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The South Beach Diet Parties and Holidays Cookbook

by Arthur Agatston, MD

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

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Updated December 03, 2007

South Beach Diet Parties and Holidays Cookbook
by Arthur Agatston, MD
I tend to use most cookbooks as starting places for recipes, and The South Beach Diet Parties and Holidays Cookbook is no exception. I think there are some good ideas in this cookbook, but not all of them come through in the final execution. Judgment is required in choosing and adapting recipes. I noticed at least one mistake in the nutritional information of a recipe, leading me to wonder about others. Still, my family and I enjoyed several of the recipes in this book.

Description

The South Beach Diet Parties and Holidays Cookbook is divided into two sections. The section on parties has menus for 10 different types of festivities, including baby showers, weekend brunches, and more.

The section on holidays has 12 menus, including ones for New Year's, Valentine's Day, Passover, Easter, Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas.

Most menus have 6 or 7 dishes to pick and choose from, with appetizers, main dishes, side dishes and a dessert. There are 150 recipes in all. Each includes basic nutritional information.

Sample Menu

The first menu in the book is a "Phase One Kickoff Party," meant to launch a person into the South Beach Diet, with all the recipes being appropriate for phase one of the diet. They are:
  • Cucumber Sticks with Tzatziki Dip
  • Caprese Skewers
  • Creamy Broccoli Soup
  • Grilled Rosemary-Lemon Chicken
  • Warm Chickpea Salad
  • Spinach and Radicchio Salad
  • Cocoa-Nut Mousse

General Observations

I talk about my experience with the recipes below. But first, some overall observations:
  • There is a good index (though a larger typeface would be nice for aging eyes), which is vital in a book like this -- you might not remember which recipes go with what menu. It also lists recipes by the phase of the South Beach Diet they are appropriate for.

  • In general, the cooking directions are easy to follow.

  • Most recipes have ingredients that shouldn't be hard to find in most places. As in other South Beach cookbooks, there are a few high glycemic ingredients such as couscous and flour. Other ingredients that you might want to think twice about are fat-free dessert topping (e.g. Cool Whip), and the oddly named fat-free half and half. Those few ingredients aside, most of the recipes rely on whole foods which are low carb and/or low glycemic. They are also low in sodium.

    Read my opinion of these ingredients.

  • In at least one recipe (page 99), the nutritional analysis appears to be incorrect -- probably a typo. It does make one wonder whether there are other, less obvious mistakes, too.

Recipe Review

I tested seven recipes from the cookbook. I primarily chose recipes that used unusual cooking techniques, which made me curious. Would braising lean cuts of meat work? Could an egg casserole be made without any cheese, bread, or dairy? Some came out better than others. Of the recipes I tried, one was very good, two were good, one was OK, two didn't work well for me, and one was, frankly, awful.

A common issue I found was lack of seasoning. Aside from an absence of salt (I'm guessing most people will want to add salt to every savory dish), many of the recipes would have benefited from just having a bigger injection of flavor. One of the recipes I liked, a ricotta lemon cake, was much improved when I tripled the amount of lemon in the recipe. Another, the Chicken Cassoulet, had a flavor closer to a canned soup than anything resembling the richly layered flavors of a real cassoulet.

On the other hand, the Braised Mini Meatballs were a happy surprise. I didn't think meatballs made with extra lean ground beef and no breadcrumbs would work, but this recipe was very good. The only caveat is that two teaspoons of olive oil is not enough to cook 36 extra-lean meatballs, at least in my nonstick skillet.

Another dish my family liked was the Pork and Poblano Chili, but I'm afraid that lean meat gets harder when it you cook it long and slow, as is directed You really need a meat with some connective tissue in it for a real braise. However, if you cut leaner meat up in small enough pieces, it's not bad.

Don't Try This At Home

Unless you like rubbery eggs, I advise you to stay away from the Baked Eggs with Spinach and Ham. I rarely throw food away, as I can usually make something edible of it. I made an exception in this case.

Again, bear in mind that I deliberately chose some of the recipes which I wondered about. The less challenging recipes probably have a better chance of coming out well.

Check out an excerpt from the book, which includes 9 recipes.

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