Eat Like a Dinosaur – a Review and a Giveaway

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Matt and Stacy of PaleoParents.com saying they’d send me a copy of their new cookbook for kids, Eat Like A Dinosaur, if I’d be so kind as to review it.

I said, “I’d love to!”  So there – I got a free copy of the book in exchange for a review.  It’s not as if I have to give it a good one, right?

Well, that’s not going to happen, because overall the book is excellent.

Matt and Stacy are parents to three small boys.  They were both overweight and their two older sons suffered from a myriad of health and behavior problems – asthma, eczema, ADHD, self-control issues and both were in the upper range for weight while being in the normal range for height, putting them at danger of suffering from the same weight problems as their parents.  About the time their youngest son was born, they decided to treat these issues with diet, and adopted a paleo lifestyle.

Matt and Stacy lost 200 pounds between the two of them, and the problems their sons were dealing with disappeared – some, like the behavior problems, almost immediately and some, like the eczema, over a period of weeks.  Both boys’ weight also normalized.  Their youngest son, who has never consumed any grains, legumes or dairy, has “by a noticeable degree, been [their] most trouble-free, happy baby.”  Unlike his brothers, he’s rarely sick, experiencing one fever in the first 18 months of his life and no hospitalizations, when his oldest brother had been hospitalized twice as a baby.

Yes, they credit his diet, and I tend to agree with them.

The opening section of the book tells this story in much greater detail, of course, along with the challenges they faced switching their older boys to a diet devoid of Goldfish crackers, peanut butter sandwiches and Kraft mac n’ cheese.  This is followed by a section of kitchen tools you might find useful when cooking their recipes, along with ingredients not generally found in the average kitchen – and that’s the source of my first issue with the book (albeit a mild one).  The recipes often rely quite heavily on often hard-to-find and/or expensive ingredients or equipment, such as a coconut cream concentrate, coconut aminos and raw macadamia nuts (something that falls into both categories).  For those of us that are already on board with this diet or a similar one, most, if not all, of these things are in our kitchens, but for a parent seeking an alternative to the Standard American Diet for their children or those on a strapped budget, the recommendation you own an ice cream maker as well as a stand mixer with a meat grinder attachment could be intimidating.

The next section is a story, complete with colorful illustrations, directed at the kids for whom the book is intended.  Told from the perspective of the oldest son, Cole, it explains in an entertaining and very understandable manner why the family eats the way they do, how the boys reacted to it, and how their new diet has made everyone feel better.  For an older child, the concept of eating like a dinosaur might be stretching it (dinosaurs don’t eat cookies, even if they might eat the ingredients used to make them), but young children will most likely embrace the idea – it was a stroke of brilliance on the part of Matt and Stacy.

The center, and largest, section is the – ahem – meat of the book:  the recipes.  And there are a LOT of them, beginning with Main Dishes (beef, pork, poultry, eggs and seafood), and Side Dishes (mostly vegetables and starches, with one egg, one fruit and a recipe for meat stock). Dips and Sauces are next, which is really smart – if their kids are anything like The G Man, they will eat both meats and vegetables much more readily if they have something to dip them in. Snacks, then Special Treats, are last, which brings me to my only other issue with the book – the Snacks and Special Treats sections are almost as large as the other three sections combined. While the Side Dishes contain only nine vegetable recipes, the Treats section alone contains 28 recipes – the next largest section, Main Dishes, contains only 26.

I understand the reasons behind this, I really do – it’s hard for kids of any age to be denied the yummy treats their friends and peers seem to endlessly indulge in, but it’s especially difficult for small children who generally couldn’t care less about the healthful properties of the food they are eating; all they care about is how something tastes.  And to give Matt and Stacy credit, they incorporate as many healthful ingredients – fresh fruit, avocados, even zucchini – into these recipes as they can, but many still contain plenty of sweeteners in the form of dates, honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and evaporated cane juice; some recipes use more than one kind.  They also rely very heavily on almond flour, almond butter and almond milk, as well as other nuts, for these treats, so if your child suffers from a tree nut allergy, the snacks and treats recipes you can make become limited.

