30 January 2021

Weekend Cooking: Books in My January Kitchen

4 books for cooks and foodiesHi friends. Sorry I've been so absent lately, but we've been trying to set in place our 2021 goals and changes, and they have pretty much taken over most of my energy this month. Nothing bad going on at all, just shaking it up a bit. I'll try to write a catch-up post in February to clue you in, but for now, social media is not at the top of my mind.

Enough with the vague explanations . . . today I have a mishmash of thoughts on cookbooks and food-related reading that came my way in January. I'm going to start with my favorite.

4 books for cooks and foodiesIna Garten's latest cookbook is Modern Comfort Food (it came out last October from Clarkson Potter). I love Ina Garten and this book doesn't disappoint. Our favorite recipe so far is the Crispy Chicken with Lemon Orzo (shown here), which was super quick to put together and really delicious. The recipe can be found over on Food 52. Also good was the Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Chipotle Orange Butter. I went ahead and made the entire composed butter recipe, using a full stick of butter, and popped the leftovers in the freezer for the next time I roast sweet potatoes. If you're an Ina Garten fan, you'll want to pick up a copy of the cookbook or at least check it out of the library. Vegetarians and vegans will definitely want to borrow before buying.

4 books for cooks and foodiesNext up is a book I was curious about because, as you know, I jumped on the meal-planning bandwagon several years ago. I've found planning to be been especially important during COVID, when it's just not worth running to the store to pick up random ingredients whenever the mood hits. Instead, we've been very consciously ordering curbside pickup or delivery and limiting our in-store shopping. I thought I could pick up a few tips in 100 Days of Real Food Meal Planner by Lisa Leake (William Morrow, Dec. 2020). If you are completely new to meal planning or are having trouble getting in the groove, then this and other books by Leake will probably be a big help. Note that this planner is mostly a workbook. It contains some good tips (though not everyone is in a position to eat mostly locally produced foods) and a few one-pot recipes. The bulk of the book consists of 52 perforated pages with space to plan your dinners and create shopping lists for an entire year. Many people will find this a godsend and to be very useful. I, however, have already found my rhythm, so I plan to give my copy to a friend who asked me for some organizational help.

4 books for cooks and foodiesI don't generally review diet or fitness books in this space for many reasons, but I was curious about two books that came out this month. The first is Fast This Way by Dave Asprey (Harper Wave, Jan. 19). Dave Asprey, if you don't know, is the name behind the Bulletproof brand of diet and nutrition supplements, bulletproof coffee, and gadgets. Note that I don't really know much about Asprey, have never used his products, and have never tasted bulletproof coffee. Nevertheless, I downloaded a review copy of Fast This Way because I wanted to know more about intermittent fasting, which has, in fact, gotten some positive reactions from the medical community. Unfortunately, the first pages of the book included a description of a spiritual quest, which made me (don't hate me) immediately put the book down. Perhaps there is good, solid medical and scientific data in this book, but I was turned off from reading more. Your mileage may vary . . . if you give this book a try, let me know what you thought.

4 Books for Cooks and FoodiesThe final book I looked through (meaning I didn't read every single word) is Abby Langer's Good Food, Bad Diet (Simon & Schuster, Jan. 5). Langer, a registered dietitian working in Toronto, is not out to tell you to ban carbs, eat all the fats, go low fat, become a vegan, or do anything else. Her hope is to dispel the ideas that the only good woman is a thin woman and that only the ultra skinny are healthy and happy. Her goal is to change people's (sadly, mostly women) negative relationship with food and the scale. Thus she encourages readers to work toward good physical and mental health, even while enjoying a few chocolate cookies when the mood strikes. That said, she does encourage people to obtain a healthy weight. Is this contradictory? Perhaps. But her principal focus is to move her readers past the diet culture and change their relationship with food. Langer believes this is the only way people can reach their own individual set weight--balancing a full range of food choices with a good medical checkup. Although there are no earth-shattering revelations here, if you have issues around food and eating or have struggled with dieting, you might want to give this one a try.

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


Mae Travels 1/30/21, 8:11 AM  

Those last three books really look terrible! I won't have any trouble avoiding them as I never would consider diet, meal planning, or spiritual advice books.

Ina Garten is another story -- I have been thinking about giving her recipes a try, as I've never seen her programs or used her books, but she has a pretty good reputation.

be safe... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Jackie McGuinness 1/30/21, 10:55 AM  

I would put down a book that has a spiritual quest at the start too.

That Good Food Bad Diet sounds sensible. I just put it on my wish list at the library.

gluten Free A_Z Blog 1/30/21, 11:33 AM  

I think you can't go wrong with Ina Garten. I always love her books and her shows. Interesting how Ina has always been very popular and beautiful without needed to be "thin" !

JoAnn 1/30/21, 11:34 AM  

Meticulous meal planning has been a huge help for us, too, during this pandemic. I grocery shop at 7AM every 10 days or so and don't make any other trips out. One thing I'm really looking forward to post-pandemic is finding a new recipe and being able to run to the grocery story, gather ingredients, and cook it right away!

I have Ina's new book and will try those sweet potatoes next week.

Claudia 1/30/21, 1:06 PM  

An interesting selection Beth. I've never tried cooking with Ina, so will give this one a try from the library first. Thanks

Tina 1/30/21, 1:29 PM  

Ina Garten never disappoints. I am looking forward to that one.

(Diane) bookchickdi 1/30/21, 2:32 PM  

My sister-in-law and I virtually cooked a meal from Ina's new cookbook in October. We made Skillet Chicken and Potatoes, Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip and Boston Cream Pie. We FaceTimed all day and had so much fun, and the dishes turned out great.

Laurie C 1/30/21, 5:12 PM  

I like the sound of Good Food, Bad Diet. I have an Ina Garten cookbook but don’t use it often. I imagine the new one would be difficult to use in a gluten-free kitchen, too, —especially as “comfort food” tends to equal bread, pasta, and pie crust—but I’ll definitely check it out from the library!

That Librarian 1/30/21, 5:32 PM  

I love the way that you talk about books. Thank you for doing the heavy lifting of reviewing all the books!!

Melynda@Scratch Made Food! 1/30/21, 10:01 PM  

We have started meal planning here, but for us, it is not COVID-related. A shared dinner table makes for the NEED to meal plan, that way the first one home can get started on dinner. I must say, I have never meal planned before, it has taken me a while to get used to it. I have always cooked on the fly...

Marg 1/31/21, 3:34 AM  

Meal planning is something that we do as a matter of habit now. It's part of our Sunday morning brunch to plan what we want to have for dinner during the week and the create the shopping list for the next week. The main reason we do this is to try to reduce the amount of food that we throw out, but it does also mean that we aren't tempted to do takeaway too often!

Les in Oregon 1/31/21, 12:19 PM  

I own so many of Ina Garten's cookbooks and love the glossy photos almost as much as the recipes. I can sit and "read" a cookbook for hours, but haven't do so in several years. You've inspired me to order this new book to add to my collection. Reading the recipe for the Crispy Chicken (you had me at lemon orzo), though, makes me wonder where I can buy boneless chicken breasts WITH the skin left on. It does sound delicious.

Have a good week and thanks for the reviews.

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