05 April 2011

Cooking for Two

Yesterday my sister-in-law Amy came to my bedroom as I studied Business Data Analytics to deliver this goodie!

I pre-ordered America's Test Kitchen's Cooking for Two 2011 awhile back when Martie gave me an Amazon gift card for my birthday last year. She knew I had a long outstanding wish list and helped me cross a few things off, including this lovely cookbook.

There may not be words to express how excited I am about this book. First of all, I HEART everything America's Test Kitchen. I fell in love with the show while watching on local programming one day in Utah. Then my favorite food blogger, Annie's Eats, showcases recipes from Cooks Illustrated (part of ATK) all the time! It's so fascinating to me, the science behind all the cooking! They are masters at sleuthing the best possible way to prepare meals, get the most vibrant flavors, and then describing the process in layman's terms.

When Amy delivered the book, I promptly dropped my statistics book (which is an effort as I love me some statistics, not to mention refraining from procrastinating) and started browsing the pages. I then regurgitated (probably not the best word choice for a cookbook review) everything I had read to Martie. Because, like me, she needs to start shopping and cooking for two rather than a large family. We both love great food and are not fans of leftovers!

The beginning of the book gives a smart shoppers guide, which includes a list of ingredients and what other recipes in the book they can be used in. This resources will help me overcome one of the most difficult things about cooking for two, which is shopping for two! Everything comes in bunches larger than my meals require. I end up wasting fresh veggies or cans because recipes for two only require part.

Then there are the recipes! Each recipe is prefaced with a short explanation for the specific ingredients or spices added to scientifically improve the dish. It also explains the chosen method for cooking and alternatives. Categories for recipes include Everyday Main Dishes, One Dish Suppers, Pasta for Dinner, Vegetarian Suppers, Dinner Off the Grill, On the Lighter Side, One Big Roast - Three Great Meals, Slow Cooker Favorites, Side Dishes, and Desserts. Yeah! I know! Kind of awesome! The book also squelches cooking myths and suggests the best cooking tools and ingredient brands. The only downside to this book is that not every recipe has a picture. That's half the fun of owning a cookbook, not to mention the main reason I watch the Food Network!

Let me just give you a taste of this fantastic reading:

Under the category "On the Lighter Side" is a recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo!

"Traditional fettuccine alfredo is made with aged Parmesan, butter, heavy cream, and fresh egg fettuccine. Boasting almost 600 calories and over 40 grams of fat per serving, this dish is something we indulge in only once, maybe twice a year."

Not so true for me (Katie)! I LOVE this stuff... moving on...

"With such a nice combination of ingredients, we wondered if it was time to apply a lighter touch to this Italian classic. Given its simplicity and the fact that it relies on just a handful of ingredients -- making it an ideal weeknight pasta supper for two -- we decided to give it a try."

They then describe how they tested reducing the amount of cream and how to thicken it. After producing a silky sauce with cornstarch instead of a roux (which didn't cook off the flour in such a short cooking time), they tested using milk, evaporated milk, or half and half instead to reduce fat content. Then after testing the cheese, butter, serving dishes, and seasonings the recipe (440 cal per serving, 12 g fat) is recorded.

Recipes I can't wait to try:
Easiest-Ever Pulled Pork
Cajun Red Beans and Rice
Thai Chicken with Basil
Strip Steak with Corn and Black Bean Salad
Fettuccine Alfredo
Pesto Pasta Salad with Chicken and Vegetables
Oven-Fried Fish with Tartar Sauce
Slow-Cooker Lemony Chicken and Potatoes
Roasted Beet Salad with Blood Orange and Almonds
Summer Berry Snack Cakes
Peach Brown Betty
Easy Lemon Souffle
Chocolate Pots de Creme

The list is long, and there's a good chance I wont get going on these until summer with all of our preparation plans for med school. But don't worry! You'll be updated.

P.S. Happy Birthday to my Dad, who shares my love of food! I'll make sure to take good dessert notes and make my favorite the next time you and I are in the same city!