Book Review: The Golden Door Cooks at Home


I enjoy reading before bed.  The reading I choose needs to be stimulating, but at the same time I need to be knocked out after a few pages.  One night recently after tucking the kids into bed I decided to browse through my copy of the Golden Door Cooks at Home. Big mistake……the photos and recipes stimulated all my senses.

I wanted to reach through the glossy pages and devour each and every recipe.  I wanted to call the chef/author Dean Rucker and shower him with praise and accolades.  I wanted to join him at the Golden Door Spa to assist in creating clean, healthy, yummy meals.  I wanted to leap into my kitchen and start cooking.

In a nutshell, the thought of sleep became miles away.  Each page was a treat.  From sweet to savory to everything in between, this cookbook works the senses.   In my FFC posts I stress the importance of Superfoods, Mindful Eating, Portion Control, Daily Balance and a No Deprivation Policy.  Chef Dean, & The Golden Door Spa share similar thoughts on this sort of lifestyle.

This quote from the book says it all……

“Our mission at the Golden Door Spa has nothing to do with a virtue diet: it’s about feeling sated, nurtured, and above all healthy.”

Spa Meets Cookbook

A few months ago I decided it was time to do my first cookbook review.  It couldn’t be just any cookbook.  Anything I sink my teeth into (food or otherwise) needs to be worth my time.  Are you guys familiar with the Golden Door Spa?  It was one of the first spas of it’s kind.  The Golden Door set the bar and laid the ground work (and still does) for what most spas strive for today.  It integrates clean eating, exercise, spa experiences and mindful lifestyle choices.  The spa teaches and keeps the focus on a healthy lifestyle while respecting and indulging the senses.  I could sure use  a trip to a Golden Door Spa right about now.  You?

Recently, I was sent a copy of this book. This beautiful hard cover book is proudly displayed in the front line of my cookbook collection.  The only problem I have with it?  I wish each and every recipe could be magically prepared and placed in front of me each day.  From the photos to the text, this is a very well thought out cookbook.

Do these quotes from the book sound familiar?  They are same principles I speak about on FFC regularly.

  • “For generations the Golden Door has advocated a diet based on whole foods and plants, served in reasonable portions” (I speak often about mindful eating and portion control.)
  • Regarding Superfoods “It’s about adding to your diet, choosing from a short list of whole, wholesome, delicious foods-with no labels to read!”
  • Dr. Wendy Bazilian the nutrition specialist at the Golden Door Spa says: “Along with Superfoods and a healthy diet, exercise, stress management, and sleep are all vital elements of a super healthy life.” (Our FFC community is always striving for BALANCE.)

Chef Dean who created the recipes for the cookbook has a very modern approach to food.  He mixes his fresh take with a nice balance of traditional techniques.  When I say “modern” I mean healthy—no fake, diety stuff.  When I say “traditional”  I refer to the way foods used to be prepared before mass industrialized packaged “meals” became the norm. In each recipe Dean sources the freshest seasonal ingredients.  There is a focus on lean proteins, fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains.  He demonstrates that eating healthy can taste great with additions of small amounts of healthy fats,  flavorful spices and seasonings. His ingredient list is easily attainable to the home chef.

As I share in my recipes, I like to use small amounts of certain ingredients that pack in a bunch of flavor but don’t add too many additional calories.  Chef Rucker does the same.  Every ingredient is real, nothing fake and your body will love you for this!  He uses bolder flavored cheeses, spices & flavor filled oils to add flavor.  When you use the real deal you don’t need to add much to get great results.

Chef Rucker also shares the importance of mindful eating, portion control and exercise. Each of these components work hand in hand together to create a high energy, fit body and mind.  When our foods taste great and we feel fulfilled it is much easier to create better eating habits.  Our portion sizes can be reduced because we feel satisfied.  Isn’t that the ultimate goal?  We want to leave the table feeling fabulous. Yes, you should sit down and mindfully chew each bite of your food at the table, not standing over the sink watching TV.   We want our bodies and minds to be fit inside and outside.  Remember my Resolutions post?

If I were to write a book (which I would love to) it would be along these lines.  If I made enough money from my book,  I would invite Chef Dean over to cook for me!!   We want food that is nutrient dense and full of flavor.  Our goal is to be happy and satisfied.  In this book flavors are well represented without deprivation. The Golden Door Cooks at Home reinforces that it is possible to be a healthy, fit foodie with a very flat tummy!

Fresh Tips

Note to parents of small children who have very limited time in the kitchen:

  • Many of the recipes in this book are full meal presentations.  For instance a fish will be served with a sauce and a starch.  A lot of us do not have time to make everything at once.  As always do what you can when you can.  Perhaps you cook in intervals, the starch on one day and the protein the next then combine them for a complete meal.  Remember these are ideal meals created by full time chefs. We need to work within our own limitations.
  • Cook up a Big Batch!  Make more than the recipe suggests so you have something healthy & delicious to grab when you are hungry.  Remember that the availability of clean eats will keep us on track.  There is less chance of grabbing the wrong thing if the right food is within reach!  We like that.  If you make too much?  Freeze it!

What I like about Chef Deans creations is that they leave room for interpretation.  You can switch out or add  ingredients here and there and achieve excellent results!  Sort of like an artists canvas that you can embellish with as many colors as you wish.

A recipe from each category that I am immediately drawn to includes:

  • Appetizer: Basil Artichoke Spinach Dip with Corn Crisps
  • Salad: Chopped Vegetable Salad with White Balsamic Dijon Vinaigrette
  • Soup: Creamy Cauliflower
  • Vegetarian Main Dish: Red Lentil Veggie Burgers with Garlicky yam Fries and Spicy Mango Ketchup
  • Seafood: Pan Roasted Halibut with Crab Mashed Potatoes, Spinach and Gazpacho Vinaigrette
  • Poultry and Lean Meats: Walnut Crusted Turkey Scallopini with Smashed Yams and Cranberry Vinaigrette
  • Dessert: Chocolate Chip Cookies (Vegan)
  • Breakfast: Cottage Griddle Cakes with Blueberry-Peach Syrup
  • Teas, Juices and other Drinks: Watermelon Cranberry Lime Slushy
  • Vinaigrettes and Dressings: Asparagus Vinaigrette (Vegan)
  • Basics: Caramelized Onions

In addition to the recipes there are also sections on:

  • Mindful Eating Tips
  • Superfoods: Defined and used throughout the book
  • Basics: Simple tips & preparations to partner with meals
  • Helpful Notes: about Organic and Sustainable ingredients
  • Nutritional Info: on each recipe per serving
  • The Bento Box: Six Core Recipes that go into a healthy Japanese inspired meal
  • Fitness Tips
  • Keeping a Food Diary
  • Meditation

What I like most in this cookbook is that the writing is kept relatively brief and to the point.  The layout is simple to thumb through. It is easy to find exactly what you are looking for.  Great for us high energy folks always on the go!

I look forward to making my way through this cookbook.  I will play around with the recipes and add my own twists.   I will improvise where I need to.  Always remember you have the flexibility with your own cooking.  You own your cooking and you own your body.  That said, make adjustments according to time, budget seasonality and accessibility to ingredients. It’s your tummy and your taste buds right?  Make everything you put to your lips well worth your time!

To my Vegan friends: You will be pleased with how many recipes are all ready vegan and how many can be re-interpreted to fit a vegan lifestyle!

As much as this book is a cookbook, it is also a lifestyle book.  Again, a very similar approach that I take on Don’t let the beautiful photos mislead you, the recipes presented are very achievable both quickly and efficiently…..even when you have little kids running around. You will be pleasantly surprised how even little kids will enjoy the foods and flavors presented in this book.  As I always suggest, keep introducing your kids to clean foods.  If they say no one day they might say yes the next.  Kids are funny like that!  They will grow to have worldly palates and healthy bodies and minds if we take the time to guide them.

Get the Book

Would you like your very own  fabulous copy of the Golden Door Cooks at Home?  If so please visit my Amazon store to purchase a copy.

The Golden Door Spa is only a Click Away (we wish!)

The spa has five locations.  From sunny California, to the Caribbean, to the  Sonoran desert to Utah’s alpine bliss.  You can pick your spot, your own thing.  Or you can dream about it like me!  I have yet to visit the Golden Door, but if and when I do you can be sure to read about it here!

Shall the doors at the Golden Door ever swing open my way, I will gladly step through…….each and every experience there sounds welcoming, tasty and fabulous!

Golden Door Spa

Chef Dean Rucker at The Boulders Resort Tips, Tricks and Techniques

Please view my post: Getting Started to get you going on grocery shopping & prepping your clean, healthy, yummy foods.

~ Marla Meridith

Join the Conversation

9 thoughts on “Book Review: The Golden Door Cooks at Home

  1. Looks wonderful! I’m always looking for new cookbooks that are pleaser to all, and healthy, of course. Thanks for such an honest review, cause you’re right, we don’t have time to waste on all the other stuff out there : )

  2. Sounds great. I reviewed the Rancho La Puerta Spa cookbook a while back (they’re in Baja). Haven’t been there yet, but the recipes in the book are quite good.

    I’m an early riser too… the problem is that I stay up late too. That’s one of my goals for Ten in ’10- get more sleep!

  3. Ironically the Golden Door is THE reason I decided to focus my life on spa! When I was 16 I read about their program. I was 50 pounds overweight – and mimicked their diet/exercise plan at home that summer and lost the weight. Ever since I’ve been passionate about sharing what I consider the greatest secret on earth: Being Healthy is Fun and Indulgent when you approach it from the spa perspective. Great post & I do have this book – highly recommend. See you at the spa, Candy

  4. Hi Marla, great review! I unfort cannot buy another cookbook…I can hardly get thru the ones I have. Actually, I never get thru them b/c I get all ADD and just start creating my own recipes LOL. But duly noted their are vegan options in this one.
    Read your lovely comments tonite from my crackberry on way in to teach hot yoga class. They put a spring in my step…thank you my (gum chewing) friend 🙂 xoxo

  5. Your review is really fantastic and well thought-out, Marla! You covered every aspect of this book that I would have had a question on. It looks like there’s some gorgeous eye candy in this book and the recipes sound tantilizing…that seafood dish sounds to-die-for! I’m totally on board with a spa day! 😉

  6. wonderful review–so thorough and informative! incidentally, i wake up super-early too and often find the quiet of the morning to be the highlight of my day. 🙂