The Secret Ingredient

Happy Tuesday!

Let’s get down to business, shall we? The winner of the Taza chocolate dollars is: Brandi! Please email me with your contact info so I can get you your Taza dollars!


A few weeks ago, I received an email asking me if I would be interested in trying some recipes from The Secret Ingredient by Sally Bee. Never one to turn down recipes, especially ones that are both healthy and delicious, I jumped at the chance.

Sally Bee’s cookbook is unique in that, at a very young age, Sally suffered several heart attacks. Some information from her About page is below:

At the age of 36, Sally was in the prime of her life, she successfully juggled a career as a writer and TV presenter, as well as looking after her three young children. Her life seemed perfect.
Then in 2004 Sally suffered three major heart attacks in the space of only one week. Unbeknown to her she was born with a major heart defect that had the potential to kill her at any time. The main artery which feeds her heart had become entirely dissected (SCAD) With Sally’s life hanging in the balance, doctors asked her husband to come and say his final goodbye. It was a huge surprise to doctors when Sally managed to survive three precious hours, astonishingly she also survived until the next morning!
Five years on, Sally appears to be glowing with health. Unfortunately there is no medication that can ever cure her but in spite of this she tries to live her life to the full and be as healthy as she can possibly be. She is a big believer in living life actively and in not making a distinction between ‘tasty food’ and ‘healthy food’. Sally is nothing short of a miracle and continues to confound doctors’ expectations.
Sally is a fund raiser for heart charities and is a trained therapist giving regular talks to heart rehabilitation groups. She is also an NHS ‘Expert Patient’ having completed the expert patient programme through Stanford University, USA.


I didn’t have time to do much research before I received the book, and I was surprised at how vibrant it is and how “normal” all of the recipes seem. I guess with the author being a heart patient, I was expecting really restricted eating. Not in this book. In fact, as many of the recipes are such hearty comfort food, I will definitely be using it often in the fall and winter. Things like Guinness Beef Stew and Magnificent Moroccan Chicken will definitely be making blog appearances!

The Secret Ingredient by Sally Bee

Since I had an abundance of tomatoes and bell peppers from the farmer’s market, I decided to make the Italian Blushing Pasta which required me to roast grape tomatoes, red bell pepper, and a whole head of garlic, topped with garlic powder, oregano, black pepper, and crushed red pepper. I changed up the spices a little to make it spicier for my heat-loving palate :)

roasted tomatoes

As the veggies roasted (for about 50 minutes at 375), I cooked up some multi-grain pasta. We eat pasta pretty rarely, but over the years I have definitely stopped buying white pasta altogether. There are so many great options out there that offer great whole grains with a delicious extra bite. This was from Barilla.

Once everything was cooked, I combined the ingredients, added a bit more crushed red pepper, and served the pasta, topped with a little bit of goat cheese that may have not been part of the original recipe. ;)


We also had an Olivia’s Organics mixed herb salad with fresh farm tomatoes and a little basil oil that I made by throwing a huge bunch of basil in the food processor with some EVOO. Yummy.


The recipes in The Secret Ingredient are simple but also offer a wow factor that make many of them perfect for entertaining as well as for every day. They are broken down into Soups & Starters, Salads, Sides & Vegetarian, Chicken, Fish, Beef, Lamb & Pork, and Desserts. Each recipe is marked with Everyday or Treat, showing just how each one fits into a balanced diet. Sprinkled throughout the book there are tips for eating better, whether it be better fast food, including a rainbow of veggies, or learning proper portion sizes.

I am excited that many of the recipes in this book will be perfect for fall and winter weather, we all know we get enough of that in Boston, and staying in with some good homemade food and wine is the best way to get through it. I have to say while I enjoy summer, I look forward to those chilly nights. . .

If you could create the perfect season what would it be? Mine would include farmer’s market produce year round, warm, sunny days, and really chilly nights. Actually, that already exists. . . Northern California ;)

So the good news is that I have a copy of The Secret Ingredient to give away to a lucky reader.

To enter:

1) Leave a comment here telling me your favorite time of year to cook and why.

2) Visit Sally Bee’s website to check out the recipe of the week. Here you can get great free recipes!

3) If you have a blog, link back to this post. If you don’t have a blog, link back on Facebook or Twitter.

I will announce the winner of the Harvard Sweet Boutique giveaway tonight!

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Tags: book review, Food, healthy, pasta, recipe, Sally Bee, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian

  1. MelissaNibbles’s avatar

    Cool! That looks great and I love a simple recipe.
    My favorite time of the year to cook is anytime I’m hungry…all year long!


  2. Corinne’s avatar

    Wow. Sally Bee is truly inspirational! What a great story. Thank you for sharing :)

    I absolutely love cooking in the fall. There is something about the chilly evenings and winter produce that make my heart beat faster. Pumpkin, squash, apples, SOUP, oh my. Also, the fact you can use the oven and stove w/o the kitchen feeling like 100 degrees (aka summer) is a huge plus!


