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America's Test Kitchen is a 2,500 square foot kitchen located outside of Boston. It is the home of Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country magazines and is the workday destination for over 3 dozen test cooks, editors and cookware specialists. Our mission is to test recipes until we understand how and why they work and arrive at the best version. We also test kitchen equipment and supermarket ingredients in search of brands that offer the best value and performance. You can watch us work by tuning in to our public television show, America's Test Kitchen.
I've been a big fan of Cooks Illustrated for years. The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook, is similar in presentation to the Cooks Illustrated magazine which is a good thing. I enjoy the little tips, product suggestions and bits of cooking wisdom that are scattered appropriately throughout the book. Unlike some other cookbooks that can border on how to cook textbooks, this book dispenses little dollops of wisdom just at the right places.
There is an important thing you need to know about this cookbook and its authors though and it concerns the word "healthy." As you discover when you read the "Preface" and the "Our Approach to Healthy Cooking", you learn that this is NOT a diet book. The focus is "about balance and about incorporating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into recipes on a daily basis, as well as reducing calories from fat wherever we could do so while maximizing taste." In other words, you will still find recipes using butter instead of margarine and added sugar and salt. The recipes may not be the absolute lowest in sugars, fats and salt -or- calories but they will most assuredly taste really good because of their focus on good tasting food that uses "healthier" ingredients. The recipes do not compromise on taste.
Case in point, one of the first recipes I made, which was absolutely delicious and garnered rave reviews from my guests who enjoyed it, was the Plum-Peach Upside-Down Almond Cake. I made the recipe with all peaches. One small detail that the recipe left out was whether the peaches should be peeled or not. I had to refer to another recipe in the book to see how they handled peaches there and in the other recipe they specified peeling the peaches, so I did that for this recipe.Read more ›
Basically if you already have the 3 ring binder Test kitchen cookbook (non-healthy edition) you already have this book. For the most part the recipes are the same with perhaps a few minor ingredient changes that I have noticed so far. This is both good and bad, as I have yet to come across a bad tasting recipe in either book. IF I didn't already have the other edition, I would buy this book in a heartbeat. However if you already have the non-healthy edition, unless you just want to add to your collection, you will have a majority of the recipes that in this healthy version already.
First, full disclosure and caveats for this review:
I am writing this on August 23, 2010, as a member of the Amazon Vine Program. The book I received, prior to the scheduled October 2010 publication date, is an "Advance Uncorrected Proof." The final book will be hardcover, ring bound, with color throughout. The proof copy I am reviewing is a paperback, 520 pages, black and white throughout. Everything I have seen indicates that this is going to be a five-star book upon its official release, but to preserve the integrity of this review, I need to be clear on the actual book I reviewed. It has nothing to do with the quality of the content, only the "draft" level of pre-publication presentation. I love it "as is" but I know the color version will be a real stunner.
The format of the book will be familiar to fans of "America's Test Kitchen" and their publication "Cook's Illustrated." You'll see the same sidebars on cooking utensils and "taste tests" of items such as canned tomatoes. These are extremely valuable as they point you in the right direction for successful execution of the recipes.
The book is HUGE (520 pages in the proof copy, final book may differ). It runs the gamut from appetizers through desserts, all kinds of meat, vegetarian dishes, breads...it is an excellent "general" cookbook but it is far from general in its range and depth. There are forays into ethnic cuisines, including a great, lengthy tutorial on making a classic cheese pizza. The first 16 pages of the book cover the basics of healthy cooking.Read more ›
I was so excited to start trying recipes from this cookbook. It was very interesting to peruse through it. One of my favorite cookbooks is America's Test Kitchen's Family Cookbook (minus the healthy title). I've had it for three or four years and have a bunch of favorite recipes in it. Basically, that cookbook is an updated, modern version of Betty Crocker or the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. There's more flavor and spice in America's Test Kitchen's recipes than in the two I just mentioned. When I heard the Healthy Family version was coming out, I was very curious. We strive to eat healthy foods, but we have our share of foods that we love that aren't so good for us, too. Overall, though, I think we try to eat healthy foods. I also am always on the look out for good low fat recipes because they inspire me to cook and eat better.
When I first opened this cookbook, I noticed that a few sections are different than the regular family cookbook such as stir-fries and curries and kid pleasing foods. Though I haven't tried any of the stir fry sauce recipes yet, I am looking forward to it!
For the most part, the recipes in this cookbook are different than in the original cookbook, though a few have only minor changes. The great chili and cornbread recipes are here but with minor changes. Still, it is a different cookbook. I was most curious about the baking recipes. I tried the brownie recipe and was wowed by it! Last night, I made the oatmeal raisin cookies and when my neighbor tried them, her eyes widened. She loved them and so did I! I made the Butternut squash soup this week--which was very good though it didn't need the extra vegetable broth added to it.Read more ›