Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cookbook Review: The Best Light Recipe

Part of the reason I learned to cook was so I could eat healthier food. (Not that you can tell that by this blog.) Still, I do try, on a day-to-day basis, to make food that is mostly healthy. My BFF showed me this cookbook, and I liked hers so much that she sent me one, too.

This cookbook was put together by the editors of Cook's Illustrated, (think America's Test Kitchen). The best thing about this book is that, in addition to the recipes, they take you through their quest to lighten each recipe. You learn WHY the ingredients in the final recipe made it, and why others were cut. This is VERY helpful to those of you who, like me, are tempted to stray from the recipe or cut out steps that seem like too much work. It also makes it easy for you to transfer what you learn to other recipes. Plus it's just interesting.

There are a LOT of recipes in this book I haven't made. (Just give me time.) Most of what I have made, though, has been a hit. I was out of honey-mustard dressing once when I wanted a spinach salad, and so I made the recipe in the book. YUM, and better for you than what you'd buy in a store (plus I had the ingredients already, so it felt free). There is also a roasted garlic dressing my BFF says is good. If you're partial to creamy dressings, recipes include blue cheese, Parmesan-peppercorn (BFF approved), and ranch, among others. The section on salads includes recipes for croutons and a guide to lettuces and salad greens.

The soups section includes what you'd expect from a light cookbook (broth-based with lots of veggies), as well as cream-based soups. Cream of Broccoli, Asparagus, Sweet Pea, Roasted Carrot, Butternut Squash, Mushroom, and Tomato make up that section. There are even chowders, stews, and chillies.

The vegetable section includes the best method for preparing Stuffed Bell Peppers I've seen (even the very picky Big Geek liked the stuffed peppers), and their scalloped potatoes recipe is mouthwatering and surprisingly rich. They'll even tell you how to make your own veggie burgers (although I haven't tried it yet).

Many recipes start with a basic recipe, and are followed by variations. A section on risotto, for example, begins with a classic Parmesan Risotto and then gives three different variations for special risottos. The book is full of helpful information, like which vegetable protein tested the best for their recipes, how to cook beans, how to mince basil and how to cut chicken. There is no way I can explain how much information is here. This is the only cookbook I've ever actually gone cover-to-cover on, because their are tips on nearly every page that help me in my everyday cooking.

Some of my favorite recipes from this cookbook include the one-pot chicken and rice dishes, Pork Tenderloin with Apple and Sage Cream Sauce (oh, dear GOD, why haven't I made this recently??), several of the wet rubs and glazes for meat, and peach cobbler (it has brandy in it, and you know how I like liquor in my food). The oven friend chicken, which I make as chicken strips, is a huge hit at my house with both big and little geeks.

The only recipe I've tried from this book that gave me trouble were the cinnamon rolls (they are a quick bread, not a yeast roll), and my BFF swears they worked out for her. She also raves about the lasagna, chicken parmesan, and buttermilk biscuits.

The other thing I like about this cookbook is that if a recipe wasn't good, they didn't print it. Apparently, you can't make a decent "light" pie crust, and so none are included. They tried, and none met their standards. They did, however, manage a cheesecake (after trying 28 times).

Eventually, I will work my way through this entire cookbook. It's currently $23.10 on Amazon, and worth every penny. I'd pay significantly more than that.

My rating: 5 of 5 bytes

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