“Simply Laura Lea” is the second cookbook by certified holistic chef, recipe developer and writer Laura Lea. I remember perusing her first book and thinking that it looked gorgeous and sounded delicious, but I’ve never used her recipes before, not even from her website. So I was happy to take the opportunity to cook from her newest book.
The book is divided into:
- Beverages and Smoothies
- Lunch and Dinner Entrees (subdivided into red meat, seafood, poultry, and veggie)
- Soups and Salads
- Spice Mixtures, Dressings, and Sauces
Recipes get a helpful symbol to show if they are vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, keto-friendly, gluten-free, and/or paleo. Another feature that I like is that the recipes mark if there’s a “secondary” recipe in it. For example, in the Breakfast chapter, there’s a recipe for Grain-Free Biscuits with Miso Mushroom Gravy. The gravy is the secondary recipe. The ingredients for it and its instructions are still on the page, but if you’re ever interested in just making the gravy, you don’t have to look in the Breakfast chapter. You can go straight to the Spice Mixtures, Dressings, and Sauces chapter. I think it’s a handy reference as sometimes I don’t like making a recipe where half of it is completely listed elsewhere in a cookbook.
Here are some recipes I’d like to try:
- Coconut Lime Macadamia Smoothie
- Miso Mushroom Gravy
- Oil-free Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Bars
- Gooey Pecan Cinnamon Rolls
- Blueberry Peanut Butter Crumble Bars
- “Hot” Honey Cheddar-Stuffed Sweet Potato Skins
- Sun-dried Tomato and Walnut Pate
- French Dip Calzone
- Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil Falafel with Green Tahini Sauce
- Buffalo Tempeh Wraps with Avocado Ranch Dressing
- Sweet Potato, Peanut, Black Bean Burgers
- French Onion and Kale Lentil Soup
- 5-Layer Magic Bars
Seeing as my state was (and still is) under Stay-At-Home policy because of Covid-19, I was limited in what I could actually make. It narrowed my scope down to the BBQ “Baked” Lentils recipe. The quotes is because the recipe gives instructions to cook in a pressure cooker or in a slow cooker. There is no baking.
You start by mixing your own BBQ spice rub from coconut sugar or monkfruit sweetener, and spices like paprika and cumin. For the rest of the recipe, you use dried lentils, ketchup, molasses, and vegetable stock. I did not need to make any substitutions for this recipe, but since I was running low on coconut sugar and I had some monkfruit sweetener randomly on hand, I went half-half.
I chose the slow cooker route as I do not have a pressure cooker, electric or stovetop (but if anyone wants to send one to me, I won’t say no – I’m open to do product testing). It’s essentially a dump and cook recipe that takes about 3.5 hours to 4 hours on low.
When it first finished cooking, I thought it was flavorful but a little too sweet for my liking. But then as it sat, it somehow lost all its flavor. It was really bizarre.
I haven’t used monkfruit sweetener much so I don’t know how it behaves in cooking. To be honest, most monkfruit sweeteners are erythritol with monkfruit extract blended in. I bought it on a whim to make some diabetic friendly desserts and just never did. (FYI, the small bag in my kitchen is Lakanto.) Real monkfruit, aka luo han guo, is a bit pricey and therefore harder to get. Lea does not make any mention about monkfruit sweetener affecting food flavor, only that it’s been tested as safe, has no effect on blood sugar, and that she uses it in cooked foods as the heat helps with dissolving.
Since the other ingredients in this recipe are fairly normal and I’ve cooked with coconut sugar plenty of times, I think it was the monkfruit sweetener that ruined the dish for me. At some point I’d like to try this recipe again with just coconut sugar and see how it tastes. (But that’s not going to be right now. There are more important things in life right now than restocking my coconut sugar.)
I originally served the lentils with some bell pepper and grana padano because I had them, but also because I thought the flavors would pair well enough. But it was really messy to eat, so I’m not doing that again. And then, since I had leftover BBQ seasoning, I roasted some cabbage wedges lightly seasoned with it. This worked out much better. I still thought the lentils were blah, though.
Not willing to admit defeat or give this book a bad mark based on one recipe, I went through the book again to see what I could make quickly with what was in my pantry. Enter Lea’s recipe for Chamomile Ginger Turmeric Latte. Technically, I didn’t have almond milk in my house, but I went with the hack of 1 Tbsp almond butter blended with 1 cup water, and proceeded with the recipe. And, OMG, I loved this drink. Somehow it never occurred to me that the flavors of almond and ginger pair really well together. The chamomile tea is to help tame the turmeric flavor, which I also approve of. (Am I the only one who thinks that the internet’s use of turmeric is excessive?)
I loved this flavor combination so well that I’m trying to decide what other dishes I can use it in. It also made my lentil disappointment an easier pill to swallow.
Overall book impression? If you’re into healthy eating, I recommend it. I like that it’s not purely paleo, not vegetarian, not keto, etc. It has a little of everything. It’s just approachable cooking to cooking with whole foods.
Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Blue Hills Press for this review. I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.
With COVID-19 self-quarantine in effect, my scope of recipe-testing was limited. Some modifications may have been made. I apologize that I could not recipe-test better.