Goodcooking.com Cookbook Review---


The Biggest Loser Cookbook
Chef Devin Alexander and The Biggest Looser Staff and Cast
236 pages; Softcover Color Photographs
Rodale, NY, NY, 2006
Reviewed by, Heather Tirrell, for Good Cooking, Inc., Early Summer 2007

The review---

These days there is such a strong emphasis on eating healthy and on what food is best for our bodies it is difficult to decide which option might be good for you. Over the past couple of seasons of the hit reality TV show, The Biggest Loser contestants have had great success in finding a lifestyle focused on healthy eating and exercise that helped them loose weight. The success of the show and the contestants led to the creation of The Biggest Loser Cookbook which provides an informative introduction to the authors, the contestants and the goals of the show and the recipes. All of the recipes in the book are low fat, low sugar and designed to make eating “healthy” enjoyable. The recipes range from breakfast to dinner and include side dishes and snacks. Although the introduction explains that one should try and eat as “natural” as possible and stay away from processed food a number of the recipes call for low carb breads and tortillas, the sugar substitute Splenda, and reduced fat cheeses. I personally would opt to reduce the quantity of all natural items instead of swapping them out. However, I went ahead and prepared a meal and a baked good. The meal did not have any of the “substitute” ingredients and came out tasty and similar to some recipes I have tried in the past. I prepared the Pecan- Crusted Chicken on page 169 and the Cajun “Squash Your Waistline Fries” on page 128. The flavor of the chicken dish was a little bland and I doubled the amount of pecans used in the recipe since the two tablespoons it called for was not quite enough to cover the two chicken breasts. The squash fries were good, a little spicy but as the recipe suggests you can cut back on the amount of cayenne. They didn’t crisp up like a regular French fry but the flavor was delicious and they were easy to eat with your fingers just like the real thing!

For the baked item I chose to prepare the Pumpkin Walnut Snack Muffins on page 210. The recipe calls for a half a cup of Splenda and a half a cup of fat free artificially sweetened yogurt. As mentioned before I am not a fan of artificial sweeteners and this is one area where I have trouble with the book. However, for those of you who may be interested in loosing weight this is a sacrifice you may have to make. The muffins baked up exceptionally well, the texture was moist and cake like and comparable to any muffin I have ever made. The flavor was again a little bland and I would suggest increasing the half teaspoon of cinnamon to a whole teaspoon or increasing the pumpkin pie spice.
The goal of the book is to get people thinking about healthier food options and many of the recipes do just that. When contemplating any food or exercise diet it is important to be as educated as possible. The recipes in this book provide the basic stepping stones to providing people with healthy options without sacrificing taste.

Recipes tested---

PECAN-CRUSTED CHICKEN
Though it is best not to overindulge in nuts because of their
high fat content, they are great in small quantities as they've
been found to lower cholesterol levels. I love this dish
because it contains just enough pecans to really taste and
enjoy them without adding an exorbitant amount of fat or
calories. Store any remaining pecans in the freezer; they'll
stay fresh there, and you won't be tempted to over munch on
them-even if you love them as much as I do.

1 large egg white
2 tablespoons minced toasted pecans
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 small 1/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts,
trimmed of visible fat Low-sugar, low-fat honey mustard
salad dressing or Dijon mustard to taste (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly mist a small nonstick
baking sheet with olive oil spray.
In a small, shallow bowl, beat the egg white with a fork.
In a small bowl, combine the pecans, parsley, and salt.
Spread half of the mixture on a sheet of waxed paper. Dip 1
chicken breast into the egg white to coat. Place the smooth
side of the breast on the nut mixture. Press to adhere. Place
the breast, nut side up, on the prepared baking sheet.
Repeat with the second breast and place on the baking
sheet, not touching the other breast.
Bake for 20 minutes or until no longer pink. Let stand 5
minutes. Serve with honey mustard dressing or Dijon mustard
for dipping, if desired.

Makes 2 servings

To toast the pecans, spread them in a single layer on a small
nonstick baking sheet. Place on the top rack in a preheated
350F oven. Bake, watching closely, for 2 to 4 minutes, or
until lightly browned. Remove and let stand to cool.

Per serving: 183 calories, 28 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 7 g
fat (less than 1 g saturated), 66 mg cholesterol, less than 1
fiber, 379 mg sodium

CAJUN "SQUASH YOUR WAISTLINE" FRIES
These spicy fries are a great way to trick your kids (and yourself) into eating squash-even if they think they don't like it! This hearty serving has only 133 calories. Do note that these fries are a bit spicy. I f you're not a big fan of spicy food, as my assistants and I are, or you are serving these to your kids, you may want to decrease the amount o f cayenne.

Preheat the oven to 450F.

1 large butternut squash
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin
olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
8 ounces (about 2 cups) of 4" x'/2" sticks.
1/s teaspoon garlic powder
1/s teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Carefully cut both ends off the squash. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the rind from the squash until you've peeled away the pale orange. Discard the rind. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. With a large spoon, scrape out the seeds and discard them. Cut outside layers. (Refrigerate the remaining squash for another recipe.) Place the squash sticks in a medium mixing bowl. Add the oil, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Toss to coat. Transfer the squash to a baking sheet so the sticks are in a single layer and do not touch. Bake, turning the squash about every 5 minutes, for 22 for 25 minutes, or until the outsides are crisp and the insides are tender when tested with a fork. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 serving

MELINDA'S HOLIDAY SPINACH

Melinda Suttle quickly found this dish after arriving at the ranch. She's excited about making it for her husband. "The green of the spinach and the red of the pepper give the dish a festive appearance," she says. "It's wonderful to serve for holidays, but equally yummy for any occasion." Melinda substitutes 1/2 cup of low-fat plain soy milk for the cream cheese and adds a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. I prefer the creaminess of the version below.

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped white onion Z/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced 1 bag (9 ounces) baby spinach leaves (12 cups), coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons light cream cheese from a block, at room temperature

Set a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Heat for 30 seconds. Add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper, mushrooms, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add the spinach. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the leaves are wilted. Remove from the heat. Add the cream cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.
Makes 3 (2/3 cup) servings.