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What the Bible Says about Healthy Living Cookbook Review by Donna Campos

Hope Egan and Amy Cataldo, Foreword by Rex Russell, M.D.
Heart of Wisdom Publishing
200 Coble Road
Shelbyville, TN 37160

Simple and tasty recipes are found in this glossy, soft-cover book of 220 pages. It is a companion book to Dr. Rex Russell's book What the Bible Says about Healthy Living, in which he presents information based on biblical mandates for food consumption. In addition to the Foreword by Dr. Russell, the cookbook includes an Introduction, "Getting Started," eight chapters, two Appendixes (three pages of Leviticus 11 [NASB], and a three-page list of clean and unclean meats), a five-page Index, and the personal stories of the two authors. Chapters include "Vegetables, Dressings, and Sauces," "Grains and Potatoes," "Fish, Poultry, Beef and Lamb," "Meatless Main Dishes," "Soup, Stew and Chili," "Breakfast," "Desserts and Fruit," and "Appetizers and Snacks." There are more than one 150 recipes included. The previous book written by Dr. Russell is not a prerequisite for using the cookbook, but it may provide a deeper understanding of healthy living. Within homeschools the book may be used to help older children and teenagers learn positive cooking habits with healthy ingredients, including biblical knowledge of food references.

"Getting Started" is an entire section outlining items you may want to stock in your pantry and is an excellent start to truly beginning a change in cooking habits. The section lists nonperishable items like applesauce, beans, broth, extra virgin olive oil, sweeteners, and vinegars. Other categories include Perishable Pantry Items (butter, cheese, eggs, etc.) and Dried Herbs and Spices (divided into Must-haves and Good-to-haves). There is also a list of needed equipment.

Each chapter begins with a full-page listing all of the recipes in that chapter. A one-page description of the chapter follows, with biblical information about the food contained in the chapter. Also included are possible variations to recipes as well as tips called "Love Thy Leftovers" to help you better utilize any leftover food. Most recipes include a note about "Divine Design" marked by a little olive branch symbol. These are interesting nutritional facts pointing to God's amazing design behind our food. You will learn that adding beans without added sugar will help lower cholesterol and reduce body fat. Arthritis sufferers find relief in eating fish with omega-3 fatty acids, which ease inflammation of joints. Chicken is rich in niacin, which helps protect people from Alzheimer's disease and other age-related mental disorders.

Our family loves this cookbook, and it is leading our entire family into a healthier lifestyle. I say the entire family because while I was reviewing this book my parents were visiting. They started taking notes, and before leaving our house they had gone online and ordered copies of their own! The Foreword highlights the three foundational Principles from the original book by Dr. Russell; it stresses eating only items God created for food, eating them as they were intended, and avoiding addictions, as no food should become a god to us. I read aloud the Foreword with my ten-year-old when I first began to review this book, thinking, in all honesty, he would be bored. Rather, he was enthralled and quickly became excited about changing how we eat--even if it meant giving up pork chops! He functions on the autism spectrum and is acquainted with dietary issues as we have used the gluten free/casein free diet over the years. Yet, because these ideas are biblically based, he was wholeheartedly ready to follow God in this area of our lives and make changes. (I was not reviewing this cookbook with GF/CF details in mind, and we did not find any particular references to that diet. But because the recipes focus on using non-processed foods, many are GF/CF friendly and could likely be easily altered by changing flour.) Be aware that wines are used in some recipes, as is the rather expensive extra virgin olive oil. We have had to adjust to chopping more vegetables and have begun buying more fresh. But it has been a family project to work out what we will try next, and we are slowly moving toward healthier living thanks to this cookbook. We all seem to enjoy eating as well. Having more people involved in chopping vegetables and preparing meals has fostered a sense of togetherness.

Our greatest enjoyment from the book came from the "Divine Design" nutritional facts, as they point to God's design in our food and consistently brought us back to the Bible. These short tidbits became instant Bible study points as a sense of awe in His plan for our diets was revealed. And of course, the measuring, cutting, and multiplying of recipes for larger groups offered math practice in a variety of ways. The What the Bible Says about Healthy Living Cookbook is an excellent way to combine the Bible and cooking in your homeschool. Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls have replaced our former "not so healthy" chocolate chip cookies, and we have enjoyed trying different variations of the Beef Brisket. We are quickly finding healthier favorites--and without too much extra time in the kitchen. Our family was obviously happy with this cookbook, as I have difficulty finding any fault within its pages. We are often so aware of what we are putting into our children's minds. The What the Bible Says about Healthy Living Cookbook helps us pay attention to what we put into their bodies.

Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2009