Whole Foods has become a hub for picking up dinner on the way home from work, or meeting a friend for lunch, but a new cookbook called "The Whole Foods Cookbook" (Grand Central Life & Style, $30) reminds us that cooking at home is still at the core of the country's most watched grocery chains.

The book comes out more than a year after Amazon purchased the Austin-based company, which has more than 450 stores in the U.S., Canada and England, including the newer 365 by Whole Foods brand. It's also coming out during a time when people are eating more prepared foods (or meal kits or "helper" products) than ever. At the flagship downtown location of Whole Foods, customers will find more than half a dozen places to buy hot, ready-to-eat food, including barbecue, sushi, pasta, pizza and a hot food bar.

With this new cookbook, CEO John Mackey, recipe developers Derek and Chad Sarno and doctors Alona Pulde and Matthew Lederman remind shoppers that cooking is still cool.

The book drops the preachiness of Mackey's 2017 book, "The Whole Foods Diet," which aimed to persuade cooks to eliminate meat, processed foods and conventionally raised produce so they can eat "the optimum diet for health and longevity." The new, plant-based book doesn't include any recipes that call for meat, fish, eggs or dairy (even though Whole Foods is a leader in raising standards for meat and poultry), but rather than feeling like it came from Mackey's soapbox, it feels like it was written in a kitchen. That probably has something to do with the Sarno brothers, who run their own website, WickedHealthyFood.com, and the team of more than a dozen cooks, including Austinites Rip Esselstyn, Dan Marek, Lisa Rice and Jess Kolko, who helped shape the book into a family-friendly collection of recipes, tips, tutorials, guides and how-tos.

Traditional recipes make up the bulk of the book, but the beginning chapters help lay out a foundation for why you'd want to cut back on dairy, sodium and processed foods and pivot toward whole grains, legumes natural sweeteners, and foods that are high in "whole-food fats," such as avocados, coconuts, nuts and olives. There are a few recipes that allow for omnivores to add a small serving of meat or fish on the side, but the book is a clear celebration of plants, with recipes including a pot roast-inspired celeriac that would be perfect for a holiday meal or roasted mushroom tacos that have the same kind of umami flavor you'd find in a taco filled with beef or pork. 

I particularly liked that the authors acknowledged the psychological transition that occurs when you remove the sugar- and salt-filled foods that your brain and body have come to rely on. "When you shift to a new way of eating, the tastes, smells and textures may be unfamiliar at first," the authors wrote in the introduction. "It's natural to long for the familiar flavors you've eaten all your life ... but here's the good news: Tastes are not innate; they are acquired. ... It will take some time for your palate to readjust and your taste buds to become resensitized. ... Don't be too hard on yourself, and give yourself the time you need to make the transition."

This recipe for a stir-fried cauliflower dish exemplifies the building blocks that the book hopes readers will acquire by cooking through the book. Rather than using a sugar-based sauce, the recipe calls for a tablespoon of date paste, a natural sweetening agent that is a staple in the Whole Foods recipe book but that most of us probably haven't used in our own kitchens.

Stir-Fried Five-Spice Cauliflower

Five-spice powder is one of the essential base seasonings for Chinese cooking. It gives this dish a nice balance of sweet, savory, bitter and sour flavors. A little goes a long way, so don’t overseason. Remember, when stir-frying, all your ingredients should be prepped before you turn on the stove! Serve with rice or Asian noodles.

1/3 cup low-sodium tamari

1 tablespoon white wine or sherry

1 tablespoon date paste (instructions follow)

1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets

2 teaspoons white miso paste

6 mini bell peppers, sliced into thin rounds

1 onion, sliced lengthwise into strips

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup raw cashews

1 (5-ounce) can no-added-sodium sliced water chestnuts, drained

1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 green onions, chopped

1 teaspoon white and/or black sesame seeds

In a small bowl, stir together the tamari, wine, date paste and five-spice powder. Place the cauliflower in a large zip-top bag and pour in the tamari mixture. Massage to coat the cauliflower, press out the air, and seal. Marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 hours, tossing occasionally to coat.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the miso with 1/2 cup hot water until dissolved. Set aside.

When ready to cook, heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. When very hot, add the bell peppers and onion and dry saute, stirring often, until they begin to stick to the pan and lightly brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour in 1 to 2 tablespoons of the miso mixture and stir to deglaze the pan.

Add the cashews, water chestnuts, cauliflower, and half the marinade from the bag to the pan and simmer, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender but still slightly crunchy in the center, 2 to 3 minutes. Discard the remaining marinade. There should only be a little liquid left in the pan when the vegetables are done.

Stir the cornstarch into the remaining miso mixture and pour into the pan. Simmer until the liquid thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and garnish with the green onions and sesame seeds. Serves 6.

— From "The Whole Foods Cookbook: 120 Delicious and Healthy Plant-Centered Recipes" by John Mackey, Alona Pulde, Matthew Lederman, Derek Sarno and Chad Sarno (Grand Central Life & Style, $30)

Fruit Pastes

An easy way to create a whole-food sweetener is to make a paste using dried fruit. Try dates, figs, mangoes, apricots or tart cherries — but any type of fruit will work, depending on the flavor profile you’re looking for. For example, in a sweet-and-sour sauce you might want more tropical notes, so you could choose mango. For a darker, more caramelized flavor, dates might be appropriate. Apricots have a citrusy tang that works well in dressings. Use fruit paste as a topping for morning grains, as a sweet component in sauces and marinades or to make a simple parfait by layering with fresh fruit and vanilla coconut cream.

1 cup unsulfured no-added-sugar dried fruit of choice

Place dried fruit and 2 cups water in a medium bowl (add more water if needed to cover the fruit) and soak for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the rehydrated fruit from the soaking water to a (preferably high-speed) blender. Blend, adding just enough of the soaking water to get the fruit moving, until smooth and broken down to a paste the consistency of thick honey, about 2 minutes. For a thinner paste, add more water. For a thicker, more concentrated paste, add less water.

Use immediately or scrape into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 4 months. Makes about 2 cups.

— From "The Whole Foods Cookbook: 120 Delicious and Healthy Plant-Centered Recipes" by John Mackey, Alona Pulde, Matthew Lederman, Derek Sarno and Chad Sarno (Grand Central Life & Style, $30)