Monday, February 25, 2019

The Big Book of Paleo Slow Cooking: 200 Nourishing Recipes that Cook Carefree, for Everyday Dinner and Weekend Feasts - Natalie Perry

Summary:  Treat yourself to a lifetime of nutritious, delicious, and easy-to-make paleo meals in this big and inspiring book of 200 recipes by a leading paleo blogger.  Natalie Perry takes fresh and easy-to-find paleo ingredients and uses the magic of the slow cooker to make dishes with an incredible richness of aroma and depth of flavor.  Enjoy!  (Summary from book - Cover Image from - Review images are my snaps of Natalie's pictures, used with permission)

DisclaimerNatalie Perry of Perry's Plate is, among a great many other things, a former RFS reviewer (you can read her reviews here).  I also know her personally, as eons ago we went to high school together.  I purchased this book and didn't even tell her I planned to review it until I was nearly ready to publish this review.  Regardless, this is an honest review and I'm not receiving any compensation for it or any links contained therein.  

The second thing you should probably know about me is that I'm not strictly Paleo or gluten-free.  I like gluten.  I like dairy.  I like grains.  For the purpose of this review though, I tried to adhere as closely to Natalie's recipes as possible and only substituted when absolutely necessary for time (generally with using store-bought stock or mayo, because I haven't quite mastered the knack of planning ahead).  

My Review:  In a world of Deep Fried [Insert Virtually Anything Here], it can be rare to come across food that is both good and good for you.  Well, The Big Book of Paleo Slowcooking is a pretty freaking amazing combination of both with recipes that are well-balanced, made with real ingredients, and so delicious. Honestly, I cooked almost exclusively from it for nearly a month and my family has rarely eaten better.

One of the first things I noticed about this cookbook, besides the mouth-watering photos, is that it makes for generously sized meals.  Personally, I hate working my way through a recipe only to discover  that it only serves 3-4, and then frantically trying to double things in a way that won't screw up the recipe.  No thank you.  These recipes serve between 6-8 people, with the occasional 10-12 thrown in.  Can you say leftovers you can actually look forward to eating?!  Hallelujah.

Another great thing about this cook book is that, although it is written for use with a slow cooker, the author/chef provides a free Instant Pot Conversion Chart on her website, which means that for most of the recipes, I had the option to cook with either crock or Instant pot.  When I began the review process, I didn't have an Instant Pot, but was gifted one when I was about halfway through, and so I was able to use both modes of cooking.  It allowed me to choose the perfect way to make yummy, nutritious meals for my family.  Busy morning?  Instant Pot dinner.  Insane Afternoon?  Crock pot it is!  I loved the flexibility.

Now, on to the even better stuff -- the recipes. I've included three linked recipes from the actual cookbook that are available to try for free online.  They're peppered throughout the review, so happy hunting.  I haven't been able to work my way through all 200 recipes (yet), but as I write this review, I've managed to make 23 of them.  I selected recipes based on what I thought my family would be most excited to try and on what I felt would be easiest for me to recreate.  My skill level as a chef is novice.  If there is a level lower than novice, that's me.  Basically, if I can make them, anyone can.  Here are my thoughts on the recipes I tried.

First, the appetizers.   Woah, baby.  Yum.
  • Caramelized Onion Dip
  • Buffalo Chicken Dip
  • Sweet and Smoky Mixed Nuts
I made these first three recipes for my husband's Super Bowl Party.  The dips were a hit and quickly consumed.  My husband went gaga for the Caramelized Onion Dip (top left), but personally, I think the Buffalo Chicken Dip (top right) was my favorite.  It tasted amazing with celery and went quite well with some decidedly non-paleo tortilla chips.  Now, as for the Sweet and Smoky Mixed Nuts.  I may have cooked the nuts a little longer than necessary, so a few were a little too "smoky", but the rest were thoroughly snackable and tasty.  I even wrestled my daughter for the last handful.  Not my proudest moment, but I won.  I wish I could say the same for the Rams.  Anyway, on to the SOUPS.

