The Eating Well Healthy in a Hurry Cookbook
by John Romanoff and the editors of Eating Well Magazine
Published by The Countryman Press
256 pages, 2006
Reviewed by Cherie Thiessen
Many household cooks love books that include color illustrations of the meals they are about to attempt. Not me. My dishes never look remotely like the pictures and it's just too depressing. I'd rather not have that expectation of perfection, not have to compare the reality with the promise.
So I looked suspiciously at this book once I noticed all the truly amazing photos by Ken Burris. To my mind, Burris deserves his name right up there with the authors. I swear, you can feel textures when you look at those vibrant dishes. You can almost get your fingers sticky on the glazes and sauces.
Caution: do not open book on an empty stomach -- madness may ensue.
There's a promise on the cover. It says the book will help you create "150 delicious recipes for simple, everyday suppers in 45 minutes or less." How can any cook worth her salt not be tempted? I quickly flipped the pages for an entrée I could attempt without having to go to the shops for exotic ingredients and was happy to discover there were few hard-to-find ingredients in most of the dishes. Nevertheless, I still got to page 48 -- my larder gets bare quickly -- past the lemony lentil salad with salmon (no salmon) and the warm shrimp & Argali salad (no shrimp). Then I discovered the Asian Tofu salad recipe shimmering under dinner salads. If I fried my tofu, would it really look like that? Here goes. Timer on. Apron on. Wine poured. Go.
Twenty-seven minutes later, dinner is done. I have been sipping wine so those two extra minutes are permitted. Mixing the delicious dressing was a breeze. Most of my minutes went into frying the tofu cubes, preparing the cucumber and carrots and washing the salad greens, all from my garden this time of year.
Like many North American males, my partner is less than enthusiastic about tofu, especially the extra firm variety. A salad for dinner was also suspect, but eight cups of salad greens go a long way toward filling up a plate.
The chef's advice was to serve with breadsticks and iced jasmine tea. I substituted my own whole wheat bread and juice. The iced jasmine tea sounded good but it counts as an exotic in my kitchen.
Did the picture match up to my reality? Well, minus the breadsticks and those apparent sesame seeds that seem to have dropped artistically off the breadsticks to settle seductively on the greens, you could say ... sort of.
Next day was Sunday, time for a more difficult experiment, "one that's hot please," requested my partner. I try a chicken cacciatore. I have a delicious, easy, and well-thumbed recipe for this so we will see how Healthy in a Hurry measures up. Hmmmm, it must be the wine that adds a little zip to this recipe. It was dead simple, required less than the 40 minutes preparation time the book suggested, and best of all, there was no photo to compare my dish to. This one was a keeper.
As the authors write on the book cover, often cookbooks that specialize in quick meals cut corners on nutrition, calling for packaged or tinned soups, processed ingredients and instant flavorings. That's not the case here. Romanoff's dishes use fresh ingredients that are easy to find.
Also informative are the icons with each recipe. They provide the reader with information on whether the dish is low is in calories, carbohydrates, fats and saturated fats and high in fiber. Calorie counts are also supplied. Along with the recipes there is also a grain cooking guide and several pages on getting organized, cooking techniques, shopping, the right utensils for the job, tips for getting started and a review of the basics of food safety.
Don't get me wrong; this is not a vegetarian cookbook. Many readers will be happy to know that the authors aren't defining healthy as solely following a meat-free diet. Many dishes with pork, beef, and lamb can be found and replicated between these pages. Something for everyone, in other words.
The only disappointing area for me was, not surprisingly, the dessert section. True to their word to provide simple, nutritious and fast recipes, the authors have merely made one or two sentence suggestions when it comes to desserts, which are -- let's face it -- not particularly nutritious to start with. Ergo, we get a sauce to pour over fresh oranges, a coating for fresh bananas, and a way to dress up rice pudding.
Still, a cookbook that doesn't request fresh shitake mushrooms and Italian white truffle oil is always as big a treat as is its antithesis, one that asks you to grab a box of biscuit mix or a bottle of prepared catsup. | July 2006
Cherie Thiessen has been a scriptwriter, playwright, creative writing instructor and -- for the past 10 years -- a travel writer and book reviewer. She was the review columnist for Focus on Women Magazine for eight years and has also written numerous reviews for magazines including Monday Magazine, Pacific Yachting, Cottage Magazine, The Driftwood News, Linnear Reflections and Douglas College's Event Magazine.