for me is that there wasn’t a photograph for each recipe. Most people probably don’t care about that, but I’m a visual gal and I like to see the dishes before I make them. Also the recipes themselves were very detailed, which is good when you’re trying to follow instructions, but makes it difficult if you are trying to skim.

Recipes to try: Beef Stroganoff, Green Bean Casserole with Sweet Potato “Onions”, Poor Man’s Braciole, Tater Tot Casserole, Balsamic Bacon Brussel Sprout Bites

The Paleo Kitchen: Finding Primal Joy in Modern Cooking

Even though I found quite a few yummy looking recipes to try, this cookbook bothered me for some reason. I think it was because they started out introducing themselves and how paleo has affected them, and even introduced paleo as a healing diet (which made me think they were directing their book at paleo newbies), but then their recipes were very fancy, and not things that I would normally cook…especially not on a healing diet. Delicious, but complicated. Also I have a pet peeve about people making recipes that list other dishes in the ingredients. I.e. “Use leftover pulled pork from recipe on page xyz.” I don’t want to have to make TWO meals just for my one meal. Call me crazy.

Recipes to try: Fig Blueberry Jam, Chicken Apricot Curry, Seafood Risotto, Ice Creams (lots of ice creams!)

Juli Bauer’s Paleo Cookbook: Over 100 Gluten-Free Recipes to Help You Shine from Within

This one is my favorite. Beautiful photos, awesome “you may also like” notes on many of the recipes, and a fun (albeit sometimes more adult) tone. Juli is a normal person who taught herself to cook, which I can totally get behind. I always feel like I’m doing things wrong in the kitchen because I am self taught, but she doesn’t care, and I love it! She must’ve been the one behind the double recipe scams in The Paleo Kitchen that bothered me so much, because there were a few instances in this cookbook as well, but…I didn’t even care! I even stopped writing down which recipes I wanted to try because I was writing down every.single.one. This is definitely one that I would buy and use over and over again.

Recipes to try: (from the first section, before I gave up on keeping track) chocolate hazelnut pumpkin bread, sweet potato waffles, stuffed plantains, bacon, Brussels sprouts and apple salad

Everyday Paleo

Sarah definitely wrote this cookbook for busy mom’s. It’s very family oriented, and a great intro for someone coming to paleo from the Standard American Diet (SAD). She includes a 30 day meal plan plus two weeks of school lunch menus. At the end of the book she includes step-by-step exercise plans for those with babies, kids, and even partner exercises. The recipes are easy and definitely fall into the category of things I would make everyday. The only negative thing I have to say is that some of the recipes were for dishes I already had go-to recipes for (like meatloaf and meatballs).

Recipes to try: Pecan Crusted Chicken, Apple Shallot Pork Chops, Nutty Cookies, Great Balls of Dates

Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook: Real Food for Real Life

Sarah builds on the information she shared in her first cookbook, including more lunch box ideas and a deeper focus on balance and lifestyle changes. I appreciate that, as most people focus strictly on the food component. There were not as many recipes that jumped out at me in this book, but it would probably be good for someone who is new to paleo cooking and doesn’t already have go-to recipes.

Recipes to try: Cauliflower Hummus, Hungarian Stew, Fried Banana Pudding

Everyday Paleo Around the World: Italian Cuisine: Authentic Recipes Made Gluten-Free

This was an interesting diversion from Sarah’s first two Everyday Paleo cookbooks. They packed the family up and spent a month in Italy so she could recreate traditional Italian dishes. The first 60 pages of the cookbook are a recollection of their journey—where they stayed, what they ate, and all of their traveling mishaps. As far as the recipes go, they were pretty fancy, definitely not what I would consider “Everyday” faire. And since nightshades are not currently a part of my diet, that left only a handful of recipes that weren’t based on tomatoes, eggplants, or peppers. (Although I have been trying not to take that into consideration with most of these cookbooks, it is hard to recreate an already recreated tomato dish when you can’t have tomatoes!) So if you’re avoiding nightshades, this is definitely not the cookbook for you.

Recipes to try: Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Risotto alla Milanese, Baked “ziti”, Panna Cotta

Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat

If you’re looking for ethnic-inspired paleo cuisine, this is your cookbook. There were definitely a lot of recipes in this one that I had never heard of before, which was a nice change from the 50 different versions of meatballs offered up in some cookbooks. My favorite was her description of “hot plates,” which I call “skillet meals” when they make a weekly appearance at our house. Proof that paleo cooking doesn’t have to be difficult! Melissa provides a lot of options for how to adapt recipes, which is great, but the busy formatting makes each recipe feel a little overwhelming.

