I rarely write book reviews on this blog, but this is the first of several I'll be doing over the next few months. As a dietitian, I'm frequently asked to plug a certain book, product, program, etc., but unless I feel right about it, I decline. The author of the book I'll be discussing today didn't even request that I review it, and rather than receiving a review copy, I purchased the book myself. I decided to write a review on my own because (1) I think it's a wonderful book with valuable information; (2) the author self-published, which takes a lot of time and effort and, compared to going with a publisher, considerable expense; and (3) the author does little self-promotion, so I want to make sure everyone knows about it.
If you're not already familiar with DJ Foodie, he's a formerly obese, self-described foodie who lost 150 pounds by following a low-carb lifestyle. He's also very funny, bright, and an extremely talented chef who trained at The Culinary Institute of North America and worked in the food industry for many years.
Why am I recommending that you buy a cookbook when there are so many low-carb recipes online, including those on DJ Foodie's website? I love recipe sites like his and the ones maintained by other low-carb culinary geniuses who never fail to amaze and delight me with their creations. But I really like having a collection of fantastic recipes in hard-copy form too. Plus I feel it's important to support the efforts of those whose online content and hard work we admire. Also, as fantastic as the recipes in this book are -- and they certainly are -- there is so much more included in Taking Out the Carbage. From the moment you take off the wrapping paper (hint: bacon lovers may want to save it) and open this beautiful 570-page, 6-pound hardback book filled with DJ's signature illustrations and engaging writing style, you're in for a real treat (low carb, of course!)
Here's what I love about Taking Out the Carbage:
Explanation of low-carb diets and the DJ Foodie "Low-Primal" approach DJ succinctly explains why energy/calorie deficit is essential for weight loss and that while people can lose on a variety of diet plans, the insulin-modulating, satiating effects of carbohydrate restriction (around 30 grams of net carb per day) make it the best strategy for sustained weight loss and future maintenance.
Rather than being restrictive, his "Low-Primal" lifestyle allows for a wide variety of animal and plant foods, including some wheat products, sugar substitutes, and peanut products that many people have been led to believe should be avoided. DJ's viewpoint mirrors my own: These foods may not be the epitome of healthful fare, but many people find that including them makes it much easier to follow a low-carb way of eating, particularly in the initial stages. Recipes can work for those who wish to follow a Paleo or ketogenic diet as well, with only a small modification of ingredients.
Aside from providing great information, DJ is an excellent writer, whose witty commentary made the book a pleasure to read. His honest, low-key, non-hype style really resonates with me.
Detailed sections about sugar substitutes ( including recipes to make your own sugar-free blends) and net carbs: There's a very balanced discussion on various sugar substitutes and why "natural" sweeteners aren't always better than "artificial" ones, particularly if you're trying to keep carbs down in order to lose weight or control blood sugar levels. DJ provides a great strategy for calculating net (digestible) carbs: total minus all fiber minus 50% of carbs from sugar alcohols (except erythritol, where all carbs can be subtracted).
"Bag of Tricks": Hidden carbs? Cravings? Weight-loss stalls? Getting organized to cook? DJ's got you covered on some of the most common diet challenges.
Organizational and planning tools: Another helpful section of the book contains 2 weeks of sample meal plans with 30 or fewer grams of net carb per day. DJ also provides detailed recommendations for customizing your own food plan. There are ingredients lists and removable grocery lists with net carbohydrate counts for each food. Everything is color coded and organized for ease of use -- all the information you need is at your fingertips.
Creative, easy, nourishing recipes with gorgeous color photographs and comprehensive nutritional analysis of each recipe: Of course, the highlight of the book is the recipes themselves. DJ made certain that each of the 226 recipes met the following criteria:
2. Easy and cost effective
3. Efficient and time saving
4. Never strays from the diet, while still allowing for some "legal cheats"
Each recipe is accompanied by an enticing large color image. The photography is absolutely stunning throughout! Each recipe lists both imperial and metric measurements. The low carb movement is growing internationally, which is very encouraging. Americans use imperial measurements (ounces, pounds, etc.), but most of the rest of the world is on the metric system (grams, milliliters, etc.), so it's great to see both here.
Some of the recipes are available on the DJ Foodie website, but others are exclusive to the book. And despite its subtitle, "The Big Book of Bacon," there are many tantalizing recipes in "Taking Out the Carbage" that don't include bacon, such as:
Asian Sweet 'n' Spicy Chicken
Torta di Rotello
Sausage, Tomato, and Fresh Mozzarella Tower
Raspberry–Cream Cheese Swirl Frozen Custard
Naturally, there are a number of recipes that do feature bacon, including the sensational grilled shrimp-and-bacon entree I prepared this weekend. Wow, was it delicious and satisfying! Even the pieces that got charred (my fault -- heat was up too high) were really tasty, and my husband asked if I would please make it again very soon.
BBQ'd Bacon-Wrapped Basil Shrimp
1 lb. (454 g) shrimp (16/20), peeled and deveined (I used slightly smaller shrimp, 26/30)
1/4 cup (60 mL) Sweet ‘n’ Tangy BBQ Sauce
6 slices (150 g) raw bacon
18 fresh basil leaves
18 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes (I only used 5 skewers)
salt, pepper, and chili flakes to taste
2 Tbsp (30 mL) coconut oil for grilling
1. Marinate the shrimp in the BBQ sauce for about 20 minutes.
2. Preheat the grill.
3. While the shrimp is marinating, cut each slice of bacon into thirds. This will result in 18 approximately two to three-inch (6 cm) slices of bacon. Squish each slice of bacon with the side of a knife or the bottom of a pan. Don’t tear it up. You want 18 nice thin “sheets” of bacon.
4. Set each sheet of bacon on a cutting board, and place a basil leaf on top of each sheet.
5. Place a marinated shrimp above each basil leaf. Season with a small amount of salt and pepper (add chili flakes for extra heat!)
6. Wrap each slice of bacon around the shrimp, and use a thin, premoistened skewer to hold the bacon in place. You can also put up to 3 per skewer, for a different look. (I put 3-4 on each skewer, since I was using smaller shrimp)
7. Brush the oil on the grill to help prevent sticking. Grill the shrimp over medium-high heat until the bacon is crisp and the shrimp are cooked through.
Nutrition information per serving:
Total Carbohydrates: 3 grams
Fiber: 0.5 grams
Net Carbohydrates: 2.5 grams
Protein: 18.5 grams
Fat: 17 grams
To sum up, Taking Out the Carbage is outstanding on every level and would be a wonderful resource for anyone interested in easy-to-preapre recipes that support a low-carb lifestyle. In all honesty, I can't imagine that you'll be anything but delighted with this book.
Starting today, DJ has arranged a second pre-sale where he's offering the book at the discounted price of $29.99 (regular price will be $49.99 on Amazon): Taking Out the Carbage pre-sale. I think it's an incredible bargain considering the quality of this book. If you already have your own copy, feel free to include your thoughts about it below in comments.
Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE