250 Cookbooks: Diet for a Small Planet

Cookbook #128: Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappé, Ballantine Books, NY, NY, 1971.

Diet for a Small Planet cookbookI bought Diet for a Small Planet in the 1970s when it was a popular book in the health food movement. In this book, Lappé encourages everyone to become vegetarians (or at least eat less meat), because raising meat requires a lot more resources than does growing crops meant for direct human consumption. One drawback to becoming a vegetarian can be a lack of protein in the diet. Lappé has a solution for that: the quality of protein found in meat could be had for vegetarians if they combined specific vegetable groups to obtain “complete proteins”.

What is a “complete protein”? Here goes. Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids (trust me, this is true, I am a chemist!). According to Lappé, a complete protein contains the eight amino acids that our bodies cannot make: tryptophan, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, valine, threonine, the sulfur containing amino acids, and the aromatic amino acids. These are the essential amino acids, or EAAs. These EAAs must not only be present in our foods, they must be present in the right proportions. And you need to eat the complementary foods in the same meal.

For instance. Nuts like sunflower seeds are high in the amino acid tryptophan and low in lysine, while legumes like black beans are high in the amino acid lysine and low in tryptophan. Toss some sunflower seeds on top of black beans and you consume a complete protein. Examples of other combinations are grains and milk products, seeds and legumes, and grains and legumes. (Note the milk products: this is not a vegan diet.) Often the traditional dishes of cultures exemplify Lappé’s theory: Cajun red beans and rice, India’s dal and flat wheat bread, Mexican beans and corn.

Below is a scan from the book that illustrates the complementary protein scheme:

complete protein chartThe first part of Diet for a Small Planet contains a ton of charts and tables to support Lappé’s hypothesis: Amino Acid Content of Foods and Biological Data on Proteins, Food Values of Portions Commonly Used, Composition of Foods, Amino Acid Content of Foods, Protein Requirements, Calorie Cost per Gram of Usable Protein, and more. The data in these tables is supported by bibliographical references. The second half gives recipes for twenty different vegetable combinations.

I swallowed the “complete protein” theory totally, and although I never became a vegetarian, I believed the theory after reading this book. I do remember hearing that you no longer had to eat the combinations in the same meal, only the same day or so. Imagine my surprise when I went online today and found that the complete protein method is no longer held as true!

In this 2013 article, Jeff Novick writes that Lappé’s hypothesis is based on a 1952 article by William Rose that reported minimum daily requirements of the eight EAAs. Rose then doubled the minimum and claimed it as the recommended daily requirement. Novick states: “Modern researchers know that it is virtually impossible to design a calorie-sufficient diet based on unprocessed whole natural plant foods that is deficient in any of the amino acids.” Setting the Record Straight, by Michael Bluejay (2013), is another good article that refutes the complementary protein theory. Interestingly, Wikipedia’s article on Complete Protein does not address the controversy.

Back to cooking. I decide to make Tabouli, or “Zesty Lebanese Salad”. It incorporates the “complementary protein foods” wheat (bulghur) and legumes (garbanzo beans). Bulghur (or bulgur) is a wheat product, kind of like a cereal. (We enjoyed a related wheat product called burghul or cracked wheat in Turkey. Bulgur is fine-grained and quick-cooking, while burghul takes a long time to cook and is big and chewy.)

Tabouli RecipeTabouli, or Tabbouleh, is an Arabian dish. It usually doesn’t contain garbanzos (chick peas), although these beans are quite common in Middle Eastern cooking. Lappé’s version of tabouli calls for dried garbanzos and I wanted to use canned ones, so I just sort of guessed at the amount of beans to use. Also, I often make myself a bulghur salad, and usually just toss it together sans recipe, so I again strayed from the book’s version of tabouli.

serves 3-4

  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat, uncooked
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (no substitutes!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • freshly ground pepper

Boil the water in a pan, then add the bulgur. Leave it on the burner for a minute or two, then remove from the heat and let stand at least 10 minutes. Put in a strainer to drain off all the water, then put it in a bowl.

Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix. Refrigerate until cold. Taste the salad and adjust the seasonings if you want to. Serve as a side dish or over greens.

TabouliI really liked this salad, especially with some feta cheese mixed in. And the cookbook, Diet for a Small Planet? I will keep it, for nostalgia rather than the recipes.

250 Cookbooks: Pasta

Cookbook #115: Pasta, The Good Cook Series, by the Editors of Time-Life Books, Time-Life Books, 1982.

Pasta CookbookThis is a great reference for anyone who loves to make – or eat – pasta. The photos of pasta varieties and preparation are gorgeous and helpful. I am sure I used this book when I was learning the techniques of making fresh pasta. The information is this book is still applicable, and I will definitely keep it!

Recipes in this book? My note to myself about this book is “most of the recipes are rather high calorie, have lots of cream, or include frying”. In my older age I am a bit more lax on (good) fats in my diet, especially having just read “The Big Fat Surprise”. I will keep this book out for awhile, and explore the recipes I noted before: macaroni and cheese, stuffed pasta, dumplings, gnocchis, pasta pies, fried noodles, and oriental pastas.

The first half of this book is all about making, cooking, and saucing pasta. The second half is an “Anthology of Recipes”. I was sort of surprised that this is collection of previously published recipes – not ones developed specifically for this book. The recipes were written by world-renowned chefs or copied from out-of-print or foreign books. It is a very interesting collection to peruse.

For this blog? I’ll make one of the macaroni and cheese recipes. I don’t make macaroni and cheese a lot. Granted, it’s a great comfort food – but it doesn’t often fit in my menu plans. We almost always eat meat at dinner, and macaroni and cheese is a bit too rich as a side dish. When I do make it, I make a white sauce plus cheese, then fold in cooked macaroni. A few times I have made the macaroni from scratch using my pasta machine, and it was really delicious. (This was a good main dish when my daughter was in a vegetarian phase.)

The recipe I choose to make from the Pasta cookbook is a baked variety. It is rich with cheese, but not the added butter of a white sauce. The suggested macaroni is whole wheat, so, added fiber and lower glycemic index. I plan a meal of grilled sirloin steak, steamed broccoli, and “Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese”.

Mom's Mac and CheeseMom's Mac and CheeseNote the credit for this recipe: “Julie Jordan, Wings of Life”. Here is an interview-article on Julie Jordan (Cabbage Town Chef), a woman of about my age who ran a vegetarian restaurant. She mentions “Mom’s Mac and Cheese” in the interview. I love the way she writes in the above recipe: “lots of parsley”. Yes! Cooking is not about following a recipe to a tee.

Here is the whole wheat macaroni I found in a local store:

whole wheat macaroniI made a few small modifications. Below is my version.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Whole Wheat Noodles
serves 4

  • 1/4 pound whole wheat macaroni
  • 1/2 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 1/4 cups hot milk
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (preferably from whole wheat bread)
  • 1 small onion, chopped very fine
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped bell pepper
  • parsley (to taste, maybe 1/4 cup chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • paprika

Cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Do not overcook it: it needs to be done but still firm.

Put the bread crumbs and cheese in an appropriately-sized casserole and pour the hot milk over the mixture. Add the onion, bell pepper, “lots of parsley”, and salt. Stir in the eggs, then mix in the cooked macaroni. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake at 350˚ for about 30 minutes, until the top of the casserole is golden brown. Serve!

Baked Whole Wheat Macaroni and CheeseYum. This macaroni and cheese earned a thumbs up from both of us. I will make it again!

250 Cookbooks: Recipes for Healthy Living

Cookbook #78: Recipes for Healthy Living, Miriam B. Loo, Current, Inc., Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1980.

Recipes for Healthy EatingPretty cover on this cookbook! I probably picked it up at a local book or gift store, since it was published in Colorado. I don’t think I have ever tried any of the recipes!

The book begins with several hints for healthy eating. Miriam Loo recommends using fructose instead of regular table sugar because it has fewer calories and tastes sweeter. Miriam likes tamari sauce instead of regular soy sauce because it has a stronger flavor. She also recommends triticale flour. This is a high protein, low gluten flour that was popular in the 80s. It is still available today from companies like Bob’s Red Mill, but I haven’t seen it called for in a bread/baking recipe in ages. And I read a lot of bread recipes!

