"You get all the goodness of balanced nutrition without spending a whole lot of time working in the kitchen."

This slim volume contains almost one-hundred recipes for easy, healthy plant-based dishes. The author refrains from referring to her book as a cookbook, as she wants to emphasize the importance of including raw foods in a balanced diet. Instead, she refers to it as a “recipe book,” though even that might be a misnomer. The majority of the recipes here are so simple as to require only a set of suggested guidelines and ingredients for each dish, allowing infinite variations and customizations based on readers’ preferences.

While the author never uses the word macrobiotic, all of the recipes would fit into that categorization. All dishes call for fresh produce (preferably organic), whole grains, and no refined oils or sweeteners. Almost all of the recipes call for ingredients that are easy to find at any grocery store, though a few call for more exotic ones like bitter melon, gai lan (Chinese broccoli), or lotus root. Helpful chapter headers explain each ingredient that might be hard to find, as well as provide nutritional information for many of the ingredients and processes. A few ingredients could use more explanation, such as the differences between the various kinds of tofu that the recipes call for. However, the bright photographs that accompany each recipe should give readers an idea of what the ingredients look like.

The book is divided into five different categories. In “Raw Food,” most of the recipes consist of salads. The author utilizes many different kinds of lettuce and greens, including yam leaves, so each salad has a completely different flavor and nutritional profile. While all of the salads are undressed, the author includes a favorite whole food dressing recipe, recommends readers use their own preferred dressings, and even suggests a novel approach to dressing a salad that uses the juices of freshly cut fruit. “Whole Grains” primarily showcases methods of incorporating different kinds of grains and legumes into one’s meals. Whereas the previous chapters seem to comprise primarily side dishes, “Beans and Legumes” introduces recipes for filling square meals. The “Kidney Beans and Green Peas” dish, for example, offers a rainbow of whole foods: red kidney beans, orange carrots, yellow corn, and green peas.

The longest section of the book is “Cooked Vegetable Dishes.” While the ingredients and appearances of each dish vary wildly, the method for each recipe is very similar. Most vegetables are cooked quickly in water with a small amount of oil. While this is a very healthy way to prepare vegetables, the recipes also provide minimal guidance as to the amount of water or cooking time. While experienced cooks can likely navigate and season these dishes more easily, novices may struggle to get the right flavors or texture on the first try. The final section, “Combination Dishes,” incorporates elements of each chapter, including salads topped with beans or “Tricolored Pepper and Garbanzos on Brown Rice,” which resembles a healthier version of fried rice.

Almost all of the dishes in this book are largely unseasoned beyond salt, pepper, and an indeterminate amount of ginger in the cooking water. While at first glance, this could make the food seem bland, the author frequently recommends that readers experiment with their own seasonings, dressings, and sauces. In this way, each recipe can be seen more as a healthy canvas for readers to customize at will. The book offers many dishes with interesting combinations of flavors, textures, and vital nutrients and might be a good choice for those wishing to augment their healthy meal choices.

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