on October 30, 2003
This book, like many others, is often mistaken as a "I hate to cook!" book, when in fact it is more of a "I have no time to cook!" book. Cooking is one of my favorite passions, however working 50 hours a week really doesn't lend well to cooking elaborate meals. Rachael Ray provides a menu-style book that is both cost-effective and does not require unusual ingredients that are hard to find. The meals are easy and always 'homestyle' delicious. The only drawback, as many have pointed out, is that her deserts leave a lot to be desired. But it IS geared towards getting a meal done in 30 minutes, and as mentioned, I usually don't have time to make creme brulee. :-P
on December 4, 2003
Before buying this book, I had taped many of Rachel's shows and had tried the recipes, most of which appear in this book. Some of those meals have become staples in our house and saved me endless hours of frustration in the kitchen, testing recipes which didn't work or didn't taste good.
Most of hers not only taste as if they took far longer than 30 minutes to fix but satisfy a wide range of tastes, from experienced gourmets to picky eaters. Using her example, I've learned how to get a tasty meal on the table nearly every night of the week, saving time and money (we eat out less often).
Having said that, a few caveats:
1. You do need to try out the recipes before serving them to guests and may need to tinker with the seasonings and amounts. Although she does note how many teaspoons, cups, etc to use in recipes, Rachel often notes, as an aside, that cooks should just "eyeball" the amounts and if you watch her tv show regularly, you know that she rarely measures anything...so amounts listed are really just "jumping off" points for your own preferences. I like this. Those who feel they need more guidance may not.
2. The dessert section relies strongly on ice cream, sorbets and pre-made cookies...with some notable exceptions. Her shortened "Baklava" , for example,is preferred by my family over the super-sweet, traditional Baklava and her easy apple cake truly does turn a cake mix into a cake that seems homemade.
3. Some of the helpful tips on the tv show are omitted from the cookbook (Soaking onion slices in ice water to cut down on their irritating qualities).
Even with these shortcomings, however, I'd recommend this cookbook. In fact, I'm giving several copies to friends this holiday season, including one friend who is a beginning cook.
on June 19, 2003
If you love the show "Thirty minute meals" on the food network, you would absolutely enjoy this book. She gives the whole menu-including the main, the side(s), and sometimes even dessert. They are listed together in 2 or 3 pages so that way everything is right in front of you. You don't have to fumble through pages to find what you need. There is a wide variety of food choices-fruits, vegetables, soups, salads, pasta, seafood, chicken, steak, drinks, dipping sauces, bread with toppings, and quick desserts(mostly ice cream with unique toppings that are simple). Ingredients are common and she doesn't use spices that you will probably never use again. The sections include:
MAKE YOUR OWN TAKE-OUT
MONDAY THRU FRIDAY DINNER SPECIALS
BIG NIGHTS: VERY SPECIAL DINNERS
HEALTHY HUNGER BUSTERS
Alot of the menu plans are exactly from her show. I think most of the newer episodes. Not sure about that though. The only thing that I would like different is if it had pictures. It only has about 5 pages in the middle of the book. However, I highly recommend this book- Rachael Ray fan or not.
Rachael Ray combines three or more recipes into a meal which can be made at home by inexperienced cooks from ingredients available at your local supermarket in about 30 minutes, with some minimal advance preparation. She does this very, very well in her books and on her Food Network series.
Rachael's TV series is shown somewhere between Mario Batali's ethnic Italian cuisine and Martha Stewart's high end cooking / entertaining demonstrations. Herein lies the moral of the story. Rachael does not feature haute cuisine, ethnic Italian, formal entertaining, fancy pastry, high nutrition, low calorie, economic preparations, or vegetarian. She does good food at home in a short time. This doesn't mean her meals are not nutritious or fattening, or use poor technique. Her preparations use a very high percentage of fresh ingredients and a low percentage of suspect animal fats and overly prepared ingredients. Many meals are a Mediterranean diet for everyman. Her use of extra virgin olive oil rivals Mario and her use of garlic would make Emril proud.
Her techniques are sound and very achievable for anyone with at least one very good knife, a food processor, a grill pan, and a few large saute pans and a large dutch oven. The only culinary skill one needs are fairly good knive skills, plus the discipline to keep that one knive very sharp. For those critics who say they learn nothing from Rachael's presentations, I say they miss the point. She is showing you how to eat well without great chops in the kitchen.
