Good Food for All
Author: The Stop
First impressionsGood Food for All
is a collection of recipes from The Stop, a community food centre in Toronto's west end. What started as a food bank in the 1970's has evolved into a thriving non-profit organization offering a range of services to local residents, many of them low-income, including community gardens, a drop-in centre and cooking classes.
Good Food for All
features recipes that embrace local, seasonal eating. The result is an eclectic collection of recipes that have a fresh, simple and wholesome quality about them. What's more, the multicultural demographic around The Stop lends to the diversity of the recipes in the book, which include many popular Middle Eastern, Mexican, African and Indian dishes.
It's a shame that recipes don't include any sort of analysis to highlight their nutrient content, because some appear to be surprisingly low in calories, sodium and sugar as well as high in fibre. Recipes are designed with fresh, seasonal produce in mind; as a result they tend to be high in nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
There are a handful of recipes that use higher calorie ingredients, such as whipping cream and coconut milk. However, a little know-how and creativity can go a long way at keeping the calories and saturated fat down in these recipes by using simple ingredient substitutions.
Instead of the usual recipe categories of soups, salads, mains and desserts, Good Food for All
divides recipes according to season. Spring recipes feature plenty of asparagus, chives and rhubarb, while summer recipes use peaches, Swiss chard, berries and zucchini. The fall chapter features apples, tomatoes and squash as ingredients, while winter recipes use carrots, cabbage and kale.
The recipes are designed for people who may be on a budget, but that certainly doesn't deter from their appeal. There's no shortage of delicious sounding recipes to choose from including Chive Pesto
, Roasted Veggie Burritos
, Sweet Potato Tarts
or Rhubarb and Sorrel Gingersnap Crumble
Perhaps most appealing is that the recipes use ingredients that are both affordable and readily available - making them appropriate to a wide audience. For recipes that use ingredients that may be harder to find, such as traditional ingredients used in Chicken Curry
, there is guide to help readers identify ingredients, and where to find them.
These recipes are favourites of the kitchen staff at The Stop, which means they're tried and tested, and proven crowd pleasers. Good Food for All
doesn't just provide a creative collection of recipes; it also offers information to help readers stock a pantry and make the most of seasonal produce, including a guide to home canning.
The taste test!
First up was Banana Bread with Flaxseed
. I absolutely loved this recipe! The texture was unbelievably light and fluffy, considering the recipe only calls for 2 tablespoons of melted butter (I used non-hydrogenated margarine instead to keep the saturated fat down). And with only ½ cup of brown sugar, this banana bread wasn't too sweet and had a lovely nutty flavour thanks to the flaxseeds and toasted walnuts. I got creative, and sprinkled the loaf with ground flaxseeds and granulated sugar before I baked it to give it a slightly sweet topping.
Next, I couldn't resist the combination of limejuice, allspice, ginger, garlic and ginger in the recipe for Joshna's Jerk Chicken
. I tweaked the recipe slightly to improve the nutritional content; I decreased the amount of vegetable oil from 1/3 cup to ¼ cup, and used a quarter of the salt called for (½ teaspoon instead of 2).
I did as the recipe suggested and let the chicken drumsticks marinate in the jerk seasoning overnight. The next day I baked the chicken, and the results were worth the wait. The chicken was bursting with flavour, and as a result, it didn't last long; taste testers couldn't get enough of it. Next time I make this recipe, I'll definitely double it to allow for leftovers.
While the chicken was full of flavour, I thought the amount of oil could have been reduced even more, so next time I'll use even less. A tip at the bottom of the recipe suggests making the recipe with tofu, instead of chicken - a great recipe idea for vegetarians.
Finally, a recipe for Za'atar
caught my eye. Za'atar
is a popular Middle Eastern spice blend that's often added to everything from flat bread to meat and poultry to labneh (a thickened type of yogurt). With only five ingredients, this spice blend couldn't have been easier to prepare. I started off by toasting the sesame seeds as the recipe suggested, and then mixed the cooled sesame seeds with dried thyme, dried oregano, ground sumac and salt. The toasted sesame seeds lend a lovely nutty flavour to the spice mix, while the sumac adds a vibrant red colour.
After combining the ingredients to make the Za'atar
, I used it to make a popular Middle Eastern dish called manakish, which is made by combining olive oil and za'atar to make a thick paste, spreading it on flat bread, and baking it in the oven until crispy. I have only ever had za'atar in restaurants in the Middle East, so I'm thrilled to have a recipe I can make at home that tastes just like the real thing.
If you're looking for a new source of inspiration in the kitchen, look no further than Good Food for All
. Packed with healthy, wholesome recipes - this cookbook has a simple, honest charm to it that few other cookbooks offer. I highly recommend this cookbook, especially now that winter is waning and local, seasonal produce will once again be in abundance.
Reviewed by Michelle Gelok, RD - March 2011.