There are three things of which we can be certain: death, taxes and the publication of healthy-eating cookbooks at the dawn of a new year.
New guides to juicing and interesting whole grains, among other 2015 trends, coincide with our new-year resolve to take better care of ourselves. For the most part, we've indulged in culinary pleasures since Halloween. That's two solid months of candy, pies, cookies and creamed just-about-anything.
And now we enter the season of clean eating. Book publishers know that.
Today we look at new books that promise to help us feel better by eating better. The books support the trend toward vegetarianism but there's no juggernaut Atkins Diet that enjoyed a second coming in the early 2000s.
One thing that doesn't change from year to year is the suggestion that planning ahead and home cooking prevent overindulgence while fostering more healthful eating. That, and quinoa apparently.
Janet K. Keeler, Times staff writer
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible
by Karen Page (Little, Brown, 2014; $40)
These days, vegetarian and vegan diets are mainstream. Meat consumption continues to fall in the United States as more and more Americans eschew meat either permanently or at least for a few meals a week. James Beard award-winning author Karen Page turns her sights on meatless meals in The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, following her acclaimed The Flavor Bible (Little, Brown, 2008).
Audience: This is a 500-plus-page reference book fit for novice veggiephiles and experienced plant eaters. Page has collected vegetable-cooking wisdom from some of the nation's leading chefs, too. This isn't a typical cookbook, in fact there aren't many recipes at all, but rather an alphabetical guide to seasonality and flavor-pairing. For example, the entry on bok choy provides nearly 20 ideas of what ingredients play well with the Asian greens.
Quick bite: "A nutrient-rich, whole-food plant-based diet is the answer to so many health concerns from protecting our bones, brains, eyes, hearts and kidneys to preventing or sometimes even reversing autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and more."
Quibble: Page provides lists of delicious vegetarian dishes from restaurants around the country, but no recipes. Not so helpful unless you are traveling to the many cities sited.
The Soup Club Cookbook: Feed Your Friends. Feed Your Family. Feed Yourself.
by Courtney Allison, Tina Carr, Caroline Laskow and Julie Peacock (Clarkson Potter, 2015; $25)
It was just a matter of time until someone took the salad club concept in another direction. Salad clubs combine another hot trend — the mason jar — and help groups of people eat healthier lunches. Make five days worth of salads in jars, put the dressing at the bottom, and you've got lunch for the entire workweek. Do it with a group of coworkers and you've got variety. This quartet of authors, all New York buddies, have devised a way to pool their culinary resources to make and share soups.
Audience: The book's 150 recipes will appeal to the Pinterest crowd, for sure. Lots of pinnable photos with a DIY vibe for easy duplication in home kitchens. The recipes are for cooks who are willing to put in the prep time to make soups from scratch. There's a lot of prep work. Still, plenty of tips and a delicious variety of recipes are included, from creamy bisques to chunky offerings for both meat-eaters and vegetarians.
Quick bite: "This is a cookbook, first and foremost, but it is also a guidebook for starting your own Soup Club: the logistics (there are just a few), the essential tools (ditto), and stories to caution and inspire."
Quibble: Nutritional information would be welcome.
Low-Carb Revolution: Comfort Eating and Good Health
by Annie Bell (Kyle Books, 2015; $22.95)
British food writer Annie Bell gave up bread, potatoes, rice and pasta a few years ago and claim that by doing so she lost pounds and maintained her weight. Plenty of people will attest to the same thing, though many go back to those four foods because they love them so much. There was a time when low-carb eating meant high-fat noshing but Bell provides recipes for much more balanced eating, keeping the pork rinds in check.
Audience: This is a basic cookbook with 140 mostly main-dish recipes that can be tackled by home cooks of varying skill levels. The photos are lovely (though we wish there were more) and inspiring enough to push us into the kitchen. Bell has a food blog (anniebell.net) and we bet that her readers will enjoy this book.
Quick bite: "There is no point in pretending that bread and lettuce leaves have anything in common, but for as long as I can remember I have been using crisp green leaves to the same advantage that others do rolls."