Can I just say, Natalie excels at soup.  Here are the ones I have tried so far. 
  • Un-Tortilla Soup
  • Russia's Palace's Borscht
  • Mulligatawny
  • Thai Chicken Coconut Soup (Tom Kha Gai)
  • Smoky BBQ Beef Chili
If I had to pick my family's favorite soup from this lot....there would be three of them.  Yes, three.  Honestly, I was a little skeptical that something as simple as Un-Tortilla Soup (bottom left) would be any good.  And yet it was simply fantastic, flavorful, and (even better) allowed my kids to customize their own bowls.  I had always heard of Mulligatawny (botttom middle), but never had the opportunity to try it until I made it myself.  I have no idea if it tasted how mulligatawny is supposed to taste.  I only know that I made it twice short succession because my family loved it so much.

My personal favorite soup was the Thai Chicken Coconut Soup (bottom right).  It was the perfect kind of savory, with a broth that was just everything. Everything.  I want to bathe in it. The Russia Palace's Borscht was a beautiful, vibrant violent.  I loved it, but my kids turned up their noses.  They like pickled beets, but apparently beet soup crosses some sort of previously undetermined line for them.  It was, get this, too pink and too purple.  Umm.  Okay?  My family gave mixed reviews on the Smoky BBQ Beef Chili.  Some devoured it, others did not.  Personally, I liked it and I will say that it made for some pretty good (again un-paleo) chili nachos the next day.  If you'd like to try your hand at Natalie's Creamy Mushroom Soup with Bacon, you can click right HERE for the free recipe.

We eat a lot of chicken in my house.  More so than any other meat.  Here are the chicken recipes that I tried:
  • Sweet and Sour Pineapple Chicken
  • Orange-Sesame Chicken
  • Maple-Mustard Chicken with Carrots and Brussels Sprouts
  • Strawberry-Balsamic Chicken
  • Southeast Asian Coconut Chicken Curry
  • Chicken Tikka Masala with Cauliflower
All of the chicken dishes were well received by my kiddos, with the Sweet and Sour Pineapple Chicken and the Orange-Sesame Chicken earning rave reviews.  Both were a great way to satisfy my Panda Express craving, without all the guilt.  I enjoyed the new flavor combinations in the Maple-Mustard Chicken and Strawberry-Balsamic Chicken (bottom right). I'd never thought of a strawberry balsamic combo before, and the flavor is quite unique in a very good way.

The entire family agreed that the Southeast Asian Coconut Chicken Curry (bottom left) was tasty, but it had little more fish sauce than my husband likes.  I think that's down to his personal taste more than a recipe failing, but I slightly reduced the fish sauce in a few other recipes and he never mentioned it again, so I'll definitely be making that change the next time around.  The only recipe I don't think I'll be making again is the Chicken Tikka Masala with Cauliflower.  My family ate it without complaint (which is a miracle in and of itself), but they weren't much interested in the leftovers and I don't like food going to waste.  Also, it required me to remember to do stuff the day before.  I suck at that.  Still, five out of six recipes isn't too shabby!  Oh, and here's a link to another recipe in the book -- Green Chile Shredded Chicken.  Try it for yourself!

On to the other meats (ie pork, beef, and fish).
  • Balsamic Pot Roast
  • Mongolian Beef and Broccoli
  • Sweet Potato Foil Packet "Tacos"
  • Italian Balsamic BBQ Meatloaf
  • Hot and Sweet Orange Pulled Pork (Try the recipe here)
  • Pesto Cod and Mashed Sweet Potatoes
I actually made a huge substitution with the Balsamic Pot Roast.  It calls for a beef roast and I didn't have one, so I used a pork roast instead.  And you know what?  It was fantastic.  I'm guessing it would be equally fantastic with beef.  The Mongolian Beef and Broccoli was one of the first recipes that I tried and, while I overcooked the broccoli (novice, remember), the beef was amazing and definitely a family favorite.

I have been making Natalie's award-winning Sweet Potato Foil Packet Tacos for years.  I love the combination of savory meat, sweet potatoes, and saucy black beans and I always make a few extra packets to eat later on.  Although I don't often make meatloaf, but the Italian Balsamic BBQ Meatloaf  (bottom left) was ridiculously easy, specially since I used Natalie's Instant Pot Conversion Chart to make it.  I served it with some less-than Paleo oven roasted russet potatoes and the crowd (ie. my family) went wild.

