Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

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My Personal Learn to Cook Book

Aug 26, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Ease of use, variety, helpful hints, many charts, cooking basics, durable, food is sooooooo yummy!

Cons:Inside cover peeled up, no pages for my own recipes

The Bottom Line: This is the perfect cookbook for new and seasoned cooks alike. I cannot imagine trying to cook without it!


When my husband and I got married, I had not a clue what I was doing in the kitchen. The primary purpose of a kitchen, as far as I was concerned, was to have a place to keep plates on which you could put take-out Chinese food. (Mmmm... Yummy) However, after a few months, our pocketbooks and waistlines were calling out for a change of pace. In addition, after moving in together and getting all cozy, I think I caught the homemaker bug. So for Christmas that year, my mother got me a Rival Crock Pot and this cook book. It was among the best, and most useful, gifts I (or my husband, for that matter!) have ever received.

1. The Basics- I had always thought that cooking would be hard. That was before I got this cookbook. It puts everything you need to know right at your fingertips. After an introduction and table of contents, it breaks off into 23 chapters: cooking basics; appetizers and snacks; beans, rice, and grains; beverages; breads; cakes; candies; canning and freezing; cookies; crockery cooking; desserts; eggs and cheese; fish and shellfish; grilling; meat; pasta; pies and tarts; poultry; salads and dressings; sauces and relishes; soups and stews; vegetables and fruits; index and metric information.

Most of these chapters are rather self-explanatory, but I will take a moment to talk about the Cooking Basics section for starters. This is where you go when you are like I was, having no clue what you are doing. Here you can find information on everything from spice substitutions and kitchen gadgets to serving sizes and food storage charts. Even now that I know my way around the kitchen fairly well, I still frequently refer to this section to find out how long my leftovers will keep or what I can use instead of paprika if I'm out. Very helpful, simple, and convenient.

2. Ease of Use- This cookbook could be used by anyone who can read. Its layout is so simple and direct that it's a breeze to find just about anything. The chapters are noted by different-colored tabs that are stair-stepped down the right-hand side of the pages. In the index, you can find just about anything you need by looking up a key word in the recipe. In addition, throughout this cookbook there are hundreds of helpful hints to save time and slightly alter recipes for a little variety. Many recipes are noted with a little heart symbol that show that they are "Best Loved," and in my kitchen, this is almost always the case.

The directions are always easy-to-follow, and any instruction that is unusual is laid out in detail and frequently has pictures accompanying it to make it easier to see what they're talking about. The ingredients in most of these recipes are not so far out-there that you frequently find yourself trying to figure out what the heck they are. Many can be prepared with only common ingredients that you would find in almost any kitchen.

In addition to the "Best Loved" notations I spoke about earlier you will also find other little notes at the top of some recipes, such as "No Fat," "Fast," and "Low Fat." Under the boldly printed title of each recipe you will also find the amount of prep time, cook time, chill time, number of servings, etc...

In many sections there are also pages of charts showing pictures of each food used in the recipes and listing cooking times for mets and vegetables. On the inside of the front cover you will find a chart telling you how many apples, oranges, nectarines, etc... make up each measurement of them. (Buy 1 stalk of celery for 1/2 cup sliced or chopped celery, for example) In the rear cover you will find a highly valuable Emergency Substitutions chart, telling you what to do if you run out of butter, for example (Use 1 cup shortening plus 1/4 teaspoon salt).

3. Living Well- In addition to being yummy, many of the recipes in this cookbook are quite good for you, or can be modified slightly to be made that way. For anyone watching fat, sodium, or calorie intake, there are VERY CONVENIENT nutrition facts section with every recipe. They tell you the amount of calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. They also list a percent of daily values chart and an exchange chart (1 carbohydrate, 1/2 fat, etc.) This way it is easy to tell at a glance just how good (or bad) for you any particular recipe is.

While I am far from being a vegetarian, this cookbook does offer many vegetarian selections in both the vegetables section and the beans, rice and grains sections, among others. You can find great entrees there such as bean salad wraps and meatless tacos, and many many more.

4. Variety- This cookbook is truly fantastic when it comes to variety. Whatever type of food you may be in the mood for, you will definitely be able to find it here. You can find lots of down-home cooking, Mexican, Oriental, and other types of foods, and the recipes are not so out-there that your family will balk at the concept of actually eating the foods. The dessert sections are great, and you will find more things in here to do with eggs than you ever thought possible. I do wish that it included more Crock-Pot recipes, Oriental foods, and grilling ideas, though. I have had to buy other cookbooks to supplement the ideas listed here.

5. Durability- Considering how much I have used it, this cookbook really has held up pretty well. It is a binder with the identifying red and white checkered waterproof cover. One thing I do wish, though, is that they would have also made the inside portion of the cover waterproof. Just from normal use, the paper on the inside of the cover is starting to peel up at the edges. Some of the pages are also slightly water damaged, but they are all still securely holding on in the binder.

One thing that I really wish that this cookbook would include would be several blank recipe pages at the end that you could fill in with your own recipes and tuck into the appropriate sections of the cookbook to make them easy to keep up with. I have had to improvise, punching holes in my own blank paper and tucking recipes in there and writing recipes in the limited space at the bottom of the pages to make them easy to find.

Overall, though, this is the best cookbook I have ever seen. It is user-friendly enough for a beginner, but provides enough variety and challenging recipes to satisfy the expert. The pictures are helpful, the charts are invaluable, and the resulting food will melt in your mouth. I cannot imagine functioning in my kitchen without it!


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