Healthy Cooking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America

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5.00 star(s)
3.00 star(s)
4.00 star(s)
Pros: Nice variety of recipes, Good procedure explanations
Cons: Not enough pictures, no calorie or nutrition information on the recipes, Preparation Times would be nice.
Reviewed by Cami Rawlins

I was really excited to get this book in the mail. I am always looking for ways to make my meals healthier for myself and my family.  I was especially happy because it is written by the Culinary Institute of America. I am a big fan of their cookbooks because they seem to have recipes that appeal to all levels of cooks.  I have been impressed with their books that I have read in the past.  Let’s just say I had high expectations for their new healthy cooking cookbook. 

First I thumbed through all the pictures to see what caught my eye. By the way, these were nice durable pages. If you could see me when I am cooking you would understand why durable pages are important to me. 

A good cookbook is more than just instructions tossed onto a page; it is a work of art.  Ideally, they need to appeal to my senses to make me want to delve in and experiment with the recipes presented.  In this case, I was very disappointed at how many recipes didn’t have pictures associated with them.  About one fourth of the recipes don’t have photos. However, in their defense, the pictures they do have are nice, full color, and full page beautiful representations of the recipes.  My personal vote would be for more pictures.   Fortunately, I am familiar with a lot of ingredients so I was able to conjure up my own visions for the foods as I read through the cookbook. Still, I prefer to be able to see what a recipe is supposed to look like before I attempt it, otherwise I don’t have anything with which to compare my finished product. 

At the start of the book is a nice section on what comprises healthy cooking.  It goes through flavors, and how to add more flavors to the foods you prepare.  They even have a section devoted to “Sensing Flavor.”  I am a big fan of having food appeal to all the senses. They also have a nice section on types of salt. If you have been wondering about the different salts that you see showing up the grocery store, this section will help demystify them for you. This cookbook uses only kosher salt. However, I think they should have mentioned that if you use regular table salt you need to reduce the amount or your food will turn out much more salty than intended. There is a nice table on ways to find the hidden sources of sodium in your recipes.  This is a readily available resource for those concerned with sodium. The authors also did a nice job talking about organic foods and sustainable agriculture without sounding preachy.  This first chapter also covers the latest USDA nutrition guidelines.  They even added in a nice little section on food safety, which I’ve previously seen only in  culinary textbooks. 

Being familiar with their cookbooks, what I didn’t want to find was recipes taken from other Culinary Institute books, and compiled to form this one. I was not disappointed.  As far as I can tell, each recipe is unique to this book alone.  With this book, they have nice informative introductions inserted at the beginning of each section. Along with going over how to do specific cooking techniques, they have also added in a section called “Healthy Techniques for…” In this little paragraph, at the beginning of each section, they give you hints on how you can alter the recipes to your liking, or even change your old favorite recipe to make it healthier. I thought this was a particularly nice touch. They actually encourage you to explore more with the recipes. For instance, with the soups they suggest you “Add more ingredients than you see in the recipe list.”  I actually read this part out loud, as I was prepping my ingredients.  My dear husband took it to heart, and while I was chopping vegetables he managed to amass an impressive pile of pancetta and a chunk of Parmesan cheese sure to put a smile on any cheese lover’s face, versus the two slices, and 3-inch piece of rind called for in the recipe.  

After kicking him out of my kitchen, I went on to explain they meant to add more beans, turnips or other vegetables. I found this to be a very fresh approach to take, which  appealed to my creative side.  Another focus I haven’t seen in their books before was emphasis on a well rounded dish that includes texture.   

The index was great; I was able to find everything I wanted to cook and look it up again easily.  While they don’t actually have a “vegetarian” section, under vegetables they do have it broken out into two sections: Vegetable Main Dishes and Vegetable Side Dishes. 

Anxious to try some new recipes, I looked for the ones that appealed to me the most and came up with my list of recipes to try; among them:   Minestrone Soup, Chinese Long Bean Salad, Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (I hoped they were like Mom’s), and Herb Breaded Chicken. At first topping the list were the the Black Bean Burgers, which sounded very healthy and vegetarian.  However it has chorizo in it. To me, that doesn’t make it a black bean burger, nor did it make it on my final cut of recipes to try. With most of these recipes you need to plan on some time for preparation. For instance on the Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, you also need to make a Tomato Coulis. If you are aware of this then it isn’t a problem; however, if you want to jump in and make a quick meal then you will need to choose carefully.  

The minestrone soup turned out great (even without the extra pancetta). However it was time consuming to prepare. Similar to the Cabbage Rolls, this recipe will take advanced preparation. The recipe calls for you to use dried beans, which have to soak for several hours. They also want you to use their recipe for home made Pesto. I’d never used pesto in my minestrone before, and it added a wonderful basil flavor.  However, I think it would be really helpful if the recipes had a preparation time listed. 

The Chinese Long Bean salad with Tangerines and Sherry-Mustard Vinaigrette was very enjoyable, although beginning cooks would benefit from instructions on sectional citrus properly. The Sherry-mustard vinaigrette was a pleasant surprise. I was afraid I wasn’t going to like it, but it turned out really subtle by the time I added it to the salad, because the beans really needed some flavor to kick them up a notch. 

