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Healthy and hearty
This was a book I bought on whim if I am honest while doing a bit of online shopping on amazon. I am always keen to cook healthy, hearty meals so this book caught my eye.
What makes this book special is that that author, Sally Bee, has a pretty remarkable tale to tell. A perfectly normal and healthy mum of three, Sally suddenly, at 36, suffered three heart attacks in a week.
Despite being given a slim chance of survival, Sally lived to tell the tale - and write this book. She explains in the introduction that she realised she had to take complete control of her lifestyle to ensure she stayed around. She says:
"Food and exercise became my saviour ... I knew I had to take control of everything I ate in order to give myself the best possible chance of survival."
At the same time, she wanted to ensure that she could cook food that was not only good and healthy, but that the rest of her family, including her three young children, could enjoy.
What's on the menu?
There are six sections in the book, and they are interspersed with useful information from Sally, such as her views on fast food and so on. This helps break the book up and keep things interesting. The six sections are:
* Soups and starters
* Salads, sides and vegetarian
* Beef, lamb and pork
Each recipe also clearly says what is suitable for eating everyday, and what should be considered a treat - or as Sally says to be eaten only once every week or two. This is easy to see at a glance and is a great idea I think, as it stops the book feeling too 'worthy' and also ensures that you don't end up eating the 'treat' foods every day!
The book is really nicely laid out so you have the list of ingredients to the side and the method taking up the main portion of the page, and opposite pretty much every recipe is a lovely big picture of the finished dish. I really like to see what I'm going to make so I think the pictures are a lovely touch, and it makes this book really bright and appealing to flick through.
Off to a terrible start...
Now I think the first section of this book is really disappointing. There are two soups and two dips and .... that's it! As I love soup and think they are one of the easiest healthy suppers you can make, I was really disappointed with this! It isn't a great start to the book and this chapter is basically pointless with so few recipes to choose from.
... but getting better!
Luckily, however,the next section is much better, with a wide range of veggie friendly dishes and salads. One recipe I have now made as a side several times are the Italian style courgettes, which are lovely and simple, using onion, garlic and herbs, and add a nice accompaniment to lots of meals. Best of all, they are really easy to cook and the instructions are perfectly straightforward to follow. There is also a lovely coleslaw recipe which includes apple and yoghurt - so a bit different to the shop bought variety but much healthier and, I can attest, tasty too! This is a really nice section with a wide range of dishes to try, and this helped the book redeem itself after the soup and starters disappointment!
The following three sections - the fish and meat ones - also have a few gems, of the recipes I have tried. A great one is the chicken casserole, as this is one of those great recipes where you more or less throw everything into a pot and leave it in the oven for an hour or two! It's a great winter warmer and my little girl enjoys it too which is an added bonus. You can sevre it with a range of accompaniments such as mash or rice, as well as lots of nice veggies!
There is also a gorgeous seabass recipe that uses my fave ingredients, chilli and garlic, and is served on a bed of noodles. It's oh so simple but has become a staple supper in our house.
More cheese please!
The one dish I am yet to try is the "healthiest ever lasagna", which uses only a sprinkle of cheese on the top and not the usual gallons of creamy cheese sauce! Although I do plan to try this I just wonder if it will be anything like the real thing without the extra calories!
Now I am not a big pudding fan so I have to confess I haven't made anything from this section but, as you would expect, it is very heavy on the use of fruit! A few recipe examples are orange and peach filo parcels, apple puff squares and a red berry meringue pie.
The final section - drinks - is a bit like the first in that it's a bit rubbish. It is literally one page with a list of three drinks on it! Although I have tried - and loved - the ruby red smoothie that Sally lists here, I feel like this is just a page stuck in at the back for the hell of it and really adds nothing to the book.
A nice mix of recipes
There is a great mix of recipes in this book but there is definitely a Mediterranean influence throughout, with lots of healthy Italian-style recipes. However there are some Asian meals thrown in for good measure which helps keep things mixed and interesting. Of the meals I have tried I haven't had any disappointments - everything is simple and straightforward, and it is great to know that what you are cooking is healthy and good for all the family!
