Top critical review
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Should be a special occasion book...
on January 9, 2011
I gave this book 3 stars for several reasons.
THE TITLE: Even though there are many terrific dishes, I would take serious exception to the fact that the cover says, "Recipes for easy, delicious meals". While most are delicious, few recipes are easy. If you are just entering the world of GF/CF, if you are a novice cook (ie. you've never made anything from scratch and understand little about the "chemistry of cooking"), or if you do not have quality kitchenware & a well-stocked spice rack - this book is NOT the place to start.
These recipes are not for everyday cooking. They are full (CUPS FULL) of sugars, oils, wide-variety of spices and many require specialty (or expensive) cookware. I would disagree with many of her prep-times until you are quite familiar with the recipes & after you already have all the ingredients set out & prepared (squeezed, cored, grated, beaten). I found that my cast iron pans were necessary to produce tasty results. Aluminum cookware just wouldn't cut it for the pancakes. The fact that she even suggests the possibility of producing a decent pizza crust without a stone is sad. (GF pizzas need a stone if you are going to get near to their gluten counterpart) In addition to the list at the beginning of the book, you'll need a stand mixer, donut pan, ice cream maker, and waffle-cone machine if you want to create *all* these treats.
ALLERGY ALERT: Please be aware - you *must* be *very* familiar with what ingredients *may* contain your specific allergens. Ms. Nardone does a poor job of warning the reader of what products must be purchased specially to maintain GF/CF status. Because of standard ingredients, common additives, or high potential for cross-contamination during manufacturing there is a *long* list of ingredients to be cautious of: chocolate chips/chunks, Worcestershire, broth, mayonnaise, polenta, chicken, sausage, etc. can be triggers for those with celiac, allergies, and sensitivities.
Additionally & *not* affecting the rating of the book, here are additional allergy concerns (yes, I realize that the book never claimed to be these things - but many families appreciate knowing in advance how versatile recipes are).
It is likely not appropriate if you are following at GFCF diet for Autism or ADD/ADHD. There is some food coloring, a LOT of sugars, and recipes without sugar tend to contain yeast.
If you are avoiding soy - you'll be pleased that her base "Silvana's all purpose flour blend" and "Silvana's pancake mix" utilize rice, potatos, tapioca, sugar, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt. We found the recipes worked well with soy-free oils & shortening.
Eggs and corn are a different story. Many recipes call for eggs and we found soy-free egg replacements to diminish the results. Perhaps a soy-based egg-replacement would have fared better. She has entire sections devoted to corn that couldn't be substituted well.
CONTENT: At approximately 225 pages, one would think there are hundreds of recipes included. However, Ms. Nardone's husband is a professional photographer and as an apparent advertisement for his business (you'll conveniently find his website on the back flap) - nearly half this book is full-page pictures of finished dishes. Sadly, there are only two recipes utilizing one-inch-square "in progress" photographs to encourage you that you are on the right track. Yet there's a full page of her son playing croquet, another full page of him playing in the sprinkler, another hugging his sister, another playing scrabble, etc. - cute, but not useful.
There are approximately 140 recipes if you include the base "Silvana's all-purpose flour blend" and "Silvana's pancake mix". Over 100 of the recipes call for her "specific blends". The rest are salads and soups which tend to be gluten free anyway. Yet, with providing this specific blend - she fails to provide "basic" recipes using her blend. Want some good ole fashioned pancakes? biscuits? a decent loaf of bread? You're out of luck. While, according to the author, you can substitute standard AP flour (um, why am I reading this book if I can use wheat?) in her recipes - the converse is not true. Attempting to use her blends in other recipes was a complete failure. So, you'll need to keep a stash exclusively for this book.
Just getting started requires a serious investment in time & ingredients. Bear in mind that you'll need to make at least 3 batches of her "all-pupose flour blend" just to start using her book. Nearly 2 batches will be used just to then make a single (approx 10.5 cups) batch of her "pancake mix". If you'd like more than the cup of her all-purpose blend that's left over you'll need to make a 3rd batch.
Even with these "pre-made" mixes - you're still looking at measuring out additional sugar and salt in the recipes.
Conclusion: If you need a serious sugar-rush, have exhausted the basics of GFCF cooking, have acquired decent skills in the kitchen, have ample time to prepare and are ready to branch out - this is the book for you.