Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Weeknight Paleo

A while back, a publisher asked me if I wanted to review Weeknight Paleo by Julia and Charles Mayfield. I said, "No thanks, I don't do a lot of special-diet books," and didn't think any more about it ... until the book arrived.


I paged through it, thinking that I probably wouldn't like the recipes. If you know me at all, you know I'm not afraid of carbs. I like bread, rice, potatoes ... not that I eat them with every meal, but if I'm eating Chinese food, there's probably rice, and if I want a sandwich, it's going to be on bread.

The more I paged through the book, the more I was surprised. For the most part, these were recipes that I would have been happy to make or eat. I mean, I might have cooked a carb as a side dish for some of them (a shrimp and vegetable dish was looking for rice, for example, and the pork mole would have been nice with some tortillas), but the recipes themselves looked fine.

There were a couple recipes in the book where squash was substituted for pasta, like a "lasagna" that I'm a little more skeptical of. I mean, I might try it and like it, but I don't think I'd give up regular lasagna.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised, and happy that this accidentally got sent to me. While I'm not going to suddenly embrace the paleo lifestyle (at least not today, because there's rice in the rice cooker) I'll probably be making some of these recipes.

Honestly, this could have been named something else, and I probably wouldn't have noticed the lack of grains and starches, because the recipes are fine as they are. And the chicken and Brussels sprouts skewers wrapped with bacon look pretty darned good.

I received this book from the publisher at no cost to me.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Devil in the White City

Okay, so this one might not be current (the copyright on it is 2003) but I just read it, so ....

Maybe there are some other folks who missed out on reading this book. Which was apparently made into a movie that I also didn't see.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson has two different plot lines. One is the story of how the Columbian Exposition was planned, built and run in Chicago in the late 1800s. It was supposed to be better than the World's Fair that had been hosted in Paris (which was when the Eiffel Tower was built, by the way).

The second plot involves a handsome, charming fellow using the alias H. H. Holmes. He also happens to be a serial killer.

This is all set in the backdrop of Chicago in a time when city stunk from the stockyards and the horse droppings in the street. The air was sooty from burning coal. Blech.

The Columbian Exposition brought us a lot of innovations, like the first paint sprayers that were used to paint all the buildings white. The fair also had water filters, so fair-goers would have clean water to drink. And they wired the whole thing with electric lights, which were still pretty new.

Meanwhile, Holmes came to town, bought a pharmacy and proceeded to build a building that was well suited to his particular needs. To keep costs down, he would hire tradesman and the fire them after a short time, refusing to pay them because their work wasn't up to par - even though there was nothing wrong with their work. This strategy also meant that no one really had a good overview of the building, so his peculiar additions went unnoticed.

Much of what's in this book came from historical documents, along with the interesting phrasings and spelling of the day.

All of this happened just a little over 100 years ago, yet it seems so foreign. A time when electric lights were rare, when pollution was the norm, and when people could go missing so easily. But there are parallels to today, along with people cutting corners to get work done, political cronyism, and also the good guys.

If you like history, thrillers, or murder mysteries, this one's for you. With the added bonus that it's a true story.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Migraine Relief Plan

When I posted a link to The Migraine Relief Plan by Stephanie Weaver on my Facebook page, a lot of people commented that there's no one-size-fits-all diet that can eliminate migraines.

While I agree, as a former migraine sufferer, I have to say that if someone had offered me any sort of plan, I would have followed along.

That said, I don't know if I could have followed a super-strict diet to combat the migraines. I think I might have slipped a lot. But then again, the point is to find out what our own personal triggers are, so you can eliminate those and continue eating other foods that aren't triggers.

While this book does have recipes, I think the most important part, for migraine sufferers, is the plan itself. It's a very structured way to figure out which foods are triggers and which ones are safe. There are some foods that affect a lot of people, and some foods that affect fewer people. So it's kind of important to know what your personal triggers are. And to be honest, I was surprise at how many foods are possible triggers. I knew a few of them, but ... wow, there are a lot! This book talks about all of those foods as possible triggers, but I'll bet that most folks aren't triggered by all of them.

My personal relationship with migraines started when I was very young. So young that I don't remember a time when I didn't occasionally have headaches once in a while. I was probably four years old, or even younger, when I first started getting migraines, so I lived with them for a looooong time.

Now, I can't really remember the last migraine I had. It's been a while. Many years. Two of my triggers were not food-related. One was hormonal swings, and I've outgrown those. The other was stress, and I've learned how to handle that a lot better.

My major food trigger, which might or might not still exist as a trigger, is red wine. While not all red wines affected me, I found it was pretty simple to just stick to white wines. I still avoid red wines, but it's not a big sacrifice. I've had some red wine over the years - a small glass at a tasting, or a sip here or there. But you won't find me splitting a bottle of merlot at dinner. Nope.

I suppose that at the height of my migraine episodes, there might have been other foods that were mild triggers, but I guess I'll never know. And I don't want to.

As far as the recipes in the book, I've looked through them, but I haven't made any of them, mostly because I don't stock a lot of the ingredients that are used for substitutes for migraine-trigger food. The recipes look good, but I think I'll leave them for someone else to try.

If you're a migraine sufferer and you want to figure out what your triggers are and you want to see some recipes that might work for you, take a look at this book. If you don't get migraines ... well, consider yourself lucky. Migraines are awful.