If It Makes You Healthy By Sheryl Crow Cookbook Review

I borrowed the new Sheryl Crow cookbook If It Makes You Healthy: More Than 100 Delicious Recipes Inspired by the Seasons from the local library.

I always thought Sheryl Crow was healthy, I mean just look at her! Killer body, great hair/skin, gorgeous. That’s why when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was so surprising. But she realized that she really WASN’T eating as healthy as she thought and that needed to change pronto!

So, she consulted a nutritionist, Rachel Beller, and she learned more about health, wellness and nutrition. After radiation, she was heading out on a summer tour. She didn’t want to revert back to an unhealthy lifestyle on the road, so she hired a professional chef, Chuck White, who became her personal chef while on tour and while at home at her farm. He is also the co-author of her cookbook.

So, onto the cookbook.

It’s separated into two main seasonal sections: spring/summer (on tour) and fall/winter (in the studio). And within each seasonal section, there are chapters for each type of dish: appetizers, soups, salads, main, sides and desserts. I don’t normally like “seasonally” separated cookbooks, I find it’s more difficult to quickly find recipes when cookbooks are separated this way, but since it’s only in two parts, it’s not too bad.

The recipes are simple and fairly easy to prepare. Lots and lots of vegetarian recipes. But is there anything new? Eh, not really. There are a few golden nuggets like:

  • Sesame Shiitake Grit Cakes
  • Sofrito Rice with Green Chiles and Mango
  • Quinoa-stuffed poblano peppers with salsa romesco
  • Braised winter greens with fried pumpkin and feta
  • Chocolate-Avocado Mousse with Fresh Raspberries
  • Sticky Cashew Rice
  • Vegan Chocolate Mint Brownies (too much sugar though!)

The book is sprinkled with many healthy tips from nutritionist Rachel. I like that!

The photos of finished dishes are detailed and very helpful, but I thought some of the “other” photos seemed a tad awkward and too “posed”, like the one of Sheryl standing over the stove stirring soup in a Le Creuset dutch oven pot, while Chuck looked on.

It’s wonderful that they highly encourage sustainable “seasonal” eating, but what was very disappointing but there are many contradictions. For instance, on page 45 “Ceviche Savvy”, there is a suggestion to use firm fleshed white fish like flounder, cod, or halibut. Cod and halibut can be two of the very worst sustainable seafood choices! And flounder is not much better, especially since it could contain higher levels of mercury or other toxins.

Another example from the Fall/Winter section is Barley & Vegetable Risotto. The recipes includes asparagus, which is usually considered a springtime veggie. And fresh raspberries are way too expensive in the winter months, so it seems careless to suggest using them for the chocolate avocado mousse recipe. Why not frozen raspberries?

Bottom line, I don’t recommend the book. Borrow it from the library, to see for yourself, but there are so many much better choices; especially since Sheryl Crow admits she is not a cook, so why is she writing a cookbook?

I apologize, but here is where I get a little mean. Would this book have been as popular without her name on the cover and her media promotion on all the daytime talk/news shows? In reality, you’re really buying a cookbook authored by her chef Chuck White. Sheryl adds a few comments here and there, describing how much she liked how a specific recipe tasted, but there is not much cooking input from her.

If you are talking about celebrity cookbooks, I think Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter cookbook is a better choice. Gwyneth is an experienced home cook and you know she is really cooking the recipes for her family.

I have nothing against Sheryl Crow personally, and I wish her continued good health. I really can’t fault her for trying to spread the word about healthy eating for cancer prevention; it’s such an important message! But there are just so many other cookbooks with the same message that stay true to local sustainable cooking.

I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks; I like putting my own spin on a recipe rather than exactly following it. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.

Whole Foods Bulk Isle

I love the Whole Foods Market bulk isle! I love that I can buy as little or as much as I want of a product.

Keep in mind, not all bulk isles are created equal; there are some differences in products offered.

I recently visited the Whole Foods in Dedham, MA, the state of the art, environmentally-friendly, huge, Northeast flagship store and was thrilled to find bulk local honey, local maple syrup, and agave nectar. The agave was on sale, and I have never tried it, so I bought a container. (PS. I really like it!) Not all stores carry these items, and I’m on the look out! I will definitely buy all three if I can find them!

Some stores offer bulk spices, which I also really appreciate. I buy most of my spices at Penzey’s Spices, but it’s nice to know I can buy a tiny bit of a spice that I don’t use that often (like cream of tartar) or maybe a small amount of an unfamiliar spice like a curry powder. The good news is, unsanitary spice containers of the past are gone; they now offer easy pour spouts which keep out germs and keep in freshness.

