Tuesday Reviews-Day: Breakfast

Tuesday Revews-Day

We’re big fans of breakfast around here, though we seldom eat it at the “traditional” breakfast time. During the week it’s all about the race to get out the door and to the office, and on the weekends I’m more for sleeping in than getting up early to eat.

So super-informal brunch happens a lot, as does brinner (breakfast for dinner). We do that at least once a week, so when I told Todd we’d be having a lot more breakfasts his response was “oh, twist my arm.”

Why the uptick in egg-laden meals? Because I received a copy of Breakfast: the Most Important Book About the Best Meal of the Day for review. And if you’ve read this blog long enough, you know I feel duty-bound to make several recipes from a cookbook before offering up any sort of review.

I opened the book with a pad of sticky-notes in hand, expecting to flip through the book and pick out the promising menu items and move on quickly to creating my grocery list but found myself, quite a while later, barely having scratched the surface.

Some cookbook fans love to read a new cookbook like a novel. Others wonder how that’s even possible. With Breakfast, it’s more like reading a collection of essays. Created by the editors of Extra Crispy, Breakfast is easily half information and half recipes. There are infographics, history lessons, personal anecdotes, and comparison guides galore. And lots of eye-catching, slightly retro-feeling photography, too.

But the recipes, how are they? We sampled six of them, ranging from the more traditional to the how-does-this-classify-as-breakfast, and the overall feeling is they were all tasty, indeed. I did have some issues (like the recipe that serves 4, shows an egg on top of each serving, but only calls for 1-2 eggs… Oooookay) or lacking salt and pepper in other recipes, but the key pieces are there and you can generally infer the rest.

The luxurious Ham & Cheese Dutch Baby…

I was first introduced to the Dutch Baby shortly after graduating high school. Sense then I’ve made them many times, but never–for whatever reason–did it occur to make them savory, topped with black forest ham and cheese. That was unfortunate because the Ham & Cheese Dutch Baby was amazing. Even without the savory topping, the density of the custard (in part because my pan was a bit smaller than called for) was heavenly, and the leftovers reheated beautifully for lunch.

Next up was the Squash and Spam Hash. I had never had Spam before, but figured this was as good a time as any to rectify that issue. While it won’t be making my regular rotation, combining it with yellow squash, zucchini, and corn was not a bad introduction to the spiced ham in a can.

This next one got a bit of a brow-raise from Todd, but I had to try it! Ramen Carbonara–billed as a hangover cure to end all hangover cures–was quite tasty. It does not call for those sodium-packed seasoning packets, so fear not on that score, and I had some gluten-free ramen noodles in the pantry which worked just fine. I’m a big fan of carbonara in general, so adding a little more egg was not a hard sell for me.

The Mojito Pancakes might have been one of the more involved recipes I made from Breakfast, but only because it included making a flavored butter and doctoring the syrup in addition to make this actual pancakes.

But the effort was worth it! These pancakes were so amazing and the lime and rum-spiked syrup was just a thing of beauty in and of itself. This was probably my favorite of what we’ve sampled so far.

Next up was the Texas Red Chili and Eggs. I’m all for a no-bean chili (which is why this recipe appealed to me to begin with) but–and I never thought I’d hear myself say this–I missed the tomatoes. The meat was great, the chili blend on point (though why we soaked the anchos but not the guajillos I’m still fuzzy on), but I think I would have liked this just as much with the meat shredded and on a bun rather than in a bowl topped with an egg.

Finally we have the Instant Pot Burrito. As with many Instant Pot recipes, it’s more the novelty that you can make it in there than the pressure cooking really adds to the recipe in any way. Sure, it was nice that I could leave it to cook while I went and hung up laundry, but it wasn’t necessary, either. They were good burritos, though!

Thus we close the book on Breakfast… for now. I still have several other recipes marked to try at some point in the future. This book makes a great gift for a brunch-loving foodie that won’t be relegated to the shelf. It’ll be perfectly at home on the coffee table, the breakfast table, or the reading nook and could spark quite a few lively discussions around the table or elsewhere.

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Breakfast in exchange for an honest review. All opinions (and errors) are mine and mine alone. Affiliate links have been used in this post, should you choose to support the book and this blog at the same time.

Tuesday Reviews-Day: Hard to Die by Andra Watkins

Tuesday Revews-Day

Please note: this post contains affiliate links. I was also provided a review copy of today’s book.

For someone who was abysmal at history in school, I certainly do like a good history-based story. From the Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George to the Kent Family series by John Jakes, I lap up varying degrees of historical fiction much more readily than I did my AP History book in high school. In fact, had something like Hamilton existed back then, I don’t think I would have needed as many all-nighters as that class required of me.

Being a Hamilton fan, when I was approached with a review copy of Hard to Die, a novel by Andra Watkins based on Theodosia Burr Alston, the daughter of Aaron Burr who went missing at sea, I was definitely curious enough to accept. I knew the book had elements of speculative fiction and a touch of the supernatural, but I was still expecting a bit more post-Revolutionary War and not being plopped down in Cold War-era America.

That disconcertion aside, I stuck with the story which follows Theo as she travels through a purgatory-like existence in Nowhere owing to her untimely death and unresolved life. She has just so many chances to complete a mission (to aid someone at a crossroads in their life) and move onto whatever waits beyond Nowhere. She’s not a ghost, though, she’s flesh and blood, and the dangers faced are real. She can die (again) in the course of her mission and have to start all over. I thought it was a rather clever blending of purgatory, limbo, and reincarnation in a way I hadn’t read before.

While we get glimpses of her actual history–tidbits of Burr’s other exploits, her son’s death, etc.–most of the time is spent in 1950, at West Point, with a Cadet and former spy, Richard, that is the object of Theo’s Nowhere mission. While entertaining enough and it opens some doors onto intriguing avenues of self-study (the previous volume in this series focuses on Merriwether Lewis, of Lewis and Clark fame, which is a whole ‘nother story and then some), this might almost be better suited for WWII fans than Hamilton fans.

Still, if you know someone who’s into both, it might be a nice gift when combined with a few other choice items. If I were to put this together as a bundled gift, I’d slip in a copy of Hamilton: the Revolution, the Original Broadway Recording (just because we’re fans doesn’t mean we’ve purchased the album yet–I listen to it via Prime Music, for instance), and Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton biography that started it all.

My September Reading List

Just for Fun
My September Reads | Images via Goodreads

My September Reads | Images via Goodreads

I switched to catching up on my YouTube subscriptions during lunch breaks (and some nights before bed), so I didn’t read quite as much as previous months. But look at that:


Seriously?! So close, and yet so far.

Oh, well, on with the show!

More WWII 

I generally have no problem reading multiple books at a time BUT I did find it a little disconcerting when I was reading The One I Was and listening to Pastel Orphans at the same time. (Well, not at the same time exactly, but reading one at bedtime and listening to the other in the car–you know what I mean!)

Pastel Orphans is a story of a woman’s flight from Berlin with her 2 half-Jewish children to the countryside in Poland and all that follows. When the daughter, Greta, is kidnapped by German officers to be raised by a good German family (owing to her Aryan appearance), Henrik is determined to find where they’ve taken her and bring her home. The story is told mostly from his point of view, later we shift to narration from Rebekkah, one of the Partisans he meets with early on in his journey, and then they trade off for a while.

At first the formal style of Henrik’s thoughts and language had me thinking he was a sociopath in the making. But I got used to it and it’s sort of like listening to Data (the android from Star Trek: The Next Generation) tell a story–to the point, no contractions, matter of fact. Seeing the war through a teenagers eyes, especially their take on the concentration camps from the outside looking in as they searched for signs of Greta, is somewhat novel. I’d read Night by Elie Wiesel back in school and even though he was a teen when he was taken to the camps, that he was telling the story as an adult, with an adult’s hindsight, gave it a different flavor. It was interesting.

Meanwhile, The One I Was, has two concurrent storylines: the main character, Rosamond, is a nurse who returns to her former home, an English manor house at Fairfleet, to care for a man who lived there even before she did, as one of the Kindertransport refugees taken in by her grandmother during the war. Both have secrets they’ve been holding onto for decades, and now that Benny is in his last days, he’s ready to tell his story.

We skip from past to present, following the two narratives, until both secrets are finally revealed. I admit that I guessed Benny’s secret long before it was spelled out. Rose’s was less a secret and more a child’s misplaced guilt, the way children often assume responsibility for the actions of the grown-ups around them. Especially when said grown-ups are despicable human beings with a good grasp on manipulating others.

To say that I liked either of the books doesn’t feel quite right. It’s more that I appreciated the story they had to tell and was grateful for hearing it. If that even makes sense.

Finally, The Girl From Krakow was a bit harder to get into. I think I might be getting over my renewed fascination with WWII era Europe, so it could just be subject-fatigue. But Rita as a main character was not a compelling character at the beginning. She redeemed herself, in my eyes, by the end, but it was a long process.

Also set in Poland, Rita starts off as a co-ed in 1935, but takes the more traditional path of marriage and family, but not without some dalliances along the way. The book descriptions claims…

When the war arrives, Rita is armed with a secret so enormous that it could cost the Allies everything, even as it gives her the will to live.She must find a way both to keep her secret and to survive amid the chaos of Europe at war. Living by her wits among the Germans as their conquests turn to defeat, she seeks a way to prevent the inevitable doom of Nazism from making her one of its last victims. Can her passion and resolve outlast the most powerful evil that Europe has ever seen?

Makes it sound like a fast-paced novel of espionage and such, right? Right?! Not so much…

The secret she’s entrusted with is a non-starter. Oh, it’s big and all that, but it has very little bearing on the bulk of the story, though I can see where the author was trying to go with it, it just didn’t happen. She does have to rely on her wits, yes, but she also relies on luck that she looks more Aryan than Jewish and the help of many other people along the way. She does some truly questionable things over the course of the story, and has the requisite existential crisis along the way. And I got far less passion from her than the description would have me expect.

The character living by their wits moreso was Tadeusz/Gil, whom we follow through Poland, Spain, and Russia in between Rita’s parts. He has absolutely nothing to do with this big secret, but I found his story far more interesting.

Again, it’s not that I disliked the book, but I also didn’t appreciate the story it was telling in the same way I did the first two. It is, sadly, another signal to me to avoid books with “A Novel” tacked onto the title, as I found with All the Light We Cannot See.

FBI Meets State Police, Sparks Fly (but not the way you expect)

It’s a trope in law enforcement stories that the local police don’t appreciate the state troopers involvement, and neither like it when the FBI steps in. Turf wars and all that. But when a child goes missing, the local cops aren’t upset to have the FBI’s help in finding her. The state police come in when the missing child happens to be the stepdaughter of Detective Callahan’s ex-wife.

Side-eye at the sister’s brother’s cousin’s roommate’s uncle sort of tie-in, but, okay, sure, we needed a way to get everyone involved and here we go. Callahan appoints himself as the family’s spokesperson for the media bits, as a way to help without being officially involved, and Ava McLane takes the role of in-house support for the family.

I did like the sort of twist that the higher-ranking official of the two was the woman of the story. I was less interested in the eventual romance angle (and listening to sex scenes in an audiobook is incredibly awkward, I ended up swiping past them in each book). I thought the character interaction was good, I think the author did a great job of keeping all the moving parts going forward, and overall enjoyed the series.

Again, it’s a little tough to talk specifics in a series because it gives earlier bits away.

One thing I flat-out did not like was that Ava became a target two books in a row (I don’t think I’m giving away too much, here), even if both were matters of chance, especially since the three books all take place within a 12-month span. That’s a lot to dump on a character, you know? There are other ways of making a good story besides putting the same character in peril. In this way, the procedural side of books 2 & 3 really served as a backdrop for the romance between McLane and Callahan and those aren’t the type of stories I’m drawn to.

If there’s another book in the series I would hope it would center more on crime aspect, but seeing as author Kendra Elliot’s other books are often classified as Romance first, Mystery & Suspense next, it’s probably not to be. But if you like romance with a side of thrilled, these might be the books for you.

Putting the Fun in Dysfunctional

Hoo, boy! You wanna talk about dysfunctional family drama? The Book of James is just that. After her husband’s death in a car accident, Mackenzie learns that not only is his mother still alive, that his family is filthy rich. Why had they been just barely scraping by all these years? Because the money came with strings, a whole family’s sordid history of strings.

This story was a bit trippy, but in a good way. A way that would make me sit up late at night with a bucket of popcorn and watch it on Lifetime. (That’s not a dis, by the way, Lifetime movies are very entertaining!)

