I would qualify my cooking skills as average at best. I can follow a recipe, but I don’t have any instinct or flare when it comes to improvising or substituting. I am constantly texting my mom or my sister-in-law to answer my very basic cooking questions. In my defense, these questions usually relate to cooking meat. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was thirteen, so that explains why I have no idea how to cook a chicken! Besides often lacking in skill, other hurdles I face in the kitchen include a lack of time, a lack of inspiration for non-meat proteins and a lack of meals that my son will actually eat. On days when I am home with my children, time might seem to drag. However, time in which I can be operating a knife or using a hot stove is non-existent since the baby became a toddler. When I am working, I try to do some dinner prep when I’m taking a computer break (a perk of working from home), but sometimes I look up at the clock and it’s already time to pick the kids up from daycare. In terms of non-meat proteins, I have a quinoa salad recipe and a lentil stew … but I really want to add to that repertoire. As for Cub’s picky eating (a trait undoubtedly inherited either through genetics or karma from yours truly), this is probably not something a few new cookbooks will resolve, but I am willing to give it a try.
Here’s what I thought of four new books from DK Great Tastes Food & Drink Boutique:
The recipes in this book are designed to be completed in 20 minutes or less. The introduction includes some great checklists for what kinds of non-perishable ingredients to always keep on hand for easy meals, as well as items to buy in bulk and freeze. This is definitely the kind of book that would be perfect for a young person moving out on their own for the first time, especially since I think most schools don’t offer home economics classes anymore. The introduction also includes some tips that would help anyone who doesn’t spend a ton of time in the kitchen (*ahem* husband *ahem*), such as: “Read the recipe all the way through before you start.”
With some really cute and easy-to-follow graphics, the No Time to Cook Book presents some great ideas for spicing up some of my favourite go-to speedy meals, including omelettes, salads and sandwiches. It also introduced me to something I didn’t know existed: One-Pot Pasta. I was extremely skeptical that you could combine all the ingredients—including the uncooked pasta—into one pot and have a meal come out at the other end. Well, you can, and it was yummy! Cub even ate it!
As I mentioned earlier, I am a vegetarian. My husband used to refer to it as my “disease” while feigning embarrassment over my meat-free ways at dinner parties. Some Netflix documentary has finally convinced him that a plant-based diet is the way to go, and he has almost expressed gratitude for the fact that I have been cooking plant-based meals for the past ten years for him! Our favourite recipe so far is Grandma’s Chicken-y Noodle Soup. Not so vegetarian sounding, but that “y” at the end of “chicken” means there’s not actually ANY chicken in this hearty and comforting dish! I’ve made it three times so far, and it’s a very quick and simple soup to make in under an hour.
The other dish we tried, especially given the success of the One-Pot Pasta recipe, was the One-Pan Pasta Primavera. Once again, I was shocked to discover that I could pile in all the ingredients (uncooked pasta included) and make a delicious meal with no mess! The one thing I would change about this particular recipe is the moment at which I add the broccoli. I like my broccoli to be crisp and bright green, so next time I will add it closer to the end. The recipe makes such a large quantity that I froze some for quick lunches for the toddler.
Quinoa. Freekeh. Barley. Buckwheat. Spelt. Farrow. Grass-type Pokémon or ancient grains? Well, both have secret powers that you need a guide to unleash … so …. same thing? I have been cooking with quinoa for years, but there are so many other high-protein, nutrient-dense grains out there that I have yet to conquer. Grains As Mains features fourteen different grains, with an introductory section on their unique qualities and how to cook each one to perfection. For the first time ever, I bought and cooked buckwheat! Turns out Little Miss really likes just plain, cooked buckwheat, which she happily munched as I prepared the Beet and Buckwheat Soup with Lemon Yogurt Sauce.
I thought this soup was delicious, and Papa Wolf enjoyed it too. I cannot claim that Cub was a fan, but he did like the other recipe we tried from Grains as Mains: Mexican Quinoa Salad. This is the salad I made on my birthday since I liked it so much the first time! To be fair, Cub likes only parts of the salad, but I’ll take what I can get.
The last book we received is not actually a recipe book: it’s an idiot’s guide to wine! Wine: A Tasting Course is going to help Papa Wolf and I stop pretending we know what we are looking for when perusing a wine menu or browsing the shelves at the liquor store. Do you want to know how I currently select a bottle of wine? It’s a combination of the price tag and the label. And by label, I mean whether or not the wine has a punny name or a cute logo.
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