Healthy Eats, a cookbook review

“Healthy Eats” is the latest cookbook from Six Sisters’ Stuff.  I’ve reviewed one of their books before, with some mixed feelings.  I loved their pulled pork recipe, but wasn’t into the amount of pre-made stuff being employed.  (To be fair, the book was called “Six Ingredients”, and cooks often have to cheat an ingredient to get the best flavor when they’re not working with much.)  Since healthy eating is a different concept than minimal ingredients, I was curious about the contents of this new book.

Chapter breakdown is much like their previous book:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Main Dishes
  • Side Dishes
  • Snacks and Desserts

 

Things to I’d like to try:

  • Hearty breakfast cookies
  • Red potato turkey bacon bake
  • Protein packed egg salad sandwiches
  • Shredded beef and sweet potato tacos
  • Honey lime grilled chicken
  • Avocado sour cream
  • Salisbury steak meatballs
  • Garlic lime sweet potato fries
  • Healthy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
  • Skinny frozen strawberry bites
  • Flourless banana bread

 

Initial impression?  The recipes are straight-forward.  Most of the ingredient lists are 8 ingredients total.  Some are more.  Some are much less.  None of the recipes are exotic, all are fairly familiar North American fare.  In fact my mom, who is an excellent home cook but not very adventurous, really liked the look of the recipes here whereas she’s shown much less interest in some of my other cookbooks.

Since my location is still under self-isolation/quarantine advisory, I was limited at what I could recipe test with little to no changes.

The original recipe I picked out was the egg rolls in a bowl.  Ingredients consist of sesame oil, olive oil, rice wine vinegar, low sodium soy sauce, ground chicken, black pepper, coleslaw mix, and scallions.  I didn’t have coleslaw mix per se, but I had green cabbage.  And honestly, coleslaw mix is mostly cabbage with some carrots.  Not a major ingredient replacement in my opinion.

How did it turn out?  Initially under-seasoned.  I also thought the cooking instructions were odd.  I like the idea that you make the sauce directly in the pan, and then add the meat but the recipe has you cook the ground chicken on low for about 12 minutes.  And then you add the veggies and cook for about 3 minutes more.  That is overcooked chicken in my opinion.  I added my cabbage earlier.  However, that wasn’t enough to improve on the dish.  There’s no garlic.  Not even onions.  If you’re going to use ground chicken, you really need more flavor.  I tried not to fuss with the recipe but, in the end, I added garlic powder and onion powder to make this edible by my standards.  At least it tasted better the next day, but I’m still going to give this particular recipe as it stands a failing grade.

I try to be a fair person, so I decided to test a second recipe.  This time, I went with peanut butter protein bars made of quick cooking oats, shredded unsweetened coconut, peanut butter, honey, apple sauce, chocolate protein powder, chia seeds, vanilla, and semisweet chocolate chips.  I had to make two substitutions in this due to my kitchen inventory.  I swapped the chocolate protein powder with vanilla protein powder, and chia seeds with hemp seeds.  I’m happy to report that my results were tasty!  I don’t think the flavor of protein powder is very important as the dominant flavors are peanut butter and coconut.  

But then how does one go about reviewing a book when the scorecard is 1 pass and 1 fail?   I kept mulling this over when I decided that there was still one more recipe that I could try with very little change.  On a whim this past Sunday, I decided to make the blueberry protein pancakes.  This time my ingredients were rolled oats, banana, eggs, baking soda, vanilla protein powder, milk, and frozen raspberries instead of blueberries.

The pancakes were good, but not great.  Solid passing grade.  I liked that they were easy to put together.  This particular recipe is a blender batter recipe.  I recommend letting the batter sit for at least 5 minutes if you can.  I found that my first pancakes were quite thin but my last pancakes were fluffier.  Flavor was pretty good.  They are just sweet enough to eat without syrup if you want but it won’t be disgustingly sweet if you add syrup.  My only issue was general texture.  They are on the dry side, probably because of the protein powder.  The recipe doesn’t specify a whey protein powder or vegan protein powder, so I wonder if one would do better than the other.  Most likely though, the texture would benefit from cutting back on the protein powder some.  Syrup would definitely help cover up the dryness, but if you don’t want to use syrup then maybe some fresh fruit?  I’m not sure.

Overall, I’m recommending with reservation.  Like all cookbooks, some recipes are better than others but I think the home cook using this book should heed their instincts, and treat the recipes more like guidelines.  Having said that, this is probably also a good book for someone who wants to cook healthier but doesn’t want to stock a large pantry of ingredients.  Because while I might be willing to use more effort in a recipe, I recognize that not everyone may feel the same.

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Shadow Mountain for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  The book is available for sale now.

With COVID-19 self-quarantine in effect, my scope of recipe-testing was limited.  Some modifications may have been made.  I apologize that I could not recipe-test better.

 

Reference Links:

https://www.sixsistersstuff.com/

https://shadowmountain.com/

Vegan Meal Prep, a cookbook review

Meal prep is a topic near and dear to my heart.  I’m often prepping 4 days of breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Sundays.  I try to go for meatless for breakfast and lunch, mostly because I know that I should amp up my vegetable intake in general.  You would think about after three years of meal prep (more or less) that I’d have it down to a science, but I really don’t.

Breakfasts tend to be the same recipe, week after week, until I can’t stand it anymore.  Lunches can go either way. They are variations of the same basic recipe or simple-but-new-to-me recipes.  Dinner is the one meal that I give myself more time and freedom for experimenting. I’m often flipping through recipes all week long, trying to decide what I am willing and wanting to make that weekend.  And sometimes, I end up in a mild panic and just use a tried-and-true recipe when I’m too indecisive and running out of time.

