Friday, April 30, 2010

Review: Sue Gregg Cookbooks

Several years ago I decided that my family needed to eat better. After quite a bit of research, I determined that it would be best to start with small changes. My first step was to replace our all-purpose flour with whole grains.

My first purchase toward healthier eating was a grain mill and a heavy-duty mixer. Initially, it was quite an investment, but I'm glad I made it and still put both items to use. However, it would have been even better if I could have jumped right in without needing to purchase a grain mill. Not every family can make such an investment nor is willing when just starting out. If only I had known about Blender Batter Baking...

What is Blender Batter Baking? Blender Batter Baking is a method of baking promoted by Sue Gregg. While the name Sue Gregg was familiar to me, I really didn't know much about her cookbooks other than they were health related. To be honest, I have no idea when I first heard the name, but it was many, many years ago, well before I decided to my family needed to eat better. In fact, it was probably before I even had a husband and kids; SueGreggCookbooks has been publishing since 1977!

More than a cookbook...

I'll get to the Blender Batter Baking in a moment, but first I wanted to explain the content of the cookbooks. These cookbooks do not contain just recipes, they contain a ton of information on the hows and whys of healthy eating. While I already had a head start on some of the basics, there was plenty of clarifying and new information to me. In fact, of the two cookbooks I received, An Introduction to Whole Grain Baking and Breakfasts, the first 80 and 50 pages respectively are devoted to information only. The cookbooks cover basic baking information, general nutrition, and the differences in ingredients, such as fats, sweeteners, grains and allergy alternatives.

Blender Batter Baking...

Blender Batter Baking is a 2-stage process that increases the nutritional value of using whole grains in your baking. Rather than me explain the whole process, you can read more about the hows and whys of Blender Batter Baking here. The biggest advantage to this method, other than increased nutrition, is it allows someone who can't make the investment of a grain mill to give whole grains a try. Secondly, I found it incredibly easy soaking the grains in the blender. It made a warm breakfast of waffles in the morning a very quick process.

Both of the following that I received included recipes with Blender Batter Baking:

An Introduction to Whole Grain Baking
$23
172 pages, with Powerpoint demonstration CD
Whole Grain Baking 46-Page PDF Sample

This cookbook will give you all the hows and whys to get you started to bake with the two-stage process of Blender Batter Baking. Twelve quick bread recipes and 18 yeast bread recipes are included, along with a CD that gives a detailed photo demonstration of the recipes. It also serves as a text for Sue Gregg's high school curriculum, Baking with Whole grains.


Breakfasts
$23
290 pages
Breakfasts 70-page PDF Sample

Breakfasts includes More Blender Batter Baking and breakfast recipes for such as smoothies, omelets, muffins, and fruit toppings. Other topics include yogurt making, a variety of nutritional information, and milk and grain allergy alternatives.


Putting the recipes to the test...

Out of all the recipes I tried, I had a couple that have become regulars, several more as thumbs up, and only one complete flop. One thing I really appreciated was the variation suggestions in the recipes. Not only does this allow to accommodate various allergies, but it gives opportunity to vary your family's diet with one standard recipe. The Blender Waffle and Pancake recipe was one that I had the most fun trying out with all the different options. In the process, I found a new grain to add to my baking, Kamut. Part of the problem when first exploring whole grains is I wasn't always sure how to use different grains. As a result, I tended to stick with the basic wheat varieties. With Sue Gregg's waffle recipe, I had the chance to try different grains on my family using a very easy and quick recipe. My kids tolerated almost all of the variations, with one exception...buckwheat. My dogs enjoyed a healthy breakfast that morning!

The Delicious Whole Grain Dough recipe was indeed, delicious. It can be used for rolls, pizza crust, and a variety of breads. The cornbread recipe became another favorite. My family likes very sweet cornbread, more like corn cake! However, even with only 3T of honey, this was a hit with my whole family. I loved how easy it was with the blender.

Some of the recipes may take getting used to if your family is accustomed to sugary baking. One item that did not work out well for my family was the Blender Banana Muffin recipe, simply because it wasn't as sweet as some of the other quick breads and muffins I make. I imagine taste buds would adjust with continued decreased sugar intake, which is definitely something we should work on.

The last thing I wanted to mention was having the proper equipment. Please take note of the blender recommendations and read the recipe directions carefully. I took a chance with a 15-year-old low-quality blender that ended in a quick death after I decided to double a recipe. Definitely keep to one batch the first time around. The batters tend to thicken overnight and you need to take care to add more liquid when blending the second time. A careful eye and some patience will save your blender; my $25 replacement is holding up just fine. I just love this blender method, especially for those wanting to try whole grains out. Grain mills are a very expensive purchase, but almost everyone has a blender or can afford the low investment to get one.

Overall, I really enjoyed these cookbooks and I am looking forward to trying out more recipes and techniques found in them. They are a bit more than I would typically pay for a cookbook, but really are more information-driven than just a collection of recipes. In the large scope of things, $23 isn't much more than, say, taking your family out for dinner at the local fast food restaurant. Yet, I suspect it may have a vastly different result on the health of your family! If you are a beginner to healthy cooking, I would recommend starting with An Introduction to Whole Grain Baking.

For more cookbook options, the basic set of 8 Sue Gregg cookbooks is listed on the Sue Gregg website. The website is also contains ten introduction recipes, background information on both the author and cooking method.

Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew's blog to read more reviews on this product and others.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.

3 comments:

Lori at The Davidson Den said...

I'm so glad you did this review! I love Sue Gregg. I don't have a single one of her cookbooks (yet), but I've found many of her recipes online, including the Blender Batter Waffles, which my family LOVES. (In fact, I posted about them a while back.) I am big into soaking grains, so I really appreciate this easier way of going about it. I especially love that there are WAY fewer dirty dishes this way...AND it's nice to just pour the batter right out of the blender into the waffle iron. Very convenient!

Heidi said...

Lori,

I love those Blender Batter Waffles for all the reasons you mentioned! I never soaked grains before Sue Gregg, so this recipe added some extra nutrition into our whole grains too.

Sunshine Alternative Mama said...

My boys didn't love the banana muffins either; they didn't think they were sweet enough. But they will eat them anyway, lol. I'm just starting to explore with this book; the soaked batter pancakes are a huge hit! We made the whole grain bread to day and it is really good.