Food & Drink

‘Naturally Lean’ cookbook is great choice for healthy chef

This book answers two questions that everyone who loves food eventually asks. The first is, “Are there foods that are low calorie, interesting, delicious and accessible?” That one is age-old!

The second is more modern—”Why buy a cookbook when blogs and internet searches can give me any recipe I want?”

Naturally Lean is the answer to both of those questions. I have to be honest with you, vegan is not usually my cup of tea (puns intended). Vegan means no dairy and I am a cheese-a-holic.

However, this book’s emphasis on using nuts to replace the dairy (yes, there are a couple of tofu recipes) and beans won me over. Yes, to low calorie, interesting, and delicious. Accessible? By that, I mean most are easy to make with ingredients that are easy to find—and for the difficult to find ingredients, the book offers tips on finding them.

The second question, why buy a book when the internet offers so much? Well, to find great recipes on the internet, you have to know what you are looking for. Cookbooks offer a place to browse, to get ideas. Cookbooks often have interesting bits and pieces of information about food in general and you can be educated on a specific topic of interest—in this case, vegan options for slimming meals that are actually mouth-wateringly delicious!

Opening the book, I flipped to Swiss chard with white beans. Delicious! The organization in the book is not traditional. Instead of organizing by meal, side dish, etc, Kramer separates the book’s innovative recipes into six categories, by type of food—greens and crucifers, grains, fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, squash, roots and mushrooms. Within those categories are many meal options. The organization actually worked for me as a way to browse. The index offered a great way to find any recipe I liked, but I admit to using sticky notes to mark recipes as my own choice for dinner entrée, lunch, breakfast, or snack.

I decided to ask the author why she chose to organize this way, and Kramer quickly responded:

“I wrote this book with the intention to introduce people to new plant-based foods and to help them explore familiar foods in new ways. Plant based foods are full of nutrients, and it’s good to eat a variety of colors and textures for optimal nutrition. I felt the grouping made sense in an “eat the rainbow” kind of way, where a person could look up recipes based on various types of foods (greens or fruits), rather than the standard breakfast to dessert layout.”

Via email, I posited that perhaps another part of her reasoning had to do with the versatility of the recipes. She said: “And, yes, I also intended the recipes to be quite versatile, so you could enjoy a recipe such as the ‘Chewy Cherry Chia Bars’ as a breakfast, dessert or a snack!”

At the end of the book, Kramer weighs in with suggestions for pairing various recipes to make a lovely breakfast, lunch or dinner serving.

I have often heard it said that it is too much trouble to cook natural, whole foods. Kramer’s book puts that notion to rest. Her selections go from raw to table, quickly and easily. Just right for busy families.

Author Allyson Kramer is a Philadelphia-based author who specializes in whole and gluten-free foods. Her work has been widely published in magazines and newspapers and online, and she has written two other cookbooks.

The culinary fun starts on the cover of this book. This recipe in simplicity of preparation that characterizes the recipes Kramer has developed for her readers. The publisher gave us permission to quote one of the recipes and I chose the Dilly Avocado Toasts from the cover.

They make a nice tea option, lunch choice, snack or party food. Kramer says she makes them when friends drop by. I might just serve them the next time book club meets at my house!

Dilly Avocado Toasts

4 servings


4 slices gluten –free whole wheat bread

1 avocado peeled and pitted

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp white balsamic vinegar

½ tsp lemon zest

2 radishes thinly sliced

2 Tablespoons chopped, fresh dill

1 Tablespoon sunflower seeds


Preheat oven to broil and place the slices of bread on a metal baking sheet. Broil for 3-5 minutes, until the bread is a golden brown flipping after two minutes. (Alternatively, you can use a toaster)

In a small bowl, made the flesh of the avocado with the salt, vinegar, and lemon zest. Spread the mashed avocado mix on the toast and artfully arrange the radish slices, dill and sunflower seeds.

Enjoy immediately.

This recipe is excerpted from Naturally Lean: 125 Nourishing, Gluten-Free, Plant-Based Recipes—All Under 300 Calories by Allyson Kramer. Copyright © 2016. Available from Da Capo Press, an imprint of Perseus Books, a division of PBG Publishing, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Title | Naturally Lean: 125 Nourishing Gluten-Free, Plant –Based Recipes, all under 300 calories

Author | Allyson Kramer

Publisher | Da Capo Press, Paperback