The thing which impresses me the most is that in spite of her retro 50's décor on her show, her food does NOT emulate the 50's food doctrines focusing on assembling easy meals from prepared foods. Having lived through the 50's with a working mother, I know exactly what that was like, and this ain't it. There is a fairly heavy use of fresh foods in partially prepared form, such as deboned chicken breasts and prewashed, precut salad greens. This means Rachael's meals may be slightly more expensive than similar meals done a la Mario from prima materia, but if you're a 35 year old with a good job, working 10 hours a day, 30 minutes to prepare a meal is a real bargain. I also know that loosing the bone on meats will loose some sources of flavor, but cross your heart and hope to die, do you really notice the difference on Tuesday night after a hard day at work.
If one compares Rachael's work to those nearest to her style on the Food Network, I believe you will see the really has her act much more firmly together than the new `Good Food Fast' show and, dare I say it, she succeeds much better at what she does than the Food Network icon Sara Moulton. Sara concentrates on techniques, unusual foods, and unusual cuisines. I routinely cook from Sara Moulton's book and I do not routinely cook from Rachal's books, but then I'm retired and cooking is my hobby. Rachael does what she does very, very well. She may just not be what you are looking for.
I started taking Rachael much more seriously when I realized her 30 Minute Meal format predated her appearing on the Food Network. She cooked it up herself and was not a creature of Food Network producers. Another kudo to Food Network for, like Alton Brown's `Good Eats', seeing something good and running with it.
The most important caveat I would place on Rachael's menus is that accomplishing them in 30 minutes does require you to have a well organized kitchen with all foods equipment in good working order and immediately at hand. It also requires a very good advance knowledge of the recipes. The 30 minutes doesn't include the time it takes to read the recipe, do the shopping, and make sure everything is at the ready. It also helps to be thirtysomething with good knife skills. I have never caught Rachael cheating on her show (unlike Ms. Carmichael on the Good Food Fast show) but she accomplishes her goal by being constantly in motion, with not a second taken to reread the recipe or track down a missing onion.
Rachael's books are not free of errors. In one recipe, for example, a russet potato is identified as general purpose, when it is much more properly identified as a starchy potato. However, the use to which the potato was put in the recipe was CORRECT. I have found more serious culinary mistakes in a book by Emeril Legasse!
Rachael is not Julia Child or Lidia Bastianich or Diana Kennedy. She does food quickly at home with simple ingredients and equipment and she does it very well, presented at a very reasonable price.
on January 10, 2004
I received this for Christmas, and I definitely enjoy cooking with this book!
I do agree that it doesn't always take 30 minutes for one of these meals. I'm not one who prepares everything all of my produce as soon as I step in the door from the grocery store. But I'm realistic, I just add on prep time, but I do find that it doesn't add on too much time to the meal.
I am a huge fan of French Onion soup, and there is a wonderful recipe for Oh-So-Good Onion soup in here. The only slow part is having to thinly slice six onions. I have also enjoyed the Chicken Parmesan recipe. The sauce made waaaay more than was needed for two people, and I had enough left over for two addditonal meals.
Many of the recipes do call for alcohol of some sort (there is dry sherry in the Onion soup), but most cooks on Food Network (and the world) use alcohol- Sara Moulton, Emril, Tyler Florence, etc. When you cook with alcohol, the alcohol evaporates anyway. Now many of the desserts call for liquors, and of course, this does not evaporate, but you can use substitutes from different sources.
I also find that these recipes are rather easy to adapt to a low calorie/low fat diet. The Chicken Parmesan recipe calls for the chicken to be breaded, browned and broiled, but I just sauteed the chicken in Pam using the spices in the recipe instead- still very yummy!!! Rachael does say that her meals are healthy- and I would agree that most are healthy in that they are balanced. However, some meals are fried, breaded, etc.
I do recommend watching 30 Minute Meals if you haven't already to get a better idea of the style of these meals. One reviewer said she was hoping there would be more tips on things like timing. I am STILL working on my own timing, but watching her show will DEFINITELY help you with this! I have seen her prepare many of the meals included in this cookbook, so I know everyone can pick up a thing or two about her style by watching. I have found, though, that timing is what has slowed me down when using these recipes.