Overall this is a lovely recipe book. The fact it is written by someone who has experienced what Sally has been through makes it quite inspirational and motivational - it does make you think differently about food and it gives a lot of advice on changes you can make to live a healthier lifestyle. The use of big, bright, bold photos in the book is great and makes it a real treat to look through - it is really nicely designed and easy to look at. There are some great recipes in here and it is easy to adapt items if you want to jazz them up a bit too! However I am knocking off one start for the useless opening and closing sections.
Bag a cookbook bargain
This is currently on amazon for £3.90 with free postage which is an absolute bargain If I am honest! So if you fancy some tips on healthier eating, or need a Christmas present idea for someone who could do with a healthy diet, then snap it up while it's still at this price!
The Secret Ingredient by Sally Bee
"Delicious and easy, heart-healthy recipes that might just save your life." Sally Bee.
At 36 years old Sally Bee was in her prime; happily married with 3 young children, a non-smoker, fit and with a healthy diet she never saw coming what happened one sunny day. Whilst at a child's birthday party Sally suffered a heart attack. The doctors were unsure what it was at the time as she was so young and had no family history of heart problems so after being taken to hospital in an ambulance they eventually let her go with some indigestion tablets. A few days later she suffered another heart attack and was rushed back to hospital, it was then that doctors realised there must be something seriously wrong.
That week Sally Bee suffered 3 heart attacks and the doctors believed that she was going to die. Her husband was told to say goodbye to her and nobody believed that she would ever pull through such a rare heart condition. Sally Bee fought for her life and she survived against all odds. Once Sally Bee miraculously recovered her relationship with food changed completely. Even though Sally had always eaten healthily she started to eat very 'heart healthy' and that is what this book is all about. This cookbook is designed with recipes that are good for your heart and that are delicious too!
I first heard about this book after seeing something about it on the television. I heard that Michelle Obama absolutely loved the book and that she had bought it for all of her friends and family. I also went on to read an article about it in a magazine which claimed that it was one of the best cookbooks ever made. I went online to order a copy of this book and absolutely everywhere was sold out. I ended up pre-ordering a copy of amazon.co.uk and it got sent to me about 3 months later. The book was definitely worth the wait.
The book starts with Sally Bee telling her story of her heart problems. The story is very gripping and a little scary to read as she was in perfect health and had no signs of being ill. There is then a section on eating for health where Sally Bee talks about food groups; which ones she eats in moderation and which ones she avoids. This information is all personal to her and very useful to read.
The first recipe section of the book is then Soups & Starters. There are 2 soup recipes and 2 starter recipes which are easy to make, healthy and delicious. Also in this section Sally Bee talks about the importance of exercise and a healthy lifestyle and the 5 F's; family, food, fitness, finance, future. Sally Bee also divides different foods into the colours of the rainbow and then recommends that you try and eat as many colours a day as you can.
Other sections of the book include:
*Salads, sides & vegetarian: this section includes 18 delicious recipes which incorporate lots of yummy vegetables.
*Chicken: there are 9 delicious chicken recipes which include Thai chicken and Cajun chicken.
*Fish: there is a total of 10 wonderful fish recipes including everything from sea bass to sardines.
*Beef, lamb & pork: learn how to cook the healthiest-ever-lasagne and chilli with 10 mouth-watering recipes.
*Desserts: there are 10 healthy desserts here including banana bread and poached pears.
*Drinks: Sally Bee lists 3 homemade drinks which are simply divine.
*Index: an a-z of all foods used in the book.
The recipes are all realistic in this book, they use affordable ingredients and you don't have to be a top chef to make them. That is why I love this cookbook, it is not too difficult to make the meals and it doesn't take much time. The recipes include a large variety of foods and the best thing is that they are all good for you!
The book is colourful and bright and has some beautiful pictures in it. The recipes are neatly presented and the instructions are all clear and concise. Throughout the book there are certain pages dedicated to special tips from Sally Bee about fast food, salt, living longer etc. I found these tips really interesting and helpful to read. Next to each recipe Sally Bee writes everyday or treat which symbolises how often you should eat the recipe which is really useful.
A few of my favourite recipes to cook out of the book are:
*Tuna Kebabs: great for having friends round.
*Italian Blushing Pasta: pasta, tomatoes and shallots, heavenly!
*Chicken Curry with Sweet Onions: an infusion of taste from some wonderful ingredients.
