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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Holly Cleggs Trim And Terrific Diabetic Cooking - Book Review



Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking

(***Due to layout of this review, if viewed in an RSS reader, certain sections may seem duplicated.)

A Bit Of History:

From time to time I receive a request in my email box to review a cookbook at Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen. My response is always standard. I am glad to review any cookbook under two conditions:
  1. The physical printed book is sent to me (seems like something that should be understood for a review - but after I was emailed 5 recipes to do a book review I have learned to take nothing for granted!)

  2. I will only write what I feel to be truthful about the book. I will not write a review and then submit it to the person who asked for the review for them to decide if it is good or bad. Actually, one would be mighty surprised, at how many authors and publishers balk at this, thinking that they should have the last word on what will be written in an "impartial review". I have no problems with not doing a book review. I just demand that if I take the time to do it, it will be honest and straight.
Usually condition number two, stops request for reviews dead in their tracks. No problem. So actually I was pleasantly surprised when I was contacted by the publicists for "Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking" and I responded with my standard response, they wrote back as follows:
"I am sending you a copy of HOLLY CLEGG’s cookbook. I would want nothing more than your honesty in reviewing it. "
I have no megalomaniac dreams of importance or worth here. A review in Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen, is not a review in the New York Times Book Review section, nor in the scheme of things, can I even hope to say that it will make a dent in any sales for the book, even if the review is incredible. Still, it is fun to write book reviews from time to time. Especially when I happen to like the book I am writing about.

Before beginning the actual review of Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking, I must say something to the regular readers of Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen. This is not a "kosher" cookbook. (I wish kosher cookbooks were half this good!) Far from it. There are some recipes for pork, shrimp and clam. And in some recipes there is a mixture of meat and milk. Despite the fact that it is not a kosher cookbook per-say, the majority of recipes here, can be used as is, or with just a few sane and healthy substitutions, can be kept kosher. Some of the shrimp recipes can definitely be ported to be used with a "kosher" fish. And certainly when there is a topping of cheese on a meat dish, it is simple to either leave it out or substitute something else. It is not that difficult to find equivalent and healthy kosher substitutes these days, especially in the United States.

Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking Book Review


This is an excellent and important cookbook, even if you are not diabetic, will never come into contact with a diabetic, and will never feed a diabetic. You really should have this book on your shelf.From the outset, without any fanfare, I am going to say this straight. To say that "Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking" belongs in every single kitchen would be a bit bombastic. But I will say that there is not a home I know of, not a kitchen where people cook, where this book would not be a wanted addition. Or in the positive frame, simply put, this is an excellent and important cookbook, even if you are not diabetic, will never come into contact with a diabetic, and will never feed a diabetic. You really should have this book on your shelf. It gets the highest, 5 Star rating. And I don't give those out easily.

Holly Clegg herself, is no stranger to the Cookbook genre with over 600,000 copies of her cookbooks sold. She was trained at the Cordon Bleu cooking school. (You can learn more about her at the website http://www.hollyclegg.com/) Among her books in the Trim & Terrific line are:
  1. Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Freezer Friendly Meals: Quick And Healthy Recipes You Can Make in Advance (Trim & Terrific)

  2. The New Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook (Trim and Terrific)It is very difficult to take your own expertise and let it flow in a manner that any person can read and understand it. Holly Clegg has completely mastered this art form.


  3. A Trim and Terrific Louisiana Kitchen

  4. The Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook

  5. Trim & Terrific One-Dish Favorites: Over 200 Fast & Easy Low-Fat Recipes

  6. Trim and Terrific American Favorites: Over 250 Fast and Easy Low-Fat Recipes
  7. Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Home Entertaining the Easy Way: Fast And Delicious Recipes for Every Occasion
And some others:
  1. Eating Well Through Cancer: Easy Recipes & Recommendations During & After Treatment

  2. The Devil's Food: A Dessert Cookbook

  3. Meals On The Move : Rush Hour Recipes (Trim & Terrific) (Trim & Terrific)
As the title conveys, this book is primarily for diabetics and contains the following dedication:
To Everyone Who Has Diabetes And Enjoys Food
It also has a prominent display on the bottom of the back book cover jacket:
All proceeds from the sale of this book go to further the mission of the American Diabetes Association.
All that being said, this book is not and should not be used only for diabetics. There is no doubt in my mind that these recipes would go over fantastically well in any household. And the philosophy within the recipes is very clear. Eating healthy does not mean you have to starve and put your taste-buds in deep freeze.

