I recently defended Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook, It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great. There was an inordinate amount of internet snarking about the book, before it was even available to preview. Most of it seemed to be more related to the actress daring to style herself as a foodie and share recipes than the actual food she was showcasing. The book is peppered with glamorous shots of the actress with her kids and co-chef Julia Turshen as they gather and prep food in various lovely surroundings. Yes, Gwyneth lives the good life, but is she really living any higher on the hog than Martha Stewart or Ina Garten? There are also plenty of glamorous photos of the food in It’s All Good, which I found helpful, especially when my first (and second) try at one of the muffin recipes didn’t go as planned.
I’m not sure why there is still such vitriol surrounding “alternative” recipes. Many people, myself included, are finding that the food we eat, that we have always eaten, may no longer agree with us. In some cases it even causes pain. After my gallbladder surgery I have had to find a whole new way of thinking about and preparing food. I don’t have celiac disease, but I am finding that gluten can cause stomach distress on occasion. Dairy products and other refined and processed foods are also more difficult to digest. So a cookbook like Paltrow’s, which tries to take some “regular” food like muffins and meatballs and the like and come up with recipes that use more easily digested, less inflammatory ingredients definitely intrigued me. I’ve spent a week or so trying out some of the recipes and can say that a few of them are definite keepers.
Many have dismissed It’s All Good claiming that they don’t have $200 to spend on a recipe. I didn’t buy everything on her suggested pantry list, but I decided to go for it and marked the recipes I wanted to try. I ended up buying supplies for what I didn’t have at home. It was enough to make over 20 recipes and came to a little under $200 at a few combined shopping trips to Publix and Whole Foods. Here’s what I’ve made so far, and please keep in mind I’m not a professional food stylist, either:
Sweet Potato and Five-Spice Muffins (p. 41) – These muffins have been such a huge hit with everyone who has tried them. I am not much of a baker, and certainly have never made anything gluten-free before, but I was very pleased with the ease of the recipe and the end results, which were frankly, yum. The ingredient list is pretty basic — One large baked sweet potato, olive oil, almond milk, maple syrup, vanilla, gluten-free flour (I used oat), baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, and Chinese five-spice powder.The only items I didn’t already have in the house were the flour, baking powder (like I said, I don’t usually bake), maple syrup, and five spice powder (an amalgam of cinnamon, anise, fennel, ginger, clove, and licorice root). These muffins are going to become a regular thing around here.
|Batter for the Sweet Potato and Five-Spice Muffins|
|Sweet Potato and Five-Spice Muffins out of the oven|
Avocado Toast (p. 34) – Yes, it’s just sliced avocado on toast with some spice on top — hot chili flakes or vegetable salt or whatever floats your boat. Less a recipe than a snack suggestion, but it’s a tasty one.
Quinoa, A Bit Sweet (p. 33) – I made this for breakfast, using almond milk, maple syrup, a chopped date, dried figs, and shredded coconut. There are plenty of other suggestions for sweet toppings to try, as well as savory ones.
|Quinoa for breakfast, with lots of good, sweet stuff|
Turkey meatballs (p. 105) – I’m part Italian and grew up with spaghetti and meatballs. I’ve been making turkey meatballs for years, usually dumping extra veggies in the tomato sauce to get folks to eat them. But what’s great about this recipe (and even more so the turkey burger one below) is how many greens and flavors are already in the meatball and how delicious it still tastes. Apart from the turkey, the meatballs contain onion, garlic, sage, basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, olive oil and sea salt and ground pepper.)
|Turkey meatballs in the pan|
Turkey burgers (p. 108) – I have already made this recipe twice, first as burgers and then as meatballs. They were delicious both ways and the leftover ones tasted great the next day. It’s All Good presents the recipe as Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers, with cucumber and yogurt sauce as an accompaniment. I’ll try that too, but I wanted to first try a more Italian presentation to see how my nine year-old daughter would like them. She loved them. Besides the turkey, the burgers/meatballs contain shallots, garlic, oregano, basil, baby spinach (three handfuls, chopped in a food processor), lemon zest, olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper. There is literally a whole serving of vegetables with the spinach and they are so good. Can’t wait to make them again.
|Spinach-packed Turkey Meatballs|
Almond and Kale Smoothie (p. 207) – I have also made this smoothie twice. This yummy shake, with kale, almond milk, almond butter, coconut oil, a date, and soaked raw almonds is going to become a regular feature here, too. It’s yummy and a great way to get the kid (and me) to eat kale.
