… A Gluten-Free New and Improved Original!
I was so excited to see the announcement that Cooking Light had published a new cookbook, The Cooking Light Gluten-Free Cookbook. I have been a fan of Cooking Light for many, many years. Without giving an exact date, let’s just say Cooking Light and I go way back. Over the years, I purchased each new publication when it became available. I’ve always tried to bring a healthy approach to the table and the foods we consume. I do have to admit that we’ve probably indulged in more than our fair share of the sweets category though. Even still, our dessert recipes have always been altered to avoid using too many egg yolks, or too much butter, etc. Cooking Light was always a positive influence in providing recipes supporting these practices.
Since my focus shifted to being gluten-free and dairy free, I must admit that my Cooking Light days had been set aside. While I believe that many of those familiar recipes would’ve easily adapted for our current needs, I tended to go straight for the gluten-free recipes already in existence or to create my own. I’ve always felt, though, that Cooking Light would be a perfect avenue for introducing a well-balanced, gluten-free cookbook. And now they have.
I’ve had a chance to crack open this new cookbook and peruse the pages, and I’m very excited to share my re-kindled love for Cooking Light with you. I was fortunate to interview the enthusiastic and fun editor of The Cooking Light Gluten-Free Cookbook, Rachel West. We chatted about some of the similarities of the original Cooking Light and The Cooking Light Gluten-Free Cookbook.
I shared with Rachel that one of the high points of the original Cooking Light cookbooks was that almost every recipe included a mouth-watering photograph. I’m thrilled that this traditional approach has been continued in the new gluten-free book as well. Not surprisingly, when I asked Rachel what makes this cookbook stand apart from other gluten-free cookbooks on the market, her thoughts were much the same. “Other books are not very pretty,” she said. “We eat with our eyes. When someone flips through the cookbook, we want to show pictures that say, ‘Gluten-free food is beautiful." I couldn’t agree more. Showing off what the prepared dish looks like can be very enticing. It can also be helpful for cooks who may be unfamiliar with the dish, or to cooking in general, to visualize the final dish.
Another aspect I am glad Cooking Light continues to include is the nutrition count section for each recipe. This helps quickly show fat count (broken down into saturated, mono-, and polyunsaturated fats), calories, protein, fiber, and such. And by referencing the daily nutrition guide at the back of the book, the guidelines are clear and easy to understand. Rachel explained, “Cooking Light will celebrate its 25th anniversary in September 2012. Cooking Light has always been about the pleasure of food. It should be healthy, great tasting, and nutritious. We want people to get the most bang for their buck with healthy food, while being able to effectively manage their weight.”
I inquired with her about the variety of sections, including Appetizers & Snacks, Breakfasts, Main Dishes, Pizzas & Pastas (yes, gluten-free pizza), Sandwiches & Soups, and Desserts. So many of the recipes in these sections have only 4-5 steps in the directions. “We wanted to provide a mix of recipes that include some convenience recipes, for people who don’t want to spend an hour or two in the kitchen,” Rachel responded.
Rachel and I had a fun chuckle when we both said that the Diner-Style Onion Rings is our favorite. This recipe was one of the first to completely stop me in my tracks when flipping through the book. And I am really excited to try the Chicken Enchiladas. I absolutely love chicken enchiladas! Adjoining some of the recipes throughout the book are tasty quotes of gluten-free folks who were members of the taste-testing team. Nice to read some first-hand experiences.
What are some other new features that make The Cooking Light Gluten-Free Cookbook worth bringing into your kitchen? In my opinion, there are many. First, and most obvious, it has a gluten-free focus (meaning there’s no need for adaptations.) When I asked how Cooking Light came about their recipes, Rachel graciously replied, “We teamed up with Carol Fenster.” Carol is President and Founder at Savory Palate in CO, and she’s currently working on her 9th and 10th cookbooks. “She consulted with us to help create some of the recipes. She was a huge asset, working hand in hand with Cooking Light.”
I was also glad to see some basic knowledge included in this cookbook. There is a generic Gluten-Free Pantry and Shopping List, as well as a section on Gluten-free Grains, Flours and Starches. These are always helpful guides for those new to gluten-free.
When flipping through the rest of the cookbook, Cooking Light makes it obvious when a recipe ingredient may require further verification of being gluten free. The recipe heading clearly states, “Check for gluten,” and points directly to the ingredient in question. When I asked Rachel about this feature, she explained, “Gluten appears in the strangest places. Many things include gluten that you’d never think contain gluten. Reading labels is such a constant part of being gluten free.” An example of this would be when a recipe calls for soy sauce. There are many gluten-free soy sauces on the market. Cooking Light makes it clear that, though one brand hasn’t been specified, this particular ingredient heeds attention. Also worth noting is that some of the recipes mention a specific brand name ingredient. This occurs when many products were tried in a recipe, and one specific brand produced particularly good results. As a general rule for the ingredients, most any brand is a fine choice.
Another nice feature of The Cooking Light Gluten-Free Cookbook is the call-out to when a recipe is also dairy-free. Since so many gluten-free goers must also eliminate dairy, I was quite pleasantly surprised to find this added bonus. Rachel’s knowledgeable response was, “We know gluten and dairy intolerance often go hand in hand.”
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Rachel, and sharing so many of the wonderful features of The Cooking Light Gluten-Free Cookbook with you. I give it a solid thumbs-up! Get your copy of this new gluten-free cookbook. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. And be sure to let us know what you think.