I am not telling anyone that they should buy a cookbook to give money to charity. If we did that, we would find ourselves buying 80% of the cookbooks out there, and most are truly worthless. But if a cookbook is written and produced by a serious cookbook author, and is done with the utmost professionalism and layout, and also delivers its promise on great recipes, and on top of it all can be praised for contributing to such a laudable and important charity, then yes, I will tell you to buy the book. And if you want a sane, healthy cookbook, Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking is for you.

Since this book belongs to the "Trim & Terrific" series, there are a few templates in the pattern and very well-thought out layout that the book follows. Those familiar with the "Trim & Terrific" series layout will find nothing new here, however, they certainly are worthy of pointing out.

Very few can give us recipes that are healthy, delicious, and sane - in an informed and easy manner. Holly Clegg manages to do this in Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking. Don't be put off by the "Diabetic Cooking" either. It is for any kitchen shelf."Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking" is divided into sane sections. I like that and though it is a simple and logical thing, it is often overlooked. As disorderly as I am, cooking requires some sense of order and discipline. Cooking books should reflect this. "Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking" has sections on the following:
  1. Appetizers
  2. Breads, Muffins & Brunch
  3. Soups, Stews & Chilis
  4. Salads; Vegetables & Sides
  5. Poultry
  6. Fish & Seafood
  7. Beef, Pork, Lamb & Veal
  8. Pasta
  9. Sweet Treats
  10. Stock the Pantry
  11. Seven Days of Menus
  12. Recipe Suggestions
I am also a stickler when it comes to the index of books. This comes from years of research and study, often with books where you would swear the person who created the index did so while they were high or drunk or both. This index is pretty good. It helps you find what you want fairly fast. However, it is divided up into food categories, so you will have to find the correct category to know if what you are looking of is in the book. Still, it is fairly intuitive.

The recipes themselves are a pleasure to read, and thank goodness only one recipe per page. And do not for a moment think that writing recipes is an easy thing to do. Go ahead. Try writing out 5 recipes. I dare you! It takes talent and experience. Obviously Holly Clegg is an expert at it, and knows her food, food families, spices and nutrition very well. It is very difficult to take your own expertise and let it flow in a manner that any person can read and understand it. Holly Clegg has completely mastered this art form.

I was also incredibly pleased with the fact that we are not offered a gazillion photographs of each recipe. I know most cookbooks and cookbook readers love the photos, and I also know that if I was paid a million dollars - I could rarely get a real recipe to look like it does in some of the cookbooks. Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking is simply about real recipes.

Following the "Trim & Terrific" format each recipe has a box with important health information. This alone earns praise. Information such as:
  1. Carbohydrates
  2. Calories
  3. Calories From Fat
  4. Total Fat
  5. Saturated Fat
  6. Cholesterol
  7. Sodium (important for salt intake!)
  8. Dietary Fiber
  9. Sugars (which is critical in such a book)
  10. Protein
This not only gives me critical information if I want it, it also tells me each one of these recipes was gone over and the ingredients carefully looked at.

There are also "Terrific Tidbits" spread throughout the book. This too is a pleasure. Some of these will seem overkill for the experienced chef, but readers of Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen know that we take nothing for granted in the kitchen. "Terrific Tidbits" are those "little things" which everyone should know, and yet no one really does! I love them.

Unfortunately, I cannot reproduce any recipes from the book here as they are copyrighted (and of course the one released for public relations was a shrimp recipe which is not kosher.) But I will tell you that my four favorites quickly became the:

1. Berry French Toast
2. Chinese Chicken Peanut & Brocolli Stir Fry
3. Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter And Chocolate Glaze
4. Blueberry Pancakes

(Yes. All this in a cookbook clearly marked for diabetic cooking no less.)

One recipe made me laugh though. The "Pumpkin Hummus" recipe. Some recipes should just be left in the hands of the folks in the middle east. (OMG! Look what they did to Hummus! Sheesh!)

