If those healthy eating resolutions for 2013 encountered a few roadblocks — a busy schedule, an empty pantry — Good for You makes it easy to get back on track. In our February Cookbook Club pick, author Dana Jacobi offers a collection of more than 80 fresh, wholesome recipes for any time of day. The dishes span all courses, focusing on plant-based ingredients rounded out with lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats. And did we mention they’re short and sweet for weeknight cooking?
In the Q&A below, we asked Jacobi for her best healthy tips, from shopping to cooking and sharing meals with friends. Read on for her suggestions (and favorite recipes!) and scroll to the bottom of this post to learn more about our Cookbook Club.
You’ve said the recipes in Good for You “start with the plant.” Can you describe how you approach a dish?
I love vegetables. We all know that a healthy diet means eating at least 3 to 4 cups of vegetables a day, so when I plan a meal, I first think about what vegetables to have. First, I think about what’s on hand, and then if I need to I might go out to the farmers’ market or supermarket. I can see eating vegetables at every meal. If that sounds challenging for breakfast, consider Poached Eggs with Sweet Pepper Piperade — you can even make the pepper part the day before, then reheat it and add the egg in the morning.
What role do other ingredients — whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, lean proteins – play in your recipes?
A balanced meal means thinking about protein and fat. When eating meatless, I think about the protein in dairy, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds. Because some are high in fat, you have to balance it — the calories add up, and calories do count.
I also favor lean proteins like turkey breast, free-range chicken and pork that’s been humanely raised. Three ounces of animal protein is fine in a dish where it’s the sole source of protein, like Cashew Chicken Lettuce Tacos. When animal protein is part of a dish with beans or grains, like a farro salad with turkey, squash and cranberries, one ounce works well because it’s really used as a condiment for flavor. I like using lean turkey sausage or prosciutto because a little goes a long way, as in this Warm Lentil and Kale Salad.
Some of the book’s flavor combinations and spices may be new to readers. How can they incorporate them into their cooking?
I can often taste flavors in my head, and that’s sometimes where I start creating a dish. I like rosemary with fruit, and I’ll toss a few blades of it into applesauce. When buying pears, I also thought of rosemary. At home I had a winter squash on the counter, so I cut some up and sauteed it with the pears and rosemary, and that’s how we got to this dish.
In general, I suggest doing a little test to see how you like a new spice or combination. If incorporating a new herb into a vegetable side — such as tarragon in carrot puree — puree a small amount of carrots with the tarragon to see if you like it. Then either finish the rest or use thyme or basil instead.
I urge everyone to try pimenton, or smoked paprika. It gives meatless dishes and almost everything a wonderful flavor.
In your opinion, what makes a recipe practical for everyday cooking?
An everyday recipe is simple, but it still can be special. It’s about using a few ingredients that are easy to prepare and can quickly be turned into a finished dish. My Roasted Broccolini with Lemon has three ingredients plus oil, salt and pepper, and making it takes 15 minutes. The result is simple and rustic, but you could pair it with roasted salmon and serve it at a dinner party.
Here’s another tip: repeating a recipe can turn it into an everyday dish. After the first time you make it, the next time it goes a lot faster.
How does sharing food with others and eating for pleasure fit in?
Sharing a meal doesn’t have to be a big deal. In Sicily, families come together at lunchtime and they just eat some soup and pasta with tomato sauce, but they talk, relax, and take their minds off of work for a bit. Even giving a neighbor some homemade soup can lift your spirits when you can’t sit down together.
Do you have any tips for people shopping with healthy cooking in mind?
Think ahead. Making a pot of soup to eat for a couple of days is a good way to eat healthily when you’re busy. If cooking for one or two, consider buying chopped ingredients at the salad bar in small amounts — it lets you get a variety of vegetables and fruits without having leftovers that go to waste.
If you’re busy, buying already chopped vegetables may help you eat healthier and be worth the premium you pay for someone else doing the prep work. On the other hand, cooking your own dried beans tastes better. Soaking them just involves putting them in a bowl of water, and cooking them is just boiling a pot of water. It doesn’t take much of your time, and you enjoy the final dish so much more.
Shop when you can at a farmers’ market — you may many foods are less expensive than they are in grocery stores. In stores, watch the specials.
You’ve lightened up some comfort foods, like berry cobbler. What are some go-to suggestions for making recipes more nutritious?
I think about making dishes that have more nutrients and less calories, too. I use dessert as a way to eat fruit but focus on adding nutritionally useful ingredients like low-fat yogurt or nuts and whole grains, as in a streusel. When I make salads, I keep calories down by using either some chicken broth or fruit juice in dressings for flavor, with less oil. I also like drinking freshly made juices as a snack, because they feel filling and are crammed with nutrients.
What’s one recipe from the book everyone should try?
Since I love Sicily, the Sicilian-Style Shrimip with Cauliflower & Almonds (see below). It’s a wonderful dish; everyone loves the sweet and savory flavors. The Olive Oil Chocolate Mousse would be the absolute must-try recipe. Chocoholics will love it, and its dairy-free deliciousness is a revelation.
Sicilian-Style Shrimp with Cauliflower & Almonds
1/2 cup (3 oz./90 g.) golden raisins
6 cups (6 oz./185 g.) cauliflower florets
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup (6 oz./185 g.) chopped ripe yellow or red tomatoes
3/4 lb. (375 g.) small shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. dried basil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g.) sliced almonds, toasted
Put the raisins in a small bowl and pour over warm water to cover. Let stand until plumped, about 20 minutes.
In a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket, bring 1 inch (2.5 cm.) water to a boil. Add the cauliflower to the steamer basket, spread evenly, cover, and steam until the cauliflower is tender but still offers some resistance when pierced gently with a fork, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, remove the steamer basket from the pan, and set aside. Drain the raisins.
In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes start to break down, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and saute until bright pink, about 3 minutes. Add the anchovies, mashing them with the back of a wooden spoon until creamy. Add the cauliflower, raisins, chicken broth, basil and red pepper flakes. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 3 minutes longer.
Remove from the heat and stir in the almonds. Transfer to a warmed platter and serve right away. Serves 4.
Love collecting cookbooks? Enjoy trying new recipes? Join us for a monthly Cookbook Club class. Led by our talented culinary experts, these exclusive cooking classes showcase recipes from a different cookbook each month.
- Each 1½ – to 2-hour class features cooking tips and techniques and a three-course tasting menu from the book’s best recipes, prepared while you watch.
- Class fee of $75 includes the cookbook with signed bookplate.
- Participants receive a 10% discount on store purchases the day of the class.
- Available monthly at select stores; class times vary by store location.
- Space is limited and reservations are required. Call a participating store to register.