The Hot and Sweet Orange Pulled Pork (bottom right) was the first recipe I made from this book and it. was. inedible.*GASP*  I know. I had to throw most of it out.  It was so very bad and all my fault.  I used liquid aminos instead of the called-for coconut aminos, thinking they were the same thing and THEY ARE NOT.  Liquid aminos are much saltier.  Still, I could tell that underneath all that excess salt was a dish with "good bones" and I wanted to try again.  The next time I used the correct aminos (and even halved the required salt just to be safe) and it turned out much better.  If you'd like to give this recipe a try for yourself CLICK HERE to get the free recipe.  Finally, Pesto Cod and Mashed Sweet Potatoes.  My husband raised a skeptical eyebrow at this one and I get it.  On paper it looks like kind of a weird flavor combination, but it was actually really delicious.  I've already used the pesto/fish combination a few times since with great success.

Alas, I didn't make any of the decadent-looking desserts.  It's part of my resolution to not learn how to make desserts I will likely end up making and not sharing.  Sorry, guys.  However, I did make a few of the side/miscellaneous items.
  • Cauliflower Rice 
  • Homemade Taco Seasoning
  • Balsamic BBQ Sauce
My kids gobbled up the Cauliflower Rice (see right).  My only problem with this is that my kids GOBBLED UP the cauliflower rice! I hardly got any!  I have been a die-hard fan of Perry's Plate Homemade Taco Seasoning since it first debuted on Natalie's website.  She's tweaked it a bit since then to make it gluten-free and it tastes amazing.  I'll never ever go back to store bought.  I used the Balsamic BBQ Sauce on the yummy Italian Balsamic BBQ Meatloaf we just talked about, but I've also used it before on BBQ chicken and roast potatoes, to great success.  I love that it's so versatile!

There are still some great pantry staples and meals that I plan to try as I keep exploring this cookbook.  I've included a few pics to get you salivating....

Next on my list for pantry/staple/side items: Cider BBQ Sauce, Homemade Ghee & Paleo-Friendly Mayonnaise (bottom left), Dry Ranch Seasoning Mix, Thai Spice Blend, Zucchini Flatbread (bottom right) , Creamy Dilled Cauliflower...

Next on my list for entrees to try: Lemon-Garlic Shrimp and Zoodles, Jambalaya with Roasted Cauliflower Rice, Thai-Pulled-Pork Tacos with Creamy Chili Slaw (bottom left), Deconstructed Egg Rolls with Sesame Cashews (bottom right), Caribbean Jerk Pork Chops with Mango Salsa, Asian Beef Short-Rib Lettuce Wraps, Thanksgiving Turkey Meatloaf, Ranch Chicken and Broccoli with Bacon, and...well, you get the idea. 


Reviewing The Big Book of Paleo Slowcooking was a downright pleasure.  I came away with a ton of delicious new meals for the family and a newfound respect for some previously untried ingredients (ghee, nutritional yeast, coconut aminos, tapioca powder, etc.)   I also love that I'll be able to pull out some gluten-free or dairy-free meals for friends or family who have with those specific dietary restrictions.  I don't have to panic or scramble now!  I highly recommend you pick up this cookbook and give it a try.  If that's not in your budget right now, head on over to Perry's Plate and try a few of her online recipes.  You won't be disappointed.

Oh, and did I mention Natalie has a new cookbook out -- The Big Paleo Book of Pressure Cooking.  I bet you can guess what I'm up to now!  Trust me, if I love it (and I suspect I will), you'll hear about it.

My Rating:  5 Yummy Stars

Sensitive Reader:  If you're offended by meat, coconut milk, zoodles, or curry, this cookbook is not for you.


Natalie said...

TWENTY-THREE?! You are amazing, my dear. I have never seen such a thorough review of my book before. Thank you thank you thank you!!

MindySue said...

You are so very welcome welcome welcome. Thanks for the great recipes!


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