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The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook: 650 Recipes for Everything You'll Ever Want to Make Paperback – April 1, 2014
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About the Author
America’s Test Kitchen is well-known for its top-rated television shows with more than 4 million weekly public television viewers, bestselling cookbooks, magazines, websites, and cooking school. The highly reputable and recognizable brands of America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Illustrated, and Cook’s Country are the work of over 60 passionate chefs based in Boston, Massachusetts, who put ingredients, cookware, equipment, and recipes through objective, rigorous testing to identify the very best. Discover, learn, and expand your cooking repertoire with Julia Collin Davison, Bridget Lancaster, Jack Bishop, Dan Souza, Lisa McManus, Tucker Shaw, Bryan Roof, and our fabulous team of test cooks!
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I have cooked at least a dozen things from this book including main, sides, and desserts. Most have been wonderful recipes, only one did I think "I could improve that". This book would benefit both the novice and be enjoyed by a seasoned chef.
How it helps the novice, includes: How to store leftovers/extra unprepared food, food/emergency substitutions, how to put leftover ingredients into other meals, essential kitchen tools, ingredient prep. Actually, I learned a lot from these sections, as well.
Recipes are easy to follow and taste great. Since its just me (and I will often cook for a friend or my boyfriend), I will have leftovers for one or two meals, and that is perfect, instead of having the same leftovers for days, or having a freezer full of leftovers I forget about. This has become my absolute favorite cookbook... dare I say even more so than my Ina Garten cookbook!! 😁 I often look forward to cooking recipes from this book. The only cookbook I have ever enjoyed sitting down and reading was Ina's. And then I bought THIS. LOVE IT!!!
I have a couple of the other ATK cookbooks including the Slow Cooker one and Cooking School. After making a few of the recipes, I shelved the cookbooks because we just ended up with too much food. Cutting recipes in half wasn't always practical (and still produced too much food) and sometimes they could be more labor intensive than is worth it for 2 people. And forget about baking, the dessert recipes just made too much and the temptation to eat more than I should was too great.
I didn't want to give up on ATK because their cookbooks have clear instructions and consistent results. With illustrations and a central reference, my husband, who does not cook, is able to help out in the kitchen. I was so happy to discover Cooking For Two!!
Cooking For Two isn't just the regular ATK recipes cut in half or third. They've actually re-engineered their recipes to use smaller cookware and streamlined techniques to minimize appliances and overall number of dirty dishes. There are a number of dishes that start in a skillet and go into the oven, in the skillet, where the larger recipe would require transfer to a baking dish. Probably my number one favorite recipe in this book is the Skillet Pizza. We used to spend about $50 a week on high end takeout pizza. I use store-bought pizza dough and making that recipe actually takes *less* time than ordering takeout. A lot of the recipes using tomato sauce have you make your own by running a can of diced tomatoes in the food processor which is significantly cheaper than buying premium ready-made sauce, and tastes better too. Another one of my favorite recipes uses fresh ravioli or tortellini from the refrigerated section and you cook the pasta in a single skillet with a watery sauce that thickens as the pasta cooks. Again incredibly easy and even faster, and cheaper, than delivery. Every recipe I've tried has taken 15-30 minutes of hands on prep time max and has come out perfectly every time.
I'm watching my calories (I don't do "low fat" or "low calorie" because that's an express ticket to a midnight ice cream binge) and my husband is a light eater. The recipes say they serve 2, for us it's usually 3-4 servings. The regular recipes average about 500-600 calories per ATK-size serving, so even if I do eat a full serving, it's not that big of a deal. And when you're cooking a lasagna in a 9"x 4" bread loaf pan, half of that looks pretty huge. Compare that to a 13" x 9" lasagna pan where a 4" x 4" slice would look pretty measly. Desserts are no longer off the menu for me as I can eat a half serving without having to throw away half a cake (thus removing the temptation to eat too big of a serving). Quick breads are baked in mini-loaf pans, miniature layer cakes are 6" in diameter, cookies are by the dozen, and pies are 6". I love the mini bundt cakes. All of the desserts are easily 4 small servings which don't break my daily calorie bank. And if I'm tempted to overdo it, well, there isn't that much to overdo it on. Breakfast options are also scaled down, for instance to 6 total pancakes (3 servings for us).
