First of all, 400 Calories or Less with Our Best Bites: Tasty Choices For Healthy Families With Calorie Options For Every Appetite by Sara Well and Kate Jones, is not a cookbook simply for dieters. While the servings are 400 calories or less and the ingredients are health conscious, the recipes are suitable for everyone’s eating tastes. Nobody who sits down to a meal will feel deprived from any of these selections. For the most part, each dish consists of “normal” foods which are already in your pantry or refrigerator. Any missing item can be easily found sitting on the shelf at your local grocery store. Each recipe is accompanied by an appetizing color photograph next to the ingredient list and easy to follow directions. None of the recipes seem complicated so even a novice chef can be successful. The selections are varied, there are breakfast dishes, cookout selections, slow cooker items, soups and salads, snacks, and desserts. Recipes include meat and meatless, vegetarian and gluten free – a complete cross section of items. The chapter on salads has a helpful nutritional chart of add on items so the reader can knowingly create their own dish choosing the correct calorie count. This information is also transferable to the salad bars at local restaurants. There is also a handy index of recipes as well as indexes by food type and ingredients.
The authors, who have a blog promoting their Best Bites (not necessarily low cal items), wanted to provide a list of tasty dishes for those everyday occasions where calories do count. Their former successful books, Our Best Bites and Savoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, lead to some user complaints that they loved the recipes, but needed to watch what they ate. Sara and Kate wanted to show their readers that delicious food doesn’t have to be bad for you and that watching calories doesn’t have to be a bland experience. A balanced healthy lifestyle can and should include food that the whole family can enjoy with bonus points for any accompanying weight loss (author Sara Well lost fifty pounds eating these recipes).
There are 65 family friendly recipes in this book, although if you live alone there are some “condensed” versions for single servings. The authors also include a lot of tips which some of us non-culinary types will appreciate. Too often I look at a recipe and think – that looks good – but the ingredients are unfamiliar and the directions seem too cumbersome to attempt. Not this cookbook! Immediately I want to try the Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Chowder and the Grilled Chicken Caprese. I’m going to a picnic in June where I’d like to try out the Artichoke White Bean Dip, and the next time it’s my turn to make dessert, I’m going to surprise everyone with Angel Food Stacks with Lemon Cream and Fresh Berries (although I’m tempted to amaze my friends with the Mini Cheesecakes with Berries and Cream Topping). There’s also a recipe for a PB and J Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich that has a flour-less cookie as its base for those Gluten Free friends and family. Two other amazing looking dishes are the Roasted Tomato Parmesan Egg Cups and a Burrito Pie which is a sort of Mexican lasagna using tortillas instead of noodles. A bonus are the Marinades and Sauces, even a recipe for Peach Salsa, which can be adapted to your own family favorites. This is definitely a cookbook to keep handy in the kitchen.
I am extremely grateful to Netgalley and Shadow Mountain, as well as to the authors, for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review. It was my pleasure. Five stars. Bon appetite.