I have to admit I have been sitting on this review for a while just not sure how to start it or where to begin. I mean, after all, it's only a cookbook, right? OK, I really don't believe that, but sometimes it's hard to figure out where to start or what to include in a review. The best place for me has to be at the beginning.
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How We Met
It was July 2001 and I was living in Alaska at the time. I'm not sure what prompted me, but I decided to make a trip to Barnes and Noble Bookstore for no particular reason. Oh wait, now I remember...my fiancé kept on and on about this cookbook and that he had it but lost it. So, I ended up in the cooking section and there it was, the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. It seemed to call out to me ("Here I am...pick me"). That and the fact there were only two copies on the shelf. I checked out the price and I thought that at $26.95 (tax-free) was a pretty good deal. I made my purchase and I was so excited to check it out that I couldn't even wait until I got home to peek inside. I decided to sit in the bookstore and check it out right then and there.
About the Book
The edition I own is the 11th edition and it's a hardcover five-ring binder. The binder itself is that of a red and white checkerboard design, the type you usually see in picnic blankets. It's got Better Homes and Gardens written in blue text and New Cook Book in the center in white text with a blue diamond in the background. Right above that is the Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen Seal, which I'll explain a little later.
The Cook Book is broken down into sections and with the 11th edition; these sections come with their own tabs and are also color-coded. Please note, all the information and page numbers included in this review are based on the 11th edition publishing. The sections are as follows:
Cooking Basics p. 7 (Red)
Appetizers & Snacks p. 37 (Orange)
Beans, Rice, & Grains p. 55 (Yellow-Gold)
Beverages p. 77 (Green)
Breads p. 89 (Blue)
Cakes p. 129 (Red)
Candy p. 149 (Orange)
Canning & Freezing p. 161 (Yellow-Gold)
Cookies p. 179 (Green)
Deserts p. 203 (Blue)
Eggs & Cheese p. 223 (Red)
Fish & Shellfish p. 239 (Orange)
Grilling p. 263 (Yellow-Gold)
Meat p. 287 (Green)
Pasta p. 341 (Blue)
Pies & Tarts p. 367 (Red)
Poultry p. 385 (Orange)
Salads & Dressings p. 419 (Yellow-Gold)
Sauces & Relishes p. 447 (Green)
Soups & Stews p. 457 (Blue)
Vegetables p. 479 (Red)
Index p. 511 (Orange)
On the front of each of the tabbed sections are photos corresponding to that chapter, so you have an idea of what a particular dish will look like once youre done. Also included (but do not have tabs): Introduction (p. 4) and Metric Equivalents (p. 539).
There is some assembly required with this cookbook, but its not that hard. All you need to do is put the tabs in the proper sections and presto, you have your very own Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.
As per the editors, the Test Kitchen Seal, ensures that each recipe in this book has been tested in their kitchens and the recipes are reliable, practical and meets their high standards of taste approval. Customers who purchase this book are guaranteed satisfaction as long as they own the book.
I have owned this book a little over two years, but it wasnt until recently that I really sat down and looked through this book. On the inside front flap of the book is information on Weights and Measures and Microwave Hints. On the inside back flap are Emergency Substitutions if you dont have a particular item in your kitchen.
I read through the Cooking Basics section and it provides some useful tips and helpful hints on getting the most out of your kitchen. There are 27 pages of informative stuff that even I wasn't aware of. Some areas this section that are touched on include the differences between flour and how to measure flour, how to measure butter and margarine, everything and anything you wanted to know about Eggs and Cheese. This section also discusses the different types of fresh herbs and what dishes they go great in. They even have information on Jamaican Jerk Seasoning and whats included in it.
In this section, you are informed of the necessary kitchen appliances and equipment and it also provides a list of what you should have stocked in your kitchen to make cooking easier. Also included is a section on Nutrition and dietary guidelines and ways to keep you and your family healthy. There's even information and diagrams on Dining Etiquette for both a Buffet Style dinner as well as a sit-down dinner. I was pretty impressed.
