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Maya's Secrets cookbook cover with border

American Cancer Society Cookbook Features Latin Flavor

Article date: August 20, 2014

By Stacy Simon

Add some pizzazz to your cooking with the recipes in Maya’s Secrets, available in English and Spanish (Los Secretos de Maya) from the American Cancer Society. The cookbook offers more than 100 healthy, easy-to-prepare recipes that capture flavors from Mexico and Central and South America. 

Authors Maya León-Meis, a former TV food show host, Malena Perdomo, MS, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian, and Martin Limas-Villers, a professional chef, selected favorite dishes from their childhoods in Peru, Panama, and Mexico. Although they adapted a few traditional dishes such as refried beans to use healthier ingredients without sacrificing flavor, they mostly focused on dishes that already incorporated healthy ingredients including vegetables, chicken, fish, and brown rice.

“Latin people are very attached to our cooking traditions,” said León-Meis, “so we focused less on changing recipes and more on selecting recipes that were originally healthier as well as delicious.”

Maya’s ‘Wonder Juice’

León-Meis became passionate about healthy eating after her second bout with breast cancer. “The first time I had breast cancer, I was under a lot of stress and I wasn’t eating healthy,” she said. “When it came back 20 years later, I realized how important it was to eat healthy.”

After she lost her appetite during chemotherapy, León-Meis came up with her own juice that she says was the only thing she could eat, and gave her the energy she needed to go on with the treatments. She dubbed it “Wonder Juice” and included it in the cookbook.

Los Secretos de Maya

Publishing the cookbook in Spanish as well as English, according to León-Meis, is “huge.” She says very few Spanish-language cookbooks published in the US capture a variety of Latin American flavors. What’s more, the authors made sure to use ingredients that are available in this country.

For example, many Peruvian dishes are made with a hot pepper sauce that is not widely available in American grocery stores. Through trial and error, León-Meis devised a recipe for a sauce that mimics the same flavor, but uses yellow bell peppers instead of Peruvian yellow ají peppers.

In all, the book includes more than 100 recipes for appetizers, salads, soups, main dishes, desserts and more. Special sections include a guide to common chilies, basic Latin salsas and sauces, and cooking for children. Bonus features include tips on stocking your kitchen for healthy eating, ways to make recipes healthier, and American Cancer Society guidelines on nutrition and physical activity.

Maya’s Secrets, Los Secretos de Maya, and other cookbooks are available through the American Cancer Society bookstore.

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