Book Review: “Gluten Free Quick & Easy” by Carol Fenster

As a Celiac with a full-time job and a family to feed every night, this simple little cookbook is the one I keep going back to for everyday meals – even after 40+ gluten-free books weigh down my bookshelves. “Gluten Free Quick & Easy” by Carol Fenster¬†is a great recipe book full of simple, straightforward and family friendly weeknight gluten free meals. It’s full of shortcuts, time savers and tips… what to use and what to avoid.
There’s a great intro section with not only short entries on the seemingly requisite “how to navigate gluten free” and “what is gluten” topics but also ideas on how to save time in the kitchen, what to stock in your GF pantry, common GF baking mistakes, maximize meal planning and using “plan-overs” (Carol’s term for a meal plan that saves time by making things ahead – like buy two pounds of beef and brown it all, then use half that night and save or freeze the rest for another meal, like meat sauce or Sloppy Joes, thereby saving time on the second meal). There are sample meal plans – an eight week chart detailing what to have and when, so as to maximize those plan-overs. These introductory chapters only take up the first 50 pages (of 300+) but are packed with good info, regardless of if you’re just starting a GF diet or have been on one for years. And the rest of the 250 pages of the book is packed with quick and easy recipes.

Because this book is a bit older (2007) it predates a lot of the ‘fru-fru’ trends of current gluten-free cookbooks. You know what I mean? Those things that call for 4 different kinds of special-order flours that have to be sifted and refrigerated before use. Who has that kind of time?! While intricate, time and ingredient intensive recipes are nice to make once in a while, this is my go-to guide for some of our family’s everyday basics. Our son’s weekly Friday evening “Game Club” means whipping up a big, ooh-gooey batch of homemade Mac-n-Cheese for the gang of non-celiac 10-13 year old boys. It’s summarily DEVOURED without a word – a huge testament to it’s YUMMINESS! (We use Tinkyada elbows and Kraft Cheddar and add a dash of powdered garlic…)

Whenever we’re craving Asian cuisine, there’s a great Lettuce Wrap recipe (pg 149) that brings me back to those lovely days when we lived near a PF Chang’s (who has a great gluten-free menu and safe food handling practices, btw!). Hum…Now that I’m looking at it, this is actually one of the more time-intensive recipes because of all the veggies, but Carol has some little time saving tips to help minimize prep. And there’s a simple yet AMAZING Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe (pg 233) that will make the even consummate chocoholics drop their forks and roll their eyes in ecstasy. (I’m making myself hungry!)

And one of my favorite features of this book: Carol lists brands! Instead of just saying “gluten-free Asian fish sauce,” she lists “A Taste of Thai” after the ingredient. Not that things can’t change over the years and you still have to check it out by reading the label or calling. But knowing where to start is SO helpful. Newer books seem hesitant to do that, since ingredients change so frequently. But I love these brand listings!

Quick-Easy_GF_BookYummy recipes for things like crepes, drop biscuits, popovers, sauces and tons of Main Dishes will make your copy of “Gluten Free Quick & Easy”¬†stained and worn with overuse. Recipes for Main Dishes like: Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Corn Mango Salsa, Crab Cakes, Salmon Burgers, Pork Schnitzel, Pan Seared Rosemary Pork Chops with Peaches, Sloppy Joe Wraps, Fettuccine Carbonara and Orange-Beef Stir Fry. And the desserts, oh the desserts! Chocolate Bundt Cake, Gingerbread, Pie Crusts, Cookies…! And overall most recipes are fast to make.

Serve these recipes to your non-GF friends and family and they’ll all incredulously say “I can’t believe this is gluten free!!!!” And you’ll smile and think, “And it was quick & easy!” Love this book!

 

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