Getting back to school means getting back to routines and getting back to health. So one of the book recommendations I was most enthusiastic about trying this fall was a recommendation from our own Beth Fish: The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life by Ellie Krieger.As the Weekend Cooking crew may remember, I have a love/hate relationship with Food Network personality cookbooks. But this particular book won a James Beard Award in the category of “Cookbook with a Healthy Focus.” Those two recommendations were enough to put the book on my library list.
Who is Ellie Krieger? Krieger is a registered dietician with a Master’s degree in Nutrition. She hosts the Food Network show Healthy Appetite. Krieger is a prominent member of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, and she was head nutritionist for the White House’s “Healthy Kids Fair.”
Take on Cooking: Traditional favorites reimagined into healthy meals.
The Delicious Parts:The book is beautifully designed, with lots of photos (although not for every recipe). The recipes are easy to understand and prep, without myriad ingredients that some healthy cookbooks employ to make up for a lack of fat, so I found they were fine for weeknights. Her strategy is to change the proportions of non-healthy ingredients in recipes, rather than use unpleasant or unsatisfying substitutes, which I appreciated. The book is jam-packed with nutritional information, which I found very helpful. For example, rather than just give total fat information for recipes, she breaks down both good (mono- and polyunsaturated fats, like the ones found in nuts and veggies) and bad (saturated) fats. She also includes daily numbers to shoot for in many nutrition categories.
My First Bites: I cooked four recipes from the book: Confetti Chili, Aromatic Noodles with Lime-Peanut Sauce, Buffalo Chicken Salad and Chicken Chop Suey. They all came together easily, and my family enjoyed them all. The Confetti Chili was spicy from the chipotle, smoky from the adobo sauce and cumin, and sweet from the corn. Made with canned beans (suggested by Krieger) and tons of veggies, it came together in about an hour. It could easily become our house chili. The only recipe my husband wasn’t too enthusiastic about was the Chop Suey. It was a bit bland, but since the original is kind of a bland, Americanized version of Chinese food, it would probably be a winner with people who are fans. And even at that, I got a great idea for turning dumpling skins into a healthier Asian crunchy topping than those canned fried noodles.
Not Quite To My Taste: When it comes to dinner, Krieger really focuses on meat dishes. Red meat factors heavily in the Main Course section, but we don’t tend to eat steaks and chops very often. Still, for meat lovers, finding healthier ways of cooking them would be a real plus. Oddly, I wasn’t blown away by the salad choices; many were more “go-withs” than meals on their own. Still, those negatives are based on my personal taste and lifestyle. I think Krieger really does a great job with the promise of the book.
Recommendation? Devour, Split, Send it Back to the Kitchen? Devour or split, definitely – but I’d lean toward devour if you’re looking for a solid, healthy lifestyle cookbook with a broad range of recipes. You certainly won’t be disappointed with this one.
One Great Recipe: Ellie Krieger’s Confetti Chili
1 T olive oil 1 small onion, diced (1 cup) 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced (1 cup) 1 medium carrot, diced (½ cup) 2 t ground cumin 1 t ground coriander 1 lb. lean or extra lean (90% lean or higher) ground beef One 28-oz can no-salt added crushed tomatoes, with their juices 2 c water 1 canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce, seeded and minced, plus 2 t of the sauce (I didn’t seed the chipotles, because we love heat) ½ t oregano One 15.5 oz can black beans, preferably low-sodium, drained and rinsed One 15.5 oz can kidney beans, preferably low-sodium, drained and rinsed 1 ½ c frozen corn kernels Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1) Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and carrot, cover, and cook, stirring, for occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin coriander and cook, stirring for 1 minute. And the ground beef; raise the heat to high and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink. Stir in the tomatoes, water, chipotle and adobo sauce, and oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered, stirring from time to time, for 30 minutes.
2) Stir in the beans and continue cooking, partially covered, 20 minutes longer, until the chili is nicely thickened. Stir in the corn and cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
FTC disclosure: I did not receive a free copy of this book for review. I borrowed it from the library.
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