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Healthy in a Hurry
by Jim Romanoff and the
Editors of EatingWell Magazine

Reviewed by Elliot Essman

For the record, I do not mind spending many days working on an individual dish, say my pan-fried chicken (a day for brining, another for a buttermilk soak, a third to finish). Of course I need be honest: these situations almost always revolve around an occasion. When you fuss, and the result is a success, it feels good. It also feels good, in the everyday world, to get a handle on generating healthy meals without having to go on a shopping or food-prepping crusade. The true question must be: can healthy food also be quick?

The EatingWell Healthy in a Hurry Cookbook: 150 Delicious Recipes for Simple, Everyday Suppers in 45 Minutes or Less, by Jim Romanoff and the Editors of EatingWell Magazine, purports to answer that question in the affirmative. EatingWell is an inspired Vermont-based magazine devoted to healthy food preparation; the recipes were all developed by the magazine’s test kitchen, whose beaming staff, as pictured in the book’s early pages, looks about as healthy as they come.

The Healthy in a Hurry thesis is this: most quick food solutions take significant nutritional shortcuts. “To sell well,” write the authors, “many prepared foods are intentionally overloaded with calories, fats, added sweeteners and sodium.” The message is clear: “Home cooking can be our best defense against the nutritional pitfalls that work against our keeping our good health and vitality.

“Getting Started, Getting Organized” begins the book with parameters that are often not as obvious as they should be: “plan ahead, shop smart, use the right tools for the job, think like a chef.”  After a nod to the basics of food safety and a survey of major cooking techniques, the book presents our ideal plate: half vegetables, a quarter each starch and protein. Of course the authors realize they are generalizing. Matters of personal or family taste, food allergies and aversions, must all come into play in menu planning. The very first recipe, for example, in the initial “Dinner Salads” sections, is Vietnamese Chicken and Noodle Salad. It calls for two teaspoons of sugar, a substance I would never dream of throwing onto savory food. Of course, I do not have to prepare this particular dish. I like the Seafood Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette. It’s a smart recipe. Since it calls for just six cherry tomatoes, a sidebar suggests I purchase the six at the salad bar of my local supermarket, so I can avoid being saddled with an entire quart (which I would invariably consume).

I only need one “why didn’t I think of that” tip of this nature to make a book worth its price, but I get much more. In addition to the usual preparation time and yield indications, each recipe includes per-serving nutritional information, plus a “Nutritional Bonus” rubric. The Seafood Salad, for example, gives a lagniappe of 130% daily value of Vitamin A, 120% of Vitamin C, 35% of Folate, and 30% of Potassium. I’ve found numerous recipes I can use and make my own based on my own dietary needs and tastes, and even an occasional recipe that would pass muster with all three of my nutritionally-exacting sisters.

In addition to “Dinner Salads,” an obvious first choice for quick and healthy, Healthy in a Hurry is sectioned out into “Soups and Stews,”  “Vegetarian,” “Chicken, Duck and Turkey,” “Fish and Seafood,” “Beef, Pork and Lamb,” “Sauces,” Sides,” and even “Dessert in a Hurry.” The Greek Lemon and Rice Soup replaces the usual egg with silken tofu. A vegetarian Mock Risotto uses instant brown rice and reduced-fat cream cheese to cut both calories and labor. Jerk Chicken Breast calls for reduced-sodium soy sauce, jerk seasoning and scallions to add piles of flavor without all the fat. Mustard-Crusted Salmon combines stone-ground mustard, reduced-fat sour cream, and lemon juice to coat the fish with similar healthy results. The Beef Stroganoff uses Portobello mushrooms to thicken the dish without thickening us.

Healthy in a Hurray is an ambitious book; it must be, as it promises much. The recipes are carefully culled, and the excellent photography deserves special mention. Like any “cookbook” of value, we get the most out of these recipes, tips and techniques by first diving into them and then making them our own. There’s plenty here to satisfy a full familial array of health-related eating concerns. If your dinner guests or family members are averse to or offended by the notion that they might be eating dishes that are healthy, easy-to-prepare, or both, you are, of course, under no obligation to tell them. Top -- Culinary Reviews Home

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