Seriously, Cooking for Two does a lot for your portion size perspective. I've already lost almost 20 lbs and cook almost exclusively from this cookbook.
For a household for 2, we used to spend about $1000 a month on food (both groceries and restaurants/takeout). Since using this cookbook, we spend about $500 a month on food including restaurants and takeout.
If you're just one or two people, or even 3, and you want to lose weight, save money, cook really good food from scratch with minimal fuss, and/or make cooking a spending quality time together activity, then I highly recommend this cookbook. It's been a real lifesaver for me.
I've now lost 65 lbs since I wrote this review! I'm still using this cookbook regularly. It's a great reference for cutting down their other recipes. I am such a fan of their cookbooks, I've managed to pick up a few more. I highly recommend Make Ahead Cook, One Pan Wonders, and Cook It In Cast Iron, all of these are pretty easy to scale down. If I'm not sure the best way to halve something or the recipe seems too labor intensive I just refer to a similar recipe in this one. When scaling down the Dutch Oven recipes, I use a half sized dutch oven (3 qt).
I recently purchased a Wolf Gourmet Countertop Oven and switched from non-stick skillets to using Lodge cast iron skillets with loop handles (instead of long handles) so they fit in the smaller oven easily. If you do a lot of smaller scale cooking, I highly recommend this appliance. While it only fits up to a quarter sheet pan, I was already using a quarter sheet pan for most of the recipes in this book.
Probably my most made recipe in this book is the "Ravioli with Meat Sauce" recipe. I use Barilla dried cheese tortellini with no other adjustments, and just cover the pan for the recommended cooking time in the recipe.
My main complaint is that I run into a recipe here and there that is literally a normal recipe cut in half. Also the serving sizes are a bit all over the map. Some recipes really do serve 2 while others can feed 4. I usually assume I'll get 3-4 servings out of the recipes and just plan on an extra side for the ones I know make less (like the Teriyaki Steak Tips).
Another thing I wish they'd have included is scaling down on grilling. I have an 18" Weber Jumbo Joe because for 2 people it makes no sense to use a full size 24" grill. The recipes in the Grilling chapter work great on my smaller grill but the charcoal amounts didn't. Cook's Country only recently published an article discussing this, they suggest scaling the number of briquettes down by 25%. They also recommend putting water in a large (7x5ish) loaf pan instead of the 13x9 pan, and reducing the water by 25% (but keep the amount of wood chips the same). I still use a full sized chimney starter but for 2 people it just makes sense to have a smaller setup and use less briquettes. Hopefully a future version of this cookbook will have a better grilling section!!
Finally after using the book so much, it's fallen apart. I wish they made a spiral bound version with waterproof pages!
There are some things I really like about this cookbook. First off, many of these recipes are scaled down version of ATK recipes. This is convenient for a college student like me. Also, when ATK scales recipes it isn't simply reduce every ingredient by 1/2 or 1/3; ATK will make substitutes to more convenient products that make sense for two people. This is the case with many stews. Instead of requiring a readers to find a 2lb chuck roast (not easy) they will substitute steak tips.
I also enjoy that this is a complete cookbook. This means that the cookbook features a wide variety of dishes for almost any occasion (breakfast, dinner, lunch, dessert, holidays, and even some ethnic). After reading the cookbook I am grateful for some of the designations provided by the editor. Certain recipes are indicated as light or fast to prepare. I have a feeling that I will be turning to these recipes in the future when I don't know what to cook.
I received this cookbook as a birthday gift. I had never really considered recipes for two since the offerings are so limited, but since there are 650 very usable recipes I am excited to be using this cookbook for many years to come. As a single college student I find that cooking for two is a nice way to enjoy a hot meal and have the right amount of leftovers for lunch the following day. This is the perfect solution for those who are struggling to cook for anything less than a large family.