Cookbook Review: Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s ‘Appetite for Reduction’

This week, Rachel and Stef are trying out a few recipes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Appetite for Reduction: 125 Fast and Filling Low-Fat Vegan Recipes.

From the publisher:

This is not your mother’s low-fat cookbook. There’s no foolish tricks, no bizarre concoctions, no chemicals, no frozen meals…no fake anything! Appetite for Reduction means cooking with real food, for real life. (Skimpy portions need not apply.)

In Appetite for Reduction, bestselling author and vegan chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz has created 125 delectable, nutritionally-balanced recipes for the foods you crave—lasagna, tacos, barbecue, curries, stews, and much more—and it’s all:

+ Only 200 to 400 calories per serving
+ Plant-based and packed with nutrients
+ Low in saturated fat and sugar; high in fiber
+ Drop-dead delicious

You’ll also find lots of gluten-free and soy-free options, and best of all, dinner can be on the table in less than 30 minutes. So ditch those diet shakes. Skip that lemonade cleanse. And fight for your right to eat something satisfying! Now you can look better, feel better, and have more energy—for health at any size.

Did they have fun? Was the food yummy? Should you buy this cookbook? Duh, of course you should.

STEF

Chili-Lime-Rubbed Tofu

Ingredients:

+ 1 block extra-firm tofu (about 14 oz), sliced into 8 pieces widthwise
+ 2 tablespoons mild chili powder
+ 1/4 tsp salt
+ 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
+ 1 tsp oil
+ 1 tsp soy sauce
+ 2 cloves garlic
+ zest from 1 lime

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Poke each slice of tofu with a fork three or four times, to let flavors seep in.

2. Mix together the chili powder and salt in a small bowl/ramekin and set aside.

3. Pour the lime juice, oil and soy sauce into an 8×10-inch pan. Use a Microplane grater to grate in the garlic, and mix in the lime zest.

4. Toss each slice of tofu in the pan to coat with lime and stuff. Now rub each slice with a big pinch of the chili powder mixture, until well coated. Don’t dredge the slices or they’ll pick up too much coating. Arrange the tofu in the pan in a single layer.

5. Bake the tofu for about 10 minutes on one side, flip it over, and bake for another 10 minutes. Cut into smaller pieces and mix with Pasta de los Angeles (recipe below)…

My Impression:

Quick, easy to understand instructions made even my first time making this dish a rousing success. Usually when I’m using tofu with a bunch of other stuff I just fry it in garlic and spices, so this was a refreshing and much healthier change. I’m looking forwards to messing around with spice combinations and coming up with different uses for this recipe.

Pasta de los Angeles

+ 8 oz whole wheat angel hair pasta (we used linguine)
+ 1 tsp olive oil
+ 1 cup thinly sliced shallot
+ 3 cloves garlic
+ 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
+ 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
+ 4 plum tomatoes, chopped (about 3 cups)
+ 1/2 tsp salt
+ zest and juice from 1 lime
+ 1 16-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
+ 1 bunch spinach, coarse stems removed (about a pound), washed well

Directions:

1. Bring a covered pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Then prepare the sauce.

2. Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the shallot, garlic and jalapeño in the oil for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and let cook for about a minute.

3. Add the tomatoes, salt and lime zest (reserve the juice). Cover the pan and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. The tomatoes should be nicely broken down and saucy, but some whole pieces remaining are just fine. Add the black beans.

4. By this time the water should be ready. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.

5. While the pasta is cooking, add the spinach to the skillet, tossing to wilt. Once everything is added, cover and cook until the spinach is cooked down, about 3 more minutes. Squeeze in the lime juice and turn off the heat.

6. When the pasta is ready, drain and add it to the pan. Use a pasta spoon to toss it, making sure that the pasta is well coated. Serve immediately, garnished with extra cilantro if you like. Optional: toss with Chili-Lime-Rubbed Tofu

My Impression:

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this just turned out to be Pasta With A Lot Of Crap I Like In It. It was light and fresh, and the combination of flavors really complimented the Chili-Lime-Rubbed Tofu. It took minimal time to throw together and impressed the hell out of the people whose kitchen I was using. I did have some issues with timing, trying to balance all of this out with the tofu, but next time I will be ready. This dish only got more delicious in leftovers form.

