Book Review: Simply Gluten-Free Quick Meals

Among the perks of food blogging are the hot-off-the-press cookbooks that land on my doorstep. In exchange for a complimentary copy, publishers hope you will cozy up with the book, give it a good read, test drive a few of the recipes and give it a raving review.

But let me tell you, it can become quite overwhelming, especially when that stack grows to 12 books high. Aghhhh!

Lexie's Kitchen Book Review Policy

As much as I love reviewing cookbooks, I have decided to throw this out there to save everyone some time and money. If a cookbook is a good fit for this site and I feel the majority of my readers would enjoy it, there's a high probability I will review it. If the recipes are heavy on the eggs, sugar, processed food or have a drop of gluten in them, it's probably a no go. And if any of the recipes I try "don't work." It's definitely a no go. I feel this is only fair to my audience and their pocketbooks.

With that little bit out of the way, I am happy to say that I have found Carol Kicinski's latest Simply ... Gluten-Free Quick Meals; More than 100 Great Tasting Recipes for Good Food Fast to be a gem.

Yes, Carol uses some eggs. Yes, she uses some dairy. But Carol is consistently good about suggesting substitutes.

Carol is the author of the blog Simply Gluten-Free. She's big. Google "gluten-free" and hers is THE FIRST blog to show up in the results (I think I need to take her SEO guy to lunch). She has a heart of gold and is one smart gluten-free cookie. I think she has a winner in this latest book and here's why.

Cookbook Review: Simply ... Gluten-Free Quick Meals; More than 100 Great Tasting Recipes for Good Food Fast

The "Simply" in "Simply ... Gluten-Free Quick Meals" doesn't just make for a catchy title. The recipes in this cookbook truly are quick and easy to prepare. I spent the last week cooking out of this book and was very impressed. The recipes are not over the top, which as a busy mom, I appreciate. I had to chuckle because I could relate to Carol when she writes that she is "always looking for time-savers and shortcuts, but ironically I am also a person who tries to cram as many activities into each day as humanly possible." I have to think that these are recipes Carol has cooked over the years as she raised two boys, and ones she's perfected to a T from a time-to-prep standpoint.

Some Chapters I Love

The chapters I have fallen head over heels in love with are:
  • Simple Suppers
  • Easy Entertaining
  • Pantry Raid (I read THAT one wrong more than once!)
Simple Suppers and Easy Entertaining offer up complete meals—usually a main, a side, and a dessert—that can be made in under an hour. The Pantry Raid (there I went, again) chapter I plan to turn to on those nights I have nothing in mind for dinner and the clock is striking five. Recipes in this chapter can be made by raiding your pantry and fridge and using ingredients you may already have on hand.

Some recipes in this book do call for dairy, however the Carol has provided substitutions for dairy (usually coconut or rice milk) and suggestions for other substitutions such arrowroot for cornstarch. So there are ways to work around allergies and intolerances and still cook out of this book—the only exception being the recipes that call for eggs. But still, there are plenty of other recipes in the book that we can enjoy.

A Theme and Menu Approach

Carol has come up with some great themes for each menu. Last week I followed these menus and clean plates were a testament to how good each was:

Mini Meat Loaves (left out the egg)
Smashed Potatoes
Broccoli with Garlic Chips
Dairy-Free Chocolate Ganache with Fruit

Polenta Potpies (left out the cheese)
Pear and Arugula Salad
Hot Cherry Sundaes
The recipes in this book are a mixture of classics and some that take us out of our comfort zone. Sticky Rice and Mango is a dessert I order in Thai restaurants. Now, thanks to this book, I can make it at home. And how about quinoa tabouleh ... that's next on my "to try" list—a combo I've never tried.

The book is black and white with a few pages of color photography. The recipes are well laid out and directions are easy to follow.

To Buy or Not to Buy

If you are JUST gluten-free: A definite BUY!

If you are gluten-free and dairy-free:
Buy if you are comfortable using non-dairy substitutes (soy cream cheese, Daiya, etc. or just leaving it out) and know that some recipes may simply be challenging to make without the real deal.

If you are gluten-free, dairy-free AND egg-free: Buy knowing that there may be a handful of recipes that just may be too difficult or impossible to make without these ingredients (like salmon cakes and breakfast quesadillas).