Smart Cooking with Molly Katzen's Cookbooks

Health Professional

Good health starts at the point of purchase in the grocery store. However, unless you know what to do with those ingredients, good health may still taste bad. Having the perfect recipe that balances the salt, sweet, sour and bitter in perfect harmony is what will remove the division between foods that are good for you and foods that you love to eat. With the holiday entertaining season around the corner, you need some new recipes that embody good health and good eats.

Both of my favorite cookbooks are written by Mollie Katzen, a self-proclaimed child of the 60's. In regards to her early memories of family meals she wrote, "I was raised on Minute Rice, Campbell's Soup, Velteeta Cheese, and frozen vegetables. We ate red meat about five nights per week, on the other two nights we ate fish or chicken. "Salad" meant iceberg lettuce, hothouse tomatoes and mayonnaise." Does this sound familiar to you? Mollie did not discover full-flavored, healthy meals until later in life when she shared meals with friends. Later, she helped launch a vegetarian restaurant known as the Moosewood Restaurant. With that, her legacy was born.

In 1977, she published her first cookbook, Moosewood Cookbook. Those who have been following Mollie for decades proudly display old Moosewood Cookbooks like a badge of honor with dog-eared pages, stained covers, and bindings that are barely holding together. Even though, my Moosewood Cookbook is not in that bad of shape, it is still well loved and used in my kitchen. Admittedly, some of the recipes are full flavor and full fat like the Cauliflower-Cheese Soup with two cups of cheddar cheese or the lasagna with mounds of ricotta. But, frequently low fat suggestions are made to cut out the animal fat. However, many recipes need no altering at all because they are both full flavor and no fat. My favorites include the spilt-pea soup with layers of flavors from the spices, the vegetables, and a few drops of sesame oil. Another favorite is the basic stir fry sauce with a perfect ratio of garlic, ginger, sesame oil, soy, sugar, and cider vinegar. But my most loved recipe is the Italian Tomato Sauce that is on a page that is well stained by tomatoes which, when in season, are perfect to prepare in this sauce and freeze for later winter enjoyment. The Moosewood Cookbook may not be the healthiest cookbook on the shelf, but it is a great way to blur the line between foods that are good for you and foods that you love to eat.

For a healthier cookbook, I turn to Mollie Katzen's latest cookbook: The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without. That is right; this is a fully vegetarian cookbook. Before you turn up your nose, read what Mollie says about this vegetable cookbook: "We tend to assume that vegetables are dreary, and we often can't think of what to do with them past that salad course... just for you, a book of happy ideas for Beyond Salad." Thinking beyond the salad of our childhood memories of iceberg lettuce, bland tomatoes, and mayonnaise, vegetables can come to life with superior flavors. And these flavorful recipes will make anyone love to eat vegetables. My husband, a bonified vegetable hater because his mother forced him to eat canned vegetables, hates Brussels sprouts. When I made the Braised Brussels Sprouts in Maple Mustard Sauce, he was shocked that such a "vial" thing could taste so good. A victory for the vegetables. Braising and sauces are just one way to bring out the flavor. Mollie also advocates for the roasting of vegetables at high temperatures in order to enhance the flavor. This transformation of cooking preferences is evident by her Ratatouille recipe which transformed from a traditional stove-top version in the Moosewood Cookbook to a high-heat roasting extravaganza in The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without. If you want better tasting vegetables, you will not want to live without this cookbook; just like I cannot live without the recipe for Mushroom-stuffed Mushrooms with Wild Rice and Goat Cheese, or the recipe for Spaghetti Squash Pancakes, or the recipe for Roasted Acorn Squash with Orange-Cranberry Glaze. All found in this, my favorite cookbook.

Do I have other cookbooks in my kitchen? Sure, I do. But these two by Mollie Katzen are the most spilled on and the most loved. For healthy nutrition, choosing the right cookbook is almost as important as shopping smartly for good ingredients. If you cannot make it taste good, then you are not going to eat it. Make this your time to remove the barrier between foods that are good for you and foods you love to eat. Bon Appetite.