Thursday, January 14, 2010

Healthy cookbooks article

So I've started this monthly series for the Naples Daily News about cookbooks. Each month I get to pick a theme and I recommend five or six books that fit into that theme. They mostly are part of my insane collection of almost-200 books, but sometimes I ask a local expert or chef for their opinion too. Anyway, I thought I'd share it with you. This is the intro to it. To see the original story click here.

It happens every year. As soon as the last drop of champagne is drunk and the smoke from the fireworks has dissipated, we all start discussing about our New Year’s resolutions. You know the drill. Smokers are swearing that that patch is going to be on their arm by tomorrow morning. Kids promise their parents that this year their rooms aren’t going to be quite as messy.

And of course we all say that we are going to lose some weight — no matter if it’s five or 50 pounds — and live healthier lives.

After gorging non-stop on turkey, ham and prime rib since Thanksgiving, our stomachs — and our hearts, arteries and so on — need a break. So why do most of us fail when it comes to keeping up with our resolution? After indulging in rich and tasty treats for over a month, it’s hard to get excited about a grilled breast of chicken and steamed vegetables.

That’s where diet-friendly and healthy-eating cookbooks come in. There is such a thing as delicious, satisfying food that is good for you and for your waistline. You just need the right recipes.

‘Cooking Light Complete Cookbook: A Fresh New Way to Cook’

(Oxmoor House, 2008) $34.95

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Cooking Light is one of the most successful food magazines out there for a reason: Their recipes are healthy and always delicious. Their ring-bound cookbook showcases a whopping 1,200 recipes that will help you stay on track from your morning breakfast to your midnight snacks. Get inspired by looking at the beautiful, all color pictures, and learn kitchen tricks and shortcuts from the Cooking Light test kitchen. Before you know it you will be an expert healthy cook yourself.

‘Weight Watchers Take-Out-Tonight!’

(Fireside, 2003) $16.95

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Are you craving a Reuben sandwich? Can’t wait to sink your teeth in a cheesy enchilada? The good news is that you don’t have to blow your daily calorie allowance whenever you are in the mood for your favorite take-out specialty. And you don’t have to join the Weight Watchers weight loss program to enjoy their renditions of deli, Italian, Chinese, Thai, Greek and Mexican all time favorites such as nachos, pad thai and spaghetti and meatballs. The book doesn’t have many pictures, but the recipes are easy to follow and turn out tasting as good as their fat- and calorie-laden counterparts. What’s not to love?

‘1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes’

(Surrey Books, 2006) $19.95

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You don’t need to be a vegetarian to love this book. All you need is the will or the curiosity to consider having a delicious vegetarian meal every once in a while. On top of nutritional values and diabetic exchanges, each recipe is labeled with an icon that will let you know if the recipe is vegan, lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian and lacto-ovo-vegetarian friendly. When you can have paté of wild mushrooms and eggs racheros with two salsas you won’t have time to miss meat and poultry.

‘The Mayo Clinic / Williams-Sonoma Cookbook’

(Oxmoor House, 2002) $58 paperback

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Forget about dreary hospital meals and insipid, bland food. Mayo Clinic and Williams-Sonoma have partnered up to offer a cookbook that aims to teach people to “find pleasure in eating well.” Flip through the first few pages and learn about what your nutritional goals should be, then dive into the recipe section and discover recipes for all occasions, from easy roasted vegetable fajitas to sophisticated rosemary lamb and white beans. Each recipe comes with a picture, nutritional values and informative short paragraphs that teach readers about the properties and benefits of both common and uncommon ingredients.

‘1000 Low-Fat, Salt, Sugar & Cholesterol’

(Parragon Publishing, 2003) Out of print, available online

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This book ain’t for sissies. It weighs more than 8 pounds and is bigger than the Latin dictionary I used to do translations with in high school. Incidentally, it’s also a lot more fun and is more beautiful to look at than my dictionary. Every recipe, and yes there are 1,000 of them, comes with a photo.

Some of them are higher in fat than what one might expect, mostly because it was written for the European market, where low-fat and fat-free products aren’t readily available. Still, with a few easy substitutions, its recipes are winners — especially the spicy tomato and chicken skewers and the lobster and avocado salad.

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