By Beth Lipton
There are roughly a zillion healthy cookbooks hitting the market every day, and it’s part of our job at Clean Plates to sift through them and bring you some of the best.
Though many of them are awesome for any number of reasons, Healthier Together by author, writer and podcaster Liz Moody is special because it covers more than the collection of food on your plate. The recipes are creative and fabulous—a given for any cookbook we would bring you—but what we love about this one is the focus on cooking and enjoying food with someone. It can be a spouse or partner, sure—but it also could be a sibling, friend, roommate. The important thing is bringing companionship back into preparing and eating good food, something that’s often lost in our modern world but is deeply tied into our health.
Many of the recipes are also designed to feed two people, instead of the standard four. We love this because often that’s what you need—perhaps you live alone or with just one other person, maybe you have little kids who don’t eat the same foods as you. No matter what your situation, it can be challenging to find recipes designed this way, but many situations where it’s desirable.
Read on to find out more about why cooking together is so important, why it’s an advantage to get healthy recipes from someone who didn’t enjoy vegetables until her 20s, how to employ the concept of the book if your BFF is in another city—and, of course, get some samples of the recipes.
Q: What do you want everyone to know about cooking together and why it’s healthier?
A: As a longtime journalist, I’ve spent years working with some of the world’s leading wellness experts and studying pretty much every trend that emerges on the market, and I’ve come to the conclusion that community is a huge missing element of the wellness conversation. Everything about our modern lives has led to greater levels of loneliness—living without roommates or extended family is considered a sign of success; jobs are increasingly work from home; we live across the country from where we grew up. I don’t think it’s a surprise that anxiety has gone up in correlation with all of these things. Food is the one thing that every single person in the world has in common. It’s a huge opportunity to build and nourish relationships; to turn a time of watching TV or scrolling into cultivating true connections.
At the same time, so many studies show that the people you surround yourself with dramatically influence your choices, for better or for worse. If you team up and get healthier with someone, you’re far more likely to stick to your plan—and to actually enjoy it (which lowers cortisol, which further helps achieve a healthy body and happy weight). This is a book about strengthening your relationships through your healthy choices, and strengthening your healthy choices through your relationships, and I wholeheartedly believe that.
Q: People often equate eating healthier with having less fun. When you were working on the recipes for the book, how did you bridge that gap?
A: First of all, cooking with someone is always more fun, but beyond that, I am, for lack of a better word, a trashy eater—I grew up on hot dogs and mac and cheese. (I didn’t eat my first vegetable until I was 21.) Once I developed an interest in wellness, my recipes really reflected that sensibility. I believe that people should eat food that they crave, and are excited for—but I like to make that food also make them feel good. The recipes in my book are things like General Tso’s Cauliflower, Enchilada Lasagna, Falafel Flatbread, and more. There’s even an extensive dessert section, and, while all of the recipes are designed to keep blood sugar super stable and are filled with tons of protein and no refined sugar, they don’t sacrifice flavor at all (the viral #besthealthycookies are my favorite chocolate chip cookie, period, and the fun-size Snickers bars are ALWAYS in my fridge).
Q: I know it’s like choosing a favorite child, but… any favorites in the book? Does [your husband] Zack have a favorite?
A: I’m a huge snacker, so I love the BBQ-chip roasted chickpeas [see recipes, below], which utilize a genius (if I do say so myself!) technique that actually makes chickpeas crispy in the oven. The seasoning blend tastes just like BBQ chips—sometimes, if Zack is out of town, I’ll just make a batch of these and eat them for dinner. I also love the Actually Delicious Detox Soup with Toasted Hemp Gremolata, because it packs in so many vegetables that you actually instantly feel better (especially when you go to the bathroom!), but it tastes so good, you actually crave it. Zack’s favorite is probably the healthy biscuits with cauliflower gravy (it tastes just like normal gravy; it’s actually crazy!); it’s the sort of comfort food that just warms you from the inside out, but without making you feel heavy or bloated at all.
Q: What recipes do you recommend people start with?
A: It was hugely important to me that all of my recipes be accessible to any home cook—as a food editor, I saw way too many books that were filled with beautiful recipes, but they had 3o ingredients or expensive equipment. The “Fancy Food” section of my book is designed for when you want more of a cooking project, but the rest of the recipes pass what I call the Tuesday Night Test—no fancy ingredients, no crazy equipment, and can be made on a typical weeknight. As such, I recommend flipping through the book and finding something that makes you drool, and going with that, since the thing makes the best cooking experience is food you’re excited about.
Q: If someone doesn’t have an obvious cooking partner, like a spouse or significant other, who do you recommend they start cooking with?
A: Healthier Together is definitely not just a book for romantic partners—in the book, I share stories and pictures of how I’ve personally gotten healthier with both of my parents, my friends, my co-workers, and more. I’ve gotten so many stories on Instagram about girlfriends using it as the base for weekly cooking nights, or even a mom and daughter using it to stay connected from across the country (they pick a recipe, cook it together on FaceTime, and then talk about it—plus, the two portion serving size is actually the perfect amount of leftovers for solo cooks). The point is to nourish all points of connection in our life, so I’d use the book as an excuse to ask anyone you’re excited to hang out with to come cook with you.