I also love buying dried beans in the bulk isle. They must be really fresh, because they take no time at all to cook! I still soak the beans for a few hours, but once I start cooking, they are done in a snap! Almost as fast as the fresh cranberry beans I received in my CSA share last summer. I have been buying navy beans and black beans, along with dried garbanzo (chick peas), as well as lentils and split peas. It’s so convenient to buy a smaller amount, so I’ll always have fresh! Plus, it gives me an opportunity to try out some interesting varieties of beans, that I might not want in a full bag.

Besides beans, I also regularly purchase brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat couscous, steel cut oats, oatmeal, oat bran, sucanat sugar, rye flour, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, pecans, filberts, raisins, dates, barley, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds.

It’s almost always cheaper to buy from the bulk isle compared to commercially bagged products. And I love that most of the items are organic!

If you haven’t considered the bulk isle at your local Whole Foods, then I suggest giving it a try. Other stores like Hannaford also offer a few bulk choices as well. But I don’t believe Hannaford is as inexpensive as Whole Foods. Perhaps because the turn-around isn’t as great.

Gwyneth Paltrow “My Father’s Daughter” Cookbook Review

cookbook - my father's daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow

I borrowed a copy of Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook “My Father’s Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness” from the library. I was a bit skeptical, not that I wasn’t a fan, but I just figured it was one more celebrity cook book. And in a way, it is “same ole same ole”, but for a home cook that doesn’t own a lot of basic cookbooks, it could be a good choice.

No, there is nothing earth-shattering new, but there are a lot of great recipes and ideas, especially helpful for someone just beginning to cook from scratch using fresh, healthy, whole ingredients. The only big criticism is that even though Gwyneth rallies against using refined sugar, she is a bit heavy handed with other sweeteners like maple syrup.

Gwyneth used to be a strict macro-biotic vegetarian for many years, but now she enjoys a balance of healthy organic plant based foods with occasional meals featuring poultry, cheese, butter, and eggs. I was surprised to find so many duck recipes in the book!

I found a new respect for Gwyneth after reading this book. She didn’t just throw her name on a cookbook, while allowing another chef ghost write the recipes. You know she is a true home cook. I like that!

From her book’s 150 recipes, these are some I found intriguing and would like to try:

  • Maple Dijon roasted winter vegetables – I suggest reducing the maple syrup, mustard, and olive oil to 2 Tbsp each, as per her Goop newsletter version of this recipe.
  • Portobello burger – yum
  • Corn chowder
  • Tuna & ginger burgers
  • Lee’s homemade sriracha – this one I will definitely try!
  • Roasted peppers
  • Slow roasted tomatoes
  • White bean soup – my version of this recipe
  • Salt scrub for clams – I used this method for the littleneck clams I bought, and it was really helpful! She suggests soaking, then sprinkling with coarse salt, scrubbing clams gently against each other, then rinsing and soaking again.
  • Fried rice with kale and scallions
  • Kale chips
  • Lalo’s Famous Cookies
  • Savory & Sweet Rice Bowls
  • Fried Rice with Kale & Scallions
  • Crispy potato and garlic cake
  • Grandad Danner’s favourite peanut butter cookies

My suggestion is borrow the book from the library, read it, then decide if it is a worthy addition to your cookbook collection. Personally, I wouldn’t choose this for my collection, but it’s not because the book isn’t valuable. It’s just that with so many other choices, it wouldn’t be my first pick.

Keep in mind many of her specific recipes can be found online, especially over at the Daily Mail web site and from her online Goop newsletter.

I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks; I like putting my own spin on a recipe rather than exactly following it. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.

Life Insurance – I’m Preferred Plus!

Whoo hoo! I’m preferred plus!

I applied for a level term life insurance policy and as stated on the info:

Underwriting classes: based on current estimates, less than 30% of our applicants are likely to qualify for “Preferred Plus Non-Nicotine” rates…and guess what! I qualified! Granted, it’s only a $15 difference from Preferred to Preferred Plus, but hey, it’s the idea that I am at the best level possible!

Life is good!

Farm Fresh Eggs – Delivered!

Well, I found what appears to be a wonderful backyard family farm that will deliver eggs to me! I’ve purchased one dozen already and just got another two today. They have a fairly large flock of 75 chickens (and a rooster or two). They seem to be doing it the right way, allowing them to roam free in a large fenced area, giving them additional grass and water if they don’t find enough bugs, seeds, and other goodies on the land. NO antibiotic or hormone use. If a hen becomes ill, they separate it from the others.

The eggs are large and heavy, and the yolks are golden yellow orange! The best part is a dozen large is only $3! Extra large is $4. I got one of each today! And considering the cost is a lot less than what Whole Foods charges for their local eggs, I’m psyched!

Tonight we’re going to have an egg sandwich made with the farm fresh eggs, homemade bread and a side of soup made from potato, fennel, tomato, onion, carrot, celery and warm spices like turmeric, cinnamon, ancho pepper, & paprika. Simmering on the stove now. I love my life in food!