There are no real surprises as far as the recipes go, but that is a good thing – children generally don’t like surprises when it comes to their food.  The purpose of the cookbook is to introduce kids to a way of eating that is far more healthful than the Standard American Diet, and Eat Like A Dinosaur succeeds spectacularly in this endeavor.  Understanding that children are far more likely to eat a wide range of foods if they are involved in the preparation, each recipe comes with steps that are safe and easy for kids to perform.  Many of the recipes are also given fun names – Roast Pork with Squish Squashy Apples, Fish in a Boat, Rat on a Stick, Mock-A-Mole and Bunny’s Soup are just a few.  Nor are any of the recipes particularly lengthy or complicated, an important consideration for busy parents.

Do the recipes taste good?  The Rat on a Stick (well, our version was just “Rat” because Meema was out of skewers) and Maple Butternut Squash Purée do – The G Man ate both quite enthusiastically.  This surprised me, because the recipe for Rat on a Stick called for two tablespoons of red Thai curry paste, and I worried it would be too spicy for the little guy’s palate, but he wolfed it down – after dipping each bite in the squash purée.  I have no reason to believe that the rest of the dishes aren’t every bit as delicious.  Hey, I’m more than a little impressed that they can get their boys to eat salmon – I can’t get The Young One, who is 17, to touch it.

The last section of the book is full of helpful information – how to pack a paleo lunch for your child, how to shop a farmer’s market and plan the week’s meals around the seasonal ingredients you find, even how to shop at yard sales and thrift stores for those kitchen gadgets that might otherwise be out of your reach financially – and how to do each of these things while herding 3 small boys around (again, I’m nothing but impressed).  There is also a chart outlining which recipes contain ingredients that are common allergens – fish, shellfish, eggs and nuts.  Of course, there are no recipes with grains, dairy, legumes or industrial seed oils.

So, do I recommend Eat Like A Dinosaur?  I do!  I like it so much that I am giving not one, but two, away.  In the interest of transparency, I was not given the additional copies for this giveaway – I’ve purchased them myself.  Yup, I’m that impressed with it.

To win a copy of Eat Like A Dinosaur, simply leave me a comment stating why you’d like it.  One entry per person, so leaving more than one comment won’t give you multiple chances to win.  I’ll close the contest Saturday, March 31 2012 at midnight and announce the winner on Tuesday, April 3 2012.

Happy eating like a dinosaur, y’all!

The Spoils of the Holidays

And by “holidays” I mean my birthday (December 22), Christmas, and our anniversary (January 2).

It’s okay – after 49 years, I’m used to it.

But anyhoo, here’s what I got:

Starting at the bottom left and going clockwise:  Michael Symon’s Live to Cook and the Joy of Cooking for my birthday; spice grinder and meat grinder for Christmas; the Essential Pepin and Hunt, Gather, Cook cookbook for our anniversary.

You know you’re jealous.

The spice and meat grinders work really well – I’m thrilled with both.  I’ve already written about Joy, and Michael Symon’s book is interesting, as well (the Braised Pork Belly I posted Monday was based on a recipe in Live to Cook and a couple of others I found online).  I haven’t had much chance to peruse Hunt, Gather, Cook yet, although I’m willing to bet it’s going to be fascinating; it was written by Hank Shaw, author of the blog Hunter, Angler, Gardner, Cook.  As you might guess, Hank hunts, fishes, grows and forages as much of his food as he can and his blog is as interesting and informative as it is aesthetically pleasing.  Oh, and he was a James Beard Award nominee for Best Food Blog in both 2009 and 2010.

I’m sort of leaving Hank’s book for last, if for no other reason than Beloved has taken an interest in it (in fact, he found the blog and ordered me the book) and am working my way through the Essential Pepin.  I don’t know how I’d overlooked Jacques Pepin for so long – I mean, I knew who he was, naturally, but I’d never really paid much attention to him, which is really a shame.  His recipes are beautiful without being overly complicated, and I am slowly working my way through it front to back, marking many I want to try. Yes, even with my wonky diet, I can cook from “mainstream” cookbooks.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with my haul.  What did Santa bring you this year?

The American Housewife – Circa 1841

After kicking the idea around for a couple of years, and despite his assertions that he did not need another piece of electronics to haul around,  I bought Beloved a Kindle for Christmas.  It turned out to be, along with a previous gift of an 80GB iPod (the man loves his music), one of the better investments I’ve made – he loves it.  In fact, he now not only grumps about how unwieldy traditional books are but insisted I buy one for myself, as well.

So I did.

