Check-out Rocco’s much-anticipated follow-up, in our review of the Now Eat This! Diet, released March 22, 2011.
If you ask me what my favorite foods are, all the healthy living aside, I will tell you without hesitation they are fried chicken and baked macaroni and cheese. For dessert, I would likely choose a fat brownie. Now a meal like that would set me back well beyond a day’s worth of 2,000 calories, and double the 65g of recommended total fat per day. That’s why I never eat these foods.
So when I opened “Now Eat This,” the newest cookbook from Chef Rocco Dispirito, and found that I could have fried chicken, mac ‘n cheese and a brownie for less than 500 calories and less than 20g of fat, I was very interested. And I think you will be, too!
A few years ago, Rocco realized he’d put on about 30 pounds. That’s what happens when you work around food for more than 25 years; in Rocco’s case, really good food. So he set-out to change that, calling himself “a latecomer to the diet/exercise weight loss experience.” He says his body protested, carrying 20 percent body fat, but he pushed through with the help of a trainer and a dedicated fitness plan. He followed a modified Atkins diet, gave up alcohol and carbs and stuck to high-protein eats. That, plus double-cardio sessions six days a week, helped him get back in shape, and take on a triathlon and an iron man.
Soon thereafter, Biggest Loser came calling, and invited Rocco to be a guest chef on season 5 (and again for season 6 and 7). They asked him to make healthier versions of the contestants favorite comfort foods, which in “Now Eat This” he calls “bad boy foods” or “downfall dishes.” Rocco tells us that Biggest Loser gave him “the most impossible parameters I’ve ever been challenged with” to create these recipes: no fat, no sugar, no cholesterol, no salt, and no artificial ingredients. But he did it, and did it well. In fact he modified the Mint Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt he prepared for contestant Mark Kruger and published it in “Now Eat This.”
Between his Biggest Loser experience and his personal weight loss, Rocco became motivated to write “Now Eat This.”
“I was angry that there weren’t cookbooks out there that addressed how to make food healthy and taste good at the same time,” he tells us, “You’d think with all the experts out there, and the amount of chefs writing cookbooks, someone would say ‘Hey I can make fried chicken three or four hundred calories less and still make it taste pretty good.'” So he asked himself, “Why don’t I put my money where my big mouth is?”
Believe me, he did. “Now Eat This” features “150 of America’s favorite comfort foods.” Rocco says he could have guessed at what those were, but enlisted the help of Twitter to identify what these recipes should be. Then he set to work, testing as many as eight recipes each week in his kitchen (down to one every three weeks when he got to desserts because of the difficulty in “breaking the code”). The result is a collection of recipes that are all under 350 calories, low in fat and no sugar.
Not to downplay the difficulty in making these healthier versions of our bad boy favorites, but cutting the calories and fat does seem accomplishable when you try; for instance, his faux frying technique that makes many of his recipes possible. But eliminating sugar completely and retaining the flavor? That seems like a task. Rocco admits it was “relatively easy” and notes that his recipes call for readily-available ingredients like all-natural Truvia, Splenda (“for those who don’t care about the chemicals”), agave nectar and relying on the natural sweetness in foods.
In addition to his favorites of the fried chicken and mac ‘n cheese, he calls the “Now Eat This” Brownies the hero of the book. He was able to get this sinful dessert down to an astonishing 53 calories and 1.6 g of fat per serving. How? He used black beans because “They are a high quality ingredient, tremendous nutritional value, full of fiber, that provides me with a texture I need to make brownies and chocolate chip cookies taste like they were made from flour and fat.”
His insider recommendation: chill the brownies and eat them the next day, he says they are remarkable that way. Rocco also says this about the brownies: “They can be an all day snack bar because they are high protein, high fiber… very little fat, there’s no downside to eating those, you could eat 10 per day.”
One of Rocco’s other favorite foods is bacon, one he says “I don’t want to live without.” When he began experimenting, he says “turkey bacon wasn’t good enough.” That’s when he found the Hormel Real Bacon Bits, which made the 331 calorie Spaghetti Carbonara possible. He says they render, or blot, the bacon which reduces the fat about fifty percent.
“Now Eat This” is as family-friendly as it is dinner party-friendly, making this an essential for any home cook who wants to enjoy and serve favorite comfort foods without sacrificing health, quality or flavor. You’re bound to find several of your personal favorites revamped in this colorful new cookbook.
Order “Now Eat This” for yourself. To win one of two copies, leave a comment below telling us why your kitchen needs this book. (Two winners will be selected Tuesday, Mar. 9, 2010.) Winners selected were Yvette and Lori.
Try Now Eat This! Recipes
Try these Biggest Loser recipes by Chef Rocco: