Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What's For Dinner? Latest Favorites from my Cookbook Collection

Hey guys,

I love to cook and I have to admit that I am completely obsessed with cookbooks!  I own more than 20 of them. There are certain categories that I am attracted to: vintage, girly, and healthy.  I tend to go through phases where I am near-obsessed with a certain cookbook.  Here are some of my recent obsessions:

From left to right: Busy Girl, Healthy Life Cookbook by Lori Harder, Secrets of a Skinny Chef by Jennifer Iserloh, The Art of Cooking for Two by Coralie Castle and Astrid Newton, Almost Vegetarian by Diana Shaw, and The Bonne Femme Cookbook by Wini Moranville.

So I've arranged these in order from most health-food-like to most decadent.  Here's why I love each of them:

Busy Girl, Healthy Life Cookbook- This is the companion book to the website.  It's got nice pictures of almost every recipe (something I love!) right on the page and the food is tasty while still being extremely focused on being nutritious. There are a lot of Mexican-inspired recipes and similar recipes are grouped together (appetizers, salads, chicken, fish, etc.)  The book makes a lot of healthy swaps.  Recipes use stevia instead of sugar, nonfat yogurt instead of cream or sour cream, etc.  This is a newer book for me.  So far I've made the salmon pasta salad, chicken enchiladas, and chewy brownies.  Each one turned out great and I'm looking forward to trying more recipes.  Recipes tend to make a lot of servings, but many have ideas about freezing some for later included.  This is a great book if you are watching your waistline for an upcoming event. 

Secrets of a Skinny Chef-  This is another book that makes healthier versions of decadent favorites.  Recipes have lots of whole grain pasta, low fat cheese, etc.  Like the Busy Girl book, this will help you deal with a craving without going totally off the rails.  There are a lot of Italian-style recipes in this one.  Recipes are organized into chapters based on meal or course and there's a table of contents of recipes at the start of each chapter.  No pictures on each page, but there's a glossy picture section with page numbers.  In the front there's a chapter with pretty standard weight loss tips: read labels, drink water, etc.  There's a "shopping list" in the back of the book and menus for specific holidays or events. 

The Art of Cooking for Two- Although I collect vintage cookbooks (especially vegetarian cookbooks from the 1960's and 1970's when the movement was just taking off- they're adorable, kitschy, and often really healthy) this is the only one I cook out of regularly.  Originally published in 1976, this book focuses on small portions and fresh, healthy ingredients.  Their target audience are working couples- perfect for me and my hubby.  Some of the recipes are a little gross by modern standards- ox tail soup, pigs feet in a stock- but are easily avoided in favor of creative, healthy meals.   Almost every recipe includes menu suggestions that are fantastic.  There are a lot of side salads with homemade dressing, vegetable dishes, and creative casseroles like zucchini with mushrooms.  There's an Eastern European flair with lots of Hungarian-inspired recipes (spaetzle, goulash, etc.)  Given the time period, there are no artificial ingredients.  Recipes do call for real butter, 2% milk, plain whole-milk yogurt, and other high-fat ingredients, but always in tiny amounts that seem perfectly rational.  There aren't any pictures in this book, which is it's only real drawback. 

Almost Vegetarian- There's no pork or red meat in any of the recipes in this book (which is what the author means by "almost") and most recipes that include poultry or fish have a vegetarian alternative.  This book is the highpoint of warm, fuzzy cookbooks.  Almost every recipe includes a cute story that makes the author feel like a friend by the end of the book.  These are more involved recipes that are for days when you have time to spend in the kitchen, although the results are well worth the time spent!  Great for holidays, visiting relatives, and other times you want to impress while still serving lots of healthy veggies.  No pictures here, but the descriptions make up for it.

The Bonne Femme Cookbook- This is the most decadent book on the list by far.  Bonne Femme means "good wife" in French and represents a style of French everyday cooking.  (This book represents my own personal curiosity about the "French Paradox".  Who wouldn't want to eat decadent food and yet be super skinny??)  Recipes are fresh, prepared from scratch, and very good.  As you'd expect from a French cookbook, there's a lot of butter, cream, and other rich ingredients, but the recipes also feature mounds of veggies and other fresh ingredients that keep the food from feeling overly-sinful.  Even recipes that claim to be good for workdays take a lot of time to prepare, but they're not overly fussy or involved.  This book is great for the occasional treat, wowing your mother-in-law when she comes to dinner, and other occasions when you want to show off or prepare something classy.  All the fruit desserts and the end are pretty awesome, too.  No recipe pictures, and sometimes I have to Google recipe titles to figure out what the finished product is supposed to be since I'm only so familiar with French food.

What are your thoughts on cooking?  Do you love it?  Hate it? 

Stay Cool!


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