Sunday, March 28, 2010

Review: Secrets of a Skinny Chef

Summary: Nachos. Fried chicken. Mac and Cheese. Brownies. Everyone gets a craving for their favorite comfort foods but no one thinks that they could actually be good for you. This spring, you can cave into your cravings as Skinny Chef Jennifer Iserloh shares her tips on how to make beloved dishes healthier in her debut cookbook, Secrets of a Skinny Chef. With 100 guilt-free recipes that will satisfy both body and soul, Jennifer teaches you how to make the food you love to eat without the hard struggle of dieting and deprivation. It sounds like it is too good to be true, but with Skinny Chef by your side, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is. By cooking Jennifer’s simple, healthy recipes at home, and making small, manageable changes in your lifestyle (and portions!), you will see results not just in the short term, but for life.

Jennifer believes that the essence of good health springs from your own kitchen. According to Jennifer, “Maintaining a healthy weight, or getting to that healthy weight, is not about dieting. It’s about celebrating food, about eating the foods that you already love but cooking them for yourself so you can make them healthier.” As a professionally-trained chef, Jennifer knows all the chef's tricks to turning up the flavor, but her career-changing moment came as a private chef working for families who wanted their meals to not just taste great, but be nutritious, too.

In her chapter on breakfast foods, Jennifer shows readers how to start the day off right by packing in whole grains, proteins, and vegetables. Who wouldn’t want a morning filled with Maple Apple Waffles, a Southwestern Frittata with Spicy Corn Salsa, Zucchini Pancakes with Walnuts and Spice, or a Chocolate Breakfast Shake? To boost the nutritional value of her pancakes Jennifer employs one of her favorite “Skinny Secrets” – adding grated vegetables to most main dishes. Did you also know that just a dash of flaxseed to your morning smoothie adds the benefits of healthful omega-3 fatty acids, soluble fiber, and protein?

Throughout the main courses and side dishes chapters, Jennifer's arsenal of "Skinny Secrets" transform more family favorites into healthy and delectable creations.

The calories are trimmed but the rich carbonara flavor is kept in her recipe, Cut the Fat, Keep the Creamy Pasta Carbonara by using turkey bacon, fat-free yogurt, and a bit of half-and-half.

Fried chicken is made wholesome in Baked "Deep Fried" Chicken with Crunchy Double Whole Grain Breading by using brown rice cereal, whole wheat bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese.

In her recipes for Warmed Creamed Spinach Minus the Heavy Cream, "Mayonnaise Is Not Your Enemy" Coleslaw, and Broccoli Bacon Salad, Jennifer keeps the creaminess without the added calories of heavy cream and mayonnaise by using one of her preferred substitutes – non-fat Greek-yogurt.

And let’s not forget about desserts. Jennifer’s simple food swaps and nutritious additions make over classic calorie-laden treats so you can indulge your sweet tooth without regret. From Italian Cheesecake to Hot Fudge Sundae with Vanilla Bean Frozen Yogurt, healthy desserts have never tasted this good before. The traditionally heavy carrot cake is redefined with Carrot Cake with Applesauce and Carrot Juice by replacing the large quantity of the oil called for in the traditional recipe with applesauce. In addition to the "applesauce trick," Jennifer recommends using canned fruit or fresh bananas as an oil substitution in other baked goods.

With Jennifer and her delicious, easy-to-prepare creations, the old adage of “never trust a skinny chef” becomes obsolete. Secrets of a Skinny Chef lets you eat your cake and enjoy it without guilt, too! - Rodale

As most of you guys already know, I absolutely love cookbooks! And I especially love ones that have easy, yet healthy recipes. I just discovered a new one that I really liked -- SECRETS OF A SKINNY CHEF: 100 DECADENT GUILT-FREE RECIPES by Jennifer Iserloh. This cookbook has a little bit of everything -- good recipes, nutritional advice, and other healthy hints (including how to use leftovers.) It really is a wonderful cookbook as well as a resource for healthy living.

