My freezer is often packed with little bags containing frozen home cooked food with a label on front. As I live on my own I find it much more cost effective to cook meals in bulk, freeze individual portions and then just heat them back up as and when required. This also means I get full control over what goes into my food and don't have to spend ages picking out bits I don't like only to discover these bits have already left an overwhelming taste throughout the entire dish and I can't eat it anyway. As a vegetarian with a dislike for a lot of vegetables, this happens rather a lot!
Whilst my cooking skills are adequate (I won't go as far to say 'good' but the meals I cook are at least edible) my imagination when it comes to food leaves lots to desire. As a result for the last year I've been living on my own I've pretty much been eating the same three or four dishes because I do not know how to make anything else! Whilst I do enjoy these dishes they do get a little boring after being consumed regularly for that amount of time. So I went in search for my first ever cookbook and settled for WeightWatches Meat-Free Meals which is part of their 'mini series'. The cookbook cost a mere £3 from Tesco which I was more than happy to pay for it.
The first thing I love about this book is its size. As the 'mini series' part suggests this book quite small, square in shape and just an inch or so bigger than the average CD case in all directions. The size is big enough for all the recipes to be clear but small enough to make it easy to transport around the kitchen with me and place down without it getting in the way. Just what I need when I'm trying a recipe for the first time!
Inside 85 vegetarian friendly recipes can be found split into six sections: 'Soups and Salads', 'Light Bites', 'Speedy Suppers', 'Family Favourites', 'Curries, Casseroles and Stews' and 'Entertaining'. I'd say there are only about ten recipes in the book which I consider to be a little ambitious for me to try so this is ideal for those who don't have a PhD in rice cooking and vegetable chopping!
The first few pages rave about how amazing the WeightWatchers diet is as well as giving recipe notes (rather useful information about what is considered to be a 'low fat spread' etc), storing and freezing tips, shopping tips and a store cupboard checklist. The information given on these pages is rather useful but is the sort of thing you only really need to read once.
The majority of the actual recipes take up two pages, one page with the recipe on it whilst the other contains a detailed picture of what the finished meal should look like. These pictures are rather nice and certainly make all the meals look appetising although, as expected, my end products never look quite as good as the pictures featured in the book!
As well as the actual recipe and ingredients list we are also told how many each recipe serves, the preparation and cooking time, whether the dish can be frozen and how many calories each serving contains. One thing which did immediately surprise me is that there is no mention of how many 'points' are in a serving. Given this is a WeightWatcher's cook book and, I'm assuming, aimed at people following this diet I would have thought that would have been the first thing included. As there's no mention of how much fat etc is included in a serving there is no way of working out the point's value either. I don't follow the WeightWatcher's diet so this isn't really an issue for me but using this cookbook would make following that diet rather difficult.
I opted for the WeightWatcher's cookbook out of all the other meat-free options because I wanted some low calorie options. I spent the majority of last year working off just under five stone of unwanted weight and I intend to keep that weight off now that I've lost it and thought this would be a helpful way of doing so. I can report that assumption was correct. The majority of these meals contain between 200-400 calories per serving which isn't bad for a meal at all. There are about five recipes which even contain under 100 calories per serving! Anyone who has ever bought any WeightWatcher's food items from the supermarket will be aware that these items contain half the calories of the usual brand because it's half the size so I was a little worried that a 'serving' would be a tiny amount and actually one person would need a couple of 'servings' to get a decent sized meal out of it. I was wrong though! All of the recipes I've tried out this book have decent sized servings which are plenty for the average person's meal so I've no complaints there.
Of course, the main reason these options are low calorie is because no meat is involved. Dishes are either bulked out with plenty of veg or with a meat substitute such as tofu or quorn, both of which contain a lot less calories and saturated fats than meat. So I would recommend this book not only to vegetarians but to dieters too, replacing chicken with a quorn substitute really does save you a lot of calories! If you are a meat eater this will of course save you time trying to find vegetarian cheeses and things included in the recipes too.
After just a few short months of owning this cook book I've tried about twenty recipes from it. Some simply were not to my tastes and I won't be bothering with them again although other's have become firm favourites which I now cook regularly. Watercress and blue cheese soup (148 calories) is one of such dishes along with sweet and sour tofu (360 calories) and, my absolute favourite, pizza style bruschetta (214 calories). There are a few stew recipes which are perfect for slow cookers too!
Every recipe is pretty quick too which is another thing I really like about this book. I enjoy cooking to an extent but I'm not the type of person who is happy slaving away over a dish which takes an hour to prepare. These recipes are the type you can prepare in ten or fifteen minutes and then just get on with other things for half an hour whilst they cook. It's perfect for the average person who just wants some dinner!
There's no dessert section which is a little disappointing, I'd have enjoyed some low calorie gelatine free dessert options but I don't suppose you can have it all. This cookbook was a great way to start off my collection and has really helped make my meal times slightly more exciting. All of the ingredients included in these recipes are easy to find the supermarket and don't cost the earth which is another advantage. I've become more adventurous with food and found many new dishes that I like which are simple and quick to cook, low in calories and meat free, I really like this one. I'd thoroughly recommend it to other meat dodgers and those who simply want to cut down on calories. Due to the sheer amount of veg included in a lot of the dishes, however, you might find them a little difficult to feed to your little ones!