Desserts are not a focus of this book. She emphasizes that she does not bake, and you can't really bake in 30 minutes anyway. However, the ones I've tried have been quite good. She has one recipe that is not included in the book that is very good! Her recipe for Fudge Chocolate Wreath that I saw on 30 Minute Meals around Christmas was a huge hit. I did not make it in the wreath shape, but the taste was wonderful. She uses currants in her fudge, and I was a bit weary of that, but it added a nice cherry flavor.
All around, I am definitely enjoying this book! I do recommend it for day-to-day cooking needs over my other favorite cookbook, Sara Moulton Cooks at Home.
on June 19, 2003
I'm a fan of Rachael Ray's other cookbooks and of her TV show. I have tried quite a few dishes from this book already, as many have been featured on the show in the last year or so. Rachael's cooking style is not cutting edge gourmet; instead, her dishes are easily made and appeal to a wide range of people. At the same time, however, they have a bit of creative flair that keeps them from being ordinary. The book is not a glossy coffee table model, but is one that you won't mind taking into the kitchen. Rachael's energy and enthusiasm come through in her writing, which makes the book fun to read as well. I'm very pleased with my purchase.
on September 19, 2003
This book is perfect for anyone who wants / needs an EASY no fuss meal. The directions are simple to follow, even if you're a novice. I love the "family" approach to the book. If you are looking for quick, mostly healthy meals to make quickly, this is THE book for you. Yummy recipies, plus family stories. Makes me feel like I know her! I'm not as good at chopping herbs and veggies as Rachael is, so I do find that I need about 40 minutes for her 30 minute meal.
on October 7, 2003
I have all of Rachel Ray's books and I'm addicted to her TV show. I have recently discovered the joys of cooking which I am convinced would never have happened if it weren't for wonderfully easy-going cooks like her that make creating great cuisine so pain-free and forgiving. I have had other cookbooks that have always led to discouraging kitchen disasters, despite painfully detailed and time-consuming directions and preparation--which don't exactly promote further culinary endeavors. NOT A SINGLE RECIPE OF HERS I HAVE TRIED HAS FAILED!!!! This is an especially significant feat considering my husband is the world's pickiest eater and has finished everything that I have cooked for him out of her books. Her recipes are so easily adapted to personal taste that you CANNOT GO WRONG!! I cannot recommend all her books enough!! Definitely check them out and watching her show (which demonstrates all the recipes in 30-Minute Meals 2)makes the book that much easier to use--you barely need to read it. If you're into good taste without budget-busting ingredients or time-crunching preparations this is the series for you! I also recommend Paula Deen's "The Lady & Sons" books for down-home cooking that sounds so good you want to eat the pages the recipes are on.
on November 8, 2003
This is the cookbook that I use most often. It takes me more than 30 minutes to make the meals, but not a whole lot more. Being a college student I do not have a lot of money or time; this books helps me get a healthy and tasty meal with very little cost. Like she says in the book, she tries to use the same ingredients repeatedly so that it is cheaper and easier. Plus, if you want to buy a cheaper ingredients, the meals still come out delicious. Rachael Ray is definitely my favorite chef, and I think her excited and enthusiastic attitude towards cooking is reflected in this cookbook. I feel the food that I prepare from her recipes, makes my body feel more nourished than the fast food and frozen food I am used to eating. Some recipes I enjoyed were the Philly cheesesteak, pecan crusted chicken tenders, and the onion rings and burgers.
on August 20, 2003
I am a big fan of the 30 minute meals show on the Food Network, so I was really excited when they advertised this book on the show. I am a mom of 2 young children and LOVE to cook, but don't have as much time as I'd like on weekdays to cook the traditional gourmet meals. After the birth of my second child, I bought several cookbooks which specialized in making quick meals, but was disappointed as to the quality of the ingredients (not fresh). I recently purchased this book and have only made 2 meals so far, but WOW! They have both been incredible, highly flavorable meals to myself, my husband and my 2 year old very picky daughter. They also were both done in about 45 minutes (I'm sure w/practice I'll get down to 30).
I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves food but doesn't always have the time to cook for 2 hours to get a fresh, flavorable meal.