Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

favorite cookbooks

Apropos of nothing, I thought you might enjoy a list of my favorite cookbooks. An online friend asked for suggestions and I started thinking about it–I realized that some of these cookbooks are incredibly useful texts that I reach for every week. I figured it would make a good post for my PCOS blog, but then I thought, well, who isn’t interested in cookbooks? So here you are. Any one of these would make a great bridal shower gift or gift for a person getting their first home of their own.

My absolute favorites:

Julia Child, The Way to Cook. This is an incredible cookbook, with reliable, understandable recipes for all kinds of things. Even though Mastering the Art of French Cooking is more famous–and perhaps for good reason; I love it too–this is the one I use more often. It is also the one that Child herself considered her magnum opus. If you do not know how to cook, and you read this book from cover to cover, you will know how.

The Moosewood Collective, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. I like many of the Moosewood cookbooks, but this one I have used most. The salads are great, and the Risotto with Green Beans and Pesto is amazing. It was the first risotto I ever made and the techniques are described clearly and simply.

Mark Bittman, Food Matters. I could really list his collected works, because I also really like How to Cook Everything, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and The Best Recipes in the World, but this is the one I use weekly. It has fewer recipes; the bulk of the book is about how to eat in a way that is ecologically sound and good for you. But it’s worth the price just to get the instructions for cooking whole grains and the frittata recipe (which uses only two eggs and a slew of vegetables, and which has become my breakfast staple.)

Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. This was a gift from my sister (thanks, Lissa!) and has gotten constant use since I got it. This is partly because Wesley absorbs bread effortlessly, which makes it all the more important that we eat healthful bread. This is whole-grain and, since I’ve made it myself, I know it’s not loaded with any sugar or anything weird. It’s also incredibly cheap to make and takes little time. I can’t even tell you how easy this is. And you will love the results–really, some of the things I’ve made from this book are so good, I can hardly believe they came out of my kitchen, with my crummy oven with no temperature control.

Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, and Bronwen Godfrey, The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book: A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking. This is a more traditional bread book, which means that the recipes require more work (kneading, whatnot), but it has a wide array of things, including a yummy muffin recipe, good banana bread (or so I’m told–I personally do not eat bananas), very good hamburger buns, etc. If you have a mixer that will knead for you, it’s not too onerous to make the regular yeast breads here, and there are excellent instructions for how to read the dough so that you get good results.

Decadent Treats and Outrageously Unhealthy Party Foods:
Alice Medrich, Bittersweet. This is an entire book about chocolate. It contains stories, personal reflections, and information about chocolate, as well as recipes. I recommend the truffles. But I recommend them for GIVING AWAY, because they are incredible and addictive.

Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl. I’ll be honest: if I hadn’t been reading her blog all along, I would never have read this cookbook, because it’s so popular that I wouldn’t have thought I could like it. But I do. And it has all kinds of indulgent, wonderful recipes for special occasions. The cinnamon rolls, by the way, are fabulous gifts for Christmas.

Finally, it would be remiss to suggest that most of my cooking comes from these books, since I get so many of my recipes from the internet. So, my favorite cooking sites:

Smitten Kitchen. The 44-Clove Garlic Soup alone is reason enough for this blog’s existence–but I have never had a failure with her recipes, and I’ve made a bunch.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks, by Ree Drummond. Many of the recipes here are a little….excessive, shall we say?, but I love to read it and I have gotten some wonderful recipes. My very favorite actually is pretty healthful, which is unusual for Ree’s food: the Asian Noodle Salad, which I’ve made for a number of parties. It’s “licious,” as Wesley would say. Some of the recipes from the site appear in the cookbook, but of course the site has more. (There are also a few in the book that aren’t on the web site–savvy marketing and all that.)

Steamy Kitchen, by Jaden Hair. I like her Chinese recipes best and plan to cook a lot more of them someday when I replace my stove and can actually heat up a wok.


dinner is served

I just made black bean soup–with tomatoes and jalapenos I canned myself, plus black beans I cooked in the crock pot (I’m still not over learning to cook dry beans). I feel so domestic and accomplished.

I’m not going to be learning to make sausage, though.

pumpkin soup, or Conor’s squash odyssey

So, Conor’s co-worker and his wife have a nice garden and gifted us this beautiful pumpkin:

Beautiful, no? It’s a Cinderella pumpkin–real name, Rouge Vif d’Etampes.

Anyway, Conor has been making this pumpkin soup all fall–it’s really good. Pureed pumpkin, onions, celery, garlic; yogurt/sour cream; milk; chicken broth. It’s fabulous.

He decided to turn this pumpkin into soup (after Halloween, when I could be pried away from admiring it).

It turns out that these pumpkins are extremely fleshy–almost no “guts” in the middle, lots and lots of…well…pumpkin. This is a single pumpkin, right? Check out how much diced pumpkin it generated (this is my really big stock pot–the kind that’s too tall to put water in from the kitchen sink tap):

in pot

Please ignore my filthy stovetop. Thank you.

Anyway, 55 cups of pumpkin! From one squash, mind you. We had to divide it into two pots.

