Food Network Staffer Diary: I Cooked Like Pippa Middleton for 3 Days
Pippa Middleton may best be known as the svelte younger sister of Kate; after all, Pippa left the world buzzing after the way she flaunted her figure as the Duchess of Cambridge’s maid of honor at the royal wedding in 2011. The natural question anyone would have after seeing her perfect, curve-hugging ensemble that April day would be: But how does she keep herself looking so fit and gorgeous?
She may be related to a Duchess, but Pippa doesn’t actually have her own royal title (at least not yet — her engagement to James Matthews should eventually give her one, too, according to a House Beautiful article published around the time of their engagement.) She’s authored several books on party planning, and recently she released a cookbook called Heartfelt: Over 100 Quick & Easy Recipes for a Healthy Heart in conjunction with the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
It turns out that the famous younger Middleton is actually a total health nut. She’s cycled across the United States and run marathons, including the Great Wall Marathon in China to support the BHF, according to reporting by Elle. And if she eats anything like the diet she’s laid out in her new cookbook, it’s clear she puts health above pretty much everything else.
And good for her! I totally support that and honestly wish I could do a better job of eating healthfully and exercising the way I know I should. But, there is one question that any flavor-obsessed food writer like myself has to ask: How does the food taste? So, I obtained a copy of Heartfelt (the proceeds are going to charity, after all!) and decided to test some of Pippa’s recipes myself to see if I could cook and eat exclusively from her book for three whole days.
I went shopping on a Friday after work so I could start my project over the weekend. I have to say, my first observation was that cooking heart-healthy at home and totally abstaining from any restaurant or prepared foods was going to mean some serious work, so beginning on a Saturday would give me some much-needed time to properly prep and cook multiple meals.
I decided to make my first recipe a relatively simple one: Pippa’s Good Morning Green Juice. I’d started feeling a little under the weather on Friday and woke up feeling extra gross on Saturday. So a homemade green juice concoction seemed like the perfect refreshing, vitamin-packed breakfast I needed.
This was crazy-easy — a little peeling and chopping of some of the larger fruits that go into this one, like apple and kiwi, but after that, it’s just a blitz in the blender with some fresh greens and other ingredients until everything is liquefied. It didn’t require an actual juicer, which is a plus, because who wants to buy any expensive, fancy equipment they don’t need?
It also means the fiber from the fruits and veggies is still in the finished beverage. Does that actually make this a smoothie and not a juice? I’m not really sure. But I do know that it tasted almost entirely sweet and fruity, and not like greens at all, despite its bright color. So I would definitely try this again. So tasty!
Since I’m feeling icky, I decide that a big, steaming bowl of soup is just the right thing for lunch today. I flip through Heartfelt for a soup recipe that looks satisfying but also relatively quick and easy to make. I land on one with butternut squash and apple.
While I’ve been disappointed with some celeb-approved cookbooks in the past, I have to say that so far, Pippa is proving herself to me. This soup was easy to throw together — again, a little peeling and chopping to prep the squash and apple, but that was by far the hardest part of this recipe. After that, the whole thing comes together in about 20 minutes, and despite the fact that there isn’t a single grain of salt in this soup (NOT ONE — this is a heart-healthy book, remember), the spices and the vegetable stock give it great flavor.
Another win here! If you ever happen to pick up a copy of this book yourself, I’d suggest paying attention to Pippa’s note on this recipe, and making a double batch of and freezing a bunch. It’s delicious, and with about a 40-minute investment of your time, you could have lunches for WEEKS. Just sayin’.
A quick note on how this book is organized: It isn’t just divvied up by meal type, but by occasion, so there’s no “dinner/main course” section. But there are chapters for occasions like date night, family meal and entertaining. Since it is Saturday night, after all, and we are not going out, I plan to whip up something semi-special from the date night section: Chinese Salmon Parcels.