When a cookbook is written and produced by a serious cookbook author, and is done with the utmost professionalism and layout, and also delivers its promise on great recipes, and on top of it all can be praised for contributing to such a laudable and important charity, then yes, I will tell you to buy the book. And if you want a sane, healthy cookbook, Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking is for you.The most important thing that I personally learned from this book, is the message inherent in these wonderful recipes. You do not have to starve and eat rice cakes all day (Yuck! I hate rice cakes!) if you are diabetic or just trying to avoid an overload of ingredients that are bad for you. All it takes is some planning, a bit of experience and some wisdom in choices. Nor do you have to bring cauliflower into the house and readers of Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen know how much I hate cauliflower - worse than rice cakes! (Interestingly enough, in one of the recipes entitled "Mock Mashed Potatoes" Holly Clegg introduces it by saying: "When I served this dish to my family, not telling them it was cauliflower, they all raved and went back for seconds." Seems I am not the only one who can do without cauliflower, but forget about trying to trick me.) However, you had better believe that I am so going to make her "Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter And Chocolate Glaze".

My peeves about the book (and yes there are always drawbacks):

1. My first pet peeve is what I rail about from time to time when readers send in submissions. I think cookbooks should, along with ingredients and directions have a section for Utensils You Need To Make This Recipe, on the page of the recipe itself. Beginning cooks and even those moderately experienced really do want to know how many pots, pans, grinders and special tools a recipe demands before they begin to prepare it! But this is really a general complaint I have with almost all cookbooks. Authors, editors and publishers should take note of this. Making a great cake, but having to pull out every pot, pan and 5 attachments for the Kitchenaid (assuming you own something close to a Kitchenaid) to do it, are those little details you should know beforehand.

2. The subtitle of the book reads: "Over 250 recipes that can be on your table in 30 minutes or less". Ummm.. well.. I beg to differ here. Some of the recipes contained within Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking may end up on the table in 30 minutes. But if you are not an experienced chef don't count on it. 30-60 minutes would be more of an honest appraisal, I believe.

The philosophy within the recipes is very clear. Eating healthy does not mean you have to starve and put your taste-buds in deep freeze.That really is it. Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking is really a very good cookbook, standing out in excellence among the mass of cookbooks that seem to be published every Monday and Thursday - with no thought as to layout or the proposed public. These days, anyone with a fairly decent digital camera, can take beautiful pictures. Very few can give us recipes that are healthy, delicious, and sane - in an informed and easy manner. Holly Clegg manages to do this in Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking. Don't be put off by the "Diabetic Cooking" either. It is for any kitchen shelf.

I would be amiss if I did not mention at the end, once again, that this book was published for the American Diabetes Association. Though it is a worthy charity, if Holly Clegg's Trim & Terrific Diabetic Cooking was not up to standards I would not have misled you. But taken as a package, good recipes, health, and a chance to contribute to this worthy cause - hell, you simply cannot go wrong. Buy it. You will use it.

6 Fire Comments - Click To Post A Comment:

Paula's Poetry said...

What a great review. I just ordered my copy on Amazon.
I serve a few diabetics who will welcome a menu change..

Thanks Ted

muse said...

Great review. I'll have to send the link to diabetic friends.

I've also been sent all sorts of books to review, and usually people are nice about it. The only complaint I got was about a book my husband bought. The writer complained about what I wrote, so I deleted the post!

Almost Vegetarian said...

I think that is one of the most incredibly thorough reviews I have ever read. I could tell that took time. A lot of time.

As for your rules for PR: They are perfect. No respectable PR person would ask to see copy in advance from a journalist. So they should not from a blogger.

I know. I am both.

Cheers!

Teddy said...

Thanks for the compliments folks but the book made the review easy. It is just that good.

So, I can count on all of you to give me great reviews when I finally publish the Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen Cookbook? :D

Deborah Dowd said...

Thanks Tddy. My husband is a diabetic and it is hard to find cookbooks that have recipes that sound and taste good. I will have to check this one out.

Paula's Poetry said...

My copy finally arrived. My brother in law is a diabetic and has had two heart attacks, and my best friend, even with medication, has difficulty controlling his high and lows.
They both complain with the limited options in other books.


I was impressed with the many different recipes. I look forward to trying some of these out, knowing they are heart friendly as well.

Ted, thanks for such an indepth review of this one.