I admit it. I’ve been jealous of the relationship that some people have with their cookbooks. I sense you grinning here, but it’s true. Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, The Best of Bridge…they’ve all seemed to have chosen their prom dates, while I’ve sat on the sidelines longing. And that scene in Julia & Julia, where Julia Powell reminisces about her mother preparing Julia Child’s Beef Bourganaise, feeling like Julia Child was in the room watching over them…Who doesn’t want that? Try as I may, this type of relationship has alluded me until How Not to Die.
I need to throw in a pile of disclaimers here.
Disclaimer #1: This is not a sponsored post. The authors of The How Not to Die Cookbook do not know that I’ve bought their book…or even that I exist.
Disclaimer #2: I am not a vegan nor a vegetarian. But I have been trying to include more non-processed, plant-based foods in my husband’s and my diet.
Disclaimer #3: I have not yet tried all of the recipes in this book, nor do I intend to. Chocolate Oatmeal….sorry, but yuk!
Disclaimer #4: The recipes that I have tried did not all turn out perfectly the first time–not even close!
Still, despite a few minor setbacks and its somewhat corny title, I’ve found myself inspired by this book. The introduction by Dr. Michael Greger makes sense to me and is warm, humorous and backed by science. The recipes by Robin Robertson are clearly laid out, easy to follow, work well with reasonable substitutions and include beautiful photography. As you may have already guessed, I’m a sucker for food porn. Key ingredients are repeated from recipe to recipe, meaning no ‘one time wonders’ cluttering my pantry. I don’t want to jinx anything this early on, but this book and I just might have a future together. Better late than never!
Here’s what I’ve made so far:
Whole Wheat Pasta with Lentil Bolognese. I used Spinach Gluten-Free Pasta.
Indian Style Spinach and Tomatoes. The authors recommend serving this dish over quinoa or black/brown/red rice. I used balsamic white rice. Feel free to judge.
Dairy-Free Mac & Cheese. I know…I didn’t believe it either. It actually tasted cheesy. As a bonus, Richard did not run away screaming. The sauce is predominantly made from ground carrots. Seriously, the science escapes me.
Red Quinoa Loaf with Gravy. I used my own gravy – contraband, I’m sure. This one was a bit of a fail — firm on the outside mushy in the middle. Memo to me: When Robertson says, “If the mixture seems too wet, add more oats,” she’s actually saying, “add more oats”! Still, it was edible–smothered in gravy most things are. Will I attempt it again? Loving a challenge (aka being a fool for punishment), you know that I will!
Zucchini Noodles with Avocado-Cashew Alfredo. This dish was light, delicious and easy to make (despite me not owning a spiralizer). The cashews for the sauce should be soaked in water four hours ahead of time…an important thing to know if you decide to make this dish at the last minute.
Leftovers. I’ve also had success in repurposing the leftovers. These tacos were made with thickened bolognese sauce (from the top recipe). They were quite fun and tasty. Yes, those are gluten-free taco shells and vegan sour cream. I have no comment on the shredded cheese that you see there.
This cookbook is meant as a companion to Dr. Greger’s first book, How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease. Will I buy that one? I’m not sure. But I do recommend this cookbook to anyone who would like to explore plant-based cooking further. The recipes are straight-forward, and the ingredients required are relatively easy to find. However, as with most whole foods, plant-based dishes, they take time to prepare. Read here: washing, scrubbing, peeling, grating, dicing, stripping herbs…you get the drill. The silver lining is that the authors do provide hints and shortcuts to help with this. A food processor is an absolute must for several of the dishes.
While I may never join Julia Powell in equating cookbook notations with prayer, I now feel like I have a food coach in my corner. I appreciate learning how to make plant-based meals while retaining a full balance of essential nutrients (Greger’s “Daily Dozen). Being able to do this without sacrificing taste or variety helps keep me motivated. Baked Apple Crumble, you’re up next!
Do you have a favourite chef, cookbook or good-for-you recipe? Please share.
The How Not to Die Cookbook. Michael Greger, MD., FACLM with Gene Stone. Recipes by Robin Robertson. Hardcover, 249 pages. Flatiron Books.
Cover Photo: Courtesy of Unsplash