Now Eat This! cookbook review and giveaway

A few weeks ago I was sent a copy of Rocco Dispirito’s Now Eat This! cookbook to review on Healthy and Sane. In this cookbook, Rocco set out to recreate 150 of “America’s favorite comfort foods” but make them all under 350 calories/serving and in most cases lower in fat. As you can see in the cover of the book below, recipes for burgers, mac & cheese and chocolate chip cookies were among the favorites. Yup, they are my favorites too!

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I love the concept of this book but was still skeptical about Rocco’s ability to truly recreate such classic dishes. Can a chef really cook something delicious without oodles of butter/oil? But I carried on…

Pros:

  • Nice quality paperback
  • Lots of pictures
  • Good variety of recipes – all of my favorite comfort foods were included!
  • Everything I made from the book was delicious Smile

Cons:

  • Pictures used were often stock photos (there is NO WAY in hell the picture of brownies on p.234 was of the brownies from this book. I will bet a lot of money on that!!)
  • Some recipes needed slight modifications (did they really try all of them or just conceptualize them on paper?)
  • Use of artificial sweeteners. I really doubt that Rocco actually consumes splenda. I understand it keeps the calories down but I think this book would be stronger if it recreated favorite comfort foods in a natural way. I subbed artificial sweeteners with sugar (1:1) in every recipe I tried. It’s worth the extra calories to me (but that’s a personal choice, of course)!

There you have it. Taste wins at the end and like I said above, with a few small modifications, I was happy with every recipe. Wanna see what I made?

Crispy mozarella sticks

I had a bit of trouble with the panko crumbs actually sticking to the string cheese so I subbed a real egg for egg whites (called for in the book), dipped the sticks in egg first, then flour, then egg again… and then panko crumbs. I also refreshed the panko bowl often (once they got wet, they just clumped up and wouldn’t stick to the cheese sticks). At the end, I was happy with how they were covered.

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10 minutes in… look what I saw in my toaster oven!

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The cheese broke through the crust and started oozing out through the wire rack (the idea for using a wire rack is so that heat can evenly access the food instead of the bottom sogging, but clearly this doesn’t work with cheese!).

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I took them out, placed them directly on the pan and continued baking.

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They looked like little monsters at the end but still delicious. I mean, we’re talking about battered warm cheese here!!

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These were a hit at the party I brought them to. I will definitely be baking mozzarella sticks in the future, but I will place them directly on the pan and turn them occasionally.

Next up… dessert!

Chocolate frozen yogurt

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This was a really easy recipe! While I hesitated for a minute when the directions said to pour the mixture straight from the (warm) pot into the ice cream machine, I went ahead and did it anyway. I was expecting this to fail but nope, 25 minutes later I had a gorgeous, rich, chocolaty treat. Adam and I both LOVED this!

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The next day the froyo hardened into a rock but 20 seconds in the microwave remedied that. There were no icy crystals, just pure creamy goodness. I will definitely be making this again!!

Brownies

These brownies look nothing like the ones in the picture in the book but I still enjoyed them. I loved that everything was combined (within seconds!) in a blender and then was ready for baking. Can you see how fudgy these are?

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I used real sugar in these with a 1:1 ratio. Since artificial sweeteners typically are twice as sweet as regular sugar, these brownies were not too sweet… but I liked them that way! I also added some raw cacao nibs to amp up the chocolate flavor.

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[3 Points Plus per brownie]

I did not bring these brownies to the football party we attended. They are definitely an acquired taste, but I truly looked forward to them as my after-dinner treat every night. If you like fudgy, sweet brownies, just double the amount of sugar and I think you’ll love them. They are even better the next day!

(Almost) general tso’s chicken

I thought this recipe was a true test. Adam LOVES Chinese food (I think these caps don’t even do it justice) and I actually hesitated to tell him what I was making. I mean, can you really make a healthier version of this fried sticky saucy dish?

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The answer it turns out is YES.

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I really was shocked how spot on the flavors were. This tasted sinful but it wasn’t. Adam said this dish would really satisfy his future cravings for Chinese food (we’re both trying to lose weight so it’s a rare indulgence) and that I should put it on my go-to recipes list!

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This was the last recipe I tested and I am really looking forward to trying many others. Would you like to win your own copy of Now Eat This! cookbook?

Here are the rules: there are 7 ways to enter.

1) Leave a comment on this post – Tell me whatever you want, like what your favorite “American classic” food is. :)

2+3) Follow me on Twitter (please tell me in the comments what your twitter name is so I can confirm). For an additional entry, you can also tweet about this giveaway (my twitter name @elinacooks must be included to qualify)

4) Subscribe to Healthy and Sane by email

5) Like Healthy and Sane on Facebook.

6) Add Healthy and Sane to your blogroll.

