Now Eat This!
Amazon.comNow Eat This!: 150 of America's Favorite Comfort Foods All Under 350 Calories, by Rocco Dispirito (Ballantine Books, $22)
Your favorite comfort foods, made less fattening! Hmmm, why does this premise sound so familiar? Because great-taste, less-fat cookbooks are popular and always have been, except for those five minutes around the year 2000 when great-taste, less-carb cookbooks eclipsed them. They're even more popular than great-taste, less-money cookbooks. Why is that? Probably because although the Duchess of Windsor said "you can never be too rich or too thin," most of us would be quite happy to settle for thin. It's just easier.
Even if you can't be rich and thin at the same time, the theory goes, you can be thin and eat rich food. And as we've said, plenty of cookbooks are willing to help you try. Some, like Substitute Yourself Skinny (which I reviewed a while back), do it by relying on a gee-whiz army of reduced-fat food products, while preserving the basic recipe technique. You can usually cut the calorie count by at least half with that approach.
But Rocco Dispirito's new book goes further still -- or seems to, bringing dishes down to as little as one-third their original calorie count. When you look closely though, the tricks are pretty much the same: use reduced-fat cheeses instead of full-fat ones, yogurt instead of heavy cream, turkey sausage instead of sausage, bread-and-bake instead of batter-and-fry. Above all, fool the eyes! The chicken cordon bleu looks, pretty much, like chicken cordon bleu, but instead of oozing butter, it oozes Swiss cheese, corn starch, and evaporated skim. I'll, umm, race you to it.
Steak au poivre substitutes skim milk for cream, and is accompanied by an amazingly unappetizing photo. (Pictures are relatively few in this book, which may actually be a blessing.) Before-and-after statistics, however, abound, and had me raising a skeptical eyebrow before I was done. The beef stir-fry with broccoli and cauliflower has a Before of 1024 calories and an After of 237. Is he just pulling these numbers out of a hat? Folks, it's a stir-fry, not a deep-fry -- 2 tablespoons of oil is all you need to cook 4 servings in the first place, and that's what, 250 calories? How do you get above 1000 calories on 1 serving?
I don't think you need a cookbook to learn how to buy reduced-fat versions of the ingredients you already use. That said, the Now Eat This! package might just convince some undecideds that weight-watching isn't so painful, after all. Maybe half as painful -- or two-thirds, if you're gullible.
Rating: 2.5 whisks
Ratings system: 1 - 5 whisks
5 - Must have; will use weekly
4 - Highly recommended, good gift or addition to collection
3 - Inspiring but not user-friendly, or user-friendly but not inspiring
2 - Unrealistic or poorly executed
1 - Useless on all counts
Buy the book.
Related Articles• See all of T. Susan Chang's book reviews.
• Browse all healthy recipes.
• Check out our tips and articles on healthy eating and cooking.
• Go over to AOL's That's Fit to find out what Rocco taught the contestants on the Biggest Loser about low-fat cooking.