Happy New Year everyone!! So glad to be back! Sweet ’16 right?? Well it’ll be the only thing that is because today I’m going to review Ella Leché‘s Cut the Sugar: You’re Sweet Enough. Her vegan and gluten-free cookbook promotes a healthy lifestyle without being dependent on refined ingredients. Natural and clean — just the way we want to begin the new year!
Speaking of beginnings I’m not sure where to begin! I’ve been “writing” this review in my head for the past few weeks. Why? I’m so proud of Ella’s accomplishment and I really want to do it justice. The recipes are really very wonderful and full disclosure: I was a recipe tester for Cut the Sugar. But don’t worry! I won’t let this get in the way of my impartiality…much! (Also I wanted to surprise her by making her book my first review of 2016.)
Kidding aside, when I started to Instagram food pictures one of the things on my bucket list was to test recipes. Seems funny right? I really wanted to get a taste of what writing a cookbook was all about and live vicariously through someone else’s experience (because if you’ve followed my IG or blog you’ll know recipe developing isn’t my bag). In my mind this was a really lofty…well, wish. A big wish. I mean how does one even become a recipe tester? At that time I had no clue. In this case my journey started over a photo of Ella’s 3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cups (click here for recipe). After I posted the picture she immediately commented by thanking me for making her recipe and complimenting the photo. How nice is that? (Incidentally this is just one example of the type of genuine, wonderful, and engaging person that she is.) After that I continued to have fun making her recipes (because I think they show the power nourishing food can have! Just check out #pureellase to see what I mean!), she kept encouraging me, and we kept chatting. Then my wish was granted! I got to test recipes from her cookbook! For awhile I couldn’t believe my luck ( and I still can’t)! I feel so fortunate to have found a friend in Ella. It’s like pen pals for the new millennia — no postage required. That’s the thing — we’ve never actually met in “real life.” Getting to know her online, I can tell you that I am continually impressed by her recipes and am always inspired by her positivity.
As I mentioned earlier, her cookbook is both vegan and gluten-free but don’t let that scare you off. Even if you’re not vegan or don’t observe a gluten-free diet her recipes are flexible enough to integrate into any diet type or regime. It probably goes without saying but all of her recipes are supremely delicious — one of my personal favs is her Veggie Pate. Perfect on a sandwich or crackers, excellent when served with a salad. Recipes that are versatile are important to me considering that I have a busy family and it’s nice to have delicious food on hand for those hectic days. I’m also trying to be more mindful about what I eat so I know if I have something on hand that’s healthy and I can snack on it without feeling guilty…bonus!
Before I started testing Ella made one request (which will seem very obvious): to follow the recipe steps and ingredients list exactly. No substitutions. I used to be the type of cook who would ad-lib steps and sub ingredients but after testing for Ella I truly realized there was a time and place to be “free-spirited” in the kitchen and a time to be organized and structured. I’m a better cook for it. So my suggestion when cooking from any new cookbook is to follow the steps and ingredient list. Your dishes will turn out better; and stepping out of your comfort zone is never a bad thing (unless, of course, you have dietary concerns, sensitivities, or allergies).
It was through this process that I stepped out of my comfort zone and I tried (for the first time) and fell in love with chickpea flour! It was definitely one of my favourite ingredients of 2015; and since the United Nations named 2016 the International Year of Pulses, it’s time to start looking at leguminous crops in a different way. What better way than to make a delicious Chickpea Flatbread Pizza Crust using chickpea flour?
Moreover, Cut the Sugar is a leguminously rich book and I really appreciated the attention Ella gave to this humble ingredient. When I made her Butter Bean Kale Tomato Stew, my family enjoyed eating this hearty dish and it made for a nice change from my old favourites: black beans, lentils, and chickpeas!
You’re probably wondering if there’s dessert in this cookbook. Sometimes we need something sweet to well-round an already well-rounded diet. Well, to answer this question, there are two recipes from Cut the Sugar that my family couldn’t live without: Protein Chocolate Chip Cookies and Chocolate-Dipped Almond & Cacao Nib Biscotti. We eat healthfully most of the time but it’s nice when we’re craving a treat that we get to enjoy something treat-y but which also contains lots of phytonutrients and no refined junk or additives! I love that in finding her way back to health (click here to read her story) she developed recipes that promoted eating well without compromising taste.
Ella makes healthy eating so appealing! Her recipes are elegant and beautiful — even with something as simple as a pancake she elevates her recipe. There’s nothing plain about her Parsley & Green Pea Savory Pancakes! A meal for a couple or appetizers for a group, these pancakes will delight anyone’s taste buds. Not to be outdone in the beauty and elegance category but her recipe for Stuffed Mini Peppers is unbelievable! I had never tried to make them before because stuffed anything seemed so complicated and time intensive. Who has the time?! Well I’m here to tell you it’s not and they make a superb weeknight meal!
If you’re like me and you’ve already purchased your copy and it’s on it’s way from Amazon, she has a few new recipes on her blog to try in the meantime. Just over the holidays I gave her Apricot, Buckwheat, and Squash Lentil Loaf a try (click here for recipe). I think this will become a new Christmas dinner tradition! I also fed her Apple Cranberry Bundt Cake (click here for recipe) to my Boxing Day Ball Hockey crew — it was a perfect addition to my Boxing Day brunch spread. (I made mine with sprouted spelt flour — since we don’t have any gluten intolerance here I don’t often use gluten-free flour but instead opt for spelt or sprouted spelt flour. So far my results gave been great.)
As a final note (if you couldn’t tell already) my sincerest wish is for you to enjoy Ella’s cookbook as much as I have. A wonderful way to begin the new year, nutritionally speaking.