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I got this book out of the library a few years ago and have since bought it to have in the house. I do not use it regularly but probably about a couple of times a month to get ideas on what to cook. There are some good ideas and I like how simple and straight forward many of them are. I think it's a very good recipe book whether you are watching what you eat or not.
Why I chose this book
I didn't buy this book because I was looking to lose weight, I bought it because I was looking for healthy recipes. I have never been very good at cooking and it was so easy to just get a jar and cook with that or order a take away but there came a time when I realised I had to take better care of myself and also my little girl so that we could eat healthy, fresh foods and not just processed meals. I looked through the books in my library and chose this one because it looked very clear and had recipes in it which tempted me and sounded appealing. I also thought it should be good because it is Rosemary Conley and everyone trusts her! After having it out of the library for a couple of weeks and realising it was a decent book that I would find useful I then bought it off Amazon. It cost me £8 at the time. The retail price of the book is £12.99. I'm pleased with paying £8 for it.
Within the book
This book mainly is about the recipes but there is also information about weight loss which I think is really useful. It wasn't relevant to me but I still read it all anyway because it really interested me. Before you get to the recipes there are a couple of pages which cover "Your life changing journey starts here", "How to be a weightloss winner" "Slim to win diet" and "Clever cooking" which all inform you about balanced meals. Then there are 200 pages of recipes before you get to more information about weight loss at the back including "Personal calorie allowance, weight loss progress chart, weight loss graph, inch loss chart" and so forth which I think must be really useful for people who are following a diet.
There is useful information at the beginning which has weight conversions and explains measurements and abbreviations which I found so useful because I haven't got a clue, I really was starting to cook from scratch with barely any knowledge so I think it's so important to have this one page of very useful information! The book is inspiring at the beginning as it talks about your weight loss journey and talks about how this book can help you as a person. There are examples of people who followed this diet and how much they lost with one person loosing nearly 3 stone. I think it's well written really to help inspire people and to encourage them to start being more healthy with their cooking. There are some useful tips on how to be a weight loss winner such as cutting back on fat and calories, filling up on healthy low-Gi foods, follow a balanced healthy eating plan and more. She includes 10 tips for successful slimming, these are:
Eat three meals a day
Watch your portion sizes
Cook without fat
Eat the low GI way
Wear a pedometer
mix with positive people
Avoid snacking between meals
Some of them tips may be easier said than done but I think they are based on useful principles. She doesn't patronise though and just expect you to follow them tips and that's it, she does talk about how you can have treats and how to make sensible choices whilst eating out and which alcoholic drinks are best. The Slim to Win diet is not something I've followed or needed to but it is explained within these pages. It is about cutting down your calorie intake to just 1200 for the first fortnight and you can follow an eating plan provided in this book. After 2 weeks you can then introduce a daily treat, an alcoholic drink and a pudding of your choice. It sounds very simple and there are diet plans to follow with the recipes mainly appearing within this book. I can see it being a popular book but there isn't a great deal of information for people, nothing about how the diet plan really works with no science in it. If I had to lose weight I think more facts would inspire me to get going and realise why I'm doing it.
There are good recipes within this book with lots of different meals to look at. They are laid out under headings: Soups, light lunches, super salads, speedy stir fries, casseroles and curries, pasta and pizza, family favourites, really easy roasts, meals for one, 20 minute meals, wine and dine, low fat christmas, party food, vegetable side dishes, get sauce and puddings to share. I was a little confused, however, as some recipes seemed to appear under the wrong heading such as a curry appearing in a different section to the curry section! It was also a little confusing have a dessert section but there were also desserts in other chapters too so this wasn't the best book in terms of being able to find right away what you are after, it was slightly confusing.
Here is a list of some of the recipes included within the sections of this book; Quorn sausage casserole, vegetable and black bean stir-fry, pork and pepper fajitas, spicy bean corn rolls, prawn bisque, baked monkfish chemoula, chicken enchiladas, spinach and ricotta pie, mini corn scones, sweet and sour sauce... and much more! As you can see from just that list alone there is great variety and some really interesting sounding dishes.
Now I am no cook and certainly not the kind of person who can throw things together and create a brilliant meal. I need to follow recipes really carefully and even then things can go wrong! These recipes are laid out really well. You do not get a photo to go with every single recipe which I think is a shame really as I usually choose what to eat just by how nice it looks in the photo so I don't tend to use the recipes which don't have a photo with them! The recipe title is in bold and has the instructions underneath this title. On the side of the page in a margain is all the information you need for example whether it is freezable or not. How many it serves, how many calories per serving, how much fat per serving. How long it takes to prepare and how long it takes to cook. It then lists all the ingredients you need. Sometimes there is a tip too such as 'this recipe is ideal for cooking in a slow cooker' or 'for extra flavour add a vegetable stock cube and fresh mint' and so forth. These tips are really simple and useful.
Following the recipe is so easy and it's not at all scary to do. I do tend to shy away from any recipe which looks complicated but these ones aren't even if they are really tasty and exotic sounding dishes! The recipes are set out with numbered points and in language I can understand and there isn't lots of words which would look overwhelming, for the Navarin of Lamb there are just four bullet points and it takes up less than a third of the page. I have found it very easy to follow.
I have cooked many recipes from this book and was pleased by how they turned out. Even though they are low fat and low calorie you wouldn't know it. Sometimes I think they were only low calorie because they were small portions or because it was just for the chicken alone and didn't include rice or something so you do have to be careful about what sides you may add to it as the calories of a meal will soon add up if you're not careful. One of my favourite recipes in this is the easy chicken korma, it's lovely and creamy and Millie loves it too as it's not spicy but full of flavour. I have made the sweet potato cottage pie several times too and that is delicious although it was quite a challenge as there are many stages in making it! My favourite dessert in this is a fresh strawberry fool which was lovely and only 175 calories!
This book has helped me to learn about balanced meals. Of course it has helped me to learn to cook a variety of dishes too. I have this book and a toddler meal planner book and between them they have helped me to understand about food and meals and I've managed to stop using processed food and jars and now cook a lot more from fresh. I think that the information about healthy eating is interesting although is more aimed towards people losing weight but that is to be expected given the title of this book. I always thought that things that tasted really nice must be high in fat and calories and also really complicated to make but this book has really surprised me, it's taught me that you don't need to spend a long time making something for it to taste nice and it doesn't have to be packed full of fat either! The helpful tips about not always adding fats to food and things I found useful too and like to think that I am providing my family with healthy meals now.
There are a couple of negatives within this book that I do want to point out. One is that some recipes seem a bit mixed up in the sections and perhaps it would have been better to combine some of the categories for example some desserts appearing in the Christmas section and then more desserts appearing at the end and the curry which doesn't appear in the curry section but elsewhere (family favourites I think). Also, I think some of the portion sizes are very small so if you are counting calories you may choose a recipe based on the calorie content in the margin of the page, I was amazed to see a beef burger and sweet potato chips for only 471 calories but then the amount of chips you could get for that was really small so you do have to actually read the recipe and have an idea of what measurements things are so you have a proper idea of how much you are eating for the calories shown. Another negative is that there aren't pictures for every recipe which I always think is a shame as I am less likely to want to cook them especially when they have an usual name so I'm not even sure what it is so a picture would be appropriate.
There are lots of positives in this book and it's best to leave a review on a positive I think! If you are using this book to lose weight then I think you'll find it helpful, it's not packed full of science and loads of pages about losing weight so it won't overwhelm you but there are plenty of really good recipes to choose from and having the nutritional values beside them is really important. So many times cook books say they have hearty, wholesome foods but you have no idea just how many calories are in them. This is clearly set out so you can see what you are having. I like how the recipes include some family favourites like a bolognese but also some more varied things too so you have a real choice. There are enough recipes in here to give you lots of ideas and vary your diet and there are also lots of vegetarian options too which aren't just all put to one chapter but appear throughout the book and this makes a nice change. I found it really easy to follow the recipes and thought that the finished results were really nice, I have enjoyed all the meals I've made out of here and it's nice that Millie enjoys them with us too.
This book is great if you're hoping to eat healthily or follow the Rosemary Conley diet but it's also good if you just want to get more inspiration for healthy meals to cook. There is good variation with very clearly laid out recipes. I would just like to change the order of recipes a bit and make sure all recipes have at least one small picture to go alongside them to make it clear what the meal is! I use this book a lot to get ideas from and to follow recipes and I'm very pleased that I have it. I paid £8 and think that is very good value seeing as I have used it so much. I think the retail price of £12.99 is also a fair price to pay as there's certainly lots in here which is varied enough to keep you wanting to look through and choose something different each time.