The Paleo Diet scares the pants off of me still. Awhile back, I reviewed Robb Wolf’s “The Paleo Solution” and gave it a good review, despite the fact that it does not fit my lifestyle at all. The “lavish way” us MMA journalists live on the road, a burger in one hand and a laptop in the other (steering wheels are operated with a combination of chin and knees), and my joy of eating carbs has kept me from plummeting in head first with the diet. However, I have met plenty of people that do the diet and have had great success with it, so more power to them!
What scared me the most was the seemingly restrictive food choices, even with the recipes offered in the back of Wolf’s book. Author Sarah Fragoso must have thought the same thing, and has opened up the playing field for Paleo dieters and health conscious readers alike with her new cookbook, “Everyday Paleo”. Upon first glance of the book, it was like Moses parting the Red Sea… or better yet, it was like Lion-O from “The Thundercats” using the Sword of Omens to give him sight beyond sight, and opened my eyes to the choices that existed in this diet. Yes, I analogized the Paleo Diet with “The Thundercats”, they don’t call me The Fight Nerd for nothing!
Sarah had 300 pages to make me a believer that this diet was doable and that it was not as frightening as I first thought. Could she and her carb-free recipes pull that off, or would I be left starving for something better? More importantly, what level of cooking skills did I need to make all of these things, and I would break the bank buying exotic ingredients and utensils? Hit the jump to read the full review and learn if this cookbook should be put next to Rachel Ray on the bookshelf, or used to mop up burger grease!
Our author, Sarah Fragoso, had ballooned up in weight courtesy of multiple pregnancies and loads of stress even though she maintained a healthy diet. It was not until fate stepped in and introduced her to Robb Wolf, author of “The Paleo Solution” book. Fragoso was not a believer at first and continued to gain mass until she made the mistake of complaining to Robb’s wife, Nicki, who challenged her to try the Paleo diet for a mere 30 days and the rest is history. What’s probably more miraculous is that Sarah managed to get her entire family on the diet, including her husband and three kids. How did a wife and mother not only trim her waist but change her the entire household’s lifestyle around? That is the true heart of this book and what makes it more than your average recipe guide.
Aside from giving you over 150 pages of recipes (which we will get to in another paragraph), Fragoso breaks down strategies to lure in others to give this diet a try, and without giving away anything, they are pretty clever. I feel I am not being misogynistic when I write it’s something that a mother would do, and I like that. Sarah makes things as easy as possible for newcomers to the diet, including giving workouts for all levels, including mothers who can use their child’s strollers as an exercise tool. Compared to “The Paleo Solution”, I felt I had a quicker and better understanding of how the Paleo Diet worked after reading the first 20 pages of “Everyday Paleo”. Fragoso breaks it down in the simplest terms and makes it incredibly clear through easy to read charts that spell it all out for you, as well as her personal experiences. There are no allusions to neanderthals nor verbose scientific explanations, only real life experience that works, and much like the diet itself, has cut the fat out and goes right to the meat of the subject.
Enough beating around the bush, you came to read about the recipes. I did not know what to expect from the recipes, as the few that appeared in “The Paleo Solution” were overly simple and nothing to write home about. “Everyday Paleo” elevates the diet to a new level with colorful dishes that excite the taste buds while keeping away bad calories, gluten and unnecessary sugars. The dishes are all easy to make and rely greatly on exotic spices from international cuisine, like Mexican, Indian, Jamaican, even a little bit from Africa. Your classic Italian and French recipes are also covered, as well as old American favorites, just with a Paleo twist.
At it’s core, the diet itself is highly restrictive. The author recognized that fact and guides the reader through a list of items that should always be in your pantry, which makes the entire lifestyle change less scary with all the options she offers. There are some ingredients that might seem unusual at first, like coconut oil or almond meal, but they are not as obscure as they might sound. Some of the scarier-sounding recipes include pecan-crusted chicken, apple challot pork chops, ratatouille, Paleo Pizza (which we will talk about in a second), and lamb burgers, but really these recipes have some of the easiest prep and cooking time imaginable.
