Cookbook Down-Low

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Today was pretty much snow-pocalypse in Colorado. I was allowed to work from home, which was awesome because on my lunch break I whipped up some pumpkin scones. No big. I left my house to go down the street and pick my friend, Noelle, up for book club (we are VERY dedicated) and opened my garage door to find a wall–yea, verily a WAVE–of snow staring back at me.

I sort of just stood there, not sure what to do (my tiny snow shovel that I have to keep in my trunk has a broken handle, so I have to stoop down like a midget to use it…it was clearly not up to this challenge) when a kind man in a single seat snow plow asked if I was trying to leave. My words still weren’t working, so I nodded like an imbecile and he kindly plowed my Polly Pocket-sized driveway. I thanked him profusely and offered him a pumpkin scone for his trouble. I wish I had had the presence of mind to take a before and after shot. It really was quite something.

Anyhoo. What I’ve brought you all here to talk about is cookbooks. Another perk of my job is that three times a year, we get a “free book list”. The books on this list are selected from all the Penguin Random House imprints (there are SO MANY) and employees are allowed to choose 7 for free. The list is several hundred books long. I know. I have a good gig.

One of the more popular items on the free book list are the cookbooks. I have amassed quite a collection since I started there over eight years ago. At one point, we had a collection of three Barefoot Contessa cookbooks in one package—it counted as one book of our allotment, but we got THREE. It was pretty amazing. We still talk about it sometimes.

The challenge is, once you get the pretty cookbook(s), it’s ideal if you actually cook from it/them. Roughly 65% of the cookbooks I own have not even been used once. (Thanks, Pinterest.) There are two, though, that I cook from regularly with very good success. It is these two, the cream of the crop as it were, that I shall share with you.

SkinnytasteCookbook: The Skinnytaste Cookbook by Gina Homolka

Why I Love It: I have yet to make a bad recipe out of this cookbook. The food is delicious, simple to cook with no strange ingredients, and healthy. It’s awesome because it gives good guidance and tips throughout on how to cut down on calories but infuse big flavor. This cookbook was born out of a blog (as so many are these days) and the author really knows her stuff. She has “skinnified” alfredo, mac ‘n cheese, shrimp and grits and it’s clear that she doesn’t put forth any recipe she hasn’t tried and liked herself. It’s a veritable gold mine, folks. A GOLD MINE.

Amy’s Top 3 Recommended Recipes:

  1. Corny Blueberry Banana Pancakes. You guys, these are simply amazing. I have been known to make a quadruple batch because they freeze very well. The pancakes have lowfat buttermilk, white whole wheat flour, blueberries, bananas, and cornmeal. They are a hearty breakfast and they are a big crowd pleaser. I made these when I went out to Oklahoma to help my sister with the birth of my niece Kinsley and the nieces were big fans. My sister was known to eat them plain as a snack, too. I’ve made these over ten times. My cookbook naturally creases to this page. HIGHLY recommend. I cannot overstate this.
  2. Noodle-less Zucchini Lasagna. I know it doesn’t have any noodles, but this is hands down my favorite lasagna recipe. It’s become a Haddock family favorite, in fact. The sauce is so rich, you would never know it was a skinnytaste recipe. This recipe does take extra time because of the prep you have to do for the zucchini noodles. Well worth it, in my opinion. I give this recipe a million thumbs up.
  3. Pumpkin-Obsessed Vanilla-Glazed Scones. I made these suckers for the first time today, but it won’t be the last. This was the only time I’ve attempted scones and they turned out so beautifully! They were thick, dense, and so quick and easy to put together. I would probably do a few things differently next time: ramp up the spices a bit and spring for vanilla bean instead of subbing in vanilla extract. But overall, this is a big plus for the pumpkin-obsessed but unwilling-to-indulge-in-the-Starbucks-scones person.

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GiadasFeelGoodFood

Cookbook: Giada’s Feel Good Food by Giada de Laurentiis

Why I Love It: Whatever your personal feelings about Giada (and I know people have a LOT of negative ones), please don’t take it out on this cookbook. It’s been really good to me and provided me some amazing meals and healthy food substitution ideas. I’ve never once cooked from Giada’s Italian food cookbooks, but if they are like this one I might have to do it. I’ve tried quite a few recipes but only been disappointed with one (it was a smoothie. It was a debacle. We shall not speak of it here.) and that’s saying a lot. I still hold to the belief that Giada is a real life bobble-head, but she can cook. I will give her that!

Amy’s Top 3 Favorite Recipes: 

  1. Chia Seed Pudding. So, I brought this to work in a big tupperware container and would spoon out a portion each day for breakfast. People looked at me like I was INSANE because the tiny black chia seeds in the pale yogurt + almond milk pudding did look a little like my food was molding. It wasn’t though. Just so we’re clear. I really like this recipe because it’s light but filling and it’s a way for me to get Omega-3s in without eating a lot of fish. (I’m a Haddock. They are my kind.) I use peaches instead of strawberries on the top and I don’t care for the toasted almonds, but the flavors of the pudding itself are lovely. This has become a go-to breakfast for me.
  2. Roasted Vegetables with Chipotle Cream over Crispy Pita. This recipe is so easy—the hardest part is chopping up vegetables. Once that prep is done, all you do is toss the vegetables (butternut squash, zucchini, red peppers) and kidney beans in a delectable mixture of spices and olive oil and roast ’em up. This makes a TON of servings, so it’s perfect for me to make and keep a serving for myself and there is still plenty to take as a meal to someone else. Sometimes I sub in avocado or guacamole for the chipotle cream sauce because I am a rebel. I’ve made this recipe a handful of times and I’m always glad I did.
  3. Chewy Granola Bars. These little guys are easy to make and the only sweetener is honey. I like them as breakfast or a snack and I also appreciate how easy it is to customize the dried fruit to what you like. For instance, I steer clear of cherries but add in three kinds of raisins and dried blueberries. I also dislike most of the nuts except almonds, so I just sub those in for the other kinds. You get the picture. These are laced with cinnamon, so they kind of just have that home-y feel when you bite into them. And they have a ton of fiber and you don’t have to worry about any chemical additions like you would find in the store-bought kind.

I know it might seem from these selections that I’m a kind of a health nut. I’m not really. I’m trying to make better choices, so these books have helped me do that without making me eat weird-tasting food. 🙂 I’m also enjoying following Jamie Oliver’s website and Facebook page. His accent is delightful…as is his hair. And his tips are quite useful (he recently did a whole video on the sweet potato). But yes, mostly I’m in it for the accent.

Cheers!

XOXO,

Amy

P.S. – Any cookbooks you use that I should try? Or blogs?

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