Pros: Lots of recipes; provides healthy red meat recipes; good flavors; helpful info on cooking flavor into your food
Cons: Quality not always perfect
Rating: 4 out of 5
First published 12/18/2000
It’s yet another entry in my series of “spa cookbooks make for great tasting healthy food” reviews. This book includes a few helpful bits, like a short chapter on nutrition, and another on cooking tips and techniques. The former discusses balance in eating, protein, carbohydrates, fat, fiber, salt, water, spices, moderation (as opposed to deprivation), “mindfulness,” tips for mixing and matching recipes, details on artificial sweeteners (they point out that just because something is sugar-free doesn’t necessarily make it good for you), and a few facts about going vegetarian – this cookbook is not a vegetarian cookbook, but like many “health food” cookbooks it has an emphasis on fruits and vegetables.
The tips & techniques chapter discusses ways to enhance flavor without using fat. They cover the use of herbs and spices, marinating, browning, toasting, roasting, use of acidic ingredients, using reductions, slow-roasting, rapid roasting, defatting, using tofu, smoking foods, and grilling. None of these are covered in great detail – the purpose of this chapter is not to teach you everything about cooking – but a few tips are provided to help you actually enjoy healthy food.
The essentials of a well-stocked pantry are provided, as well as a few details on how long various items will last in the pantry, fridge, or freezer. There’s a discussion of relative fat content of various ingredients, such as different cuts of meat. You’ll even find an explanation of the label terminology of store-bought foods. For instance, you’ll find out that “good source of” means “contains 10 percent to 19 percent Daily Value per serving.”
You’ll also find a few sample menus. Finally, at the end, you’ll find tips for planning your own at-home weekend “getaway.” The index is thorough and easy to use.
This is a very large cookbook – almost 420 pages not including index. A number of the recipes come with gorgeous full-page pictures, but certainly not all of them. It’s enough so you won’t feel deprived, but not so many that you’ll feel like you’re paying too much for the number of recipes. Obviously I can hardly tell you about all of the gorgeous recipes in here, so I’ll detail a small sampling (with occasional parenthetical editorial commentary):
- Cucumber Raita (best cucumber raita we’ve ever tried!)
- Butternut Squash and Cider Soup
- Corn Chowder with Chipotle Pepper (fantastic!)
- Hot and Sour Soup (quite good, if not amazing)
- Melon Bowls with Curried Crab
- Winter Pear and Stilton Salad with Port Dressing and Toasted Walnuts
- Canyon Ranch Stuft Spuds (these are a little plain; we found they needed some added spicing)
- Mushroom Beignets
- Indonesian Chicken with Grilled Bananas
- Marinated Duck with Blueberry-Madeira Sauce
- Teriyaki Steak (a very good teriyaki!)
- Gingered Spiced Carrots (wonderful, and we’re not normally all that fond of cooked carrots)
- Lime Coffee Cake
- Peppermint Patty Cheesecake
- Lemon Panna Cotta (one of the best desserts we’ve had!)
- Pumpkin Creme Brulee
- Caramelized Custard (fantastic creme caramel recipe!)
It’s Worth It
This isn’t the best cookbook we’ve come across. My feeling is that they try to stretch themselves a little thin. In providing such a wide array of dishes, they don’t seem to have taken the time to really perfect them. On the other hand, there are so many recipes that you’d be hard-pressed not to find plenty in here to love, and they all seem well-kitchen tested.
In addition, the simple fact that they can take already-fabulous desserts like creme caramel and lemon panna cotta, turn down the fat content, and yet still have them come out absolutely delectable, alone makes this book worth buying. You’ll also find plenty of useful advice for making your healthy food taste delicious.