The James of the title is the mystery at hand. It’s part of Nick’s last words to Mackenzie, “find James,” and what prompts her to accept her mother-in-law’s invitation to stay at the family home for a while. She investigates (badly) with the help of the son of the family lawyer who is surprisingly okay with the odd requests Mackenzie makes of him. There’s the neighbor who shows up at any given time and who seems pretty senile and her older brother who, it is revealed early on, is tied to the matriarch in many ways, most of which not so good.

There are Psycho-level mother-son issues here, folks. Again, I go back to the popcorn. While I mostly listened to the audiobook, the story was compelling enough that I also switched to reading it at other times.

Finally, A Wilder Rose was recommended after last month’s book round up and I’m so glad it was!

The biggest takeway for me was how much her relationship with her mother, the famous Laura Ingalls Wilder of the Little House books, is a lot like my own relationship with my mom (minus the literary accomplishments, of course). I remember listening to this particular passage while preparing dinner and was so struck  by how perfect the words were, not only did I stop the narration so I could highlight them, but I read them to Todd at the dinner table a little later.

I heard a barb buried in every sentence, an expectation in every offer, a demand in every smiling invitation. She and I were like neighboring states with a long and problematic history, with shared and very porous boundaries, she constantly invading, I continually repelling. A part of me wanted to be closer to my mother, but if I were to allow her invasions, I would be overrun, smothered, swallowed up. If I were ever to pursue my own goals, I had to push her away. When I did, she felt rejected and abandoned and stepped up her demands, These periodic sallies and skirmishes intensified my despair about the situation in which I had been trapped, without hope of release, since I was a child. My sense of guilty obligation was born of those terrible days when I could never do what she asked fast enough or well enough to meet her expectations or her demands, yet I had to try and try again. Here I was at midlife, still trying to meet her expectations–and the trying was making me sick.

Mothers and daughters frequently butt heads, that’s not exactly news, but I’d recently come to a particular bit of insight about my own mother after a truly unfortunate incident at work and, well, this hit home with incredible accuracy.

Those personal applications aside, I found A Wilder Rose to be fascinating on so many levels and now I want track down Rose Lane’s books to see how she wrote when she wasn’t ghostwriting her mother’s Little House books.

Because that’s what this book revolves around, how much did Rose Lane really have to do with the success of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. Building the story from Rose’s diaries, letters, and other references, the author strings together a narrative (you could almost call it narrative non-fiction) that clearly indicates the amount of work Rose did but was never credited for. Granted, by all accounts she didn’t want the credit, though I can only imagine too well how she might have wanted genuine thanks from her mother.

Throughout the pieces of how and why the arrangement came to be, we also learn about Rose’s work in journalism, her living abroad in Albania with friends, her fascination with houses–buying, building, decorating–and her fondness for the people around her. Despite “A Novel” being part of the title, this book had me pretty much enthralled throughout and has me wanting to read more work set in the 30s and about the men and women who weren’t the displaced farmers of the Depression and Dust Bowl years. I feel like we always get so much about the Roaring 20s and the early 40s, but aside from the headlines the 30s aren’t as common a setting.

(* denotes audiobooks; all Amazon links are affiliate links)

What have you read lately that you’d recommend?


Tuesday Reviews-Day: Year of No Sugar

Tuesday Revews-Day


Have you ever picked up a book that you just wanted to love so very much but found yourself wanting to throw it across the room 50 pages in? That was me with today’s review book, Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub.

Inspired by a lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig, Schaub proposed an experiment to her family: go 1 year with no added sugars (fructose in particular), just to see how hard it would be. She, her husband, and their two daughters went without things like table sugar, honey, molasses, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juices, and artificial sweeteners for one year (with notable exceptions) while Eve kept a blog about the experience.

Now, I’m certainly no champion of HFCS or artificial sweeteners, and we tend to cook a lot from scratch in our home on a daily basis not only out of my own preference but my desire to keep problematic ingredients at bay (as a preventative measure for my IBS). For that reason alone I expected to be able to feel a kinship with the author and cheer on their triumphs. Instead, I was irritated by her constant labeling of sugar as poison (thanks, in part, to Australian lawyer-turned-food-activist David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison), her healthier-than-thou hubris paired contrasted with the near-constant self-deprecation.