I love mine, too – in fact, my main problem with it is that I now find traditional books unwieldy and would put our entire library on the Kindle if Beloved would let me (I don’t know why he has a problem with buying them all twice 😛 ).  However, to make up for that I’m having a great deal of fun downloading “old” literature quite cheaply (the entire John Carter of Mars series for $1.99 – woo-hoo!), if not for free.  One of the free books I downloaded recently is a cookbook, written in 1841 and titled The American Housewife: Containing the Most Valuable and Original Receipts in All the Various Branches of Cookery; and Written in a Minute and Methodical Manner (Together with a Collection of Miscellaneous Receipts, and Directions Relative Housewifery).  Oh, and the author is An Experienced Lady.

As someone who is actively involved in writing a cookbook, I can’t help but wonder how the dickens such a title was marketed (and we’ll just keep our snickers about the author to ourselves, shall we?).

All silliness aside, this cookbook is something of an eye-opener.  It is, indeed, written in a “minute and methodical manner” if, what seems to me, an odd one.  There are no list of ingredients followed by step-by-step instructions, but rather “directions for putting the ingredients together in the right manner,” as stated in the preface.  For example:

Fish Cakes – Cold boiled fresh fish, or salt codfish, is nice minced fine, with potatoes moistened with a little water, and a little butter put in, done up into cakes of the size of common biscuit, and fried brown in pork fat or butter.

No weights, no measures, no temperatures.  All of which I found curious because in the introduction the author states the recipes are meant for those who may be new to cooking, and that experienced cooks may find the recipes “too detailed.” How the book is indexed is interesting as well; it begins with meats and poultry and includes recipes for every part of every animal – meat, organs, brains and bones.  It is followed by simple sauces for meat and poultry dishes, most of which incorporate large amounts of butter.  In fact, “a piece of butter about the size of a hen’s egg” is a very popular ingredient in a great many of the recipes.  Soups follow, including instructions on how to make “portable soup,” which is apparently the 1841 equivalent of a bouillon cube.  There are recipes for vegetables and potatoes and legumes (which, interestingly, are all soaked overnight in lukewarm water and then cooked with some sort of fat, usually salted pork).  Almost all recipes including fruit are for desserts, preserves, jams and jellies.

Butter, cream, lard and tallow are used liberally in many of the recipes; the only recipe I’ve found so far that referenced oil at all was for a dressing for beef, in which a “1/2 tea cup of salad oil” was called for.  Flour is also scarce until you get to the recipes for breads and desserts, used mainly as a thickener for gravies.  Because it was written in an era before refrigeration, there is a large section on pickles and preserves (and it appears if you can eat it, it can be pickled), as well as a section on condiments, all referred to as “catsup” and almost all fermented.

There is a large section on desserts; everything from cakes and pies to custards and puddings to fritters and dumplings; there is even a recipe for ice cream.  However, two things struck me about the desserts and sweets section – first, the author writes in the introduction that she considered most of these recipes to be “advanced.”  They are obviously not considered every day foods, by any stretch of the imagination, and that brings me to my second point – one of the reasons the recipes were considered “advanced” and not every day foods is that they were labor-intensive.  There was no box of cake mix that you dumped into a bowl and added a couple of eggs, a cup of water and some vegetable oil to.  Even if you are inclined to make cakes from scratch, in 1841 there was no convenient stand or hand mixer to cream the butter and sugar together or whip the egg whites stiffly – it was all done by hand.  Nor is that limited to things like cakes.

Almond Pudding – Turn boiling water on three-quarters of a pound of sweet almonds.  Let them remain in it till the skins will slip off easily – rub the skins off with a dry cloth.  When they are perfectly dry, pound them fine, with a table-spoonful of rosewater.  Beat six eggs to a froth, them mix them with four table-spoons of powdered sugar – put them into a quart of milk, with three table-spoonsful of pounded crackers, a quarter of a pound of melted butter, four ounces of citron, and the pounded almonds.  Line a pudding dish with pastry, put round it a rim of puff paste, turn in the pudding and bake it about half an hour.  The pudding should be eaten cold.

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted just reading that.  Blanched pounded almonds and pounded crackers, to say nothing of the citron, rosewater, pastry and puff paste, all of which must also be made by hand.  Today, I could make this in less than an hour for I can buy almond meal, pie crust, puff pastry, candied orange and aromatics at the store, and my food processor would make short work of the crackers; in 1841 this had to have been an all-day affair.

