Most helpful critical review
102 of 116 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing for the usual reasons
on February 20, 2012
My daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease as a toddler, 18 years ago. At that time, resources for celiac disease and a gluten-free lifestyle were all but nonexistent. Gluten-free flour options, mixes for home baking, and ready-to-eat products were rare, lousy, and expensive. The local stores, except for health food markets, had nothing to offer. Home cooking would be a necessity for my daughter, and, having come from a tradition of good cooks back several generations, I took on that challenge happily despite the frustrations. I caught Ms. Hasselbeck on The Chew a few weeks ago and the discussion of the book made me want to add another gluten-free cookbook to my daughter's growing collection. I can't begin to say how disappointed I am just from glancing through the book. First, why publishers and cookbook authors think celiacs and those who need to eat gluten-free (GF) need a special cookbook to tell them how to make a salad or a simple entree is beyond me. Spend a couple hours reading online, and one can learn how to substitute the tricky ingredients--the ones that would be GF but for some hidden surprise, such as the wheat in soy sauce--and avoid flour. We do not need a recipe that tells us how to make fajitas by putting the word "gluten-free" in front of ingredients that commonly have hidden gluten and directing us to use a corn tortilla. Really? Like we couldn't have figured that out? And then decided that corn tortillas are a nasty, unpleasant substitute for flour tortillas. What we need then is a recipe for a gluten-free tortilla that is palatable and can then be used in other recipes and contexts. We don't need a pasta main course that tells us how to make marinara or bolongnese, which can easily be made gluten-free from just about any cookbook or recipe web site, but a recipe for pasta that doesn't fall apart. A french toast recipe that starts with gluten-free bread that one could find or adapt just about anywhere? Nope, not that either. To further complicate the picture, Ms. Hasselbeck came up with several gluten-free flour blends. I have not tried them yet. They might be fabulous. However, the beginning of the book presents mixtures one can make up and keep on hand for future use, which is a great idea, except that if I really need four or five different flour blends, then I need more containers, more room in my pantry (actually, I prefer to freeze GF flour), and more patience than I can muster. My daughter will certainly need a bigger kitchen in her dorm room. Worse, when you get back to the end of the book where the few recipes for baked goods are tucked away, you find that the recipes do not call for some amount of the premixed blends but for the ingredients themselves. One either has to total up the amounts of the various flours to use the blends one already has on hand or go back to the unblended ingredients.
My advice for people who are starting out on a GF diet is to start very simple. Adapt your own favorite, tried-and-true recipes by substituting GF flours and other GF ingredients. We've made GF crepes--the original French recipe in fact uses cornstarch and not flour--pancakes, cupcakes, cakes, cookies, brownies; we've done breaded and fried chicken, donuts, funnel cakes, thickened soups and stews (try blended soups or thicken with GF instant mashed potato flakes instead of starting with a roux), slow-cooker creations, and so on. There might very well be good recipes in this book, but there's so little content that you can't get without a little thought and creativity that it's absolutely not worth the purchase price.