Earlier this summer, Mike and I gifted his parents with a copy of the new China Study Cookbook to give them even more ideas for the healthy living journey they’ve been on recently. I confess though, my gift was just a little bit selfish as I was curious about the book myself and planned to give their copy a test run (being extra careful not to splatter or wrinkle the pages) prior to hand-delivering it! Anyone else ever done that before? I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on this one
So imagine my surprise when a couple weeks later I was contacted by the publisher, Ben Bella Books, inviting me to do a review of the China Study Cookbook. Ben Bella Books was kind enough to send me a review copy of the cookbook and also to offer another to one lucky Veggie Next Door reader!
Note: While I did receive a copy of the cookbook for free, I did not receive any other compensation and as always, all opinions are my own.
I thought it was a really nice touch that the copy I was sent was signed by the author – Leanne Campbell Disla. Leanne is the daughter Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study and one of the featured Doctors in the life-changing film Forks Over Knives. Both The China Study and Forks Over Knives investigate the connections between diet and disease, effectively advocating for a whole-foods, plant-based and oil-free diet. (Note: Oil-free does not mean Fat-free. The diet allows for fat in the form of whole-foods such as avocados, nuts and olives.)
The China Study Cookbook makes it easy to eat along those guidelines with over 120 surprisingly simple yet creative recipes, endorsed by Dr. T. Colin Campbell himself. He writes in the Foreward: “I have often been asked — a few hundred times, I think – what do my family and I eat?… Now I am happy to say that there is a cookbook that comes about as close to the real deal for our family as I can imagine.”
Before delving into the recipes, the book starts off with a short chapter of easy to understand and valuable nutrition information. I especially liked the section on the importance of consuming a wide variety of plant-based foods. The book breaks a plant into seven categories, plus adds an eighth category for mushrooms, to help readers be aware of the amount of variety in their diets. I loved that symbols for these 8 categories were shown along with every recipe.
The 8 Categories:
- Legumes (includes Soy and Peanuts)
- Flowers (includes Broccoli, Cauliflower, etc.)
Thanks to the simplicity and healthfulness of the recipes, I found them to be perfect for weeknight meals. I wound up cooking from it so much that I surprised myself when I counted up all of the recipes I tested and found that in just a few weeks time, I made 15 recipes from this book!
Here are my favorites:
1. Fabulous Sweet Potato Enchiladas (p.177)
Mike and I both loved these. They were SO flavorful and SO easy. The sauce is a jar of your favorite salsa, and the sweet potato filling is so delicious, it could also be made to stand alone as a side-dish.
2. & 3. Burger Salad (p.168) with Spinache Chickpea Burgers (p. 143)
First, this recipe includes instructions for what is now my new favorite Salad Dressing. Who knew Soy Sauce and Balsamic Vinegar were such a match made in heaven? Not only was the dressing tasty, tart, and gingery – it’s also incredibly low fat with only 2 TB of tahini per ~cup of dressing.
Secondly, when bringing this salad to work for lunch, one day I accidentally left the dressing at home. When one of my coworkers told me how amazing my lunch smelled, we both realized how truly delicious the scent of fresh vegetables is. This salad was loaded with bell peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes that far outweighed the amount of lettuce in the dish!
4. Muesli (p.68)
This was one of Mike’s favorite recipes. I portioned it into individual baggies and he grabbed one on his way out the door each day, along with a yogurt. This is also one recipe we’d never get tired of since it allows for so much customization in the choice of which dried fruit & nuts to include.
5. Thai Wraps (p.155)
I cannot say enough about how flavorful these thai-spiced Tofu, Peanut Butter, and Veggie wraps are. To prevent the tortillas from getting soggy, the recipe calls for lining each tortilla with a piece of lettuce. We healthified it even further by using large raw Collard Leaves instead, which I’d highly recommend (just remove the thick stalks from the leaves before using).
6. Dominican Beans (p. 170)
Leanne wrote that what really makes this dish special is the salad served on top, with tangy dressing that pairs so well with the beans. She was so right! This meal also included several of my favorite veggies – avocado and beets in the salad, and butternut squash in the beans. Since this dish intermingles cool and crisp with warm and comforting, I thought it was perfect for the current season as Summer turns into Fall. I’m so happy that Ben Bella Books allowed me to share this recipe along with my review.
