I have been given the awesome opportunity to review a cookbook...from an actual TV show...this week! As someone with no TV, I'd never seen the show Recipe Rehab, so I really went into this with no preconceived notions. I quickly gathered that the premise of the show is to take not-so-healthy family style recipes and "rehab" them to be a healthier meal option. The show started on YouTube, and is now showing on most ABC stations on Saturday mornings. On each episode, they take one family recipe submitted by an audience member and two accomplished chefs compete in an effort to recreate the best healthier version of the dish. Recipe Rehab (the book) is the first book that has been written in conjunction with the show. The 175-page cookbook includes 80 recipes and lots of color photos. There are recipes for every meal of the day and at first glance the book includes no recipes that sound unappetizing (I don't always feel this way when scanning a cookbook) though I wasn't drooling over it either. Until I got to the Creamy Kale and Artichoke Dip with Garlic Toasts, but I'll get to that. Most of the book's recipes are about a page long and while they're family-style dishes that you may serve at home, some are also kind of fancied up for foodies. The book also includes text boxes of "chef tips," which are always nice in a cookbook.
I expected to find recipes with lots of fat-free and low-fat ingredients, which I pretty much never cook with. But I found that the recipes are largely very similar to the way I cook every day. Sneaking dark greens into food, lots of colorful vegetables, whole grains, not much cheese, applesauce in place of fat when baking...that kind of stuff. There is some ingredient swapping in the book's recipes using low-fat alternatives, so I set out to try a recipe with at least two reduced-fat ingredients. Because I have a prejudice against low-fat cheese, the recipe I chose to start with was Creamy Kale and Artichoke Dip with Garlic Toasts. I am well acquainted with artichoke dips and most involve lots of cheese, cream cheese and mayo. And I've rarely met an artichoke dip I haven't loved to the last smear (using my finger to clean the plate).
Recipe Rehab's artichoke dip has a very heavy-on-the-veggie ratio, with a small amount of parmesan, low-fat cream cheese and part-skim ricotta. I found it to be fairly easy to make and I think it turned out just as the cookbook authors would have hoped: very tasty and lacking nothing despite the absence of mayo and gobs of high fat cheeses. There was something about the dip that made me stop eating before I was sick to my stomach, which is atypical of my usual experience eating artichoke dip. I chose not to clean the plate with my tongue, and I've decided that's probably a good thing. It's likely I ate maybe two servings of Recipe Rehab's dip, while I wouldn't be surprised if I eat 4 or 5 servings of my usual artichoke dip recipe (always with regret).
Moving on to dinner, I went with Prosciutto-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Smokey Tomatoes. The dish is a little high-tech only because I had to stuff the butterflied tenderloin and use kitchen twine to put it back together. I wouldn't usually go to such lengths, but the photo in the book looked fantastic! I had some trouble with cooking times on the meat and my tomatoes for the sauce seemed under-roasted. The tenderloin was stuffed with tomato paste and prosciutto and was very good and very light tasting. There is basically no added fat in this recipe, so the tomato sauce didn't have the slick of olive oil I'm accustomed to. I was totally convinced that my kids would hate this dish, because to be honest, I didn't love it. My youngest daughter turned out to be a super fan, and she is 9, so that is really saying something.
In light of our super healthy dinner, I was hungry soon after, which was fine because I had made Dairy-Free Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes!
This recipe is kind of your typical cupcake, except it uses unsweetened almond milk and instead of butter or oil, it calls for applesauce. And there's no fatty chocolate in here, just dark cocoa powder. These cupcakes came out super moist with great flavor. I was surprised how much the taste of the almond milk came through, and it was a very nice aftertaste. The recipe was also super-duper easy to make. Including oven time, it took me maybe 25 minutes from start to finish. After the success of these cupcakes, I can't wait to try the book's Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins!
To give you an honest indication of what else is in the book, I'll close my eyes a few times and flip the pages to a random spot for you. One....Green Bean Casserole; exactly how'd you imagine it except from scratch without canned soup. Two...Grilled Sirloin Skewers with Homemade Steak Sauce; which reminds me, many of the recipes in here are healthier purely because sauces and dressings are made from scratch versus bottled. I'm a big believer in this approach to cooking both for health and for flavor, so that's probably my favorite part of the book. Three...Carnitas Tacos with Roasted Tomatillos; though I'm guessing not all of us can get fresh tomatillos in our grocery store. That is the case of a few other ingredients I saw in this book. I couldn't get soy whipped cream for my cupcakes, for example, but no biggie. Last one...Lighter Lemon Bars; sounds delicious and calls for "light butter" which I think I've never heard of, but should definitely look into!
Recipe Rehab is brought to you by the test kitchens of the Everyday Health hit TV show and is written by JoAnn Cianciulli and Maureen Namkoong, M.S, R.D. You can find the book in major bookstores and online booksellers. You can find sample excerpts from the book here and learn more about the show here! Enjoy!