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There are a lot of cookbooks out there these days. We’re glad because we love new food ideas, but it’s exhausting deciding which one we’ll use. Luckily, we have the advantage of hearing about all the attest and greatest ones published and thought you might want to hear about them too.
So if you are cooking for kids and looking for healthy and fun meals, we recommend Annabel Karmel’s new Canadian edition of More First Meals. It has over 80 recipes to choose from and there are even a few practical suggestions for moms. Annabel reminds us that eating well while pregnant and breastfeeding is important for staying healthy (and we know it’s just as important when the kids get older so we can keep up with them). We particularly like the space on each recipe page left for making notes and the addition of nutritional information with each recipe as well. This is a great book for inspiration, information and organizing your meals. Available online at Indigo and Amazon
What’s your favourite cookbook?
My sons aren’t what you would call “picky eaters”, but that doesn’t mean they’ll eat anything I put in front of them. I have been known to finish off a child’s plateful of food or two, begrudgingly agree to macaroni and cheese for the third meal in a row, and I am also guilty of offering more than one meal option in my nine years of parenting. I would love for my sons to share the same passion for food as I do, so as much as possible I strive to offer meals that are healthy, fun and creative. For the healthy part, I think I am OK, but for the creative part, I call upon the help of professionals. One of my favourite family cookbooks is Whining & Dining – Mealtime Survival for Picky Eaters and the Families Who Love Them by Emma Waverman and Eshun Mott, food professionals and moms to three children each. The first couple of chapters focus on nutritional information, the importance of eating together as a family, and practical advice and tips for managing picky (or not) eaters, while the rest of the book is made up of over 100 kid-tested recipes for every meal (including birthday and dinner party recipes) and age group. I particularly like the tips and nutrition facts that are printed alongside each of the recipes. A few of my kids’ favourite recipes include their Multigrain Buttermilk Waffles, Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins, Turkey and Bean Chili, and Meat Loaf. If I were to choose one family-friendly cookbook to have in my kitchen it would be this one. Available to purchase online at www.randomhouse.ca.
What’s your favourite cookbook?
Back in my pre-kid days, when most of my meals were eaten in hotels, airports and client cafeterias, I didn’t have to worry about getting dinner on the table every night. That allowed me to devote all my cooking efforts to planning lovely dinner parties for our friends, on the weekends when I was home. A week or two before a dinner was planned, I would take my favourite cookbooks to bed with me and idly flip through them picking and choosing perfect combinations of dishes (with no ingredient repeats) to make for our friends. It was my hobby and a great way to relax.
Fast-forward to today and our three-soccer-practice, four-ballet-class weeks, getting dinner on the table is a seven-night a week affair and needs to be done as efficiently as possible—no relaxing allowed. But my current obsession with sodium means that I really try to stay away from prepared foods and store-bought frozen foods…which means even more cooking. So I am finding that having a copy of The Good Food Book for Families by Brenda Bradshaw and Cheryl Mutch, MD in my kitchen is like having my own nutrition consultant and executive chef all rolled into one. The cookbook is full of delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinners, snacks and desserts, and also includes menu planning tools and a host of nutritional tips and help on interpreting Canada’s Food Guide for family eating. All the basics are covered (meatball, tuna melts and more) but the recipes I like the most are for the little things like make-your-own ice cream and peanut butter hummus. Off to make dinner now!
We recently received a copy of Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express (surtitled 404 Inspired Seasonal Dishes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less—all you need to know about the book, really) and, as a fan of his New York Times column, I have enjoyed being inspired by and putting together some of his recipes. When I say recipe, I should clarify: the dishes are not presented in the traditional cookbook way, with a list of specific ingredients and amounts, followed by the details on how to make the dish. Rather, the descriptions are more loose guides to help you throw together a dish using a short list of seasonal ingredients.
By way of example, here’s how he’s presented a recipe for Seared Chicken Arugula Rollups—three ingredients plus the usual stuff you would have in your kitchen. In 15 minutes from start to end you’re impressing your dinner companions big-time:
Flatten some chicken tenders with your hand or the bottom of a pot, brush both sides with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Crumble some Gorgonzola on each and top with a couple of arugula leaves. Roll up the chicken tightly lengthwise and secure with a toothpick. Warm some butter over medium-high heat and sear rollups until browned on all sides, about six minutes. Serve with toasted baguette slices rubbed with fresh garlic.
At the end of the book, you’ll find a menu guide, which helps you choose several recipes to bring together as a whole meal. At the beginning of the book, the recipes are presented by category (such as Brown-Bag Lunches, The Easiest of the Easiest, The Best Do-Ahead Recipes for Potlucks and Desserts You Can Eat Any Time of the Year). While not necessarily the best cookbook for a beginner chef, if you’re looking for lots of delicious, easy and sophisticated dishes, this cookbook is definitely a great addition to your kitchen shelf. Stuck on what to serve for dinner? Open the book to the appropriate season and pick something—all you’ll need is a few fresh ingredients to add to what you have in the pantry, and you’ll have something gourmet on for dinner in no time (20 minutes or less to be precise). Bon appétit.
I have been collecting cookbooks for quite some time now, and there are always some that I peruse through more than others. There is one in particular that is so badly in need of replacement simply because I am constantly using it. It is a cookbook that I swear by, have yet to be disappointed by, and haven’t seen one quite like. While it has been around for awhile, it’s still worth investigating, especially since its renowned author, Sheila Lukins (as in The Silver Palate Cookbook, and who succeeded Julia Childs as PARADE’s food editor in the 80’s), passed away last year.
I’m an international foodie—I love exploring recipes from different continents, but I also like exploring ones that are accessible and easy-to-make. This is why the All Around the World cookbook is the one I would take with me (should I ever be stranded on a desert island). Aside from the great selection of recipes from her travels around the globe, Sheila also includes anecdotes from her experiences in those countries, making it feel like a fabulous travel guide with treats included.
In the middle of the book is a section where she has created international meal menus, from breakfast to dinner, as well as celebration meal ideas and afternoon teas. Each menu includes three or four selections and when appropriate, wine selections. Here’s a taste: Russian Nights (which includes Wild Mushroom Blinchiki with sour cream), A Taj Table (includes Curried Golden Squash Soup), The Andalusian (includes Steak Rollos), Santa Lucia Dinner (includes Osso Bucco with Artichokes and Mint Gremolata)… My personal favourite is the Chilean Tastings offering Empanadas and Avocado Salad with Lemon-Mint Yogurt Dressing as two options.
Another fun element in the book is her Chicken Soup graph, where she looks at how different countries create this classic recipe. In China, it’s filled with garlic, ginger, mushrooms, bean sprouts, snow peas, cilantro, bean curd and noodles. In Scandinavia, it’s a soup with mushrooms, beets, potatoes and red cabbage, spiced with tarragon, dill and chives.
So while there are plenty of new (and wonderful) books on the market, I still treasure this wonderful internationally-themed book that still continues to surprise and inspire me.
What’s your favourite cookbook?
Sadly, I haven’t yet spent enough time in France to be able to say for myself whether French women get fat or not, but from the success of Mireille Guillano’s first book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, seems like many people are taking her word for it. Certainly, we can all appreciate her practical philosophy of not dieting per se, but rather eating both pleasurably and healthfully in moderation so that food is satisfying and sustaining.
And now she’s coming out with a companion book, The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook, that hits the shelves on April 27. It’s full of easy-to-make, satisfying recipes that use fresh, seasonal ingredients, just like we like to do on EatSavvy.
What’s cool about her new book is that there are recipes for every meal. So far, I’ve tried the Potato Ragout with Peppers, Lemons and Olives and it was so delicious—great with fish—and the Fruit Salad with Quinoa, equally yummy. There is even a chapter on dessert (I can’t wait to try the Tarte au Chocolat) and lots of tips on entertaining, menu planning and more. The most intriguing recipe is a secret family breakfast recipe that is supposed to keep you full until lunch and help you magically lose weight. I think I am going to try it out for a week or two—after all, I have nothing to ‘lose’.
Wanna try it with me? We’ve got five copies of this delicious book to give away. Just leave a comment on the blog here before April 30 and we will conduct a random draw from all of them. Bon appétit!
We always like getting savvy tips from our readers, and when one comes in on the topic of getting dinner on the table quickly and easily, we’re definitely paying attention.
Reader Susannah Musselman wrote to tell us about a cookbook she thought every mom should have called The Best Simple Recipes, written by the folks at America’s Test Kitchen. Susannah shared: “I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the long list of ingredients in some of their recipes, but this book was worth picking up because these recipes cook in 30 minutes and I know the authors have gone to great lengths to try different techniques to make them taste as good as possible. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.”
So of course we had to check it out and we couldn’t agree with her more. The book is subtitled ‘More Than 200 Great Tasting Foolproof Meals’—what more do you need to know, really? Using this collection of recipes, and with minimum effort, you can get a delicious dinner on the table pretty much every single weeknight of the year. It’s a great meal-planning aid, and most of the dishes work well for family dinners or dinner parties.
Thank you, Susannah.
We’d love to hear from you—what’s your favourite cookbook?
