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cookbook reviews with kristina: gluten-free and more!

by Grace Bonney

At first I thought that this week I’d offer some books that marry well with Julia’s Blackberry pie (Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Pie and Pastry Bible comes to mind!). Who isn’t curious for pastry and pie making tips? But then I thought…why not offer some ideas for those of you who can’t have gluten, don’t eat gluten, or are looking for some great alternatives to wheat flour/gluten based recipes. If you have favorite gluten-free resources, please share them here or on Twitter, I’d love to learn more, too! –Kristina

CLICK HERE for the full cookbook reviews after the jump!

I have two books tied for first place this week. The first is Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood (Bantam Press). This is a phenomenal book that has moved to my inner circle, especially for entertaining or group events where you are unsure of dietary restrictions. Note, it relies heavily on nuts, so if you have nut allergies, this is not a good book for you. However, if you can have nuts, Eastwood has designed all of the recipes to use rice flour and wheat flour interchangeably. She also has designed the majority of her recipes to use vegetables (carrot, zucchini, butternut squash, sweet potato, even eggplant!!) often in place of butter or oil, consequently the cakes are fantastic and soft without compromising at all on flavor. In fact, she calls these healthy natural cakes! (Which seems like an oxymoron, but try for yourself and see.) To sweeten, Harry uses muscovado sugar or honey. These unique cakes (think Zucchini and Chamomile Cupcakes) are a welcome change to the usual flavor combos I see around. She has given her cakes personalities, and describes each one to you as though they were a neighbor or friend. Chapters include her recipe development notes which give insight into how the final recipe came to be. I am particularly fond of the Coffee and Walnut Courage Cake, and the Almond Vanilla Honey cake with Apricots. My celiac colleagues give the cakes a thumbs up! With wonderfully styled and photographed images of her very home-made (but neat) looking desserts, I love flipping through this book for photography ideas.

Tied for first place for me this week is also Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights by ex plus-sized model Sophie Dahl (published by HarperCollins). This book is the result of Sophie Dahl’s ‘coming to terms’ with her relationship with food, and is a personal narrative as well as a collection of recipes. The recipes are generally portioned for one to two people, and are designed to provide healthy, balanced, flavorful meals. The chapters are divided into seasons and each season into meals (7 breakfast, 7 lunch, 7 dinners for each season). To celebrate the coming autumn for example, last weekend, I made Indian Sweet Potato Pancakes (with scallions and curry) and Squid and Chargrilled Peppers with Cilanto dressing. The photography and colors in the book are so inviting, I just pick images and go source the ingredients so that I can taste. There is enough variety in the book, that vegetarians (Vegan and non) as well as omnivores will find plenty of satisfaction. If lots of pictures of an author in their own books annoys you, consider yourself warned! You can see sample images from both of these books by following their hot links above)

Uncooked by Lyndsay and Patrick Mikanowski (Flammarion). This is certainly a book to pick up if you’d like to see what types of dishes you might prepare on a raw diet. Although it is intended to be a full on “cook”book, I find it appropriate for appetizers, or finger food rather than mains. This book is excellent for vegans, and people with gluten intolerance. Fish is used a lot and some duck breast, but most recipes easily accommodate substitutions or omissions. The soups (creamy asparagus (no dairy); garden pea soup with coconut milk and coriander) and the sushi (salmon and melon; mango, avocado, pear, and carrot maki, and spring roll of cucumber and fresh goat’s cheese) are perfect and quick to make. It is ordered alphabetically, an ingredient for most letters of the alphabet. The book is presented in an artsy fashion, highly composed food, just look at the cover! –and this is generally a turn off for me– but I was able to get used to it once I realized the utility of the recipes, and the inspiration the book gives me to try my own food combinations! I wasn’t discouraged by the use of some ingredients I can’t find here. I know what I like and am happy to substitute it. I also am not worried about perfect looking food, as presented in the images. It’s all about taste. Pieter from last week’s post wouldn’t like the coated pages, but I don’t mind them.

The Gluten-Free Cookbook for Kids by Adriana Rabinovich (published by Vermilion). I have used this so far for reference, but have not had a chance to try it. It is designed for the newbie to Celiac disease and gluten-free diet needs. It provides simple advice and tips on preparing your kitchen and adapting to your child’s specific dietary needs. It is also intended to be a book you use together with your child so that they learn how to prepare gluten-free food. Not all of the recipes would be that easy for a child to make, but they could definitely help. The recipes offer gluten-free versions of what kids may see their friends eat- chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, fish fingers, pasta dishes, party food, Mexican food, in short, a well-rounded sampling of food. In the US and the UK at least, certain ingredients like xanthan or guar gum may be easy to find to make the baked goods, but this definitely is a challenge for me where I live. Still, I found this book, very basic in its approach, helped me understand a bit more about living with gluten intolerance. One note– there is a recipe for gluten free play dough… which I found odd…in a cookbook… The author also has a website.

Suggested For You


  • Sophie Dahl’s cookbook is welcomed simply for recipes catered for 2 people. Are the pictures in the book also of food or of just her? I so need to see what the outcome is SUPPOSED to look like.

  • You’ve made me so hungry!
    Do you know if the Red Velvet & chocolate heartache book uses eggs? I’m allergic to gluten AND eggs AND dairy and I’m so tired of figuring out my own substitutions and not liking the results. I’d love to give this book a try….

  • Thanks for this round up. I am especially intrigued by the red velvet chocolate heartache book. Looks fabulous!! I am a sucker for fabulous photography in a cookbook!

  • BabyCakes is in the mail! Thanks @The Andersons!

    Lydia: There are also pictures of the food, by Jan Baldwin, which are amazing. There are many more pics of food than of Sophie, don’t worry, but being a model, I suppose it’s fair that she’s included in the images, too! hahaha

  • But of course play dough!

    It seems odd at first perhaps, but most people who play with play dough are young enough to want to sometimes eat play dough. See??

  • Thanks for featuring this! the Gluten Free Gourmet books by Betty Hagman also have some handy and delicious recipes. I’ve used them for recipes for myself (I’m celiac) and non-celiac friends with great reviews.

  • Kids will sometimes eat play dough or just about anything they can put in their mouth, so that’s probably why they included the recipe.

  • Haha yes, they put a lot of salt in the recipe to discourage kids from eating the play dough… I just thought it was odd at first!

    I will be on the look out for more gluten free titles, and will do my best to integrate them into the round ups as possible, so be on the look out each week!

  • As a regular d*s reader, and a person with celiac disease (gluten allergy), I’m thrilled that you’ve showcased books that feature or include gluten free recipes. The current estimate is that 1 in 133 people has celiac disease – most don’t know it. Thanks for helping to bring attention to gluten free cooking!

  • I agree with Lydia — cookbooks need photos of the food! The Sophie Dahl book has incredibly well-styled food photography.

  • Note: Babycakes is NOT all gluten free. They use a lot of spelt flour in their recipes, which has gluten.

  • Thank you, thank you, d*s, for raising awareness and for providing resources.

    I’m so excited to try these books, because although I’ve been gluten free for a couple of years, I’ve just recently started a blog to help myself actually try to ENJOY and become more experimental in my gluten-free eating.

    Oh, and for anyone near Chicago, Rose’s Wheatfree Bakery and Cafe is indescribably wonderful! Visit the cafe in Evanston, Ill., or order the products at http://www.rosesbakery.com.

  • Thanks for the gf awareness. The Gluten Free Gourmet series by Better Hagman are the best gf cookbooks out there. Take a look at them.

    The play dough is important b/c many celiacs can’t use any product with gluten – including shampoo, makeup or play dough. If it touches their (our) skin it causes a skin reaction called dermitis herpiforma. This is itchy and painful and to be avoided at all costs.

  • Thanks so much for these tips! Down here it’s really hard to find good gluten free recipes dispite all fruits and vegetables avaiable.

  • Thanks for the great post. I’d love to see a review on a good diabetic cookbook if you have a chance!

  • OH WOW. Diabetic cookbooks… Have you ever ventured into the GI cookbook realm? Give me a few weeks to locate and test a title or two!

  • The Sophie Dahl book is incredibly beautiful, however I have made a good few things from it and the recipes aren’t great. They all work, but can be easily improved upon (for example her brown bread is quite flavourless).

  • I love all these books – always inspired by beautiful photography esp. in cook books. I do find it ironic though, that the cover of UnCooked features a steamed (cooked) lobster. That’s the only way they get their red color, if they’re cooked…

  • I noticed the red lobster too. I’m surprised to see so many recipes with dairy and fish in the “raw” book. Next time maybe a review of a vegan cook book? Anyway, thanks for the reviews. I’m glad to see a cook book reviews from a design perspective!

  • @DeAnna – Yeah, I guess they flubbed the dub on the cheese bit, though there are fewer than 10 recipes in the book with cheese, and the fish is all raw, and the duck breast salt cured (they give instructions on how to do that).

    I’ll be on the lookout for vegan books.

  • Thanks for the review. Just wanted to point out that one of the main objectives in writing the book was to help families enjoy the same food at home regardless of whether or not they are gluten intolerant. The playdough recipe came about as a result of my daughter attending nursery. She was a thumb sucker and this would have meant she would have had to miss out on all the fun at the playdough table. My modus operandi is all about inclusion, not exclusion.

  • @Adriana Thanks for adding to this post. It is always meaningful for me, and I hope others, to have an author share the motivations and story behind her work.

  • Thank you for this post and for helping to bring increased awareness about cooking and baking for those of us with food allergies, intolerances, and alternative diets.

    My favorite gluten free cookbooks include the Bette Hagman series previously mentioned, especially The Gluten Free Gourmet Cooks Comfort Foods. Gluten Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts and Gluten Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly are also favorites. I’m sugar free as well as gluten free, so I still have to adjust recipes, but these books all provide great starting point recipes.

  • Recently I bought “1000 Gluten Free Recipes”. I made lemon bars out of it and they were AWESOME. Just as good as the ones my mom used to make. You can get it on Amazon. Of course!

  • Wow, thanks for the awesome post. I am not celiac but I don’t eat wheat to help with a chronic health condition and it’s always such a pleasure to see people mentioning gluten-free options. I’d not heard of Harry Eastwood’s book and I can tell you after reading the reviews on Amazon that it’s going to be making a home in my kitchen for sure. Just a quick note, the Babycakes cookbook has a fair amount of recipes that use spelt flour and as such are not gluten-free. It’s still a fabulous book I’m sure, but may be disappointing for some. Thanks again for the suggestions!