23 February 2013

Weekend Cooking: Quinoa Revolution by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming

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It was way back in the dark ages (the 1980s), when I first heard of quinoa, the seed that acts as if it were a grain. I've always liked the flavor and texture, and I'm pleased that in the twenty-first century, quinoa has gained popularity and is now readily available in most grocery stores in the United States.

Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming, sometimes called the Quinoa Sisters, are big advocates of the pseudo-grain, and their second cookbook, Quinoa Revolution: Over 150 Healthy, Great-Tasting Recipes under 500 Calories, is receiving plenty of buzz.

I, however, have mixed feelings about the cookbook. My first reaction was that I loved it. It's beautifully styled, with several full-page photos and a rainbow of subdued, earthy colors. I particularly like the informative front of the book, in which the authors introduce the ingredient, detail its nutritional value, and offer shopping tips. Besides a great FAQ, there are also cooking charts as well as advice for people on a special diet (gluten free or raw, for example).

I also was impressed with the range of flavors and dishes, from breakfast porridge to chocolate cupcakes. The salads, soups, and main dishes are appealing and cover Mexican, Indian, Asian, and down-home American styles and seasonings. Although a number of the dishes include meat or fish, vegetarians will find many recipes to suit them with little or no substitution.

Probably because Quinoa Revolution was first published in Canada, the measurements and oven temperatures are listed in both metric and imperial units, making the cookbook easy to use around the world. I also appreciate the many tips scattered throughout the book that explain a technique or suggest a substitution.

So what didn't I like about the cookbook? I'm an experienced and confident cook and wouldn't hesitate to tackle anything in Quinoa Revolution, but at the same time, I'd think twice about recommending it to cooks on the other side of the skills' spectrum.

First, I noticed quite a few dishes provide a cooking time but do not give us a way to determine when the dish is done. Inexperienced cooks may be frustrated when 15 minutes on their stovetop at what they consider to be a simmer leaves them with improperly cooked vegetables and meats and a less-than-yummy dinner. Doneness tests can make the difference between success and failure for unsure cooks.

I love it when cookbooks include the nutritional breakdown for each recipe and Quinoa Revolution does just that. Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out how the authors arrived at some of the numbers, rendering the information too vague to be of use. For example, I couldn't tell whether the nutritional analysis included the optional ingredients, so it was difficult to determine an accurate calorie or sodium count. Another problem occurred when general ingredients were listed, especially dairy products. Several recipes called for milk or yogurt but didn't mention a fat level (whole, low-fat, nonfat); this leaves me wondering which product was used when arriving at the fat content of each serving.

Although the photographs in the cookbook are beautiful, they don't always match the recipe. Again, not an issue for me, but some cooks may be thrown off by a recipe that calls for minced red chilies but the photograph shows whole chilies (including the stems!). Another recipe indicates grated lemon zest, but the photograph clearly shows ribbons of zest. And yet another one shows the dish topped with yogurt(?) but no topping is mentioned in the directions. I know plenty of home cooks who might be confused or bothered by these kinds of discrepancies.

Despite the issues I addressed, I do like the fact that the vast majority of the recipes call for easy-to-find ingredients and that the recipes are appealing. Moreover, gluten-free eaters will love the ways that quinoa flour can be used to make waffles, crepes, cupcakes and other dishes that usually require flour. I want to emphasize that confident cooks will have no problem finding success with Quinoa Revolution because they already know how to tell if a sauce is done or if the chicken has been thoroughly cooked.

Buy Quinoa Revolution if you want to learn more about this tasty and versatile seed and if you are looking for ways to add it to everyday dishes. If you're on your way to becoming whiz in the kitchen, you will find the cookbook to be a worthy addition to your collection, as I do. But if you're still learning to cook and rely heavily on detailed directions, you may want to check it out from the library before buying. 

Buy Quinoa Revolution at an Indie or a bookstore near you. This link leads to an affiliate program.
Published by Penguin USA / Pintail, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780143186410
Rating: B-
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


Marg 2/23/13, 6:19 AM  

I only recently tried quinoa for the first time. I liked it, but I am not sure I am ready to cook with it. Might have to try it a few more ways first.

caite 2/23/13, 6:28 AM  

Not sure I want a whole quinoa cookbook..and personally,I hate it when the picture and the recipe are at odds.

rhapsodyinbooks 2/23/13, 6:33 AM  

Personally I love quinoa, but I both love and hate when cookbooks contain nutritional values. For example, one of my (formerly) favorite places to eat out, Corner Bakery, now shows calories for everything, and can I REALLY have French Toast when it's over 1200 calories? The answer is: YES if I don't KNOW that!!!!

Maria @ A bookworm's life 2/23/13, 6:46 AM  

I like quinoa but I recently read an article about how its newfound popularity in the western world means that a lot of communities in South America (who used to have quinoa as a main part of their diet) can no longer afford it.

But either way, I don't think I would want a cookbook focused solely on one ingredient. Except maybe chocolate!

jama 2/23/13, 6:47 AM  

I've only tried quinoa once and have been wanting to use it more in cooking, but somehow it's too curly for me, if that makes sense. I keep thinking of little wiggly worms or something.

Having said that,you write the best cookbook reviews! I will have to look for this one in my library :).

Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate 2/23/13, 7:10 AM  

I made quinoa for the first time this year. The second attempt was much better because I added more ingredients to give it some flavor. Thanks for sharing this cookbook review. Your reviews are always so insightful! I definitely want to check this out for some ideas!
Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate

(Diane) bookchickdi 2/23/13, 9:10 AM  

I wish my family was more into quinoa. I have not seen quinoa flour on the shelves, I wonder if it is difficult to find.

Tina 2/23/13, 9:12 AM  

That was a very good review - I have been hesitant to use quinoa, have seen it in the markets but have zero experience with it. Curious, but I guess not enough to venture into buying it.

I see other commenters have used it and enjoy so...maybe one day for me :-) Sounds like a nice cookbook though.

bermudaonion 2/23/13, 10:04 AM  

I find it odd that the photos don't match the recipe listed. I'd still try the cookbook - it sounds pretty good to me.

Fay 2/23/13, 10:17 AM  

Your mentioning inexperienced cooks needing detailed instructions reminds me of the time my husband baked some chicken and followed along until it said bake for half an hour. Then he took it out of the oven and served it, and then when it was raw, he went back and saw the step he missed was to turn it over and cook for another half hour. So he learned you must read to the end. He would not make out so well without clear instructions.

JoAnn 2/23/13, 10:35 AM  

I only discovered quinoa a few years ago and am always looking for new recipes. This cookbook would be a useful addition to my collection. I loved your balanced review!

Laurie C 2/23/13, 10:58 AM  

One of my pet peeves is when recipes end with "cook for 55 minutes or until done" without telling you how to know when it's done! I just posted about a recipe from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and realized how hard it must be to know what to explain in every recipe. I went to the supermarket and looked in the meat case for a "4-5-pound piece beef brisket" and didn't see any pieces of beef labeled brisket. I thought I remembered my husband saying something once about brisket and pot roast being the same idea, so I bought a piece of beef labeled pot roast, but I almost bought corned beef brisket because it had the word "brisket" in the name and that wouldn't have been the right thing for the recipe at all.

Margaret @ BooksPlease 2/23/13, 11:19 AM  

Nice review.I've tried cooking with quinoa but with very little success and you've made me think maybe I should try again!

Beth S. 2/23/13, 11:48 AM  

I adore quinoa and want to try cooking with it more, Despite some of the issues you had with the book, I still think I'd like to give it a try. As you said, for more inexperienced cooks it might be difficult, but I think I'd more like to look through the book to get more ideas for how to incorporate more quinoa in my diet than hard and fast recipes. Thanks for the thorough review!

Word Lily 2/23/13, 11:55 AM  

This sounds like a cookbook I might actually use. I generally don't rely on nutritional information in cookbooks, even though I like having it there (maybe because I'm prone to substitution and tweaking?), so that wouldn't be a concern for me. I do love quinoa and having another "grain" that I can eat. I think the draw of this book is that, as much as I like quinoa, I don't actually find myself using it in very varied ways. It sounds good for that (both the varied cultural cuisines and the range from breakfast to dessert).

Daryl 2/23/13, 12:14 PM  

not a huge quinoa fan but i do like it in salads .. my food post is a fattening not so healthy one .. come see

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews 2/23/13, 12:42 PM  

Hi Beth F,

I haven't ever cooked with Quinoa, but it sounds as though you need to add plenty of other ingredients to give it some flavour?

I only really tend to go for cook books which have an illustration for each dish it has a recipe for. I like to see what the finished dish should look like, even if my own bears no real resemblance to the picture!!

It is good that this book gives all measurements in imperial, US measure and metric. We get quite a few US cookbooks donated into the charity shop in the UK, where I volunteer (I work in an army garrison town where many overseas troops come to train), however our UK customers get a little frustrated when they can't work out how to convert your US to UK measurements in order to bake from the books.

Thanks for hosting and for sharing this book,


Larissa 2/23/13, 3:24 PM  

Quinoa is so good and versatile, it's no wonder ther would be an entire cookbook about it!

Debbie 2/23/13, 5:52 PM  

I've never not liked anything, but I have never tried Quinoa. I'm sure it would be great tho.

Sue Jackson 2/24/13, 9:15 AM  

The quinoa cookbook sounds intriguing (though those inconsistencies you mention would bother me, too). I've only made quinoa once before! So, I could use some good recipes for it. I will have to check my faithful Cooking Light ;)


Book By Book

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity 2/24/13, 3:41 PM  

I've never tried quinoa but I did receive this cookbook. I haven't tried anything from it but I find quinoa so intimidating that I haven't gotten there yet. Thinking more about our conversation on twitter the other day--I'm not sure these are things that I would have noticed missing from the cookbook but I'm still a fairly novice cook/cookbook reader. Maybe this is what makes the difference between successes and failures from cooking from a cookbook--had never thought about it before!

Peaceful Reader 2/24/13, 8:56 PM  

We like quinoa at our house. This one sounds a bit quirky though.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 2/24/13, 9:34 PM  

I've yet to try "Quinoa", but my daughter raves about it. I just may buy her this book and I MUST try this soon.

Angela 2/26/13, 11:32 AM  

I've never eaten Quinoa, but have been hearing a lot about it lately. Daphne Oz sings its praises on The Chew a lot.

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