I don’t think I’ve ever shared it before, but my very first teaching job included one class of high school French 1. Admittedly, my French was extremely poor, but I would study hard each night for my lessons so that I always stayed one step ahead of the students. It was tremendously rewarding to take them from nothing to some basic French over the course of a year.
Well, eight years in China pushed every bit of French right out of my brain. Even when I try to speak French, it comes out as Mandarin. Obviously the “Mandarin files” wrote over the old “French files” in the brain. (Has that experience happened to any of you? You try to mentally access a foreign language and you come up with the wrong one?)
That background is simply to explain why I was so eager to try out Chef Alain Braux’s cookbook Healthy French Cuisine for Less Than $10/Day. I remember learning about the European style of eating and cooking. It was always intriguing but so vastly different from the American South’s way that I couldn’t really appreciate it. Fruit for dessert? Fish and seafood several times a week? Soup before each meal? No way!
Well, after eight years in China, my tastes in food have changed so much that I now am ready for some “Frenchie food” as my family calls it. The author of the book is Chef Alain, a French chef who lives in Texas. His cookbook blends the best of traditional French food with modern nutrition. The result is a kitchen reference that inspires and instructs.
Unlike most cookbooks that are primarily recipes, about half of Healthy French Cuisine for Less Than $10/Day is devoted to a discussion of nutrition, buying food in season, money saving tips, and cooking techniques. The premise of the cookbook is that buying fresh foods in season is not only healthy but frugal. Absolutely!
I learned this truth in China where most of our foods were locally grown. That means they were supremely fresh, very affordable, and highly nutritious. Since returning to America, I have chosen to buy most of my fruits and vegetables at a produce store where the selections include local and seasonal foods.
The recipes are divided into winter, spring, summer, and fall with dishes that feature the foods of each season. Of course, you can skip around and cook the summer dishes in the winter if you choose, but the ingredients will likely cost more and will not be as healthy as using the produce that is in season at the time.
The recipes are frugal but elegant. Here are some examples.
Maple-Chili Glazed Pork
As you can see, the ingredients are things you normally would have on hand, but the combination of flavors made for a unique meal. At Chef’s suggestion, I sauteed frozen green beans in the sauce leftover from the chops. It was delicious! My husband gave this two thumbs up. (Sprite did not eat with us that night.)
Shrimp with Ginger and Lime
I admit that Sprite adores shrimp and my husband is not crazy about it. They both liked this recipe as much as I expected. Hubs said it was good, but didn’t ask for seconds. Sprite devoured all that was left in the pan.
Fire Roasted Tomato Soup
I have never liked tomato soup. And now I know why — all I had ever experienced was Campbells canned tomato soup. Chef Alain’s tomato soup is amazing. I have discovered that I do like tomato soup when it is made from scratch.
As you can see, this recipe takes the shortcut of using canned tomatoes. It’s easy, and the payoff is huge with a homemade soup that is full of nourishing vitamins.
Here is Sprite taste testing the salmon and leek wraps pictured at the top of this post. (I had never used phylo dough until making this recipe. It was fun to try something totally new.)
Chef Alain’s cookbook has reinforced my commitment to eat frugal and healthy foods in season.
Who will like this book
1. Cooks with a modest amount of cooking experience
Although Chef Alain discusses some basic cooking techniques, the recipes assume an certain level of expertise in the kitchen. There are no diagrams to help you understand exactly how to fold the phylo dough to make a wrap, for example. There are no photos of the finished dishes, so you need to use your imagination to envision how the completed recipe will turn out.
2. Cooks who want to try new ingredients
I didn’t find the ingredients to be terrible strange, but there are a handful of recipes that call for something I’ve never heard of or don’t have on hand. Personally, I enjoy hunting for a new ingredient and trying it out in a new dish.
3. Cooks who are looking for gluten-free options.
Almost every singe recipe in the book has adaptations for making it gluten free and casein free (GFCF).
4. Cooks who want encouragement to shop frugally and cook healthy
Chef Alain’s healthy eating philosophy is the basis for all the recipes, so they all reinforce thrifty and nutritious cooking habits.
More By Chef Alain
My friend Rachel at Finding Joy has reviewed another cookbook by Chef Alain, Living Gluten and Dairy-Free with French Gourmet Food: A Practical Guide. She, too, is giving away a copy a cookbook, so be sure to visit her review for a chance to win the gluten free guide. Her post is called The Awesome Gluten Free Cookbook Review and Giveaway.
Giveaway Rules (contest is closed)
Chef Alain has allowed me to choose one winner who will receive a copy of Healthy French Cuisine for Less Than $10/Day. You must be 18 or older,have a USA mailing address and an email address to win this giveaway. I’ll select a winner on November 30. You will have 48 hours to respond to the notification email before another winner is chosen. Please leave a comment here to enter. Tell me which one of Chef Alain’s recipes you would like to try. (Remember to visit Healthy Chef Recipes for more of his food.)
For an additional entry, tweet this contest post and include @ChefAlain in your tweet.
Suggested Tweet: Win Frugal French Cooking by @ChefAlain. ADD LINK here @jimmiescollage
Link to the tweet here for the second entry. (Click on the date or time of the tweet to get its permalink.)
In exchange for my honest review, I received a free copy of Healthy French Cuisine for Less Than $10/Day and was compensated for my time to use the cookbook, to write this review and to host the giveaway. This post expresses my own truthful opinion about the cookbook.