“Eat What You Love: Quick & Easy: Great Recipes Low in Sugar, Fat, and Calories.” By Marlene Koch. Running Press. 336 pages. $27.
On my top 10 list of favorite things to do, cooking would come in at about 11. Eating, however, would definitely be in the top three.
So Marlene Koch’s “Eat What You Love: Quick & Easy” spoke to me. Koch, a dietitian known for recipes that promise to be healthy and great-tasting, has published three other “Eat What You Love” cookbooks.
The cookbook targets the many Americans who choose easily prepared meals that are high in carbohydrates, but who, like me, want to eat healthier and still enjoy comfort foods – to have it all, in other words. But Koch’s introduction does give lots of practical guidance about good nutrition to help readers – especially those with diabetes or other diet-related health concerns – choose their foods wisely.
Koch also says readers have written to her about their “effortless” weight loss from using her recipes. I don’t think anything is effortless, much less weight loss, so that added to my skepticism.
The book’s recipes, 180 in all, reduce fat and calories in everything from breakfast goodies and salad dressings to “fried” macaroni & cheese and many other popular dishes.
Lots of recipes jumped out at me, including a Watermelon Feta “Pizza” Salad, which is no more than a round of watermelon cut into wedges shaped like pizza slices, topped by feta, red onion, mint leaves and a simple balsamic syrup. In the photo, it looked creative and tasty.
I also want to try Blackened Tilapia Po’ Boys and Muffin Tin Crab Cakes. Both of those recipes call for simple, nutritious ingredients, as did the one I tested: Fuss-Free Sheet Pan Fajitas. I can’t say the same for some of the sweets in the cookbook.
In a bunch of recipes, from breakfast items to desserts, Koch calls for granulated sweetener and suggests using sucralose (Splenda), stevia or sugar. She gives information about each to give readers options. But sugar substitutes, other than honey and maple syrup, don’t appeal to me, and neither did the book’s dessert recipes.
I hit a winner with the fajita recipe, though. We hardly ever eat beef at our house, for health and environmental reasons, so it felt decadent to feast on marinated and broiled steak with roasted peppers and onions wrapped in soft corn tortillas. It tasted superb and was quick and easy to prepare.
Learning to love healthier foods is the smart thing to do, and this cookbook says favorite dishes can be part of that.
FUSS-FREE SHEET PAN FAJITAS
I didn’t use the liquid smoke called for here, and didn’t miss it.
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound flank steak
2 large bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 large onion, sliced into strips
Warmed corn or flour tortillas
1. Position an oven rack about 4 inches below the broiler, place another rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the first 8 ingredients (lime juice through cayenne). Place the steak in a large zip-top bag, pour all but 2 tablespoons of the mixture into the bag, seal and set aside. Add the peppers and onions to the bowl with the remaining marinade, stir to coat and transfer the vegetables to a 13- by 18-inch sheet pan. Roast for 10 minutes on the center rack, or until slightly softened.
3. Remove the pan from oven and turn on the broiler. Push the vegetables to the sides of the pan, remove the steak from the marinade, allowing excess to drain, and place steak in the center of the pan. Place the pan on the top rack and broil steak for 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until a meat thermometer registers 135 degrees F (for medium-rare).
Let the steak rest for 10 minutes, and slice thinly against the grain. Assemble the fajitas and serve.