Nothing to lose but a few pounds

I called a couple of friends last week to invite them for dinner. “Come on over tonight,” I said. “Barry’s making curried chicken with apples and mango chutney.” They arrived promptly that evening, anticipating some gourmet chow. Then I almost blew it. “It’s a new recipe from that cookbook, over there,” I said, blithely. “The Weight Watchers one.”

Oops. I should have waited until after they’d tasted it. They looked at each other, alarmed. Now they were probably expecting something like cardboard.

Instead, we all enjoyed a delicious meal, and no one was disappointed.

When I’d first come into Anne’s kitchen, my eye was drawn to her cookbooks. They took up a shelf and a half, and three of them are in my own collection — the Joy of Cooking, Molly Katzen’s Vegetable Heaven, and Laurel’s Kitchen, which I jokingly call the vegetarian Joy. I knew right away, even before we shared a meal, that Anne’s style of cooking is a lot like mine.

When we moved in and started house-sitting, I immediately started reading the rest of her cookbooks, the ones I don’t have at home. There are lots of vegetarian options, including a couple of intriguing Almost Vegetarian titles by Diana Shaw. I found several gourmet cookbooks, along with a big pile of Cook’s Illustrated magazines. Those should be good for dinner parties. A busy, hectic life is addressed by Recipes to the Rescue, The Quick Recipe, and One-Dish Meals.

But what captivated me first were the three Weight Watchers (TM) cookbooks. Not that Anne looks like someone who needs Weight Watcher’s. She’s very trim and fit.

I’ve read lots of diet cookbooks before, and they usually call for lots of artificial ingredients — aspartame, nonfat mayonnaise, Pam spray. So I was surprised and pleased to find almost none of that. The cookbooks focus on flavorful ingredients, like fresh herbs, lemon juice, olives, and ginger, and one key thing: Portion control. A recipe that serves four in another cookbook will say, “Serves 6.”

In addition to the curry, we’ve also made our version of their grilled chicken with diced beets and yellow pepper. I’m planning to try the goat cheese and herb-stuffed chicken breasts next. There’s a Caribbean callaloo pork stew and a simple-looking pork adobo that are also on the future menu.

In the next couple of months, I’ll see what else is in those shelves of cookbooks. In the meantime, the three Weight Watchers titles are full of great recipes to try, and photos that make “diet food” look more appetizing than “regular food.” I have nothing to lose — only a few pounds.
The three Weight Watchers cookbooks: