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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cookbook Reviews - The Ones to Avoid

     I quickly finished reading a few cookbooks this weekend. I read them quickly because they weren't any good. At least not for our family. They had pretentious recipes for those looking to impress others, but they didn't offer everyday fare I could serve my family and expect my kids to eat. This isn't to say they don't offer good recipes that would work for other families. They just won't work for ours. (NOTE: The Amazon.com links will take you to where you can buy the cookbooks. I've provided the links not to sell you the cookbooks, but so you know exactly which cookbooks I'm talking about for reference. Later on I will post cookbooks I recommend.)
     Two of the cookbooks are by Rachel Ray. The two cookbooks I looked at were  Classic 30-Minute Meals: The All-Occasion Cookbook and Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals 2. From page 14 of her 30 Minute Meals 2 cookbook:  "I still don't measure. I write every recipe in free-hand equivelants. A tablespoon is a palmful to me, or for liquids, once around the pan in a slow stream. I do give you my best guess for the measured equivelant, but the food will taste better if you let your own hands and taste buds be your guide. Recipes are suggestions, not written law. Trust yourself, too." I disagree in that you must have a workable recipe to start from, before you can deviate and alter it yourself. I hope someones tested her "best guess" at the amount of each ingredient to see if the recipe works. This is my biggest complaint with Rachel Ray as a cook. And for this reason, I also don't watch her tv shows. Because she doesn't measure,  Rachel Ray can't bake. Even she admits that. The recipes in her cookbooks are not things I would cook either. Examples are: Waterzooi de Poulet, Herb and Goat Cheese Toasts, Avacodo's with Creamy Maque Choux, Mushroom Duxelles and Pate Platter with Sliced Baguette or Eggplant "Caviar." I just can't see getting my kids to eat that.
     Next up is Cooking Light Fresh Food Fast: Over 280 Incredibly Flavorful 5-Ingredient 15-Minute Recipes. Example of recipes include: Fig, Carrot, and Ginger Rice Pilaf; Grape, Blue Cheese and Walnut Pizza; Mini Lamb Pitas with Minted Pea Humus and Goat cheese and Roasted Pepper Panini. Really? Grape, Blue Cheese and Walnut Pizza? Not in my world. lol Yes, the cookbook had recipes with either 5 ingredients or less (not counting water, salt, pepper or optional ingredients) or could be cooked in 15 minutes or less, or both. However, that doesn't do me any good if its all recipes my family won't eat. So although the sleek cookbook looks pretty it's no good to me for anything other than an over sized paperweight. I quickly put all 3 cookbooks up on Paperback Swap (PBS) where they were snatched up overnight or fulfilled wishlist requests.
    I did actually read The Firehouse Cookbook cover to cover. And I did find some recipes that I thought my family would eat such as Potato Chip Chicken, Apple Crisp, Bite-Size Corn Dogs or Beef Burgundy. The recipes were collected from Firehouses across the nation. The recipes are given in two sizes, Firehouse size (feeds 12) to family size (feeds 4 to 6). However, even on the family size side, a recipe may call for two 4lb fryer chickens. That still isn't family size to me. Another big problem I had with this cookbook is that many of the ingredients are listed by can size. As in, 1 No 303 size can. I have no idea what size that is. I had to look up a  Can Size Conversion Chart online, to learn it's 16 to 17 oz equal to 2 cups. The author should have done the conversions for you, the reader, so you don't have to do a google search just to buy ingredients for a recipe. And based on the size of some of the ingredients that were correctly listed, I didn't know if these can sizes would feed an army or an individual family. To me cookbooks should be easy to read, and have all the information you require in the book. (She could have included a can size conversion chart in the back of the book, at the very least.)
     I'm sorry that all my cookbook reviews today are about ones I wouldn't recommend but reviews, whether good or bad can be useful. Maybe your family would eat Grape, Blue Cheese and Walnut Pizza and you'd like to check out Rachel Ray's Cookbook. It just isn't something my family would eat. I picked these cookbooks up used from used book sales, or thrift shops so paid very little for them. And I'm recycling them by swapping them on PBS so those that are looking for them can find them.

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