10 April 2021

Weekend Cooking: Sparkling Wine Anytime by Katherine Cole

Review of Sparkling Wine Anytime by Katherine ColeI have a super-fun and informative book to share today. Katherine Cole's newest wine book is called Sparkling Wine Anytime: The Best Bottles to Pop for Every Occasion. It was published by Abrams last month, and I received a review copy because I'm a member of the Abrams Dinner Party.

What's a wedding, New Year's Eve, or a red-carpet event without a few bottles of the bubbly? When we hear the word bubbly, most of us immediately think of Champagne, but did you know sparkling wine is made all over the world and has been drunk for almost 9000 years? I didn't know that, but now that I've begun to explore this book, I've been learning how effervescence is achieved, how bubbling wine is made and stored, and how Champagne has benefited from centuries of good marketing.

The bulk of Sparkling Wine Anytime takes us around the world by vineyard and type of sparkling wine. Once we leave the Champagne region of France, the wine has to take on a different name; thus we have Prosecco, Cava, and Sekt, for example. Cole describes each growing region and the types of sparkling wine produced there and recommends and describes specific wines.

Warning: this is no dry (pun intended) treatise for wine experts. Cole's sense of humor and fun personality are evident on every page. I found myself laughing often and wishing she were my new BFF. Here she is writing about a Vouvray Brute:

An easy-peasy bang-for-the-buck crowd-pleaser. . . . This is a wine not to think too hard about; just buy half a case to throw in an ice bucket the next time you have a party.
I also love the design of the book, with its purple and tan color scheme, fun minimalist graphics, and maps.

Although Sparkling Wine Anytime is primarily a guide to buying and learning about bubbly wines, Cole includes a few cocktail recipes. You won't be surprised to learn that I had to give some of them a try. While I've ordered my fair share of French 75s and Kir Royales in my time (hey, it was the 80s!), I had never heard of a B2C2. It may be my new favorite Champagne cocktail . . . and, yeah, you can make fun of me, but I'm hooked.

Review of Sparkling Wine Anytime by Katherine ColePut Katherine Cole's Sparkling Wine Anytime on your wish list for yourself or for the sparkling wine lover in your life. This book is a joy to read and I learned a lot about the quintessential celebratory wine. Disclaimer: I'm not in fact a Champagne fan, but I do like other sparkling wines, particularly Prosecco.

I cheated a bit with the following recipe. I used Prosecco and 1 ounce of B&B, which I almost always have on hand. It was yummy.

1 cocktail
  • ½ ounce brandy
  • ½ ounce Benedictine
  • ½ ounce Cointreau (or Triple Sec)
  • 2½ ounces Cremant (French sparkling wine)
Combine the brandy, Benedictine, and Cointreau in a chilled cocktail glass. Top off with Cremant.

Recipe shared in the context of a review. All rights remain with the original copyright holder.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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05 April 2021

Late Winter Reading: Part II

Here's the promised second part of what I read in February and March. (For Part I, see my earlier post.) As before, I present the books in the order I read or listened to them and have taken the text from thoughts I posted on GoodReads. "AFM" means I reviewed the audiobook for AudioFile Magazine, and you'll find my review of the audiobook production there.

I have no idea why I was suddenly attracted to books about women during World War II; I read three nonfiction and two fictionalized accounts.

All but one of the books were provided by the publisher in one or more forms (digital, auido, print). Thanks too to Libro.fm.

Review of Dark Horses by Susan MihalicDark Horses by Susan Mihalic (Gallery, Peb. 2021): Kind of a domestic thriller and coming-of-age mashup. Roan is an Olympic-class equestrian athlete who is coached by her father, who is also a world-famous equestrian. Her fans and friends think her life is blessed, but what they don't know is that her father is controlling and physically and sexually abusive. This is the story of how Roan negotiates the mine field of her life, trying to find a clear path to the other side.

The book is a little difficult to read because of the tough subject matter, but the information about equestrian riding and training is interesting and provides welcome breaks, and the complexities of Roan's feelings are well done. (AFM)

Review of The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnisThe Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis (Katherine Tegen, Feb. 2021): I'm a fan of McGinnis's, and this creepy, twisty book didn't disappoint. In this retelling of Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," teenage Tress seeks revenge and information from her ex-best friend, Felicity, who was the last person to see Tress's parents before they disappeared. McGinnis also provides a look at what might happen when contemporary teenagers party unsupervised, except by social media. I can't wait for the second book in the duology.

