I received my shiny new copy of the cookbook Well Fed by Melissa Joulwan of The Clothes Make the Girl fame about 4 weeks ago and I can say with confidence that my eating experiences have been upgraded from Holiday Inn to Four Seasons. This recipe book has made me happier than I was when they came back with Degrassi the Second Generation.

I received the book near the beginning of the GET REAL Challenge at Quantum Crossfit and immediately took to our forum to tell everyone how awesome it was.  2 of my friends and fellow GET REAL’ers, Amanda and Elizabeth, both jumped on board and ordered their copies.  In no time the 3 of us had an email thread going where we were gossiping about our cooking adventures and having a full-on lovefest with these recipes.  This is all we talked about at the gym and I felt like we were 12 years old again, goo’ing over pictures of Luke Perry (or Jason Priestly in my case….I was a nerd) in the latest issue of Teen Beat.

Thus, rather than writing this review in isolation I asked them to contribute by giving me some testimonials on the recipes that they tried.

Before we review some of the individual recipes, let me tell you why this is the best damn cookbook ever:

1)  There is not one recipe in this book that I don’t want to try and that is a rarity.  This recipe book is like Pearl Jam’s Ten album…from start to finish it is phenomenal.

2)   FLAVOURS!!  I think Melissa has some kind of super human tongue that gives her this ability to create the most amazing and unique flavours I have ever tasted.

3)   You feel like your taste buds are travelling to far away places and you can have any worldly adventure that you choose….want to go to Morocco? No problem…try the Ras El Hanout spice blend (which I now put on EVERYTHING).  How about Thailand?  Whip up some of the Pad Thai and you’re good to go.  No wait, I want to go to Ina Garten’s house in the Hamptons and make a fancy brunch for Jeffery while Miguel sets the table….Totally do-able!  You can do that by making the Scotch Eggs.  The flavour adventures are endless.

4)   The recipes are easy to follow and most of them use ingredients you probably already have.  BONUS!

5)   The plate ideas at the beginning of the book and the many different alternatives to the recipes that Melissa provides gives you a never-ending repertoire of meals to choose from.  Pure genius.

6)  Melissa’s passion for food oozes out of each description for the recipes and you get so excited about making them.  Julia Child would be proud.

The 3 of us used phrases such as “Did you hug your copy of the book?”,  “This made me hump the air”, “Jazz hands”, “Best meal EVER”, “Can we become her best friends in the whole wide world?”, “I already flagged the book with sticky notes (after only having it for 24 hours)” and the list goes on….I would write more but I’m already seeing this coming off as possible stalker material.

Between the 3 of us, we made a good chunk of the recipes in the book….here is our rundown on most of the ones that we tried.  S = Summer (me), A = Amanda, E = Elizabeth:

Char Siu:
S: There are no words for this one….only moans, grunts and squeals.  The flavours in this recipe are like nothing I have ever tasted from a Paleo meal.  Fully Primal Husband declared this to be the best meal he has had in a long time and that says a lot since we live in a city with some pretty kick-ass restaurants that we frequent.  My only piece of advice would be to ask your butcher to cut the meat into the 8 slices because if your knife is a bit dull (like mine), you will end up feeling like you just hit a solid 20 minute shake weight workout whilst trying to butcher the meat.

A: Whoa. I’m having trouble coming up with actual words for this. A series of moans and the occasional grunt accompanied by a fist pump would probably best describe it. Or some high kicks and jazz hands. It’s pretty clear that this recipe was created by someone who really loves food and understands flavours. And I appreciate it a whole lot!

Sheppard’s Pie:
S: This is sooooo rich and creamy and wonderful.  Each bite makes your eyeballs roll into the back of your head with pleasure.   This is the quintessential comfort food.  You must heed the warning that you need to wait for it to cool because I lost at least 5 layers of skin on the top of my mouth eating this too soon out of the oven.  I just couldn’t wait…it smelled so damn delicious.

Cinnamon Beef Stew: 
S: 3 S’s come to mind….Sweet, succulent and savoury.   It made me soooooo happy.  I highly recommend making this in advance and having it in your fridge waiting for you after a long day at work….It’s like being greeted by unicorns and rainbows.

Salmon L’Afrique Du Nord:
S: This makes you kick yourself for not realizing that you could make plain old salmon taste SO MUCH BETTER by taking 5 minutes to make this deliciously sweet marinade.

The Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat:
S: You feel so skilled making this because brining is something you only see chefs do on the Food Network.  It’s so simple to do and it makes for some pretty juicy bird meat.  Finger lickin good.

Spice Market Kale:
S: I did not think it was possible to love Kale this much and want to inhale it like a rabid herbivore.   I think this kale could turn me vegetarian.  Ha!  Silly, that would never happen because that Char Siu would always lure me back to the omnivore side.  The amazing thing about this recipe is that you can pretty much use the spice/coconut milk combo to kick anything up.

E: We all know greens are good for us but they can be tedious to wash, bitter and sautéing with a little butter or coconut oil can get boring. This takes greens to a whole other level. Before I even finished my plate I was foraging my fridge to pull out any and all vegetables on hand I could prepare this way. In a week I have done this recipe 5 times. You could say I binged on greens. Make this for everyday and for special occasion. It really is that good.

Mashed Cauliflower: 
S: Looooove theeeese!!  FPH said that you could serve this to anyone and they would think it is really mashed potatoes. This is our new favourite side dish to go with our weekly steak feast.

Sunshine Sauce: 
S: This is a your one-way ticket to a mouth-gasm.

A: This stuff is dope. Zippy and zesty and dope. My favourite use thus far was: ground pork and shredded cabbage in the frying pan, once cooked, mix a blob of SS and a handful of cilantro. Five minutes well spent!

Best Stir Fry Sauce Ever:
S: Yes, yes it is.  Why did I never think to make a sauce this awesome??

Peach Almond Crisp: 
S: Often I will bake some fruit to have as a treat with some coconut cream.  This takes my standard (read: amateur) recipe to the next level by adding a crunchy crust.  This dessert is such a treat and it is so refreshing to see that you can make a dessert taste like a dessert without adding ANY sugar (not even maple syrup or honey!).

Ginger-Lime Grilled Shrimp over Zucchini Noodles Aglio et Olio and drizzled with Sunshine Sauce (3 recipes in one!):
A: I subbed the parsley for cilantro and omitted the almond flour ‘bread crumbs’. I ate that bowl of awesome cross legged on the couch in my sweatpants and said out loud (to my dog?) “I’m so f**king happy right now”. I’m going to make it again for friends, just so we can slurp and talk about how fantastic it is, and marvel at the fact that a big bowl of zucchini can be so darn satisfying.

Coconut – Almond Green Beans:
A: So much greater than the sum of its parts! Pretty simple ingredient list turned the lowly green bean into something so much more. Creamy, cozy and yummy. Take Melissa’s advice and make a double batch!

Citrus Carnitas:
E: Clearly this book has made me over confident and I buy a 3.5 lb pork shoulder to make dinner for a man friend & deliver the news I didn’t want to see him anymore. The recipe is easy and doesn’t require a ton of ingredients. What I like best about this recipe was her instruction not to panic mid cooking when it looks like you are just boiling pork. It takes about three hours but you only need to pay attention for the first and last fifteen minutes. I can’t think of a better review than my dinner companion had four servings, each one bigger than the last. He finished the pot while my dreams of leftovers all week vanished. It did make delivering the news much easier. Make this if you want to impress someone. Or don’t because you will never be able to meet those expectations again.
Italian Sausage and Eggplant Strata:
A: Is it moussaka or lasagna? No matter, it’s delicious. I had it for breakfast this morning. The creamy smokiness of the eggplant and the freshness of the tomato and basil are a perfect combo. And since there’s sausage in it, maybe my coworkers won’t comment on how ‘weird’ my breakfast is as they eat their ¾ cup of bran flakes with skim milk…?

E: You never forget your first and this recipe will always be remembered for sending me to bed reading the cookbook. I was excited to go to sleep so I could wake up and have it for breakfast. She promised it would be better as leftovers and it was. I would serve this for a dinner party and graciously accept compliments for creating such a simple, rustic but incredibly flavourful meal. Make it if you are missing Italian food.

Meat and Spinach Muffins:
E: Fresh from the oven they were a little spinachy for me and I immediately used the handy space to make a note to half the spinach and double the eggs but over the week, they mellowed out and I crossed out my note. Side note – I love the space on each page to write your own adjustments, it makes you feel she wouldn’t be at all offended that you tinkered with her creations. Make these if you don’t want to cook each morning.

Cocoa Toasted Cauliflower:
A: Yum! Not chocolate-y, but spicy and delicious-y. One tip: use room temperature cauliflower. I had mine in the fridge so the coconut oil got rock hard the moment it hit the bowl, making ‘tossing to coat’ near impossible. I left the bowl on top of the oven for a bit (while the Char Sui was cooking) to melt the oil and it worked out great.

Cumin Roasted Carrots:
E: Perfect for winter. These are idiot proof. I may get more adventurous and add more root vegetables to the mix next time. Make these when you just can’t bear to eat raw carrots anymore.

Velvety Butternut Squash:
E: Un-effin-believable. This had all the creamy sweetness of the traditional butternut squash recipes with cream, brown sugar and brandy but with no Haute mess ingredients. No sugar crisis this week and I think it is all down to this fantastic squash with its sweet spice mix and pecans. A little time consuming with the baking and food processing but well worth it. Make this in your weekly cookup and enjoy as a luxury side dish all week.

Cauliflower Rice Pilaf:
E: This dish is as good as picking up a biryani from a stall in Malaysia. Filling, spicy and the addition of dried fruit makes it a treat. I will add some chicken next time to make it a complete meal. Make it when you want to impress non Paleo friends and show that they don’t need grains to complete a meal.

Olive Oil Mayo:
A: Ok, why the HELL did I wait so long to make homemade mayo?!? This stuff is amazing! I made the ranch dressing with it and after one taste I had no choice but to jump around my kitchen and hump the air. What I’m trying to say is: I’m soooo happy that I get to live in a world with homemade mayo.

Thank to both Elizabeth and Amanda for sharing their reviews!  

The only things that I did not like about this book were:

1) It made me feel like my recipe creation skills are pretty remedial.  I’m going to blame the fact that I do not have a super human tongue like Melissa.

2) I had to use some serious jedi mind magic to stop myself from eating to a point of tummy explosion.  The food is that good.

So if you haven’t bought your copy of Well Fed yet, you are really missing out on some of the best damn Paleo food you will ever eat.  What are you waiting for? Go get Well Fed and start fist pumping and air humping!