Thank you all for your wonderful comments, sharing your fave recipes to bake, and taking the time to enter. We have five lucky winners and hope you enjoy baking up a storm. Congratulations to Stephanie Hobbs, Karen Burka, Lori Van Soelen, Amanda Gouveia and Chris MacDonald.
Here’s our original blog below:
If you’re planning on baking a cake this weekend for Father’s Day and are in need of some assistance or inspiration, you wouldn’t need to look any further if you were the proud owner of In the Sweet Kitchen: The Definitive Baker’s Companion by Regan Daley (Random House), an esteemed pastry chef at a number of Toronto’s top restaurants.
The cookbook was awarded the Cookbook of the Year Award by the International Association of Culinary Professionals and not only provides 140 great recipes, but also an informative overview of baking, the importance of choosing the right ingredients, shopping guides, technique guides (how to sift, fold or cream) tips and the occasional chemistry lesson. The photos are stunning and the recipes delicious—it’s definitely a go-to guide for baking.
And the good news is that we have five copies to give away this month on EatSavvy—just leave a comment on the blog here about what you like to bake before July 15 and we will conduct a random draw from all of them. That’s sweet!
During the summer months, we spend a lot of time at the cottage and do a lot of entertaining. Because of the abundant supply of fresh vegetables in the summer, cooking for a crowd is sometimes easier (and less expensive) than cooking for our family of five. I love to cook, but when I am on holidays, I like to keep the time I spend in the kitchen to a minimum and the time I spend outside with my family to the max. Menus at the cottage are simple, yet delicious.
Largely because they’re my favourite dish, fresh salads are the backbone of most of our meals. The simplest, and often most delicious, are the ones that are made up of a variety of summer-inspired ingredients—tomatoes, corn, fresh herbs, peppers, beans…
Two of my current favourite salad recipes happen to come from the same cookbook, Dish Entertains by Trish Magwood. The Lemon Orzo Salad with Baby Spinach, Feta and Caramelized Onion is a big fave in our house as well as the Tomato and Bread Salad. Both are simple, can be made ahead of time and are huge crowd pleasers.
Tomato and Bread Salad
Courtesy of Trish Magwood’s Dish Entertains
Serves 6 to 8
Prep and Cook
What is your favourite summer salad recipe?
Now that the shock of back to school has diminished somewhat (hockey, ballet, swimming lessons etc.), I am finally turning my attention to some proper weeknight meal-planning. Summer dinners are just a salad and grilled meat that I grab on my way home from the butcher (conveniently located right beside SavvyHQ). But those nights are lacking in scheduled activities and not marked by dropping off and picking up from the afore-mentioned hockey/ballet/swimming.
During the school year we need a plan for dinner well in advance so I usually sit down on Sunday and try to map out the week, keeping in mind what we have in the freezer and what we need to buy. The challenge is trying not to make the same thing week in week out. So this fall, I am working my way through a few cookbooks (one that I like now is the Real Simple: Meals Made Easy.
My latest family fave is Cheesy Vegetable Pasta. I made two batches this weekend (just double the ingredients) and we enjoyed it on Saturday night and I have another in the freezer for next week. It’s packed with veggies (that they can actually see) but the kids still loved it.
Cheesy Vegetable Pasta
From Real Simple: Meals Made Easy
Prep and Cook
What do you make as a ‘freezer meal’?
My mom was obsessed with having family dinners. It became clear to me the night before my older sister left home for university and my mom burst into tears at the dinner table crying “We’ll never have another family dinner again”. Sure enough, we were all back at the table two months later for Thanksgiving. And we didn’t let my mom live that one down.
But now that I can’t deny I’m turning into my mother, I will admit that I know exactly where she is coming from. I, too, am obsessed with family dinners. Every Sunday night, I chart out the calendar for the nights when we will all be home to eat together that week then begin planning the menus. It’s not about the cooking and eating—it’s about the sitting together and sharing. It’s the rituals that evolve over time from sitting down together day after day. Let’s be honest, it’s not all smiles and laughter all the time. There’s still a lot of correcting of manners and checking in on what happened during the day—sometimes not always good news. But when else are you going to hear that information and learn to handle it as a team?
Needless to say, I was excited when a new book came to our attention at SavvyMom called The Family Dinner, Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time by Laurie David and Kirstin Uhrenholdt. The foreward by Dr. Harvey Karp MD lured me in on the first page with a few interesting and alarming stats:
These practices are apparently a result of what he calls the fast-paced, no-frills society that has pushed us toward an assembly line view of life. The book is clearly not just a collection of recipes (although it is filled with many good ones). It also delivers inspirational quotes and stories from people who appreciate the family dinner and it’s organized in a very unique way. Some chapter titles include: “Cook Together at the Table”, “Table Talk”, “Kids in the Kitchen” and “Why Family Dinners Matter”, among others.
