Cooking Rachel Ray without all the silliness

I always plan to make alot more from my feature cookbook than what I eventually end up making. This month is no different. Lots of yellow post it notes sticking out of Rachel Ray's 365: No Repeats: A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners.

Yes, I own a Rachel Ray cookbook. Actually, I think I own three. Not sure, have to check my shelf. This one I think I actually bought myself, whereas any other ones I own were chosen for me by my children as gifts. I like cookbooks as gifts, even if I never make anything from them, because I like to read cookbooks.

This month I set out to make a few recipes from this book, but decided in advance to skip all the silliness of Yum-O, and EVOO, and sammies. Ugh. Those kind of things, plus the excessive hyperness, are part of the reason I stopped watching her shows. But I have made a few recipes from them, with a fair bit of success, so wasn't worried about a high failure rate for this cookbook. In the end, though, I only managed to make 5 recipes from the book of 365. (Guess those two road trips and life took over the month of March.)

Let's start with Mega Meatball Pizza, from page 6. This recipe tastes alot better than what it looks like. Though it doesn't look so bad that the kids argued about eating it. Instead they both dug in with no problems or complaints. Served with a fruit salad, it was a good meal.

I plan to make this again, but will be decreasing the ground beef by a bit, and increasing the tomato paste . I had used my homemade pizza dough for it, and would do that again as well. Maybe make the pizza bit bigger than a round though.

Btw, do you really get 3-ounce cans of tomato paste in the US? Our small sized cans are 5.5 ounces .

My next recipe was pretty as could be: Citrus-Marinated Chicken and Orange Salad, from page 19. It allowed me to introduce my kids to a few new salad greens as well, arugula and radicchio, both listed in the recipe, as well as endive, not in the recipe but I added it in anyways. I was complimented on the dressing and the chicken by both children, and both the husband and I enjoyed the entire salad. I wished there had been a bit more of the salad than there was, even with my adding in the extra endive, and would increase it the next time I make it. I think this would be a great thing to make in the summer for company. It does plate up on a platter very nicely and looks impressive.

Which is not something I can say at all about this next recipe, Smoky Turkey Shepherd's Pie, found on page 2. Again, this tasted better than what it looked like. Though its flavor was very mild, unlike the smells it gave off, which was mouth watering.

I had to make a small change or two to this recipe. I took out the two cups of frozen peas and replaced them with corn. Not only does corn make more sense to me, but peas are not universally enjoyed in this house. I didn't want to eat the full batch of pie myself! I also had run out of sour cream (think I used it for a cake actually) so had replaced it with a touch of cream instead, to give the creaminess, and increased the flour a bit. Despite the increase in flour, however, the sauce never did thicken up much and was very watery.

The general agreement was make again, but with another change or two. Cutting the turkey bacon smaller and making it crispier, cooking the celery and carrots a bit longer, staying with the corn, and increasing the amount of mashed potatoes. The potato layer was very thin. Either that or I had alot more filling than I should have.

Oh, and increase the spices some as the flavors were very, very mild, essentially too mild.

One extra note about this one - It made alot, so both my husband and I had some for lunch the next day, reheated. I don't know how he felt about it, I forgot to ask, but I found it had tasted much better the first time and was not nearly as enjoyable the second day.

I think this next recipe was the only one of the five that I would not make again, Island Bird: Pineapple-Rum Chicken, found on page 86. This one looked better than what it tasted, and in the pot, it did not look very good at all. I ended up taking the liquid out of the pot with the chicken and adding it to another pot, trying to reduce it (alot) before adding it back in. Sure, I wanted sauce with the chicken, but not soup!

The adults ate this, grudgingly, but the kids, including the extra one I had that night, picked at it. One ate all the chicken, one ate the pineapple only and the other complimented me on my rice and noticed the green pieces looked like leaves. Yes, they were parsley leaves, which I guess he had never seen before.

The fact that there was alcohol in the recipe gave it the "wow" factor for the kids, getting them to try it, but frankly I think that is all that did it. This last one was on my plan ahead list alot. I seem to have one of those every month so far, one recipe that I plan to make, then remove from the list, put somewhere else, remove from the list, move somewhere else, repeat, repeat, repeat. And this month the Sausage and Spinach Pastry Squares, on page 44, was the recipe.

A few changes: I skipped the salad part. I actually made this at the same time I was making homemade turkey soup, which the kids had for dinner, while the husband and I had the squares. Or rectangles I should say, as that is how mine turned out. I also did not put the sage in. Not only did I not have any, fresh or dry, but I had accidentally bought medium Italian sausages instead of sweet, so we wouldn't have been able to taste the sage in it anyways.

These were okay, nothing special, but not horrible either. A good hand meal as I did not need a knife and fork to eat it, just pick it up and nibble from it. Be prepared for puff pastry crumbs on your clothing. They would make a good appetizer, in small format, and probably would taste better that way.

Lots more recipes in the book to try. Heck, I never even got half way into the book with my post-it notes before I ran out of time! I could probably use the same book for the next few months and not repeat anything. Yes, I know that is the intention of the book, but there are plenty of recipes in it that I would never bother to make in the first place, which reduces that 365 by a significant number.

No idea yet what book I am going to look at for this month, despite it being the second of April. I plan to pull out a few options in the next day or two and make a decision then. I had been thinking of doing the Moosewood Cookbook, lent to me by a friend, but so far in reading it over, nothing really appeals to me. The recipes seem fine but every day, standard recipes, not try something new recipes. I'll figure something out.

A few notes, not related to my cookbook choice of the month, but related to food, of course.

Notice a few new little tags on the side of my blog with my links? One of them is for the Foodie Blogroll, run by fellow foodie Jenn, the Left Over Queen, as a way for us bloggers to get to know each other a bit better. As I told Jenn, I was sure I had done earlier, like back when she first started it, but that was awhile ago and I could be confusing it with something else. When you have time, go check it out, and then sign up yourself.

The second one you might notice is my FoodBuzz Featured Publisher badge, which will link anyone who clicks it over to FoodBuzz. Feel free to drop in there as well, vote me up if you'd like, add me to your friends list or peruse the multitude of other blogs that are also shown there. And notice the little picture of me on my profile, or of my camera actually, taken by my five year old actually. He is quite proud of the picture and is on his way to being a budding photographer.


Cassie said...

It sounds like Rachael's recipes were hit and miss with you. That's my problem with her, too -- some of her recipes are great, some are good but could be better, and some are just...ICK. I may try that chicken salad, though...It looks yummy! :-)

Judy said...

I love Rachael..... I will have to try a challenge like this soon.

Deborah said...

I am actually featuring RR recipes all week on my blog! I am a fan, although I don't have any of her cookbooks. I'll have to check this one out, as it sounds like you found some good recipes!

Shelby said...

I like to read cookbooks too! I will admit though, that the food blogs are taking more of my time lately!

Anonymous said...

Ohhh..mega meatball pizza! from a die-hard pizza lover AND meat ball lover, that is a must-try. Thanks!