Rachael Ray's "30-minute Get Real Meals" Review
Good Carbs, Bad Carbs
Fruits, Vegetables, and Beans
Why Rachael Ray
Some might wonder why, out of all the cookbooks, get a cookbook by Rachael Ray. Sure she looks good on camera, but are her recipes really any good? As I am the proud owner of a few of her books, I can answer that question with a firm "yes." Every dish I have ever made from one of her cookbooks has been satisfying and plentiful.
Why a low carb cookbook?
The subtitle to this books is "Eat Healthy Without Going to Extremes." Being a lifelong dieter and lover of food, this is a philosophy that I have thought about many times as I have tried diets from the South Beach diet to Weight Watchers. No matter how many different diets I have tried, I always come back to this thought - moderation in all things. Are carbs really that bad for you? No, as long as you don't sit down and eat a huge bowl full of pasta. In fact, doctors recommend that 45%-65% of your caloric intake should be from carbs. They really aren't that bad, are they? Of course, the problem most people have is that either they exceed that amount or the kind of carbs they are consuming are the bad carbs.
What's the solution? This cookbook. At least, the principle behind it is. Rachael Ray initially started cooking low-carb because that was the craze. Everybody was cutting out bread and pasta so she tried cooking meals to reflect that. Of course, like most average Americans, this presented her with a daily challenge. Finally, she came to the conclusion that what she needed to come up with was a low-carb cookbook, not a carb-free cookbook. This way she could still enjoy carbs (including some bad carbs) but not feel guilty! Now, doesn't that make sense? It's moderation. Yes, you can enjoy your carbs, just make sure that you balance them out with some really healthy carbs and fiber.
So, I will take you through the different sections in the cookbook, highlight one or two recipes, and then conclude with my final word on the cookbook.
This is an abbreviation Rachael Ray likes to use in all of her cookbooks. It means "Make Your Own Take Out." The idea is that she takes common take out dishes and creates a 30-minute meal. So rather than go get some take out, check out some of her MYOTO recipes and, well, MYOTO!
Chapter 1: Snacks and Super-Supper Snacks
This first chapter has recipes that can be used as snacks, hors d'oeuvres, or meals. If you are going to use them for a full meal, then you will need to serve them with something additional on the side (depending on the recipe). For example, for her Honey Mustard Chicken Wings would make a great meal, but you need to be sure to include a vegetable on the side (salad or celery sticks anyone?) in order to make it a complete meal. Others, such as her lettuce wraps, don't really need additional sides to complete the meal.
From this section, I want to highlight her Caesar Salad to Go: Shrimp or Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Creamy Caesar Dressing. This is a delicious, healthy meal that is perfect for a lunch or dinner on the run. You can easily get it ready the night before and then pull it out the next morning as you head off to work. It calls for either fully cooked jumbo shrimp or a rotisserie chicken. I usually use chicken because I have bad luck with shrimp. The dressing calls for mayo (reduced-fat), garlic, lemon, anchovy paste (optional - I usually skip), parmesand, worcestershire sauce, pepper, and olive oil. All you have to do is cut up the chicken or remove the tails from the shrimp, prepare the dressing, prepare the lettuce leaves, and pack it up! To eat it you simply spread the dressing on the leaves, put the chicken or shrimp on, wrap it up, and enjoy! It is so delicious and light. Certainly a perfectly guilt-free lunch that will have your co-workers looking on in envy!
Beware Serving Sizes!
One thing that I have come to rely on with Rachael Ray is her ridiculously large serving sizes. Most of her recipes say that they are 4 servings. I would say they are closer to 6-8 servings. Keep this in mind when you are cooking with her recipes. If you have a family of 5, you might not need to double the recipe.
Chapter 2: Burgers Gone Wild
In this chapter, we get Rachael Ray's take on a lower-carb version of the hamburger. This lower-carb hamburger is achieved by either creating a salad with the burger (see her Mini Cheeseburger Salad with Yellow Mustard Vinaigrette) or using a tortilla rather than a bun (see her Fajita Burger section). These are meals that are healthy and very satisfying. She even includes a couple of delicious sides such as her Haricots Frites (an alternative to French Fries) and Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus Bundles.
