It used to be very difficult to find great low-carb recipes, and older low-carb cookbooks tended to rely on artificial ingredients, often sold by companies that had a corner on the market. We’ve all gotten smarter over the years, including the chefs. No longer do we switch to low-carb for a short time to lose weight. Many of us are living without grains for the rest of our lives, sometimes because The Grain Formerly Known as Wheat is making so many people so sick. Now the market is filled with cookbooks that have low-carbohydrate recipes that feature whole foods and healthy ingredients. For a diabetic, it is still necessary to analyze a recipe carefully for sugar and starch, but most Paleo and some gluten-free cookbooks can be very useful. Here are three new cookbooks for your perusal.
First of all, one of my favorite low-carb chefs from years ago is George Stella. I have many of his cookbooks, and some of my favorite recipes are his, such as Anaheim Shrimp Scampi, Bourbon Barbecue Sauce, and New York Style Cheesecake. Mr. Stella and his family, particularly his son Christian, have been evolving over the years away from artificial ingredients and soy toward a more holistic, health-conscious approach. Christian Stella is a co-author of the latest offering, The Complete Low-Carb Cookbook. George starts off by telling the story of how his family of four lost a total of 560 pounds, and since I had read this inspiring story in the past, the best part for me is that they have kept it off for over ten years! George is a professional chef, so he had to completely change the way he cooked, while being able to create dishes that still pleased his discriminating palate. In this new cookbook, he has included some of the classics mentioned above, but he has also tweaked some old recipes to make them even better! For example, I love his Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese recipe and make it all the time, but now he has the Ultimate Mock Mac and Cheese Casserole recipe that adds chicken and bacon to the original recipe, turning it from a side dish to an entree. We loved it. Furthermore, there are loads of brand-new recipes that look scrumptious: Reuben Chicken Roulade, Claire’s Stuffed Pumpkin, and Chocolate Walnut Bon-Bons, just to name a few. He includes a nutritional analysis for each dish. One of the best things about the recipes in George Stella’s cookbooks is that, as a diabetic, I can make all of them without any changes. My old Stella cookbooks are falling apart, I’ve used them so much, and I’m sure this new one will soon be spattered and covered with notes, too.
Danielle Walker, of Against All Grain fame, has been reviewed in this blog when her first cookbook was released. Now she has a new one out called Meals Made Simple. I have tried a few of these recipes with excellent results. As a young mom, Ms. Walker does not have time for exotic ingredients or fussy preparation, so her Paleo dishes are possible for busy people everywhere. Since Ms. Walker has struggled back to vibrant health after nearly dying from an autoimmune disease, she has done a great deal of research and is a wealth of information on how the food that we eat affects our bodies. She shares some of her knowledge in the generous extra pages filled with notes on the various special diets her readers may follow, meal plans, ingredient lists and suggestions, lists of tools needed, grocery lists, and more. This is all incredibly helpful, of course, but this book truly shines in the recipes she offers with a beautiful picture for each one.
Ever since I sank a ridiculous amount of money into a waffle maker, I have been searching for the perfect low-carb waffle recipe. It is not easy. Most are too eggy. I can make eggs in a skillet, so that doesn’t work. Others are too heavy and soggy. Danielle Walker’s Freezer Waffles are the best I have found. I did use the coconut oil, as suggested, and they came out crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Delicious. This recipe calls for 2 cups of her pancake mix, which is on another page. I have made waffles twice so far, and I still have a zip-lock bag of pancake mix in my freezer. Very handy! I have not actually put any leftover waffles in the freezer, since, if I leave them in the refrigerator for a day or so, they seem to disappear.
Following that success, I made the Lemon-Roasted Asparagus and Brussels Sprouts. This very simple recipe combines two of my favorite vegetables and adds a light, zesty flavor that goes perfectly with fish. The Brussels sprouts were shredded in a food processor, but you could do it by hand with a sharp knife and a great deal of patience.
After that, we went Asian with her Ginger Chicken and Broccoli. We seem to have a lot of ginger in the house these days, what with our tailgating Ginger Bourbon Cocktails, so I am always on the lookout for recipes with ginger. Again, this is a very simple recipe that is cooked entirely on the stovetop in one skillet. Since I am not gluten-sensitive, I used soy sauce—which I had in the fridge—in place of the coconut aminos, and the results were fabulous. In this dish, Ms. Walker uses tempered egg yolks to thicken the sauce, and it worked! I will certainly remember that trick for the future.
Dr. David Perlmutter comes from an entirely different direction from Danielle Walker, although I’m sure they’d agree on the need to ditch grains from one’s diet. While Ms. Walker takes the digestive disorder perspective, Dr. Perlmutter presents pretty terrifying scientific evidence concerning grains’ effect on the brain, particularly Alzheimer’s Disease. If you haven’t read his original work, Grain Brain, I highly recommend that you do so, especially if neurological issues or dementia are hereditary for you.
The doctor gives a quick summary of his medical research in the first section of his new book, The Grain-Brain Cookbook, and then explains how to set up a new pantry, trying along the way to help the reader change his mindset about what one should or should not eat. The recipes that follow are easy and often basic. Dr. Perlmutter’s aim seems to be to show the nervous patient that she can continue to live happily and stay healthy while eating familiar foods that are naturally gluten-free or have been easily modified to become gluten-free. There are not as many pictures in this book as in the first two I’ve reviewed, but there are occasional sections with glossy, color pictures. Nutritional analyses are offered for each recipe. This book is an excellent place to start for anyone switching to a low-carb or gluten-free diet, and since the man is, after all, a doctor, he relies completely on fresh, whole foods.
All of these new resources make low-carb, Paleo, and gluten-free cooking so much easier than they were just a few years ago. The low-carb crowd, in particular, seems to have moved in the same direction that we have, going away from using artificial ingredients to create fake versions of the foods we used to eat and transforming our diets with more non-starchy vegetables and less bacon or cream. Someday I hope to reverse my diabetes to the point that I can give up the little bit of artificial sweetener I use now and use honey or maple syrup instead. I have not gotten there yet, but it’s a goal!
But wait, there’s more! One of the next books I plan to read will be Wheat Belly Total Health, where we will tackle the other issues beyond eating. This may require getting off the couch, but we’ll see.
Disclaimer: I own a copy of George Stella’s cookbook, and I read library copies of Meals Made Simple and The Grain Brain Cookbook. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else. As I am a reader and reviewer, not a doctor, nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice.