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Lightning Reviews: A Cookbook and Beverly Jenkins

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As the title suggests, these two Lightnings Reviews feature a cookbook and a Beverly Jenkins historical romance. I know some of you like to read the reviews and then guess who wrote which and I’m very curious if you’ll guess today’s reviewers correctly. Let us know in the comments!



    Instant Loss Cookbook

    author: Brittany Williams

    When I recommend Instant Loss Cookbook: Cook Your Way to a Healthy Weight with 125 Recipes for Your Instant Pot Pressure Cooker I do so with the caveat that this book really isn’t about weight loss. If you read the introduction, the author is open about the fact that she struggled with obesity, but the real reason she came up with these recipes is that her child was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis and as a result the entire family had to switch up their diet pretty quickly. She did lose weight on the new diet, but that wasn’t the intent–the intent was to cook for her family in a way that wouldn’t send her child into a miserable flare up. That said, because the patriarchy fucking sucks, of course this is marketed as a weight loss book.

    Now, I have fibromyalgia and I’ve noticed that the closer I stick to an anti-inflammatory diet the better I feel. That’s a hard diet to strictly observe unless you’re a celebrity and can afford a chef. It’s basically “no” to processed foods, sugars, starches, anything fermented or aged, and alcohol. Yes to lots of fruits and veggies (except nightshades), Omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains and plant based proteins, while consuming only minimal amounts of dairy and red meat. Personally, I’ve noticed that I feel pretty awful after I eat anything fermented or aged (weeps at red wine and delicious cheeses) and that too much sugar will set me off.

    I love this book so much because the author has come up with tons of recipes for the pressure cooker that omit the stuff that can cause flare ups when I eat it. For example, soy sauce is replaced with coconut aminos and cornstarch with arrowroot powder. And her recipes, by and large, are really, really good. Because you’re using a pressure cooker for most, they also tend to be fast and easy. Almost all of her recipes are also gluten and dairy-free.

    I haven’t made her breakfasts (because I don’t eat breakfast) or her desserts (because if I want dessert I’m having dessert) but her main dishes are a staple in my house. My personal favorites out of this book are her Chicken Tortilla Soup, Cleaner Corn Chowder, Beef and Broccoli, and her Savory Bacon Brussel Sprouts. The brussel sprouts are so good I make them just as a meal in themselves.

    There are recipes for roast chicken, dairy free mac and “cheese,” sliders and more. I had to add a few items to my pantry (arrowroot powder, agave nectar, and coconut aminos mostly) but other than that, the recipes consist of basic, fresh ingredients. She also has recipes for homemade mayo, ketchup, bone broth and almond milk, as well as dips, cocktails and salads. Not everything is made in the pressure cooker, but most of the main dishes are.

    If you are looking to omit dairy, gluten, inflammatory foods or all three, I totally recommend this cookbook (in fact all of her books). Ignore the bullshit marketing. This book is a godsend for people like me with food exclusions.




    Wild Rain

    author: Beverly Jenkins

    Content warning: Spring’s backstory contains abuse, including sexual exploitation, and Garrett is a former slave and child soldier. Both characters face racism, and this is a major plot point.

    Wild Rain is a lovely, tender romance between Spring, a horse-rancher living in Wyoming, and Garrett, a reporter for a Black newspaper who has travelled out West to interview Spring’s brother. Spring is independent, prickly, and extremely competent, and Garrett is charmed by her almost from the first moment when he meets her – which happens when she rescues him after he falls off his horse during a blizzard.

    I enjoyed this story a lot. It contains many of the elements that feel like a traditional Western to me – scenes of blizzards and horse-breaking, confrontations in the local saloon, slick shysters from out East come to take advantage of the locals – but the central characters buck the stereotypes in numerous ways. It’s Garrett who is the gentle, softly-spoken, bookish one, the good listener, the fish out of water, and Spring who is the hot-tempered cowboy with the rakehell past, who tames wild horses and carries a gun that she is not afraid to use. I liked that Garrett is not portrayed as weak, even though Spring is more physically competent than he is. In fact, his respect for and acceptance of Spring is a sign of his strength and confidence in himself. I also liked how absolutely good-hearted Garrett was. You just knew from the start that Spring was safe with Garrett on every level – there wasn’t the slightest trace of macho bullshit about him.

    There were some fascinating family dynamics here, too. Spring’s background is pretty harrowing, and I liked that it was resolved satisfactorily, but not simplistically. The layers in her relationship with her brother were particularly well done. And I liked the way we saw what was driving Garrett’s father’s ambitions for his children, and the way he was portrayed as being both highly sympathetic and also wrong. Families are not always easy!

    Most of the conflict in this book came from outside the relationship. Spring and Garrett got onto the same page pretty quickly and stayed there, though it took a while for Spring to extend her full trust to Garrett. For me, this actually worked really well, because the external threat was pretty horrific, and flagged quite early in the story. I think if Spring and Garrett hadn’t had so much tenderness and respect between them so early, it would have been hard to bear the anticipation of that threat.

    Overall, Wild Rain was a little more angsty than I normally prefer. The threat that looms over Spring through the story adds a significant amount of dread and tension, and can make for some tense reading, but the sweetness of the relationship between Spring and Garrett balanced that somewhat. It was also refreshing to read a Western-set romance with Black and Native American characters living side by side with their White neighbours – perhaps not always in harmony (and never without an awareness of race), but as a community nonetheless.

    Catherine Heloise

    Historical: American, Romance

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