Food, Health, and Happiness: 115 On-Point Recipes for Great Meals and a Better Life
By Oprah Winfrey
Review by Rebecca Johnson
Oprah's cookbook is filled with gourmet flavors and beautiful pictures that will draw you into fantasizing about making her recipes. The best way to approach this cookbook is to read the entire book and then to choose 6-8 recipes you want to make. I say this because many of the recipes require special ingredients. For the 8 recipes I chose to make I needed 6 special ingredients. I bought ground chipotle chile seasoning, 6 cans of San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, white rice flour (for the lavender cookies), 6 cans of Lychees, Sabatino Truffle Zest and Sabatino White Truffle Oil. Cooking with these ingredients was really fun.
Here are the recipes I tried and my experience:
Summer Corn Chowder – There are so many flavors going on in this chowder I decided to skip the thyme. Instead of making the recipe for chicken stock I just used six cups of water and six teaspoons chicken base. That saved a lot of time. The garnishes are the highlight of this soup and I chose bacon, pimentos and corn seasoned with chipotle chile seasoning.
Mashed Cauli-Potatoes – These are better than plain mashed potatoes. I admit I doctored them up a bit with more butter, paprika and seasoning salt and added 5 green onions, sliced and sauteed. The recipe called for Yukon gold potatoes but I used russet and cubed them before boiling.
Skinny Cornbread – This is a more savory cornbread and if you like you can still serve it with butter and honey. Definitely with butter. It has onions and jalapeno chiles in it. My husband ate 3 pieces and I admit to having two. Since I don't have a cast iron pan I just used a 9-inch glass pie plate.
Turkey Lasagna – OK this recipe is very challenging because you have to use a mandoline slicer. I suggest you get a slicer with cut-resistant gloves as I did. This recipe calls for San Marzano Italian tomatoes and I must say they are the best canned tomatoes ever! With just three regular zucchinis and one medium Mexican eggplant I was able to make the dish. You layer the vegetables, sauce and mozzarella cheese. The dish you should use is a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Also I didn't have any granulated garlic or onion so I just used one teaspoon each of garlic powder and onion powder. I also used one tablespoon dried parsley and one tablespoon dried basil in place of fresh. Instead of minced garlic I just pressed three garlic cloves. I also used less pepper and salt. One teaspoon of seasoning salt was perfect. So that was the most complex recipe in the book!
Lavender Shortbread – Making lavender shortbread is a very aromatic experience. The orange zest and crushed lavender are heavenly scented. I found that I did not need to refrigerate the dough and could bake it immediately. Instead of regular salt I used crushed Fleur de Sel. Instead of a vanilla bean (mine had dried up) I used two teaspoons vanilla extract. I cut the shortbread into 24 squares.
Lychee Sorbet – This recipe is worth making because it is so exotic. If you don't have an ice cream machine you can also do a few tricks to make it work great. I froze the lychees and refrigerated the syrup. Then the next day I put everything into my food processor and spun it all around. It turned into a lovely Lychee Ice.
Twice-Baked Potatoes – Making this recipe takes a little time but these potatoes are delicious. You first need to bake the two russet potatoes, then you scoop them out and add in sour cream and cheddar cheese. Then you bake them again. I found that a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish lined with foil kept clean up to a minimum.
Romaine Hearts with Warm Mushrooms and Truffle Vinaigrette – It is way worth the effort to order truffle zest and truffle oil for this recipe. The fresh romaine is so crunchy and the lemon based dressing is a perfect contrast to the other flavors. Parmesan cheese substituted great for the hard to find Pecorino Romano. This is the most delicious recipe in the book!
Each recipe has prep time, cooking time and how many servings plus Weight Watchers points per serving. Calories are also given per serving.
Some of the things you need to make the recipes include a pasta roller, pastry bag, high speed blender, microplane, Kitchen aid mixer, cast iron skillet, splatter guard (for tomato sauce), food processor (7-cup) and whisk for salad dressings.
The ingredients you might have to order include lavender flowers, anchovy paste, truffle zest, Old Bay seasoning, red curry paste, Thai fish sauce, tamarind concentrate, curry leaves, mascarpone cheese, star anise, oat flour, xanthan gum, truffle flour, fresh truffles, sea salt and frozen truffle cheese.
One recipe requires you to find a 5-gallon bucket to brine a 20-pound turkey. Most of the recipes serve 4, 6 or 8.
Some of the other recipes include:
Maya's Smothered Chicken
Fresh Cherry Crostata
Tuscan Kale and Apple Salad
Fettuccine Bolognese with Peas
What I really loved about this cookbook was all the personalized hand written notes by Oprah. You also learn a lot about Oprah's life and her struggles with weight loss. Oprah is a very creative writer and she excels at the headnotes. One story she tells is about how she first tasted a pasta dish at an Umbrian castle after a truffle hunt. This type of information makes the book so entertaining.
A lot of love and expertise went into this cookbook. I highly recommend it for adventurous home cooks who want to cook like a chef. I vote this one of the most exciting cookbooks I've ever found. The only thing I'd skip is the alcoholic drink recipes as alcohol causes disease.
Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Rebecca Johnson. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.