Almost Meatless – Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet – Book Review

I found the Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet by Joy Manning & Tara Mataraza Desmond book at the local library.

It is impossible to continue to feed ourselves and the world, unless we reduce our consumption of animal products. That includes local humanely raised animal products, as well as inferior cheaply-raised Big Food animal products.

Eating as a “flexitarian” is so much better for your health and especially good for the environment. AND it’s good for your food budget too!

almost meatless book review

We eat several meatless meals each week, but when I do cook meat, poultry or seafood, I really try hard to limit our portion to no more than 4 oz (raw) or 3 oz (cooked). It really helps to view animal products (including dairy, poultry, eggs, meat, and seafood) as an enhancement to the dish, not the main attraction. Adding more plant based foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and nuts, to make those the centerpiece of home cooked recipes.

And this is where the “Almost Meatless” book comes in handy for inspiration. From inside the book’s dust cover: A little meat can go a long way…. So true!

Keep in mind, this is not a vegetarian cookbook, all the recipes include animal products, but they are not the main component of the dish. Meats are used sparingly, but wisely, to build layers of flavors in the recipes.

The book is sectioned by each animal product (chicken, turkey, seafood, pork, beef, lamb, eggs, and broths), not by recipe subject. While browsing through the book, like I love to do, reading it cover to cover, it’s wonderful to see all the chicken recipes or all the beef recipes together, but for the home cook, it might be confusing not to be able to find one chapter for all soups, or pastas, or sandwiches, salads, or side dishes, especially when meats can sometimes be used interchangeably with each other. It might be more difficult to find what you’re looking for unless you know how the recipe is categorized in the index in the back of the book.

But that is really a small price to pay for the benefits of the book. It’s packed with loads of inspiration and ideas! I especially loved the tips on making your own stocks and broths on page 130. They tell you WHY you need to use cold water and why you only want to simmer (not boil) and why you should skim the foam. Stuff I never really understood!

At the beginning of each “meat” section, there is a terrific explanation. What to look for when purchasing (ie labels like “free range” which mean nothing in today’s terms), why and how to avoid the factory farmed version and find a local farm that raises their animals with care and respect.

For instance, what do the terms organic or grass fed for beef mean? It’s on page 84!

The “Bring Home the Bacon” blurb on page 37 was an eye-opener for me! I don’t ever buy bacon (turkey or pork) from mainstream Big Food companies anymore, but if I did, I’d certainly not want to buy one that included “mechanically separated turkey” as an ingredient!

There are a lot of beautifully detailed photographs in the cook book, only a few recipes do not have an accompanying photo. On the negative side, some of the photos are useless; for example, page 127 displays a yummy bowl of seeded tomatoes instead of the actual finished Pizza Strata dish. Same problem on page 95, instead of showing the finished Chimichurri Fajitas, there is a lovely eggplant photograph. Lovely yes, but not helpful for those of us cooking the dish. For the most part though, the photos do compliment the recipes, and really show great detail on what to expect for the finished recipe.

One other small complaint, I wish they didn’t use so much white flour and/or white bread as ingredients. I’m NOT dead set against never using white flour or white sugar, but after all, we’re eating less meat for the health of our bodies and the planet, so give us more healthy whole grains.

But I loved that they really encouraged finding local food, especially local animal products! That’s so important!

I recommend the Almost Meatless: Recipes That Are Better for Your Health and the Planet cookbook. It’s a beautiful detailed book and even the more experienced home cook will find something inspiring in the recipes as well as the tips and information. I enjoyed reading through it!

Some favorite recipes that inspired me:

Disclaimer:
I love reading cookbooks, like some people love reading novels! I am inspired by recipes, and enjoy learning ideas from cookbooks; I like putting my own spin on a recipe rather than exactly following it. Please keep in mind that my opinions might be completely different from the other home cooks.

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