Aloha! I have the honor to review The Zenbelly Cookbook: An Epicurean’s Guide to Paleo Cuisine by Simone Miller. This book is a beautiful and doable collection of recipes.
Simone has food styling down to an art. I was enticed by every before and after picture of her recipes. She lays out the ingredients for each recipe so you can see just how simple the ingredients are for her recipes as well as get a visual idea of how much of an ingredient to use. She mentions for instance how important it is to know what size of an onion to use as onions come in a great range of sizes and she notes that’s particularly important in a recipe where the onion will be raw. I think we all can agree on that 🙂
When I first opened the book I flipped through the recipes and made a list of the ones that I knew I immediately wanted to try. The list was 17 recipes! And I wrote down four more that I knew I wanted to try soon after. I made the Brazilian Fish Stew (twice!!), Cocoa Chili Pork Shoulder, Ginger Scallion Pork Meatballs, Silver Dollar Pancakes (w/blueberry compote), Loaded Banana Bread, Chocolate Hazelnut Waffles, and Jicama Slaw. I plan to get to some more recipes this week but I had to cut it off somewhere to get this review published. The hubster has been on the Mainland for almost 6 weeks so I haven’t been cooking as much as I’d like. Partly because no one’s home to eat it all and partly because I have a full time job on top of acting as a single mom of a 16 month old! Phew!
Let me just say that Simone is gifted! The flavors that develop in a short amount of time are incredible. I found the recipes easy to follow and they use a relatively short list of common ingredients. My list of 17 recipes each required one or two ingredients I didn’t already have on hand. Most of those were on my regular shopping list already (eggs, butter, shrimp, onion, garlic – I was just out all of them). You won’t find a book full of recipes that call for $100 in ingredients you’ll never use again (thank you, Simone!!)!
Here are a few words about a couple recipes I tried. I may feature other recipes in another blog post or on social media (you are following me, right?).
So I’ll be honest – I am not the best baker :-/ I frequently overcook items thinking they’re still too soft in the middle or I second guess myself trying not to overcook items and they come out underdone. Sigh. When I made the Loaded Banana Bread I burnt it badly. All 6 sides. I cut off the burnt outer layer and the inner ‘meat’ was crazy delicious. I substituted dried currants in place of the dried cherries/cranberries since I had them on had and they are so similar. I’m not sure if I needed to cover the bread pan with foil or if my (toaster) oven temperature is off. I need to buy a cheap oven thermometer to help me resolve that.
Simone’s gluten free flour blend has a wonderful texture reminiscent of its gluten containing nemesis: processed wheat flour. The Silver Dollar Pancakes were a real treat. I’ve never whipped up egg whites to peaks before. I had no idea how satisfying it was and EASY! I have the OXO manual egg beater. It made light work of it. I see meringue’s in my future 😉 The texture of these little babies is fluffy and moist. These little pancakes taste like cake to me. My daughter loved them and they are a great portable snack for her or anyone.
The Chocolate Hazelnut waffles were heavenly. These could get away with being a dessert but there’s not much sweetener in them. Awesome! I didn’t add any maple syrup or other topping. Amazing finger food for any time of day.
As I mentioned above, I made the Brazilian Fish Stew twice already. I made it one afternoon when I was working from home. It was super simple. I used frozen wild caught flounder fillets. I threw about a pound of the fillets (individually sealed in plastic) into some warm water to defrost and went back to work. After 20 minutes or so I marinated the fish in the fridge and started the onions on the stove. I went back to work for 10 minutes (check on onions once or twice). I come back add the garlic then the tomatoes, coconut milk, cayenne and the marinaded fish plus marinade (recipe calls for shrimp but I hadn’t bought any so I left them out). After 8-10 minutes simmering the soup is done. that’s it!! The flavors of tomato and citrus are prominent, then you taste the fish and some heat from Cayenne if using. So simple to make but complex in flavor and purely delicious.
A friend from Seattle came over that weekend and I hadn’t put much thought into dinner plans so I ended up making this recipe again. Winnah Winnah! She loved it. She’s not Paleo nor does she follow any particular diet. This recipe is just plain ole tasty and so simple it didn’t interrupt our conversation as I made it!
As a mom of a young toddler I appreciate the features of this book. Each recipe has 2 pictures: before and after. Simone includes the prep time and cook time so I know what recipes I have time to prepare. If it takes more than 10 minutes to prepare, Sierra will probably give me a hard time about it so I’ll need to wait until she’s asleep, I’m working from home or hubby is home.
Some other features I appreciated in this cookbook were a recipe photo glossary and sample meal plan in the back of the book, kitchen skill lessons such as de-boning a whole chicken, photos of EVERY recipe, helpful recipe notes/tips, personal stories that gave the recipes life, Simone’s health journey, why and how she follows Paleo principles most of the time (gluten-free all the time) and a short summary of Paleo foods. You can feel Simone in every page of the book. She really wrote her heart out onto the pages so much that I feel like we’ve met before.
You don’t need to be be Paleo to love these recipes! They are delicious and surprisingly simple recipes that any palate can appreciate. I say surprisingly because you see Simone’s gorgeous plated meal photos and you can’t believe that it’s so easy to make the same recipe at home, on a weeknight, after working your full time job, acting as single parent and with a toddler pulling on your leg, but they are! Get your copy here.
Check out Simone’s website and social media for great content and recipes.