Summer Recipe & Cookbook Review: Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

July 17, 2009

By Lindsay Muscato, HSC Writer/Communications Specialist


For healthy, delicious recipes, Heidi Swanson is my go-to favorite. Her printed compilation of winning dishes is Super Natural Cooking, and her regularly updated blog is 101 Cookbooks

Heidi began the blog in order to dust off all the cookbooks she'd accumulated. Over time, she has developed her own style and expert voice, plus she includes lush photography of each dish.  I turn to the blog for the latest foods to hit Heidi's table, but I use the book as a ready reference. It provides  shopping lists, ingredient substitutions and suggestions for a well-stocked pantry. This saves me multiple trips to the grocery store and has introduced me to new ingredients without being overwhelming. (Hello, “agave nectar.” Goodbye “corn syrup.”)  Plus her advice on “cooking by color” helps even a natural foods novice begin improvising based on a few staples.

Occasionally I've had to look beyond my regular grocery store for some items (the need for dried hibiscus flowers, below, sent me to a local ethnic foods market) but thanks to the magic of the internet, I've been able to find pretty much everything or devise an available alternative. Most dishes use simple ingredients and are short on prep time.

Jamaica_iced_tea_recipe

For a summertime Kool-Aid alternative, try this refreshing drink, especially at a picnic where pink-stained mouths and fingers are already part of the routine.

Agua de Jamaica

7 cups water
1/2 cup dried hibiscus petals
1/3 cup natural cane sugar, plus more as needed
1 lime, thinly sliced, for garnish

Heidi's directions:

First off, select a pot that won't stain (pretty much anything other than a white enameled one). Hibiscus has the potential to stain just about anything it comes into contact with, including countertops, cookware, wooden spoons and your favorite jeans.

Bring four cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from the heat. Stir in the hibiscus and the 1/3 cup sugar, cover and steep for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice along the way to help dissolve the sugar granules.

Pour the infusion through a strainer into a pitcher or jug (this is usually where something gets stained) and add the remaining three cups of water to the pitcher. Taste and adjust the flavor based on your personal preference, adding more sweetener or water if need be. Cool completely and serve over plenty of ice in glasses garnished with a slice of lime. Serves 8. 

From Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson. Photo by Heidi Swanson.