Book Review: The China Study Cookbook

This week, I'm reviewing a cookbook: The China Study Cookbook by Leanne Campbell.  This is the "official companion to The China Study".  If you haven't read the China Study by Colin Campbell - you should - and I'll maybe review that another day.

Anyhow this companion cookbook came out this year - 7 years after The China Study.  It is written by the daughter of Colin Campbell and features recipes for "easily prepared plant-based food with no added fat and minimal sugar and salt with the goal of promoting optimal health without sacrificing taste".

The recipes are divided into the following categories:

  • breads and muffins
  • breakfast dishes
  • appetizers and salads
  • soups
  • sandwiches
  • entrees
  • side dishes and 
  • desserts
The breads all rely on whole wheat flour and sucanat for a sweetener. It would have nice to vary the grains a little - especially offering at least one gluten free option.... maybe even just for the corn bread?

In the breakfast section there is the usual french toast, crepes, muesli, scrambled tofu, smoothies, hash.....Nothing really excited me in this section.

A big downside to this book for me was the photography.  I really didn't find the pictures to be appetizing.  They tend to be close-ups of food with no real styling at all - just the odd basil leaf thrown in. Not one photo made me want to cook that dish.  I do like to see recipe photos and rarely buy a book without them - but they have to be good photos.


The sandwich section includes chickpea burgers which sound nice but again include vital wheat gluten and panko breadcrumbs so need quite a bit of conversion for gluten free.

I am very familiar with making recipes gluten free so its not that this book loses "marks" for me in this book. It is that I don't find it very interesting.  For example - hummus wraps: chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice to make the hummus then spread on a wrap with a bit of lettuce and tomato.

One recipe that did catch my eye was African vegetables - but the photo again was awful.  And its not that all the recipes are trying to be really easy - the majority of them have more than 12 ingredients in them!

So I have to say, this book is not my style.  The recipes don't grab me, many have lots of ingredients, there are no gluten free options (but it also doesn't suggest it is gluten free), there is quite a lot of sucanat in several recipes...and there is not one recipe that I have thought I wanted to try.

There are plenty of other plant based, no added oil, sugar or salt cookbooks I would recommend over this one.

So do yourself a favor - read The China Study and Colin Campbell's new book Whole, but skip the cookbook.

Book Review: Power foods for the brain

This week's book for my review is by Dr Neal Barnard and is entitled: Power Foods for the Brain: an effective 3-step plan to protect your mind and strengthen your memory.

The book is about how you can use foods to protect your brain and optimize its function and even reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease, stroke, general cognitive decline,  and other less serious disorders such as low energy, poor sleep patterns, irritability and lack of focus.

Dr Neal Barnard is President of the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is a non-profit organization involved in promoting preventive medicine and responsible research in medicine.

He has written many other books : Neal Barnard Amazon Book list, many of which I have read.  Power Food for the brain is his most recent, just out this year.

The book clearly takes you through a 3 step program to protect your brain:

Step 1 deals with what foods are "power foods" for your brain - which can shield you from toxic metals, which can protect you from harmful fats.  It also tells you which foods you should avoid.

Step 2 looks at how you can strengthen your brain through exercise - both cognitive exercises and also physical exercises.

Step 3 shows you tips on how to improve your memory while you sleep and goes over which medicines and health conditions affect memory.

A final section then helps you put all this into practice and includes some menus and recipes, written by Christine Walternyer and Jason Wyrick.

Dr Barnard has a great way of providing clear and easy to understand information, all based on plenty of scientific research. I've attended several of his lectures in the past and he is a great educator. This comes over in this book. As does his sense of humor.  His use of analogies really helps get the information across to the reader.

Dr Barnard advocates a plant-based diet and offers the evidence behind this - but also demonstrates the real power of good nutrition.

Here's a short video of Dr Barnard on the Ellen DeGeneres Show discussing Power Foods
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It shows you what an approachable guy Dr Barnard is. You'll find lots of other videos of his online - so have a search and learn more!

This is a great book. If you are beginning to notice some cognitive decline, get a copy and even if you don't do his whole program, you'll find lots of little tips for improvement.

Book Review: The Vegan Cheat Sheet

This week's book review is for a book just out this past week: The Vegan Cheat Sheet by Amy Cramer and Lisa McComsey.

It is described as
a take-anywhere resource that puts all the essential information about eating vegan at your fingertips.
Basically it teaches you how to become vegan by offering:

  • information on myths vs truth about vegan lifestyle
  • describes what foods to eat and which to avoid
  • reasons to go vegan
  • vegan replacements
  • shopping lists to stock your cupboard
  • recipes
  • a 21 day vegan program with meal plans
  • how to eat out  - including restaurant guides
and more!

