The Food Lovers Cleanse – Bon Appetit

After what felt like an epic fail with Canyon Ranch, I decided to do what I do best – buy cookbooks. Under the guise of shopping for a birthday party present, I used this opportunity to retool and refresh by going back to basics – Bon Appetit. I’m really excited to kick this one off. Why? I love food.


Moroccan Lamb Shanks with Pomegranate – yes please!

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Bringing the Spa Home: Canyon Ranch

It’s late winter, gray, and dreary outside. At least in Minnesota, we’re entering a tough time of year. Spring is most definitely NOT around the corner and anyone who can scrape together the resources, time, and organizational skill to head south to warmer terrain has either done so already or is currently in pre-vacation anticipation bliss. As for the Peterson clan, we’re here for the haul so I thought I’d transport myself to Canyon Ranch for the week. In recipe form, at least. Maybe a few pictures of the Arizona desert will improve my attitude.

This is another dusty book from my William-Sonoma days. My store hosted a cooking class featuring some Canyon Ranch recipes and I was given an apron (too small; I must have had spa-brain that day) as a parting gift. I felt obligated to buy the cookbook for a matching set. This book has gotten little to no use in the past 14 years but has been part of at least 5 moves. (That I can remember counting) We’ll see if it’s been worth the weight and effort for hauling this book around.

The Recipes
Chicken Cacciatore
Jet Fuel Salad Dressing
Fish with Mango Salsa (more of an “inspired by” recipe as I made significant changes)

The Good
There are some really beautiful pictures in the book. The first chapter has some great overall information on healthy tips, food suggestions, and overall strategies for healthful eating. Jet Fuel dressing isn’t terrible – a good fat free option as there is no oil in the dressing. It’s tastier after a few days in the fridge and keeps nicely in a mason jar.

The Bad
Chicken Cacciatore – should have been drunken chicken. The sauce was so boozy I worried that it would catch fire in the oven. Terrible. Don’t worry, I didn’t feed it to the kids. In fact, they didn’t like anything I served this week.

The Ugly
I read the cacciatore recipe three times to make sure I was interpreting it correctly – I knew it would be an epic failure. But I kept going and made extra vegetables for everyone. At least we’d get our greens in. That’s about the only thing we got in with this cookbook. With epic failures early on, I lost my motivation. I didn’t even follow through with my requirement for a minimum of 5 recipes to test – I was done. And bringing the spa home? Laughable. Spas are serene places that inspire exploration of self. My house is chaos that inspire a daily glass of wine.

Canyon Ranch Cooking: Bringing the Spa Home. Jeanne Jones
1 out of 5 stars
I have to be honest – I’m not going to use this cookbook again. It just wasn’t very good. Redeeming factors are beautiful photography and a very interesting collection of recipes. The problem – I didn’t want to eat any of them. I even had a distinct lack of motivation when I was working on my weekly plan. Not a good week. So it’s time for me to refresh. I went to Barnes and Noble and picked up a few new cookbooks – and will start with Bon Appetit’s The Food Lover’s Cleanse this week. With poor inspiration I’ve fallen off my healthful wagon, but feel at least partially inspired enough to hop back on. Let’s see how it goes.



Theo Chocolate

I read an article in the Star Tribune last week about a Minneapolis elementary school who is not celebrating Valentine’s Day in their classrooms this year. There has been a lot of backlash about this decision, and honestly, I don’t see why people are so fired up. I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. I see it as a fake holiday that either a) reminds you of your single status (most of my teens and twenties) b) creates pressure to perform un-natural acts of love (my thirties) or c) creates unnecessary stress and expense in preparing classroom party valentines (right now). Last year I spent almost $100 at the craft store to make little valentine monsters with paper cups, yarn, and glue guns. Why so much? I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, so I just bought everything. To be free of all of this Valentine nonsense? Yes please.

In the meantime, my bestie gave me a beautiful chocolate cookbook for Christmas that I haven’t done anything with because I’ve been working on healthy lifestyle choices. But it’s hard to not be tempted when you see chocolate hearts everywhere you go. So here is my plan. I’m going to cook out of this cookbook all week, making a few chocolate treats to send to my friend and my faithful readers (my mom and aunts – I’m late with your Christmas gifts anyway) while feasting on the savory chocolate recipes in Theo. Let’s see how my plan works out.

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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
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The South Beach Cookbook

I’ve had this cookbook for at least 10 years and I’m not sure I’ve cooked more than 3 recipes out of it. Even though our family is eating a bit more carefully to start the year, I’m going to hold the cookbook up to my same standards. It needs to taste good and be reasonable for me as a working mom and home cook. Emphasis: needs to taste good. First flip through, there seem to be some recipes that have some promise. We’ll see how it goes.

The Recipes
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Ready, Steady, Spaghetti

I’m home with the kids this month, so I thought it would be a good idea to continue with kid friendly books. I picked up Ready, Steady, Spaghetti at a Tuesday Morning about 2 years ago when I probably fantasized about how awesome it would be to share the kitchen with my children. Giggling over cookies. Laughing over pasta. 4 years old and devouring a beautiful porterhouse, medium rare, with a side of roasted seasonal vegetables, a crisp green salad, and a glass of “special occasion” wine we keep stashed in the basement cellar. No, the wine is just for me. Delusional, I know. I must have had either too much or too little coffee that morning, because the reality is that I have a son who only likes cold food, a daughter who claimed that Cool Whip was the best thing I’ve ever made, and their fearless leader (me) goes into orbit anytime they touch anything in my new kitchen. Ah, reality. So this pink puppy has been sitting on the shelf for a while without any action. That is about to change.

I let Harper pick the recipes again. Thank goodness we ran out of Post-Its in the first half of the book, because otherwise, we may as well be opening a pasta shop/bakery. But you can read about that in the “ugly” section of the review.

The Recipes
Blueberry Pancakes (substituted blackberries)
Scrambled Eggs
Sticky Chicken Drumsticks
Fresh Spring Rolls
Mango Whiz (no picture, forgot!)
San Choy Bau (pork lettuce wrap)
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The Oprah Magazine Cookbook

For the record, I didn’t buy this cookbook. It was a gift. People know how much I love cookbooks, so it’s generally a guarantee for a successful gift. And while I appreciate the book, I generally don’t buy magazine cookbooks. Some may think it’s more efficient this way – Better Homes and Gardens has this mastered with the impressive 20 book collection of recipes my mom has – but if I want a magazine recipe, I’ll read the magazine. I like the story behind it – tell me about the chef, what is the perfect event for the dish, what beautiful person with amazing photoshopping has prepared/created/eaten this – and the magazine cookbook doesn’t always provide the depth of background I’m interested in. So how did this become the book of the week, you ask? The boys. I sent Jeff in with C to pick out the cookbook, and C picked this one because it was red. We have a color theme happening in our house. Since C picked the book, I thought I’d like H pick the recipes. See if we learned something from last week. We did. She picked all desserts, save one – bolognese sauce with pasta. She will pick pasta with meat sauce…every. single. time. It’s her favorite. So I agreed to make the pasta, vetoed the rest of her choices, and made the selections myself. How did I do this week?

The Recipes
Proscuitto di Parma-Black Pepper Quesadillas with Rosemary Oil
Mint & Pea Hummus with Pita Bread
Sweet Corn Salad with Black Beans, Scallions, & Tomatoes
Ham, Pepper-Cheese, & Apple Tea Sandwiches
Sauteed Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes
Bolognese Sauce with Pasta
Banana-Papaya Salsa (I substituted mango.) Continue reading