Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cookbook Review

I first heard about the blog 100 Days of Real Food, written by Lisa Leake, a couple years ago. A fellow mommy friend referenced it online, and since the word "food" was in the title, how could I not go check it out? I've been fascinated ever since.

And while my family has not formally taken on the 100 day, or even the 10 or 14 day Real Food Pledge, I love checking out this blog for recipe ideas and meal inspiration. When Leake announced the launch of her first cookbook, I knew deep in my Foodie Soul that I had to have this book in my kitchen collection.

Now, I'm not really going to make a habit out of reviewing cookbooks. I'm not a reviewer. I'm a home cook. But in my glee to share with the Facebook world that my book arrived, several friends expressed curiosity and wanted to know my thoughts on it. And rather than write a lengthy status on her book, I thought, why not blog about it?

Alright so this cookbook is divided into two distinct sections: The Plan and The Recipes.

The Plan is all about information. Seriously, the chapters in this section read like a textbook. But don't take that to mean it's dry and dull. On the contrary, the information is fascinating and helpful, even to someone like myself who has already spent some time looking into food and nutrition. Leake literally walks the reader through the entire process of switching gears on how to think about food. From grains, to sugar, to dyes, to dairy, there's an explanation and information on everything! 

Leake also takes very special care of introducing the reader to scrutinizing the ingredients list in the grocery store. There are several charts breaking down the different terms and words used by the food industry, and what that really means to someone who just wants to feed her kids a decent breakfast.

My favorite part of this section, and I marked this to reference later, is the substitution list. Leake lists all of the highly processed ingredients that are most commonly used in recipes, and then the real-food substitute next to it. For someone who likes to play around with recipes, making swaps and adjustments here and there, this will be a major time saver!

Leake closes this section with a great chapter on meal planning. She includes four 7-day sample dinner plans (one for each season), and even meal planning and shopping templates. 

Overall, I like the information in The Plan. It's a lot to take in, especially for anyone just starting out in overhauling their family's food lifestyle. But Leake does a great job of breaking everything down into manageable portions.

The Recipes are very, very simple. If you are a long-time cook who enjoys making exotic meals worthy of any four or five star restaurant, then perhaps this isn't the cookbook for you. In many ways, the recipes felt reminiscent of Deceptively Delicious. Good, simple, basic dishes that you can make no matter your current work situation, and for whomever happens to sit at your table. 

I'm going to be honest here, when I first went through the recipes, I was a twinge disappointed. I really love cookbooks that push me, or use different ingredient combinations that I hadn't thought to use before. But after taking a step back, and a second pass through, I think I will get some good use out of this book. Gavin, my Picky Eater, was with me when I was first browsing the recipes, and he helped me mark which ones we should try. Because the recipes were not intimidating at all, this cookbook might be how I can finally get my son to participate more with our meals, and maybe eat a little more too. As a second grader (yikes!), I would like for him to start planning for one meal a week, and do some of the more minor prep work. Since almost all of the recipes in this book are pretty straightforward, I can see him learning to enjoy this process.

So there you have it! Those are my thoughts. Do I think this book is for everyone? No. But I do think this will appeal to a lot of people, especially those interested in making changes in their food lifestyle. Ultimately, if you still aren't sure whether or not to buy this book, I have a couple suggestions for you. 
  1. Borrow it. Since the book was just released on Tuesday, your best bet is to find a friend who has, or will soon have, the book. Ask to take it home for a couple days. Or, if you don't mind waiting a few weeks, go check your local library later this Fall. I have become a big fan of scouting out cookbooks at the library first, and then deciding about buying. 
  2. Blog it. Well, no, don't actually go create a blog if you don't want to. But go check out 100 Days of Real Food. Many of her recipes are there. The same information from The Plan is there. The blog contains a whole lot more, so it might be overwhelming, but you'll get a sense of Leake's style and approach, which should help you decide if you want to add this book to your shelf. 
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