7) Link to this post on your blog, if you have one. If you don’t, let someone else know about this giveaway and tell me so in the comments section after they’ve entered the giveaway.

Please leave a separate comment for each entry. The giveaway will end on January 29. I will randomly choose 2 winners (U.S. Residents only, sorry) using random.org and announce them on the following Monday. Good luck! Open-mouthed smile

PS – Rocco also shares healthy tips and recipes from both his Twitter account (@RoccoDiSpirito) and his Facebook page

PFB C#3: Luxury dinner in

I’m here, with your help – writing a post for challenge #3 for Project Food Blog. Thank you!! Every challenge has been exciting and complex for its own reasons. This one required to “host a luxurious dinner party where your guests will discover new tastes and exotic flavors.” I’ve had a good share of high end meals out but what a luxurious meal at home meant was obviously up for interpretation. At the end, I decided that a luxury meal to me meant that it had to be plated, consist of fresh ingredients and flavors and involve several courses. I wanted to make sure that this was the best, most luxurious meal I’ve ever cooked… I was ambitious. I cooked everything from scratch, which included freshly baked bread and homemade ice cream (I bought some back-ups just in case… you never know ;) ). Ever since getting back from vacation, I’ve had plans every night this week so I ended up taking Friday off work (that’s when the meal took place) since I had no time to prep any other night beforehand. This was going to be an involved meal and I needed time to make it happen! Without further adieu, THE MENU:

Sounds luxurious enough? ;)

I planned the meal the night before and hit up 4 grocery stores the morning of (it was supposed to be just 2, but they didn’t have pork tenderloin at Whole Foods and I ended up driving around to 2 other stores until finally changing the menu to pork chops – you have to be flexible sometimes. I should have made this decision right away but sometimes you get married to the menu and it’s hard to let go. It actually ended up being better at the end. :D )

The loot:

The night before I also made a detailed list of everything that needs to be done, including specific times for certain steps (like “churn ice cream at 4:30″, “bake bread at 7″). This schedule was essential to smooth prep work since there were so many components to every item! Scenes from the day:

Don’t forget to stop for lunch! I was going at 100 miles/hour; my stomach growled around 3 and I realized I haven’t eaten since breakfast. You need fuel, even if you’re having a little too much fun in the kitchen. :grin:

Finally the guests arrived a little after 8. I had fresh bread ready (kept warm in the oven until they got there). The recipe for the hummus bread comes from my newly acquired King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook. I made the hummus myself, substituting white beans for chickpeas, and served the rest of the dip alongside the bread. This was my first attempt at making bread and I found the dough difficult to work with and very sticky. It turned out well though. The guests had no idea about my struggles earlier in the day. :)

I also decided to be a little more fancy (you may say “luxurious” lol) by making some roasted garlic and thyme butter (recipe here). I think flavored butter is always a little more special and it’s definitely a very easy way to impress your guests. :grin:

Since I was responsible for making all the dishes, timing was key. I knew the amuse bouche and the entrees will take a bit of time (I needed them fresh out of the oven!) so I plated the salad when the guests arrived but didn’t serve it right away. About 15 minutes into dinner, everyone got their own pre-portioned salad.

My inspiration for the salad was the one we had at Zuzu just days prior. I actually had Anne Burrelle’s raw artichoke salad recipe saved for months and thought it would be a great base for the salad. Unfortunately, baby artichokes and me just don’t get along (they didn’t shave properly – I was getting tiny flakes that just looked messy) so I gave up on them pretty early on. The shaved artichokes were pretty much a garnish in the salad at the end (each person maybe got 1 artichoke’s worth – if that). The salad was very well balanced, though – peppery arugula, sharp cheese, nutty pine nuts and a rich finish of truffle oil. I was pretty happy to see everyone clearing their plates (including veggie haters). [She pats herself on the back ;) ]

While Adam was being a good host, I had to get back to business. I prepped the amuse bouche prior to everyone’s arrival but the little cups still needed to bake. The pork chops were also stuffed and wrapped but needed to bake.

The side dishes were made while everyone else was chatting up. I was all business (and yes, the kitchen was quite the mess at this point). :mrgreen:

Hey, look what just came out of the oven!

Puff pastry cups with creamy mushrooms, thyme and peas. The stuffing recipe was based on this one (I subbed ham for peas). I made my own “cups” by slicing a sheet of puff pastry dough into 9 squares, rolling it out and stuffing it into the muffin pan. So rich and buttery. A nice segway from salad to the main course if I do say so myself. :)

In 15 minutes or so, everything else came together (and the chocolate cakes were ready to go in the oven). I served the stuffed pork chops to each guest individually (the recipe is exactly like this one but I used pork chops instead of pork tenderloin, baking the chops covered with wet parchment paper for 15 minutes and then uncovered for 10). The sides were served family-style.