*Red Berry Meringue Pie: a truly delicious dessert.
Overall I find this book by Sally Bee really inspirational. I think it is amazing what she has conquered and how she has adapted her eating habits to better her health and ensure that she doesn't get sick again. After hearing Sally's story you want to follow the recipes and work towards a healthier lifestyle. I do try to eat as healthily as I can and I have adapted some of Sally Bee's recipes into what I eat regularly. I think that cookbooks like this, with an inspirational story behind are so much more effective than regular cookbooks. Reading this book really did make me want to improve the way I eat and I would recommend it to anyone!
RRP £12.99 & available from good book stores and online for less.
Thank you for reading : )
Review also on Ciao under luceey.
I love to cook whenever I can and with that comes a real addiction to cookery books. Most of my cookery books are by the usual suspects, Delia, Nigella, Rachel etc but I have to say one of my favourites is my Sally Bee book 'The Secret Ingredient'. She may not be as well known but for me I love her recipes and the story behind how she wrote this book.
Sally Bee is a mum of 3 who has had an extraordinary experience; the introduction of this book goes into lots of detail and really lays the foundation of why she wrote the cookbook. To summarise Sally was a healthy young woman with a young family who developed serious ill-health quiet rapidly. First a heart attack and then a condition so rare 'spontaneous coronary artery dissection' which is not normally diagnosed until after a person has died so really this lady's story is all the more inspiring. The book delves deeper into her quest to recover and in particular her need to be as healthy as possible to give herself the best chance to get back her strength and lead as normal as life as possible. Sally mentions in the book that it's her 'eating plan' and really it is just that. It's a plan she uses to stay healthy, its not about calories or fads, its more centred around healthy eating and seeing food as a fuel for our bodies, the better the type of fuel the better our bodies will work.
The recipes are very healthy as you would expect but not in a depriving way that you feel you've had to forgo tasty food for rabbit food so to speak. I've tried plenty of these recipes and I have to say I haven't been disappointed with any I've tried so far. Sally encourages less use of salt and fats but gives helpful ideas on how to keep flavour in your food. A tip I now use regularly is to replace salt with lemon juice, it gives food a lovely zingy flavour and by reducing your salt intake you know your doing better things for your body. My favourite recipe (which I could eat everyday) is her recipe for meatballs in spicy tomato and vegetable sauce on page 89. The meatballs have a wonderful flavour as they have allspice and cinnamon in them and I find that this slightly different flavour to the meatball makes them extra tasty whilst being healthy too.
The book is split into different sections including, Soups and Starters, Salads sides and Vegetarian, Chicken, Fish, Beef Pork & Lamb, Desserts and Drinks so as you can see there is plenty to choose from in the book. What I also love about the book is that there is lots of little tips dotted around it, for example one relates to exercise and the role it plays in a healthy lifestyle, another to portion sizes and making us more aware of the amount we eat. Its also really well illustrated and bright which I find encourages me to try more new recipes. Sally identifies each process in the recipe in an easy to follow number guide and displays clearly on each recipe how many people it is expected to feed. Another part of the book which I really like is that on each recipe it has the tag of either everyday or treat, so for me this makes being healthy even easier as I don't have to count calories as I know that a recipe with everyday is a healthy meal option.
My overall opinion is that this book is not only a great cookbook but a fascinating and eye-opening story as well. I was recommended this book by a friend who's mother was really loving the recipes in the book as she suffered with high blood pressure. Although I don't have any health problems as such I do struggle with my weight so I thought I'd give this healthy cookbook a go. I really enjoyed reading her story for the point of view that it made me more aware of the fact that you cannot take your health for granted and you need to be proactive in keeping yourself healthy. What I'm even more pleased about is that it includes lots of lovely recipes which are easy to follow and healthy too. It means I can try being healthier in my approach to food without having to drastically alter my food habits. I've been recommending this book to family and friends and have bought it for my mother too who also enjoys the recipes. The book has a RRP of £12.99 but is currently available on Amazon for £7.25 which I do think is good value. You may also be able to get a copy on loan from your local library I know my local library does stock it so you maybe able to pick it up there. I certainly recommend this to everyone. 5 stars from me!
The Secret Ingredient ISBN 978-0-00-734406-2 published by Harper Collins and written by Sally Bee.