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.



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

Mexican Everyday

I am not the biggest fan of Mexican food. Or should I say – American-style Mexican food. Regular salsa doesn’t seem to have a lot of flavor dimension – just hot, hotter, and taste doesn’t really matter hot – and everything is loaded down with heavy sauces. And don’t forget about the gut-bomb/inevitable post-meal regret you experience after going crazy on the chips, cheese, and beans. If I do eat it, I’m looking for the fruit/cucumber style salsa, something that’s grilled, and guacamole. My daughter asked for guacamole for Christmas a few years ago. We’re serious about guac, but for the rest…..I’ll opt for Thai takeout.

This cookbook is not that kind of Mexican.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised this week. First, the book is by Rick Bayless, arguably one of the best chefs around, let alone Mexican cuisine specialists. He’s the winner of Top Chef Masters. And he’s a hard-core yogi. (Tidbit from the book!) I’ve had this book for about 3 years and have used it primarily for guacamole and for Cinco de Mayo inspiration. Since it’s the first week of May, this was the book of the week! Rather that just subject my family alone to my 99 cookbooks project, we invited neighbors over for a feast to thank them for feeding us when our kitchen was gutted. That meal was one of the few food highlights I had this past winter, so I was ready to show my gratitude.

The Recipes
Home Cooked Beans
Gulf Coast-Style White Rice Pilaf
Avocado-Mango Salad with Fresh Cheese and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Rustic Roasted Tomato Salsa
Guacamole Three Ways
Grilled Chicken Breasts with Tangy Yucatecan Spices and Seasonal Vegetables
Chorizo, Potato, and Mushroom Tacos
Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos with Avocado and Fresh Cheese
Tomatillo-Sauced Enchiladas with Spinach and Mushrooms
Pineapple Skillet Upside Down Cake
Continue reading