Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cookbook Review: A Winner! (sort of)

When I posted the Easy Cabbage Casserole recipe, I promised to do a review of the cookbook from whence it came (all hail Mr. Gall, my 8th grade English teacher). Here is the promised review. Actually, it's two reviews. I obtained from the library Brenda Ponichtera's Quick & Healthy in original version, and also volume 2. The second volume is picture here. If you decide to pick up a copy, you want the one with the red cover.
I received the original book from the library first. Honestly, I was more than a little disappointed. This book included a small handful of recipes I might try (but never actually did). When I first looked at the book, I was struck by several things. Ponichtera is a dietician who specializes in diabetes, weight loss, and heart disease. So it was really no surprise to see that all her recipes feature low-fat, fat-free, light, and "lite" versions of products. I was more surprised to see her reliance on things like canned cream-of soups (low-fat, of course) and liquid smoke (what exactly is that stuff?). This book included a lot of repetition. For example, some of the same recipes appear several times- once in each specific meat's section. I can see how this is helpful if you only have chicken to work with on a particular night, but it adds a lot of filler to the book. Looking back over this book for this review, I have to say that there may be more interesting recipes in there than I originally thought. Perhaps I initially picked it up on the wrong night. But, overall, I stand by my original position.

The second book, however, I found to have more promise. I will tell you this up front: all the recipes I have tried without modification have been bland. But they have all also shown a lot of promise if minor adjustments are made. For instance, I followed the recipe for Chicken Chop Suey to the letter. It wasn't bad, just boring. I think this particular recipe would have been lots more interesting with the addition of something as simple as a small amount of red pepper flakes. I also made a Creamy Cabbage Soup that includes polish sausage. Considering the addition of the sausage, I expected more flavor. Again, it wasn't bad, but it also wasn't interesting or fun to eat. If you goal is to stay alive, this is a peach. If you want to live a little too, alterations are in order. For this soup, we felt it would have been better blended (instead, it calls for chopped cabbage in a creamy base, which is kind of a weird combination). It also needs more flavor. Perhaps a stronger sausage, or some other addition entirely. 

The things that I really like about Volume 2 are that the reliance on processed products is diminished, and the recipes are almost all short, easy to follow, and promising with minor adjustments. I can work from this book. New from amazon.com, this book goes for just under $13, or used for slightly less. For that price, I plan to pick up my own copy of Volume 2. What is your favorite cookbook for "quick and healthy" recipes?

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