Another of Miriam’s hints for healthy eating is safflower oil. According to Recipes for Healthy Eating, safflower oil “is the most polyunsaturated of the vegetable oils. Next in diminishing value are soybean, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, and sesame seed. The more polyunsaturated the oil, the better the cholesterol-lowering properties.” Safflower oil is still available, but it is no longer the darling of healthy eating enthusiasts, perhaps because canola oil has entered the food scene. Canola oil has less saturated fat than safflower oil, although canola (rapeseed) oil has had its own bad press. This Wikipedia article has a nice table of the saturated/polyunsaturated content of cooking oils.

I turn the pages of Recipes for Healthy Eating. Recipes for “Whole Breakfast Drink” and “Yogurt-Fruit Shake” resemble today’s smoothies. “Almond Crunch Cereal” is essentially granola. Recipes for “Crispy Oat Thins” and “Graham Crackers” look interesting, but even I am not ready to put in that amount of work just for crackers. Today’s supermarkets carry a good variety of whole grain, additive-free crackers.

Miriam’s hints for healthy eating continue throughout the book. She also has hints for saving money. “In mid-winter when milk prices soar, pull the zucchini milk from the freezer and laugh at the high prices as you substitute this milk in your baking.” Zucchini Milk! You take zucchini (from your garden, if you have one), pare them, then blend them and store in the freezer to use instead of milk in recipes. Talk about pinching pennies!

“Mock” cream cheese and sour cream dressings call for low-fat cottage cheese, buttermilk, and/or skim milk. A nice idea, but low-fat cream cheese and dressings are now available in the markets.

The recipes for lean-meat main dishes do not spark any enthusiasm on my part. In the vegetable section, mushrooms are touted as “calorie bargains in vegetables” because they only contain 64 calories per pound as opposed to one calorie apiece for sugar peas. Talk about pinching calories!

The quick breads and pie crust recipes are whole grain and low-fat. Nothing sparks my interest. “Zucchini-Lemon Pie”? Hmm.

I probably picked up this cookbook because I used to be obsessive about counting calories, and in the 80s, many low-fat and whole grain prepared foods (salad dressings, crackers, cereals) were not readily available in local markets. I am not that obsessive any more, I just get lots of exercise and keep (what I consider) healthy foods in the house.

I will recycle this cookbook, but I need to cook a recipe for this blog. On this particular day, I plan to make beer can grilled chicken and I need a side dish to go with it. So I choose to try “Hot Broccoli-New Potato Salad”.

Broccoli Potato SaladI don’t have new potatoes and it’s not worth the gas money to drive the 12 mile round trip to the nearest store, so I will use russets (and peel them). I don’t have safflower oil, so I’ll use canola. Dried basil? I have fresh basil in my newly-established garden! I didn’t keep the broccoli and potatoes really hot before serving, they were more like room temperature and it tasted fine that way. The following is my version of this recipe.

Broccoli and Potato Salad
serves about 6

  • 3-6 potatoes, any variety, I used about 1 1/2 pounds
  • broccoli, about 1 pound
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, or fresh basil to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • hot pepper sauce, a few drops
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

Scrub the potatoes, and peel them if you like. Cut them into bite-sized chunks and cook until just tender.

Cut the broccoli into bite-sized pieces and cook until just tender. You can boil or steam the broccoli – your preference. I just got a microwave steamer so I used that.

Combine the oils, vinegar, orange juice, garlic, salt, basil, parsley, and pepper sauce in a saucepan and heat until just boiling.

Combine the potatoes, broccoli, green onions, and the heated sauce and toss. Serve!

Here are my ingredients for the sauce.

ingredientsAnd here is the completed salad. At least part of it – I tossed in some steamed asparagus after I took this photo!

Broccoli Potato SaladThis was good, and I am likely to make it again. We all liked the flavor of the dressing/sauce. I’m not sure it’s really important to heat the sauce, next time I might mix it like a vinaigrette. And feel free to add any vegetables besides just the broccoli!

250 Cookbooks: Jane Brody’s Nutrition Book

Cookbook #43: Jane Brody’s Nutrition Book. Jane Brody, W. W. Norton & Company, NY, NY, 1981.

Jane Brody Nutrition BookThis isn’t really a “cookbook”, but I entered it into my database, and it does have a few recipes, so I’m calling it part of the “250”. You can see both wear and food spots on this cookbook. It’s a great reference for an important component of cooking: Nutrition. My goal for years has been to pack as much nutrition as I can stand into the calories I consume. This book helps me with that goal. I used to refer to it all the time, although I’ve sort of forgotten about it lately.

Granted, this cookbook was published in 1981, and now it’s 2013. But I believe that this is still a good and complete reference for basic nutrition facts. If you want to know about vitamins, protein requirements, food additives, salt, or the different types of fats, Jane Brody’s book will answer your questions – and countless more. If you want to build a healthy basic diet for yourself, the facts are in this book. A large part of the book is devoted to finding a balanced, low-calorie diet for your family. However, some of the newer topics, like celiac disease, are not covered.

Jane Brody became the author of the NY Times Personal Health column in 1976. Her undergraduate degree is in biochemistry (a chemist like me!), and she backs up her articles with professional journal references. As a science writer, she interprets food and health science for the layperson. When I picked up my copy of Jane Brody’s Nutrition Book to begin this blog entry, I had no idea whether or not she was still alive, much less writing. Happily, I found that she still writes the NY Times Personal Health column, and better yet, all the articles are online. In fact, as of today, 3686 of those articles are readily available! Once again, I am very happy that I am doing this blog. I have re-connected to one of my nutrition gurus. Plus she is an exercise nut and now includes many articles applicable to aging (she is about 10 years older than I am).

Here’s the link to Jane Brody’s articles:

As an aside, I’d like to mention another resource for nutrition fact and theories, a course from the Great Courses called Nutrition Made Clear. I listened to this 36-lecture course while commuting to work a few years ago, and still refer to the pdf course document for specifics on current recommendations for vitamins and minerals.

I decided to try “Potato Kugel” from the “Is it Healthy to be a Vegetarian” section of this book. I have a longing for kugels in general. Way back in college, a friend brought a traditional Jewish kugel to a party. It had noodles and was sweet: I had never had anything like it before and loved it. To this day, I have never made a sweet kugel for myself, but just the mention of “kugel” gets pings of longing zooming around my brain.

This kugel is based on grated potatoes, carrots, and eggs and is baked like a casserole in the oven. Kind of sounds like an easy way to make a potato-pancake-like meal. I am always looking for potato side dishes, as my dining partner (unlike Jane’s husband) does not appreciate grain side dishes (bulghur, quinoa, farrow, etc.). I’ll cut the recipe in half but otherwise I’ll make it as written. Potato Kugel RecipePotato Kugel
serves 3-4 as a side dish

  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs (preferably whole wheat)
  • 3/8 cup dry milk powder
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese for the top (optional)

Grate the potatoes, carrots, and onion into a large bowl. Drain off the accumulated liquid. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Spread in a non-stick sprayed (or oiled) pan*. Bake at 350˚ for 45 minutes, or until the edges are brown and the egg set. You can put the optional grated cheese on top during the last 5 minutes of baking.

*I used a small LeCreuset pan, about 4 1/2 x 7-inches, it holds 2 1/2 cups.


I used a food processor for the garlic, potatoes, carrots, and onion. First, I started the chopper blade running, and dropped in the clove of garlic. Then I changed to the larger-sized grater and ran through the potatoes, carrots, and onion.

There was very little liquid to pour off. I briefly put the grated mass in a colander and pressed on it, but I don’t think this step is necessary.

It just fit into my LeCreuset pan. To me, it looked like it would serve two people, not 3-4. Here it is before baking:

Potato Kugel before bakingBut after 40 minutes in the oven, it had puffed up nicely:

baked Potato KugelI put some cheese on top and put it back in the oven for 5 minutes, but it looks prettier in the above photo.

