Book Review: Weeknight Paleo by Amber Beam

September 25, 2012 in Categories: by

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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 amazingThe 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.

This contest is now closed. Congratulations to Ryan, Sara and Aurelia!

Comments

I”m not on twitter, but I’ve liked PaleoSavvy on facebook and started browsing recipes on the website! What a nomslaught!

Thanks for the review, and your ever-inspiring blog in general! (And yay for giveaways I can actually enter, living in Australia!)

I “liked” PaleoSavvy on Facebook. Would love to win this, I could us a new Paleo cookbook to expand my family’s repetoire.

I liked Paleo Savvy on facebook, and followed on twitter. Drooled over the recipes. Thanks for the recommendations!!!

How exciting! I liked on Facebook and just had to go to her website and browse the recipes, enjoyed some videos and would love a cookbook!

I liked PaleoSavvy on Facebook. So happy to have found that site! I’m so busy with my 3 little ones during the day, so I’m always on the prowl for delicious and quick-ish Paleo meals that I can serve my family.

Checked out her recipes! Yum! Now following her on twitter and Facebook! Looking forward to trying some of her cooking ideas!

Good looking recipes and will try the pork on the smoker along with making side of paleo-savvy-tomato-gratin/ Like her on fb and twitter as well

I liked PaleoSavvy on Facebook. I am the mother of 5 kids, and work as a Crossfit coach. Between coaching, and after school activities, we seem to never sit down for dinner until around 8. I do cook Paleo meals 90% of the time, and although they are always delicious, they can sometimes be time consuming. This cookbook just might save me most nights!!!! My email address is allisonsherburne@mac.com! Thank you!!!

Nity recipes & I followed on twitter. :). Love the premise of the book/blog. EZ IS FRIEND. 🙂 twitter handle is muppetk.

I did all three options! The Tomato Gratin looks interesting (esp since i have a bowl of tomatoes on my counter!) and I appreciated her link to the video on how to cut vegetables into match-sticks. The book sounds great – can’t wait to read it!

Am now following on facebook. Paleo meals have kept me in the kitchen a lot more than I was used to. While overall I’m enjoying the process, there are those evenings that I really need quick and easy. cherryontop3 at yahoo dot com.

I’m like you…I LOVE cookbooks…but I need them for inspiration just to make something new for dinner each week. So this would be perfect. I checked out the website…and will be doing it constantly now, like on FB and follow on twitter….

Would love another Paleo cookbook…the recipes on her site look amazing 🙂 “liked” her on FB and am following on Twitter 🙂

I went to FB and ‘liked’ Paleo Savvy…I checked her website and her recipes and your review make my mouth water… I’m new to paleo, so I’m interested in cookbooks that focus on this way of eating. I’m with you about loving to read cookbooks. Thank you for this giveaway.

thank you for another great giveaway! i previewed Amber’s delicious recipes and “Liked” Paleo Savvy on fb. 🙂 i don’t have twitter, i can barely keep up with fb!

I requested the 39 page preview and cannot wait to get home and try the asian five spice chicken with matchstix salad!

at last! a giveaway that i can attend (from outside of the US), or at least have the illusion that i can…

the site looks diil-icius (LOVED THAT!!!)
and i liked it on facebook.
don’t have a twitter account though…

vered leb, isreal
veredavid@gmail.com

Liked and cruised; looks good! I agree that winging it is the way to go but, less than a week from my due date with #2 I’m thinking that a cookbook my husband can work from would be a great asset!

Hi Sarah! I love your blog. Thank you for the review, and a giveaway I can actually enter, from Mexico!
I followed Paleo Savvy on Twitter, liked it on FB, and I’m checking the sample pages. My email: sandra_garcia99 at yahoo.com

I looked at the website, and I can’t wait to try her Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Recipe and Savvy Tomato Gratin. Yum!

I checked out the website and when I win the cookbook I will definitely be cooking these recipes for my family. I do not have facebook but someone has a new twitter follower.

