Cookbook Review

About the Author
    Dana Jacobi has authored five cookbooks, contributed to several others and written for publications such as Food and Wine, Cooking Light and the New York Times. She began her career by opening a catering business after apprenticing at several restaurants in France.
About the Cookbook
    Do you ever get sick of diets that give you long lists of "forbidden foods" or require you to give up entire categories of foods? Well, it's time to look at food differently. The 12 Best Foods Cookbook presents a short list of 12 foods that are nutritional powerhouses and should be included frequently in your diet. How about that? An approach to healthy eating that encourages you to eat instead of starving yourself!

    And what are the 12 best foods? They are foods that, by themselves, offer the best nutritional bang and, in combination, are great for satisfying your desire for great food, providing you healthy eating and keeping calories low enough to promote a healthy weight. They are: blueberries, black beans, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, salmon, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, chocolate, walnuts, soy and onions.

    Here is a list of the recipe chapters in the Table of Contents to give you some ideas about the type of themes included in the 12 Best Foods Cookbook:

    • Dips, Hors d'Oeuvres, and First Courses
    • Soups
    • Salads and Dressings
    • Poultry and Meat
    • Fish
    • Pasta, Sauces, and Grains
    • Eggs, Beans, and Soy
    • Sandwiches and Baked Goods
    • Vegetables and Side Dishes
    • Desserts
    • Breakfasts and Drinks

    The over 200 recipes are easy to follow and use techniques that will be familiar to most. In addition to all of the wonderful recipes, the book begins with a chapter that addresses each of the 12 best foods and covers why they made the cut and how you can enjoy them every day.

    Just seeing the list of the 12 best foods is enough to make your mouth water, but the recipes take it a step further. Here are a few choice examples for you to try out.

    Spinach Salad with Nectarine, Blueberries and Lime Balsamic Vinaigrette

    With nectarines available nearly all year long, you can enjoy this salad almost anytime. I actually like it best in the winter, when the tartness of imported nectarines seems to make it even more refreshing. Tossing fresh mint with the spinach adds an unexpected flavor.
    • 4 cups baby spinach (4 ounces)
    • 1/4 cup mint leaves
    • Juice of 1/2 lime
    • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon chopped shallot
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 nectarine, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries, or 1/4 cup dried
    1. Place the spinach in a large mixing bowl. Stack the mint leaves and cut them crosswise into thin strips. Toss the mint with the spinach.
    2. For the dressing, combine the lime juice, vinegar, shallot, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil. Season the dressing to taste with pepper.
    3. Pour the dressing over the greens, tossing to coat lightly. Divide the dressed spinach among 4 salad plates. Fan one-quarter of the nectarine slices on 1 side of each plate. Sprinkle the blueberries over the spinach. Serve immediately.
    • Makes 4 servings
    • Per serving: 72 calories, 4 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 1 g protein, 10 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber
    • Food Fact: The vitamin C in lime juice can help your body absorb the iron in spinach.

    Roast Chicken Waldorf Salad

    Fennel and toasted nuts give a new twist to this salad with creamy dressing. Instead of waiting for leftovers from a roast chicken, you can make it using a barbecued breast from the store. Salad
    • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
    • 2 cups diced roast chicken breast (8 ounces)
    • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut in 3/4"cubes
    • 2 wild fennel bulbs, or 1/4 medium fennel bulb, chopped
    • 6 cups shredded red leaf, romaine, or Boston lettuce, or any combination
    • 2 tablespoons low-fat whipped dressing
    • Juice of 1 lemon
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • Pinch of cayenne pepper
    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the nuts in 1 layer on a baking sheet. Toast until they are fragrant and lightly colored, 10 minutes, stirring after 3 minutes and again after 6 minutes so they toast evenly. Set the nuts aside to cool.
    2. In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken, apple, fennel, and nuts.
    3. For the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the whipped dressing, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, and red pepper, adjusting the seasoning to taste. Pour the dressing over the chicken mixture, tossing until the salad is evenly coated.
    4. To serve, divide the lettuce among 4 dinner plates and mound the chicken salad equally over the greens.
    • Makes 4 servings
    • Per serving: 279 calories, 16 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 22 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber
    • Wild fennel bulbs are long and slim. You can find them at an increasing number of supermarkets as well as farmers' markets, particularly during the summer and fall. They should be thinly sliced, as they are crunchier (some would say tougher) than the bulbous fennel we are used to. They also have a more pronounced anise flavor.

    Pork Chops with Sweet Potato Gravy

    These overstuffed chops will have friends and family talking for weeks. The idea came from watching a cooking show on television. That recipe, however, was seriously loaded with butter and cream, while I use just enough to make velvety potatoes and moist chops. I also replaced a long list of Cajun spices with Thai chili paste, making this a down-home dish with melting-pot flavors.
    • 3 medium Beauregard, Garnet, or Jewel yams (about 1 1/2 pounds)
    • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    • 1/4 teaspoon Thai red chili paste
    • 3 tablespoons half-and-half
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
    • 1/2 Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
    • 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
    • 4 (1 1/2"-thick) boneless center cut pork chops (5-6 ounces each)
    • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
    • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
    1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Roast the sweet potatoes. Peel and mash them. There should be 3 cups. Reduce the oven to 350°F.
    2. For the gravy, in a bowl combine 2 1/3 cups of the sweet potatoes with the butter, chili paste, and half-and-half. Season it to taste with salt and pepper. Spread the creamy potatoes to cover the bottom of an 8" square baking dish. Set aside.
    3. For the stuffing, in a second bowl, combine the remaining sweet potato with the onion, apple, and breadcrumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    4. Make a 3 1/2" x 2 1/2" pocket in each chop. Pack the stuffing generously into the pockets. Combine the paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and onion powder in a small bowl. Rub 1 side of each chop with this mixture and set them seasoned side down on top of the sweet potatoes in the baking dish. Rub the remaining seasoning on top of each chop. Cover the pan with foil.
    5. Bake for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake the chops 10 minutes longer, until they are nicely browned on top. Serve immediately.
    • Makes 4 servings
    • Per serving: 474 calories, 12 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 32 g protein, 60 g carbohydrates, 9 g fiber

