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Welcome to a special edition of Weekend Cooking. Today I'm going to introduce you to my new favorite cookbook. I've owned Katie Workman's The Mom 100 Cookbook for only a few weeks, but I've cooked out it so often, I'm not sure it's left the kitchen.
Instead of a conventional review, I'm thrilled to tell you about the book through a short interview I did with Katie. I know she's terribly busy with her book tour, so I'm especially grateful that she took the time to talk to us about The Mom 100 Cookbook.
Before I get to the interview, I want to say a couple of things about the fresh, fun design of the cookbook. I know I've said this a million times, but I think the Workman Publishing cookbook designers are the best, and they did a fabulous job with Katie's book. The photographs are stunning, the colors are appetizing, and the sidebars and fonts catch your eye, inviting you to stop a moment to read and learn. Because I wanted to share the design with you, I scanned one of the recipes we liked instead of typing it out.
Now let's get to the heart of the post. Say hello to cookbook author Katie Workman and listen in while we chat about The Mom 100 Cookbook.
Beth Fish Reads (BFR): The Mom 100 Cookbook is full of useful information that is just perfect for the new cook or anyone who appreciates a little help in the kitchen. Almost every recipe comes with cooking tips, explanations of techniques, serving suggestions, and storage information. Timid cooks will be forever grateful for your longer boxes that talk about equipment, ethnic ingredients, terminology, and food safety. How did you know what kinds of information to provide to your readers? Did you pay attention to questions you asked yourself or were asked by your recipe testers?
Katie Workman (KW): We have so many friends over for meals, and I get asked all kinds of questions, and people always share their kitchen and cooking frustrations with me. And then if a less-confident cook is with me in the kitchen, he or she is often asking, "Why did you do that?" "What are you adding from that can?" So over the years I've gotten a feeling for what kind of information is helpful, and I try to present it in a conversational way, because that's actually how I am usually sharing it.
BFR: Your cookbook has three features that will make it a favorite with real-life families. These are the variations, vegetarian options, and "Fork in the Road." I know busy cooks will turn to your advice time and again when they want to cook a single meal that will appeal to everyone in the group. Can you explain the "Fork in the Road" idea and just how helpful this idea is to the family cook?
KW: The "Fork in the Road" concept is the idea that you can prepare a meal up to a certain point, then separate some of it out, leaving it plainer and simpler for the pickier eaters at the table. Then you continue on with the recipe, adding more flavors, spices, maybe some heat, so that the rest of the dish is more fully seasoned for the more adventurous eaters. Of course you want to encourage the kids to try some of the more flavorful version, and hopefully they'll be ready to give it a go the next time round, but this allows everyone to essentially share the same meal (which feels more like a family dinner), doesn't turn you into a short order cook, and keeps you out of the chicken nugget trap.
BFR: Another aspect of your cookbook that makes it a winner is that you use real ingredients, real food, and a variety of flavors. You don't shy away from canned beans and tomatoes or no-boil lasagna noodles, but you stress fresh veggies whenever practical. What types of dishes, cooking techniques, or flavors help kids eat their vegetables?
KW: Sautéing vegetables in a little bit of butter or olive oil, then steaming them in water to turn the bit of butter into a light glaze is a great technique. Topping tacos with veggies, letting your kids help you put together a vegetable bin soup from whatever you have on hand or picked up at the market, working some veggies into dishes like quesadillas or wraps, all of this works. Roasting is also a great method for cooking vegetables, since the high heat plus a bit of olive oil caramelizes the natural sugars in vegetables, giving them a richness and slight sweetness.
BFR: I'm a strong believer in the idea that if kids help make the food, they'll be more inclined to eat it, so I love your tips called "What the Kids Can Do." Your sense of humor and obvious experience with being in the kitchen with children really shine through. Are either of your sons turning out to be a natural chef?
KW: Both my kids have an interest in the kitchen, and both have been mostly intrigued when I shove my control-mom impulses to one side and let them be inventive. Jack once made pear muffins that were truly delicious, and Charlie has created a house dish called Charlie's Olive Percenter, which are eggs scrambled with sliced pimento-stuffed olives, topped with slices of cucumber. Delicious. The baking soda muffins were less successful.
BFR: Despite your tricks and tips, what types of foods or flavors are still a hard sell for your children?
KW: Fish is the albatross of most parents. Charlie used to really like fish, and Jack was not interested . . . then Jack started to like it and I thought we were almost in the clear, and Charlie started to be pickier about it. Now it's better, but still very much hit or miss, completely mercurial. And Charlie hates scallops--I was making them recently and he asked me if from now on I would only make them when he was out at a sleepover so he wouldn't have to smell them.
BFR: Although the title of your book is The Mom 100 Cookbook, it could just as easily be called the "Working Person's Cookbook." I don't cook for children, but I find myself turning to your recipes time and again. Most of my readers struggle with putting a meal on the table after a very busy day. Which two recipes from the book are your go-to meals when you're too tired to fuss?
KW: First, of all, thanks. And yes, absolutely, some nights it's about speed more than anything else. The Fresh Mozzarella Pasta casserole is the simplest and fastest recipe in the book, I think. And I almost always have the ingredients for the Mexican Tortilla Casserole in the pantry, and it comes together in a snap.
BFR: Finally, I have to ask: What's on the menu for tonight's dinner?
KW: Last night was pork ribs and chicken noodle matzoh ball soup. Possibly one of the few times these two foods have appeared at the same meal. Tonight we are going to DC to visit my sister's family, and we are taking our kids on a long ago-promised trip to Dave and Buster's so I'm quite sure there will be nachos and fries involved.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, Katie. I was so pleased to see that the Mexican Tortilla Casserole was one of your go-to recipes for a couple of reasons. First, that's one I've made a couple of times already, and it's a big hit. Second, that's the recipe I planned to share with my readers.
Before I get to the scans, I wanted to let all of you know that Katie Workman is the founding editor-in-chief of the site Cookstr.com, where you can find wonderful cookbook recipes. And don't miss visiting Katie's The Mom 100 Cookbook site. There you'll find videos, tips, and other great information about the book.
Now onto the recipe. To read the recipe, click the images to enlarge (you may have to click a second time to read them clearly), and you'll see just how quickly you'll fall in love with this cookbook. Here's an additional tip for the Mexican Tortilla Casserole. I used 10-inch tortillas because they fit my springform pan better than the 8-inch tortillas. I made the recipe exactly as directed. The only difference was that my stack was a little shorter. Enjoy!
Vegetarian/Vegan alert: Vegetarians will find many recipes to try, including the one I scanned. Vegans should look through the cookbook before buying.
Buy The Mom 100 Cookbook at an Indie, at Powell's, at Book Depository, or at bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs
Published by Workman Publishing, 2012
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)