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on September 18, 2007
I am not a skilled cook. I am not a vegetarian. I do not live in a big city where exotic spices or international produce are particularly common. I shop in regular grocery stores and sometimes eat fast food. But I love this book.

Heidi Swanson takes nothing for granted, teaching simple techniques (I never took home economics!), identifying the different spices, grains, produce and natural sweeteners, and offering substitutions for the harder to find ingredients. All the recipes are simple and delicious, with lots of helpful hints and information about the whole foods philosophy. She's done her homework, and she admits that cooking in a new way can be daunting. That makes people like me feel more comfortable using this cookbook.

I highly recommend this book. The hardest part about cooking this way is tracking down all the ingredients, but it's worth it.
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on May 16, 2011
Edit: After having this book around for a month or two, I have used it more than I ever expected I would. My boyfriend is even becoming a convert and inadvertently we find ourselves eating meatless meals more than not. The Yucatanean corn recipe is AMAZING. And I have made the Otsu at least 3 times (sometimes supplementing a little grilled grass fed beef when we can afford it). I could bathe in that dressing.

I have enjoyed Heidi's blog very much so I got her cookbook thinking I would love it just as much. This is sort of the case. I found some recipes I am looking forward to trying and it is immensely informative. But, sadly, it is not one of those cookbooks where I want to make every single thing in it and am dying to try them. As my boyfriend said, it is a book full of side dishes, (as many meat-eating men would say). I guess I never realized she was vegetarian (oops). I often eat meatless meals, but animal protein is still a part of our diet.

Most of the dishes are full of healthy alternative grains, produce, and fats. This does cause problems with trying to eat on a budget. Many of the dishes require an extra trip to the store, scouring the shelves for things I've never heard of. This on the whole is not a bad thing at all. I do it often. It's just that it seems every recipe calls for at least one thing I don't keep on hand, making my cook on a whim style a little cramped.

Overall, I do recommend it. Especially if you are looking for alternative ways to get your nutrition. I am in total accordance with her point of view. I just tend to like to do things a little more simply.
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on October 21, 2007
Great book - simply fantastic. Contained within are flavor, creativity, and health. There is some use of esoteric ingredients, as I have seen some complain of, but that was kind of the point of some of these recipes - use ingredients you may not always use. I have been a fan of Heidi's website for quite a while, and this book contains the same level of warmth, and obvious love for good food you'll find there. The photography, as always with her work, is stunning, and the recipes are usually winners. I have to admit that I find the organization of the book confusing - that's about the only negative thing I can think of to mention. Buying vegetarian cookbooks can be tricky - some are way too "crunchy granola" and focus on meals of sprouts, tofu, and "groats" of some sort or another, while others combine pounds of cheese with gallons of eggs and butter for nearly every recipe! This type of book is hard to find - the recipes are healthy (generally), focus on (GASP!) whole grains and vegetables, and there is flavor to spare in all of them. And, no, I'm not a vegan, I just believe in enjoying a thing for what it is, not pretending you're eating something different than you are. Tofu? Sure, on occasion. TVP? No thanks, I'd rather eat toenail clippings.

That being said, it would be nice if there was a nutritional breakdown for each recipe. Most people who are concerned with their health these days seem to be on one diet protocol or another. I imagine most of them would like to know what they are getting out of each recipe, other than satisfaction.
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on August 17, 2007
Heidi Swanson's latest cookbook is a delight to read, as well as to cook from. Filled with information about healthy, common, and unusual ingredients, I consider this book to be a learning/reference tool in addition to providing inventive recipes. One way I judge cookbooks (and I've got about 60 or so of them) is whether or not they inspire me. Super Natural Cooking truly does that. In addition to the text, the book is graced with stunning food photography, the sort of which is rightly labeled "food porn". The photos are Heidi's own (in addition to writing cookbooks, she is a photographer).

This is a vegetarian cookbook, something that isn't clear in the inside jacket. Although I don't believe that healthy, natural cooking precludes meat or fish (grassfed beef or bison, for example, is an excellent addition to a healthy diet), clearly more interest in fruits, vegetable, and whole grains would form the foundation of a nourishing diet. This cookbook's recipes go a long way in helping develop that foundation.

I am quite impressed with the recipes that call for alternative sweeteners. I am interested in greatly reducing my use of white sugar, so Heidi's cookbook contains recipes that use, for example, agave nectar and brown rice syrup. In fact, I'd purchased brown rice syrup months ago, but didn't know what to do with it! But now I know! And I've just made the Do-It-Yourself Power Bars, which use the brown rice syrup (excellent, by the way--I hope that I have some left to eat after tomorrow's long run!)

