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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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)
Pork and Chive Dumplings  Continue reading

Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen

After a week of baking bliss, it was time to lean into the healthier shelf of cookbooks. I’m kicking things off with an oldie – Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen.  Around 2002. She had a cooking show on the Food Network back in the early days before food competitions took over and chefs like Emeril, Sara Moultin, and Jamie Oliver were rocking it old school with a live audience and average lighting. Chef Kathleen has an interesting story – she was overweight, took a new job in Hawaii, and discovered that she was going to be the executive chef for a spa. Keep in mind this was the mid 90s, when going to the spa was more than pulling into a strip mall for pedicures and a massage. (Not that there’s nothing wrong with that…..because I do it too.) It’s Canyon Ranch style spaaing (is that a word?) when you have a schedule with sunrise yoga, meditation breaks, cucumber water, treatments of choice, and of course – delicious yet low calorie food. So she lost weight while she was learning how to cook for her new job. There’s an authentic-ness to this I like – and the first 77 pages of the cookbook tells the story with tips on how you can do it too. After all, I could use a little spa-like detox after enjoying Flour for a week. But will the kids like it?

The Recipes
Sweet Potato Bread with Cranberries, Currants, and Pecans
Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Onion, Tomato, and Arugula
Apple, Cucumber, and Tomato Salad
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Cold Pasta Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Mozzarella, and Mango
BLT Salad
Fast Fried Chicken Tenders
Asian Noodle Salad
Flank Steak and Roasted Vegetables with Crispy Potatoes
Fresh Fruit Sorbets
Crazy Crunch  Continue reading

The Big Burger Book

Summertime means burgers. And my family LOVES hamburgers. So I thought it would be perfect to do the burger book right before Memorial Day weekend – the official kick off for summer. The kids were thrilled. They thought that meant cheeseburgers every day. Preferably with a free toy. Little did they know what I was really going to do!

I picked up this cookbook about 10 years ago when my brother was living with me in Kansas City. My brother loves burgers. He’s made a science around making the perfect burger. And since I can’t beat him with the classics, I thought I’d defeat him with creativity. When I saw this book on the $5 table at Barnes and Noble, it was a no brainer. But I really didn’t capitalize on the book until this week – it sat dormant on the shelf. Ready to see how it (or me!) performed?

The Recipes
Classic Beef Burgers
Kick-Ass Ketchup
Chicken Satay Burgers with Peanut Sauce
Spicy Cucumber Salad
Sloppy Joes
Mushroom Goat Cheese Burgers
Sun Dried Tomato Chutney
Honey Whole Wheat with Seeds
Hellenic Lamb Burgers
Eggplant Feta Salad  Continue reading

Avocado-Mango Salad with Fresh (or Blue) Cheese, Bacon and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

A perfect family salad – avocado and mango for the smaller hands, a sophisticated dressing and crunch for the grown ups. Serve it deconstructed on a platter and let everyone fend for themselves. My notes are in italics.

Avocado and Mango Salad. DELICIOUS.

Avocado and Mango Salad. DELICIOUS.

From Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless.  Continue reading

Lofty Buttermilk Pancakes

My kids love pancakes. They request them at least twice a week, doesn’t matter which meal. I’m looking for pancakes that are quick, easy, and taste great. This recipe moved to the top of the pile with a clever little trick about the eggs. Yes, you separate them. No, you don’t whip the whites. Don’t feel bad if you read through the recipe a few times to make sure you didn’t miss the directions. I read it three times before I reluctantly dumped in the whites. As usual, my comments are in italics.

Lofty pancakes. Kids LOVED. They ate the leftovers for lunch, and asked for more at dinner.

Lofty pancakes. Kids LOVED. They ate the leftovers for lunch, and asked for more at dinner.

Lofty Buttermilk Pancakes. 
Taken from the Kitchn Cookbook by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand Continue reading

the kitchn cookbook

This is a fairly new addition to my collection. I picked it up in November 2014 as we were planning our kitchen remodel. If you haven’t already read the renovation story, you should check it out. Big changes! Anyway, I wasn’t familiar with http://www.thekitchn.com until I started reading the book – which I grabbed because it had some great pictures of kitchens in it. And if it had a few recipes – great! I had a lot of fun reading through the first half of the book – it’s actually a pretty innovative cookbook, depending on what you’re looking for – but didn’t really get fired up about cooking out of it until it recently won the 2015 James Beard award for best general cookbook. Congrats! Of course, I immediately decided it was my book of the week.

The Recipes
Fig and Almond Quinoa Breakfast Porridge
Lofty Buttermilk Pancakes
Coconut Banana Bread
Overnight (No-Knead) Bread
Quick Sweet and Spicy Pickles
The Essential Kale Chip
Skillet Roasted Whole Chicken
Cold Peanut Sesame Noodles with Pan Seared Chicken
Quick Sauteed Greens with Ginger
Citrusy Quinoa Salad with Avocado, Cucumber, and Almonds
Perfected Chocolate Chip Cookies
Magic One-Ingredient Ice Cream
(I know, I did a lot this week. Maybe a bit overboard. But you’ll find out why.)
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