Also, this project produced lots of compostable scraps…

In the end, it made six gallon-sized freezer bags of soup (that is, of the basis for the soup, without the dairy ingredients) plus our dinner for that day. In February, we’re going to have the best dinners ever.


So last week I got brave enough to try making sushi again. I had made sushi once before, but it was not a success–tasty, but falling apart. That was years ago, though [we were still living in our first apartment], so I decided it was time to give it another go, because I love sushi but I am too cheap to eat it very often.

So, I assembled the necessities [sushi rice, nori, sushi vinegar, and assorted fillings], gave Wesley a milk jug to play with, and propped Mary on a stool to “help” with the process. I decided to go with crab this time instead of raw fish, because a] I knew Mary would eat it and b] I didn’t have to go anywhere special to get it. I brought along cucumbers and green beans from the garden and made Conor pick up an avocado. We were in business!

We made quite a mess.

From luke and elaine's

I don’t know why, but this sushi rice was WAY stickier than when I made this last time. As in, you could mortar an entire brick house with this stuff.

From luke and elaine's

Mary was quite excited about this process.

From luke and elaine's

She helped by handing me fillings. [George looked on and slavered.]

From luke and elaine's

Finished rolls!

From luke and elaine's
From luke and elaine's

I made some with crab and some vegetarian [because kids under 2 aren’t supposed to eat shellfish…whatever]. The big winner–the ones with green bean. Who knew? I’m sure it’s non-traditional but it was yum.

From luke and elaine's

Everybody had some.

From luke and elaine's
From luke and elaine's
From luke and elaine's

Verdict: success!

I am making sushi

…and it looks so yummy. I don’t want to wait for Conor to get home to eat it.

random recipe: roast chicken

Several people have asked me recently [in person or online] how I roast a chicken. I didn’t realize I was an expert on this, but apparently so. I do it a lot because it’s cheap, it gives us several meals, and it’s easy easy easy.

In detail, here’s my method:

*Rinse the chicken and pull out anything unseemly or gross from the cavity [God, I hate doing that].

* Put chicken in a roasting pan and rub it all over with garlic. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper. If I have lemons, I’ll juice a lemon over it and stuff the spent lemons into the cavity. Stuff in the garlic cloves too. I usually use my beloved Pampered Chef garlic press to squish some garlic to rub on the skin.

* Put it in the oven uncovered at about 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

* When it’s browning slightly after 20 minutes, I cover it [or tent it with foil if your roaster doesn’t have a lid] and then roast it until it’s done. That can take a few hours if it’s a big bird. I check it with a meat thermometer [180 is done].

* Take it out, let it rest for 10 minutes [or until it’s cool enough to touch]. Begin to carve it. Take advantage of your job to pick off more than your fair share of the crispy, delicious skin. This is your reward for being the person who does the cooking in your household. Alternatively, you can use the skin as a bribe to get your husband to pick all the meat off the chicken. I hate doing that so Conor does it 80% of the time.

* When all of the meat is off, throw the bones [ I make my life easier by only using the bones that are not “gross”–you know, none of the ones that have lots of fat hanging on hem or whatever–just because I have lots of bones and I don’t need the ones that make me have to skim it all day] into a stock pot of water. Add a couple of chunks of onion or celery if you want to and a cube of chicken buillion [yes, I cheat]. Boil for a few hours or until you are annoyed because you want to go to bed. Strain the broth into a container and either make soup or store it for the next day to make soup.

Ta da! At least three meals for my family if I buy a decent-sized bird, and we eat a lot [especially my husband, who loves roast chicken like some people love their children]. Another tip: while a huge turkey can be annoying to roast, a chicken is generally not going to be big enough to cause a problem. That being the case, I get the biggest bird I can, because it’s a better deal–you get more meat from one big bird than two small birds.

rave for Laurel’s Kitchen

So Conor picked up a copy of this book for me: click here

It is FANTASTIC. All about whole grain bread baking–nothing else–instead of just “you may substitute whole wheat flour for half of the flour” at the bottom of the recipe. I made the basic loaf over the weekend and it turned out pretty well–I think it would have been even better if I’d kneaded it longer so I’m going to try it again soon. Seriously, this book is great. The authors decided that substituting whole grain flour instead of just writing a recipe that’s designed for it is how most cookbooks arrive at bread recipes that are more or less indistinguishable from bricks. The loaf I made is up there with the best loaves of bread I’ve ever made–even the ones I made from white bread flour. I’m going to use her recipe to make a sourdough starter and I’ll keep you posted.

In other news, here are some recent-ish pictures that I have forgotten to post here–just some outdoorsy kid photos. I’ve taken more since these that haven’t been uploaded yet, so here’s a taste to whet your appetite:

From May 8 2009

Mary was in a “take my picture” kind of mood.

From May 8 2009

Excuse the drool.

From May 8 2009

Wesley is trying to decide if the neighbor’s yard is tempting enough to lure him off the Blanket of Safety.

From May 8 2009

Incidentally, I made everything Mary is wearing in these photos. Even the diaper. Is that insane?

From May 8 2009

Mary says, “I go sleep!” I am skeptical.

From May 8 2009

Sweet Mother of God, that is a cute baby.

From May 8 2009

As Mary said, “Wessy SO sleepy-tired!”

From May 8 2009