Let’s kick this off with a full disclosure. I’m friends with Somer. I actually used to work with her brother, though that was before I knew her. Instagram is what brought us together, not her brother (it’s a small world). So while I might be ever-so-slightly biased on this one, my tastebuds aren’t. Tastebuds don’t lie, and mine love this book.
Everyone will have a different reason for being interested in this book, whether it be to eat more whole foods, lose weight, or try more gluten free recipes. My reason? Sometimes I just feel fat and sluggish. It happens to us all, yeah? It’s not because of caloric guilt, but after all the salt and carbs of road trips, shark weeks, or just eating too much pizza, my body naturally craves lighter, brighter meals. These “roadtrip detox” times are when I find that I desire smoothies and salads the most. Rather than go through all my cookbooks picking out the lighter dishes, I like to have a book that I know I can always turn to. Unfortunately, I find most of these light and healthy cookbooks to be, well, really boring. Too light, too healthy, too boring. I don’t want to eat something that will just leave me craving more food afterward. I want to feel full, but full of good-for-me foods that just happen to be lighter than my normal meals (which are often fairly light to begin with). And this where this book comes to the rescue. Even before I saw the recipes, I knew that despite them being low-fat, no-oil, gluten-free, and totally whole-foodie, they’d taste totally delicious. And how did I know that? Because I know Somer and I know she’s got great tastebuds. I’ve pigged out with the girl. Boring food simply will not fly. Not with her, and not with me.
This book is pitched as a 28-day meal plan you can follow, but I’m a bit too casual to commit to structured meal plans. I’ve always just used the book as a regular cookbook. It still delivers all the healthy deliciousness into my mouth, I just have to come up with my own meal schedule and write my own grocery list. I’m totally fine with that. In fact, I thrive on doing that… meal planning is one of the highlights of my week. So while I can’t speak to the meal plan aspect of this book, or its weight-loss potential when followed, I can speak to how delicious the recipes are.
Let’s start with the smoothies, since there are a lot of them in here. Every single smoothie recipe has two packed cups of greens (usually spinach), but you’d never know it from the taste. Somer doesn’t want a smoothie to taste like spinach juice just as much as you don’t want to drink a smoothie that tastes like spinach juice. I love her smoothies (particularly after a period of too much bread), and have made most of them. The Apple Pie Green Smoothie is probably my favorite, and I’ve made it about a zillion times (probably because I always happen to have everything on hand to make it). It’s worth noting that these recipes make very large smoothies (a full quart). I often halve them in the morning and still feel totally satiated.
Salads, despite generally being considered lame, might be my favorite food group. When prepared well, they are definitely not lame, especially not Somer’s. I’ve made several of the recipes in here (some are meal salads, others are more side-salad-esque), and some favorites include the Chipotle Knockoff Salad, which gives you all that delicious Chipotle taste, without the E. Coli; and the Black Bean Veggie Burger Salad with Avocado Ranch, which is just, WHOA. Both were ultra filling and didn’t leave me feeling like I just ate salad. Just yesterday I made the Niçoise Salad With Smoky Tofu and Creamy Miso Dressing, and while I don’t usually go for niçoise salads, her recipe sounded great, and it really was. Can’t wait to dig into those leftovers for dinner tonight.
While there are several chapters for these lighter dishes like salad, soups, and snacks, where I think the book really shines is the main meals chapter. This is where you’ll find the heartier dishes that are much lower in fat and calories than their more traditional versions. Dishes like funeral potatoes. If you aren’t from Utah, or didn’t read this post of mine, I realize you have no idea what I’m talking about. Funeral potatoes are a gloriously rich and heart attack-inducing casserole native to Utah (named because Mormons would bring the dish to funerals, not because it’ll give you a heart attack, though that’s another good reason for the name). Funeral potatoes are the unofficial state food of Utah. They are really good, but even veganized, they can still be very fattening. Enter Somer’s Cheesy Cauliflower and Potato Bake. These are not a direct replacement for funeral potatoes, but they are a healthy spin on them that does the job, pleasing your tastebuds while keeping your pants buttoned.
Another favorite dish has been the Cowboy Special One-Pot Pasta. I’ve made it a few times now, and it really took me by surprise. When I was first going through the book, I wasn’t interested in that recipe. It didn’t sound like anything special, but oh boy was I wrong! The first time I made it, it was in a Dutch oven over a fire while camping. The flavors melded together in a way I didn’t expect (it got, dare I say it, kind of creamy?), proving that the whole is definitely more than the sum of its parts.
The past few days, I’ve made a few more really outstanding dishes, that I will undoubtedly make again and again. I made the Chiles Rellenos Casserole Bake with Smoky Chipotle Enchilada Sauce, which tastes like fatty delicious food straight out of a Mexican restaurant, but miraculously, is easy on your waistline (not as easy on it as other recipes in the book, but still totally guilt-free). It’s green chiles stuffed with moxarella (Somer’s easy vegan cheese sauce), baked in a chickpea flour batter, and smothered in a smoky enchilada sauce. It is heaven. I only wish there were more veggies in it to make it feel a little lighter, even if it’s only in my imagination. Then this morning, the Veggie Patch Sunday Morning Omelets officially changed my life. I’ve made chickpea omelets before, but not like these. These were thin, folded perfectly, and stuffed with that heavenly moxarella and all the veggies (zucchini, onion, tomato, mushrooms, and spinach). I topped it with some tofu sour cream (leftover from the chile rellenos) and a healthy dousing of sriracha. I haven’t had an omelet that tasted so good since I ate eggs, which were always the hardest for me to give up.
The only recipe I’ve made that I didn’t enjoy eating was the Raw Pad Thai. It tasted good, but it was shark week and raw veggies do not have the carbs that the female body requires at that time of the month. I promptly ate a piece of toast and a bar of chocolate after finishing it and felt a little better about it. I can hardly blame Somer for that.
So if it isn’t obvious, I’m a pretty big fan of this book. I’m kind of upset that I haven’t cooked from it more lately, but having made three things from it this weekend, it’s reaffirmed by love for it, reminding me that I need to pull it off the shelf more often. And not just after road trips, shark weeks, or too much pizza.
An important endnote: If you are interested in this book and its 28-day meal plan, there was a printing error that accidentally omitted the meal schedule from the book. You can download that here.