I’ve always wanted a cookbook that did all the thinking for me, which led me to pick up a review copy of Vegan Meal Prep by Robin Asbell.  Asbell’s latest cookbook is basically detailed step-by-step meal prep instructions, from start to finish.

The book is split into three major sections.  “Setting Yourself Up for Success: Five Weeks of Vegan Meals” is the first section.  The highlight in this section, in my opinion, is Vegan Nutrition Basics. Asbell is pretty detailed: listing sources of protein, omega-3, calcium, iron, and zinc.  It’s a pretty good one stop reference if you’re fully vegan.

The second section is “Meal Prep 101: Planning, Shopping, and Prepping.”  This is where you’ll find the overview of the five week meal plan, shopping lists, and the prepping instructions for each week.

The third section is “Let’s Get Cooking! 125 Vegan Recipes”, which is broken down into these chapters.

  • Vegan Staples
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Salads, Dressing, and Sides
  • Desserts and Snacks

Here are the recipes that I’m most interested in trying:

  • Whole Grain Baking Mix
  • Lemon Pecan Muffins with Apricot Cashew Spread
  • Smoky Tempeh Taco Meat
  • Sweet Potato Chickpea Cakes
  • Barley with Vanilla Apples and Spiced Sweet Potato
  • Blueberry Breakfast Squares
  • Farro and Kimchi Bowls with Kale and Sesame Dressing
  • Farro Salad with Apricots, Carrots, and Spinach
  • Tempeh, Brown Rice, and Roasted Veggie Wraps
  • Tempeh Pasta Salad with Tomato and Avocado
  • Black Bean and Sweet Potato Curry
  • Black Bean and Squash Chili with Dumplings
  • Matcha-Glazed Pistachio Blondies
  • Peanut Butter Raisin Cookies

The things I liked most upon first impressions were the tips, variations, and “to pack for lunch” blurbs that frequently show up on corners of the recipe pages.  I also like how the ingredient lists are generally not intimidating nor filled with hard to find items.

The only critiques I have are two.  I wish nutritional information were listed.  I’ve seen other meal prep books that do. But for the purpose of mixing and matching for people who might be trying to watch their sugar intake, etc., it would be handy to have.  The other issue I have is the order of the recipe section. The whole book is planned around the five week meal plan/schedule but the recipes are in order by course. At least within each course type chapter, recipes are back in order by schedule and marked with which week/day the recipe belongs to.  If you’re planning to mix and match, then recipes ordered by course type makes sense. But I think if you’re planning to use the book as written, then having the recipes ordered by course type makes less sense.

In neither a “pro” nor a “con” comment, all of the recipes are meant to make about 4 servings.  So while I had originally planned on following a full week of recipes for this review, it quickly became apparent that this wasn’t feasible for me.  I am not trying to feed a family of four (But you might be!),

I ended up testing two recipes: Baked Marinated Tempeh, and Breakfast Protein Cookies with Dates and Pistachios.

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Breakfast cookies

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Both were easy to make.  I’ve made breakfast cookies before but it never occurred to me to use dates and pistachios.  I tend to use a lot of raisins. (In fact, I didn’t have time to get dates for this recipe so I used golden raisins which I think are milder in raisin flavor than the more familiar thompson seedless raisins.  Please don’t hate me for substituting.)  The cookies have good protein content, due to the sneaky addition of tofu, and don’t taste too sweet.  Having said that, the cookies actually use more sweetener than my typical baked oatmeal, and I don’t think you can reduce it as the maple syrup acts as part of the wet ingredients.  (Well, maybe you could increase the tofu?  Maple syrup and tofu are the only wet ingredients in this recipe.  Vanilla doesn’t count.  And like I said, it doesn’t taste too sweet so would reducing the sweetener be a futile exercise?)  The portion size is 3 cookies, and it seems to mostly sate my morning hunger.  (But I have a really high appetite in the mornings.  Sometimes I want more food.  Your mileage may vary.)

I liked the baked marinated tempeh too.  It never occurred to me to use apple juice as part of the marinade before.  I decided to mix up the baked tempeh with leftover marinade (which I cooked with cornstarch thinking i could use it as a sauce) and some cauliflower rice.  The natural tempeh flavor was not too strong in this recipe, so I think I’ll use it again in the near future. (However, the cooked marinade plus cauliflower tasted like… fish?  It’s a subtle enough flavor that I will push through it, but yeah, I’m never doing that combination again. lol!)

Overall, I recommend this book for anyone who wants to do more meal prepping, want a reasonable food budget, and have more than one mouth to feed.  Oh, and if you’re just trying to up your veggie intake (like me). I do have the minor reservations as listed above, but that might not bother you as much as it does me.

 

Reference Link:

https://www.robertrose.ca/book/vegan-meal-prep-5-week-plan-125-ready-go-recipes

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from Robert Rose for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

 

what my lunch is today

It’s icky and raining in the Greater Boston area today.

I’ve got a steaming bowl of green-tea soba noodles and kimchi dumplings in a duck broth. Yes, a duck broth. My mother gave my a quarter of a Chinese roasted duck. I saved the bones and boiled it in water for two hours – it smelled divine.

No pictures though. My camera batteries died. But it died only after I took a bunch of photos of ayurvedic rice, nutmeg cake, and nutmeg cookies.

When the batteries are recharged, I’ll post the photos here. ^_^

~Mikan