STEF ALSO MADE

Red Wine & Kalamata Tempeh

Despite loving tempeh, olives and wine, this was surprisingly my least favourite thing I’ve made so far. Generally when I cook, I don’t follow a recipe super closely and add amounts of ingredients based on instinct, but for Isa Chandra Moskowitz recipes it’s often best to just follow everything 100% because there is no way you will improve upon anything she’s done. Perhaps this is the problem – I don’t have a food processor and only had an immersion blender, so I had just chopped everything really finely. The resulting sauce was still really tasty, but (this sounds weird) almost tasted like it was made with meat in mind? Maybe I’m crazy. I’d try this again, but compared to the other things I made, this was only maybe three stars out of five.

 

Coriander Mushrooms with Cherry Tomatoes

These things are so fucking wonderful and so easy to make, you guys. Isa recommends using these as taco meat, which could be totally delicious. My one critique is that the book I have tells you to flip to page 102 for a tip on how to crush coriander seeds, but page 102 is in fact the page with the recipe for this dish. In case you were wondering, the tip is just to put the coriander seeds in a bag and use a rolling pin to crush them (and it’s on page 220). You can buy ground coriander, but this tastes much fresher. I’m really into spicy food so I didn’t seed my peppers, so these turned out probably a little spicy for some, but the coriander gave it a nice balance and I’d definitely make these again. Just make sure you prep and slice everything first cos once things start cooking, it doesn’t leave a lot of time from one direction to the next.

FINAL FEELINGS

As far as I’m concerned, Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a legend, and I was really excited to try Appetite for Reduction. I’d been trying to break out of a rut cooking-wise, and this book gave me a lot of great ideas for things I’d like to try out. I’m also really abnormally excited to have the calorie counts and nutritional information for each dish printed on the recipe page, because I am a weirdo. So far I’ve found all the instructions to be really easy to follow and everything I’ve made has turned out awesome. Highly recommend.

 

RACHEL

Spinach Linguine with Edamame Pesto

This was the farthest I fell off the wagon as far as, you know, “using the recipe.” I used the wrong kind of pasta (whole wheat rotini), and also did some creative measuring as far as amount of ingredients for pesto. But you know what? It’s fucking delicious. I would almost go so far as to recommend waiting and making the pesto at the last minute, because I may or may not have eaten a quarter of it by itself before even adding it to the pasta. Whatever. This is salty and garlicky and creamy and 100% baller. I haven’t eaten pasta on a regular basis since junior year of college when eighteen days in a row of pasta and red sauce kind of ruined the mood, but I think this could get me back on track again.

Ingredients:

Edamame Pesto:

+ 2 cloves garlic, chopped
+ 1 cup packed basil leaves
+ 1 14-ounce package of frozen shelled edamame, thawed
+ 1/2 cup vegetable broth
+ 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
+ 1 teaspoon olive oil
+ 1/2 teaspoon salt
+ 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)

Directions:

Place the garlic and basil in a food processor and pulse a few times to get them chopped up. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until relatively smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula to make sure you get everything. Add a little more vegetable broth if it seems too stiff. Set aside until ready to use.

Pasta:

+ 1 recipe Edamame Pesto
+ 8 oz spinach linguine or other pasta
+ 1 teaspoon olive oil
+ Small red onion, cut into thinly sliced half moons
+ 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
+ 2 cloves garlic, minced
+ 1 teaspoon dried thyme
+ 1/4 teaspoon salt
+ Extra chopped basil for garnish

Directions:

Put a pot of salted water to boil. Prepare the pesto. Once the pesto is ready, preheat a large pan over medium heat. At this point your pasta water should be ready, so add the linguine. Saute the onion in oil for about 5 minutes. Use a little nonstick cooking spray as needed, or a splash of water if you prefer. Mix in the mushrooms, garlic, thyme and salt. Cover the pot and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. The pasta should be ready. When the mushrooms have cooked down, add the pasta to the pan, along with the pesto. Use a pasta spoon to stir and coat the linguine. Get everything good and mixed and the pesto heated through, about 3 minutes. The pesto should be relatively thick, but if it’s too thick (not spreading out and coating the pasta) add a few tablespoons of water. Taste for salt.

Serve immediately, garnished with a little chopped fresh basil.

