What’s cookin’ ?

Every now and again the cooking bug bites me and, like this afternoon, I spend a few hours in the kitchen trying out new recipes. I never really learned to cook, so I always have to start with a recipe. Even still, it manages to feel like a science experiment. Any *serious* activity in the kitchen catches my husband’s interest and before long he’s sniffing around and peaking under pot lids to see what kind of poison I’m whipping up.

Today I made a barbeque sauce with at least fifteen different ingredients and a nice bite that we’ll use tomorrow – the chicken breasts are marinating overnight. I also made an avocado and tomato salad and a corn salad with fresh Jersey white corn. I’ve sampled both already and they’re pretty yummy!

I’m curious if the rest of you have any favorite cookbooks to recommend? My father swore by the Fanny Farmer Cookbook so I bought one when I first got married and rely on it for basic stuff like what cut of meat to buy or how long to cook a poached egg. For years my favorite *everyday* cookbook was the New Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, but lately I’ve been sampling from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks by Ina Garten.

My friend Linda at work is crazy about her and finally I got tired of listening to her rave about the dishes, so I bought a few of her cookbooks and have been very pleased. Any recipe that I’ve tried so far has turned out wonderfully. For Christmas Eve I used her recipe for spiral ham with a mango chutney glaze and also made her recipe for baked beans that went nicely with the ham. Christmas morning I made her banana crunch muffins which have turned into a family favorite. All the things I made this afternoon were from her books also.

What I like about her recipes is that they’re simple and not intimidating; she uses common ingredients but insists on quality. I hate having to search out some oddball ingredient in gourmet shops in order to make a dish. More often than not I spend a lot of money on something that I’ll never have the chance to use again.

So, any good cookbooks to recommend? Have you done any experimenting in the kitchen lately? Please share your successes (or failures)!

19 thoughts on “What’s cookin’ ?”

  1. I love to eat but I hardly ever try new recipes.-The reason is that it takes too much time and ingredients.-Some of the cooking shows I’ve seen have tempted me to try some new things though.-Yumm-sounds good!

  2. Now that looks like one heck of a good meal! Hmmm Can’t say I have not done any experimenting recently! I do that more so in the winter time!

  3. I have a couple of editions of The Joy of Cooking. The edition from 1947 deals with wartime food rationing and the author bemoans the discovery of calories. The most recent edition is also excellent and covers every basic recipe you would ever need to know.

  4. The corn salad looks tasty.

    I tend to make a lot of rice and lentil dishes. I don’t have any particular recipe. I just use whatever vegetables I happen to have.

    I think Joy of Cooking is great as a reference; it’s the first place I turn for information on a new ingredient or technique. But I find that the recipe selection is too limited to western European style cooking. I’d prefer something more broadly based. The text shows its age at times, too.

  5. I love Southern Living mag and buy their hardcover book if I can find it “up here”. Also,Cooking Light.If you ever see “Best of Bridge” cookbooks or ones by Jean Pare, all recipes are terrific.I have a lot of favorites!

  6. I get the Cooking Light, too. Lots of our recipes from from there. My first cookbook was Better Homes, New Cookbook, bought in 1969. I still use it for basics, also The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, for the same reason.
    These days, we mostly buy regional books and try lots of new things.
    Oh, and I love bread cookbooks from everywhere.

  7. Yummy, the salad in your photo looks good! Where did the recipe come from so I can try it? Lately I’ve been trying recipes from the Vegeterian Times magazine and have been loving most of them.

  8. I have several–agreeing with Ruth–my cooking bible is Joy of Cooking.
    I also having More With Less Recipes (which I bet Ruth has too) which gives you a perspective on world food needs.
    I love the website Epicurious.Com for recipe research.
    And I have my Market Square Church Bistro Soup recipe book!

  9. I have many cookbooks but I only refer to them if I’m entertaining or need to provide a dish for something. My idea of cooking (which I do every night) is to bake chicken or put a frozen meal in the oven (from Sam’s Club). I’m basically a lazy cook unless I’m hungry. I make a fresh salad every night, though, even if my time is limited.