And just when you thought you had all the information you needed on cooking basics, BH&G includes a Guide to Cooking Terms and Techniques. All the terminology you need to know from al dente to zest is included in this section.
My First Dish and Dishes Since Then
The first dish I tried when I bought this cookbook was Cheesy Chicken and Tortellini Toss, which can be found on page 357. It turned out pretty good and it was fast, and looked fairly healthy. It was a nice first attempt, if you will.
After that, I used it a little, but because I was working so much, cooking wasn't a real priority for me. It wasn't until I moved to Canada and was forced to stay home that my cooking skills made a 180-degree turn.
Now that I have more time on my hands, I've been able to experiment more with different dishes and test my skills on different levels. I find that the section I come back to the most is the Poultry section. It's amazing the things you can do with a bird (and get away with it, too). There is a recipe for Oven-Fried Parmesan Chicken (p. 389) that is low fat and I tried making it for the first time this summer. It was a good first attempt, it tasted good, but it could have been better. A few weeks later, I tried this dish again and this time I let the chicken bake a little longer. When my fiancé tried it this second time around, his exact words were, "You have to make this for my dad when he comes to visit us next week." So, thats exactly what I did. I made a nice meal, which included the chicken with rice and steamed peas and carrots and Banana Bread for dessert. When I made it for everyone, they all loved it. Everyone in the family kept coming up to me and saying, "Dionne, that was excellent, thank you very much."
I've gotten into baking and as I stated in an earlier review, I've baked many loaves of Banana Bread and cookies, all thanks to the recipes in this cookbook.
Recently, I had a craving for pancakes, but we didn't have any pancake batter. My fiancé suggested that maybe the cookbook would have a recipe from scratch. Wouldn't you know it, there it was on page 126, and I had all the ingredients. They came out light and fluffy and so much better than any store-bought batter. Ever since then, I find myself making pancakes for breakfast at least twice a week.
I have to say the best compliments are those on your cooking and so many people have said my cooking has gotten better each time. My fiancé has said time and time again, "This is the type of meal people pay good money for in restaurants." Wow! I don't think he was just saying that because we live together, I truly believe he thinks it's that good. I have to believe it's that good when Taffy sits outside my house smelling the different aromas from the vents.
Other Benefits of the BH&G New Cook Book
All the recipes in this book are very simple to read and also easy to follow. Included are at-a-glance times from start to finish, the preparation steps are numbered for easier reading and understanding. Some of the recipes include flags such as Low-Fat or Fast, the Nutritional Analysis is included at the bottom of each dish and some dishes have different variations and are also included. Photos are also provided in each section, some with captions so you can see the techniques.
Within each section of this book are additional tips and guidelines to make your cooking experience easier. For instance, in the Meat section, you get a breakdown of the different cuts of Beef, Veal and Pork and the best ways to prepare them. You also get highlighted boxes that include helpful hints, such as "Handling and Cooking Meat Safely." I love that the publishers provide all this information, it's just amazing.
Questions or Comments
Should you have any questions or would like to submit comments to the BH&G staff they can be contacted at:
Better Homes and Gardens New Cook book
1716 Locust Street, RW-240
Des Moines, IA 50309-3023
As you can see, the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book is filled with a lot of information. You not only get easy-to-use recipes, but so much more tips and helpful hints to make your cooking experience a great one. Ive found that cooking is a form of therapy and with enough practice, you can become a master. This cookbook could be the equivalent of Cooking 101. Any questions you may have about a particular dish or measurement will be answered in this book.
The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book uses easy terminology and ways that the average cook can understand. Their cookbooks have been a staple in peoples homes since 1930 and Im glad to say I am a proud owner of whats come to be known as a American Staple. Ive stated that this cookbook has been one of the best investments I ever made and it is so true. With these easy to follow ingredients, you almost dont want to go out to dinner because you can make the same dishes at home even better.
For those who own one of these cookbooks, you know exactly what I am talking about. I think its a book that should be in everyones homes. So, if you dont have it, go and get your copy. I guarantee you once you start making dishes from this cookbook, you will be the talk of the family.
Take care and happy cooking.
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