This past week brought us to the Flint Hills to visit my parents and to give the kids a chance to frolic around the prairie. Other than the heat and remembering what back sweat feels like, it was really great to see the rolling hills, hunt for chalk rocks and agates, and chase fireflies at dusk. Since my mom is my #1 blog reader, I let her pick the cookbook of the week. (Other diligent readers – your chance will come soon! It’s pretty easy – just tell me what you want and I’ll do it. Not a tough crowd here.) I could have guessed the book before we even started the road trip. She loves big, colorful pictures along each recipe (presentation is important!) and likes healthy cookbooks on her shelf. She’s nostalgic, so I knew she’d pick either a cookbook that I gave her or one we both have. Of course – she did both! The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook. I picked up this one for myself when I was working at Williams-Sonoma and I couldn’t walk past the cookbook shelf without taking something home. I knew my mom would love it, so surprise! It’s her christmas present. I may not be the most creative gift giver, but I know what works.
My parents live in the country about 25 minutes from town, so there is generally only one trip to the grocery store per week, and the rest we forage from the prairie. Don’t be too impressed – my dad maintains an extensive garden and my brothers have been growing potted herbs since the early 2000s. My mom knew the cookbook, but she wanted me to pick the recipes, so she just picked up a variety of ingredients that would work for most things. Monday night I grabbed the stickies and picked out the recipes that looked interesting and then I started comparing the ingredient lists. So – this is what we came up with!
Warm Potato Salad (with freshly dug red potatoes)
Garden Peas with Fresh Mint (frozen peas, but freshly picked mint)
Warm Coleslaw with Honey Dressing (fresh parsley)
Chicken Salad with Thai Flavors (featuring my mom’s lemongrass!)
Grilled Flank Steak Salad with Roasted Corn Vinaigrette
Banana Oatmeal Hotcakes with Spiced Maple Syrup
Jamaican Barbecued Pork Tenderloin
Tropical Fruits with Mint and Spices
My daughter was a carnivore this week. She must be getting ready to grow because all she wanted was meat, meat, meat. She loved the flank steak, skipped the salad. Loved the pork, skipped the potatoes. Ate the chicken with peanut dressing, skipped the cabbage. My mom loved the presentation and thought everything was delicious. She was busy adding “stars” to the recipes for her to make again. My dad was equally generous with praise, but he liked the chicken salad the best – I could just tell. (He also said it.) The tropical fruits was a huge hit – particularly with ice cream on top. H said it was the best thing I’ve ever made. The kids liked the pancakes, even though C wondered why they were different. H actually thought they tasted like spice and bananas, which was a big flavor guessing win after she thought sweet potato bread tasted like blueberries two weeks ago. I continue to be a big believer in deconstructed salad platters and will probably make them all summer long. And my mom was able to contribute some of the lemongrass she’s growing in the garden. That was a big win.
The ingredient lists are long. I get it – if you’re cutting fat and salt, you make up the flavor with custom spice blends, marinades, and flavorful poaching broth. While the flavor is there, it’s additional time and searching for ingredients in an unfamiliar kitchen. “What? You don’t have fresh ginger?” “Where is the cayenne? Mark used it all?” Googling “substitute dry ginger for fresh ginger” to see if it’s even worth a try. I made a number of substitutions in order to get everything to the table. A few times I had the refrigerator open so long I was convinced the temperature alarm was going to go off. Because we all think better staring into an open refrigerator. There were a couple of things I wanted to make that ended up being ingredient specific – stuff like dried nonfat milk, soy flour, soy milk – things that if you’re a hard core health cook would be pantry items that we just didn’t have sitting around. And if you’re a big beef eater, you’ll need to look elsewhere as the recipes are heavy on fish, poultry, and vegetable dishes. Not a surprise with a healthy cooking book from a major medical provider, but it’s important to manage expectations.
I skipped the spiced syrup for the pancakes. Who really wants to steep cinnamon sticks in hot maple syrup for 15 minutes before eating? Not anyone with kids. We were out of cayenne, so I subbed crushed red pepper for the jamaican pork. It was a great substitute until C had a bite with a full spicy pepper on it. “My mouth is on fire!” he screamed, chugging milk, water, and finally chocolate milk to put out the flames. C refused to eat the peas because the mint was “spicy.” Even the peppermint bark was denied by C – not even chocolate could mask his ideas of spicy. I think H licked her bowl – or at least her fingers – clean with the spiced fruit and ice cream. And there is always the reality that your kids will eat more at a restaurant, particularly if it’s truffle french fries with roasted marshmallow dip, than they’ll eat of the nutritious and flavorful food you make them at home. (For the record, The Burger Stand is really quite delicious. Check it out next time you’re in Lawrence or Topeka.)
The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook: Eating Well for Better Health
Overall rating – 3.5 out of 5 stars
One of my favorite things about the cookbook is the introduction. I have a lot of healthy/diet cookbooks that have the “how to be healthy” chapter to kick things off, but I like this one better than most because it’s actually grounded in sound science and medicine. No silly stuff – just a good explanation of the food pyramid, nutritional goals, and smart menu planning. It had a great section on vegetables and fruits and is organized nicely around levels of the food pyramid. This is a far better approach than some of the “diet” cookbooks that use food lists or short term tricks to lose weight. And the flavors overall are pretty good – but not really wow. Some of the ingredients are a hassle. With kids, I found the recipes to work better when I presented the meat/vegetables separately for them to try rather than mixing everything together. This cookbook isn’t going to make it on my “favorites” shelf, but it’s still a great addition to my collection and I may reach for it more often now that I’ve dusted it off again. It’s probably been 10 years since I’ve used it!
Up Next – since this is the “NEW” Mayo Clinic, I’m going to cook out of the “old” mayo clinic book next week. I’ve asked the kids to make the recipe choices. We’ll see what happens. And don’t forget about my Tumblr 1cookbook-1week and my new Instagram feed for daily peeks of what we’re eating for the week.