The audiobook is nicely read by Lisa Flanagan, Brittany Pressley, and Tim Campbell. Flanagan and Pressley read the sections told from Tress's and Felicity's viewpoints, each perfectly capturing her character's personality. Campbell reads the sections told from the point of view of a panther (I won't say more, so as to avoid spoilers), and does a great job with the free verse.

Review of The Invisible Woman by Erika RobuckThe Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck (Berkley, Feb. 2021): Robuck's latest historical fiction introduces us to Virginia Hall, who overcame a number of hurdles to become a key player in the French resistance during World War II. Despite being a woman, being American, and needing a wooden leg (the result of an accident), she was sent to Occupied France by the British government to gather information, transmit messages, arrange supply drops, and aid the resistance.

I had never heard of Virginia Hall, who earlier served in the diplomatic core and later in the CIA. Even if you think you're over WWII stories, this one is very much worth your while. (AFM)

Review of The Power Couple by Alex BerensonThe Power Couple by Alex Berenson (Simon & Schuster, Feb. 2021): A very twisty thriller with some political and domestic aspects. Rebecca, a CIA operative, is married to Brian, a tech expert who recently sold a gambling app for buckets of money. To celebrate a milestone wedding anniversary and their new wealth, they decide to take a family trip to Europe. While in Barcelona, their college-aged daughter, Kira, sneaks out to have a drink with a guy she met the day before. She never comes home. A day or so later, her parents receive a ransom note.

The story, told alternately from Rebecca's, Brian's, and Kira's perspectives, is believable and scary. I loved the surprises. If you're into thrillers, give this a try. The audiobook is brilliantly performed by Steven Weber and Marin Ireland, who nailed the pacing and the characters' personalities.

Review of Every Vow You Break by Peter SwansonEvery Vow You Break by Peter Swanson (William Morrow, March 2021): I like a good domestic thriller, but the premise of this one was hard for me to buy. On her destination bachelorette party (paid for and arranged by her fabulously wealthy groom), Abigail gets drunk and has a one-night stand. She decides she shouldn't tell her groom. Everything is back on track until Abigail begins to feel uneasy just hours into their honeymoon on an isolated, tech-free island off the coast of Maine.

Yes, there were tense moments, and yes, I ended up rooting for Abigail. However, I found much of the book a little out of my ability to suspend disbelief. Also, it wasn't hard to predict the ending. The unabridged audiobook was read by Karissa Vacker, who did a good job with the material she had to work with.

Review of The Forever Sea by Joshua Phillip JohnsonThe Forever Sea by Joshua Phillip Johnson (DAW, Jan. 2021): I wanted to love this eco-fantasy, but instead it was just okay for me. In this world, boats sail on the surface of a vast, deep "ocean" made of prairie grasses. Boats are powered by magical fires tended by hearthkeepers. The story focuses on a young hearthkeeper and her first crew, both on the sea and in port. Themes include loyalty and betrayal, friends and family, loss and love (LGBTQ+), and politics.

This first in a new series ends not so much on a cliffhanger but certainly without resolution. The world building is well done, but the characters lack depth and the plot is meandering. (AFM)

Review of You'll Thank Me for This: A Novel by Nina SiegalYou'll Thank Me for This by Nina Siegal (Mulholland Books, March 2021): Set in a national park in Netherlands, this thriller finds its foundation in a local tradition in which a small group of teens are blindfolded and then dropped off in the woods with a map and compass. Though adult guardians are nearby, the kids are meant to work together to find their way to a camp, a few miles away. Quickly after young Karin and her group are left on their own, everything starts to go wrong, and as night falls, she is alone and lost.

Though the general plot was predictable, there were some surprises and the suspense and creep factors were well done. I really liked Karin's ability to draw on her knowledge and experience, even when she was really scared. Maybe not the best thriller, but I liked it. The unabridged audiobook was read by Tavia Gilbert, who did an excellent job with the characterizations, pronunciations, emotions, and tension.

