The Indianapolis couple publishes a brand new vegetarian cookbook

A couple cooks food bloggers Sonja and Alex Overhiser how they made the transition from fast food to healthy eating, and their new cookbook with super-fast recipes from start to finish.

Do you want to know if you are really in love? Step on a scale. If you’ve gained those pounds, your relationship is solid.

Study after study shows that couples in committed relationships gain weight, up to five pounds a year. All the couch canoodling in front of Netflix, the pancake brunch on Sunday mornings, and spooning the day instead of jogging add up.

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Downtown:Paleo Restaurant takes over closed Indy Steakhouse

Sonja and Alex Overhiser almost became statistics. When the Indianapolis couple met in college, they had a thing for hot pockets and cereal. He was a fan of Taco Bell chili cheese burritos. They married in 2007 and continued to make a living on fast food and cereal bowls supplemented with sticky, cheesy microwave dishes.

When the newlyweds decided to take friends over for dinner, the Overhisers found they didn’t know how to cook. So they studied Julia Child, then Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan. They switched from that first fancy French dinner for friends to their own everyday vegetarian recipes. As the Overhisers ate healthier, all chronic stomach problems disappeared, their energy increased, they were happier.

And their romance took an unexpected direction.

Food bloggers Sonja and Alex Overhiser from Couple Cooks are turning their new cookbook into a dish, Chipotle Black Bean Tortilla Soup, which contains super-fast, healthy recipes from start to finish.  They also talk about how they transitioned from fast food to healthy eating.

The Overhisers started sharing their recipes online in 2010. Her blog, A Couple Cooks, soon turned into a full-time job. They have just published their first cookbook, “Pretty Easy Cooking: 100 Delicious Recipes That Will Make You Fall in Love with Real Food.”

The collection of colorful recipes based on healthy ingredients is broken down into 10 sections of the real cooking and eating lessons the Overhisers learned between joy, tears and so many dirty dishes. Lessons like “Face Your Fear” read like mantras and give cooking meaning beyond throwing something into a pan after work. Believe in yourself (Lesson 7) and great cooking will happen in just 15 minutes. The Overhisers’ recipes prove it.

“When I said that I had to cook, I had a lot of mistakes,” said Sonja. “I think that’s one of the most important things in the kitchen to realize that there might be a mistake and how to recover from it.”

Love the creative process (lesson 3) and you will get better no matter how long you’ve been cooking.

“It’s just so much fun when you make a loaf for the first time and it actually rises. The first time you make a soup and salt it and it tastes so good, ”said Alex. “And when you can cook without a recipe.”

Cinnamon almonds, chocolate chips and toasted meringue chocolate mousse.  The recipe is in the new book “A Couple Cooks |  Pretty Easy Cooking: 100 Delicious Vegetarian Recipes to Make You Fall in Love with Real Food by Indianapolis-based food bloggers Sonja and Alex Overhiser (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2018).

The Overhisers recipes are healthy, but vibrant and delicious. Fried cauliflower and smoked jalapeno dressing fill the kind of tacos Alex offers these days. At parties, friends wipe out charred delicata pumpkin fries with spicy soy dipping sauce. Fried Sweet Potatoes and Smoked Garlic Homemade Pizza. Almonds dusted with cinnamon, chocolate chips and flamed meringue chocolate mousse.

The transition from their poor diet to a predominantly vegetarian diet was a deliberately gradual process for the Overhisers (Lesson 2: Slowing Down).

“I think that’s why we could get it working because we just decided, ‘Hey, let’s cook one vegetarian meal a week from scratch,’ and we loved it, so we said, ‘Let’s get started to cook two ‘and then’ let’s do more, ‘said Sonja.

“We started to fall in love with the process and that is why we are here today.”

Chipotle Black Bean Tortilla Soup

For 4 to 6 people

6 6 inch corn tortillas

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil plus more for brushing

1 yellow onion

1 green pepper

4 medium-sized garlic cloves

2 15-ounce cans of black beans

2 teaspoons of dried oregano

1 teaspoon of cumin

1 28-ounce can of shredded tomatoes

1½ cups of frozen corn (fire roasted if possible)

1 tablespoon of Adobo sauce (from 1 can of chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce)

1 liter (4 cups) vegetable broth

1 teaspoon of kosher salt and more for sprinkling

4 radishes for garnish

1 lime for garnish

1 handful of coriander for garnish

Hot sauce (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Make the tortilla strips: Brush the tortillas lightly with olive oil on each side. Using a pizza cutter, cut them in half and then into thin strips. Place the strips on a baking sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until crispy and lightly browned.

Make the soup: Peel and dice the onion. Dice the green pepper. Peel garlic and chop finely. Drain the beans and rinse.

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onion for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the green pepper and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in oregano and cumin for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, beans, corn, adobo sauce, broth, and kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Try and add additional adobo sauce or kosher salt if desired.

Prepare the side dishes: Cut the radishes into slices. Cut the lime into wedges.

To serve, scoop the soup into bowls and allow to cool. Garnish with tortilla strips, radishes, shredded coriander leaves, hot sauce and lots of lime juice.

Chocolate mousse with toasted meringue

Served 6

1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

1 cup heavy whipped cream

½ cup toasted salted almonds

½ teaspoon of cinnamon

2 egg whites

1⁄8 teaspoon of tartar

¼ cup granulated sugar

Almost 1⁄8 teaspoon of nutmeg

Make the chocolate mousse: ¾ Put a cup of chocolate chips in a glass measuring cup. Fill a large pan halfway with water and heat it to a low value. As soon as the water boils, turn off the heating and place the measuring cup in the water. Then stir until the chocolate has just melted. Take off the stove.

In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (or hand mixer), whip the whipped cream up for about 1 minute until soft peaks form. Pour in the melted chocolate and keep beating for a few seconds until it is pillow-like and completely mixed.

Divide the mousse into 6 small glasses, bowls or mason jars * and refrigerate for about 1 hour. Wash out the bowl of the stand mixer.

Make the almond layer: Finely chop the almonds. In a small bowl, stir together with the cinnamon. Put aside.

Make the meringue: Set the pan back to a simmer as soon as possible before serving. Put the egg whites in a small bowl. Place the egg whites, tartar cream, sugar, and nutmeg in the bowl of the stand mixer (or in a heatproof bowl if using a hand mixer). Just keep the bowl in contact with the warm water and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is completely blended and is no longer gritty (about 2 minutes). (Be careful not to overheat as the eggs may start to boil.) Place the mixing bowl on the stand mixer and attach the whisk attachment. Beat the mixture for about 5 minutes until it is bright white and shiny with stiff tips.

Put together the perfect ones: Top each glass of chocolate mousse with a handful of almond mixture, then add the remaining ¼ cup of chocolate chips that are divided between the glasses. Use a small spatula to cover each jar with meringue and shape into tips. Use a kitchen lamp to brown the outside of each meringue for a few seconds, or toast the parfaits under a grill for 2 minutes. Note: If you are using a broiler, make sure the jar size offers plenty of head room in the oven.

Serve immediately.

Source: All recipes from “A Couple Cooks | Pretty Easy Cooking: 100 Delicious Vegetarian Recipes to Make You Fall in Love with Real Food by Sonja and Alex Overhiser (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2018). Available at bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and various Indianapolis retailers including Goose the Market, 2503 N. Delaware St., and Silver in the City, 434 Massachusetts Ave.