Butler County Times Gazette
  • Cooks’ Books: Personal attacks aside, Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook is my personal favorite

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  • By Lisa Messinger
    Creators Syndicate
    “It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great,” by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen (Grand Central Life & Style, $32).
    It may be scandalous. But at a time when Gwyneth Paltrow, who recently suffered comments from haters after almost having gotten into a scooter accident with her child and reportedly successfully squashing an unflattering Vanity Fair cover story about her life, is down again, just having announced her “conscious uncoupling” from her husband of 10 years, Coldplay bandleader Chris Martin, I finally have to reveal a secret I’ve been keeping about the actress.
    She is the author of my favorite cookbook of all time.
    Yes, that’s “It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great,” the same 2013 cookbook that drew much criticism and personal put-downs to Brad Pitt’s and Ben Affleck’s former Oscar-winning love.
    Every recipe I eagerly tried worked. Brilliantly. Innovatively. Healthfully. Deliciously. They were created by Paltrow and co-written and co-tested by her food writer friend Julia Turshen (who shed dozens of pounds while following Paltrow’s advice).
    I loved immediately, thought easy to prepare and did make again and again dishes like Quinoa Granola with Olive Oil and Maple Syrup, Sweet Potato-Five Spice Muffins, Thai-Style Chicken Burgers, Japanese Ginger Meatballs, and a fantastic daily Cucumber, Basil, Lime Detox-Friendly “Mojito,” and Fresh Ginger Tea.
    Once more, in addition to the gorgeous scenic and food photography, the writing was obviously straight from Paltrow’s heart, a heart that was then not yet uncoupled and residing with Martin and her two kids (one of whom is the nutritiously named “Apple”) among lush greenery and wildflowers in England. It’s also obvious she researched well the benefits of these family favorites (along with her unofficial team of top medical advisers, one of whom wrote the book’s foreword) and performed much trial and error before assigning them fave status.
    “My whole family was tested for food sensitivities and allergies (something I would highly recommend to anyone looking to feel better, shed weight, etc.), and the results were enlightening,” wrote Paltrow, who also, at times, had been incapacitated by migraines. “Everyone in my house is intolerant to gluten, dairy and chickens’ eggs, among many other surprising foods I had always thought were healthy. What do you feed kids who can’t eat gluten when pasta and bread are their favorite things on earth? What do you give a kid for dessert who is allergic to cow’s milk?
    “I decided that we needed to create this book, not only for my family, but also for anyone out there who struggles with finding truly delicious food to feed their family when health issues need to be addressed.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Now, sure, some of the complaints — though none of the outrageous personal attacks about her uppity-ness, putting on airs and detachedness — may have merit. To make some of these naturally sweetened treats I was beginning to be addicted to (like the granola), I was going through almost enough pure maple syrup that she called for to fund a small cafe’s monthly budget. And on my frequent supermarket trips, I was never buying less than two bottles at a time, whereas one bottle used to last my husband and me a year or more.
    That’s why I didn’t write about the cookbook before. I didn’t think it was practical for most people, though I do feel the recipes and ingredients are worth it if healthfulness your priority, and you’d rather buy pure maple syrup than perhaps a new pair of shoes, iPhone or other items.
    None of that, though, stopped this from becoming my personally favorite cookbook of all time — or sought out by many other readers, as it has a high sales ranking still at both Amazon and BarnesAndNoble.com. I have had a long history of writing about the most healthful things on the planet (see even way back to my 1991 Scripps Howard somewhat-before-its-time book “Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet”), though usually trying to do that and communicate it to the public by using the most economical choices possible.
    I have never liked — and have always tried to call out — posers. Whether it be food manufacturers or cookbook authors who act like their recipes are healthy because they may restrict one element, like fat or salt, but then may be loaded with other possibly questionable elements, like processed sugar, white refined flour or artificial ingredients.
    Paltrow’s across-the-board well-thought-out recipes (except for some of their costs) fit my personal preferences to a T, and I, like Paltrow, think many of these superior ingredients are worth the expense. I also admire her for trying to help and for her obvious sincerity. I think that’s more than enough reason not to cattily turn her into a personal target — either for last year’s cookbook or the current “conscious uncoupling.”
    QUINOA GRANOLA WITH OLIVE OIL AND MAPLE SYRUP
    1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    1/2 cup good-quality maple syrup
    3 cups quinoa flakes (see Columnist Note 1)
    Pinch of salt, or to taste (preferably coarse sea salt)
    1 1/4 cups roughly chopped raw walnuts (optional, see Columnist Note 2)
    1 1/4 cups roughly chopped raw pumpkin seeds (optional, see Columnist Note 2)
    3/4 cup roughly chopped dried figs, stems discarded (optional, see Columnist Note 2)
    3/4 cup roughly chopped pitted prunes (optional, see Columnist Note 2)
    Yields 6 cups.
    Preheat oven to 400 F.
    Page 3 of 3 - Whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil and maple syrup in a large mixing bowl and add the quinoa flakes, stirring to combine thoroughly. Evenly spread the quinoa on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
    Roast, stirring now and then, until the flakes are dried and crunchy and a lovely golden brown, about 25 minutes, or longer if needed, or if using quick-cooking oats. In either case, carefully top with aluminum foil if granola seems in danger of browning too much or burning before it’s become crunchy enough. Let the quinoa mixture cool completely before mixing with the remaining ingredients. Or if eating without dried fruit and nuts, it is also good slightly warm.
    Store in a tightly closed glass jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks and allow portions to get to room temperature before serving.
    Columnist Note 1: Since I have no sensitivities to cholesterol-lowering oats, I sometimes substituted quick-cooking oats (not instant) for the quinoa, though quinoa has more protein.
    Columnist Note 2: Though they are tasty and add more vitamins and fiber, these nuts, seeds and dried fruits in such large amounts are pricy, especially when the recipe already includes hefty doses of expensive extra-virgin olive oil and pure maple syrup. Since they are only added in once the cooked quinoa or oat mixture is cooled, I only used them the first time I made this recipe. I preferred the taste without any of the add-ins; in fact, I thought it to be one of the best recipes I’d ever tried or tasted.
    CUCUMBER, BASIL AND LIME JUICE DETOX-FRIENDLY “MOJITO”
    1/2 cup basil leaves
    1 English cucumber, cut in half lengthwise (see Columnist Note)
    1/2 lime, zest and pith removed
    1 apple, cut into wedges
    Yields 1 serving.
    Starting with the basil, juice everything into a glass. Alternatively, you can chop all the ingredients and pop them into a powerful blender with 1/2 cup of water, and then pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a glass. Give it a stir and drink immediately.
    Columnist Note: Sometimes I could not find English cucumbers and just used regular organic garden cucumbers (the type most sold in supermarkets). The beverage was still fantastic — refreshing and spicy from the fresh basil.
    =Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including “Mrs. Cubbison’s Best Stuffing Cookbook” and “The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook.”

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