Recipe to make now: Cottage Pie With Leek and Cauliflower Mash
Quibble: Not sure how much of a "revolution" low-carb eating is anymore.
The High-Protein Vegetarian Cookbook: Hearty Dishes Even Carnivores Will Love
by Katie Parker (the Countryman Press, 2014; $23.95)
This is yet another cookbook that's sprung from a food blog. Parker is the vegetarian and her boyfriend the carnivore behind Veggie and the Beast (veggieandthebeast.com). In the cookbook, Parker tackles the protein issue, which can be problematic for new vegetarians wondering: Are we getting enough? Women need about 46 grams of protein a day and men about 55. An 8-ounce piece of meat has about 50 grams while 8 ounces of yogurt is 11. Parker's co-author is Kristen Smith, a registered dietitian.
Audience: A good book for nervous parents of tweens and teens who want to become vegetarians, plus anyone living in a diet-blended family. The recipes will satisfy everyone at the table. As with many complexly flavored vegetarian recipes, there are a lot of ingredients called for. This shouldn't scare anyone off because the techniques are basic.
Quick bite: "The recipes in this book truly do reflect the way that I eat every day."
Quibble: More information on basic vegetarians staples, such as the many types of tofu and grains, would be helpful.
The Ultimate Blender Cookbook: Easy, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal
by Rebecca Miller Ffrench (the Countryman Press, 2105; $24.95)
Veteran food writer Rebecca Miller Ffrench (Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living) turns her sights on the trusty, everyday blender. Sales of high-performance blenders have jumped in the last year mostly because of the juicing trend, but a traditional blender will work fine for most of the recipes here. However, if you want to mix ground meats for the burgers, you'll need more power. The Ultimate Blender Cookbook is a combination juicing guide and everyday cookbook.
Audience: Cooks with at least intermediate skills will find plenty to like about this book. It's also a good companion gift with a new blender. There's a chapter on making nut milks and flours, an interesting proposition for sure. Other chapters include healthy drinks, breakfasts, nut butters and fruit spreads, dips and salsas, and soups, among others. There is a wide variety of recipes.
Quick bite: "It may be tempting to load up smoothies with sugar or sauces with cream, but there's no need when blending. Fruits lend sweetness while nuts and healthy oils can create a velvety texture."
Quibble: A book billed as "healthy" should include nutritional information for the recipes.
A Good Food Day: Reboot Your Health with Food That Tastes Great
by Marco Canora (Clarkson Potter, 2014; $30)
Acclaimed New York chef, Iron Chef contestant and TV cooking competition show judge Marco Canora was worried about his health. And with good reason: He was prediabetic, had seriously high cholesterol and was 30 pounds overweight. His quest to clean up his diet by eating more natural and whole foods has resulted in his second cookbook. (The first was Salt to Taste, a James Beard finalist in 2009). The new book includes 125 recipes that run the daylong gamut of eating from savory to sweet.
Audience: A Good Food Day is for adventurous home cooks of varying skill levels. The recipes are well-written with detailed head notes that will help novices. Canora hits the mark on flavor, and trends too, with plenty of meatless dishes alongside classic offerings. His personality runs through the book.
Quick bite: "Food is the center of everything for me: my heritage, family, social life and entire career. … The thought of overhauling your whole diet is a tough blow, but for me it fell just short of cruel."
Recipe to make now: Shrimp and Chickpea Trifolati
Quibble: The type-heavy design gives it the feeling of a textbook rather than the fun cookbook it is. More photos of the chef, please!
Chia, Quinoa, Kale, Oh My: Recipes for 40+ Delicious, Super-Nutritious Superfoods
by Cassie Johnston (the Countryman Press, 2015; $21.95)
Well, the name really says it all, doesn't it? Author Cassie Johnston, who blogs at backtoherroots.com, embraces the superfoods you know (blueberries, walnuts and dark chocolate) and provides information and recipes for some that might be new to you (acai, farro and hemp seeds). There are 100 recipes for dishes as common as salmon cakes that can be made with many pantry staples to Superseed Peanut Butter Cups laden with chia, hemp and flax. Beautiful photography from a variety of sources, including the author.