For recipe testing I was torn between the Jerk Chicken and the Herb-Breaded Chicken with Creamy Mustard Sauce. My kids voted for the latter one.  This was a very long recipe to make.  You need to make a Creamy Mustard Gravy). Okay, not a problem… I go to that recipe, and see that in order to make the gravy I also need a Velouté-Style sauce.  Not to be deterred, I put my chicken in the buttermilk marinade and went to work on my sauces. First I simply cut the Velouté-Style sauce recipe in half.  No sense making more than I needed. In making this sauce they recommend a homemade version of chicken broth. However, I opted for the store bought version in order to save me some time. Besides, I didn’t have four pounds of chicken bones lying around.  This is one of the things I like about this cookbook. I can go completely from scratch, or I can substitute with some store bought items to save time. The cornflake-cornmeal crust that I put on the chicken was really nice and light.  I have cooked breaded chicken in the oven before. This was the first time I have cooked it on a rack in the oven though. It worked out pretty good. My kids thought the chicken was great.  

Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to eat vegetarian, and this cookbook does a great job showing that.  There are surprisingly few vegetarian recipes in this book.  Instead, the book teaches you how to cook your every day meals in a healthier fashion.  You can still eat your breaded chicken and even lobster if you want to. They are just showing you healthier ways to prepare it. Although many of the recipes do take a long time to prepare, none of them were exceptionally difficult. I would recommend this book to any level of cook. As with all the CIA cookbooks this one is full of instructions, and techniques to help you become the cook you want to be. 
[h2]Recipe: Herb-Breaded Chicken with Creamy Mustard Sauce[/h2]
Makes 6 servings

1 ½ lb skinless, boneless chicken breast

Buttermilk-Herb Marinade:

1 cup buttermilk

1 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tbsp chopped tarragon

1 tsp ground black pepper

Cornflake-Cornmeal Crust:

2/3 cup cornflakes

½ cup cornmeal

1 tbsp chopped parsley

1 tbsp chopped tarragon

1 tbsp chopped chives

¼ tsp kosher salt

1 ½ cups Creamy Mustard Gravy (recipe to follow)


1. Trim any visible fat from the chicken and cut away any cartilage or sinew in the breast. Set aside.

2. For the marinade, combine the buttermilk, parsley, tarragon, and pepper in a bowl. Add the chicken, turning once or twice to coat evenly with the marinade. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.

3. For the crust, use your hands to crush together and mix the cornflakes, cornmeal, parsley, tarragon, chives, and salt in a shallow bowl or baking dish; the cornflakes should be broken up into small crumbs.

4. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Place a rack in a baking dish to hold the chicken as it bakes. 

5. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade. Drag the piece along the edge of the bowl to scrape away any excess marinade. Coat the chicken pieces evenly with the cornmeal mixture on all sides and transfer to the baking dish.

6. Bake the chicken until it is cooked through (165˚F and firm to the touch) with a golden, crisp exterior, about 20 minutes.

7. Gently heat the mustard gravy in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, and serve with the chicken. 

Creamy Mustard Gravy 

Makes 2 ½ cups


2 ½ cups Velouté-Style Sauce (recipe to follow)

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper


Bring the sauce to a simmer over low heat. Add the mustard and pepper and stir until smooth. Return to a simmer and serve at once. 

Velouté-Style Sauce

Makes 5 cups


3 tbsp cornstarch

4 cups chicken broth ((recipe to follow) however I used store bought)

1 cup evaporated nonfat milk

½ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp freshly grated white pepper


1. Combine the cornstarch with enough of the broth to form a paste.

2. Bring the remaining broth to a boil in a medium sauce pot. Add the cornstarch slurry and the evaporated milk to the boiling stock, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper. The sauce is ready to season, finish, and serve, it may be used in another [preparation, or it may be cooled and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. 

Chicken Broth

Makes 2 quarts

Some stores sell packages of necks and backs that maybe be used to prepare broth. This broth may also be made with the carcasses of roasted birds. Save the bones from three birds after all the meat has been pulled or carved away (freeze the bones if you will not be making the broth within two days of removing the meat).


4 pounds chicken bones, but into 3-inch lengths

12 cups (3 quarts) cold water, or as needed

¾ cup coarsely chopped onion

½ cup coarsely chopped carrot

½ cup coarsely chopped celery

1 spice sachet (recipe to follow)

1 ½ tsp kosher salt


1. Place the chicken in a large pot. Add water to cover the chicken by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium heat, skimming any foam that rises to the surface.

2. Reduce the heat to cook at a slow simmer. Cover partially and simmer for 2 hours, skimming foam from the surface as needed.

3. Add the onion, carrot, celery, sachet, and salt and continue to simmer, skimming as necessary, until the broth is flavorful, about 1 hour more. Taste and season with salt, if needed.

4. Remove any meaty parts and save for another use. Strain the broth and discard the solids. Skim the fat from the surface or cool in an ice bath, chill, and lift away the hardened fat. Store the broth in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

Making a Spice Sachet

These bundles of herbs and spices are used to add flavor to a simmering broth, soup or stew.

A basic sachet that will flavor 2 ½ to 3 quarts of liquid contains 5 or 6 cracked peppercorns, 3 or 4 parsley stems, 1 sprig fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme, and 1 bay leaf. Add or substitute other spices to complement the flavors in a specific dish. 

Place the herbs and spices on a square of cheesecloth large enough to contain them. Twist the corners of the cheesecloth together and tie securely with one end of a long piece of kitchen string. When adding to the pot, tie the other end of the string to the pot handle for easy removal later. At the end of cooking, gently pull out the bundle, untie the string from the pot handle, and discard. If you prefer, enclose the herbs and spices in a large tea ball in place of the cheesecloth and hook it to the side of the pot. 
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