I don’t consider myself a healthy eater. My idea of “quick” is to throw a frozen pizza in the oven. Neither of these habits is a particularly good thing, so I was really looking forward to trying the new Quick & Healthy Cookbooks by award winning author and registered dietitian, Brenda J. Ponichtera. I wanted to see just how quick and just how healthy these recipes and ideas were, since I would fall into the target audience of “People Who Say They Don’t Have Time To Cook Healthy Meals.”
First, let’s talk about the cookbook as a whole. There are two volumes published – the first is Quick & Healthy: Recipes and Ideas and the second is Quick & Healthy Volume II. What I liked about these two volumes is that each cookbook had a special session addressing more than just the recipes. Each offers suggestions for having healthy lifestyles in addition to healthy eating habits. For example, Quick & Healthy: Recipes and Ideas offers suggestions for reducing fat, cholesterol and sodium, ten steps to weight loss, and tips for exercising. Quick & Healthy Volume II has tips for eating out, how to trim calories from holiday dinners (which we could all use in the next couple months) and a salad bar bar guide.
Both cookbooks also have sample menu and grocery lists. Combined, the books provide 30 weeks of dinner menus with Grocery Lists, which lists out a weeks worth of dinners, then all of the ingredients you’ll need to cook those dinners for the week. This is an incredible useful feature when it comes to your planning your grocery store trip since you’ll have everything listed (including the amount needed) for your upcoming meals.
Each cookbook has about 200 recipes covering all courses of meals – from beverages to seafoods to desserts, so you’ll be sure to find something everyone will like. All of the recipes tell you the number of servings that it makes, the serving size, and carbs per serving. It also tells the the food exchanges and the nutrition information based on the recipe. As an added bonus, some of the recipes have little notes that have helpful serving or nutrition tips or variations that you can do to the recipe. Many of the recipe have both microwave and conventional oven cooking instructions which is super convenient because being able to microwave the dishes drops the cooking time tremendously – perfect for people trying to cook something up before Top Chef comes on.
Now, it’s time for the recipe reviews!
Flavor: 4.5/5. I honestly have no idea how something that’s healthy could taste so good. It tastes like a restaurant-quality spinach dip, but according to the recipe book, it has only 42 calories per 1/4 cup serving. The version pictured here might have a little bit more since I used low-fat yogurt instead of fat-free yogurt. (As a side note, that’s one thing I really like – that it was really easy to substitute ingredients if needed.) One of the fellow testers kept saying, “Really? Really?” as I was scooping in the plain yogurt – “Are you really adding yogurt to the spinach dip?” YES! I did. And it was darn good! (She agreed with me.) Several us also liked the extra texture that the water chestnuts added to the dip. The only reason this wasn’t a 5/5 is because one tester thought it would’ve tasted better warm. I know that’s a silly reason to dock a half point, so this should probably be a 5/5.
Instructions: 5/5. The only reason this dish took a long time for me to make was because I didn’t thaw the spinach before hand. Otherwise, it was supremely easy to follow the directions and to make the dip. Something you could whip together in about 10 minutes before the company arrives.
Rolled Chicken and Asparagus
Flavor: 3/5. First off, I over-cooked this dish. The picture and the food probably would have been better if it had been cooked properly, but I forgot to turn on the kitchen timer, so I had to make an educated guess on the cooking time, and I didn’t guess right. This dish was just OK for many of the testers, although one of the younger testers LOVED it and wanted all of the left-overs for himself.
Instructions: 4/5. This was a little bit more complex to prepare than some of the other dishes. First because you had to slice the chicken, and then you had to wrap the chicken and keep it wrapped with the little toothpicks. Fortunately, the 5 year old tester had a blast holding the toothpicks and pointing where they should go, so it became a fun game for her.
Flavor: 4/5. Sadly, this was another dish that suffered at my amateur chef-ish hands. Where I over cooked the Rolled Chicken and Asparagus, I under cooked these vegetables. I was also a little heavy handed with the onions. I would probably reduce the amount of onions added next go-around. Other than that, I loved the flavor. The mixture of the veggies was great and the dill with ranch dressing had a very nice flavor. I liked that you could taste the dressing but it wasn’t too strong or dripping with dressing. On the super plus side, it counted as 2 vegetable exchanges for me!
Instructions: 5/5. The instructions were perfect. Easy to follow and this one had both microwave and conventional oven cooking options.
Teriyaki Chicken Breasts
Flavor: 5/5. YUM YUM YUM! The reason that there’s only one chicken breast in the picture is because that was all that was left of the 8 chicken breasts by the time I got to the chicken with my camera. This was a resounding favorite. The recipe says you can BBQ, bake or broil. We braved the November chill to cook it on the grill and it came out AWESOME.
Instructions: 5/5. I made the marinade in about two minutes. Literally. Measure, measure, scoop, scoop – BAM! Marinade. I should mention I had to use low sodium teriyaki sauce instead of the lite soy sauce and brown sugar. This is because for some reason, I grabbed teriyaki sauce instead of soy sauce at the store. I have no idea how that happened. Really – no idea.
Flavor: 5/5. This was another recipe that was so delicious, I couldn’t believe it was healthy. If you follow it by the book, it’s just 60 calories. JUST 60! Again, I used low-fat yogurt instead of fat-free. I was amazed at how between the layers of the Jello and fruit mix, the yogurt adopted almost a whipped cream flavor. All the testers sat around eating this dessert saying over and over “This is SO GOOD!”
Instructions: 4/5. A couple of things I noticed was that the strawberries never fully thawed after adding them to the boiling water. That many strawberries (1 pound) cooled the Jello liquid pretty quickly so I don’t even know if that’s possible to do. I also couldn’t really think of how Jello mix could have the consistency of egg whites. In the end, though, neither of these quibbles really mattered since the dessert came out wonderfully.
After trying out Quick & Health: Recipes and Ideas and Quick & Healthy Volume II, I’ve learned that it truly is possible to have healthy meals on a daily basis. Being healthy doesn’t mean eating yucky, and it actual can be convenient. I recommend either (or both) of these Quick & Healthy cookbooks for any of you who are like me and think you don’t have time to eat healthy (and delicious) meals.