7. Celery Salad with Olives (p. 87)
I loved the uniqueness of this pasta salad. The combination of refreshing celery, crunch walnuts and briny olives is divine!
8. Apple Gingerbread Upside-Down Cake (p. 246)
And last but not least, this warm and sticky Gingerbread cake was delicious. As a lover of gingerbread, the strong molasses flavor of the cake won me over and was perfectly balanced by the sweet and tart apples. I had decided to double the apples, so it was completely my fault that the cake fell apart upon flipping, but it was so tasty, I’d do it again exactly the same way!
While the recipes above were my favorites, I enjoyed everything I tried (except for 1 poor recipe which was ruined thanks to my poor decision not to measure).
9. Tomato Tortilla Soup (p. 135)
This soup was so hearty & filling thanks to the corn tortillas and avocado. Mike and I also added a can of black beans to round it out for a very quick one-pot meal!
10. Raisin Walnut Bread (p.49)
This was delicious, and quite possibly even fool proof too. I was experimenting in the kitchen (a.k.a. playing with my Vitamix) and tried subbing in Red Lentil Flour for a portion of the Whole Wheat Flour… miraculously it still came out great!
11. & 12.Ocean Chickpea Sandwiches (p.149) with Green Garden Mayonnaise (p. 108)
This tangy, salty chickpea salad paired excellently with juicy tomatoes & crispy lettuce for a week of wraps in my lunch box.
13. Sesame Noodle Salad (p. 112)
This made for a tasty veggie-filled lunch. I especially loved the sauce which was very similar to the dressing for the Burger Salad.
14. German Sauerkraut Soup (p. 125)
So… yeah… this is the one that I messed up completely. Please don’t blame the recipe – this was entirely my fault. I had an open jar of Sauerkraut in my fridge and decided to dump it all in, without measuring. This soup came out way too kraut-y, even for me – a lover of sauerkraut. Lesson learned!
15. Leek Pie (p. 187)
This pie of hash-brown potatoes, leeks and tofu came out beautifully. If I did it over again, I’d probably leave out the sun-dried tomatoes since I thought they stole the show away from the leeks.
15 recipes later, I still feel like I’ve barely made a dent in the book. There are so many recipes that I can’t wait to try, especially:
- Sensational Herb Bread
- Pumpkin Pancakes
- Spicy Pumpkin Soup
- Thai Peanut Soup
- Pecan Ball Subs
- African Vegetables
- Coconut Curry Rice
- Masala’s Chickpeas
- Carrot Bake
- and the Mixed Fruit Cobbler (recommended to me by my friend Eve)
And now, as promised, here’s the recipe for Dominican Beans, posted with permission from the publisher:
Preparation time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 35 minutes
Makes 6–8 servings
What really makes this dish is the salad served on top. The crunchy freshness of the vegetables and the tanginess of the dressing make for a perfect combination.
For the beans
¼ cup vegetable broth, divided
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
½ cup diced butternut squash
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 cup water
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cans pinto beans
½ tablespoon Mexican oregano leaves, dried
½ teaspoon thyme, dried
Sea salt to taste
4 cups cooked brown rice, for serving
For the salad
2 cups sliced lettuce
2 cups cabbage, sliced into strips
¾ cup sliced cucumber
¾ cup sliced cooked beets
1 tomato, sliced
Balsamic rice vinegar (Blogger’s Note: I just used regular Balsamic Vinegar)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 | For the beans, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable broth in a large stock pot and sauté the onion and garlic over medium-high heat until soft. Add green pepper, squash, cilantro, and two more tablespoons vegetable broth. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring.
2 | Add water, tomato paste, beans, oregano, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. If needed, add an additional 1/2 cup water. Season with salt.
3 | While the beans are cooking, make the salad. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.
4 | Serve beans over rice and top with salad.
Black or red beans can be substituted for the pinto beans.
And now here’s your chance to win a copy of The China Study Cookbook, open to residents of the US or Canada.
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I’d love to hear from you!
How plant-based is your diet?
Have you seen Forks Over Knives or read The China Study?