Sunday, December 18, 2016

"Celebrations" by Danielle Walker

When I went gluten free 2-1/2 years ago, Danielle Walker's Against All Grain website was a huge asset to me. Then when I went grain free just over a year ago, her recipes became even more important to me. I use her website all the time, but she (rightfully) doesn't put all of her recipes up, so when I heard about Celebrations, I knew I wanted to get my hands on a copy.

From the two-time New York Times best-selling author of Against All Grain and Meals Made Simple, comes 125 recipes for grain-free, dairy-free, gluten-free comfort food dishes for holidays and special occasions.

When people adopt a new diet for health or personal reasons, they worry most about the parties, holidays, and events with strong food traditions, fearing their fond memories will be lost along with the newly eliminated food groups. After suffering for years with a debilitating autoimmune disease and missing many of these special occasions herself, Danielle Walker has revived the joy that cooking for holidays can bring in Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain Celebrations, a collection of recipes and menus for twelve special occasions throughout the year. 

Featuring a variety of birthday cakes, finger foods to serve at a baby or bridal shower, and re-creations of backyard barbecue standards like peach cobbler and corn bread, Danielle includes all of the classics. There’s a full Thanksgiving spread–complete with turkey and stuffing, creamy green bean casserole, and pies–and menus for Christmas dinner; a New Year’s Eve cocktail party and Easter brunch are covered, along with suggestions for beverages and cocktails and the all-important desserts. Recipes can be mixed and matched among the various occasions, and many of the dishes are simple enough for everyday cooking. Stunning full-color photographs of every dish make browsing the pages as delightful as cooking the recipes, and beautiful party images provide approachable and creative entertaining ideas. 

Making recipes using unfamiliar ingredients can cause anxiety, and while trying a new menu on a regular weeknight leaves some room for error, the meal simply cannot fail when you have a table full of guests celebrating a special occasion. Danielle has transformed her most cherished family traditions into trustworthy recipes you can feel confident serving, whether you’re hosting a special guest with food allergies, or cooking for a crowd of regular grain-eaters.

First of all, let's start with the fact that this cookbook is gorgeous. It's a hard cover, full-color cookbook that includes photos of every single recipe (save for those in "The Basics" section at the back—I'll get to those later!). As you flip through, you can't help wanting to make these beautiful recipes!

Every recipe is gluten and grain free, as well as dairy free (with the exception of the use of ghee in a few recipes, but Walker also gives substitutions for it). At the beginning of the book, Walker includes a guide to making grain-free recipes and a glossary of some ingredients that will be unfamiliar to most who aren't used to this type of cooking and baking. Then it's time for the recipes, which are arranged by celebration (New Year's Eve, Easter, Mother's Day, etc.). This organization is the one aspect of the book that didn't completely "wow" me. I understand why the recipes are arranged in this way, but I'd rather be able to turn to chapter titled, say, Breakfast, and then go through all of those recipes. I can't see myself ever making all of the recipes included in a section at one time, as I'd rather pick and choose from various celebrations' menus, so this arrangement isn't helpful to me. That said, there are three indexes at the back, and one of them does list recipes by traditional categories. Had that index not been included, I wouldn't have been nearly as satisfied with this cookbook. The other two indexes are a traditional alphabetical index and a special diet index (egg-free, nut-free, nightshade-free, and SCD/GAPS appropriate).

At the end of the book, Walker has included a "basics" section which lists recipes for things like almond milk, pie pastry, various sauces, and baking powder. This section will be invaluable to those who are trying to replace store bought items like ketchup and Cool Whip.

As for the recipes, I've made several so far. I took the Christmas Fudge (p. 312) to my extended family's Thanksgiving dinner, and it got rave reviews. It's much less sweet than traditional fudge, but it's still quite satisfying. I've also made the Lemon Bars (p.117), Gingerbread Latte (p. 272 and here), and Peppermint Hot Cocoa (p. 315). All were delicious. I look forward to making many more things from this cookbook—it's destined to become a go-to cookbook for me. I highly recommend it to anyone who is gluten- or grain-free, or to anyone who wants to cook for someone who is. 4-1/2 stars.

Read an excerpt.
Buy the book.

DANIELLE WALKER is the author of two New York Times best-selling cookbooks, Against All Grain and Meals Made Simple. She is also the voice behind the most popular grain-free website on the Internet, She is a self-trained chef who tempts a range of appetites with innovative and accessible grain-free recipes that are not only healthy and delicious, but also can be credited with saving her life after a diagnosis of a serious autoimmune disease. She lives with her husband and two sons in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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