Here are some recipes from the book—starting with those BBQ chickpeas…
Crispy Roasted BBQ-Chip Chickpeas
- Serves: 2
- 1 (13.5-ounce) can chickpeas
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- ¾ teaspoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Drain and rinse the chickpeas well and shake them dry as much as possible. Spread out the chickpeas on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them apart. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown.
- Remove the chickpeas from the oven, and add the oil and maple syrup. Toss to coat, then add the smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt, and toss again.
- Redistribute the chickpeas so they’re spaced apart and return them to the oven for 10 minutes more, until the coating is slightly darker in color. Remove from the oven and let cool (the chickpeas will continue to crisp as they cool) before diving in. These will keep in a zip-top bag or an airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.
Most baked crispy chickpea recipes will have you go through the incredibly boring, annoying process of removing the chickpea skins, promising crunchier results. But what if I told you it was all a waste of time? The secret to this recipe is first baking the chickpeas dry, so the moisture that oils would otherwise trap in evaporates. After that, they’re coated in the best BBQ seasoning and popped back in the oven, for perfectly crispy results with minimal effort, every single time. They taste exactly like BBQ chips, except they’re packed with protein instead of inflammatory oils. I’m not saying I ever make a batch of these and call it dinner—but I’m not saying I don’t.
Frozen Broccoli & Basil Soup with Sweet and Spicy Cashews
- Serves: 2
- FOR THE SOUP:
- 1 tablespoon high-heat oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cups frozen or fresh broccoli florets
- ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk (either full-fat or reduced-fat works fine)
- Juice of 1 lime
- FOR THE CASHEWS:
- ⅓ cup raw cashews, chopped
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- Make the soup: Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, and stir in the broccoli, ½ cup water, and the sea salt. Cover and cook until the broccoli is bright green and tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer half the mixture to a blender with the basil, coconut milk, and lime juice. Blend until very smooth, then add the remaining half of the mixture and pulse until it is mostly smooth, with a bit of desired texture. (You could also use an immersion blender to do this right in the pot; just remove half the mixture first, then add it back.) Return to the pot and rewarm to the desired temperature. Sprinkle with additional salt to taste.
- Meanwhile, make the honey-chili cashews: Place the cashews in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Cook until the cashews begin to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Add the honey, paprika, and salt, and stir until the cashews are well-coated. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Divide the soup between 2 bowls, and top each with half the nut mixture (it’ll be a generous portion—you want cashews in every bite!).
I’m always frustrated with how infrequently cookbooks call for frozen ingredients, especially given what nutrient powerhouses they can be—not to mention their convenience. Frozen broccoli doesn’t sit on trucks or the shelf losing nutrients for weeks on end, so it’s likely to be more nutrient-dense than its fresh counterpart—and often more cost-effective, and likely to be readily accessible (I don’t know about you, but my fresh broccoli often gets lost in my fridge before dying a mushy death). Of course, this recipe works with the fresh stuff, if you have it on hand. With just a few other pantry staples, broccoli turns into a herbaceous soup, brought to life with sweet and spicy cashews for a satisfying crunch in every bite. If you’re making this with a partner, have one of you handle the cashews and the other whip up the soup.
Chopped Thai Satay Salad
- Serves: 2
- FOR THE SALAD:
- ½ cup raw, unsalted peanuts or nuts of choice
- 2 carrots, trimmed and roughly chopped
- 3 green onions, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
- ½ head purple cabbage, roughly chopped
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- FOR THE DRESSING:
- ¼ cup peanut butter or nut butter of choice
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
- 2 teaspoons peeled, minced ginger
- 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- Generous pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- Make the salad: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the peanuts in a single layer. Toast until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove and let cool.
- Place the carrots in a food processor fitted with the shredding disk. Pulse a few times until rough-chopped but not riced. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with the green onions, red bell pepper, purple cabbage, and peanuts, working one at a time with each ingredient. (If you do them at the same time, they process unevenly and you’ll get some riced vegetables and some huge chunks.)
- Make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, lime juice, garlic, ginger, tamari, toasted sesame oil, maple syrup, and cayenne (if using).
- Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat well. Mix in the cilantro and divide between 2 plates. Serve immediately.
Thai satay’s genius is that it takes boring, bland chicken and makes it completely drool-worthy, using a perfectly spiced, just-sweet-enough-just-savory-enough peanut sauce. Here I’ve taken that sauce and poured it over a bowl of rainbow vegetables, making for a far more beautiful and flavorful finished product. I like to use a food processor to make this dish extra easy, but if you don’t have one, just roughly chop all the vegetables—don’t worry about being precise. Feel free to sub in whatever veggies you like, or switch up the nuts and nut butter. If you’re making it with a partner, put one of you in charge of chopping or processing while the other whips up the dressing.
Reprinted from Healthier Together: Recipes for Two—Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships. Copyright © 2019 by Liz Moody. Photographs copyright © 2019 by Lauren Volo. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
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