A review of SKINNY SPICES: 50 Nifty Homemade Spice Blends That Can Turn Blah Healthy Eating Into Flavor-Rich Delicious Dining by ERICA LEVY KLEIN Published by: Alina Adams Media Copyright © 2013 by Erica Levy Klein
I think everyone who loves good food will read Erica Levy Klein’s e-book and find at least a half dozen recipes that they want to try immediately – if only because the names are so enticing. You barely have to use your imagination to be tempted by the drama of “Crabmeat Named Desire,” or the quaint appeal of “French Market Tomato Soup.” I love Brussels sprouts and vegetables of every ilk and even I will make the “Vegetable Haters Brussels Sprouts” recipe one of these days. The book is titled – and take a deep breath before reading this out loud -- Skinny Spices: 50 Nifty Homemade Spice Blends That Can Turn Blah Healthy Eating Into Delicious Dining.
Skinny Spices is a user-friendly, searchable e-book that features the aforesaid recipe blends, many of which I plan to reproduce and use on a regular basis. First published in 1993, the book explains the writer’s ultimate motivation for using herbs and spices in cooking: to lose weight. Or rather to make healthy, low-fat meals so palatable that you don’t miss the butter, salt, and sugar that makes so many things taste so good. When people are desperate to lose weight, we will go to great lengths to research, experiment, study, plan and become expert in our knowledge of, and experience with, food.
This is how so many of us constant dieters enter the world of herbs and spices, whole grains and whole foods eating and cooking. And the really big surprise about all of this healthy eating and cooking is that it is incredibly easy and quite inexpensive, especially when you take advantage of the ideas in a cookbook like Skinny Spices.
Almost everybody has a few seasoning blends in the spice cupboard, and they are more popular than ever in the grocery store. Seasoned salt, Old Bay seafood seasonings, poultry herbs for that Thanksgiving dressing, a grilling blend or two – all are just great. BUT If you’re concerned about freshness, the sodium content or additives in prepared blends, you might want to mix a few of your own, and Klein’s Nifty Fifty have plenty to choose from. It’s easy to do, as the whole book is interactive, completely searchable and the recipes are keyed to specific blends. If you don’t know where to begin, just peruse the recipes first. Select a few that really appeal to you, and then shop for your herbs and spices. The bulk section of your local health food store is a great place to buy small amounts and they are generally much cheaper to purchase this way.
The cooks at Cottage Spicery (meaning me) couldn’t wait to try one of the recipes, and miraculously had nearly all the ingredients for the “Spicy Szechuan All-Vegetable Stir-Fry,” so that was dinner, and a delicious success. I’ll reproduce it here. First, the herb and spice component, Hunan Blend:
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon garlic
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 Tablespoon dried cilantro *
½ Tablespoon mustard seed
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
*I didn’t have any dried cilantro; substituted ground coriander seed (the seed of cilantro)
Spicy Szechuan All-Vegetable Stir-Fry
Yield: 4 servings
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon peanut oil *
3 cups diagonally sliced asparagus (trim woody ends from 1 lb. asparagus)
1 cup diagonally sliced carrots
1 cup diagonally sliced celery
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 garlic clove, finely minced
¾ cup hot water
2 teaspoons dry sherry *
2 teaspoons oyster sauce*
1 teaspoon Hunan Blend (above)
1 packet low-sodium beef bouillon*
1 teaspoon cornstarch
*I had no sherry, oyster sauce, or bouillon powder -- used a nip of white wine, a teaspoon only of fish sauce, and a teaspoon of beef Better Than Bouillon, a jar found in the soup aisle of most grocery stores – no msg but lots of sodium, sorry. When I use it, I always cut or eliminate any salt called for in the recipe. I also used my own concoction of spicy lemon-&-chile-infused peanut oil to do the stir frying.
Heat large wok or skillet; add oil and tilt wok or skillet to coat it evenly. Add vegetables, one at a time in order listed, stir-frying each for 1 minute. Add garlic and stir-fry for about 1 minute longer. In measuring cup or bowl, combine remaining ingredients, stirring to dissolve cornstarch; pour over vegetables, and cook until thick. Cover wok or skillet, reduce heat, and let cook until vegetables are tender-crisp or done to taste.
Okay, now here’s something else great about this book: each recipe includes the Nutritional Data PER SERVING!
And here is what it is for Spicy Szechuan All-Vegetable Stir-Fry when you don’t substitute any ingredients, like I did –though I don’t think there was much effect.
Calories: 128 Fat (gm): 4.9 Saturated Fat: (gm): 0.8 Cholesterol (mg): 0 Sodium (mg): 200 % Calories from fat: 31 EXCHANGES Milk: 0.0 Veg: 0.0 Fruit: 0.0 Bread: 0.0 Meat: 0.0 Fat: 0.0
So there you have it! A wealth of great healthy cooking ideas for a little bit of scratch. You can purchase the book in a variety of formats, including print – I found it on Amazon. For the ebook, I have neither a Kindle nor a Nook. But I downloaded the free Kindle app for my PC, and really enjoy the searchable recipes and subjects. In addition, you can experience Skinny Spices on your PC/Mac desktop, laptop, phone, iPad, etc...