Tuesday Reviews-Day: The Healing Herbs Cookbook

Tuesday Revews-Day


I’m a big believer in the idea that what we eat affects our health far beyond just what it does to our waistbands. After all, haven’t I spent the last year avoiding many so-called healthy foods after discovering just how un-helpful and even harmful they were to my body? The results of that experience have led to a much happier day-to-day existence with a lot less pain and discomfort, I’m happy to say!

That’s why I was so keen to take a look at The Healing Herbs Cookbook by Pat Crocker. I already knew, for instance, that ginger is good for an upset stomach, that turmeric and nutmeg were naturally anti-inflammatory, and that clove was a topical analgesic (just try eating a ham that’s been studded with a few too many and you, too, will experience its numbing qualities!). Crocker has included quite the dossier on a number of similar herbs and spices if you’d like to learn more about them, or you can just skip ahead to the recipes.

Speaking of the recipes, she does note that the jury’s still out on whether the beneficial properties of any given herb or spice are hindered by cooking them. I tend to agree with her, though, that fresh herbs or dried spices make great additions to a meal and if there’s a chance they can improve your health, all the better! And to help you pinpoint the best options at any time of the year, each chapter is organized by season.

Vegetable Sushi with Wasabi Mayo

Vegetable Sushi with Wasabi Mayo Dip

Concentrating on the winter recipes (for obviously reasons), the first one to catch my eye was the Vegetable Sushi with Wasabi-Mayonnaise Dip (p.63), Sushi is one of our favorite meals when we go out and I’ve made some at home, as well, so I was confident this would work out well. Intended as a starter, with a side of seaweed salad it made a light-yet-filling supper. I ended up making one roll for each of us for supper but diced the rest of the vegetables and shredded the nori sheets to make sushi bowls with the leftovers. The sweet potato was the stand-out ingredient in this recipe.

The rest of the rice and veggies made a tasty nosh when combined in a big bowl. I snacked on it all weekend.

The rest of the rice and veggies made a tasty nosh when combined in a big bowl. I snacked on it all weekend.

The Cheddar Cheese and Root Soup (p. 77) was a wonderful dinner option on a cold, drizzly evening. The healing herb in this soup (dried ginseng root) can be a hard to come by, but it turns out the be a great soup even without it.

Cheddar Root Soup

Cheddar Cheese and Root Soup

Straying into the fall recipes, the Roasted Squash and Pepper Salad (p. 88) is a bit of a stretch to the salad name, but we’d never paired roasted red bell peppers with acorn squash and the combination was surprisingly tasty. Even though I skipped the high-FODMAP red onions, it made a great side-dish and looked very pretty in it’s dish–a good candidate for a fall or winter pot-luck, I think!

the colorful Squash and Red Pepper "salad"

the colorful Squash and Red Pepper “salad”

Had I not just made a seafood pot pie, the Vegetable Pot Pie with Sweet Potato Topping (p. 114) would have definitely made it on our list, and I’m looking so forward to many of the spring and summer recipes when those vegetables are back in season. While I appreciate the additional information on the healing properties of the plants featured in the book, I have to say I was more impressed with the wealth of creative vegetarian meal options it includes.

[I received a copy of The Healing Herbs Cookbook for purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.]

Review | The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook by Judith Finlayson



Some folks thing giving up gluten-bearing wheat, barley, and rye means a lifetime sentence to rice side dishes. Now, I happen to like rice in all its various forms and flavors, but even I’d get tired of it if that was my only grain option!

This is, of course, not the case even if you just expand your horizons only as far as oats and corn. And then there’s quinoa–a pseudo-grain (really a seed) that is becoming quite popular and is tasty source of plant protein, millet–a cost-effective option but you might have to look for it in health-food stores, and wild rice (another seed); chances are you’ve heard of more than a few of these, too.

In The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook, the author also digs deeper into other grains like amaranth, buckwheat, Job’s tears, and sorghum–all of which might be tough to find in smaller cities, at least in raw material form. I find amaranth in my new-favorite gluten-free cereal option (Mesa Sunrise), and buckwheat I can find in mixes and soba noodles (not that we’ll be seeking those out any time soon after the last reminder that their flavor is somewhat of an acquired taste), and sorghum in flour-form that I use in my gluten-free baking.

