Cookbook Summer

Cookbook reviews for four random library books and a handful of recipes therefrom.

So longer ago than I would care to mention, I grabbed an armful of cookbooks from the library that appealed to me for one reason or another. I used them, a bit, and then I thought I would do a review of them on the blog. This promises to be a recurring sort of entry.

Rachel Ray’s Book of Ten:

Rachel Ray has this way of making her recipes seem so totally awesome (it’s her enthusiasm and recipe titles, I believe) that I just HAVE to try them. The follow through? Not as so totally awesome. I call her recipes 50-50. Half the time we like them, often with adjustment. The other half they are a bust. This book was no exception.

In the spirit of this recipe roulette, I am including a recipe that I have not tried yet, but which I will be adding to my October meal plan. Good luck!

OKTOBERFEST SOUP

  1. In a large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter until melted. Add 3 diced knockwurst (Germanish sausages will do) and brown. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add another tablespoon each oil and butter and let melt. Add 1 thinly sliced red onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Add 2 pounds shredded red cabbage, 1 teaspoon caraway seed, salt and pepper to taste, and cook 10 minutes.
  3. Add 12 ounces dark (German) beer and boil for 1 minute.
  4. Add 1 quart chicken stock, 1 15 oz can tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 bay leaf, and the browned wursts. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 10 minutes until cabbage is tender.
  5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine 2 peeled and diced apples, 3 tablespoons parsley, and the juice of ½ lemon.
  6. Serve soup topped with the apple mixture.

Out of what I did cook, Good Fennels Pasta really wasn’t much different from a spaghetti marinara. In the instance that you actually located bucatini, the noodles where hollow, but other than that, just fennel  and peppers in the usual sauce. Eh. What we did like: honey chicken (but not the snow pea rice in “Honey Chicken Over Snow Pea Rice”). Here is the recipe, great over steamed rice and with an Asian-inspired green veggie.

HONEY CHICKEN

  1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons peanut oil.
  2. Add 2 pounds chicken tenders (or boneless thigh or breast) in bite-sized pieces. Season with salt and pepper and brown for 3 minutes.
  3. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, 1 thin-sliced onion, 3 pressed cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon jarred ginger, and 3 tablespoons (generous) honey. Cook, stirring, until onions are tender.
  4. Add 1 ½ cups chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Combine 1 tablespoons cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water and combine. Immediately, add to the chicken and stir. Cook 2 more minutes until it begins to thicken,
  5. Add thin-sliced scallions and 1 squeeze of lemon juice and serve over rice with a side like sesame seeds and broccoli.

The Illustrated Quick Cook, DK Publishing:

This was a really random selection, but it turned out to be a great book. I would highly recommend that you check it out at the library and consider buying your own copy, especially if you don’t have a very large kitchen library. Let me explain why.

There are tons of recipes, and yet there is a photo for every recipe. Great idea for beginners. At the beginning is a picture recipe menu, with categories like “Fish Under 15 Mintues” and “Meat Under 30 Minutes.” A great tool to have when you are standing in the kitchen at dinnertime, at a loss.

Next comes the Everyday chapter: from no cook meals (I tried the Lentils with Artichokes and Pepper, recipe below) to TONS of speedy meal ideas (we enjoyed the Thai-Style Minced Pork with Noodles and Poached Turkey with Sticky Noodles and Chili Cashews). Throughout the book you will see little icons telling you the time the meal prep takes, the healthy-factor, and if you can freeze it or refrigerate it.

There are special chapters dedicated to the biggest tools in a speedy chef’s belt, like chicken, pasta, and pizzas and quesadillas, as well as 10 ways to make the author’s favorite ingredients (like salmon, bacon, and turkey). You will also find a whole chapters on using one roast for several meals, batch and freeze cooking, and meals to make exclusively from the pantry (!). The second half of the book (as in the 2nd 250 pages) is meant for entertaining. From menu plans to “No-Fuss Finger Foods” to Big Pot Gatherings, from All-In-One Roasts to Freeze-Ahead Desserts.

The recipes seem to work. They don’t concentrate totally on economy, but they are simply and straight-forward. The only reason I even recommend borrowing it before purchasing is that they recipes are on the lighter and simpler side, which may not appeal to everyone. Even so, a clear winner.

LENTILS WITH ARTICHOKES AND PEPPERS

  1. Combine a 15 oz can green or brown lentils, drained and rinsed, with 15 oz artichoke hearts (also drained), 4-5 sliced, roasted red peppers, fresh thyme to taste, a handful of fresh, chopped parsley, and 4 sliced scallions.
  2. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons walnut oil, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with lentils.
  3. Serve lentils on a bed of arugula, topped with a few thin slices of prosciutto.

The RV Cookbook, Amy Boyer and Daniella Chace:

Really excited about this one. Really disappointed. Poo.

Nigella Express, Nigella Lawson.

I know people love Nigella, but I have never been impressed with the results I get from her cookbooks. After grabbing this one, I am still not impressed. The Breakfast Bars did not work (completely fell apart). The Roquamole was gross (says all four of us). And the Party Popcorn was a loser (both for it’s odd spice combo and its extreme saltiness). I say don’t bother with Nigella, but then again we did come away with a couple keepers. Here are the recipes.

EASY BAKED EGGS

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and bring a teapot of water to a boil.
  2. Use some butter to grease 4 ramekins (or individual-serving, bakable dishes, like Pyrex). Set them in a larger baking dish with a substantial lip.
  3. Crack an egg into each ramekin, sprinkle with salt and 1 tablespoon each of cream.
  4. Pour boiling water in the large pan until halfway up the ramekins. Bake 15 minutes (based on if you want a runny yolk or not) and serve hot, with a whole wheat toast finger, if you’re smart.

AFTER-SCHOOL TREATS

  1. Melt ¼ cup brown rice syrup, ¼ cup butter, and 2 oz choc of choice.
  2. Add 2 cups crispy brown rice cereal, 1 cup natural cornflakes, ½ cup oats, and ½ cup raw sesame seeds.
  3. At this point Nigella jumps through some kitchen hoops to make the treats into balls. I just lined my cupcake tin with papers and scooped a serving into each cup and let it set. The end.
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One thought on “Cookbook Summer

  1. Update on the Rachel Ray Oktoberfest Soup:
    We had it last night. It was good, but I would swap 1 of the tablespoons of Worcestershire (or even both) for a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar. We served ours with sour cream. Also, plenty of sausage for the kids, and don’t let those veggies char, or they’ll make the soup bitter.

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