Recipes to Try: Pad Thai, Chocolate Chili, Meatza Pie, BBQ Pork Fried Rice, Cumin-Roasted Carrots, Velvety Butternut Squash

Paleo Takeout: Restaurant Favorites Without the Junk

This is a cookbook like no other! Russ masters all of our favorite take-out dishes, focusing on asian cuisines, as those are usually the hardest to enjoy on a paleo diet. What was also different about this cookbook is that he gave nod to some other diets (Weston Price Foundation, Perfect Health Diet, etc.) and included a meal timing guide to help you figure out how to efficiently manage your time in the kitchen. Most of the recipes require specialty ingredients, but he does a good job of explaining what they all are.

Recipes to Try: Chow Mein, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Tempura, Chicken Katsu (I never thought I would have chicken katsu ever again!), Pad Thai, Gyros

Make it Paleo: Over 200 Grain Free Recipes for Any Occasion

Even though it was hard to get through the very long account of the authors’ love story (Yes, I actually read all of these cookbooks), I loved their overall take on cooking: less is more! They labeled each recipe with it’s difficulty level, included a list of seasonal produce, and menus for special occassions. I found tons of recipes that I want to try in this gem!

Recipes to Try: Crab Stuffed Salmon, Asian Broccoli Slaw, Tropical Fruit Gazpacho, Gingerbread Cookies, N’Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Coocnut Fudge, Coffee Ice Cream

Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking in a Gluten-Free Kitchen

I didn’t realize that “comfort food” was synonymous with “southern” when I first picked up this cookbook. The intro was VERY long and overall the cookbook was pretty outdated, but there were still a handful of recipes I would like to try.

Recipes to Try: Melon Gazpacho, Tart Cranapple Sauce, Banana Pudding

Down South Paleo: Delectable Southern Recipes Adapted for Gluten-free, Paleo Eaters

I think my favorite part about this cookbook was that she didn’t feel the need to introduce the paleo diet; she cut straight to the recipes. The extremely delicious sounding recipes! There were a few recipes that I was not familiar with (as I’m not a southern girl), and they didn’t have pictures, so I was left guessing based on the ingredients list. Also, she relies heavily on water chestnut flour and yucca, which aren’t exactly ingredients most people have on hand. I did appreciate that each recipe was labeled based on dietary restrictions.

Recipes to Try: Deep South Grain-Free Grits (AIP Friendly!), Jalapeno Poppers, Crab Hushpuppies, Tres Leches Cake, Mini Chicken Pot Pies. Note: I tried the Savory Slow Cooker Pork Chops and was not a fan…but I also have my own killer pork chop recipe, so I’m not going to hold that against her.

The Paleo Approach Cookbook: A Detailed Guide to Heal Your Body and Nourish Your Soul

Ok I’ve actually already talked about this one several times, so you know how much I love it. I love that it’s dedicated to the Auto Immune Paleo Protocol, because so many of these others aren’t, and I have to think “how can I make this without eggs/nightshades/nuts, etc.” Plus there are SO many recipes! For unusual things, too. I happened to pick this up from the library immediately after purchasing 3 unusual things at the grocery store: beef fat, beef marrow bones, and oxtail. Normally I would’ve had to google “how to render tallow” “how to make beef bone broth” and “what to do with oxtail?” and search through all of the results for the best answer. Instead I just opened up The Paleo Approach Cookbook and found exactly what I needed! (There’s normal stuff in there, too, I promise!)

Favorite Recipes: Apple Plantain Fritters, Clam Chowder

Make-Ahead Paleo: Healthy Gluten-, Grain- & Dairy-Free Recipes Ready When & Where You Are

I think it’s safe to say I saved one of the best for last. She is all about making the paleo lifestyle EASY, which I’m sure many of us can appreciate! This cookbook had a great format, great tips, and a focus on choosing activities that will reduce stress. She grouped recipes by prep, including: make & freeze, low & slow, on the go, room service (hotel eats), and travel treats. As someone who has to take all my food with me when I travel, I was really excited about this cookbook. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is busy but wants to eat better!

Recipes to Try: Apple Ring Pancakes, Pecan Stuffed Chicken Thighs, Thai Coconut Meatballs, Paleo Party Mix, Almond Shortbread

Whew! I can’t believe I made it through all of those before their due dates! Even though I reached the point of feeling like I was in over my head and wanting it to be over, I’m thankful that I have a good list of recipes to try and a few new books on my “to purchase” list! I hope you found it helpful! Let me know if you decide to try any of the books listed above, or if you have another one that I should look into!

What’s your favorite cookbook?



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