This book is actually an update of Finlayson’s The Complete Whole Grains Cookbook from 2008, an update made necessary by her realization that she “wasn’t [her] optimal self much of the time” while on a diet that included a lot of wheat, even in its whole-grain forms. The symptoms she describes are very similar to many of the stories I’ve encountered learning about the Low-FODMAP diet, so it does make me wonder if she’s heard of it or not. Of course, Low-FODMAP recognizes that it’s the fructans in wheat, barley, and rye causing the issues, and not the gluten, but gluten-free is easy short-hand these days, widely recognized and, in marketing terms, a goldmine buzzword.

And seeing as I’m following said Low-FODMAP diet, the book was a treasure trove of inspiration for interesting main and side dishes as well as baking recipes, even if many had to be altered to eliminate the onions and garlic.

I feel I should warn you–the pictures and descriptions below might make you very, very hungry.

One Sunday when our gaming friends weer over, I prepared her Zucchini Fritters (p.50) but opted to cook them on my electric griddle instead of deep fry them. While crispy-fried deliciousness is not something I’m against, it was easier to prepare them this way and they were just as tasty.

Zucchini Fritters from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Zucchini Fritters–griddled instead of pan-fried but still delicious!

For that same group I also turned out these amazing Oatmeal Shortbread Squares (p.198) which were a snap to prepare in my food processor. At first I wondered about cutting the 8-inch pan of shortbread into 25 servings, but these shortbread squares are so very rich and buttery–one friend called them cookie dough cookies–that a small square is enough, even though you’ll likely go back for seconds.

Oatmeal Shortbread Squares from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Oatmeal Shortbread Squares–these are dangerously simple to prepare, serve with coffee or milk to cut the richness

You know what’s really gratifying? Preparing foods that are a step away from the norm (gluten-free, vegan, whatever) and having someone say they wouldn’t have known the difference. My guests went so far as to say if the manufactured gluten-free foods tasted as good as the ones I made them, gluten-free wouldn’t have nearly the bad reputation it did. And that, my friends, is a mark totally in favor of cooking from scratch, just in case you needed the motivation.

Of course, it wasn’t just entertaining we used this cookbook for, Finlayson’s recipes also figured highly into our weeknight meals. When tracking down the millet for her Curried Sweet Potato and Millet Soup (p.72) I was astonished to find that it was so inexpensive and am looking forward to using it more.

Curried Sweet Potato and Millet Soup from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Curried Sweet Potato and Millet Soup

This soup started out incredibly liquid but once the millet cooked it had turned into this wonderfully rich, creamy and filling soup. Since I’m still short a good source for lactose-free plain yogurt (come on Whole Foods, build faster!) I topped this soup with shredded cheese instead.

Southwest Turkey Stew with Cornmeal Dumplings from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Southwest Turkey Stew with Cornmeal Dumplings

I converted her Southwest Turkey Stew with Cornmeal Dumplings (p.115) into a crock-pot meal. Just put everything for the soup in together and let it go 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low, them mix up the dumpling batter and drop it on about 20 minutes before you’re ready to eat (switch up to high if you had it on low, before). We also decided that next time we make this–in the slow cooker or not–we’ll leave out the optional chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, the stew was more than a little spicy between it and the fresh jalapeno!

Peppery Shrimp with Quinoa from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Peppery Shrimp with Quinoa–similar to fried rice but just different enough.

And I’m not the one one who has enjoyed cooking from her book, Todd took a stroll through the pages and found a couple recipes he wanted to try, like this Peppery Shrimp with Quinoa (p.126) and her Cuban-Style Hash with Fried Pantains (p.140).

Cuban-Style Hash with Fried Plantains from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Cuban-Style Hash with Fried Plantains–when you cut through the egg, the yolk flows down and creates a layer of flavor and richness with the spicy beef and rice below. So good!

Of course, when Fat Tuesday rolled around we just had to give her Jambalaya (p.107) a try.

Jambalaya from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Jambalaya: spicy rice studded with shrimp, chicken, and sausage.

Finally, another slow-cooked favorite of ours from this book was the Pork Pozole (p.146). Served with corn chips or warmed corn tortillas it was a messy, but delicious meal.

Pork Pozole from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook

Pork Pozole topped with shredded cheese (because everything is better with cheese)

The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook is filled with 125 wonderful recipes, mouth-watering photographs, nutritional information for each recipe and plenty of tips for adding more whole grains to your diet, whether you’re gluten-free or not.


I was provided a copy of The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook for purpose of review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own (except where noted when a friend expressed a thought or two about the food).

Fueling the Trader Joe’s Desire


While Todd and I consider ourselves firmly in the omnivore camp, we dabble with flexitarianism from time to time, too. And with the recent announcement that a Trader Joe’s is coming to our town (date TBA, but you can bet I’m checking out that shopping center every time I drive by), I was particularly excited to get my hands (and sticky notes) on The I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook by Kris Holechek Peters.

The I Love Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook by Kris Holechek Peters

The book aims to make the best use of the TJ’s-branded consumables and just whet my appetite even more for one of their shops opening its doors not 5 minutes from my home (under 2 if I catch the lights just right). Of course, without one nearby, I had to concentrate on the recipes that didn’t depend on branded items as much as general staples, and we still managed to give the book a fair shot.

4 dinners cooked from the I Love Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook

(apologies for the photo quality–my computer ate all but some thumbnails of this week)

(top left) The first recipe I just had to try was the Hawaiian BBQ Sandwich. Using chickpeas for protein and pineapple along with a Kansas City-Style barbecue sauce sounded pretty genius. Unfortunately it was very tough to eat as a sandwich–knife and fork recommended. The flavor was good, though, so I think if I make these again I’ll puree or at least partially mash some of the chickpeas to help the insides stay together. The Sweet Brussels Sprouts Saute, on the other hand, was quite good with its dried cranberries and shredded apple adding a nice hint of sweetness to the very pronounced flavor of the Brussels sprouts.

(top right) Tuesday night saw our favorite recipe of the book, hands down: the Roasted Carrot Risotto totally fulfilled the image that name planted in my head. Smooth and creamy and that extra depth of flavor from roasting the carrots just made it a perfect meal for a lackluster Tuesday. To go with it, I used the Snap Cashew Crunch recipe from the same chapter and just eliminated the “serve over rice” bit to make it a bright green counterpoint side to the rich risotto.

(bottom left) Wednesday night is game night for Todd, and that means a quick supper is needed before he has to dash out the door. These Sweet and Sunny Flatbreads from the appetizer chapter made great main-dish open-faced sandwiches and really did come together rapid-fire. I served them up with the Apple Mallow Sweet Potato bake I told you about, and it made for a colorful and tasty plate.

(bottom right) Vegetable soups tend to be hit-or-miss in my book; so often they end up too watery for my taste. The Herbed Veggie Stew was surprisingly tasty, rich and hearty with two types of potatoes, beans, and plenty of fresh herbs (hence the name). All it needed was a side of biscuits and it was a perfect supper for the dark and dreary day we were having.

Banana Cinnamon Rolls from the I Love Trader Joe's Vegetarian Cookbook

Our final dip into the book gave us these delectable Banana Cinnamon Rolls that featured bananas both in the filling as well as in the yeast dough. They were delicious with or without the Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting Peters suggests topping them with. Intended as breakfast, we served them as dessert when we had company for dinner Sunday night, then had the rest of the pan as morning snacks during the week.

As the author is a vegan blogger and cookbook author, I learned quite a bit in the opening sections about ingredient selections for special diets. For instance, did you know that it’s possible for sugar to be non-vegan?! Go figure! Peters is also careful to offer vegan variation notes with each recipe, along with frequent gluten-free tips, as well.

I did have a couple of small quibbles with some of the instructions–often it would read to heat the oil over medium-low heat and then saute. You can’t really saute at medium-low, you need high heat for that cooking method, so that’s a little misleading for beginner cooks. Also, the instructions for the risotto were to add the stock 1 cup at a time and I’ve found that you get the best benefit by only adding half a cup or less at a time.

But those were small quibbles compared to the delight of the variety of recipes included in this book. I still have plenty of sticky notes for recipes we couldn’t fit into the week I cooked from The I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook that I’m looking to try. Especially once our local store opens!


I received a copy of The I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook for purpose of review. The images and opinions above are entirely my own.