From this chapter, I have found that one of my favorite recipes are her Beef Fajita Burgers. They are so easy to make it is almost ridiculous. Simply spice the ground meat with Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, cumin, thyme, hot sauce, and grill seasoning. You cook those bad boys up, wrap them in a tortilla, top with her Seared Pepper and Onions, and enjoy! I love hamburgers to this was a perfect substitute and, amazingly, I didn't feel guilty after eating it! I would recommend serving with some extra veggies for an even more healthy, fulfilling meal.
One thing I struggled with is that most of these recipes call for alcohol in some way. I personally don't cook with alcohol so I have had to find substitutes, but that is me. I'm not an expert when it comes to alcohol substitutions, however, I do follow some general rules.
1) If it is beer, a broth is usually a good substitute.
2) If it is a wine, an apple or grape juice is a good substitute.
3) When in doubt, find another recipe!
Let's face it, the alcoholic beverage usually provides some kind of specific flavor profile to the dish that is hard to replicate. While in some cases I might be tempted to try the alcoholic beverage rather than the substitute, I wouldn't do so with fondue. Unlike other dishes, if alcohol is used when making fondue, the alcohol will not cook out.
Chapter 3: Take A Dip!
This is probably one of my favorite sections of the cookbook and it's all about fondue! How delicious does that sound? Also, how practical! It's hard to include refined carbs with this meal (as long as none of your meat is breaded, that is).
I do enjoy her Mexican Fondue (I'm a sucker for anything that promises a little spice). It uses a combination of Pepper Jack, Gruyere, and Cheddar cheese with Mexican beer (or beef broth) hot sauce, chili peppers, green olives (I skip), and cilantro (for garnish). This is so yummy and I love to dip chicken and bell peppers into it.
Chapter 4: Salads That Stack Up!
And these really do! Remember what I said about serving sizes? Well, these salads are definitely meals all by themselves! After you finish one serving you won't be looking for seconds! And don't be fooled. Simply because it has salad in the title does not mean that it is full of lettuce. Some of her salads have the normal amount of lettuce (such as her Bresaola Salad) others use different vegetables to create the salad (such as her Sish Kabob Salad).
Personally, I like her Turkey Club Salad with Avocado Dressing. For her meat, she uses bacon and turkey breast. For her salad veggies, she uses lettuce, pea shoots (or bean sprouts), tomatoes, and onion. For her dressing, she uses avocados, lemon, garlic, salt, vinegar, olive oil, and Tabasco sauce. All combined it is the perfect combination of flavors and textures!
This is one of Rachael Ray's favorite abbreviations. It stands for Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You will see it throughout her cookbook as well as hear her make reference to it on her show.
Chapter 5: That's Souper!
Rachael Ray has a gift with soups. The trick with soups is being able to make sure that it is hearty enough to really be a meal without anything additional such as a roll or piece of bread. Well, she succeeds! Each of her soups is brimming meat, veggies, and flavor. For instance, her Indian Summer Turkey Chili is beautifully flavored and you can top it with your choice of cheese, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream, olives, or cilantro. Then you have her famous stoups (thicker than soup, but not quite a stew). Can her Grilled Tomato Stoup with Prosciutto and Mozzarella Portobellos get any better?
For this chapter, I tend to turn to her Thai Chicken Noodle Soup. Anything that has "Thai" in the title usually captures my attention. This soup has a wonderful blend of spices (onions, garlic, peppers, cilantro, and basil) combined with carrots, chicken, and bean thread noodles which culminates into another satisfying, flavorful meal.
A Square Meal?
As I was writing this, I asked myself "Where does the phrase 'square meal' even come from?" I did some investigating and discovered that in order to understand this phrase, it is important to understand what the word "square" means. According to The Phrase Finder, "square" means "proper, honest, and straightfoward." So, when used in conjunction with "meal," it means that it is a "good and satisfying meal." Isn't that interesting? I'm not sure if cold cereal for breakfast would count as a square meal. However, these meals from Rachael Ray certainly are!