Review of Three Ordinary Girls by Tim BradyThree Ordinary Girls by Tim Brady (Citadel, Feb. 2021): This is mostly a "just the facts, ma'am" kind of book. It introduces us to three teenagers who got caught up in the resistance movement in the Netherlands during World War II. The author learned about sisters Truss and Freddie Oversteegen and their colleague Jo Schaft from his agent, who saw one of the Oversteegens' obituaries. This journalistic account covers the girls' success and failures as they learned to steal, lie, kill, plant home-made bombs, deliver underground newspapers, hide Jews, and help Jewish children find safe homes. The girls were all under the age of 20 when they started.

Their story and their heroism teaches us all that even ordinary people with few skills can become heroes and make a true difference to help others. It's a lesson that is particularly important today. (AFM)

Review of The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena RossnerThe Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner (Redhook, April 2021): Part magical realism, part historical fiction, part midrash, part kabbalah, part folk tale retelling, this is a powerful book that's deep in Jewish tradition. Told from the perspectives of three sisters, this is the story of ethnic violent prejudice, love, faith, family, and--sadly--reality, even with the more mystical elements. There is an LBGTQ+ element and a strong theme of not being able to escape one's fate, of being tied to one's ancestral history and faith no matter how hard you try to outrun it.

This book is much, much stronger than Rossner's first, and I can't wait to read whatever else she has to write. The audiobook was read by Ana Clements, who did an excellent job conveying the different personalities of the sisters and infusing her delivery with power and emotion.

Review of A Woman of No Importance by Sonia PurnellA Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell (Viking, 2019) After reading Erica Robuck's fictionalized account of Virginia Hall (see above), I had to read this biography of the woman who overcame many barriers to help the French resistance and feed information to the British government. This book goes into more detail about Hall's life before and after the events told in the novel.

Hers is an amazing story. Don't miss learning about Virginia Hall, whether you choose to read this biography or Robuck's novel. (library book)

Review of Northern Spy by Flynn BerryNorthern Spy by Flynn Berry (Viking, April 2021): Emotional, strong look at how two sisters became involved in the contemporary IRA movement. Count me as one of the people who thought the Troubles were over in Ireland. In fact the IRA is still active and both sides--the activists and British government--attempt to recruit followers/informants in subtle, incremental ways. This book explores several sides of the ongoing conflict and the way it affects a single family. A powerful story, highly recommended, despite some problems with the plot details.

The audiobook was wonderfully narrated by Katharine Lee McEwan, who infused her delivery with the complex feelings of the characters without crossing the line into the melodramatic. Gripping performance that will make you want to listen all in one go.

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02 April 2021

Late Winter Reading: Part I

Long time, no thoughts on books. Here's Part I of a quick run-down of what I read in February and March, in the order I read them. Part II will appear on Monday. The following thoughts are generally taken from what I posted on GoodReads. "AFM" means I reviewed the audiobook for AudioFile Magazine, and you can find my review of the audiobook production there.

All of the following books were provided by the publisher in one or more forms (digital, audio, print). Thanks too to Libro.fm.

Review of The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. (Putnam, Jan. 2021): This is a powerful look at life, love, family, brutality, hope, and hopelessness on an antebellum Mississippi plantation. The author imagines a place for gender equality and queerness in several traditional African cultures and interweaves that with the stories of the enslaved in America.

The book was strong overall, but the elements of magical realism sometimes detracted from the principal story lines. (AFM)

Before the RuinsBefore the Ruins by Victoria Gosling (Holt, Jan. 2021): Part coming of age, part mystery, this book contains elements of first love, sexuality, addiction, poverty, and friendship. When a young man goes missing, his mother contacts his childhood friend, asking her to try to find him. This sets off a chain of events that causes Andrea to recall her painful childhood and to contact the people from her past who were with her on the night of a murder.

Some of the elements of the mystery were easy to figure out, but there were still a few twists. (AFM).

Review of The Code Breaker by Walter IsaacsonThe Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, March 2021): Clear and easy to follow account of the career of Nobel Prize-winner Jennifer Doudna who, along with her team, figured out how to employ CRISPR technology to edit genes. Her discoveries had a direct impact on developing the new RNA vaccines, including those for COVID. Isaacson's work exposes the struggle of women in science, competition and cooperation in research, the intersection of research and industry/business, and the ethical and evolutionary implications of gene-editing technology.

