How Victoria Dwek Transforms Your Favorite Recipes into Guilt-Free Indulgences: Secrets of Skinny Cooking
Interview by Leah Gottheim, Kosher.com VP, with Victoria Dwek
Leah: So you have a brand new cookbook out! Why did you decide to write this cookbook about Skinny Cooking, and why did you call it that?
Victoria: I think a “diet” book isn’t as exciting. I wanted it to include fun and exciting types of food to cook and eat. This is actually the book I always wanted to write. The practical, everyday foods that I personally like are healthy and light. The other cookbooks I’ve written have plenty of exciting recipes, like the ones in Secret Kosher Restaurant books, but this is geared for everyday.
I don’t want people on diets to feel depressed and think “I can’t have this, I can’t have that.” To feel deprived of the foods they want to eat. It’s no wonder people don’t stick to their diets, if the food doesn’t taste good or appeal to them. I wanted it to be easier for people to stick to a healthy diet.
Leah: What’s the process like of writing a cookbook? How was this one different from your others?
Victoria: The difference was that I didn’t co-write this one with Leah Schapira, so I teamed up with popular nutritionist and dietician Shani Taub. I made the recipes, she gave tips and helped set the right portion sizes and other information, and gave approval of the dishes from a dietary perspective.
This cookbook was much easier to do in one way- that it was entirely under my own control, I wasn’t waiting for chefs to get back to me like with the secret restaurant recipe cookbooks.
It usually takes a year to do a cookbook. Since I was doing this one myself, rather than bringing in a photographer to do a 1-2 week straight of work shooting the images like I usually do, instead I split it up over the course of the winter. I worked with Esty Waldman- she did a great job. I would prep on Sundays, and Mondays I’d have a day with her and do about 12 dishes in a day. I took a break in December though, when I had a baby! It’s a lot of work to make a cookbook and I’m really glad I’m done.
Leah: What are your personal favorite recipes in the cookbook? And what are your family’s favorites?
Victoria: The one you see on the cover, the red pepper fettuccine, definitely a family favorite. Half of the pasta is replaced with eggplant, to keep that filling feeling and it only adds to the flavor.
The Strawberry Balsamic Salmon is my husband’s favorite. My kids love the cauliflower mac and cheese- when I first gave them some to taste they said, “Ma, you can’t have any!”
Personally I love anything with sauce and melted cheese, I could have that every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and be very happy! Or anything in the dairy chapter. I love a good muffin or the cheesy stuffed baked potatoes, and of course eggplant parmesan.
If your family is more into the meat dishes than dairy, Pulled Chicken Tacos is a great family favorite, and Mushroom Chili is another good one- no one will notice there’s vegetables in it. Corn Muffins are always a favorite too.
Leah: How do you transform a regular dish into a Skinny Cooking-worthy recipe?
Victoria: I worked with Shani Taub and swapped out ingredients in creative ways to lower calories while keeping the taste. One good example is the creme brulee recipe I included. I used whole milk instead of heavy cream and cornstarch thickens the consistency to keep it just like the real thing. It’s the science of getting it from 800 to 150 calories and still having a rich taste and great consistency.
Leah: Why revamp unhealthy recipes into healthy ones, instead of just making up new dishes that are healthy?
Victoria: I want people to enjoy what they like. If they like sesame chicken, let them have sesame chicken. If they like eggplant parmesan, here’s a light eggplant parmesan.
Leah: What was the process of making the videos like?
Victoria: The videos were great. It was fun to have feedback on those recipes and connect to people through that medium before the cookbook was even finished.
The first step to making one of my Skinny Cooking videos was to pick a recipe I’d already perfected so it would be ready to go. Then I needed to gather pretty props- a nice cutting board, knives, and everything, it all needed to look good for the camera.
When you’re making a recipe for video you need to think about the scenes of that recipe. I’d never make a plain soup on camera, you have to show a twist or a technique that’s interesting, so the viewer can learn something new.
The biggest difference between cooking on camera and cooking for still photography is that you can’t do the prep in advance, on your own time you have to wait for the videographer to show it. And sometimes if you do multiple takes of something, you end up repeating a step like adding the salt, you end up salting the dish to the point that I didn’t want to eat it afterwards! But often we did eat the food afterwards. And sometimes I’d have to prep with my left hand when I’d usually use my right, so I wouldn’t block the angle of the camera. Essentially, though, it is just regular cooking, the way you’d do it in your own kitchen. When you’re cooking, doesn’t everyone imagine you’re giving over tips on a cooking show?
Leah: Maybe….or maybe it’s just you!
Victoria: Come on, who doesn’t imagine they’re on a cooking show when they’re cooking?
Watch the recipes from the cookbook come to life on Victoria’s Kosher.com “Secrets of Skinny Cooking” show!
P. S. For the next week only- check out our giveaway! We’re so excited to share that we’re giving away TWO signed copies of Skinny Cooking! Go to our Facebook contest or our Instagram contest to enter for your chance to win the signed cookbook! Contest ends Tuesday June 13, 2017 at 11:59 EST. Good luck!