Friday, March 11, 2011

Low-carb series: The Low-Carb Cookbook Review

Today I'm reviewing the Low-Carb Cookbook by Fran McCullough. I'm planning to make this part of a series on low-carb cookbooks.



I'm looking at cutting down on sugars as an interesting health and culinary challenge. I love to try new ways of cooking food or planning meals. What is living a life without carbs all about? It's not all burgers all the time. In fact, I feel that low-carb recipes make me think more about eating vegetables and using seasoning and flavor to make up for sugar and starch.
  
I would definitely recommend this book as a beginner's guide to low-carb eating. The author clearly walks us through low-carb food groups and how they can be prepared. For example, there's a section on vegetables that gives about 3-4 different ways to cook each vegetable. I like that the book did not rely on weird substitutes for high-carb foods, but instead capitalized on existing, familiar foods like eggs, cheese, vegetables, and seasonings to make satisfying meals. Along with the recipes, this book lists menu ideas, like the South American Menu, the Italian Menu, and the Simple Dinner menu, which saved me time in planning.

I also appreciate a good index, which this book has. I tell you, I get pretty annoyed with a book with an index that has enough cross-references to make me feel like I'm reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

What I've tested: I've made a variety of beef and pork dishes, 3 different ways of cooking zucchini, a cauliflower side dish, some spicy shrimp,  a greek salad, and some fun things like chimichurri sauce, spicy mayo, and corn chips. I'll post some of these up eventually. These all turned out incredibly well, with simple, successful flavors, with the exception of the corn chips. I did not have a good baking sheet, so my chips did not brown evenly and got burnt on the edges.

However: I would not recommend this book to those who are focused on 30 minute-or-less meals, or for those who like to make one dish that can be the entire meal. What I found in this book were recipes that required a fair amount of marinating, cutting, boiling, steaming, baking, and pureeing before they were ready to be eaten.


For example: I made steak with chimichurri sauce with baked zucchini for dinner one evening, and it took me two hours. Cooking is a hobby for me, but even I was frustrated with how long it took. True, I could have done a little bit more on the preparation side, but the book didn't provide any estimates of how long the meals would take to prepare, either. Many of the dishes I made had a long cooking time, taking at least 30 minutes or more to bake. I learned my lesson and ended up making many of the recipes on a weekend when I had some down time. 


The beginning of the book discusses the health benefits of low-carb. However, it's geared towards dieters and ignores people who might be interested in low-carb for other reasons. So, for a book whose "target" audience is presumably calorie- or carb-conscious, the book surprised me when it didn't list calorie or carb counts for any recipes. The author throws out descriptions like "low on carbs!" but she doesn't give any numbers to back it up. If you crave the numbers, you're not going to find that in this book.


Lastly, the author's writing style grated on my nerves. "Nothing's stopping you from serving these potato skins with sour cream." Sure it is. I don't have sour cream in my house!

In conclusion, this book gets 3.75 stars out of 5 for me. Great recipes, poor delivery.

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