The material in this book is accessible to anyone with a basic knowledge of biology. (AFM)

Review of The Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny LecoatThe Girl from the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat (Graydon House, Feb. 2021): The book itself is well written and focuses on a young Jewish woman who escaped Europe and was working in Jersey when the Nazi army occupied the British Channel Islands. The story of Hedy and how she managed to survive despite being Jewish was well told, though I had some issues with a few plot inconsistencies and historical points.

I lived in Jersey's sister island Guernsey while conducting my doctoral research (in the 1980s) and really wanted to love this book. (AFM)

Review of The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O'DonnellThe House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O'Donnell (Tin House, Jan. 2021): Set in the late 1800s in London, this Gothic mystery brings together a bicycle-riding woman journalist, a down-and-out orphaned Cambridge student, and a Scotland Yard inspector as they separately and then together become involved in an apparent suicide case and the mysterious disappearance of several young women.

The book works on a lot of levels: good period details, engaging mix of gothic and humor, and well-constructed plot. It was fun to see how our heroes ended up working together and figuring out what happened to the women. Here's hoping we'll hear more from Olivia, Gideon Bliss, and Inspector Cutter. (AFM)

Review of Girl A by Abigale DeanGirl A by Abigale Dean (Viking, Feb. 2021): Lex grew up under increasingly abusive circumstances, enforced mostly by her father but not stopped by her mother. When Lex finally escapes, she flags down a car, begging the driver to call for help and save her six siblings. By the time the police get there, her father has committed suicide, but her mother is sent to prison. Years later, after their mother dies still in prison, Lex wants to turn their childhood home into a community center, but first she needs permission from her siblings, whom she hasn't seen since their escape.

The book asks: Who really survives such abuse? Is is possible? What happens when Girl A is forced to confront things she's learned to suppress. It's a difficult read. The audiobook was read by Ell Potter, whose performance captured Lex's conflicted thoughts.

Review of Fire in the Straw by Nick LyonsFire in the Straw by Nick Lyons (Arcade, Oct. 2020): I've been a fan of Nick Lyons's writing since my husband introduced me to his short pieces on fly fishing decades ago. I remember being excited when I learned he was starting a publishing business. Despite knowing about him, I didn't know the trajectory of his life. In this collection of essays, Lyons writes about how fly fishing changed his life and about his dedication to getting an education. He talks about his writing, his loves, his losses, and his perspective on aging.

Whether you've been a fan for years or are just discovering Nick Lyons, this is a highly recommended read.

Review of A Pairing to Die for by Kate LansingA Pairing to Die for by Kate Lansing (Berkley, Jan. 2021): I really liked the first book in this cozy mystery series, which is set in Boulder and features a local wine maker and her boyfriend, who is a chef and restaurant owner. As with the first book, I liked the descriptions of Boulder, the wine, and the food, and I like the characters. This second outing didn't disappoint me, and I was happy to see the growth of the characters and to meet new people. The murder mystery was also well plotted.

If you're into wine, food, Colorado, and/or cozies, then give this series a try.

Review of The Princess Spy by Larry LoftisThe Princess Spy by Larry Loftis (Atria, Feb. 2021). American Aline Griffith was determined to help her country during World War II. Through a fortuitous introduction, Aline is accepted for training as a U.S. spy and is sent to Madrid, where she infiltrates society, dates a famous matador, and then marries a count, all while carrying out dangerous missions and helping the resistance.

I had never heard of Aline, but I'm glad I know her story. Kate Reading did an excellent job with the narration, including characterizations, accents, and pronunciations.

Review of This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-SmithThis Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith (Grand Central, Feb. 2021): When driving home one night, Tallie sees a young man who looks like he's about to jump off a bridge. She stops and talks him into going home with her. Over the course of a long Halloween weekend she and Emmett form a bond, even while hiding their secrets. Tallie's secret, which we learn almost immediately, is that she's a licensed therapist, which makes her dealings with Emmett reasonably believable. Themes of grief, friendship, and family and a down-to-earth ending.

The audiobook was narrated by Kamali Minter and Zeno Robinson, who brought out the emotions and personalities of their characters.

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27 March 2021

Weekend Cooking: Come On Over by Jeff Mauro

Review of Come On Over by Jeff MauroHave you heard of Jeff Mauro? He made his name as the “Sandwich King” on the Food Network and currently hosts the show The Kitchen on the same network. His new cookbook, Come On Over will be published by William Morrow in April. (Thanks to William Morrow for the review copy of the cookbook.)

