By Alisa Fleming, www.GoDairyFree.org - This is my first Jo Stepaniak book … I know, perish the thought! It is true, I have not yet laid eyes on the Uncheese Cookbook, Vegan Vittles, or any of her other popular cookbooks. Though I must admit, after this small taste of Jo’s talents in the Food Allergy Survival Guide, I may have to get my hands on some more of her recipes.
The layout and title of this book gives the strong impression of a guidebook, yet quite a cast of recipes lies within. In fact, the latter half of the book is all cookbook, with over 100 recipes. I was elated to find that the recipes were not specifically labeled for which allergen they were “free-from.” Why? Quite simply, each recipe was free of dairy, eggs, fish, gluten, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, wheat, and yeast. How refreshing to find a book that actually lives up to its title, or subtitle as the case may be. It was so nice to not have to sort through which recipes were “safe” and which weren’t, the whole book was a go!
As for the first half of the cookbook, it seems to be a culmination of food allergy knowledge from among the three well known authors, Vesanto Melina (MS, RD), Dina Aronson (MS, RD), and Jo Stepaniak (MSEd). I have read and perused more than a few food allergy books, and this is certainly one of the best. The authors touch on the required material, such as explaining food allergies / sensitivities and food allergy testing, but they then move on to cover new ground that is seldom discussed in the surface world of food allergies. The following are just a few of the chapters that captured my attention:
Obviously there are chapters before, in between, and following these, which cover other important topics in detail, but these seemed to possess quite a bit of unique material. Honestly, it would take me hours to touch upon the many resources and kernels of information organized within this dense book. From peanut allergies to Celiac disease … I can say that the authors have ensured that the contents live up to the title.
I only have one request for their next edition. Though the book reads fairly well, some sections do get bogged down in biology and other details. I agree that this is essential information, but some may find certain sections irrelevant to their own needs and interests, and a bit cumbersome to scan through. In this respect, it would be great if they included sub-chapters in the beginning of the book or each chapter, so that you could easily jump to topics of most interest and use this guide for a fast reference resource. Each chapter is truly dense with information, and per standard, the index is a bit too muddled with keywords to serve as a quick and easy guide.
Back again to the latter half of the book, the fun part in my opinion, I had to give a few of the recipes a trial before completing this review. Thus far, I have prepared the Chickpea Pizza, a Mediterranean style flat bread, the Beannaise, a soy-free, dairy-free mayonnaise alternative, and the Hot Fudge Sauce (pretty self explanatory don’t you think).
The Chickpea Pizza was tasty, and an easy to prepare lunch at that. Though it was more like a pancake than a pizza or bread, it was full of flavor and it did have a somewhat cheesy taste.
The Beannaise was also a piece of cake (not literally obviously), and it kept quite well in the refrigerator. I used a bit less oil than called for in their recipe, as the condiment was getting a bit too thin. It worked excellent though. Over the next week I spread each of our sandwiches with a generous slathering of Beannaise to both my husband and my delight. When tasted straight, the Beannaise did have a slight texture of pureed bean, but as a spread it went unnoticed.
I had some trouble getting the Hot Fudge Sauce to thicken, but it tasted awesome, so I will be giving that recipe another try. After I master the fudge sauce, the Wheat-Free (and gluten-free) Mini Pancakes and the Tunisian New Potato Salad are next on my food allergen-free menu. I have been very pleased with the ease of the recipes (as if the whole food-allergy slant weren’t enough), spending less than 30 minutes on each, even when preparing them for the first time! Not to mention, aside from an inexpensive bag of chickpea flour (easier to find than I thought), I haven’t had to purchase any out of the ordinary ingredients. It should be noted that all of the recipes are also vegetarian / vegan.
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