Italian rib-eye steak with sun-dried tomato topping might sound like a mouthful, but it is only three easy steps. Spice-rub slow cooked chicken has about ten ingredients, but is absolutely fool proof and very tasty. There are no challenging recipes here, and for good reason. The author is, after all, a mother of three (four if you count her husband, a little marriage humor there for ya’) and when you have that much responsibility, you don’t have time to spend hours slaving in the kitchen. Every recipe is so easy to make that it would be impossible to make up excuses not to try some of these. The book includes entrees for poultry, pork, red meat, vegetables, eggs, and also a nice dessert section.
As if the big recipes like Puerto Rican beef or stuffed eggplant was not easy enough, there are also snacks that are laughably simple to make but so very good. Fragoso recognizes that people do not have all the time in the world to hover over a stovetop and every recipe reflects that aspect. This is simple, quick cooking that looks like you spent hours sweating in the kitchen, and no one will ever be the wiser!
With that said, the focus of this book can be skewed sometimes and that reflects in the writing of some recipes. For example, I had a baker friend of mine make the Paleo Pizza crust, Paleo Apple Muffins and the Nutty cookies. Working over a burner is easy enough and allows customization, but baking is a more precise art, and this is where the cookie crumbles (pun completely intended). I am not not good when it comes to the very precise technique of baked goods, and this can be a problem not just for beginners but even more skilled chefs.
The Paleo Pizza crust was easy to make, even with the substitution of almond meal for flour (if you can’t find it in a store, you can grind it yourself easily). In terms of taste, it’s not bad when you top it with things to mask the flavor of the base. However, the trouble here comes in the creation, as the book never specifies what to look for when baking your crust. Not all doughs are created equally, as some need to be firm, others cakey, others more bubbly. There is a fine line between done and burnt, and this crust is a prime example of that. If this crust was left in the oven too long, it would burn into a charred black disk. The book calls for 20 minutes to bake, but never tells you what you should expect.
The Nutty Cookies and Paleo Apple Muffins share similar recipes, so our baker swapped apple for pumpkin with the muffins as the binding ingredient. Both of these were one-bowl recipes and easy to make, but the baker had issues regarding specifics again. This time, there was no information on how mashed a certain ingredient needed to be, nor where to place the baked goods in the oven ( a very crucial thing as this dictates the flow of heat on the item). The Nutty Cookies share a very similar recipe to the Muffins, and once again the recipe does not tell you what consistency to watch for, such as chewy or crunchy. Another important part of the recipe is what kind of apple to use. My baker used Gala apples, but do keep in mind that apples have their own distinct taste and structures, and break down differently as well. This might be more of a personal preference, but I did not try this enough times to see if using softer or stronger apples affected the composition of the final product.
Overall, I had no recipes that I did not like and that were not tasty and colorful. Just about everything was extremely easy in terms of preparation and not too crazy on ingredients. The only downside is when it comes to the baking, which leaves much trial and error for the home chef. I know my cheat on the “Paleo Diet” would be desserts anyway so I am not too worried about the baking sections, and if you are committed to this way of eating then you will figure things out if you make them enough. By the end of the book, I was satisfied with the content and ease of cooking. This is a perfect book to help you dive into this diet, especially when on paper it seems like a very restricting and scary diet.
This book retails for $29.95 normally, but you can grab “Everyday Paleo” cookbook from Amazon.com. Even at full price, I would still say buy this book. I am not planning on living my life with the Paleo life style, but that does not mean I won’t incorporate some of these recipes and ideas into my own everyday cooking. Fragoso breaks down the diet and makes it sound easy and doable, and makes it easier to accomplish with her creative and simple recipes that skimp on the carbs and load up on flavor. If you have been hesitant to try the diet before, this cookbook is your recipe for success.
If you are a health conscious person at any level, this is an excellent book to help you make smart choices with what you use as your fuel through the day. For the hardcore person who has made the leap of faith into the full Paleo Diet, this will become your best friend very quickly. Either way, you can not lose with “Everyday Paleo”, so give it a shot and try a few recipes yourself to become a true believer.