Chapter 6: Well-Rounded Square Meals
Rachael's theory behind this chapter (the longest in the book) is that if you are on a low-carb diet and you invite friends over, they might not appreciate the absence of carbs. Or maybe your family is grumbling. Either way, her solution is to create meals that are so packed full of flavor and other good things that you don't even notice that the much loved carbs are missing. When you see some of the meals you can't help but start salivating and, like she promised, you hardly even notice the absence of carbs. For example, her Swordfish and Chorizo Kabobs on Mostly-Vegetable Saffron Rice is heavy on the fish and veggies, but light on the rice. It's the same with her Rosemary-Lemon Broiled Lamb Chops with Gremolata and White Beans, Prosciutto, and Greens. (Notice that even the names of the dishes are packed.) The beans in this dish help to satisfy the carb craving, not to mention the delicious addition of the prosciutto to the mix.
Personally, I'm a sucker for a good stir-fry so I couldn't resist trying one of her MYOTO recipes, Move-it-Along Pork and Veggie Stir-Fry. In addition to the pork, she has tamari, gingerroot, limes, and honey to create a salty, spicy, and sweet sauce. For the vegetables she has scallions, garlic, bell pepper, Anaheim peppers, carrots, mushrooms (I skip), broccoli, and cabbage. It's almost ridiculous that she was able to pack that much flavor into one dish (and one pan). This is an amazingly delicious meal that is simple and easy to prepare, yet so satisfying and I think appealing to even discriminatory eaters.
Chapter 7: Past: Come Home Again!
Let's face, a completely carb-free Rachael Ray cookbook would be hard to imagine. However, even her chapter that has carbs is still low-carb friendly. All of the dishes do have some kind of pasta, but only half as much as you would normally have. From her Indian Spiced Begetable and Couscous Pot (only 1/3 c. of couscous) to her Great Goulash and Caper-Capped Salad meal (only 1/2 pound rigate), she fills them with vegetables and flavor, almost to the point that you hardly notice the reduced amount of pasta. This chapter is organized a little differently. It has two sections - one pot meals and then menus. The one pot meals is as it sounds, dishes that can be made in one pot. The menus usually have two dishes, the main course and a side dish (usually a salad).
Her Seared Tricolor Greens with Farfalle is a good example of how she uses flavor and vegetables to cover up (for lack of a better term) the missing pasta. The vegetable stars of this dish are endive, radicchio, and arugula. Those are cooked with garlic, chicken stock, lemon, and parsley. Finally, the cooked farfalle pasta is added. Then it is served with crispy prosciutto crumbled on top. Just reading the recipe makes my mouth water!
Chapter 8: Desserts? Yes, Desserts
How many of you have been looking forward to this section? I know I have! I have this sweet tooth which never seems to go away. I'm always looking for ways to satiate that sweet tooth in ways that don't necessarily involve donuts or ice cream. When I saw the recipes in Rachael's cookbook, I knew I had found my sweet tooth salvation (and also my waist line's!). She has recipes to satisfy all palettes, from creamy and citrusy to chocolate and crunchy.
One of my favorites is her Ginger-Poached Pears with Ricotta and Blueberries. She poaches pears in water flavored with gingerroot, sugar, and lemon. After she pulls out the pears, she adds the ricotta cheese to the syrup. She then dishes that on top of the pears and finishes the dish with some blueberries. It is almost sinfully delicious but it is one of the most guilt-free desserts I've had in a long time.
Can It Get Any Better?
I almost feel I as if I should leave it with the desserts because how can it get any better? I can't top that so I won't even try! This is simply a preview of what Rachael Rays 30-minute Get Real Meals is all about. This cookbook is full of delicious, healthy recipes that are easy and fast to make. I personally think this was another home run for Rachael Ray.