Sunday, July 1, 2012

Review: Simple Pleasures

Summary: From a modern American aristocrat, a guide to stylish living that combines the iconic appeal of Martha Stewart Entertaining with the health principles of Skinny Bitch.

Daughter of fashion icon C.Z. Guest, heiress to the Phipps steel fortune, Cornelia learned all she knows about elegant living from her impossibly stylish parents and their illustrious friends, including her three “fairy godfathers:” designer Halston, fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo, and artist Andy Warhol. In
Simple Pleasures, she shares the secrets of understated elegance, entertaining with ease, and the welcoming comforts of good food.

Consulting with her favorite vegan chefs, Cornelia includes simple, tempting recipes; information about the safest non-organic foods; how to build satisfying meals around vegetables, grains, legumes and fruits instead of meat fish, and eggs; and how to dress up store-bought dishes like hummus, salsas, bean salad, ice cream and sorbets. Each section features menu plans as well as side bars full of tips for setting a lively and original table, growing fruits and vegetables, making natural centerpieces, choosing playful hostess gifts, even staying calm in the face of entertaining disaster.

Richly illustrated with photographs of the Guest estate and personal memorabilia, the book has the feel of a scrapbook, and embodies the feeling of a well-lived life. Cheerful, colorful, and unpretentious,
Simple Pleasures will give you all you need to know to eat the most nutritious way possible and to serve it up with great style. -- Weinstein Books

I am probably going to embarrass myself with two admissions in this review of SIMPLE PLEASURES: HEALTHY SEASONAL COOKING AND EASY ENTERTAINING by Cornelia Guest. First of all, I had no idea who Cornelia Guest was when I agreed to review this book; and secondly, I didn't realize that the recipes were vegan. It was actually the cover of SIMPLE PLEASURES (and maybe even that adorable puppy) that initially attracted me to this book. However, I quickly found that this book was gorgeous and filled with some unique recipes and entertaining ideas.

For those of you who are like me and don't know much about Cornelia Guest, I'll give you a brief bio. Ms. Guest is an activist, philanthropist, and business woman who has founded Cornelia Guest Events and Cornelia Guest Cookies. She is well-known for catering charity and other events with healthy and cruelty-free food. She also is an author and a designer of animal-friendly accessories; and her parents are American fashion icon CZ Guest and polo champion Winston Frederick Churchill Guest.

Now, back to the book! When I first realized that the recipes in SIMPLE PLEASURES were all vegan, I admit that I was a little concerned that they would include some hard-to-find ingredients. I quickly learned that that wasn't the case. For the most part, these recipes are simple and full of fresh (and readily available) ingredients. In addition, many of the recipes came from Ms. Guest's very famous friends; and I found that fun and interesting as well.

Another huge benefit of SIMPLE PLEASURES that came as a bit of a surprise to me is that I found loads of recipes that I can make for my son. Because my son has so many serious food allergies, I've found that vegan recipes are often times perfect for him. I appreciated that most of these recipes are extremely healthy too and relatively simple to make.

In addition to having some great recipes, SIMPLE PLEASURES is an all-around beautiful guide for easy entertaining. Trust me on this one, this book is gorgeous. It's filled with loads of color photographs of not only food, but flowers, table arrangements, and even a few adorable animals. I especially like that all of the ideas look fancy but don't take a lot of effort to make.

SIMPLE PLEASURES is a very unique book and unlike anything I've ever owned. It's a great assortment of entertaining ideas as well as everyday recipes. The first section of the book is all about entertaining with chapters for Easy Elegance, Wholesome Eating, and Effortless Entertaining. Then come the recipes! The book is divided into recipes by season -- spring, summer, fall and winter; and within each season, the recipes are broken out by different categories like appetizers, beverages, salads, pastas, soups, desserts, and many more. I love being able to turn to a particular section and find recipes that use fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Having said that, I decided to make a recipe for Spaghetti with Cauliflower (which isn't a summer recipe!) Basically, it's a pasta meal with vegetable broth, a little tomato sauce and tomato paste, and fresh onions and cauliflower. It also has toasted panko and pine nuts on the top. It was fairly simple and sounded yummy to me, plus Booking Son could eat it without the pine nuts. When I served it to my family, all three of them asked me where was the meat? I shouldn't have been surprised! I enjoyed the meal and everyone ate their portion (which is saying something), but my husband asked me to make it with shrimp the next time. So much for vegan dinners in my family!

The next recipe that I'm going to try is for Grilled Corn and Avocado Salad. I think it looks amazing and I can use the fresh cilantro from my garden! Of course, I think I better serve it with fish or chicken or my husband might not be too thrilled.

Grilled Corn and Avocado Salad 
By Cornelia Guest, Author of Cornelia Guest's Simple Pleasures: Healthy Seasonal Cooking and Easy Entertaining 
Serves 6 
Total time: 25 minutes 

There is nothing like sweet summer corn. This pairing is smooth and crunchy, colorful, and totally delicious.

4 ears of corn, shucked
1 avocado, sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt

1. Heat a grill to medium-high. Grill corn, rotating often, until lightly charred, about 15 minutes
2. Let cool slightly. Carefully cut kernels from cobs.
3. Gently toss corn kernels with avocado, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and salt. Serve right away.

Overall, SIMPLE PLEASURES is a gorgeous book for vegans (and even those of us who aren't vegans!) I recommend it to those of you looking for an all-around beautiful entertaining book.

Thanks to FSB Associates for providing a review copy.

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Robyn said...

The recipe looks YUMMY! We are meat eaters, but this looks like a great recipe book. I recently read a fun and informative book. It is called, "1001 Best Ways, Volume 1" by author Paul D. Angles. This a Non-fiction self help book, which is Volume 1 in a three volume series. This is a collection of responses to life's changes and challenges. There are 1,001 different ideas that could change your life, any one of which could be worth thousands of times the cost of the book. It's a fun and entertaining book.

I am off to purchase the cookbook! I can't wait to try some new recipes.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

That's a riot about your family's reaction to the spaghetti and cauliflower!!!

Beth F said...

Hey, they ate that spaghetti and that is saying a lot. I don't think I could be vegan, but I like eating vegan or vegetarian several times a week. The entertaining tips and photographs sound like the book is definitely worth checking out.

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

The Grilled Corn & Avacado Salad sounds wonderful.

Carole said...

Good review.
Have a great week

ChaosIsAFriendOfMine said...

This review comes at a perfect time for me - I'm experimenting with going vegan this week. My son has a nut allergy so I'm glad to know there are recipes in this book that would be safe for him.