Thursday, February 5, 2015

Supermarket Healthy By Melissa D'Arabian Cookbook Review

Melissa D'Arabian is a Food Network personality who cooked her way into America's hearts and kitchens by winning "The Next Food Network Star".  Her show Ten Dollar Dinners offers many tips for eating well on a budget and I was excited that her second cookbook would focus on how to make your shopping trips to the local supermarket an experience that is good for you, your family and your pocketbook.

Supermarket Healthy is not exactly what I expected it to be.  I had expectations of a book that focused on being able to find very budget-friendly food that was delicious and nutritious.  While there are definitely some tips on how to keep the cost down on your grocery bill, many of the selections and pantry items aren't things I would be able to find easily.  Perhaps if I lived in a larger city, almond flour, millet, miso paste and tamari sauce would be readily available, but they still wouldn't be likely items on my shipping list.  I appreciate her desire to encourage the purchase of organic produce as well, but to do so she suggests making two nights a week vegetarian to save money on expensive proteins.  This would still cause me to lay out a lot of money to procure items I am unfamiliar with.  I would love to branch out and eat healthfully in a way that doesn't double my grocery budget, but I'm not sure this book helps me achieve that goal.

The best points about this book and my favorite aspect are the "Food Blueprints" that are placed in each chapter. They are a great way to teach the basics of a recipe or technique and give lots of customization options at the same time.  From meatballs to salads in a jar, there are lots of easy to use reference diagrams that give you lots of directions, suggestions for serving and meal options.  They are sort of a "choose your own adventure" approach to dinner which I really enjoyed.  There is also a brief section that talks about the basics of an Asian pantry which I loved.  It had several facts about what the products were (like fish sauce and rice wine) and ways to add umami qualities to your cooking which I found really helpful.

Unfortunately the aspect of this book I liked the least was the photography.  There is an odd filter on these pictures that ups the red and yellow tones and makes everything look very unappealing to me.  I found myself thankfully that some of the recipes I was interested in trying like the Peach Dutch Baby Pancakes and Cauliflower Steaks with Garlic Parmesan Crust were not pictured.  The first page I opened the book to was the Pumpkin Pie-Chia Pudding was one of the most off putting food images I've ever seen.  Even the back cover has raw looking waffles and freakishly red beet dip.  The photographs very nearly made me skip this book altogether.  If I would've picked it up and flipped through it in the store I would've never purchased it for that reason.  Also there is a chapter on fish that extolls the virtue of fresh fish and buying seasonal fish when it is on sale.  I feel these would add a huge dollar amount to my grocery bill and would require extra trips to the store since fresh fish needs to be used within a day of its purchase.  I found the inclusion of recipes featuring fresh scallops and salmon a little odd and out of place in a cookbook that's subtitled "Recipes and Know-How for Eating Well Without Spending A Lot".

Although I may try some of the 125 recipes included in this book for future meals there wasn't a stand out that I felt the need to cook right away.  I think this may be due to the photographs.  If it is true that we eat with our eyes first, none of the meals pictured in Supermarket Healthy made me want to bite.

I'd like to thank the kind folks at Blogging For Books for providing me with this copy of Melissa D'Arabian's new cookbook for review.  Your program has inspired countless dinners and has broadened my reading horizons in a huge way.  I'm very grateful for the chance to review these books.

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