Book Review: Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

I'm Blogging National Nutrition Month
As I mentioned in my Weekend Cooking post last week (Book Review: The Way to Eat by David Katz and Maura Gonzalez), this is National Nutrition Month, as declared by the American Dietetic Association. I love their theme for 2011: Eat Right With Color. They are inviting bloggers to participate and have provided us with the nifty graphic and they are adding us to their blog roll this month — scroll down on the right to see Joy’s Book Blog under Useful Links among many other blogs to explore.

The theme Eat Right With Color reminds me of my first successful step toward healthy eating. I was eating the typical American diet, when most days I had a serving of vegetables at supper and on bad days didn’t even manage that. I began eating more vegetables and fruits when I made up a game I called Eat the Rainbow. I challenged myself to eat, each day, some vegetable or fruit in each of five color families: red, orange, yellow or white, green, blue or violet. As soon as that got too easy (a matter of weeks — because it was fun!), I made up variations. Once I established a good fruit habit, I challenged myself to get all the colors from vegetables. When I was getting the color variety that my diet needed but still falling a bit short on the quantity, I challenged myself to eat all the colors before supper and then have vegetables at supper, too.

How to Eat More VegetablesWhile talking about tips for eating more vegetables, let me introduce my friend Alanna Kellogg–fellow Kirkwoodian, food blogger extraordinaire (A Veggie Venture and Kitchen Parade), and new weekly columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (that’s so cool!). Alanna has recently started a weekly feature called How to Eat More Vegetables with great tips from her bag of tricks and ideas from other contributors. Here is my tip: Eat the Rainbow! Check the How to Eat More Vegetables page for all the tips Alanna has collected so far.

The Eat the Rainbow game was partially inspired by Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson, particularly the chapter “Cook by Color.”

Weekend Cooking meme graphic

Book: Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson
Genre(s): cookbook
Publisher: Celestial Arts
Publication date: 2007
Pages: 215

Summary: Heidi Swanson is a food blogger (101 Cookbooks) and photographer turned cookbook author. The photographs pop with color and texture and feature the ordinary surfaces and serving plates of a home kitchen.

As the title suggests, the emphasis in this cookbook is on natural foods. After warning that the label “natural” means nothing in the processed food world, Swanson shares her test for natural foods on page 3:

I’ve found that I can typically figure out what fits into my definition of a natural ingredient by asking myself two questions: If pressed, could I make this in my own kitchen? And, can I explain how this is made to an eight-year-old? I’m looking for two yes answers here.

Cover of Super Natural Cooking by Heidi SwansonSome of the recipes in Super Natural Cooking feature ingredients that are somewhat unusual, items you might find more readily at a natural foods store rather than a supermarket, things like amaranth, calendula, and edamame. But there are plenty of recipes that won’t require a separate shopping trip–Toasted Wheat Germ Soup (wheat germ is in a jar in the cereal aisle at the grocery store I frequent), Red Indian Carrot Soup (named for red carrots but can be made from ordinary orange ones), and Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts.

The recipes are vegetarian, but you might not notice if you aren’t paying attention. Many dishes look plenty hearty enough for meat eaters. Gnocchi alla Romana on page 105 is a rustic pasta made with eggs, sprinkled with cheese, and served with tomato sauce. A serving of that would not leave you looking around for a meat course!

Thoughts: When I reviewed Super Natural Cooking on my Goodreads account in January 2008, I wrote this:

The recipes seemed fussy to me right now — every one had either a new ingredient (which was okay since that was the point of the book) or a new technique. I think I’ll check this out again when I’ve played with some of the ingredients more.

Time worked. I found plenty of recipes that I want to try this time through, starting with Shredded Green Beans with Lemon-Lime Zest and Snipped Chives, another recipe that won’t take a trip to Whole Foods to procure the ingredients.

Appeal: Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson will appeal to anyone ready to explore more widely the world of whole and natural ingredients. The introductory material of the book and each chapter provide plenty of inspiration for trying new things and the recipes have details of exactly how to use those ingredients.

Heidi Swanson has a new cookbook coming out next month and I can hardly wait: Super Natural Every Day: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen.

Foodies Reading Challenge graphicChallenges: This book works for my Foodie’s Reading Challenge. This is also my Weekend Cooking post at Beth Fish Reads, where there are links to other bloggers writing about food this weekend. Signature of Joy Weese Moll

About Joy Weese Moll

a librarian writing about books
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10 Responses to Book Review: Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

  1. TheBookGirl says:

    I love the Eating the rainbow idea :)
    This cookbook intrigues me; I’m going to look for her new one when it comes out.

  2. Chinoiseries says:

    First of all, what a great way of eating more vegetables. More colors doesn’t only mean a more interesting plate to look at, but it’s also healthier :) I also love how you re-review this cookbook. I hadn’t heard of it yet, although I know of her (beautiful) website. It’s going onto my wishlist!

  3. Beth F says:

    I agree, that’s a great way to get into the habit of eating more vegetables. Vegetable eating has never been a problem for us — plenty of fruits and veggies here every day — but I can see that the rainbow approach would be fun and easy for those who need incentive.

    Funny how techniques or ingredients that seemed intimidating at first can become normal with some experience and time. I’ll have to check out these cookbooks.

  4. I love colorful eating, what a great idea! I’ll have to check out the cookbooks, thanks for the great review, I think these will help me get some new ideas when it comes to eating healthier!

  5. Marie says:

    Great post! We usually do ok in the fruit/veggie department, but we are always looking for new and interesting ways to incorporate more. (Of course, we have our bad moments. ;) ) This sounds like fun. I’ll keep my eye out for that cookbook.

  6. Karman says:

    I love how you challenged yourself to start eating a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables! And I’ll definitely be checking out Heidi Swanson’s book!

  7. At my house we are a testing recipes from a cookbook this week, and it’s involved lots of fresh veggies. What a treat. Even the sauces are all made from scratch. It is a bit hard in the winter to get some of the veggies at an affordable price, but you have to do what you have to do. A few frozen fit in just fine.

  8. yesha says:

    question about eating the rainbow — I find it hard to prepare more than one vegetable a day. It’s a lot of work, plus have a small fridge, so hard to keep stocked up on stuff.

    How does one do it in a non-timeconsuming way?

    • Joy Weese Moll says:

      Well, the first thought is Michael Pollan’s observation that in order to put food back in its proper place of value in our society, most of us need to spend more money or more time or both. And I do complain a lot about how much time I spend in the kitchen.

      That said, most of my color comes from salads and I just had a salad that took all of about five minutes to fix. I wash the salad greens when I get home from the store (get red romaine or some other lettuce that is both red and green for two colors with one effort). Chop up a carrot (that goes fast and they keep for a long time). Add dried blueberries. Spoon on a dressing (I make my own — I made this one last night with dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, honey, and extra virgin olive oil. The turmeric in the mustard adds some yellow and is supposed to be good for heart health! I made sure I made plenty last night so that I could make my salads faster today). Add some nuts for crunch and more nutrition (a generous amount if this is to be a main dish salad, less so if there is other protein with the meal). Finish the meal with an apple or a banana and you’ve got a quickly fixed meal with five or more colors (lettuce for red and green, carrots for orange, mustard and banana or apple for yellow/white, blueberries for the dark colors). I eat this big salad (and endless variations) nearly every day at lunch and often at dinner.

  9. Pingback: Book Review: Fast, Fresh & Green by Susie Middleton | Joy's Book Blog

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