I own and have reviewed several (unofficial) Trader Joe’s cookbooks and cook from all of them regularly, so was excited to see “The Eat Your Way Healthy At Trader Joe’s Cookbook.” It’s no secret that one of my favorite stores on the planet is Trader Joe’s. I first discovered them while still living in Michigan, and it would be an eight-year wait before my city in Texas got their first store (in the meantime, I would smuggle home suitcases full of TJ’s manna-like cookie butter and dried fruit). Although I currently live 8,000 miles away from the nearest store (and will for the next several years), I have a hefty supply of shelf-stable TJ’s products that friends and family are kind enough to send in care packages.
So I was excited to see the new release “The Eat Your Way Healthy At Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Over 75 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Every Meal.” A freelance illustrator, author Bonnie Matthews was hit hard by the economic downturn in 2008 and also saw the end to a seven-year relationship. She had gotten up to nearly 300 pounds before deciding that she needed to change; she started cooking healthier meals using Trader Joe’s products and eventually lost 130 pounds through a combination of healthier eating and working out. Her employee discount at Trader Joe’s meant that she had the chance to create delicious recipes that would let her stick to her newfound healthy lifestyle: “I had to make peace with food and make better choices or I knew that I would not be able to survive.” Dr. Oz dubbed Bonnie a “Wellness Warrior” on his show and gave Bonnie a blog on DoctorOz.com; this launched her journey as a cookbook author.
Something that my loyal readers may not be aware of is that I lost and have kept off around 35 pounds for the last 15 years. Starting in junior high and high school, I began to pack on the pounds onto my 5’1” frame through a combination of junk food, soda, candy, and lack of exercise. In high school I weighed about 125; by the time I earned my BA from Western Michigan in 2003, that number had ballooned to over 140 and I barely fit into a size 12. I had finally had enough and changed my habits (and diet) drastically; I started to exercise every day, cut out regular sodas, stopped eating fast food, switched to whole grains, fresh vegetables, and low-fat dairy, and gradually adopted a vegetarian (now pescetarian) diet. In a matter of months, I’d dropped over 30 pounds. Some of that weight had crept back over the last 10 years in Texas (in large part because of the extreme heat, lack of sidewalks, and places to exercise outside), but last year I finally got back down to my grad school weight that I hadn’t seen since 2006.
The gorgeous photography (which Bonnie also shot) and easy-to-read font make this easy to cook from; number of servings can be found on the upper-left-hand side, with a full-color photo for each recipe appearing to the right. There are lots of international influences to keep dinner interesting, from Moroccan-inspired tagines to Greek chicken with eggplant and onion, Thai red curry with roasted kabocha squash and shrimp, pork tenderloin medallions with rosemary marinade, and pasta dishes. Each recipe comes with a brief introduction from Bonnie with additional tips, tricks, and info about specific ingredients. Although the recipes rely on shortcuts (TJ’s frozen veggies, sauces, etc), there are minimal highly-processed ingredients. Because of this, prep times are very reasonable, with many of the main dishes on the table in 30 minutes or less.
Whether you’re looking to make a healthier lifestyle change or are simply looking for new ideas for delicious, healthy weeknight meals, “The Eat Your Way Healthy At Trader Joe’s” truly has something for everyone!
(Review copy courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing)