Rachel Ray’s 3o Minute Get Real Meals

I distinctly remember restocking knives at Williams-Sonoma when I noticed a greater number of santoku knives in the box. I generally recommended to knife-interested customers the holy trio of knives – 8 inch chef, a paring knife, and a serrated bread/tomato knife. And then the customers started coming in – do you have that knife that Rachel Ray keeps talking about? Of course, the santoku knife has a long tradition in Japanese history (and it’s a pretty great knife) but there is an argument that Rachel Ray popularized the knife for home cooks during her Food Network period. (That was before she developed her own talk show, magazine, and product lines.) Her catch phrases – particularly EVOO – was even admitted to the Oxford American College Dictionary in 2007. Since I worked at Williams-Sonoma from Christmas 2001 to Christmas 2006, I have several of her books from that era of my life. And I probably haven’t opened them since.

30 minute meals – and lower carb ones. That seems to be where I’m at right now, so this book is the winner of the week. I can’t remember exactly when I picked this cookbook up, but according to the sticker on the back, apparently I bought it at Best Buy. Best Buy? What can I say – the cookbook case is my siren. Let’s see if this book still deserves a spot on the shelf.

The Recipes
Caesar Salad to Go
Ham and Cheese Mini Frittatas
Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Sliced Pork Saltimbocca with Spinach and Arugula Salad
Mini Cheeseburger Salad/Turkey Club Salad with Avocado Dressing combo (I originally planned for the club salad, but decided to surprise the kids with the mini cheeseburgers instead. I was a good call – I just blended the two salads together and used the avocado dressing.)
Sunday Morning Salmon Hold-the-Bagel Scrambles

The Good
The dressing for the caesar salad was great. I cheated and didn’t take out the blender for it (thought the amount of dressing was too small for my wider blender container) so it wasn’t perfectly emulsified, but it was great with the rotisserie turkey that was buy one, get one in the deli. The pork salimbucca was by far the winner of the week. It was easy to put together on a Tuesday night, looked beautiful and tasted great with a nice class of Pinot. Everyone liked it – and H even admitted that the spinach/arugula salad tasted good with the pork. (Insert victory lap here.) Definite do again. The kids favorite of the week was the mini cheeseburger salad. When I said we were having cheeseburgers, C screamed out “BOOM” and made a variety of Star Wars shooting sounds; H looked at me and said “thank you, THANK YOU mother” and gave me a hug. I didn’t realize they were feeling so deprived.  

The Bad
Recipe proportions and cooking time were waaaaaay off for the mini frittatas. Good thing I had leftover Egg Beaters in the fridge from the South Beach detox period as I had to backfill 4 of the 12 egg cups. I like the concept of an egg muffin and thought this could be a quick thing to do in the morning, toss in the oven while I get ready, and then have a hot and fairly low effort breakfast for the week. Clearly I hadn’t had my morning caffeine as the reality couldn’t be further than the truth. I ran up and down the stairs 3 times balancing more baking time and my attempt to look professional that day – and was still a little late to work. C was thrilled with the idea and practically fell down crying to have an “eggy thing” but strangely left it on his plate untouched. I can handle the drama if it tastes great, but these eggs don’t make the cut. H and C were not into the chicken stir fry lettuce wraps – after forcing a single “nibble” taste a the tip of their forks (very dramatically, I might add) they had triple helpings of applesauce followed by my very dramatic eyeroll. I thought they were average – I didn’t like the orange zest that was added toward the end of the stir fry. We’ve had other lettuce wraps that were much better. Generally speaking, 30 minutes is a bit of a push on these recipes – it’s more like 40-45. But that’s not terrible if you have veggies out for the kids to snack on….and a glass of wine for mom.

The Ugly
Not a whole lot of ugly this week, other than silly drama that H and C brought to the dinner table and my internal battle over cooking at home vs the ease of take out. Most days this week we didn’t get home until 5:45-6:00, which means dinner at 6:30 (at the earliest) and cranky behavior. Weeks like this make me gaze longingly at our favorite delivery and take out options, but I stayed true to my cooking goals. On a lighter note, Jeff discovered sushi at our grocery store and has reinvigorated a past love. Maybe it’s the wasabi talking, but he’s excited to introduce sushi to the kids. My first encounter with california rolls DEFINITELY belongs in the ugly column. But that’s a story for next week!

30 Minute Get Real Meals by Rachael Ray
Overall Review – 3.5 out of 5 stars
I have to admit I liked the end result of this cookbook more than I thought. Stylistically, this isn’t my typical type of cookbook. Very few beauty shots, lots of gimicky type recipes, and her recipe writing style is a bit much for me. Lots of EVOO, various words meaning “WOW” and a general feeling of “ya know what I mean?” Just give me the directions and perhaps a clever story of you at the market with friends, thank you. But the food is what she advertises – fast, simple, and pretty good. It is. It’s not a lot of fun to make these dinners – no sense of “wow, I did this” – but at the same time, getting dinner together on a rushed weeknight isn’t always fun in the first place. 30 Minute Get Real Meals is getting 3.5 stars because I was slightly annoyed using it, but after breaking out the Santoku and getting a few high fives from the kids, I need to give credit where credit is due. It will keep it’s spot on the shelf – but at this rate, won’t be opened again for another 10 years when H starts up with her first santoku knife.





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