Review – Super Natural Everyday: Well Loved Recipes from Natural Foods Kitchen

Super Natural Everyday: Well Loved Recipes from Natural Foods Kitchen

By Heidi Swanson

Ten Speed Press

ISBN: 9781580082778

5 stars

I’ve never reviewed a cookbook before but I thought I’d give it a shot.  Besides, it’s a book I love, I’ve cooked many of the recipes, several are now staples, and none have let me down.  Since I don’t know where to start with a cookbook review, (I’m sure I don’t really need to do anything different but in my head this is what I’m thinking so go with me.) I thought the best way to do it would be to talk about what gems I found among the recipes.

Confession up front — I did not follow the recipes precisely.  I never do when it comes to cooking, and besides I don’t always have all the ingredients, but I’m always sure I can make it work.  This is why some of my friends hate cooking with me — I make it up sometimes!  🙂 Isn’t that the beauty of cooking though?

I was planning to include pictures but I don’t want you to judge the food by my awful camera work.  If you check out the author’s blog, 101 Cookbooks, (which you should do because it’s a wonderful blog and she includes not only the most tasty food but is an amazing photographer) she has food photos so fabulous they’ll make you want to lick your screen.  Yep, I said that.  Moving on…

This is a book of vegetarian recipes, I eat veggie for the most part, and my husband is a good sport and willing to try most things. The beautiful thing about this book is its diversity and mix and match ability of the recipes. I’m sure a few would also work as side dishes for chicken or fish just as well. These are also hearty recipes — you won’t be hungry an hour later which was a big complaint of my husband when I would make an all veggie meal. He’s yet to say that about any of the recipes from this book. We aren’t big eaters and by that I mean we don’t go in for monster, huge meals but we do like to feel as though we ate dinner.

This book contains recipes for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, drinks, and treats. There is also a section on accompaniments and I’m dying to try and make my own whole grain mustard.

The recipes I’ve tried (which is really a small portion but I do plan to make my way through this one) and loved:

Harissa Ravioli

Tortellini Salad

Tutti-Frutti Crumble (a version of it with my own take)

Broccoli Gribiche (this is seriously one of my favorite recipes in the whole book)

White Beans and Cabbage (another great one and a way to deal with that massive head of cabbage that seems to arrive with our CSA that I don’t know what to do with)

Mostly Not Potato Salad

Wild Rice Casserole

Whole Grain Rice Salad

Open-Face Egg Sandwich

There are a lot of recipes in this book so please don’t let my short list be misleading. This is a cookbook I will go back to and have on several occasions when I don’t know what I want to cook and need ideas. The recipes are easy to follow and while I don’t always have the ingredients on hand, I know that substituting will not cause any major problems. The photos are also fantastic. If you’re looking for something new to add to your kitchen, I recommend this one.

Sunday Salon – Cookbooks

I took a cooking class with some friends this week and had a really good time — thanks to my friends but not the instructor who wasn’t all that good but I learned a few things anyway.  It got me thinking — I love to cook and own a number of cookbooks which I frequently look at to browse ingredient lists and sometimes to see what my dinner should have looked like.  I’m not a recipe person though.  I’d rather cobble together ingredients and have at it.  My mother cooks like this and so did both grandmothers so I’m used to it.  I have a cookbook that used to belong to one grandmother (not really a cookbook so much as a notebook full of recipes) and true to her nature, she left out instructions on most of the recipes.  She was a little weird like that.  I once called her to ask her for her potato pancake recipe and this was the conversation.

“Hi Gram.  I was wondering if you could give me your potato pancake recipe.  I think I’m going to try and make some this weekend.”

“What do you mean give it to you? You’re Polish, you should know how to make potato pancakes,” said my grandmother in her ever so pleasing way of not saying anything helpful.  Years later, I’m still confused as to how my being Polish (I’m also Italian and Welsh) had anything to do with me knowing the recipe but anyway.

“OK then.  So, potatoes, onion, egg, flour, and salt.  Sound about right?”

“See I told you that you knew it,” she said.

“Uh, huh.  Got to go.  Call ya soon.”