Case in point? About midway through the book, after a variety of head tilt-inducing gems (like being surprised at how difficult it was to go out to eat without angering the waitstaff), came this passage:

Remember when I was [at the] Mayo Clinic with my dad? One day we were eating lunch in the cafeteria when a rather heavyset couple sat down at the other end of our table. They had clearly gotten the “I’m trying to be good, or mostly good” meal; they each had purchased a large chef’s salad with a breadstick, and she had added to her tray a banana and a skim milk, while he had a large diet soda and a piece of pie for dessert. I couldn’t help but wonder to myself if they wouldn’t have been better off enjoying a meal with much more fat but much less sugar/fake sugar. I mean, sugar (or the chemically fake stuff) was int he salad dressing, the breakstick, the diet soda, and in the pie. It was freakin’ everywhere on their tray, and it was as if I–through some mutant power which might qualify me to be a comic book superhero–was the only one who could see it. I idly wondered if perhaps one of them suffered from one of the many variants of metabolic syndrome, and if so, if anyone would ever offer the suggestion that they might be healthier forgoing the salad with dressing in favor of the pot roast and mashed potatoes.

For someone who expressed concern over whether or not the no-sugar year would give her daughters a skewed opinion of food or create disordered eating patterns, she certainly seems to have no qualms about making armchair diagnoses and passing judgement on strangers. Would she have made the same assumptions if the couple had not been “rather heavyset”? Not only is it a) not hurting her what other people choose to eat and b) none of her business how other people choose to live their lives, she had no idea about why they made the choices they made but passed judgment on their plates as if she was some omniscient food and health guru. While only a small part of the story, it’s the small asides like this that give you insight into a person’s character, and tell you whether they are someone whose opinion you can value.

Before you think I found everything in the book distasteful, let me assure you there were some bright spots. The older daughter, Greta, kept her own journal throughout the Year of No Sugar, and excerpts from it are included in the book. Her simple, straight-forward take on the situation was a breath of fresh air and I’m more curious to know what else she thought of the experiment than anything else.

I’m also all for an increased awareness in what we eat and what’s in our food. After all, that’s one of the reasons I encourage people to cook for themselves, regardless of how “healthy” or not a recipe is on the surface, because I believe the more we cook and pay attention to the food we eat, the better choices we will start to make over time. That ability to choose and the knowledge it stems from (true information, not inflammatory exposition or hyperbole) is what gives us the tools to live better lives by our own making, not having them dictated for us.

So while I do applaud the Schaubs’ fortitude and commitment in their Year of No Sugar, I disagree with the fundamentals on which the experiment is based. Namely, that any one ingredient is the cause of all the world’s nutritional ills. Simply put, we don’t live or eat in a vacuum, and to label a single component as the devil is a witch-hunt out of context. And while I agree with the exceptions they made throughout the year (one special “normal” sugar dessert a month, each person having their own free pass item throughout the year), it contradicts the fervor with which she labels those ingredients a poison or toxin–if it’s truly that bad, why allow any exceptions? Because it’s not realistic compared to practicing moderation, but moderation doesn’t make for a compelling story.

One of the reasons we read memoirs is to learn from other’s experiences (and, I daresay, from other’s mistakes). The best kind of book is one that sparks an interest to know more, so I suppose on those grounds I can give Year of No Sugar high marks. After all, while I wasn’t so curious as to listen to the Lustig lecture that started it all, I did so a little more digging about him and found that he spent 2013 studying public health policy, the end goal being to get fructose regulated a la alcohol and tobacco. This fits in so very well with Schaub’s own account of what happened after their experiment ended. No only had her tastebuds changed (something she was surprised at–I guess she’s never known an ex-smoker who found the taste of cigarettes abhorrent after a while), but she seemed to have lost the ability to make decisions on what was “safe” or not. Bottom line: moderation took too much work compared to following someone else’s mandate.

What was that about making better choices?

A choice the author did make was to research alternative (but not artificial) sources of sweetness for baking. Citing many food trials that all began to taste like banana or dates, she eventually found out about dextrose (another type of sugar but one devoid of fructose’s perceived ills) and was able to bring many of their family favorites back to the table with this simple substitute (though you may have to order it online, dextrose isn’t carried in a lot of mainstream grocery stores). Here’s one of the family’s weekend staples that includes a bit of dextrose along with the sweetening power of bananas and coconut for a weekend breakfast treat.