Creamy Avocado and Cacao Smoothie (p. 208) – This shake tasted great, but it’s hard to go wrong with cocoa, coconut water, almond milk, raw honey, an avocado and hempseeds. I woud just advise to strain it before you drink it if you want to share with kids (or even for yourself). My blender, although pretty good, still had tiny pieces of avocado and hempseeds that I know wouldn’t have gone over too well with the kid.
Banana Date Muffins (p. 46) – This is the only recipe I have made so far (twice) that flopped. The first time (using almond meal flour) was my fault, as I forgot to add the baking powder and the muffins didn’t rise properly. The second time (using tapioca flour) they didn’t seem to have the right consistency. They were too gooey, more like a pudding inside. Maybe it was the dates? I’m going to try again, as I love banana muffins, maybe this time using corn flour and no dates. Paltrow says in It’s All Goodthat gluten-free baking is not for the faint of heart. I now know what she means, but the success of those sweet potato muffins give me hope. We’ll see.
|The Banana Date Muffins look great, but I’m still struggling with the consistency|
When I was at the library the other day I saw Paltrow’s first cookbook, My Father’s Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness. After her father died in 2002 she wanted to pull together a lot of the recipes that they cooked together or were his favorites. It’s a sweet book, filled with her memories of him and his love of food, which she inherited. It’s also quite interesting, in view of her new cookbook, as she has completely changed her way of eating in just a few years. Paltrow still always leans toward making comfort food and food that children will enjoy eating.
Some of her recipes in My Father’s Daughter include some of the same go-to items that she praises in It’s All Good — Vegenaise, maple syrup, almond milk. But in her first book she is still using sugar, flour, and cow’s milk products, especially cheese, which, because of various family member food sensitivities, she has found substitutes for in her new diet and approach to cooking. I’m not sure if it’s just where I am at these days with my own ideas on diet and nutrition, but there were fewer recipes in My Father’s Daughter that I fell compelled to try. I did jot down Spaghetti Limone Parmeggiano (p. 128), Artichoke and Parmesan Frittata (p. 217), Blue Cheese Dressing (always a favorite, p. 72) and Anchovy Vinaigrette (p. 73).
But back to It’s All Good. On my shopping expeditions I have assembled supplies for many more recipes and am still intending to make:
Quinoa Granola with Olive Oil and Maple Syrup (p.30)
Chicken Burgers, Thai Style (p.111)
Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Mustard and Parsley (173)
Roasted Romanesco with Aioli and Fried Capers (p. 174)
Fresh Ginger Tea (p. 207)
Bernardo’s Pumpkin Pie Shake (p. 209)
The Best Green Juice (p.212)
Japanese Chicken Meatballs (p. 239)
Kale Chips (p. 246)
Candy Bars (p. 254)
Almond Butter Cookies with Maldon Salt (p. 260)
I think that’s a pretty good ratio of desirable recipes for a cookbook. There are still a handful more that I just haven’t bought the required meat or vegetable for. Grilled Steak with Melted Anchovies and Rosemary sounds like something I definitely have to try. I’ll be sure to post an update of any of recipes that are really great-tasting as I continue my gluten-free adventures.
As long as you’re not thrown off by the idea of switching out some tried-and-true kitchen staples (white sugar, flour, mayo) for something less fattening or hard on your system (maple syrup, gluten-free flour, Vegenaise) you might enjoy taste-testing these recipes. One of the best things about the recipes I have been trying from It’s All Good, besides the fact that I don’t feel crampy or uncomfortable after eating, is that some foods that I have been avoiding, like baked goods, may now be back on the menu. How good is that?
You can read more of my pop culture reviews on my blog, xoxoxo e