As you can tell from the title, this cookbook is all about entertaining—but don’t think hoity-toity. The gatherings Mauro likes are those that involve family and close friends. Each chapter focuses on a different kind of company meal, such as brunch, game day, cook-out, and pizza. There are also menus for themed meals, like tropical, Mexican, and holiday.

The recipes themselves are fairly easy to put together and have good flavor. We liked the Crispy Broccoli with Asiago and Pine Nuts, for example (see scan), which consists of tossing the broccoli in seasonings and cheese, roasting it, and then mixing with toasted pine nuts and some lemon zest and juice. Simple and delicious.

We (by we I, of course, mean me!) also made Greek Lemon Chicken and Orzo Bake, and the pantry-style Black Bean and Roasted Tomato Soup (see below for recipe). Both are on the make-again list.

Review of Come On Over by Jeff MauroRecommendation: Jeff Mauro’s Come On Over is a great choice for people looking for fairly easy recipes for casual entertaining or even for family dining. Many of the main dishes include fish or some kind of meat, so vegetarians will have to look before buying.

Cooks who have a solid repertoire of tried-and-true recipes for informal company dinners will want to check this cookbook out of the library. I promise you’ll find some new recipes to try (like Takeout-Style Chinese Spare Ribs, Citrusy Honey-Tequila Shrimp, and Grilled Greek Summer Salad), but I’m not sure you’ll find a ton of new ideas.

Last week's meal plan: Here’s what we had for dinner over the last week. Note that all dishes were served with a vegetable, salad, home-baked bread, grain, and/or pasta as appropriate:

  • Grilled apple gouda pork sausages (sausages from Butcherbox)
  • Black Bean and Roasted Tomato Soup (recipe below)
  • Greek Lemon Chicken and Orzo Bake from Come On Over
  • Curry udon with broccoli and avocado from I Can Cook Vegan (an Abram's Dinner Party cookbook I shared on Instagram and IG stories)
  • Mediterranean baked cod from The Mediterranean Dish website (cod from Butcherbox)
Now for the promised recipe. Note: I turned the soup into a vegetarian dish by eliminating the bacon and using vegetable stock. I added a chopped jalapeno pepper to the soup with the onion, and I didn't make the crema. We served this with lime wedges, diced avocado, and some shredded Cheddar cheese.

Next time I’d add chopped spinach, kale, or Swiss chard to the soup after using the immersion blender, just for extra nutrition. But the soup was really yummy without it.

Black Bean and Roasted Tomato Soup with Avocado Crema

Review of Come On Over by Jeff MauroServes 4
  • ½ pound smoked bacon or pancetta, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • One 14.5-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped fine
  • Three 15-ounce cans black beans, including canning liquid
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I skipped this and seasoned at the end)
  • 1 jalapeno, cored, seeded, and sliced thin, for garnish
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, for garnish
Avocado Crema:
  • ½ cup Mexican crema or sour cream
  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and roughly chopped
  • Zest and juice of 2–3 limes, as needed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Set a medium saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate, leaving the fat in the pan.

Quickly add the onion and cook it in the bacon grease, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes, letting it get some good color. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, stock, chiles, beans, bay leaf, and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for at least 30 minutes, until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally.

To make the crema, place the crema, avocados, and lime zest and juice of 2 limes in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. If too thick, thin out with a bit more lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the crema to a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap to keep it from browning. Refrigerate the bowl.

Now back to the soup. Carefully remove the bay leaf and discard. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until you achieve the consistency you desire. Taste and season with more salt, if desired.

To serve, ladle the soup in to bowls, garnish with bacon, avocado crema, jalapenos, and cilantro. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 3 days or freezer for 3 months.

Scans and recipe shared in the context of a review. All rights remain with the original copyright holder.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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06 March 2021

Weekend Cooking: The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook by ATK

Review of The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook by America's Test KitchenI'm not sure why meal prep books are so popular right now, perhaps it has to do with COVID; I don't know. That's all to say that perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised to see that the new cookbook from America's Test Kitchen was called The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook (Random House; March 2).

I'm a huge ATK fan. Their recipes are always spot-on thanks to their extensive research and testing, and the recipes I've made from The Ultimate Meal Prep book have been delicious.

