Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review and Easiest Pumpkin Pie-Chia Pudding Recipe: Supermarket Healthy by Melissa d'Arabian

I have been eyeing this cookbook for a few weeks on Blogging for Books. For some reason or another, I chose a few other books (which were all quite excellent in their own right), but this one kept catching my eye, time after time.

I finally ordered a copy. And it was worth the wait.

This is a really fun, simple, yet delicious cookbook. The concept comes from cheap-eats-become-gourmet genius, Melissa d'Arabian. Winner of The Next Food Network Star and host of the ever-popular Ten Dollar Dinners, Melissa has a knack for bringing delicious food to your table that anyone can afford - all it takes is a little creativity, some simple staples, and a meager budget.

According to her new book, Melissa d'Arabian regularly feeds her family of six on a modest budget, something she did long before she became a Food Network star. And since moving from Seattle to California, she has discovered a gluten-intolerance in one of her children and regularly feeds vegetarians and those with lactose-intolerance in her extended family - so all of her new recipes include easy adaptations or come naturally free of whatever allergen. Bonus for those of us already eating this way!

Supermarket Healthy is a complexly simple book that guides you through the supermarket with tips, advice, and know-how to feed yourself and your family wisely. It's chock-full of recipes that focus on healthy, lean cuts of meat and fish, tons and tons of vegetables, and a few modest desserts. Even though she is the queen of cheap-eating, she is a major front-runner for healthful eating too (her book could almost be the poster child for any ailment that would benefit from healthy eating - diabetes, heart conditions, adrenal overload, etc.). I could eat very well if I spent a year just eating from her book alone.

The book has all sorts of smart-tips for substitutions and easy shopping ideas, but what surprised me the most by her healthy cookbook is that it didn't completely feel like a healthy cookbook. You know what I mean. The ones that say only eat boiled chicken, steamed veggies with a small side of brown rice. No butter, faux or otherwise, maybe a drizzle of olive oil. Melissa doesn't put this into her book at all. She just makes you feel like it's a cookbook by an adorable mom who wants to feed you as well as she feeds her own family. I think that's her genius. It's like eating with your adorable mom, if your adorable mom looks like Melissa d'Arabian.

There are a lot of interesting recipes like Cinnamon Popovers with Cream Cheese Glaze (a healthier version of a cinnamon roll), Kale and White Bean Caesar (that's dairy-free and vegetarian), Cauliflower and Chickpea Salad with Smoked Trout and Olives (which sounds complicated, but it's super easy), Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Pine Nuts, and Penne, and Flatiron Steaks with Quick Cauliflower Kimchi. All of these are intriguing, simple to make, with easy ingredients to find, and won't take forever to prepare. That's what makes this cookbook so fun.

The downside of any cookbook is that oftentimes, they don't add enough pictures of the finished dish. This is a big thing for most of us that love cookbooks. This one does not have enough. I love the ones they do include, even the few of Melissa staring off at things in the distance as she makes her dishes, but more of the end product would be so much better. On the other hand, with the size of her cookbook and the places the editors did add photos, if they added more, the book would have been a lot thicker. There are a lot of recipes in this book. And if they all had a coinciding picture, it would be about a third bigger. I suppose all cookbook editors must make choices. However, I am still a fan of lots of dish pictures.

Another gripe I have is the name choices for the dishes. One dish is called Almost Raw Asparagus Soup. There is really nothing raw about this soup, except maybe the salt. The asparagus is roasted, the almonds are toasted, and the finishing touches include chicken broth (which better not be raw) and yogurt (which you can find raw, but the recipe requires the soup to be heated). I'm not sure why they called it almost raw at all. Does this make it sound healthier? It's asparagus soup! It's already healthy and looks delicious.

The only other weird thing for me was the blueprints they included. The blueprints are a DIY guideline included next to certain recipes that can be made as you would like them. So, for instance, there is a trail mix blueprint that gives you the baseline options for making your own trail mix (and a recipe that Melissa made, as well) with steps to achieving whatever version of trail mix you might like. Clever idea, but they aren't consistent throughout the book. They all look the same, but I found some of them to be kind of confusing and the details didn't always match Melissa's complimentary recipe. The frittata blueprint had different instructions than the recipe. The recipe and the blueprint called for exactly the same amount of ingredients, however, in the recipe, Melissa tells the reader to cook the eggs on the stovetop for 3-4 minutes until set, then bake in the oven at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes until finished. The blueprint skips the stovetop cooking and goes right to baking at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. I wouldn't have minded the skipping of the stovetop, nor the temperature change, except that 10 minutes will more than likely not be long enough if you don't set the eggs first on the stovetop.

The Salad In A Jar blueprint was equally perplexing. I've made a few jar salads and they are an awesome way to take salad with you, but you have to do things in a certain way (dressing must be on the bottom) or you'll get a soggy salad for lunch. The blueprint had all the ingredients, but I didn't think they made it clear in what order to put them in your jar. Melissa's recipe does, but the blueprint just has arrows pointing from one set of ingredients to the next with no mention of which way to put the ingredients into the jar. When I read it, I sort of thought it was a blueprint like the rest (all the other blueprints have arrows that point from the first ingredient to the last, as you cook along). These arrows point from the toppings to the greens to the veggies/meat/beans/grains to the dressing, so it looks like you are making a salad, just like any other. However, if it is going in a jar, the dressing goes in first, next to the meat/veggies/pasta/beans, so it doesn't wilt or soggy up the greens. I just think that if you are going to include a blueprint, they should be consistent. First ingredient first, etc. The blueprints were lacking for me.

However, overall, I love this book. I want to spend everyday eating from here. I feel healthier just thinking about it. It's smart, it's clever, and some of the recipes are just a really healthful approach to a classic dish. She doesn't try to showcase some sort of culinary expertise, as much as offer the reader a way to make delicious food that's healthy, just like your mom. Only these are beautiful, easy, and elegant dishes that require nothing more than a willing to try something new.

Happy Eating! 


Here's the recipe I tried and I would highly recommend it to you. It's a great starter for the day or as a snack, which is my preference. Lots of fiber, protein (those chia seeds are packed with protein, vitamins and minerals), and it's simple, fast and easy. You can even make it the night before, so it's ready for breakfast or to take with you. Or great for a dessert-time snack.



From Supermarket Healthy by Melissa d'Arabian

Serves 4
Preparation time: 35 minutes (plus 1 hour to set)
Cooking time: none


1/2 cup chia seeds
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup pumpkin puree (not sweetened pie filling)
2/3 cup light coconut milk (canned or carton)
2 cups unsweetened almond milk or soy milk
1 tbsp maple syrup or honey, plus more for serving (optional)
1/4 cup raw pecan halves, roughly chopped (almonds and cashews work, too!)
1 medium banana, peeled and thinly sliced


1. Place the chia seeds and pumpkin pie spice in medium container with lid. Cover and shake to distribute the powder among the seeds. 

2. Whisk the pumpkin puree with the coconut milk in a separate small bowl, until smooth. Pour over the chia seeds and add the almond milk and maple syrup. Cover and shake vigorously. Place the pudding in the refrigerator to thicken, shaking it after 30 minutes, and letting it set up for at least 1 hour, or up to several days. 

3. Divide the pudding among bowls and serve sprinkled with pecans, bananas, and a drizzle of maple syrup (if using). 

Per serving: 255 calories / Protein 8g / Dietary Fiber 14g / Sugars 12g / Total Fat 16g

*This book was given to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. 

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