Heresy Pancakse (with blueberries) | Image via EveSchaub.com

Heresy Pancakse (with blueberries) | Image via EveSchaub.com

Heresy Pancakes
by Eve Schaub, from Year of No Sugar

Pancakes are a BIG favortie in our house. We eat them pretty much every weekend, and if there are leftovers, I refrigerate them (or freeze them with a piece of wax or parchment paper between each one) so we can heat them in the toaster oven on a school morning during the week. Using banana and coconut is just one way of upping the sweetness, but you could try any number of different added-fruit combinations.

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour & 1 cup whole-wheat flour)
2 tablespoons dextrose
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons powdered buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted & slightly cooled
2 cups water
2 very ripe mashed bananas
4 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut
canola oil

Whisk together flour, dextrose, baking powder, baking soda, powdered buttermilk, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, melted and cooled butter, and water. Add to these wet ingredients the mashed banana and shredded coconut. Whisk the egg and butter mixture into the dry ingredients until mixture is just incorporated. Don’t overmix; a few lumps should remain.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and use small amount (1 tablespoon) of butter or canola oil to cook the cakes and add more as you go as needed. Use a 1/4 cup measure to scoop batter onto hot skillet. Cook until bubbles begin to appear and then flip pancakes, cooking until they are nice and golden brown.

Year of No Sugar is published by Sourcebooks, available April 8, 2014

I was provided a review copy of the Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub for the purpose of review. No compensation was received for this post and all opinions are (obviously) my own.

Review | Healing Fatty Liver Disease



***This is a sponsored post. A copy of Healing Fatty Liver Disease by Raman, Sirounis, and Shrubsole was provided for the purpose of review. No other compensation has been received. All opinions expressed are my own. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…***

A few years ago, as I was dealing with a number of converging health issues, an abdominal ultrasound revealed some “fatty infiltration” of the liver. At the time this was the least of my concerns and I joked that I was “foie gras.”

Fatty Liver Disease isn’t much to laugh about in all reality. Having measurable fat deposits in the liver may not progress to any sort of decrease in liver function, or it may progress so far as NASH or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (which is to say, liver disease with inflammation and scarring), not to mention an increased risk of developing cirrhosis. And while fatty infiltration can be detected, to an extent, by ultrasound, a liver biopsy is necessary to determine the extent of the infiltration and the severity of the disease.

Since I was already going in to have my gallbladder removed, my surgeon opted to do the biopsy then, which is when we found out that while there is fat in my liver, I also have A1AT (alpha-1 antitrypsin) deficiency–a rare, genetic condition that makes both my lungs and liver more susceptible to disease. Thankfully, regular liver function testing since then shows that my liver is just fine for now and we’ll continue monitoring it, probably for the rest of my life. And I need to not antagonize my liver too much to help keep those levels where they need to be.  This is one of the many reasons I jumped at the chance to take a look at Healing Fatty Liver Disease: A Complete Health & Diet Guide by Dr. Maitreyi Raman, MD, MSc, FRCPC; Angela Sirounis, BSc, RD; and Jennifer Shrubsole, BSc, RD.

Like many similar guides from the Robert Rose publishing house, the first part of the book is chock-a-block full of basic information about the role of the liver and general health information, as well as the ways the liver is affected by Fatty Liver Disease in particular. Since weight and it’s related contributions to daily life plays a part on the stress put on the liver, managing weight is a large part of the idea behind the Healthy Liver Diet.

Healthy Liver Diet Program Principles:

  • Low-calorie
  • High-fiber
  • Balanced food groups
  • Rich in micronutrients
  • Sustainable

Which is pretty much the same advice given to anyone advised to lose weight in a safe and healthy manner. The question for many, though, is how.

Since fatty liver disease is not something that’s looked for in the general way–it’s  usually discovered as a result of another health inquiry–most people are dealing with more things than just a liver concern, and it seldom surprises me (what with the massive food marketing pushes out there that often based on profit margins and not health) that folks don’t know how to go about refitting their daily needs to a liver-healthy (or heart-, etc.) diet. The authors apparently share this view, and that’s why they’ve not only included recipes that will work to that end but even 2-week menu plans that include 3 meals and 3 snacks a day based on 3 different calorie needs.

The recipes focus on “increasing total and prebiotic fiber, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D” and minimizing omega-6 fatty acids and saturated fats. In fact, this book included the most clear and concise explanation and examples of the difference between the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They do use margarine in some of their recipes, which I usually balk at, but at least these days there are better options for buttery spreads that do not include trans-fats.

