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Spices of Life: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Great Health Hardcover – February 1, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Award-winning author, Nina Simonds (A Spoonful of Ginger) has had an ear cocked to the healing properties of food since beginning her studies of Chinese cuisine in Taiwan. Give a culture a few thousand years to grow and flower and it will have a thing or two to say about what's good to eat, and what's good for you to eat, no question about it. Other cultures may not have it all quite as tabulated and codified as the Chinese (or Hindu culture with the laws of Ayurveda), but have settled over the eons on a way of life and cooking that works to the benefit, not the detriment, of the body. Mediterranean culture comes to mind. Measure all that against fast food and a culture (our own) that willfully strips time away from the daily need to eat--and not just eat alone, but as a family or group with time for each other--and you have the roots of a health crisis. So it's perfectly natural for an insightful food writer like Nina Simonds to produce a wonderful cookbook with the idea of health and healthy living at it's core. Spices of Life is the result.

The 160 recipes are divided into sections that include Something to Graze On, Appetizers that Make a Meal, Homey Soups, Hearty Stews and Braises, Main-dish Salads, Pleasures from the Garden, Versatile Stir-fries and Sautes, East-West Barbecue, Irresistible Vegetarian, Satisfying Staples: Noodles, Rice and Other Grains, Light and Sumptuous Sweets, and Foods that Fight Common Ailments. Simonds's deep experience with Asian cooking comes through in Technicolor Spicy Sichuan-style Green Beans. But so too does her own heritage, as in Great-Aunt Sophie's Chicken Soup.

The sidebars to each recipe give health information about various ingredients. For Spiced Almonds Simonds explains that the high fat content of almonds is monounsaturated, of a type to help reduce cholesterol, and that the high Vitamin E content can prevent heart disease. As for cinnamon and star anise, Asian physicians prescribe them as digestive aids. A brief profile of a health all star is included with each chapter, the focus on their expertise, and in some cases, their favorite recipes. In Appetizers, Dr. Andrew Weil discusses Vitamin and mineral supplements. In Homey Soups, Walter Willet takes on the food pyramid.

The real strength of Spices of Life, however, is found in the recipes and in Simonds's own experience as a very busy working mother--both in the kinds of food she puts on the table, and how she gets it there. She shares strategies for cooking as well as taking on the challenges of daily life. Her taste for life is equally well-matched by the flavor of the foods she highlights. Hot and Sour Slaw with Barbecued Pork anyone? Now, that's health food! --Schuyler Ingle

From Publishers Weekly

For many home chefs, reading through most cookbooks is a bit like perusing some high-end fashion magazine: an exercise in aspiration—you'll never get around to making that Boeuf en Croute, but it's nice to imagine a world in which you would. Then there are cookbooks like this one, which is more like an issue of Self than Vogue: full of straightforward but practical recipes, and peppered with loads of health information. Structurally, the book is rich with material, although somewhat confusing: in addition to chapters organized by theme ("Pleasures from the Garden," "Hearty Stews and Braises"), there's interstitial material from alternative health experts like Andrew Weil, with recipes relating to their medical philosophies. The chapters are creative and useful. Why don't more chefs devote a chapter, as Simonds (A Spoonful of Ginger) has, to "Appetizers That Can Serve as a Meal"? Mixing Indonesian, French and Italian recipes within one chapter, Simonds displays her wide-ranging professional and personal experience, sharing meals kids will love, like Teriyaki Beef. For those who relish cookbooks for the elegance they promise, Simonds's side notes may seem less than sexy (learning that dill is supposed to cure bad breath somehow makes the dish the note accompanies less appetizing), but for those open to alternative medicine, and curious about international cuisine, this book is uniquely useful, and Simonds's recipes are easy and inviting.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375411607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375411601
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #156,504 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nina Simonds is one of the country's leading authorities on Asian cooking and is an award-winning journalist. She is the author of 11 books on Chinese cuisine and culture, including the best-selling Asian Noodles and A Spoonful of Ginger, which won both the IACP and the James Beard Foundation Book Award for health. Simonds' last book Spices of Life: Simple and Delicious Recipes for Great Health was selected by Cooking Light Magazine as their #1 choice for the best "Healthy" cookbook published in the last 25 years. She has won three James Beard awards. Her website with innovative video blogs (www.spicesoflife.com) was launched in February of 2007 and is featured regularly on The Daily Beast. Her articles have appeared at GourmetLive.com, Epicurious.com, and in the "Off Duty" section of The Wall Street Journal.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
`Spices of Life' by notable cookbook author, Nina Simonds is a `high end' cooking for health recipe sampler similar to those done by Kathleen Daelemans and Andrew Weil / Rosie Daley, with the added attraction of a strong dose of Asian holistic medical lore.

