"1,001 Low-Fat Recipes, Third Edition," Sue Spitler with Linda R. Yoakam

Pros: Many recipes; simple directions; delicious flavors; healthy cooking; nutritional info
Cons: Some directions could use more detail; some flavors a little bland
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

First posted 1/28/2005
Review book courtesy of Surrey Books

One of the disadvantages of switching medications for some things is that you never know what it’s going to do to your appetite. I switched meds recently and suddenly I’m eating about twice as much food. Argh! This means I really need to find some halfway-healthy food to pig out on. Thus, the book “1,001 Low-Fat Recipes, Third Edition,” by Sue Spitler (with Linda R. Yoakam, R.D., M.S.) looked like a worthwhile cookbook to try out. If the recipes were good, how could I go wrong with that many healthy recipes?!

Many, many recipes

This truly is a large cookbook with many, many recipes. It’s more than 700 pages long including the index and often has more than one recipe to a page. Types of food include appetizers and starters, soups and chowders, salads and salad dressings, fish and seafood, poultry, meats, vegetable entrees, vegetable sides, rice, grains, beans, pasta entrees, pizza, breads of all types, breakfasts, dinner and dessert sauces, cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, pies, pastries, desserts, puddings and frozen desserts. The book even includes a section of suggested menus complete with do-ahead tips and cooking schedules!

I can’t even begin to give you an idea of the incredible variety present here. However, I can say that I drooled over the salad chapter. Really. I don’t even like salads all that much, normally. But the dishes in this book are fresh, original, delicious, simple, and, for the most part, very flavorful. I absolutely love it.

Simplicity

The recipes and their directions are incredibly simple. No three-page cake recipes. Many recipes are as simple as the bean salad we made: cook some green beans; put them in a bowl with the canned beans; mix the dressing together; stir the dressing together with the beans. Not exactly difficult. The only nitpick I have is that sometimes it seems like a tiny bit more detail would be nice, such as exactly how thick they mean by “thickened.” However, the recipes are simple enough conceptually that even with only a small amount of experience in the kitchen you should be able to figure them out, and I doubt anyone who’s completely new to the kitchen is going to get a cookbook with “1,001 recipes” in the title anyway!

Flavors

I really love most of the flavors in this cookbook. Let’s take that bean salad as an example. As a general rule, I really don’t like beans much. You have to do something truly nifty to them for me to like them, and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a bean salad before. Ever. And neither has my husband. But the dressing looked so good (apricot preserves, ginger, vinegar, etc.) that I couldn’t resist trying it, and we both loved it so much we practically couldn’t stop eating it! I can guarantee you we’ll be making it again, that’s for sure.

Then there’s the bean, macaroni, and chicken salad with a honey-mustard-mayo dressing. Not quite as amazing, but still absolutely delicious (and I say that without any rancor for the fact that I managed–my own fault–to burn my hand while making that recipe). The sweet-and-sour cocktail hotdogs are absolutely delicious (the sauce includes juice, juice concentrate, and lots of red wine vinegar). The only thing we made that was bland was the mushroom rolls–there wasn’t much in the way of flavoring agents, but all it took was a bit of spice mix to fix that. And I expect a friend of ours who enjoys bland food would have thought the recipe was fine, so that’s more a matter of taste than anything else.

I’m very impressed by cookbooks that can take foods I normally don’t like and turn them into foods that I love, and this is certainly one of them.

Health and Nutrition

I think the recipes are quite good in terms of their healthiness. They don’t generally substitute a low-fat equivalent for a high-fat ingredient and then call themselves healthy. There’s a greater emphasis on vegetables, such as those bean recipes I’ve mentioned. There’s a fair amount of creativity in the substitutions–for example, there’s fat-free sour cream in the oatmeal raisin cookies I made, which were soft and delicious (another food that normally isn’t my favorite yet that I couldn’t stop eating).

Nutritional information is included with the recipes, including calories, fat grams, saturated fat grams, cholesterol, sodium, protein, carbohydrates, and exchanges. Unfortunately for people on the Weight Watchers POINTS system they don’t include fiber. In the menus section they even include an assessment of the nutrition per serving for the entire menu as a whole!

Aesthetics

The layout is simple, clean, clear, and easy to understand. There are no photos of any kind. The book does not easily lay flat, so it helps to have a “cookbook shield” with weights to hold it open.

I’ve really enjoyed using this cookbook, and plan to make many more recipes out of it. Oddly enough, I expect many of those to be from the bean and salad sections.


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