Hi Sarah, The meals sound absolutely delicious from Amber’s new book. I checked out her website and pinned a salmon recipe she has. I’ll have to try it soon!

Liked Paleo savvy on fb and followed on Twitter. Thanks for the honest review. The recipes look great, can’t wait to give em a try!

Hi there, love YOUR website….and have done what you suggested, liked PaleoSavvy on fb and had a wander around the website, I’m new to Paleo and love love love what I’ve read so far….makes it all so doable!

I liked Paleo Savvy on Facebook and think that these are some great weeknight recipes. i would love to win a copy of them!

I liked on Facebook and I previewed the website. I’m living in Finland, I’m a mother of two children and a week ago my doctor told me to eat paleo diet and to avoid grains for the rest of my life becuase I’m suffering of colitis ulcerosa. I’d lover to get a copy of the weeknight paleo cook book.
Have a wonderful evening and thank you for a great blog!

I liked Paleo Savvy and Paleo Moms on facebook. I am a Mother of 2 boys and have an 11 year old step daughter. My 3 year old is extremely active and I have found that eating paleo has stabelized his moods and helped his sleep patterns. Always looking for new recipies to try. Really hoping to win the bookbook 🙂

I “liked” on Facebook and am scanning the site now. what a great looking book, I could really use some of that help. I wonder about the leftovers factor, though – I’m the single mom of boys, one of them 17. We NEVER have leftovers!

This looks so delicous! I liked on fb and viewed the site. I really need some tasty recipes so I can get my family to eat better.

I liked PaleoSavvy on FB, don’t have a twitter account. I am new (as of this week) to Paleo. Would love to win my very first Paleo cookbook. Thank you!!

I’m impressed. The recipes look wonderful and I like that they have shown how to work from one recipe to the next by adding some additional ingredients. It really increases the versatility of the menus.

Great review! I’ve ‘liked’ on facebook, ‘followed’ on twitter, and am currently ‘skimming’ the recipes in the example pdf. What a BEAUTIFUL cookbook!

One of the hardest thing for me as a mom of 3 is finding something for everyone! I love the variety in the cookbook. And I love that the recipes don’t take a long time to make – thank you!

Those recipes look amazing! I checked out the website and someday, I want to make the pulled pork recipe. I also liked her facebook site.

I checkout out her site. Her recipes look amazing. I also liked her page on Facebook. Anything that would save me time in the kitchen and shopping would be so appreciated, especially with our new baby taking up a lot of our time. Paleo meals can be quick, and for the most part they are, but I find I always cook the same old things and use the same spices so lots of things end up tasting the same even if the intention was something different. I need some new ideas. Thanks!

Did #1 and#2 (I don’t have a twitter account) and I actually tried to buy the 9.99 version but I don’t have paypal either. Went to Amazon but they don’t sell the kindle version, just the book so now I’m just patiently waiting and hoping maybe I’ll WIN a copy, lol! 🙂 Thanks for the opportunity!

So I know only one was required, but I did all three. I really liked what I saw on the recipes on the blog.

I checked out Paleo Savvy’s recipes. The pulled pork looks good! I’d love to get this cookbook because my husband has been more interested in cooking, but as a novice, he needs instruction/recipes to follow.

The timing of this is perfect. I too am a working mom and keeping Paleo without running through the same foods all the time is such a challenge….looking forward to trying some of the recipes ..wondering if it will be available via iBooks?

Liked on FB, Tweeted, checking out the recipes. Looks wonderful!
Thanks of the opportunity to win the book. I’m fairly new to Paleo
but am excited about seeing how it will help my auto immune diseases
and could use some time saving meals for the kitchen as I home school
my high schooler 🙂

I “Liked” this on Facebook after Linda Ringer shared it. I am clueless in the kitchen, but having a grocery list ready is more than half the battle. The recipes look delicious! Thanks! ajames_in@yahoo.com.

Followed Paleo Savvy on Twitter and browsed the website. Hello, Paleo Pulled Pork Recipe, I’m making you next time I buy a pork roast!!

melindapate at gmail dot com