Despite the title of the cookbook, this is really more for meal planners than for meal preppers. At the heart of the cookbook are 25 weekly plans of four recipes and a bonus recipe (I'll explain in a minute). The beginning of the book includes tips for storing food properly, cooking ahead, and preparing veggies for the week to come. There's a lot of good information there, and even experienced cooks will learn something, like reheating strategies and how to properly store leftovers.

Each meal plan consists of five dinners meant to make the most of your grocery list and pantry. So, for example, if you need to buy fresh rosemary, that herb will show up at least twice that week so there's no waste. If you still have leftover herbs, ATK tells you how to dry or freeze them, so you don't have to throw them out.

ATK starts each meal plan with a description of why it works, what can be made ahead, how long the components of the meals will keep, a prep-ahead checklist, a grocery list, a pantry item checklist, and more. Some of this information is repeated with each individual recipe. Variations, substitutions, and serving suggestions are also provided.

The grocery list and checklists are based on the four main recipes. The fifth recipe each week is called a "pantry meal" and is meant to be a filler for households that need that extra recipe. For example, bigger families may not have any leftovers, but couples may find they need only the four dinners to make it through the week. The recipes for the suggested pantry meals are collected at the back of the cookbook.

Here's the good: The recipes are easy and doable even if you don't take advantage of any of the prep-ahead advice. The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook includes active cooking time for each recipe, which is a help for busy cooks. If you're new to meal planning, having a suggested weekly plan can be a godsend. If you're an old hand at meal planning, ATK's meal plans will work as a springboard to help you mix and match their recipes with your own. The pantry meal section is great for coming up with quick meals that use what you already have on hand. Nutrition information for each dinner is given at the back of the book. The meals are not assigned specific days, so you can be flexible about what you eat when.

Here's the not so good: The cookbook is very meat heavy. As most of you know, we're about 50 percent vegetarian, meaning I alternate fish/meat dinners with vegetarian dinners. Most of the meal plans in The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook include four fish, meat, or poultry dinners and only one vegetarian. People hoping to cut down on their meat eating will have to tweak many of the meal plans.

Review of The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook by America's Test Kitchen

Just for fun, I decided to try one of the suggested meal plans. I picked Week 13. I made a couple of changes, though. ATK suggested shrimp burgers one night, but we went for grilled salmon instead. The rest of the dinners were Steak, Mushroom, and Spinach Rice Bowl; Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Asparagus Salad; Tortellini and Vegetable Soup with Pesto; and a pantry meal of Coriander Spiced Couscous with Chickpeas. The steak bowl was supposed to topped off with a fried egg, which we opted out of, since the steak was filling enough for us. The suggested pantry meal was a lentil dish, but we had just finished a big batch of lentil soup and didn't want to repeat. The meals were delicious and easy to make and worked well for us. Some dishes lasted two nights, and others gave us enough leftovers for lunch.

The scan above comes from the promo material and shows the cover page for Week 3. Don't the meals look yummy? Click the image to enlarge it.

Recommendation: As I often say, you don't have to meal plan or prep to use the recipes in a meal prep cookbook. America's Test Kitchen's The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook can be used by non-planners as a source of easy, quick, and delicious weeknight dinners. Meal planners will appreciate ATK's suggestions; sometimes it's nice to have an already put-together plan. Meal preppers may learn new tricks. Vegetarians and people trying to reduce their meat consumption can still use many of the recipes but will find it harder to follow the suggested meal plans. Vegans should look before buying.

Coriander-Spiced Couscous and Chickpeas

Review of The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook by America's Test KitchenServes 4-6
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1-1/2 cups couscous
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped fine
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1-3/4 cups broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen peas
  • lemon wedges for serving
For the couscous: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add couscous and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are just beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and wipe the skillet clean.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the now-empty skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add carrots, onion, salt, and cook until softened and just beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, coriander, and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and chickpeas and bring to simmer.

Stir in peas and couscous. Cover, remove skillet from heat, and let sit until couscous is tender, about 7 minutes.

To finish: fluff with fork and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with lemon wedges.

BFR's Notes: I added some leftover crumbled feta cheese on top. Recipe and scans shared in the context of review; all rights remain with the original copyright holder.

Shared with Weekend Cooking, hosted by Marg at The Intrepid Reader (and Baker)

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