Of course we tried out a few of those recipes, and I think they do a good job of showing that meals designed to meet the above requirements don’t have to feel like restrictions and can be tasty and satisfying.

Local Veggie Egg Scramble served with bacon and half a gluten-free English muffin

Local Veggie Scrambled Eggs served with bacon and half a gluten-free English muffin

The Local Veggie Scrambled Eggs (p.148) are almost more like a frittata than scrambled eggs, but they were very tasty nonetheless. For another meal we made their Oatmeal Banana Pancakes (p.149) and while they had a more waffle-batter texture than pourable pancake batter (something we’ve found to be pretty common in the “healthy” pancake recipes), the oatmeal was a nice touch and made for some very filling pancakes.

Oatmeal Banana Pancakes--very thick and fluffy when done!

Oatmeal Banana Pancakes–very thick and fluffy when done!

Ever since I first encountered jicama during my stint at the Plantation, I’ve been in love with it’s crisp, bright flavor and crunchy texture. Consequently, the Beet, Orange and Jicama Salad (p.187) was a bit hit with me. Meanwhile, the dressing on the Greens with Strawberries (p.189) salad was quite a hit but the sprouts in the salad part didn’t go over quite as well.

Greens with Strawberry Dressing

Greens with Strawberries

Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Crust served with a baked potato and steamed bok choy.

Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Crust served with a baked potato and steamed bok choy.

As entrees go, the Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Herb Crust (p.198) was positively decadent yet very simple to prepare, similar can be said for the Sweet and Sour Pork (p. 204), it’s always a good staple recipe to have on hand. 

Sweet and Sour Pork served with Ginger Carrots

Sweet and Sour Pork served with Ginger Carrots

Chicken in Butter Sauce served over Basmati rice with green beans on the side

Chicken in Butter Sauce served over Basmati rice with green beans on the side

The Chicken in Butter Sauce (p.210) is similar to what you’d find at your local Indian restaurant and filled our home with wonderful aromas. Continuing with the updated ethnic cuisines, I’d been craving Pad Thai (p.212) for a while, so when I saw that there was a version in this book I had to try it out. The sauce was possible the best I’ve tasted and did not use peanut butter so I didn’t even have to make any substitutions (Todd’s preferences).

Pad Thai with Beet, Jicama and Orange Salad

Pad Thai with Beet, Orange, and Jicama Salad

Thai Turkey Stir-Fry

Thai Turkey Stir-Fry

The Thai Turkey Stir-Fry (p.213) (recipe below) needed truly minimal adjustments to fit a Low-FODMAP diet (as with many of the recipes, the biggies were subbing garlic oil for garlic and the occasional onion substitutions) since bok choy and red bell peppers are already a-okay. Even though I subbed angel hair for the linguine (gf pasta availability is a bit hit-or-miss at our usual grocery store), the Linguine with Chile Shrimp (p. 230) was still quite tasty, though somewhat on the small side, portion-wise. All the more reason to serve a filling side dish!

"Linguine" with Chile Shrimp

“Linguine” with Chile Shrimp

Eggplant Lasagna tasted a lot better than it photographed!

Eggplant Lasagna tasted a lot better than it photographed!

Roasting the long, thin slices of eggplant for the Eggplant Lasagna (p.240) was a different way of going about thing but I can see where it helps move the cooking along and adds to the flavor. This dish was a bit of a mess when it was served up, but the flavor was hard to beat. And whereas you’d expect Ginger Carrots (p. 253) to be sweet, their recipe leans more to the savory–another nice change of pace.

By combining more than 100 pages of good, solid inner-working information and 100 recipes to get someone into the habit of cooking healthy meals, I think the authors have put together a good reference manual for someone who’s left the doctor’s office with a diagnosis of Fatty Liver Disease and wondering what to do next. I appreciated their candor when they talked about the non-sustainability of so many of the diet plans on the market today and the solid information they’ve presented, even if it can be a bit dry at times (it’s a tough road, making liver function interesting, so I don’t hold it against them too much). The only thing I wish they would have done is fill out the case studies they included throughout the learning section of the book with more information on the results, not just the decisions that the patients and the doctors made.

An online friend of mine, Tea Silvestri of The Word Chef, was recently diagnosed with fatty liver disease as well as a few more issues that part of the whole package. I suppose the real question about this book is whether I would recommend it as a reference for her own situation and, yes, I definitely would.