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  1. Cooking

Cookbook review: 'Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook' offers a guide to balance

By Andie Mitchell Clarkson Potter, 240 pages, $27.99
By Andie Mitchell Clarkson Potter, 240 pages, $27.99
Published Feb. 10, 2017

When January resolutions roll over into February, it can be enough to test anyone's allegiance to eating better in the new year.

In my own efforts to eat mostly wholesome meals in the past several months, one book kept showing up on my kitchen counter. Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook is a slim book, with 80 recipes for everyday eating, including the weekend splurges and special occasions that tend to come along. It was written by Andie Mitchell, 32, a bestselling author who has written a memoir about obesity, weight loss and her struggles with food called It Was Me All Along and who blogs at andiemitchell.com. She wrote this cookbook as a way to talk about how she eats after losing more than 100 pounds.

Each recipe comes with a sidebar offering nutritional information, but this is not a diet book. Lasagna is here, even if it is petite. There are cookies, pie and an essay on why she is no longer willing to live without cake. With moderation as her guide to keep things in balance, nothing is off the table for Mitchell. The 745-calorie-per-slice fluffernutter-inspired pie is certainly intended to be a rare treat, but several other recipes make a case for moderation and enjoying great food without sacrifice.

To make a sweet potato curry with cauliflower and chickpeas, she prefers to use a smaller amount of full-fat coconut milk, a much more luscious ingredient than the light coconut milk called for in some other lightened-up curry recipes. A little goes a long way, according to Mitchell.

This is also true in the creamy farro recipe that is now a staple weeknight dinner in my house. (The turnover rate of bags of farro in my pantry now matches that of rice.) This page in the book is dotted with stains from the grease on my fingertips after grating cheese to add to the pot. It's just a few ounces of Gruyere and Parmesan, just enough to play off the creaminess of the cooked farro. I would've thought I needed more cheese, but now I know I don't.

The addition of grated zucchini to turkey breakfast patties brings moisture that is lacking from the lean meat and does double duty by adding in a vegetable. It's a clever move.

Mitchell believes in eating a big salad each day, and it's easy to get on the same page with the vibrant salads she offers up. The classic bagel-and-lox combination gets reinterpreted on a plate with pumpernickel crisps and thin slices of lox draped over greens dressed in an herb-flecked yogurt dressing. A chopped salad with spiced chickpeas and creamy tahini-tarragon dressing hits all the right notes. It is wholly satisfying, a go-to meal whether lunch is at home or packed up for work.

Avid home cooks who keep up with healthful recipe trends may be less impressed to see her recipes for kale chips or overnight oats, though her take on the oats, with a blood orange-mint salsa, is beautiful.

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Except for the chapter on shared recipes, most of the recipes in the book serve four people. Though dinner most nights means feeding just my husband and myself, I'm a fan of leftovers. So is Mitchell.

Contact Ileana Morales Valentine at ileanamvalentine@gmail.com.

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