This is a very liberating book in that a quick run through the recipes gives one the sense that if we make and eat these recipes, there is nothing of which we are depriving ourselves. And, unlike a similar collection of `healthy' recipes from the Mediterranean, most of these recipes have exotic tastes of ginger, fish sauces, tamarind, Kaffir lime, lemongrass added to the strong but familiar tastes of garlic and chilis. All this is backed by the strong assurance arising from the Alfred A. Knopf cookbook publishing team, headed by the renowned culinary editor, Judith Jones, the midwife of great cookbooks from Julia Child, Marcella Hazan, and Lydia Bastianich.

All this means is that the book is very attractive to look at and enjoyable to read. It also means that the selection of recipes is a lot broader than you may find in the average healthy eating cookbook. They all shout exceptions to the playful quote from New Yorker food writer, Calvin Trillin who says `Health Food makes me sick.'. I confess that I often find myself agreeing with Herr Trillin on this point, as I do with most of his observations.

The chapters in this book are:

`Something to graze on' with recipes for snacks plus lots of advice on the belief that eating little but often is a very good idea. Recipes include soybeans, vegetables and dips, pickled carrots and glazed onions.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
This book was not my first introduction to Nina Simonds' recipes. I have a very dog-eared copy of Asian Noodles from which I make about ½ dozen recipes on a regular basis and another ½ dozen or so less frequently. Spices of Life provides an expansion of the recipe file for the Nina Simonds pantry. Her recipes are clearly written, easy to follow, and always a success. A very good description of her ingredients list is given in "Basic Staples (with some substitutions)," this is something I wished for with the Asian Noodles book. Now I always have the staples on hand and often I need only pick up a few fresh ingredients at the store, or pull them out of the fridge, to put together a wonderful meal. Everyone in my family including my 4-year-old has a favorite recipe from a Nina Simonds cookbook.

I welcome this book on healthy cooking which doesn't simply forbid some foods and scold us for lazy eating so much as it encourages living and eating healthy through easy-to-prepare, family-friendly, delicious recipes. Thank you, Ms. Simonds, for another wonderful cookbook!
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Format: Hardcover
So far I have made several things from this book and cant get enough! I cook for my friends and am always trying to come up with new recipes to try when I came across this book and had to buy it one the spot. The recipes are easy to prepare, the ingredients are not hard to find either. I am going to get her other cookbooks, if they are anything like this one I will be so happy. There is a section in this book that has come amazing marinades and surprize you do not need to marinate them overnight. Highly recommend this cookbook escpecially if you are into the Asian Fusion genre.
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Format: Hardcover
The first recipe that fell open when I picked up this book was for Basic White Rice. This has long been a staple of my diet. Some people start thinking about a meal and wonder how they are going to fix the potato, others start with noodles. I start with rice.

Then the second sentence under Basic White Rice says that she prefers the fluffy long grain varieties such a basmati and jasmine. I buy jasmine in 25 pound bags. Then after the basic rice comes Fried Rice, two kinds of Pilaf, Herbal Rice and some more.

The difference in this book is that the follows the guidelines of the Department of Health and Human Services in the formation of a healthy diet. Instead of the basic guidelines, the book uses the guidelines as a start for the development of delicious as well as healthy dishes.

The author spent years in the orient learning their culture which strangely enough tends to followed the HHS recomendations fairly closely.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am very happy with my purchase of this cook book. Not only does it provide delicious, simple and healthy recipes, but also provides everyday health tips and tricks. This is a must have for any home cook who wants to cook healthier. I am building up my library of healthy recipes so that I can learn how to cook cleaner and this book was a great start.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You will try one recipe after another and be impressed with the results. There are lots of veggies but you you will eat in delight at the flavors and textures and not because they are good for you. The recipes are easy enough for any night and special enough for company.
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By Blunn Creek on February 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Simple, family friendly recipes and nearly all of them are gluten free. Each chapter begins with a interview with a health expert which makes for some interesting food for thought (pun intended).
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