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Book Reviews

Review: Cook Yourself Thin

by Nick

cookthinEvery weekend, I review a cookbook in an attempt to lend some guidance in a field that has become overrun. These days everyone is writing cookbooks and it is incredibly upsetting to buy a dud and have it sit on your shelf for years – staring at you, mocking your poor judgment.

It’s very rare that a publisher send me a copy of a cookbook unsolicited, but it does occasionally happen. I don’t mind it, especially if the book is good. I try to only review books that I think would be generally useful for my readership (you guys) or I may occasionally review a book that is very popular that I don’t like.

I was kind of shocked when “Cook Yourself Thin” showed up on my doorstep. I definitely didn’t ask for it and on first glance I must admit that I judged it as a standard diet book. While it was sitting on my table, collecting dust, a few ladies (including my girlfriend) picked it up. Clearly the cover was effective. At the end of the day they convinced me that it was worth really diving into and reviewing.

This was the very first line in the book, which was also the very first line I read:

“Cook Yourself Thin is for normal women, just like you.”

I almost stopped reading for obvious reasons. But, being the dedicated reviewer that I am, I trekked on.

Prejudice. Ok. So I will admit that I pre-judged this book. But, in my own defense, I did so because it was very clearly marketed to not me. I’m not really sure why the writers decided to market this book only to females, but that is definitely the audience. After reading it though, I must say that the only flaw in this book is that it specifically targets only 50% of the world.

Philosophy. The writers of this book, three qualified chefs, spend the first 50-somethings pages (over 20% of the book) discussing their philosophy behind eating. Honestly, their philosophy is spot on. It’s unfortunate that no guy would ever read this book because most guys could benefit from the contents of these pages.

They start off by giving a quick quiz on what kind of eater you are. I took the quiz and I was none of their options, but I was a combination of a few different ones and that is okay I think. The idea is that you understand your current eating habits before you try to change them. They have a lot of very helpful lists that give tips on things that might sabotage any positive steps you are taking (store-bought salads, granola bars, veggie burgers, etc.) These items can be filled with calories if you choose the wrong brand.

Quick Calorie Guide. This is a pretty cool few pages, that if I were trying to actively lose weight I might copy and hang where I could see them. Basically, it lists a few hundred common foods and the basic calorie content in those foods. Did you know that cherries have twice as many calories as raspberries? One ounce of egg noodles (who eats one ounce?) has 109 calories in it. The list goes on…

The Good Stuff. They also have a few pages of items they recommend you always have on hand. They can provide a lot of flavor with just a few calories. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of spices on the list. Also, things like popcorn, sunflower seeds, anchovies (yes!), bacon (yes!), and something called a meringue nest which I’ve never heard of.

Inventive Recipes. Ok. So I’ve made it through the philosophy and I’m on to the recipes. Frankly, I found the recipes to be decently creative. They spent a lot of time working on ways to make popular recipes trim a few hundred calories but are still delicious. Now I have only made one of the recipes from this book so I can’t speak to all of them, but in general I like what I see.

My problem with some diet books is that they are so focused on cutting calories that they forget taste. And if people are eating things that taste bad, then they are going to associate tasting bad with being healthy. Luckily, tasting good and being healthy are not mutually exclusive.

Some of my favorites:

- Portobello Mushroom Benedict with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. A really inventive take on the classic. I love hollandaise and am always skeptical of benedict dishes without it, but this looks pretty good.
- Pasta Bake with Sausage, Broccoli, and Beans. One of their more calorie laden dishes per serving which is probably why I like it.
- Spring Rolls with Lemongrass Dipping Sauce and Cucumber. Nice and fresh spring time dish.

In total, there are 75 recipes and they all look pretty solid.

The Sweetness. I usually have a problem with dessert sections in diet books because if I want dessert, I want the real deal. I don’t eat a lot of sweets, but when I do, I want it to be good. So I would probably pass on some of their alternatives like their red velvet cupcakes. I would rather have the real deal with real icing. But they do have some good stuff like a roasted peach that looks very tasty and low cal.

I must say that I actually liked most of the things in this book even though they appeared to be actively trying to get me not to even open its pages. I think I would recommend it for anyone was trying to diet and failing at it. That said, if I ever recommended it to a guy, I would warn him of the chick-factor in the book and also make sure he has a good place to hide it during game nights.

I also recently learned from Dan that these ladies apparently have a cooking show now of the same name. I haven’t seen it, but I’m also assuming it is marketed directly to not me.