My mother who I relayed this conversation to very shortly after I talked to my grandmother (it was her mother so I knew she’d appreciate the story) found it funny because she would never tell her what was in recipes either.  Years later in the hopes of finding her chicken cattiatore recipe (it rocked when she made it) we scoured her house but couldn’t find it.  When we finally found the little notebook with her recipes that I now own, we both freaked hoping it would be there.  It wasn’t.  There was, however, a decoy recipe that we know for a fact wasn’t her’s because there were ingredients listed she didn’t use.  She took it to her grave.

Oh well, you now might be asking where this is going.  Yes, back to cookbooks.  I don’t review them but I’m thinking I might start taking a look at recipes, testing them out, and reviewing them individually.  Also, I’ll warn you all up front that I don’t, and will not start now, following the recipes exactly.  I’m apparently genetically incapable.

And now, more sharing!  A few good links I found this week while perusing the internets.  Have at it fellow readers.

Books that rocked your world at 16 and fall flat now thanks to Flavorwire

Also from Flavorwire, cult books that need to be adapted to the big screen

Readers block thoughts on Work In Progress

From GalleyCat, an unreadable manuscript gets a date

To end on a book note, I’ve been reading Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier this week and loving it.  I wonder why it took me so long to read her.  Happy Sunday.

My Favorite Reads – My Life in France

Alyce from At Home With Books features one of her favorite reads each Thursday and this week my pick is…

My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme.

From the inside cover: In her own words, here is the captivating story of Julia Child’s years in France, where she fell in love with French food and found her “true calling.”

From the moment the ship docked in Le Havre in the fall of 1948 and Julia watched the well-muscled stevedores unloading the cargo to the first perfectly soigné meal that and her husband, Paul, savored in Rouen en route to Paris, where he was to work for the USIS, Julia had an awakening that changed her life. Soon this tall, outspoken gal from Pasadena, California, who didn’t speak a word of French and knew nothing about the country, was steeped in the language, chatting with purveyors in the local markets and enrolled in the Cordon Bleu.

After managing to get her degree despite the machinations of the disagreeable directrice of the school, Julia started teaching cooking classes herself, then teamed up with two fellow gourmettes, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, to help them with a book they were trying to write on French cooking for Americans. Throwing herself heart and soul into making it a unique and thorough teaching book, only to suffer several rounds of painful rejection, is part of the behind-the-scenes drama that Julia reveals with in inimitable gusto and disarming honesty.

Filled with the beautiful black-and-white photographs that Paul loved to take when he was not battling bureaucrats, as well as family snapshots, this memoir is laced with wonderful stories about the French character, particularly in the world of food, and the way of life that Julia embraced so wholeheartedly. Above all, she reveals the kind of spirit and determination, the sheer love of cooking, and the drive to share that with her fellow Americans that made her the extraordinary success she became.

My thoughts: I have always wanted to be able to cook like Julia Child. Her love of food is contagious in this book and the frank almost off-hand way she tells the story is wonderful. It’s as if she’s sitting next to you telling the story. It’s more than just food but the way food becomes such a large and totally encompassing part of her, and her husband’s, life during their years in France and how a woman, who didn’t know how to cook at all, found herself the icon of French cooking.

I have one of her small cookbooks in my kitchen that is ratty, food stained, and dog earned. I reference it often when I’m trying to cook something I bought and realized had no idea what to do with when I got home. It’s called Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom and is by far one of the best cookbooks I ever bought. She has a way of breaking down a recipe so easily and making it sounds as if you can make the most complicated of dishes with ease.

Memoirs are not a genre I frequent but having watched Julia on PBS for years I had to read this book. It’s just as funny as she is on the show and the stories she tells about learning French, learning to cook, and finding her way in a country and culture very foreign to her is unforgettable. Not only a good cook, she’s a great story-teller as well.

This book was finished after Julia died in 2004 by her grandnephew Alex Prud’homme but none of her voice is lost. The photographs are absolutely fabulous as well.

I don’t have copies of The Art of French Cooking but if you were to ask me what two books I covet most in the world, it would be The Art of French Cooking, Volumes 1 and 2. I should admit that I don’t cook a lot of French food and rarely follow a recipe, I mostly look at recipes for ideas, but these are two books I know I would find use for.