I love cookbooks. I would far rather sit and flip through a cookbook when I have a quite minute than a magazine or the newspaper. Cookbooks inspire me to try new ingredients, flavor combinations, and cooking techniques. And Weeknight Paleo by Amber Beam is an excellent addition to my cookbook collection.
When I first started cooking, I owned half a dozen cookbooks and would flip through their pages for something new to try several nights each week. I always tried to follow a new recipe to the letter. This was in large part how I learned to cook, not just following different recipes but also dealing with emergency ingredient substitutions when I thought I had all the ingredients on hand but discovered I was missing something halfway through cooking. Now, I am in the habit of rarely following recipes from cookbooks/blogs and am far more likely to use a new recipe simply as a general guide. I still love having cookbooks around however and still occasionally challenge myself to follow a new recipe to the letter (like when I’m reviewing a cookbook!). I still think this is an important way for me to learn more and grow as a cook.
Weeknight Paleo is exactly what the title suggests: a cookbook designed to help you get through those busy weeknights where there just doesn’t seem to be enough time for anything let alone cook. And Weeknight Paleo doesn’t just help you survive the week, it gives you four crazy delicious meals to eat.
The stress is taken out of weeknight cooking by using what Amber calls “Paleo Savvy” techniques. This includes providing you with shopping lists for each week’s menu, a “Make Ahead” schedule where you devote 60 minutes or less in the kitchen on the weekend to prepare for the week ahead, and a “This then That” style of cooking where leftovers from one meal of the week are reinvented into something completely new for the next evening.
Each recipe is actually a complete meal, including a protein and a vegetable side. Sometimes these are prepared together and sometimes separately. I found some of the meals a little lighter on vegetables than how I usually eat, but the addition of some sautéed greens or a side salad rounded them out nicely. Weeknight Paleo includes nine weeks of four weeknight meals each. And while the $29.99 price tag may seem a bit steep for recipes for 36 complete meals, if you chose to cook your way through this book, you wouldn’t start repeating weeknight meals for two months! And even though I’m the kind of person who prefers an actual physical paper cookbook to flip through, it’s important to note that the e-book can be purchased direct from http://paleosavvy.com for only $14.95. AND if you act quickly, Amber is selling the first 50 downloads of her e-book for 30% off, which makes it only $9.99! You can also download the first 39 pages of her cookbook for free.
I chose four recipes from Weeknight Paleo for my review, making sure to include one “This then That” recipe pair. I have to admit that, even though we eat leftovers frequently in my house, I almost never reinvent leftovers (it’s usually just the same meal reheated for 2-4 days straight), so this was very new for me. I did not follow one complete week of recipes for two reasons. Because of my avoidance of nightshades, I could not find a complete week that did not exclude them in every meal. Also, I wanted to make a couple of dishes that were substantially different from our more usual meals (taking the opportunity to broaden my horizons!). I did cook these meals Monday through Thursday to really test how quick and easy they were.
Monday night: Herbes de Provence-Crusted Salmon with a Citrus-Herb Sauce and Asparagus. This was ridiculously good. I loved that there was plenty of time while the salmon was marinating to prepare the asparagus and get the sauce going. The sauce took exactly the same amount of time to as the asparagus and salmon did in the oven. It just felt efficient and only took about 20 minutes to make from beginning to end. And did I mention that this meal was ridiculously good? I only used about half the salt that the ingredients list suggested (but we’re quite used to very little salt in our household). I also rounded out the vegetables with some sautéed fennel.
Tuesday night: Chicken in a Tarragon-Mustard Sauce and Wild Mushroom Sauté. This meal was awesome, like I would be happy if I paid $20 for this in a restaurant awesome. I will be adding this dish to our usual rotation. I couldn’t find fresh tarragon in the stores, so I used dried and it was still amazing. The sauce is lick-the-plate good. This was another meal that just felt efficient. While the chicken was cooking, the sauce was simmering, and I was preparing the mushrooms. It didn’t feel rushed or stressful and I had an incredibly delicious supper on the table is less than 30 minutes, as promised. I rounded out this meal with some braised kale.
Wednesday night: French Chicken Salad Stack. This is the reinvention of the leftover chicken from Tuesday night and is the recipe featured on the front cover of Weeknight Paleo. I especially appreciated a quick dinner salad type meal on my most rushed evening of the week (we typically arrive home at 5pm on Wednesdays, which is our normal suppertime). I actually prepared the entire meal in advance (which took all of 10 minutes plus the time to make some paleo mayo) so all I had to do was serve once we walked in the door. I followed the alternate directions to just throw it all together as a casual salad rather than form a beautiful stack and added some mizuna greens. We all enjoyed the flavors in this meal.
Thursday night: Dill-icious Shrimp. This worked well as a meal to round out our week because it used the other half of my batch of paleo mayo. This was another great make-ahead meal and it was even better as leftovers for lunch the next day. The flavors were delightful (I did substitute green onion for the scallions) and it was a perfect meal for a hot late-summer evening. Even though the recipe says the prep time is 35 minutes, I think I only spent about 15 minutes even with the step of salting the zucchini (which is definitely worth it, as the directions suggest).
The verdict on my four weeknight meals? Every single one was delicious and both quick and easy to prepare. Weeknight Paleo delivers on its promise to take the stress out of weeknight cooking.
When people tell me that they don’t know how to cook, I recommend that they purchase a couple of good cookbooks and follow the recipes in them until they start to feel like they’ve got the hang of it (you know you have the hang of it when you start measuring things by handfuls and using regular spoons, shakes and pinches instead of using measuring spoons). Unfortunately, some of the recipe directions in Weeknight Paleo have to be inferred. For example, in the recipe for French Chicken Salad Stack, it is never explicitly stated that the leftover chicken should be chopped (of course, a quick look at the picture will tell you that you need to do it). Plus, it is completely unclear whether the chicken should have been coated in leftover tarragon-mustard sauce from the night before or not (I did coat it in the leftover sauce because the sauce was so awesome). In the recipe for Herbes de Provence-Crusted Salmon with a Citrus-Herb Sauce and Asparagus, the directions do not tell you how to divide the salt and pepper between the salmon and the asparagus (although dividing by half seems like a good guess). I also used about half the salt called for in every single recipe (well, unless the recipe said “to taste”). These aren’t a fatal flaw of this cookbook, but I think it’s unfortunate since the recipes are so delicious and these types of omitted steps can be very confusing for beginner cooks. If it weren’t for these important omissions, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Weeknight Paleo as a “learning cookbook”, by which I mean a cookbook that teaches you how to cook simply by cooking your way through the book. But while I would hesitate to recommend this book to an inexperienced cook, those who are a little more proficient in the kitchen will love the flavors and the efficiency of the recipes in Weeknight Paleo.
Weeknight Paleo GIVEAWAY!!! (please note: this contest is now closed)
Amber is giving me THREE copies of the Weeknight Paleo e-book to give away to my readers (and YAY! because this means you can enter this giveaway from any country that has computers and the internet!).
To enter this giveaway, please do at least one of the following:
1. Go to paleosavvy.com and preview some of Amber’s delicious recipes
2. “Like” Paleo Savvy on Facebook.
3. “Follow” Paleo Savvy on Twitter.
Now, simply comment on this post and let me know what you did (don’t forget to include your email so that I can contact the winners!).
Three winners will be chosen at random from the comments below.