    You DH sounds like mine…comes into the kitchen and sees something different and wonders “what poison in in that pot?” LOL!

    I hope you are enjoying that great meal you concocted.

  10. Our favorite series of cookbooks are definitely the “Best Recipe” books (by the America’s Test Kitchen people). They try dozens of recipes for a particular dish, find out what works and what doesn’t, and combine the best aspects to make one “keeper” recipe. I can’t remember a single recipe that we didn’t like…

  11. Thanks for the tip re good cookbooks. Soon I will be assuming responsibility for feeding five once a week. I’ll check out the Contessa for sure. Would you be willing to tell us where to find the recipe for the dish pictured here?

  12. I have almost as many cookbooks as field guides. I like the BH&G one for everyday use, but the America’s Test Kitchen (Cook’s Illustrated) books are hard to beat to. I love Paula Deen as well, but her stuff will clog your arteries pretty fast. I’ve had good luck with Rachael Ray, but her stuff required a lot of ingredients usually.

  13. ‘Joy of Cooking’ is an amazing reference book; the first cookbook I ever read for pleasure. I think it’s an absolute necessity for every kitchen.

    However, I agree that the recipe ideas are limited and not all that creative. Basic stuff – sauces, brownies, how to cook meats – all good. For more creative stuff, I like Paula Deen (in limited quantities!), Rachel Ray, Pampered Chef stuff…

  14. Larry: Yes, it does take time. We hardly cook much during the week – the summer is better – cooking outdoors is more fun.

    Monarch: Winter is fun to try out new soups and such.

    Ruth: That seems like a popular book – maybe will help me learn some more basics and build confidence in the kitchen which I could use!

  15. John: I love rice and lentils, too! My DH is diabetic so I can’t make rice (or pasta) often enough to suit me.

    Jean: Thanks for the suggestions! Once in a while I buy Southern Living magazine, but never paid much attention to the recipes – will do in the future though.

    Sandy: I have two breadmachines collecting dust, but I’ve been thinking about them lately. My brother makes some wonderful breads on holidays. Do you have trouble finding specialty flours?

    Jennifer: You’re right – that does sound yummy and so simple! Will check out your recipe.

    Naturwoman: That’s not my pic, but the corn salad was similar looking. I’ll share the recipe at the end of comments here.

    KGMom: I thought of you and your soup recipes! I have a few of those sort of neighborhood recipe books and love some of the treasures inside.

    Mary: Yep – it was yummy tonight! We don’t cook often – I’m usually not hungry at night if I’ve had a proper lunch and my DH works crazy hours so it’s hard to plan. Weekends we try to throw something together.

  16. e4: Hi! I enjoy Cook’s magazine too, but haven’t bought any of their books yet. Mostly I’ve tried dessert recipes that I’ve come across in their magazine and they’re always good – you’re right!

    Kiki: Hi! I’ve been meaning for ages to stop by and say hello at your blog – forgive me!

    Recipe for the corn salad:

    I boiled 5-6 fresh ears of corn for about 3 minutes just to remove the starchiness then removed the corn from the cob after it had cooled. Mixed it with about 1/2 cup diced red onion and 3 tablespoons cider vinegar and 3 tablespoons olive oil. I added red sweet pepper for color and next time will add some black beans like is pictured in the photo. Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Simple! Oh and fresh basil from the garden for garnish.

    Beth: I don’t often watch the Food Channel, so I’m not so familiar with Paula Dean and friends, but I’ll have to give her books a peak the next time I’m at the bookstore. Thanks!

  17. Enchanted Brocolli Forest is one of my favorite cookbooks–try the potato/carrot/squash soup and the artichokes recipes!

    A friend of mine cooks exclusively from the Barefoot Contessa’s cookbooks and it’s like heaven every time he cooks a meal!

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