My Impression:

This was the recipe that I deviated the most from, partially because I didn’t have stuff (like, uh, the pasta it calls for?) and partially because I have always felt like pasta is less of a recipe food and more of a food you make when you don’t feel like using the recipe. But despite my insistence on fucking stuff up, this was so good! I’ve always been pretty into pesto, but this variation on it was a revelation. I literally ate at least a quarter of it with a spoon before it even touched the pasta. Next time, I’m making twice the pesto and half the pasta, and enjoying some basil-edamame soup garnished with rotini. I also think this would be really good as a sort of pasta salad, maybe with some fresh tomatoes? Delicious!

Curried Chickpeas & Greens

Really, there is no way to go wrong here. Chickpeas? Check. Kale? Check. Indian seasonings? Check. My only gripe with Isa’s Indian recipes is that they tend to be a little heavy on the curry powder, which can be a little overwhelming; curry powder is cool and all, but it can smother the delicious cumin / coriander / garlic / ginger thing that’s happening. While I might cut that back a little, everything else is way awesome. BRING ON THE KALE.

Ingredients:

+ 2 teaspoons olive oil
+ 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
+ 1 small onion, diced small
+ 4 cloves garlic, minced
+ 2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger
+ 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
+ 1 tablespoon curry powder
+ 2 teaspoons ground cumin
+ 1 teaspoon ground coriander
+ 1 teaspoon garam masala
+ 1 teaspoon salt
+ 1 12-ounce can crushed tomatoes
+ 2 pounds kale, coarse stems removed, chopped finely
+ 1 28-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Directions:

Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Pour 1 teaspoon of the oil into the pot and use a spatula to coat the bottom. Add the mustard seeds. Cover the pot and let the seeds pop for about a minute, or until the popping slows down, mixing once. If the seeds don’t pop, turn the heat a bit until they do. Add the other teaspoon of oil and saute the onion for 4 to 7 minutes, until translucent. Use a little nonstick cooking spray if needed. Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes, and saute for another minute. Add the tomatoes and mix to deglaze the pot. Let cook for about 3 minutes, then add the curry, cumin, coriander, garam masala, and salt, and mix well. Add the kale in batches, mixing well after each addition. It may seem like way too much, but it will cook down. Cover the pot, let simmer for a minute, lift the lid, and stir. After doing this three times or so, the kale should be well cooked down. Simmer and cook covered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The greens should be very tender. Add the chickpeas and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Taste for salt and serve.

My Impression:

I feel like “______ and ______ with tomato and curry powder” tends to be a mainstay of vegan cookbooks, because Indian food is so frequently naturally vegan. Most of the time those recipes turn out to be pretty good, but unexceptional, and this was kind of along those lines. I mean, it was good! I love chickpeas and I love kale and there is really no possible way to go wrong with those two things. But I also didn’t find it that different from other Indian-inspired recipies in the book, like the curried eggplant. That said, when I ate it the next day for lunch, it tasted approximately 47% better than when I first made it, and I was really into it.

 

RACHEL ALSO MADE

Butternut Coconut Rice

The process of making this was super unintuitive to me somehow, and I’m still scratching my head at the recipe slightly. I think when I read the recipe’s name I thought “oh, I will cook some rice in coconut milk and then add chunks of squash!” But that is way not what happened! Instead I sort of mashed/pureed some butternut squash, thinned it out with coconut milk, and then added already cooked rice to it. I cannot be the only one who finds that a little confusing. But this tasted awesome, and was basically a perfect storm of carbohydrates that I see myself craving instantly every time I need a bowl of stuff to cry into during major life crises. Moral of the story is that lime and coconut will always taste amazing, and adding squash and rice is pretty solid too.

FINAL FEELINGS

At this point, this is honestly one of the most-used cookbooks in my house, despite its only being out for a few months. I’ve loved all of Isa’s other cookbooks as well, but this one works so well with the way I already cook and eat: it’s mostly vegetables, uncomplicated and unpretentious, and made without ingredients like fake cheese or tons of faux meat that make everything more expensive and less healthy. I love that this food is balls-out and straight up, and tastes awesome. Also, if you love chickpeas (I love chickpeas!) then girl THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU.

 

See more from Isa Chandra Moskowitz at Post Punk Kitchen and follow her on the twitter machine!

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23 Comments

  1. I am not vegetarian/vegan/diet conscious and yet I feel like I desparately need this cookbook now. I love vegetables! Honestly, the thing I hate about vegetarian/vegan food is “fake meat” or “fake cheese”– bc I think the awesome thing about vegetarianism is all the awesome shit you can do with veggies! So this makes me happy.

      • I forgot to add, I hate hate hate the name and the image of the measuring tape. It seems very “thinspirational,” which is something that I think is kind of damaging to women and rather irks me.

        • I just saw a pun based on the Guns n’ Roses album “Appetite for Destruction” and wanted to buy the book just for that. The excerpt makes it pretty clear that the book isn’t only about vegan stuff but specifically about weight loss, so.

          Anyway – I’m not strictly vegan myself but I’m totally gonna buy this book too, I desperately need to eat more veggies and these recipes look amazing. Thanks AS!

        • maybe this will help. from isa, on the reason she wrote the book, via post punk kitchen:

          “But I wrote this book for me! After being diagnosed with PCOS I needed to change my diet to include more low-fat, whole food based meals.

          So yes, I wrote this book for me, but of course I hope that it rocks your kitchen world, too. Low-fat cookbooks can be a warzone for women. I wanted to create something fun and positive. Something that would empower you at the stove, give you a reason to sport that cute vintage apron. I want you to love your kitchen, love yourself, and, yeah, maybe to love tofu just a little bit, too.”

        • In addition, from what I’ve heard from authors (mostly in science fiction, although I’m sure this happens everywhere in the industry) authors usually have little to no control over what goes on the cover.

          • The author sounds awesome and I think this seems like a great cookbook– my comments about the cover are in no way supposed to reflect on her, but rather the revulsion with which this kind of “tape measure weight loss” is displayed. There’s nothing wrong with weight loss! it’s the second I see a measuring tape that I feel completely turned off. The representation of weight loss as a goal related to fitting into a certain size, or fitting into your clothes makes me crazy.

          • I feel similarly.
            From what I know about Isa and her radtasticness it’s obvious that she’s a fierce advocate for healthy lifestyle choices and not fad yo-yo dieting.
            Unfortunately I think this is marketed towards weight loss because people who are less awesome but like money are in charge of the marketing, and they know that dieting makes money 🙁
            But if people who are trying to lose weight or look for ‘thinspiration’ find some healthy, whole food, plant-based recipes that they like; RIGHT ON!!

  2. I own and use this book, and am currently having success-I think-trying to woo a girl through food made from it. Isa’s conscious that recipes need a little fat for flavour and satiety which I prefer to eating a no-fat vegan meal then craving a hamburger all night. I also appreciate the fact that the book’s 100% practical for everyday, time-constrained cooking – vs. three-quarters of the recipes being for fussy starters, sides and desserts you rarely, if ever, make.

  3. Soo, I really don’t like beans. Even chickpeas are iffy.
    Can someone give me an idea of what proportion of these recipes contain beans? ‘Cause all these look tasty. But I’m nervous about buying the whole thang.
    I dunno, maybe I should just work on expanding my pallet. But beans remind me of bugs. Or little poops. So I dunno if that’s gonna happen.

  4. I bake tofu all the time, and big tip? Put tinfoil over your baking sheet. And then oil that tinfoil with a highly refined oil of some kind (in other words: high smoke point to handle the 400 degrees) – I recommend sesame. It just makes the entire baking process, especially the flipping part, 100% easier.

    I need to go try the butternut coconut rice, hmmm.

  5. My love for Isa is just too immense to put into words. She really can do no wrong, and I tend to almost agree with Stef, in that there’s rarely a way to improve upon her recipes (Though I’ve found that combining the two seitan recipes from Vegan with a Vengeance and Veganomicon makes the very best seitan ever, and I’ve varied on her tofu ricotta a bit by combining firm and soft or silken tofu for the perfect texture).

    I desperately need this cookbook… I also really want Vegan brunch, but I so rarely cook brunch, and there are plenty of brunch-type things I still haven’t made from Veganomicon and VwaV.

  6. I have bought the book some months ago, based on this review, and I want to say that I have hardly cooked from any other cooking books since. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this cooking book. In fact, LOVE LOVE LOVE doesn’t entirely cover it. I think I probably love this book as much as I love AS. And that’s quite a statement. 😎

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