One of the very best parts of my job is that I get to read, cook from, and review the hottest cookbooks released each season. I take the role seriously and spend hours poring over the pages of titles that I think will speak to home cooks everywhere.
I usually begin by flipping though the book from cover to cover so I can get a sense of the style and tone of the book. Then I read the acknowledgments, an admittedly weird book-reading habit I have. I really have no idea why I do this, but it’s the first thing I read with every new book I open, and ultimately, I’ve decided that it’s because I think I can get a little glimpse of what kind of person the author(s) is based on whom they take the time to thank. Once I’ve done that, I read the introduction and/or forward, and then I start making my way through the pages, reviewing how the recipes are separated (season, meal, ingredient, etc.), how many have accompanying photos, and what kind of headnotes are included with each (another favourite part of a cookbook).
When all of that is taken care of, I go back through the recipes and bookmark the ones I find most exciting, eventually choosing three (or sometimes more) to test. This is where the real fun begins!
Last month, I was sent a review copy of Lick Your Plate: A Lip-Smackin’ Book for Every Home Cook (by Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat, published by Appetite by Random House). This is the third book for the Toronto-based sisters, and while I don’t know them personally, I’m very familiar with their work and previous publications. Their newest title boasts an impressive 160 recipes (I’ve written a cookbook and I know that’s no small feat!), and offers ideas for 30-minute meals, advice for swapping out ingredients, timesaving tips and tricks, and clever solutions for using up leftovers.
When it came to testing the recipes, I have to admit I had a tough time narrowing my list to just three. Here are a few of the recipes that I flagged for trying:
- Nutella-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Muffins
- Fluffy Apple Pie Pancakes
- Sweet Potato Soup with Pecan Crumble
- Baja Fish Taco Salad with Creamy Chipotle Dressing
- Falafel Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing
- Simple Honey Sriracha Salmon
- Slow Cooker Chicken Carnitas
- French Onion Soup Cheeseburgers
- The Ultimate Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookie
- Peanut Butter and Jam Bars
- Chunky Chocolate, Pecan and Berry and Granola
Eventually, I settled on the granola, carnitas, and muffins, rock-solid selections as far as my family was concerned. The granola was simple to assemble, scrumptious and decadent despite the small amount of butter and brown sugar used in the recipe. The carnitas are a wonderful example of how to get a good weeknight dinner on the table while simultaneously satisfying your Mexican cravings. Lastly, the muffins spoke directly to my Nutella-loving son’s heart, and will be made over and over again, I’m sure of it.
Ultimately, Lick Your Plate satisfies everything a home cook is looking for: the recipes are fast, fresh, flavourful and family-friendly. The writing makes you feel like you’re in the kitchen with witty and wise older sisters holding your hand and ensuring you never have to wonder ‘what’s for dinner?’ again because the answer lies somewhere between the 296 pages of this book that will help you serve crowd-pleasing dishes to your friends and family.