Authors Amy and Lisa
I like the book.  It's one I would recommend to my students and is ideal for someone wanting to move into a vegan lifestyle.  It covers all the basics. 

The recipes are easy and relatively quick.  Nothing fancy but there were quite a few that I marked and may make, like chana masala, mushroom risotto, creamy corn chowder.  Throughout all the recipes, they don't use any added oil - which is how I cook too.

The book isn't gluten free but you can make the usual gluten free substitutions to the recipes. 

I'm never sure about the 21 day people really want every meal laid out for them for 3 weeks??  Maybe they do, or maybe they are just examples to play with.

The "Party" chapter was a good one -  where they group together different recipes that would work well for a gathering.  For example, for a 'French gourmet' evening, they suggest their recipes for white bean pate, cassoulet, mushroom risotto, ratatouille followed by chocolate mousse.  For 'Passage to India' there is curried butternut squash soup, chana masala, saag paneer, brown rice, whole-wheat pita bread and chia pudding.

Like last week's book, this was a quick read.  It's a nice introduction to starting a vegan lifestyle and covers all the bases.  And its written in a friendly accessible style.

Book Review: Love yourself - like your life depends on it

I am restructuring my blog posts here, to have more regular weekly posts.  Part of my plan is that each Monday ( or maybe that is most Mondays!) I will do a book review.  I read so many books, so I thought I'd let you know those books - ( both books to read and cookbooks) - that I recommend and those I don't.

This week, the book is "Love yourself - like your life depends on it" by Kamal Ravikant.

It's a small book - something you can read in one sitting. Only 50 or so pages.  Quick and to the point. Kamal doesn't waste your time with lots of words.

The book briefly describes how Kamal transitioned from sickness to health by learning to love himself.  At his lowest, he was miserable and couldn't get out of bed.  He reached what he felt was his breaking point and made the following vow to himself:

This day, I vow to myself to love myself, to treat myself as someone I love truly and deeply - in my thoughts, my actions, the choices I make, the experiences I have, each moment I am conscious, I make the decision I LOVE MYSELF"

He then discusses how he went about this and gives a few techniques and practices on how to try this for yourself, such as a daily 7 minute meditation - the 7 minutes is how long his favorite piece of music was, so he'd play it and use that time to meditate. Another 5 minute meditation involves you looking at yourself in the mirror.

If you are feeling down on yourself, lacking confidence or self esteem - this short book may just help with its straight forward, no mess simple concepts. While you may not love yourself to start with, these exercises can help - and are quick.  We love others around us unconditionally - so why not love ourselves?

However, as Kamal reminds us, this is a practice.  You don't go to the gym once and think you are fit - you keep going.  Similarly, we need to keep working at loving ourselves.

Love yourself available at Amazon.

Vegetarian Everyday - Cookbook review

US version
I got a new cookbook last week.  That in itself is not news worthy at all - as my husband will attest to.  "Mr Amazon" visits us all to regularly - not always with cookbooks - but quite often.  But this week's has really wowed me.

I have already made 5 recipes from it and every one has been delicious.

The book is by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl from the Green Kitchen.  In the US it is called Vegetarian Everyday and in the UK and Europe it is called The Green Kitchen.

I much prefer the UK cover.  Anyhow - the recipes inside are the same.

The first recipe I tried was Orange-kissed seed crackers.  What a beautiful name for a cracker - and I tell you - in my orange mood - the delicate orange kiss is delightful!

UK version
I chose the cracker recipe as a test.  I try making lots of different seed cracker recipes from blogs and cookbooks but am always disappointed with the outcome. I've tried creating my own seed cracker recipe - wanting to use flax, chia or hemp seeds for omega-3 fatty acids - but they haven't ever been great.  But this one is yummy.  I'm making it again to take with me on my travels.  Crunch and that tangy sweetness of the orange. Absolutely delicious.  I didn't have amaranth flour that the recipe calls for  so I used millet flour instead.

I served them to my friends on Saturday who came round for lunch with the red pepper and rosemary spread and also the sage and walnut pate.  More about them in another post.

The authors have a blog called Green Kitchen Stories - which I know you'll enjoy.  David is Swedish and Luise is Danish.  They live in Stockholm and neither of them are chefs - but sure do create lovely recipes.

Here is their video for the book:

The photography - by David - is gorgeous - and it is such an attractive book, it could be a coffee table book - but I know it'll get far too much use to sit on a table!

Some of the recipes are quick and simple and some are more complicated.  Some are vegan, some include eggs or dairy, some are gluten free.

But I bet all are delicious! My first 5 definitely were!  They also have a couple of apps of recipes - one general and one desserts....They are making me think I should upgrade my phone, just for the recipes!

Anyhow, as you've probably realized, I highly recommend this book.  I'll post some photos of my creations from their book over the next couple of days so you can be inspired.

If you buy it, let me know what recipes you try!