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WomenHeart’s All Heart Family Cookbook by Kathy Kastan and Suzanne Banfield

The first quarter of The WomenHeart’s All Heart Family Cookbook isn’t a cookbook at all, but a primer on heart health for women, including excellent descriptions of the types of heart disease and how the foods we eat can reduce our risks.

Forty foods are examined in depth, a page or two for each food, to explain exactly how scientific evidence proves that those foods promote heart health.

heart health, women's heart health month, healthy eating, women's health, womenheart's all heart family cookbook, midlife, midlife women

Photo courtesy / Joy Weese Moll

WomenHearts-all-heart-family-cookbookThe cookbook portion contains 175 recipes grouped in a fairly conventional manner but with more categories than many cookbooks. What other cookbooks might lump into a category called side dishes, this one makes separate groups of soups, salads, fruits and vegetables, grains, snacks, and dressings and sauces.

The main dish chapters cover vegetarian, pasta, seafood, poultry, and meat. There are also breakfasts and desserts. A final chapter has seasonal party menus with recipes. Not all recipes have photos, but the ones that do are beautiful, full-color, full-page pictures. Each recipe highlights the heart healthy ingredients and has a per serving nutritional breakdown.

I marked several recipes to try:

Soba Noodle Salad
Carrot and Sweet Potato Puree
Creamy Garlic Dressing
I suspect I would have marked different recipes if it were the middle of summer instead of the middle of winter.

The dish we tried was Vegetarian Gumbo. According to the Makeover Magic section on this recipe,

Traditional gumbo with sausage and chicken can have almost as many calories and fat grams as a person should have in a day! Making a vegetarian version cuts the fat, along with a roux (flour cooked in butter, oil, or lard) made with just 1 tablespoon olive oil — but you still get tasty results.

I’m not going to type up this recipe because we didn’t like it very much, even if it did look pretty. Our gumbo was a fairly bland vegetable soup in an unusually thick sauce. Since Jimmy Buffett claims in song that he will play for gumbo and describes it as a spicy monkey on his back, I’m pretty sure we haven’t had gumbo the way it was meant to be experienced. Next time I have gumbo, I’ll make sure it was prepared by a cook who grew up south of Baton Rouge. For that one special meal, I won’t worry too much about how healthy the dish is.

In spite of our unsatisfying experience with one recipe, this was still an excellent book. The emphasis on forty foods that promote heart health motivated me to find more ways to get those foods into my diet every day. I like books that tell you what to eat rather than tell you what is forbidden. I get all excited about ways that I can get myself to drink more tea, eat more avocados, and cook with more garlic. That’s a self-affirming, life-affirming way to approach a healthy diet.

Read more from Joy Weese Moll on her blog, Joy’s Book Blog

Joy Weese Moll

Joy Weese Moll is a librarian and book blogger, reading and writing about health, cooking, gardening, memoir, and fiction.

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