  3. Megan’s avatar

    Yes, I dream of living in Northern California too. Sigh. I really love cooking in the fall. I bet if we had a grill, my answer would change, but I’m really looking forward to baking a lot of bread and making soups and hearty dishes in the fall… there’s still some farmers’ market activity around here until November, which is a plus too.


  4. genesis’s avatar

    winter has to be my favorite time to cook. hearty stews/soups and holiday baking is what i look forward to.


  5. brandi’s avatar

    Oh, I’m so excited about the Taza!!!!

    And this cookbook sounds awesome. My family has had a lot of heart problems in the past – sounds like it would be a great book to have!

    I love both the summer and fall for cooking. But fall has always been my all-time favorite season.


  6. Rebecca @ How the Cookies Crumble’s avatar

    I love cooking all year long but like the seasonal changes. In the winter I love cooking soups or roasting food in the oven and heating up the whole house. In the summer I like to keep it light and easy and LOVE cooking on the grill!


  7. Simply Life’s avatar

    oh that looks great!


  8. Jen@Twenty-Something and Starving’s avatar

    I don’t know if I can really pick a favorite time of year to cook! I can’t picture myself living somewhere without all four seasons, simply because I love the fact that I can cook differently for each one! I love summer because I LOVEEEEEEEE grilling and making cool, light meals for dinner but I love the winter because I can eat soup every single day and never get sick of it!


  9. Brian @ A Thought For Food’s avatar

    I’m a huge fan of cooking in the fall/winter. I love making soups and having the house fill up with amazing smells. There’s nothing that warms the soul more than cooking. :-)


  10. Elina’s avatar

    Summer (right about now) is my favorite time to cook because the fresh produce at the farmers market is plentiful but it’s still relatively early in the season so it’s especially exciting. :)
    This book sounds great!


  11. Squeaky Gourmet’s avatar

    Wow–3 in a week! YIKES!
    My favorite time of year to cook is winter because it warms the home, spring because the earth is waking up and there are baby things to cook like deer–eerr I mean spring fruits, summer because the earth is rich and bursting with fruits and veggies and fall because it is hunting season and time to try out new ideas!


  12. Isabelle’s avatar

    This is my first time hearing about Sally bee… what an amazing and inspirational author! Thanks for sharing her story with us.
    Like a lot of the other commenters, my favourite season for cooking is definitely autumn. It’s the peak of the harvest season here in Canada, so the fresh produce is plentiful and cheap and delicious. Plus I love how it cools off enough to make all those braises and stews and long-simmered sauces that I don’t dare make during the summer. I love the way those kinds of dishes fill the house with delicious smells for hours on end.


  13. Anne @ Food Loving Polar Bear’s avatar

    That coobook sounds amazing!

    I love cooking in summer, more fresh ingredients available but also in winter which are REALLY cold here and perfect for hot comfort foods :)


  14. Erika @ Food, Fitness, & Fun’s avatar

    My favorite time of year to cook is the summertime because there is such a bounty of fresh produce. :-D


  15. torviewtoronto’s avatar

    Lovely colours of the pasta
    I love to cook in the Summer with fresh vegetables from the garden and make lots of different beverages


  16. jenny’s avatar

    My favorite time to cook is definitely fall. Pumpkin soup, apple pie, and other delicious and hearty foods make autumn my favorite foodie season :D


  17. Katelynn’s avatar

    Each season has it’s own perks to cooking. I do have to say that my favorite out of all of the seasons is the fall. There is something so comforting about fall food. I love using fresh apples, pumpkins, and butternut squash in my cooking. I only really use this in the fall when they are in season. The chill in the air welcomes soups, stews, and other comforting food that tastes the best in the fall.


  18. Katherine Ryan’s avatar

    My favourite season to cook in is Winter – I love filling the house with baking smells… gingerbread, cinnamon tea cake, golden syrup dumplings, and slow-cooking casseroles with red wine and garlic.

    I’d love this book, I have a heart condition myself and heart disease features pretty prominently in my family tree. As I love to cook and eat, it’s great that the recipes are still tasty and interesting as well as healthy.


  19. Clarice’s avatar

    Everyone is right that there’s just something special about baking and cooking in the fall. Making a big pot of chili with corn bread is one of my favorite things.


  20. Erin’s avatar

    I love to cook in the winter, when the oven/stove heat up the kitchen and the finished product warms me up both physically and mentally.


  21. Courtney’s avatar

    While summer is my favorite season I love cooking in winter best because the foods are as comforting as the warm oven:)


  22. Simply Life’s avatar

    Sorry – I didn’t enter with my last comment – my favorite time to cook is fall – I love all the fresh apples and pumpkins and love being about to come home to something warm!


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