In a society that can find an extra two hours a day to spend online, it’s amazing that families can’t find the time to sit and enjoy a meal together. I give this book a huge savvy stamp of approval and hope you will enjoy it as much as I have been.
Do you sit down as a family to eat your meals? I would love to know.
Almost every day I get asked the same question from readers, friends and family—those with kids under 10 (before kids learn to toast their own bagel) are looking for new and easy snack idea without nuts, salt, preservatives or too much sugar. A tall order, to be sure—especially if you’re looking for it on the supermarket shelves. So if you have a few minutes and the right ingredients, I would recommend trying out these delicious muffins I found in Theresa Albert’s new book Ace Your Health. I’m not much of a baker myself, but this Apple Spice Muffin recipe looked so easy, yummy and healthy, I thought they were worth putting on an apron for.
Apple Spice Muffins
Prep and Cook
Try for yourself and let me know what you think. I can’t keep them in the house.
101 Cookbooks was the first food blog I ever read. I’m not sure how I came across it, but I know that I instantly fell in love with Heidi’s vegetarian recipes, in spite of the fact that I’m not a vegetarian and I don’t eat tofu.
Not all of her recipes were family-friendly, and in fact, many of them I could never dream of serving to my flavour-challenged (read: picky) children. So I set myself up for a challenge: I would learn to make recipes that seemed as though they would be meal deal-breakers (complex ingredients, foods my kids didn’t like, etc.) and make them into something that worked for us. It allowed me to try many of the great ideas I was reading about, while keeping the peace at our table.
I recently came across a ravioli salad in a new food magazine, and lo and behold, the recipe is Heidi’s. When looking at the ingredients I made a mental check of what the kids would/wouldn’t eat: ravioli (check), cilantro (not a chance), black olives (no way), pumpkin seeds (possibly) and goat cheese (never). The old me would immediately discount this recipe because there were way more negatives then positives, but now that I was familiar with being challenged, I decided to make this recipe work. I kept the ravioli, swapped the cilantro for basil (it’s in season!), eliminated the olives, used almonds in lieu of pumpkin seeds, and parmesan cheese replaced the goat cheese. Voila—ravioli salad my family’s way.
This meal is now a lunchtime favourite as it tastes great warm or served at room temperature. It’s ridiculously easy to make, packs well for a picnic and has even found its way into the day-camp lunch box.
Tell us, what are your meal deal breakers?
Prep and Cook:
This book was on my must-read list for about two months before I finally got around to picking it up, and I can assure you it was definitely worth the wait. I have devoured each and every story that accompanies the simple yet essential recipes tucked within the pages, and each one inspires me to get into the kitchen more than the last.
Authoritative, practical and down to earth, The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila is packed with recipes for 101 common foods that can be made instead of bought. From dairy and cereals to frozen foods and candy, the author shows us that with just a little planning we can all take control of our pantries and fill them with homemade versions of things we typically buy in the store.
The magic of this book though is that every recipe is approachable and useful and can be executed by the humblest of cooks. For example, I was intrigued by her recipe for pie crust because her method is completely different than any other I’ve encountered.
She suggests using a stand mixer in lieu of a food processor to make the dough, and I have to confess, she’s right about it resulting in a fool-proof technique that’s easier than any other I’ve tried (side note: I’ve made her recipe eight times in the past month. I keep making the dough and freezing it, just to see if I can get it to NOT work. I’m happy to say it’s perfect every single time).
Next on my list of recipes to try are the toaster pastries, hamburger buns, and homemade nut butters.
Which one would you most like me to share here?
This past Saturday I had the good fortune to have breakfast with Deb Perelman, author of the wildly popular blog, Smitten Kitchen. I’ve been reading her posts for what feels like years, and she’s finally published her much-anticipated first book, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.
I’ve had the book for weeks now, and can honestly say—without hesitation—that it will quickly become splattered with food stains and marked up with penciled notes as I cook my way through the pages. The recipes are family friendly, simple yet interesting and translate well from regular weeknight dinners to weekend entertaining.
My boys have already scoped out the sweets section of the book and last week we made Deb’s Brownie Roll-Out Cookies. I had five 12-year-old boys over trying to figure out how to play poker—hey, I figure it’s better than them hanging out at the corner store—so I quickly whipped up a batch of cookies and cut them into poker-chip shapes to be used as edible betting materials. The recipe was originally published on the Smitten Kitchen blog a few years ago, and I’m happy it made the cut for the book.
Find the full printable recipe here: Brownie Roll-Out Cookies