Top critical review
82 people found this helpful
Very good, but....
on March 4, 2004
I have been looking for a cookbook like this for many years....healthy recipes and menu ideas organized by seasons along with nutrition information per serving. The shopping lists to go along with the recipes and menu plans are an added bonus I had not considered for this "ideal cookbook". I have used the first week of Winter menus and my husband loved having all the variety of vegetables included. I had gotten into a rut of serving the same basic vegetables my mother had served. I use a lot more pots and pans to prepare the meals and they have more steps than I'm used to, but I'm not saying that is a bad thing. I am enjoying the creative process. However, I'm not sure these are the ideal recipes for busy mothers who have to work outside the home. I do like it that there is a fish meal weekly, a meatless meal weekly and a crock-pot meal weekly plus the meat and poultry menus.
I do have some problems with the book. For example, she suggests some food items that I have never heard of before. Not only had I not heard of fusilli before, my grocery store did not have it. I assumed it was some kind of pasta and substituted. Some description of unfamiliar foods and possible substitutions would have been helpful.Tarragon is a spice I had never tried before. Speaking of spices, people need to be warned that the first few times one goes shopping using this plan, the shopping bill will be higher than usual until all of the spices and condiments are on hand. I was not put-off by these considerations. It is kind of an adventure to try new foods, spices and condiments. Adventures usually cost a little extra. I understand that when all of these things are on hand, the weekly shopping costs will probably even be less than what you are currently spending on groceries.
However, I was put off by something else. The only meats suggested for the first week of winter menus are chicken breasts and cube steaks. I did not buy chicken breasts because my husband had already complained about me using those in an earlier attempt of mine to cook healthier. Neither one of us cares for chicken breasts, so I substituted chicken thighs for the chicken recipes. That worked fine for one of them, but not so well for the other because of the shape of the breasts. We also did not like the cube steak because it was too tough. Well, when I checked the shopping lists for other weeks, lo and behold, she had those two items on almost every week's list! So, if you buy this book and don't particularly care for chicken breasts or cube steaks, be aware that you will have to come up with alternative ideas for many of her recipes. She has no recipes for pork, although she does say at the beginning that she has been told that some of the chicken recipes do well with pork.
I also had a problem with some of her serving suggestions. There are usually three suggestions to serve with the meat dish. Usually two of them are starchy and I even noticed one serving suggestion that had three starches. I understand that the author has lower carbohydrate menus on her website, so those interested in fewer carbohydrates may want to check that out. By the way, she doesn't give rcipes for the vegetables to go with the main course. Some of these vegetables are unfamiliar and you may have to check one of your other basic cookbooks to find out how to cook these foods. I had to look up kale, for example. Again, this was part of the adventure for me, but would be just an extra hassle for the working mother with young children.
I did not use one of her suggested menus for the first winter week. The other five menus for the week have protein counts of 23-58 grams per serving. The corn chowder only has five grams of protein. The recipe sounds good, but I don't think that is enough protein for an entire meal. One would probably want to serve something else with this to increase the protein.
Oh, yes, and if you're like me and have been cooking for forty years and don't have a garlic press, you had better get one if you want to enjoy these recipes as intended. Also, she gives menu ideas for only six days a week assuming, I guess, that you will eat out once a week. If you don't, you can plan one of your family's favorites for that other meal. Just remember to add the ingredients for it to your shopping list.
All in all, I think this book is a good investment, especially if you are tired of the "same ole', same ole" , like the creative side of cooking and are looking for healthier alternatives for your family. Maybe I should have given it a four instead of a three because I personally don't buy books that have three ratings and I would buy this book again.