I love food. I love growing it, shopping for it, cooking with it, sharing it…yup, I think you can safely say I love just about everything about it. What I love most, though, is that after years of eating an all-too typical North American diet of way too much sugar and overly processed foods with unpronounceable ingredients, I’ve returned to the kind of food my grandmother would have recognized as food…only better.
Why better? Because INTERNET, people. And so many amazing cooks who share amazing recipes that turn real food into sheer, absolute bliss. (See how poetic I’m waxing here? I told you I love food!) One of my recent and most favouritest cook-type-person discoveries is Melissa Joulwan, owner of the blog The Clothes Make the Girl. I stumbled upon Mel–or rather, her blog–when I began doing the Whole 30 program as part of my fight against BIC syndrome, and her fast, easy, real recipes won me over so much that I began stalking her on Twitter and Facebook, raving about my addiction to recipes such as sweet potato & bacon Soup (stay tuned…I’m sharing that recipe below!) and chocolate chili. Then, one day I mentioned to her in a Twitter post that I’d added her cookbook, Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat, to my wishlist–and Mel very generously offered to send me a copy! I had a total fangirl moment, of course, but I think I managed to only slightly embarrass myself in my effusive thanks…I hope. 😉
Anyway, Mel ended up sending me not just Well Fed, but Well Fed 2 as well…
and so this past weekend I did what any other slightly obsessive cook would do. I spent a day and a half (I kid you not!) in the kitchen, trying out new recipes such as meaza pie, egg foo yong, a seasoning recipe for homemade Italian sausage, and two stir fry sauce recipes…along with a couple of my favourites, cinnamon beef stew and (of course!) the ubiquitous sweet potato & bacon soup that has become an almost weekly event at our house. (Yes, it’s that good.)
My verdict? I’ve loved every recipe I’ve tried from this book, and so has hubby. In fact, in six months of following Mel’s blog, I have yet to find one of her recipes I don’t like, and these cookbooks have just increased my level of enthusiasm. Ingredients are, for the most part, found in your average real-food inspired kitchen (or they’re at least easily obtainable in most grocery stores/supermarkets); instructions are clear and easy to follow; the pictures are gorgeous (and accurate!); and Mel has a lovely, relaxed way of writing that makes you feel as if you’re talking to a friend.
As a bonus, Mel includes instructions for her world-famous “weekly cookup” (okay, world-famous may be a bit of a stretch, but as far as I’m concerned, it should totally be that famous), which has you spending 2-3 hours in the kitchen on a weekend in order to produce enough cooked food to last for the entire week. She even gives you suggestions for combining these foods into complete meals she calls “hot plates” that go from fridge to table in under 20 minutes. Brilliant, yes?
My only complaint–and it’s a petty one–would be with regard to the small size of the some of the type, which has served to point out that I really do need reading glasses. sigh (This isn’t an issue with Well Fed 2, however, where the font size is larger throughout.)
All in all, I highly recommend Well Fed to anyone (whether you’re eating paleo or not) who is interested in cooking real recipes with real food…you can find buy links at the end of this post.
And on that note, Mel has kindly allowed me to share my rendition of her sweet potato & bacon soup with you…enjoy! >click to tweet!<
UPDATE February 2, 2015: I just found out that Well Fed 2 won the grand prize in the 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards — huge congratulations, Mel, and well deserved!
Sweet Potato Soup with Bacon (found in Well Fed 2)
6 slices bacon
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout (This is a spice blend you can find a recipe for on Mel’s blog. It makes what seems to be a lot, but do it anyway, because it adds such depth of flavour and interest to the soup…and I guarantee you’ll use it up in future batches! 🙂 )
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of cayenne (I make mine a generous pinch because we like a bit of heat)
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 cups chicken broth (I’ve also used beef oar turkey if that’s what I have on hand)
1 cup water
1. Cut bacon strips crosswise into 1/4-inch wide pieces. Place in large, cold soup pot over medium-high heat, and fry until crisp. 2. Remove from pot with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Keep 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat in the pan (I’m generous with this measurement 😉 ) and discard the rest.
5. Add the sweet potatoes, broth, and water to the pot. 6. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer (covered) until the potatoes are tender. Note: in Mel’s version, she suggests dicing the onions finely and slicing the potatoes thinly for a simmering time of 10-15 minutes. I leave my veggies chunkier to save prep time and just increase the simmer by an additional 5-10 minutes. Your choice. 😉 )
7. Puree the soup in batches in a food processor or blender, or use an immersion (stick) blender if you have one (I consider mine an essential kitchen tool).
P.S. Oh, yes, and if you happen to be reading this, Mel? Rogan Josh and Morocan meatballs are lined up for next weekend’s cooking spree. I can’t wait. 🙂