REVIEW: Highs outweigh lows in 'Giada's Feel Good Food'

Carly Weber
Published: February 13 2014 | 9:41 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:36 am in
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This time of year cookbooks with a health focus find their ways to bookshelves.

Giada De Laurentiis’ latest cookbook, “Giada’s Feel Good Food” (Clarkson/Potter Publishers, November 2013), is one of these cookbooks meant to appeal to people with a resolve to start the year anew with healthier habits.

The Food Network TV star and celebrity chef wrote this book as an answer to questions from fans on how she stays fit as a chef. De Laurentiis lets readers into her world by sharing the food she eats every day that keep her healthy and energized. “Feel Good Food” is not purely a cookbook but also a lifestyle book as De Laurentiis shares things like her exercise and hair regimens.

Fans of De Laurentiis will no doubt love the inside scoop on how she stays healthy while working with food and how, in turn, they can, too. To that end, “Feel Good Food” has a 30-day menu plan for readers to follow along with listings of calories and dietary information for each recipe. Additionally, fans of recipes that don’t sacrifice flavor for health will find many recipes to add to their weekly menus.

For those who are just interested in the food, the lifestyle portion (and some of the photos of Giada) may be distracting. The cookbook includes things such as a look into Giada’s purse, her favorite brands and colors of nail polish and her daily skin routine. Is this necessary? After all, have you ever seen Alton Brown in a swimsuit in one of his cookbooks?

Here is all you need to know about “Giada’s Feel Good Food.”

  • Number of recipes: 120
  • Recipe categories: Breakfast, Juices & Smoothies, Lunch, Snacks, Dinner, and Dessert
  • Special equipment needed: Juicer, Vitamix blender, food processor
  • Special ingredients needed: If you are not gluten-free or vegan, you may need to stock up on special ingredients such as brown rice flour, vegan mayonnaise, almond milk and agave nectar.

Lows

Buckwheat Pancakes: I love a good buckwheat pancake. But my excitement to make these pancakes one Saturday morning was transformed quickly to disappointment as the recipe called not for buckwheat flour (which I had) but for buckwheat pancake mix (which I didn’t have). To me, this non-recipe isn’t worthy of inclusion in any cookbook.

Ingredient repetition: Ingredients such as curry, hummus and pesto are a part of many recipes. More ingredient variety throughout would have been a plus.

Special equipment: For those who don’t have a juicer and a Vitamix blender, you will have to bypass most of recipes in the “Juices & Smoothies” section.

Highs

Garlic-Roasted Chicken and Root Vegetables: You may think, as I did, do I really need another roasted chicken recipe? But this recipe is fairly simple to prep and results in a moist, lemon-scented chicken and vegetables that are caramelized to perfection. Definitely a great standard chicken recipe.

Green Pea, Lettuce and Fennel Soup: I thought I would despise this dish but was won over by a single slurp. This bright green soup is lightly flavorful thanks to the fresh fennel and fennel seeds in it. It is a healthful soup that you are happy to eat. (See recipe below)

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus in Cucumber Cups: I am typically a traditionalist when it comes to hummus but the roasted red peppers brought a savory sweetness that really worked with the cucumbers. Plus, I didn’t even miss the 1/2 cup of olive oil I usually use when making hummus.

Chocolate Blueberry Brownies: These lightly sweet brownies are filled with two surprise ingredients — pureed blueberries and spinach. While they are definitely not going to fake anybody out for the real deal, these brownies have just the right amount of chocolate flavor, sweetness and moistness to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth. And, hey, you just ate some fruit and vegetables, too. Can’t beat that.

GREEN PEA, LETTUCE AND FENNEL SOUP

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium fennel bulb, chopped (about 2 cups), fronds reserved for garnish

2 large shallots, chopped

1 medium head bibb lettuce, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips (4 cups lightly packed)

1 (10-ounce) package frozen petite peas

1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

3/4 teaspoons fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add fennel and shallots. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 6 to 7 minutes. Add lettuce and stir until it wilts, 1 to 2 minutes. Mix in peas, broth, and 1 cup water. Bring soup to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until vegetables are just tender, 5 to 6 minutes.

Puree soup, in batches, in blender until smooth, adding some fennel seeds to each batch. Combine batches in large bowl and return all of the soup to the same pot. Add salt and pepper. Reheat soup over low heat, thinning with a little water if it is too thick.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with a sprinkle of fennel fronds and serve.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis, “Feel Good Food”
 

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