    Shrimp with Cherry Tomatoes and Feta

    Plump cherry tomatoes, sautéed just until their skin cracks, are the stars of this Greek-accented dish. The large cherry ones, also called cocktail tomatoes, that come in a net bag are best. Their flavor is worth the premium you pay. If you buy shelled shrimp, this dish is ready to cook in 5 minutes.
    • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 3/4 pound medium shrimp, shelled
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 (12-ounce) bag cherry tomatoes on the vine
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
    • 1/4 cup dry white wine, or fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
    • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
    • 2 tablespoons crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and stir with a wooden spoon until they just lose their raw color, 1 to 2 minutes.
    2. Add the garlic, tomatoes, oregano, and wine or broth. Cook, using a spoon to roll the tomatoes around, until most of the liquid has boiled off, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the parsley and cheese, and cook 1 minute longer, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.
    • Makes 4 servings
    • Per serving: 154 calories, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 19 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber
    • Food Fact: Shrimp contain a moderate amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

    Broccoli Smashed Potatoes

    Even youngsters will love this dish, an unexpected way to enjoy a whole cup of broccoli.
    • 1 pound Yukon Gold or other yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled
    • 4 cups medium broccoli florets
    • 1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup low-fat (1%) milk
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 4 teaspoons unsalted butter
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
    1. Place the potatoes in a deep saucepan and cover with cold water to a depth of 2". Cook uncovered over high heat until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes.
    2. While the potatoes cook, steam the broccoli and leek until the broccoli is very soft, about 15 minutes. Drain in a colander.
    3. Drain the potatoes and place them in a deep bowl. Using a sturdy fork, mash the potatoes into roughly 1" chunks. Add the broccoli and leek, mashing until only small lumps of the broccoli remain. Add the milk, 2 tablespoons at a time, mashing until the texture is pleasing to you. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    4. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes, taking care it does not burn. Stir in the mace.
    5. To serve, spoon the smashed potatoes into a serving bowl. With the back of the spoon, smooth the top, leaving several shallow indentations. Drizzle the butter, letting it pool in the hollows. Serve immediately.
    • Makes 4 servings
    • Per serving: 169 calories, 5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 7 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber
    • Food Fact: Yellow-fleshed potatoes get their color from carotenoids.

    Blueberry Peach Crostata

    I am skeptical about frozen food, but frozen peaches taste better than most of the fresh ones available. (Unfortunately, this is true even during the summer.) To see for yourself, make this golden-crusted Italian tart. Leftovers, if there are any, are great for breakfast. Use only blueberry jam. Fruit spread does not seal the crust. Crust
    • 1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 large egg
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
    • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 16 ounces frozen sliced peaches
    • 1/4 cup peach or apricot preserves, or fruit spread
    • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
    • 1/4 cup blueberry jam
    1. Set a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    2. For the crust, place the flour, lemon zest, and salt in a mixing bowl, making a well in the center. Place the egg, butter, and granulated sugar in the well. Using a fork, lightly mix the egg, then gradually work the flour into the egg and butter until the mixture is crumbly. Rub the dough between your fingers for 2 minutes to blend the ingredients well. Press the dough into a ball and flatten it into a 5" x 1" disk on a sheet of waxed paper. Invert a bowl over the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.
    3. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper into an 11" disk. Removing 1 sheet of paper, fit the dough into a 9" loose-bottomed tart pan, fixing any tears with your fingers and bringing it three-quarters of the way up the sides. Line the crust with foil and weight it with dry beans.
    4. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake 5 minutes longer, until it is just golden. Cool completely on a wire rack. Fill immediately or cover with foil and set the crust aside for up to 8 hours.
    5. For the filling, combine the juice, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, 30 seconds. Add the peaches, cover, and cook 4 minutes. Uncover and cook until the fruit is translucent but still firm, 5 minutes longer. Reduce the heat. Pushing the fruit to 1 side, mix the preserves with the liquid, cooking until it melts, 1 minute. Add the blueberries and mix to glaze the fruit. Set aside to cool slightly, 10 minutes.
    6. Coat the bottom of the crust with the blueberry jam. Spoon the warm fruit into the crust. Serve warm or at room temperature, within 2 hours.
    • Makes 6 servings
    • Per serving: 402 calories, 13 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 5 g protein, 69 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber
    • Food Fact: Peaches are a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber, in addition to carotenoids.
    Reprinted from: 12 Best Foods Cookbook: Over 200 Delicious Recipes Featuring the 12 Healthiest Foods by Dana Jacobi. Copyright © 2005 Dana Jacobi. (May 2005; $21.95US/$31.95CAN; 1-57954-965-9) Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 848-4735 or visit their website at

    For those looking for a way to get past the diet craze, the 12 Best Foods Cookbook provides great dishes for a lifetime of healthy eating that you'll appreciate.

Where to Buy
    If you are interested in purchasing the 12 Best Foods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi, you can buy it online right now for over 30% off the list price by clicking here. The publisher's list price for the cookbook is $21.95.