In conclusion, I would recommend this cookbook for anybody interested in incorporating more whole foods into one's diet. The recipes are novel, not particularly difficult, and most importantly, very tasty.
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on March 23, 2010
I wanted to love this book, I really did. The photography is fantastic, and I have been working at incorporating more whole foods into my diet for several years. However, I've tried five or six of the recipes now, and find them to have overly complex steps and produce only mediocre results. I would recommend cookbooks by Lorna Sass (Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way,Lorna Sass' Complete Vegetarian Kitchen: Where Good Flavors and Good Health Meet) or Andrea Chesman (The Roasted Vegetable,The New Vegetarian Grill, Revised Edition: 250 Flame-Kissed Recipes for Fresh, Inspired Meals,366 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans, and Grains) instead - much more reliable recipes for whole foods.
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on May 7, 2007
I'll come clean right up front: I was a recipe tester for this book, and Heidi is a friend of mine. That said, I only really got around to testing a handful of the recipes while she was writing it, and I just got my copy the other day and eagerly opened it and put it to use, so this review is based on my impressions of the finished cookbook.

First off, Heidi's food photography is just stunningly beautiful. The presentation is beautiful and focus is crisp, revealing texture and color. Plus, flipping through the book, it appears that almost every recipe has a photo, so it's useful for knowing what the finished plate ought to look like. Sometimes I use cookbooks with no photography and wonder, at the end, whether I missed a step. Not so here.

The whole book is as pretty as the photos. The paper stock is smooth and pleasant just to hold, the fonts are tasteful and attractive, the ornamentation is great. It's just a beautiful book.

And the recipes? The ones I've made have been delicious. I made the wild-rice flour pancakes with the mesquite syrup for brunch and they were a giant hit. I've made the quinoa-corn crepes several times, and the sauce is so good I triple it to have leftovers for the next week. The list goes on. I've probably made 10 or 11 of the recipes so far, and haven't been disappointed with any of them.

I'm especially excited about this cookbook coming out right now because I'm working on losing a few pounds, and while this book certainly has some recipes for foods rich in calories, it also has a ton that aren't. Plus, every recipe is so rich in nutrients that I can eat smaller portions of any of them and still know I'm getting what I need. I'm particularly excited about the various ways to put greens and beans to use in my kitchen.

Finally, the price is kind of hard to turn down. Amazon's selling this for less than fourteen bucks right now? I'd have paid more than twice that for this book, no question.
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on April 30, 2007
As a single 20-something who lives on her own, getting inspired to cook healthy meals on a regular basis can be tough...heidi's book is a true inspiration...i literally read the book over one weekend from cover to cover. the recipes are very straightforward....but more than that, the information is very informative and helpful. Heidi does not try to impose her cooking lifestyle on the reader, she just simply explains how easy it can be to slowly incorporate extremely nutritious and tasty items into the reader's pantry.

and the dishes are tasty! I made the hedgehog potatoes with mint-yogurt sauce when I hosted 14 friends for easter was a smash hit!

The "millet fried rice" is an excellent and easy dish that is also fantastic for taking leftovers to work the next day!

The information on super natural foods, natural sweeteners, and the whole grains really gives someone a good perspective on the foods we eat and how quickly and easily we can make delicious, delicious, delicious dishes and feel great! I've been recommending this book to many friends.

Oh yeah, and it is beautiful!
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on April 29, 2007
I love this cookbook. I'm not a vegetarian, I've wanted to incorporate more whole, organic, and natural foods into my cooking. This book makes it easy. Heidi Swanson understands that in order to entice people to cook with natural ingredients, the recipes have to be delicious (and beautifully photographed, as these are), and they need to fit into busy lives. The collection in Super Natural Cooking does both things. I've already cooked or baked through about half a dozen recipes in the book -- all successfully. And I've tried some new ingredients, including sucanat, quinoa, and amaranth flour. If you're remotely interested in this topic, you should check out the book. These recipes offer a painless way to make your cooking healthier and more delectable.
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on April 29, 2007
Heidi Swanson's new vegetarian cookbook is filled with advice, ideas, and recipes for cooking with natural foods. Ever find yourself in the natural foods section of your grocery store wondering what one would do with amaranth or quinoa? Or have you ever looked for creative ways to incorporate "super foods" into your diet? Heidi lays it all out for us, explaining the foods you should have in your pantry, healthful grains to use in your cooking, the importance of including phytonutrient-rich colorful foods in your meals, and suggestions for super foods and natural sweeteners. The book includes over 80 recipes, most beautifully photographed by Heidi herself.

Sound just a bit too "healthy"? Understandable. My mom went through a wheat germ and alfalfa sprouts kick in the 70s, from which we kids never recovered. What I can tell you about Heidi, as I've come to know her personally over the last couple of years, is that everything I've ever eaten that she's cooked is drop-dead delicious. Really. I'm so NOT a vegetarian and I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. It doesn't disappoint. In fact, it is a stunningly beautiful book; the photography alone is inspiration to try out some of the more unusual ingredients. Brava Heidi!
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on September 24, 2011
This is a fascinating vegetarian cookbook. The recipes look delicious and not overly complicated, but they include ingredients that I have either not heard of or cannot purchase at nearby grocery stores. Teff, Mesquite Syrup, Acai powder, harissa, pomegranate molasses, date sugar, agave nectar, hemp seed oil, amaranth flour... I have a bad feeling that I couldn't afford to eat these items if I could find them! This book is for the Martha Stewart vegetarian in a bigger city.

If you live in a small town this book is not practical. Try "New Vegetarian Cuisine" if you don't have access to a fancy organic store. The recipes are tasty and more practical for us mere mortals.
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