This is a dense potato dish, it is much more filling that I thought it would be. I dished up one-third of it to each plate, and it was a lot to eat (as a side dish). It had a good texture and a strong onion taste, both of which I liked. In fact, I could eat this a lot. My dining partner said it was fine – but wasn’t interested in having it a lot. He likes my scalloped potatoes better.

So this dish gets a half-thumbs up.

250 Cookbooks: 1000 Vegetarian Recipes

Cookbook #12: 1000 Vegetarian Recipes. Carol Gelles, Hungry Minds, Inc., NY, 1996.

1000 Vegetarian Recipes

My daughter went through a vegetarian phase, and I believe that’s when I acquired this cookbook. She or I bought it and it ended up on my bookshelf. I remember having to search for vegetarian entrees to serve when she came home to visit.

This is a good cookbook, a keeper. It is an ambitious work, one thousand recipes! But each recipe has a personal touch, none feel forced into being just because the author was trying to get to the designated number. Eggs and cheese are included in many but not all recipes. Appetizers, soups, entrees, side dishes, salads, breads, and desserts are all covered. These recipes incorporate a wide variety of grains and vegetables, and encourage me to branch out of my food comfort zone.

I decided not to choose an entree recipe to try for this blog. I cook for two, and my partner in eating likes his meat and potatoes. “Cabbage and Mushroom Curry”? No way. I have to save my favorite curry dishes for times when I have only myself to cook for. Would he eat “Szechuan Shredded Vegetables with Pressed Tofu”? No way. “Spinach and Dill Savory Bread Pudding”? No.

So I turned my focus to the side dish section of this cookbook. I found that it has an excellent section on whole and processed grains. Barley, kamut, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, spelt, wheat, wild rice, bulgur, couscous, grits, cornmeal, buckwheat, and kasha are discussed, along with handy cooking tables. The recipes including these grains look tasty and interesting. Grains are among my favorite foods, and if I serve them with a serving of meat, I might get my dining partner to eat them too.

Although I’m choosing a side dish, I was tempted by many of the bread and muffin recipes. I plan to keep this book downstairs a while and explore it some more!

The recipe I am trying is “Quinoa with Shredded Vegetables”. I keep quinoa on hand, but haven’t cooked it very often. The vegetables are carrots, zucchini, and rutabaga. I haven’t cooked a rutabaga in . . . well, maybe never! I have snuck parsnips into soups, but never rutabagas. I even had to look them up before I went to the store, so that I’d know what they look like. I’ll just not mention to my husband what’s in the dish. Shredded, who will be able to tell?

Here is the original recipe:

quinoa recipeI made it just like the recipe. I used vegetable broth, but I didn’t have any fresh or boxed on hand, so I dissolved a vegetable bouillon cube in a cup of water. This brought a lot of flavor to the dish, so I don’t suggest using just water. And do use a rutabaga, it added a subtle, earthy flavor. I liked it more than my dinner partner, but since I served it with Fish Cakes, I was able to serve this interesting side dish and have a successful dinner.

Quinoa with Shredded Vegetables

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated carrots
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated rutabaga
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated zucchini
  • salt to taste

Put the quinoa in a bowl and cover with water, mix, then drain through a fine strainer. Do this about 4 times, or until the water no longer looks soapy.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until they are soft. (I always salt onions a little at this point, to sweat them.) This takes just a few minutes. Then add the quinoa and heat “until it makes popping sounds.” [This may or may not happen. I’ve had dry quinoa pop, but cooked in butter just after rinsing, it is reluctant to give off any good “pops”. Just stir the butter, onion, and quinoa mixture a few minutes, even if it doesn’t pop.] Add the broth and bring it to a boil.

Add the grated vegetables, lower the heat and cover and simmer 15-30 minutes, until all the liquid is adsorbed and the quinoa is done (soft). You might need to add more broth if the liquid is adsorbed but the quinoa is not yet done (I needed to).

The grated vegetables are pretty:

grated vegetablesAnd here is the completed dish:

Quinoa with Shredded VegetablesI liked this, and will make it again!