I thought there was a wide variety of recipes, and many of them weren't traditional low-fat or healthy food. The recipes were divided into the traditional sections: Breakfast; Soups, Appetizers, and Snacks; Main Courses; Side Dishes; and Desserts. I found recipes from each section that I want to try! My only small complaint is that there weren't pictures of every dish, and I do love my pictures of the finished products!

The first recipe I tried was for Just Like Takeout Sweet-and-Sour Chicken. For some dumb reason, I thought it was a recipe that our entire family could eat (including my son who has food allergies.) However, when I actually started making the dish, I saw that it included eggs. Needless to say, I was a little frustrated with myself because I wanted only make one meal for us, and I ended up have to make another one for my son. You'd think I'd be used to it by now.

I have to say that the recipe was very easy to follow, but it did have quite a few ingredients. Nothing was difficult, but the recipe did take quite awhile to prepare because I had to make a sauce (6 ingredients), fake-fry the chicken (7 ingredients), and prepare the actual stir-fry (6 ingredients.) It was a time-consuming dinner because there was so much chopping. I've found that it does take longer to cook when there are so many fresh ingredients, but I guess it's a good trade-off.

As you can see below, the dish was absolutely gorgeous!

Everything was so fresh and I thought tasty, although I admit that the dish wasn't that sweet as I was expecting. There was a definite citrus flavor, but I thought it was more lemony than anything. I actually like lemon a lot so I enjoyed it, but my husband and daughter weren't huge fans. As I was preparing the dish, I thought to myself that the bamboo shoots weren't going to be a hit; and I was totally right. I should have left them out because they couldn't get past the smell of them!

Then, I decided to make the Frozen Coconut Yogurt. Since I'm the only one in the family who eats coconut, I only made half a batch. The recipe was super easy and only took me about 5 minutes to prepare. I thought it was yummy, and I loved that it used non-fat, plain Greek Yogurt because it has a higher protein content than regular yogurt!

Frozen Coconut Yogurt

Serves 8

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
4 cups (32 ounces) plain, fat-free Greek yogurt
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon coconut extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover a small cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Spread the coconut on the sheet and bake 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once, until the coconut has lightly browned. Place the coconut in a large bowl with the yogurt, sugar, flaxseed, coconut extract, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth and transfer into a freezer-safe container. Freeze 1 hour or more until firm.

I also decided to make the Banana Bread since I had a ton of borderline bananas. The recipe called for whole wheat flour (and only whole wheat flour), and that was part of the appeal; but I also admit that I was a bit skeptical. The topping was another big draw -- nuts, cinnamon and brown sugar sprinkled over the top of the banana bread. (I had to replace the walnuts with pecans because I didn't have any on hand.) The banana bread turned out to be beautiful and it smelled delicious -- I could hardly wait to dig in! It was a little denser than traditional banana bread (but not much), and it was very moist. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it!

I highly recommend SECRETS OF A SKINNY CHEF if you are like me and want cookbooks with easy, healthy recipes plus sound nutritional advice. It has loads of great recipes and I can't wait to try some more.

Thanks to YC Media for sending me a copy of this cookbook!

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds perfect for me, because comfort foods are my downfall!

Beth Kephart said...

You are one heck of a lady, you know. You give us not just the book, but the recipes, but a recipe undertaken, and a photo!!!!

I love it.

Beth F said...

Fabulous review! I will definitely look for this at the bookstore or library.

Yes, eating fresh, cooking from scratch takes some chopping, but I have never regretted the trade-off. Of course, I have an audiobook to keep me company.

When I was young, my mother would have us sit at the kitchen table and do our homework while she chopped away (she has always been a from-scratch cook too). There is a way to make it work.

bermudaonion said...

I think the sweet and sour chicken looks wonderful and it would be a big hit here, because we love bamboo shoots. That looks like a great cookbook!

S. Krishna said...

This one definitely looks interesting. I'm always on the lookout for a new cookbook! I might see if my library has it before buying it though, as dishes with a lot of ingredients bug me sometimes.

Bonnie said...

This sounds great, I'm going to check it out from the library first to see if it's one that I want to purchase. I always omit nuts due to my son's allergies.