Haricots verts with wild mushrooms and hazelnuts (recipe from The best of Cooking Light 9, special edition)

… and roasted cauliflower (recipe here)

A little more wine, please. Thank you. :)

Check out the pork cross-section. Mmm, goat cheese and pecans. Yum!

I especially loved the wild mushrooms soaked in the delicious red wine vinegar and EVOO dressing. Liz and I were picking them out of the large dish towards the end of the night. Hey, we’re still at home and we’re all friends (no need to be too fancy)! ;)

No meal is complete without a fantastic dessert. This one definitely fit the bill!

The cake was based on this recipe (I baked them in my popover pan) and was just seriously mind-blowing. It tasted rich and decadent – the way a chocolate dessert should be. The butter pecan ice cream with candied bacon had the perfect cooling effect (ice cream base was a Ben & Jerry’s recipe, candied bacon recipe came from here). I decided to do the bacon twist to make this dessert just a little different. It added a nice sweet-salty component to the ice cream and was delicious although I think Ben & Jerry’s butter pecan ice cream is perfect on its own (so I actually wouldn’t mess with it next time).

What a meal! Happy bellies always makes for happy guests!

This was definitely the most involved, most luxurious meal I’ve ever made. My feet were burning by the end of the night (I was literally going non-stop for 12 hours!) but I wouldn’t change a thing. Being in the kitchen makes me happy and once in a while it’s fun to take it up a notch and make it fancy (yet still mostly healthy!).

What does a luxury dinner mean to you?

Summer grilling

I love summer. Did I mention that already? hehe. Yeah, I’m a big fan! :mrgreen: Right now I’m sitting by the pool, blogging, and soaking up the sunshine. I hope you are up to something very similar (perhaps also with a laptop on your lap, looking for something to read… just like me? I told you I’m an addict. ;) ). So here are a few eats to make your mouth water… and a burger recipe that you should try if you’re doing some summer grilling over the next few days (or months :) ).

BREAKFAST

FFL english muffin with crunchy Barney Butter and fresh local strawberries + coffee (of course)

Mmm, these guys were so sweet! Produce really is so much better during peak season. I’m eating as many strawberries as I can these days because in a few weeks there won’t be much of these berries at the farmers market. PS – english muffin + almond butter + any fruit is a great combo… and I mean ANY. Try it! :)

WORKOUT

Abs + spin classes. My abs were on fire (and somehow I did more today – I don’t learn! :) ). I had 2 almond stuffed medjool dates before my workout. Dates are a great pre-workout fuel!

LUNCH

Leftover pasta with roasted tomatoes, garlic and white beans. It was a bit better the next day, I guess the flavors developed. :D

Since it was July 3rd and our office was looking pretty dead, I left around 3 to hit up the farmers market and do other grocery shopping before the long weekend. Eventually hunger hit…

MID-AFTERNOON SNACK

TJ’s Tuscan Pane with Samira’s Homemade baba ganoush and roasted beets

You know all about my obsession with all of the above ingredients so I won’t bore you. :cool:

DINNER!

This was my favorite meal of the day. I just love having a grill and the best part about it is that I still get to cook something special. We don’t just throw premade patties on the grill and call it a day.

On the menu for this Friday night, we had a “man meal” as per Adam’s request. I interpret it as pizza, steak & cheese subs or burgers. Last night it wasn’t just any burger though – we made spicy poblano burgers with chipotle cream (recipe here, I didn’t make the pickled onions for obvious reasons :) ).

I made the patties, Adam did the grilling. The burgers were expertly grilled. He’s becoming good :D

Instead of pickled onions, I topped my burger with sauerkraut.

Wow, this was one good burger! A little spicy from the roasted poblano peppers, nice and moist from the addition of soft bread and smoky and hot from the chipotle cream. The chipotle cream is $$$, I tell ya.

Corn on the cob, just simply grilled. For some things, simple is best. :D

Dinner all together. This was an awesome man meal that can be enjoyed by a lady like myself. ;)

After dinner our friends came over for a few drinks on our patio. The weather was gorgeous! I had 2 glasses of the Perducci sustainable white.

This is a great general white – pretty smooth and not very sweet. I’m a fan. :)

Lastly, no day can be complete without dessert. Tiffany requested chocolate mint ice cream which I attempted to lighten up by using 2% milk and half-and-half instead of whole milk and heavy cream, but for some reason it wouldn’t harden. :???: Does anyone know why? Instead, we had chocolate mint milkshakes with oreo cookie pieces. And yes, we spiked them up with a bit of Bailey’s mint.

It was one good night. ;)

All right, the boys are getting rowdy in the pool so before this post costs me my laptop, I’m going to sigh off. Have a great weekend everyone!!! :mrgreen:

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