Monday, May 2, 2011

Eat This, Not That - Book For Healthier Cooking

These guides are for a very specific audience -- people who regularly eat chain food and do not cook. If you're already a health-oriented home cook, the book will be useless and probably outrageous, but you don't need the help either. If you're trying to wean yourself (or someone else) off of chain food in a gradual, sustainable way, this is a great start because it's healthy, inexpensive variations on standard menu items. Crucially, the recipes are also fast and easy for a novice. Along with the recipes, the book is jammed with general advice. The standard "I don't have time" to cook argument is attacked right in the beginning. There are pantry guides and great visual 'scorecards' on the relative merits of different cuts of meat, types of dairy, etc. Many recipes include variations, substitutions, and ideas for leftovers. Single-use gadgets are discouraged. A few dishes could use clearer explanations or photos (you'll never learn to make an omelet from their recipe) and the quick breakfast dishes really are not, although they also list the healthiest cereals. Somehow they think apricots are as large as peaches, and I'm not convinced that the salt and sugar in meat brines has a negligible effect. 
The 'ethnic foods' chapter is another where you need to remember the focus. These are what you find at popular chain restaurants, not what people in those countries actually eat. And the range of cuisines represented by those chains is very limited. You will not deprive yourself by eating this food. Baby back ribs marinated in Dr. Pepper. Ice cream sandwiches made with Pepperidge Farm Genevas. Bacon everywhere. Although no way is granita "every bit as satisfying as ice cream," even when layered with whipped cream.

This is a masterful book full of some of the best cooking/health advice I have read. It makes cooking and being healthy so easy. There are tons of recipes that are about 350 calories, taste great, and take only 30 minutes. Plus, he has really great tips on each page for quick meals or ways to make your meal into different leftovers.But I'll admit that my favorite part is the way he actually teaches someone like me to cook. I've always "hated" my friends and family who can just throw something together because they know what tastes right together and what spices go with what foods. Well, he teaches that in this book, and it is something that I use and will be sure to teach my kids so that they can grow up to be "those" people that I once "hated"!!. I love recipes and I love making healthier versions of popular dishes. (Anything to eat better and be leaner and meaner!) But I have to admit the best part of this book is that of the 100+ examples of what *not* to eat, my husband and I only had eaten about 3 of them. So, that was reassuring. Still though, the best part of the book are the "matrices" that provide options for all sorts of meals (stir fries, Crock Pot, kabobs, smoothies, etc.) and really lay out how easy it is to make healthy, tasty food. Oh, and be prepared - you'll never want to eat out ever again once you see the true calorie count of restaurant meals.The edge this has over most cookbooks: calorie counts per serving. They have appetizers, entrees, desserts, sides, all in one book, and they have some amazing matrices that take the guesswork out of combining foods. I got this from the library, started reading through it, and just decided that I will buy it. As a cook who is still figuring out my way around the American kitchen (cooking in Asia was so much easier) and my American husband's tastes (we disagree on a lot of foods), this book is definitely helping me cope

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