Audience: Chia, etc. will appeal to 20-something cooks, maybe even to hipsters thinking of opening their own craft beer joint. It has that vibe. There are lots of recipes suitable for communal parties. It's highly instructive and well designed. Plenty of general information for those who want to learn more about new trends in whole foods.
Quick bite: "Figure out what foods make you feel great and make you feel super — those are your personal superfoods."
Recipe to make now: Superseed Peanut Butter Cups
Quibble: The author and her husband farm 9 acres in southern Indiana. Would like to have seen more photos or read more about that.
Healthy Latin Eating: Our Favorite Family Recipes Remixed
by Angie Martinez and Angelo Sosa (Kyle Books, 2015; $21.95)
Latin dishes are most often big flavor bombs but they don't have the reputation of being light. New York culinary personalities Angie Martinez and Angelo Sosa aim to do something about that in their colorful and inviting book. They scale back family recipes and also include favorites from celebrities such as actors John Leguizamo and Rose Perez, and baseball greats Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada. Black beans turn up in a frisee salad and carrots are the star in an ingenious mole sauce.
Audience: Experienced cooks looking for new thrills. The beautiful photos alone are enough to push a home cook into the kitchen. Recipes include the bold flavors we are accustomed to in Latin cooking but the authors use them in new ways. Everything needed to make the recipes can be found in well-stocked stores.
Quick bite: "It's a great feeling to know we're eating healthier as a family, but there's still a lot of work to do in the greater Latino community."
Recipe to make now: Carrot Mole With Toasted Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette
Quibble: A book that bills itself as healthy needs nutritional information with recipes.
The Paleo Diet: Food Your Body is Designed to Eat
by Daniel Green (Kyle Books, 2015; $19.95)
The paleo diet, in which we are encouraged to eat like our caveman ancestors, has been trending for a couple of years. A simplified description is to avoid all processed food and focus on meat, fish, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. It's not a raw food diet; remember cavemen had fire. So meat over mayonnaise; eggs over Egg McMuffins. You get the idea. Daniel Green has been eating this way for a while and has written other cookbooks that focus on eating whole foods.
Audience: While the diet may have a fairly narrow audience, the cookbook should appeal more widely, especially to whole-food devotees. It's basically a guide to preparing and eating food that can be grown and gathered or hunted (even if that's on a farm). Recipes are straightforward and appealing, though some ingredients might require a trip to the health food store (or at least a walk down the grocery store natural food aisle). There's enough information to guide most home cooks through the recipes.
Quick bite: "Our diet bears almost no relation to that of our Paleolithic ancestors and yet our human genetic make-up has changed relatively little since that time."
Quibble: The inviting book deserves a wider audience, which it might not get because of the name.
The Ultimate Book of Modern Juicing: More than 200 Fresh Recipes to Cleanse, Cure and Keep You Healthy
by Mimi Kirk (the Countryman Press, 2015; $24.95)
Author Mimi Kirk has bad genes. She comes from a long line of health problems but credits her years of juicing and decades of vegetarianism for helping her buck the family trends. At 70 years old, PETA named her the sexiest vegetarian in the United States over 50. Her new book includes more than 200 recipes to help the rest of us enjoy the benefits she has.
Audience: Anyone who wants to experiment with juicing. There's not a lot of heavy lifting here; just toss the ingredients into a blender and hit the button. It's a good guide for beginners with lots of explanation about the benefits of certain ingredients. She provides recipes aimed at boosting antioxidants, energy and calcium, among other things. Great glossary that pairs ailments with juice antidotes.
Quick bite: "The food we put in our mouth determines the health of every cell and organ in our body. Food can either help us or do us harm."
Quibble: Pictures are sort of blah for such a vibrant topic.
Contact Janet K. Keeler at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @RoadEats.