"Sexy isn't in your closet; sexy is in your kitchen," writes Candice Kumai in the introduction to her latest cookbook, Cook Yourself Sexy.
This sounds like it's going to be a steamy page turner — at least for a cookbook.
In all seriousness, though, the recipes in this book are all about cooking and eating good food. Take the Japanese and Southeast Asian-influenced Spicy Peanut Soba Noodles, for example: They're cool and refreshing, dressed with a rice-wine vinaigrette that incorporates just enough peanut butter to make the dish satisfyingly rich without going over the top in calories or fat. Or the Chili-Lime Shrimp Tacos, which ditch the greasy meats and fattening cheese found in most tacos and sub in waist-friendly shrimp and an apple-cabbage slaw bursting with flavor. And the Lime Chicken Soup is also flavorful and diet-friendly.
While some of the recipe titles are a bit on the cutesy side, with names like Marry Me Spaghetti and Meatballs, Skinny Jean Sliders, and Pho and Champagne in Bed, that doesn't take away from the fact that they're delicious — and don't taste anything like diet food.
But Kumai also plays naughty by featuring a few true indulgences here and there — Oxtail Ragù with Pappardelle is wonderfully rich and is a testament to Kumai's formal culinary training, but one can't help wondering how this is supposed to fit into a healthy eating regime. Rosemary-Garlic Fries with Agave-Shallot Ketchup also sound amazing — amazingly good and amazingly naughty at the same time, that is. And impossible to ignore is the entire dessert section in the back of the book.
The resolution lies in the seven-day sample diet plan in the beginning of the book based on the book's recipes. Pay careful attention and most people will notice that, at least during the weekdays, both portion sizes and dish choices are going to take some time to get used to — like a new pair of skinny jeans. Take Tuesday for example — the day begins with a cup of tea and just one sliced apple, with a tablespoon of peanut butter. Lunch is equally challenging, with just a beet-quinoa salad and a soda water to wash it all down, and by the time your stomach is rumbling at dinner, there's just a bowl of minestrone soup, a piece of whole-wheat pita, and herbal tea waiting for you. Tough love.
But the weekends are different.
Sunday, for instance, will feel like an all-day feast in comparison — Spelt Pancakes with Blueberry Jam for breakfast, Roasted Tomatoes with Barley for lunch, and at dinner, a roasted chicken with fingerling potatoes. Diet hard on the weekdays, indulge a little — very little — on the weekends. If you treat the recipes in this cookbook like those from any other cookbook and just eat as much as you want, of whatever you want all the time, then it probably won't work for you.
Hey, nobody said it was going to be easy.
After all, Kumai is "here to help you whip your fridge, mind, and a** into shape." If that's not motivation to get back into the kitchen and cook something right for a change, we don't know what is.
It's probably not something that will be on the menu at the local brunch joint, which is why we like it.
Kumai pays homage to her Japanese grandmother with this heartwarming recipe.
Forget frozen — make your own at home instead.
Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.