Today I am excited to review the GORGEOUS new cookbook Cooking With Coconut Oil: Gluten-Free, Grain-Free Recipes for Good Living by Elizabeth Nyland of Guilty Kitchen. It is full of tasty and exciting dishes that anyone will enjoy, but this cookbook is particularly well-suited for anyone following a paleo, primal, real food, gluten-free, or grain-free lifestyle. Plus many recipes are compliant with variations such as the Whole30, 21-Day Sugar Detox, and even the auto-immune paleo protocol or GAPS. This cookbook features a wide variety of creative recipes for all main meals, snacks, salads, and desserts. The recipes are beautifully photographed with easy to follow, very approachable directions that will make you want to start cooking as soon as you get your hands on the book!
At First Glance...
The first thing you'll notice about the book is that it is cute and compact. It's a 7" x 7" square. Personal taste will dictate whether you consider this a positive or a negative, but to me it is a positive for several reasons: I prefer small books that are easily portable. I stuffed this cookbook right in my purse to go to the store to buy ingredients, which saved me some time because I didn't have to write out a long shopping list. I just whipped this bad boy out right in Whole Foods to shop from. It's also great that it doesn't take up a large amount of space on my limited bookshelves (hey -- I live in a 600 sq ft condo with one human, 3 cats, and a chihuahua -- we don't have a lot of extra space!) Another bonus of small cookbooks for me is that they don't take up a ton of valuable counter space in my tiny kitchen while I'm cooking from them. A minor negative is that sometimes you have to use props to get the pages to lay flat when you are working from the beginning or end of the book, but that's no big deal to me.
The second thing you notice is how beautiful the photography is. Or maybe that's the first thing you notice from the cover. But seriously. Every single recipe in this book looks absolutely mouth-watering from the professional photographs. You will want to make everything in it just because of the photos! Oh, and every single recipe has a photograph, which is not always the case with cookbooks. I rarely want to try a recipe if I can't see a photo, so that's a big plus!
Cooking With Coconut Oil is a comprehensive paleo-friendly cookbook. Don't make the mistake of thinking that because it is focused on coconut oil that it is only for baked goods or sweets. It includes all of these categories: breakfasts, salads and dressings, sides, mains, snacks and starters, and desserts and baked goods. If you are just getting started with paleo, this cookbook gives you everything you need to eat a wide variety of delicious food for all meals!
Not only is this cookbook very useful for newbies, but it is also great for paleo/real food veterans like myself. Who isn't looking for new recipes to add some variety in the kitchen? It is always exciting to learn new recipes to add to your repertoire. I've already found five recipes that I would like to add to my normal rotation!
The recipes in Cooking With Coconut Oil range from basic, easy to make staples -- like the Perfect Roasted Chicken, Roasted Garlic Fennel, and Caramelized Carrots --to more creative and exotic things like Fish "Tacos" with Coconut Flour Sopes and Pico de Gallo, Creamy Almond Butter Pork "Pad Thai", and Maple-Bacon-Chocolate Chip Cookies (I have a special request from my husband to make these for him for his birthday next month!)
I have probably around 90% of the ingredients used in this cookbook already stocked in my pantry because I've been following a paleo lifestyle since late 2010. The few things that I don't keep on hand are preserved lemons (wow, never heard of them! But will seek them out for the Crispy Chicken Wings with Preserved Lemon Aioli), nut butters other than almond, medjool dates (except NOW I keep them in stock!! I had never tried them before), hemp hearts, and golden flax. Aside from fresh meats, produce, and herbs and spices, other common ingredients in this cookbook include Dijon mustard, vinegars, arrowroot flour, coconut flour, honey, maple syrup, vanilla extract, coconut milk/cream, and almond meal. If you are just starting out with a paleo gluten-free lifestyle, you probably have most of these ingredients on your shopping list already, and if you are a veteran like me, you probably have a large majority of the ingredients handy.
Chocolate, Avocado, Coconut, and Lime Pie
The first recipe I made out of Cooking With Coconut Oil was this mouthful of a name: Chocolate, Avocado, Coconut, and Lime Pie. I think a better name would've been "Cheese"cake, because that is what it tastes like to me! I mean, not *exactly*, but my husband and I both agreed that the filling tastes and even has a similar mouth feel to cheesecake. As we were tasting it for the first time, it was like that scene from "What About Bob?" where Bill Murray just can't help but "mmmm" "ohhhh, mmmm!" "yummm mmmm hhmmmm!!" as he's eating ;-)
Yes, it's green. That may be a turn-off for some people (and probably some children) but I promise you that this recipe is AMAZING. It feels so incredibly decadent while you are eating it, but it's really not. It's got lots of good, healthy fats and it's not a huge carb bomb. As written, the only sweetness comes from some medjool dates in the crust and a very modest amount of maple syrup or honey in the filling. You can optionally sweeten the chocolate layer (between the crust and filling) with a bit of maple syrup, but I didn't do that and think it turned out just perfectly.
This pie is VERY filling (probably from all the healthy fats!) and if you cut it into 6 slices they are generous servings. Oh yeah, I wanted to point out that this is a no-bake recipe, which makes it perfect for the hot weather months (which is year-round here in Miami Beach!) I will most definitely be making this pie often.
Bacon and Sweet Potato Meatballs
The second recipe I made was the Bacon and Sweet Potato Meatballs. I actually made this recipe twice, because I had the bright idea to try to sneak some organ meats into the meatballs the first time. WARNING: do NOT try to do that with this particular recipe, unless you try to sneak in an absurdly tiny amount of organs (like, maybe only a few tablespoons). The organs will absolutely overpower the flavor of the meatballs AND it will make them fall apart when cooking. Bummer. I ended up making some sort of bacon/sweet potato/liver/kidney/heart meatloaf out of my first try. It does taste GOOD, but it's not what this recipe is supposed to taste like at all!
I learned my lesson the first time, and followed the recipe as written (mostly) for my second try and they are just wonderful. I have to admit that I slightly modified the recipe after my first experience and instead of finely dicing the bacon and putting it into the meatballs raw, I cooked the bacon first and then crumbled it into the meatballs. I love bacon, but I hate cutting raw bacon -- especially into a fine dice!
What I really love about this recipe is that it *could* be a complete meal in one package. Meat + sweet potatoes = quick and easy workday lunch (ideally reheated in a toaster oven and not a microwave). As written, this was enough meatballs to feed my husband and I supper for 3 nights in a row with a green vegetable side. Shown below are the meatballs on top of a bed of napa cabbage cooked in red palm oil with beech mushrooms, red pepper flakes, and a splash of gluten-free tamari sauce. Yum!
Roasted Beet and Cauliflower Hummus with Coconut Flour Sopes
The next two recipes I tried were the Roasted Beet and Cauliflower Hummus with a side of the Coconut Flour Sopes. First, let me say that the dip is very good. It has a lovely flavor and I will definitely be making it again. However, it did not pass as a true hummus replacement for me. Part of that could've been because I burnt my cauliflower a bit, making it's flavor stronger. But, the beet flavor is pretty strong on its own, and I had a hard time tasting the tahini. This is a delicious recipe, but I had my mouth set on tasting something that was a substitute for hummus, and this just wasn't that.
The recipe calls for a food processor to blend the ingredients. I only have a blender, and I had some trouble getting it to puree the veggies, so I had to add some extra fresh lime juice to get it to work (I had no lemons! My neighborhood stores only sell limes, and for dirt cheap -- 10 cents each).
If I make this to share with other people and they ask me "what is it?" I think I'd tell them that it is a Middle Eastern-inspired roasted veggie dip. I don't think I would call it "hummus". Again -- it really is a great recipe, it just wasn't quite what I was expecting.
In the Roasted Beet and Cauliflower Hummus recipe, Elizabeth suggests making a batch of her Coconut Flour Sopes to dip in it. All I can say is WOW! It is the absolute perfect pairing. I enjoyed eating the dip on raw veggies like cucumber, bell peppers, and celery sticks, but there is something about the sopes that makes them the perfect accompaniment!
The coconut flour sopes are very coconut-y, but are a fantastic pair to the "hummus". If you are unfamiliar with what a sope is, it is a traditional Mexican recipe for a thick patty made from masa harina (nixtamalized corn meal) -- the same stuff that tortilla chips and tacos are made from. Sopes can be topped with meats, refried beans, cheese, soured cream, various vegetables, and salsas. I made a batch of Elizabeth's paleo-friendly coconut flour sopes as written and ended up having quite a few leftover after finishing the hummus, so I had them with a breakfast scramble made of chorizo, eggs, and some mixed veggies and it was fantastic! I used the sopes to scoop up the scramble. The sopes reheated very well in the oven -- I just put them on a baking sheet and let them warm up at 350F for several minutes. I really want to try the fish "taco" recipe in the cookbook to go with the sopes next time.
The last recipe I made was the Cauliflower-Crusted Pizza. Cauliflower crust pizza is pretty common for folks to make shortly after they transition to a paleo lifestyle. Let's face it: pizza is delicious and it's hard to give up. Somehow, I had never made a cauliflower crust pizza before now -- and I've been at this for nearly 3 and a half years!
One thing that has always turned me off about other cauliflower crust recipes I have seen is that they call for quite a bit of cheese for the crust. Guess what? There's no cheese in Elizabeth's crust. Of course, you can top the pizza with the cheese of your choice if you do dairy, but it's also possible to make a tasty pizza without cheese with the right toppings.
Elizabeth does give a disclaimer that you'll most likely be eating this pizza with a knife and fork because the crust doesn't hold together to let you pick it up by the slice. I found this to be true, but it did not negatively impact my eating experience at all. I found that each slice would break up into large chunks about 1/3 or 1/2 the size of the slice that I could pick up and eat if I wanted to, but it was less messy for me to just eat it with a knife and fork.
The best thing about a pizza is that you can top it with whatever you like. I did deviate from her topping recommendations a bit, but one day I do want to try her suggestion of putting asparagus on pizza.
Where to Buy
Cooking With Coconut Oil is available to purchase from Amazon as a paperback or for the Kindle. I recommend spending the extra $3.50 to get the physical book, because it is such a beautiful book! And I just can't get used to using e-books to cook from in the kitchen -- I prefer the real thing. Also be sure to check out Elizabeth's website Guilty Kitchen for more recipes!
Disclosure: I received a copy of this cookbook for free. I was under no obligation whatsoever to write a positive review and have received no monetary compensation for publishing this review. As you can tell, it turns out that I LOVE this cookbook and think you will love it, too. If you decide to purchase it from Amazon after clicking on one of my links, I'll receive a small commission. My full affiliate disclosure is here. Thanks for your support!