"Rancho la Puerta," Bill Wavrin

Pros: Healthy; good solid quality; makes great use of fresh produce
Cons: Some unusual ingredients; not a huge number of fantastic recipes; you’ll need a source of great fresh produce
Rating: 4 out of 5

“Rancho la Puerta” is 100% vegetarian; it also tends to lean toward the fresh vegetables and salad end of the vegetarian food spectrum.

There are little “taking the ranch home” bits spread throughout the book. These are tiny tips like the fact that breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, how to snack well, how to gradually restore flexibility to your body, There are cooking tip pages too. Things like how to take care of yeast, how to select and roast chile peppers, and how best to prepare dried beans. A couple of these are fairly in-depth (like the chile peppers); most are brief. The cooking tips are particularly useful; most of the other tips are basic common sense.

Recipe Quality

The Curried Mango-Peanut Yogurt Dip is good, but not as good as it sounds. The same goes for the Sun-Dried Tomato Soup with Opal Basil and the Broccoli Soup. The Curried Carrot Soup with Dill, however, is out of this world, and we’ve made it repeatedly!

The Couscous Salad is very good (particularly if you add about 1/3 cup currants). The Curried Rice Salad with Fruit is amazing served with their Toasted Garlic Dressing! The Spa Tropical Fruit Salad with Toasted Quinoa is good, but not great.

There’s a pattern here. We’ve found this cookbook to be full of good recipes, with only occasional great recipes, but always very very healthy recipes. I think many (though certainly not all) of the recipes are just a little bland to our tastes.

The Chapters & Recipes

I won’t list every recipe, but I’ll give you a brief selection:

Breakfast: Cinnamon Oatmeal, Persian Pancakes, Chunky Applesauce, Garden Eggs with Herbed Tofu.

Breads and Muffins: Garden Sweet Breakfast Bread, Orange-Corn Muffins, Banana-Bran Muffins.

Appetizers, Salsas, Dips, and Sauces: Crostini with Roasted Eggplant Caponata, Mushrooms in Herbed Vinaigrette, Chinese Dumplings with Chives and Ginger, Mango Tomatillo Salsa.

Soups: Vegetable Barley Soup, Tomato-Roasted Eggplant Soup, Wild Mushroom Soup, Mexican Corn Soup.

Salads and Dressings: Mixed Greens with Tomatoes and Feta, Sesame Broccoli Stir-Fry Salad, Lentil and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad, Carrot-Ginger Salad with Pineapple, Blue Cheese-Pepper Dressing.

Main Courses: Chile Cheese Pie, Roasted Tamale Pie, Corn and Feta Souffle, Butternut Squash with Mushrooms, Twice-Baked Saffron Potatoes.

Side Dishes: Rosemary Baked Potatoes, Green and Yellow Beans with Tomatoes, Red Yams with Oranges, Cauliflower with Mustard Vinaigrette.

Desserts: Peach Trifle, Apple Strudel with Raspberries, Orange-Lime Cheesecake, Corn Crepes with Strawberry Sauce, Cinnamon Flan.

Beverages: Almond-Banana Milk, Strawberry-Banana Smoothie.

Miscellanea

The layout is fantastic. Commentary is very easy to tell apart from ingredients are very easy to tell apart from instructions. Instructions are nicely numbered. None of the recipes go from the front of a page onto the back, so there’s no need to flip pages during cooking.

You probably won’t get a lot of use out of this cookbook if your grocery store doesn’t carry good produce. Plan these recipes for just after your grocery shopping so that produce is in the best possible condition. Most but not all ingredients will be easy to find. Some ethnic or health food ingredients you may have to hunt around for a little, or substitute for. There’s even a decent spread of both “plain” and “unusual” recipes in here, although some of the “plain” recipes have small touches of the unusual to them.

In short, this is a solidly good, though not amazing cookbook. If you’re trying to eat healthy it’s certainly better than many (if not most) of the alternatives out there.


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