If that weren’t enough for you, the book also has an extended section on how to make: beer, wine and liqueurs; medicinal teas and tinctures; perfumes; cloth dyes; durable inks; cements to mend household items; soaps; lip balm and cold cream.  This is followed by instructions on how to remove ink, paint and grease stains on clothing, floors and furniture, how to clean silks, how to clean feather beds and mattresses, how to temper earthenware, and how to “destroy various kinds of household Vermin.”  And a detailed primer on how to carve meats, for there were no neatly wrapped packages of boneless, skinless chicken breasts just a short car-ride away.

I now know why women did not work outside of home 130 years ago – they simply didn’t have time.

For more bookish Spins, head on over to Sprite’s Keeper.  Take her a virtual homemade pie, while you’re at it.

Win an Autographed Copy of Mark Sisson’s “Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals” Cookbook!

I don’t think it’s any secret that I love and collect cookbooks; a conservative estimate would put my collection at over 200 books.  I tend to buy them indiscriminately – you never know what kind of recipes/information you’ll find in them.  I love to sit, curled up on the sofa, with a nice cup of coffee (or tasty cocktail) and thumb through them, reading introductions, studying ingredients, picking apart procedures, and drooling over photos.  It is truly one of the great pleasures of my life.

So it may come as no surprise that I was absolutely thrilled when Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple recently announced his new cookbook Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals.  I was even more tickled when I saw that the first 1,000 copies were to be autographed, and before I knew it I was in possession of not one, not two, but three autographed copies of this lovely volume.

Because I’m quick with a credit card special like that.*

It’s an absolutely beautiful book with well over 100 primal/paleo/low carb/grain free/gluten free/dairy free – and anything but boring – recipes, accompanied by more than 300 full-color, mouthwatering photographs and complete macronutrient information.  The section on dry rubs alone makes it worth owning, but it contains so much more.  The book is broken down into six sections – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Appetizers and Snacks, Sauces and Toppings, and the marvelous Rubs section.

Front to back, it does an exquisite job of proving that a primal/paleo/low carb/grain free/gluten free/dairy free diet is in no way restrictive.  From the Berry Crumble to the Tropical Avocado and Shrimp to the Pork Loin Salad with Date Vinaigrette to the Belgian Endive with Honey and Walnuts to the Spinach Horseradish Sauce to the Ancho Chile Cocoa Rub, the Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals cookbook is packed with recipes that promise delicious and nutritious meals that can be on your table in less than 30 minutes with a minimum of effort.

And did I mention that it comes with a reusable, laminated, comprehensive shopping list and a dry-erase marker?  Well, it does.

Out of the three volumes I purchased, one is staying with me and one is going to a good friend.  The third?  Goes to one lucky reader.  You have until midnight, Saturday April 2, 2011 to enter and win this gem of a cookbook.  The rules are more than simple – you get one entry into the contest for each of the following:

  1. Leave a comment stating why you’d like to win
  2. Subscribe to Jan’s Sushi Bar blog via RSS feed (button on the sidebar)
  3. Follow Jan’s Sushi Bar on Facebook via Networked Blogs (button on the sidebar)
  4. “Like” Jan’s Sushi Bar on Facebook (button on the sidebar)
  5. Follow Jan’s Sushi Bar on Twitter (button on the sidebar)
  6. Tweet about this contest
  7. Post about this contest on Facebook
  8. Subscribe to Jan’s Sushi Bar on the Kindle (counts as two entries, button on the sidebar)
  9. Blog about this contest and link back to Jan’s Sushi Bar (also counts as two entries)

To make it a little easier on all of us, and to ensure that you receive credit for each entry, either leave a comment letting me know how many entries you qualify for (including if you are already a subscriber or follower), or send me a message via the form on my contact page with the subject line “Cookbook Giveaway” (and yes, I can – and will – verify each and every entry).  This contest is also open to everyone, everywhere, regardless of geographic location, as long as each of the entry requirements is met.

Remember, you have until midnight, Saturday April 2, 2011 to enter.  The winner will be announced Monday, April 4, 2011.  Good luck and Grok On!!

*I was not given these books – I purchased them on my own; nor have I received any compensation for this giveaway.  I also contacted Mark Sisson and asked his permission to have this contest, which he graciously granted.