I have been looking for a recipe for Zuppa Toscana for a year now. Every time I go into the book store, I comb the index for that magic word. My husband loves the Olive Garden's bottomless bowl of Zuppa Toscana soup and we take a trip to the Olive Garden every time he gets the craving. I also enjoy the soup, but I really don't need 5 bowls but he's never satisfied until he can't eat another drop.
When I saw this book I thought maybe I'd be in luck. Sure enough, there was the big golden recipe of the century. To make it even more glorious, it also said it was cloned from Olive Garden! My husband was already at the checkout when I made the discovery. "WAIT!, WAIT!" I yell as I'm plowing through the isle. (Ok, so we were the only ones in the store so it's not like it was that dramatic of a scene!)
I buy a lot of books from Waldenbooks (usually in the mall) because they only stock the top selling books and they have a most excellent selection of clearance books. As luck may have it, this item was on sale for only $4.00. I didn't look at the rest of the book at the time, because all that mattered was that one little recipe! Unfortunately Kale (a required ingredient) seems to be out of season at the grocery store, but the other recipes in here are MMmmm MMmmm Good!
The only thing about cooking, is that I don't do it. Sure, I've got plenty of stylish cookbooks, but they rarely get used. We do a lot of eating out, so this cookbook made since for us! The only thing is, my husband isn't the -cutting back on the fat- type of guy. I don't mind the low-fat recipes but it's very easy to change back the recipe by choosing the regular ingredients over the low-fat ingredients. I don't care how much fat I save, I'm never eating turkey burgers!
Physical Appearance of the Book
The paper is printed on probably recycled paper that is very thin. You can see the words on the next page where there's no typing. The book itself is 9" x 6", paperback, and has 242 pages.
Although there are no pictures or color photos of any food, there are sketches on many pages illustrating the way to assemble the food. For instance, you can't just throw cheese anywhere on a McMuffin....My husband corrected me for this before I got the book. The way the sandwich is assembled impacts the taste.
The type font is a little larger than normal. It is very easy to read this book while it is laying on the table. This will be a benefit if you are using the book in the kitchen.
Restaurants That are Included
California Pizza Kitchen
Girl Scout Cookies
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
Koo Koo Roo
Selection of Recipes
There are 75 recipes, so I'm not going to list them all. You can see the entire contents and index on www.amazon.com if you are interested.
Also, if you want to get an idea how the book is layed out, you can try some these recipes....they're online! (www.topsecretrecipes.com)
Applebee's - Chicken Salad; Tequila Lime Chicken
Bennigan's - Buffalo Chicken Salad
Chili's - Fajita Salad; Boneless Buffalo Wings; Margarita Grilled Tuna; Southestern Egg Rolls
Gardenburger - Classic Greek Veggie Patty; Savory Mushroom Veggie Patty
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) - Mac & cheese; Potato Salad
McDonald's - Egg McMuffin
Nabisco - Oreo Cookies; Banana Snack Bars
Olive Garden - Zuppa Toscana; Fettuccine Alfredo
Outback - Caesar salad; Alice Springs Chicken
Planters - Fiddle Faddle
Taco Bell - Beef Burrito; Soft Chicken Taco
T.G.I. Friday's - Dijon Chicken Pasta; Potato Skins
Wendy's - Spicy Chicken Fillet Sandwich
Guest introduction: A work from Fat Freddy
Low-fat Top Secret Recipe Clones
(includes each restaurant and name of recipe)
Low-fat top Secret recipes Conversions
(includes each restaurant and name of recipe)
The opening introduction is quite humorous and light hearted. It describes fat through the century, why fat is bad, how 50% or more of the population is overweight, and why people don't loose weight when eating low-fat purchased foods. He includes statistics with where and what year the statistics were found which makes me happy because I like to know where that statistics are coming from.
Each recipe takes 2 or more pages. There is a brief paragraph introduction of the recipe, a list of all of the ingredients, and the steps are numbered and go into great detail. It also mentions how many servings it makes and nutritional facts (serving size, total servings, fat, calories) for every recipe. For the recipes that require assembly (such as a sandwich) it will provide a detailed diagram of what layer goes where. It also gives measurements of the ingredients (such as 6-1/2" for the pita bread)
A Little Different From a Cookbook
This is a little different from a traditional cookbook. Most cookbooks are divided up by soup, salad, Beef, Pork, cookies, pies, etc. This book does not divide the recipes by "type" of food so you may see Gardenburger Savory Mushroom Veggie Patty on one page, and the following page will be Girl Scout Cookies.
The recipes are organized by restaurant so if you like Chili's, you jump to Chili's and see what you can make then your other items for your meal is all up to you.
Again, these recipes are low-fat compared to the restaurant's version. If you're on a strict diet, don't let the low-fat fool you. There's recipes for cinnamon raisin sweet rolls, Oreo cookies, Pecan Sandies, and other goodies my waist can't afford! These may be lower on fat, but you've still got sugar and other tempting things involved.
You're not going to find anything off the wall that no one will like as you do in traditional cookbooks. Usually in a cookbook I'll only find 10-20 recipes that I would actually make and eat. The recipes in this book all sound good and all of the ones I've made have been excellent and have been just like the real thing. The ingredients are also very inexpensive and basic. There's a lot of spices for the recipes but you probably already have them on hand.
If if you're not good at cooking you're going to find these almost error proof! You won't have to do any guessing and estimating! It describes everything to do in numerical order!
The author is from Las Angeles so there are some recipes from restaurants in California that they don't have here in Florida such as Carl's, California Pizza Kitchen, Chevey's so I can taste what I'm missing out on!
Rating the Book
I am absolutely recommending this book because I got more out of it than I expected. I can't compare this to a "cookbook" because it doesn't claim to be one. If you need some new ideas or you're tired of the same ol' chicken and boring salads these recipes are bound to get you back in the mood!
I'm taking one star away because the book has crummy paper (which is okay because it keeps the cost down, but makes it less durable especially in the kitchen where you'll probably want to use it) If you get a spot on one page, it's likely to seep through a few pages.
Another reason is because there's no color pictures or photos of the final product. I feel like pictures would add a bit to the book and make the decision of what to make easier. If nothing else, just one insert with a bunch of pictures on it much like the bottom of the front cover.
About the Author
I couldn't help but wonder what kind of a person has time and stomach to perfect all of these recipes? Surely it's a top-notch company with a line of cooks stirring away. Nope, just a guy doing it as a hobby.
The idea came with Todd Wilbur received a recipe by E-mail or Mrs. Field's cookies. He was disappointed that the recipe didn't resemble Mrs. Field's at all! He perfected the recipe himself which lead to doing the same for hundreds of other recipes. He compiled these recipes over the years and eventually got a publisher. His book Top Secret Recipes was a bestseller (1993)! This lead to TV interviews such as Oprah, Talk Soup, MTV news, etc.
You may have read or would enjoy some of the author's other works all priced $10.36 or less on his website:
Top Secret Recipes Light
Top Secret Restaurant Recipes
More Top Secret Recipes
Top Secret Recipes
You can find additional recipes at www.topsecretrecipes.com and also order any of his books there.
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