Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Everyday Cooking by Vicki Bentley

PhotobucketPerhaps you are a cookbook collector, or maybe you're just a Mom or Dad desperate to get something on the table for breakfast, lunch, & dinner (preferably more than one meal each day,) then may I make a suggestion? We've been reviewing a cookbook for the Molly Crew 
from Everyday Homemaking called "Everyday Cooking" by Vicki Bentley. It is rather good, and contains not only recipes, but helpful kitchen hints and budget-friendly advise sprinkled throughout its 103 pages. With a purchase price of $17.99, it's in the mid-range price for cookbooks. Worth the money if you plan to use it, a little pricy if it's just a shelf-decorator. (So use it!)

Everyday Cooking, digital cookbooks

We received the PDF version of the cookbook, originally published in 2006, and updated in 2011. The cool thing about the PDF format, is you can print the whole thing, or just pick & choose the pages you want. We used the table of contents to scroll through the 4 recipe section: Appetizers & Dressings, Bread & Grains, Main Dishes & Soups & Sides, and Desserts & Snacks. Then we wrote down page numbers to view. Finally, we looked at the pages and decided which ones to print off to work on first. We will probably end up printing most of the pages eventually to put in a 3-ring binder to put on the 'cookbook shelf,' but since neither of our girls like rice, we skipped those recipes to start with.

The formatting is well done, with one long and one short recipe appearing on most pages, so you aren't frantically looking for the next page to finish reading the instructions that go with your recipe just because someone (who shall remain nameless in this review) 'borrowed' the next page to go try out another recipe! [Has that ever happened to you?] When the recipe and instructions fill almost a whole page themselves, Vicki has ingeniously inserted a budget saving or kitchen hint to fill in the blank space.

Personally, I was encouraged that the cookbook recommends many things we already do in our household (like having your own grain mill, or putting drip-catchers under the olive oil bottle.) If you don't have the kitchen gadgets, or the budget to purchase them, there are back-up instructions (like mince finely, or stir thoroughly.)

If you really like to bake, or cook, or both, many of those kitchen 'gadgets' are really kitchen 'investments' that will save you time and money over the long run. Here's a personal example: About 11 years ago, I was reading a nutrition book that showed how many of the nutrients are removed ( and only a few put back) from wheat to give you "enriched, bleached flour." So I thought "whole wheat!" While this is a better option, whole wheat flour loses much of it's nutrient content on day 3 (after grinding) as it begins fermenting. So, what to do, what to do??? Invest in a grain mill. The following Spring, when we were doing our tax returns, I had a wish-list of things I wanted to suggest if we got money back, on the top of that list was an electric "WonderMill Whisper Mill." We set aside $199 from our tax return and purchased one. This morning, more than 10 years later, my Husband, Kurt, used the mill to grind up fresh whole-wheat flour to make pancakes for breakfast. Whole wheat flour at our local grocery costs from $3.99/$6.99 for a 5# bag (that was ground more than 3 days ago!) We continue to grind our own flour, from chemical-free wheat berries that run about $15 for 25# (which makes almost 38# worth of flour!) That would equal $30-$53 worth of 'old' flour from the store. If you're thinking about following Vicki's advise and purchasing a mill, I just did an internet search for the same mill we have. They now run $260-$300. Well worth the investment!

Now, about those recipes...We now have 3 new "favorites" from the book: granola, blueberry muffins, and 'Bekah's Blueberry Buckle." For years, I've had friends tell me they just throw "this and that" into their homemade granola. While I consider myself an excellent baker, it really helps to have a written recipe to start from... not just "this and that." Then, once you've made the recipe, you can imagine and experiment with it on your own. The granola hadn't even been out of the oven an hour when Kurt started making suggestions for future batches. The girls waited until a day or two later to put int heir requests for the next batch.

I wanted to see how easy the recipes were for a novice to follow, so I let each girls do one by themselves. Emily, age 14, made the blueberry buckle (which is kinda like a coffeecake, but yummier!) It turned out really well, ( I had to help remind her what "fold, cream, and cut" mean in baking terms,) but next time we'll probably make it in a wider pan, because it was rather thick and we'd rather have it divided into more servings, than have each serving be so large. The recipe said use a 9' sq. pan, but we will probably change to a 9x13" pan for next time. Note to self- take it out right when the timer rings!

Arlene, age 12, is a little more experienced with helping me bake, so she made the blueberry version of the "Basic Muffins" all by herself (except for a little help getting them out of the oven when done.) The only struggle she had was in her expectations. Because the recipe didn't mention the yield (# of muffins it would make) she greased both muffin pans hoping it made 24, like our cupcake recipes do. Alas, it only makes 12 muffins, so she had a greased pan to wash for naught. She wrote "makes 1 doz" on the recipe sheet for next time. They were really yummy, sorry, no pictures, we ate them all before I remembered!

I would recommend this book to almost everyone, but especially to two groups: Moms wanting to make more from scratch either to: A- save money or B-improve the nutrient content of their family's food, and to Moms and Dads wanting to teach their children how to cook and/or bake. You can argue semantics with me, but being a good cook does not necessarily mean you're a good baker, or vice versa. I have the baking down pat, but as my husband lamented a few years ago "she's a good cook, she just only makes 8 things!" You'll be glad to know I've worked up to 22 things I can cook, and with the help of this new cookbook, I'm hoping to make that 30 different meals by Christmas. After all, that's a whole month's worth, and I can't wait a whole month to make pizza again!

I really need to make some tortilla chips again soon, so I can try Vicki's version of nacho cheese sauce, it sounds infinitely better then the stuff in the jar from the store!


As members of the Molly Crew, we received the PDF version of the cookbook for free in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are ours.

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