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.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cinnamon Girl

I've been making time for doing more reading these days ... and not just reading cookbooks.
But I still have a bit of a soft spot for books that have a food or cooking theme. So, I picked up a copy of Cinnamon Girl by Valerie Horowitz. And, by "picked up" I mean that I ordered it from Amazon.

Cinnamon Girl is a murder mystery, and the main character, Bonnie Emerson, owns a store that sells cookware, cooking gadgets, and cookbooks. Some of the chapters start with recipes from cookbooks, and the recipes are mentioned in the stories. There are also cookbooks and cooking items mentioned in the text, as Bonnie interacts with customers and other folks at her store.

But those are just window dressing. The real story is the dead body that Bonnie and her husband found in their back yard. Opps. I hate when that happens.

And then it gets more complicated from there. Another murder, a book signing and cooking contest at the store, and the Secret Service people lurking about, since Bonnie is the daughter of an ex-President and he's still got pull with the White House.

The characters are likable ... even the murderer, and the story is fun. Fairly light reading, but engaging enough to keep me turning pages.

If you like mysteries and food and cookbooks (there's one that was mentioned that I actually stopped reading so I could slip it into my Amazon cart) I think you'll like this one. Oh - and although this isn't really a cookbook, the recipes chosen are winners. So you just might end up cooking from it.

Oh, and this is billed a Book 1, so it looks like there will be more to come.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Washington Post - Digital Deal

I don't usually post about deals, but I found this, and thought it would be worth passing along since I had a little difficulty figuring out how to sign up to get the better price. And I do love a bargain.

I'll admit it's been a while since I subscribed to a print newspaper - I mostly read online and I tend to bounce around to different publications. Sometimes I run into a paywall when I've read more stories for free than the paper allows, and that's been happening a lot more often with the current political climate. So, I started looking into subscribing to a paper that carried a good range of national news.  And of course, interesting food articles and features are nice. Crosswords are a bonus. Sports, meh. Sorry.

After looking at all the deals, I settled on the Washington Post. Digitally, because the last thing I need is more paper to recycle. If I had an endless supply of money, I would have liked the Wall Street Journal, too, but that's out of my price range for now. And I can still selectively read articles from them online. I've seen ads for the New York Times lately, but at $3.75 per week, that's $195 per year. Not horrible, but definitely not the best price.

The best deal I found was that if you have Amazon Prime, you can get six months of the Washington Post FREE, followed by $3.99 per month. Cancel any time. This is the digital online issue and not the Kindle one, but still you can read it on any device that can go online. Which I think is better than being restricted to Kindle reading.

Amazon Prime Membership is currently $99 for a year (you can also get shorter memberships) and comes with other benefits. So you do need that first before you get the newspaper deal. If you never ever use any prime benefits, it might not be as wonderful. But I've found that Prime has been pretty good to me.

To get the deal from the Washington Post (this is a little convoluted, and it took me a while to find it myself) you have to start with the Washington Post rather than Amazon. From the Post site, you sign in to your Amazon account to verify that you have prime. If you start with Amazon, you'll see other offers, but not this one. Weird, I know.

Here's the right page on the Washington Post site to get started. It should be easy to find your way from there.

You can also get a free trial of Prime. I'm not sure if the subscription to the Washington Post would be affected if you didn't renew the Prime subscription, but some free prime time is a good thing, even if you don't want to subscribe to the newspaper. Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial.