Review: It’s All Good

Cookbooks are like clothes.  There are always a few you reach for again and again.  It’s All Good, by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julie Turshen, published in 2013, is one of those gems for me. In considering why I use this book so much, the best reason I can come up with is because it nudges me another step forward in the direction I’m already moving. It introduces me to some new ingredients, methods and flavor combinations, and it is pointed toward health (dairy, gluten, white sugar and processed foods are not used in this book, and red meat is kept to a minimum), as well as flavor.  And, since I’m neither offended nor otherwise bothered by what comes out of Gwyneth’s mouth or is penned in her newsletter (I more often land on the fan than foe side of the great Gwyneth debate), I find the book inspirational on a few levels.

CHAPTERS & ORGANIZATION

It’s All Good is divided into several chapters, many based on course or ingredient.  But there are also chapters on kid-friendly foods, weekly menus depending on your particular diet and stocking the pantry.  The last one is useful, because ingredients like xylitol (first time I ever heard of this item) and gluten-free flour (some brands and compositions are better than others), appear regularly throughout the book.  Defining these items in the case of the former and elaborating on preferences in the case of the latter are helpful.

RECIPES

As a rule, I gravitate toward the salad and veggie sections in cookbooks, and in preparing to write this post, I noticed that, true to form, I seem to have much more experience with these chapters than others in the book.  In honor of this post though, I branched out and tried the Quinoa with Mushrooms + Arugula (in the Grains chapter).  This dish is tasty enough to make again as a side dish or to base a simple weeknight main dish on, like I did last night, by topping it with a fried egg.

None of the numerous recipes I’ve tried have been outright fails. Some, like the Veggie Dumplings, I will probably not make again. But this is because the effort-to-deliciousness ratio did not meet my minimum.  Major kitchen time is an exception though with this book;  most of these recipes are quickies.  Things like veggie dumplings and paella are not the rule.

  • In the Salad chapter, one of the first I latched onto is the Power Chopped Salad.  It is protein-rich with garbanzos and hard boiled eggs, rounded out with fresh tomatoes and avocados.  The creamy parsley dressing provides a touch of decadence and keeps this salad from being typical.
  • I think my favorite salad in the book, though, is the Arugula Salad with Roasted Beets, Squash + Shallots. Roasting these earthy veggies and combining them with an apple cider vinaigrette lightly sweetened with maple syrup seems like the best thing that ever happened to arugula.  If I go too long without this salad, I crave it and dash about procuring the necessaries so I can get my fix.
  • The Roasted Cauliflower + Chickpeas with Mustard + Parsley and the Lentil Salad with Mustard + Tomatoes are both easy, flavorful and filling (and for me could make for a simple dinner on nights when I am home alone).
  • Stir-Fried Brown Rice with Nori + Black Sesame is just right for those nights when you need a quick, easy fried rice comfort food.  I never thought to add seaweed to my fried rice before, and it’s a game changer.
  • Whenever I can get my hands on fresh jalapenos here in Bangkok, I make the Pickled Jalapenos.  Gwyneth claims it keeps forever in the fridge, but I wouldn’t know because these suckers disappear way too fast, as an accoutrement to just about any sandwich or Mexican dish.
  • I also had never steamed a fish filet before Gwyneth and Julie entered my life. Turns out it’s a totally easy way to cook a fish filet, and the super-simple seasoning of soy sauce and sesame oil is unexpectedly flavorful – agreed by all in the family here. Bless these ladies for encouraging me to buy a steamer and give it a try.
  • Carrots with Black Sesame and Ginger is illustrative of many of the simple-tasty-healthy recipes found in this book.  The recipe is freely offered on Gwyneth’s newsletter, here.

TECHNIQUES & SUBSTITUTIONS

To date I have not tried I xylitol, Gwyneth’s preferred sugar substitute, but at least I now know what it is.  I don’t feel like I’m missing out. It’s easy to ignore the substitutions for white sugar, gluten-free this or that and processed foods if you prefer. I’ve done it.  The recipes will still turn out fine.  For example, using regular mayonnaise – store bought or homemade – when she and Julie call for their cherished “Veganaise” (I actually was curious and looked, but alas, this product is nowhere to be found in the The Kingdom), produces tasty results.  On the other hand, if you can locate Veganaise or quinoa flakes and do want to give them a try, this is a book that will show you the way.

Personally, I will always substitute coconut or avocado oil for canola or veg oil here, a substitution I automatically make these days with most recipes.

PHOTOS

No surprise that the images are gorgeous and plentiful.  There are, of course, a fair number of random shots of Gwyneth looking very normal while picnicking in the countryside, cutting up a chicken or schlepping a box of kale from the garden.  But there are also plenty of full-page, full-on food pics, too.  It’s an attractive book.

IN CONCLUSION

This book makes me feel like I am on the path to … improvement. The dishes are simple, healthy and tasty, perfectly suitable for everyday cooking.  Most importantly, the recipes work. Coming as it does from one of the world’s most famous and famously beautiful actors, is of added interest.  But even if the book came without a movie star name attached, I’d still be cooking from it.

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