When I picked up Good Housekeeping’s textbook-sized cookbook “400 Healthy Recipes,” I thought I’d found the way out of my monotonous rotation of weekday meals.

Easy, delicious, low-calorie, the subtitle read. Perfect, I thought.

The book is divided into three sections: grains, vegetarian and light and healthy. Each begins with an explanation of the nutritional benefits.

Whole grains have glut of health benefits, from reducing the chance of stroke to improving dental health. Less meat makes way for more grains, as well as healthy fruits and vegetables. And being mindful of calories is the most surefire method of weight control – and, with the right recipes, much more satisfying than any fad diet.

I’ll admit, I don’t cook much with grains – possibly because I don’t know how, something this cookbook could easily fix. I also don’t make many meatless dinners, so that section wasn’t as appealing. And since I was hoping the cookbook would expand my easy dinner options, I wasn’t that interested in the breakfast or dessert offerings. Thus, the 400 recipes I started with were quickly whittled down to a few dozen.

Even then, many of the pasta dishes and protein and vegetable combinations were similar to meals I already make, offering little inspiration. Most of the more unusual recipes that did catch my eye, such as Brazilian pork and Thai chicken with basil, called for too many ingredients, ones I didn’t have on hand and wasn’t willing to buy.

That is, until I landed on Pad Thai.

I’ve always been intimidated by cooking Asian cuisine, though – as a broad category – it’s probably my favorite food to eat.

Unlike Italian or Mexican food, my two go-tos, I have little understanding of the basic ingredients or how to cook them.

The rice noodles in this dish, for example, weren’t boiled like pasta, but only soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and, though they still seemed a little hard after that, two additional minutes in the skillet made them perfect.

And though I can throw soy sauce and sesame oil on a stir-fry and pretend like I’m making an Asian masterpiece, I was surprised to find that it was fish sauce that makes Pad Thai taste like Pad Thai.

Without a recipe, I would have had no idea where to start with the dish, but it turned out I had most of the ingredients and the directions made it look pretty quick and easy to make. And it was – so easy, in fact, that I made it again a week later from memory, substituting chicken for the shrimp the recipe calls for.

I did, however, mistakenly use too much fish sauce, making the dish salty. Personally, I’d recommend cutting down slightly from the amount called for in the recipe.

Although I was sure it was too simple to turn out like anything I’d ever eaten at a restaurant, it tasted just the same (to me, anyway).

And so, the mystery of Pad Thai is gone, I have a new dish to add to my rotation, and I’ll probably be more inclined to try other Asian recipes, including the ones in “400 Healthy Recipes.”


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