Super Natural Cooking

This review was prepared by Andrea of New Holistic Guide.
As a nutritionist, mother of two little boys, and a cooking enthusiast I am always on the look-out for recipes that are not only delicious and easy to prepare, but also provide ample nutrition. Time and again I bump into recipes that claim to be both nutritious and delicious, but fall short of my standards. This is why I welcomed Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways to Incorporate Whole and Natural Foods into Your Cooking by Heidi Swanson.

Heidi makes learning about nutrition and preparing new recipes from whole foods fun and easy. No matter where you are on your journey toward healthier eating, she can inspire you to take further steps. She brings you recipes from her travels guiding you to distant lands, but will also guide you through the maze of whole food markets. She helps stock your pantry with natural ingredients, and even if you don’t have much cleaning out to do, you will surely find new ingredients to experiment with. Once you start using them in the dishes found in the book, new ideas will pop into your head. Heidi encourages experimenting by providing variations for many of her recipes. Who could be a better guide into the world of unprocessed, whole foods than Heidi Swanson, the creator of 101 Cookbooks, one of today’s most popular food blogs.

When we looked at the book for the first time naturally my kids wanted to see the dessert section (“Use Natural Sweeteners”) and we picked the Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies – they looked delicious and I have never used mesquite before. Unfortunately it is not easily obtained. Planet Organic recently started carrying it, but they were out of stock. We have just been berry-picking, I had some extra wild blackberries on my hands, so we opted for making a variation of the Raspberry Curd Swirl Cake instead. (After all, Heidi suggested to change the type of curd with the season.)

For those of you who wonder what curd is, it is just another name for fruit butter. I made my own quick version of a curd by cooking the berries on low heat in a tiny amount of water for about half an hour then draining them in a nut milk bag. The only other change I made to the recipe was to reduce the amount of natural cane sugar by ½ cup, and the salt by ¼ teaspoon. As promised the cake turned out moist, dense, sliceable, and delicious. It was sweet enough with the reduced amount of sugar, 1 ½ cups would definitely have been too much.

I am a big fan of soups, so the next recipe I tried was the Spring Minestrone featured on the book cover. The recipe comes from the “Explore a Wide Range of Grains” section. I made this soup twice. The first time I didn’t have brown Basmati rice, and I just substituted medium grain brown rice. The fragrance and the mild nutty flavour of the brown Basmati rice makes a great difference, so it is worth the effort to go out and get some for the sake of this recipe. The soup is easy to make, light and nourishing. It lends itself to many variations. I am definitely going to make it again.

Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans were the next on my list of things to try. Even if you are not a big fan of beans this dish will appeal to you. Good way of introducing beans into your diet. Beans and greens make an excellent combination – not only do the flavours complement each other, but greens also help absorb more of the nutrients form beans. I used olive oil, but if you have the time to prepare clarified butter it will enhance the flavours even more. Do not be put off by 4 cloves of garlic and a whole onion – it may seem like a lot, but this dish wouldn’t be the same without them. Also keep in mind the reputed health benefits of garlic and onions.

My overall impression of Heidi’s book was excellent. It is a handy kitchen reference. One thing I would have loved to see though is measurements in cups for all recipes. A cup of this and an ounce of that may mean something to experienced cooks. To me it meant having to look up methods of conversion. Other than that the recipes are easy to make, stylishly presented, and a multitude of variations are often suggested. The health benefits of whole foods is explained in an easy-to-understand manner. Heidi makes it fun to prepare good-for-you dishes in style. If you pick up a copy, make sure it is properly bound, mine fell apart after leafing through it a couple of times.

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