This is a dish with Asian flavors prepared using a French technique. Cooking fish in parchment paper packets is one of my favorite ways to make seafood (you cannot ruin it this way, I promise you — it’s foolproof!), so I’m already on board with the idea. Again, the seasoning is simple, with the only salt coming from some low-sodium soy sauce, and the fish is topped with tons of fresh veggies, like mushrooms and bok choy.
It’s SO good. Seriously, you guys, like, surprisingly, amazingly good! Even my boyfriend, who loves spicy, strong flavors and anything hearty, carby, meaty or cheesy, totally approved of this one and polished off his plate in no time. YES!
Again, I pick something for breakfast that sounds super simple, but I have to say that going into this, I’m a little skeptical. I love me a little toast and homemade jam, but the jam in this cookbook (or conserve, if we’re being proper) is a no-cook version, made with uber-trendy chia seeds. Are they for real? Is this just a stunt to work in fashionable ingredients, or will this actually be good? I’m about to find out.
I get to pull out my little stick blender for this one, which, I’ll admit, I’ve used maybe once since I got it a year ago, so that’s exciting in itself. After soaking the chia seeds in coconut water (another obviously trendy ingredient) until they plump up, I combine them with frozen raspberries and a little sweetener, then blend the crap out of them.
The verdict? I hate to admit it, but I kind of love this stuff. It’s super fresh, it took me five minutes, and it’s outrageously good on top of some warm banana bread I pulled out of the freezer, sliced and toasted in the oven. OMG. I’m sorry I ever doubted you, Pippa.
More squash-apple soup. I’m sick, okay? Cut me a little slack. Besides, even though I did not make a double batch (this time around, at least), there are still lots of leftovers.
More fish! Again in the form of another meal that can be made almost entirely in the oven — YAY. This one takes a little longer, as the bed of potatoes and fennel the cod will bake on top of needs a lot more time in the oven than the fish itself. But again, it’s pretty simple, with minimal chopping and prep work, and an easy enough method for just about anybody to tackle.
Sadly, this was probably my least favorite of the dishes I tried, though it certainly wasn’t bad. The cod came out perfectly cooked, and the lemony dressing on top was tasty. But I’m a Midwestern girl who LOVES potatoes, and a potato-based dish without any salt just felt a little bland and sad to me. Not a total fail, but also not a favorite I’d come back to over and over again, unless jazzed up with some other kind of spice or seasoning to give it some zing.
Since I’ve been good and sticking to the diet plan all weekend, I think I deserve a little dessert. The fruity crumble in here looks divine (whoever did this food photography knows their stuff — I’m salivating!). It also still sounds relatively healthy: a little brown sugar and butter (or butter substitute) in a crumble made mainly with oats and whole-wheat flour. It’s basically oatmeal with warm fruit, all served up with some Greek yogurt and fresh mint to finish.
I’m surprised, but this is totally satisfying. Even the Greek yogurt — a much healthier, protein-packed substitute for ice cream — actually satiates my craving for something sweet, and I don’t miss the ice cream at all. How is this possible?!
Overnight oats are a pretty regular part of my breakfast rotation during the winter anyway, so trying Pippa’s version seemed like an obvious choice. Flavored with some mashed banana and nut butter mixed right into the oats, this easy breakfast was sweet and flavorful, without a lot of added sugar or a lot of prep work. It’s a little different from my usual overnight oats formula, and I’d definitely work it into my rotation for a little variety.
MORE SOUP! I know. But honestly, I’m still not sick of it. It’s delicious.
More cod and potatoes. Sorry, folks, but there was so much! There’s no way we could eat all that in one sitting.
However, there are so many other delish-sounding recipes in this book that I can’t wait to try. Cooking from this celebrity-endorsed book was actually a surprisingly awesome experience. I’ve picked up plenty of cookbooks by famous authors, and most of them have turned out to be more than a little disappointing, but this one delivers.
Everything I tried was pretty easy to make, healthy, tasty and satisfying — basically everything you’d want in a solid cookbook that you’d use for years to come. I know I’ll be going back to it regularly when I’m in need of a fast, good-for-me meal that doesn’t make me feel totally deprived.