It takes a creative mind and a well-rounded understanding of flavor pairings to write a cookbook that boasts of flavorful recipes with just 4 ingredients per dish. Nancy Hughes, author of The 4-Ingredient Diabetes Cookbook, presents 160 recipes in this easy-to-read cookbook.
She introduces the book by writing, “I wanted to show people how to discover that simpler is better, and faster can be more delicious when every ingredient really counts. The secret, I found, is not the number of ingredients, but rather the different types of ingredients and the various techniques included in the recipes. For example, by using highly flavored ingredients and convenience foods that contain several ingredients in one product, such as picante sauce or herb blends, I can shorten the ingredient list drastically without compromising on flavor.”
Hughes begins The 4-Ingredient Diabetes Cookbook with the chapter, “Kitchen Tools You’ll Really Use.” In the paragraph promoting a garlic press, Hughes offers the tip, “To neutralize the garlic aroma on your fingertips, wash your hands, then run your fingertips over any chrome you may have such as your faucet or towel bar. The aroma magically disappears!
The rest of the book is organized topically in these sections:
Potatoes, Pasta, and Whole Grains
Vegetables and Fruit Sides
Recipes that call for Velveeta might be quick, but they aren’t terribly healthy. Cheesy Chicken and Rice on page 96 calls for only 3 ounces of Velveeta to serve 4 people, so that isn’t a huge amount of fake food in each serving. Limiting the ingredients to just 4 per recipe keeps Hughes from creating a cheese sauce to melt into the casserole, but to suggest such processed food in a cookbook designed for folks who are struggling with health issues isn’t wise. Along those lines, Iceberg lettuce is the main ingredient in Thousand Isle Wedges on page 65. There’s not much nutritional value in iceberg lettuce. Although spinach or romaine don’t give the same traditional look as a wedge of iceberg, they would be wiser choices for families adapting to the nutritional needs of a diabetic.
I needed a quick dinner idea one day and used the Zesty Beef Patties with Grilled Onions on page 125. It called for mixing ground beef with some Dijon mustard and a few teaspoons of ranch dressing packet. Because my burgers were pre-formed, I spread the mustard and sprinkled the mix on the outside before grilling. It added a very nice taste to an otherwise ordinary burger. We’re big fans of caramelized onions on burgers, so that was a quick, easy, delicious dinner when I was running behind the curve. The title of the recipe is misleading, however. The onions are sautéed – not grilled.
The Fresh Lemon Roasted Brussel Sprouts on page 182 needed to be in the oven for at least 3 times as long as the recipe suggested. The flavor was good, but I think it would be easier to prepare them in a skillet with just a bit of butter or oil. With a lid on the pan, you get a steaming action to speed up the cooking. Stir in the seasonings right before serving, and the taste would be the same with much less cooking time.
The Buttery Dijon Asparagus on page 185 is a nice dress-up of plain, steamed asparagus. Hughes achieved an improvement on a plain vegetable with 4 simple ingredients found in nearly every refrigerator.
When a diagnosis of diabetes shocks the world of a person not accustomed to creativity in the kitchen, this is an ideal book to have on the counter. Once these tasty recipes in Nancy Hugh’s book, The 4-Ingredient Diabetes Cookbook, have been tested and appreciated, perhaps cooking skills will have improved enough to branch into a more sophisticated realm of cooking. Until then, this would be a valuable key to health and satisfaction; all accomplished by pushing the small grocery cart instead of loading up the big one. With four ingredients in each recipe, you can prepare a week’s worth of meals with just a few grocery bags of food. – by Lisa George, RFT Cookbook Editor and Chef at Latigo Ranch, Kremmling, Colorado; photos by Hannah George