cookbook review: my father’s daughter, by gwyneth paltrow

few people are more polarizing than gwyneth paltrow, and i’m really not sure why. i realize that i am one of a handful of people that genuinely likes her, but that’s not the reason i bought this cookbook. i bought it because it seemed to be full of recipes that i would actually make, also because it was endorsed by the master of italian cooking himself—mario batali.

i selected several recipes to make for the week and asked papa fritz to provide honest feedback. he and i had different opinions about a few recipes, but on several we agreed completely. here’s the rundown:

1. broiled salmon with homemade teriyaki sauce (p. 177). the teriyaki sauce was very easy to make and used ingredients that most people (who cook asian-flavored food on even a semi-regular basis) would have in their pantry/fridge. i didn’t marinate the fish as long as she suggested, because we live a hectic lifestyle. however, it was still delicious and moist. the actual cooking was very fast (7 minutes!) and the sauce reduced alongside the broiling of the fish. i served this with rice and broccoli. this dish was good, though not earth shattering. papa fritz liked it, but commented that it didn’t taste too different from bottled teriyaki sauce. this could be taken both ways, but at least i knew what was in the sauce, having made it myself. also, i can see this being an advantage for those who need to remain gluten-free and are unable to find gf teriyaki.

2. ten hour chicken (p.176). everything about this recipe intrigued me. the ease of prep, the bright flavors, and mostly the low, slow cooking process. essentially you put the chicken in breast down and cook at a low temp for 9.5 hours, then flip it and increase the heat to finish it off. i made this on a day when my mother in law was home with the baby (so that i didn’t worry about the house burning down), but it could just as easily be made on a weekend when you are going to be home all day. this chicken was awesome. moist and flavorful, and bright with the lemon and garlic. the last 30 minutes at a high heat really crisped up the skin (my favorite part of a chicken, if i’m being honest) which was the perfect touch. i served it with roasted potatoes and green beans. it was a complete hit with the entire family, fritz totally dug on the leftovers for many days.

3. whole wheat pasta with purple sprouting broccoli (p. 130). so, i was unable to find purple sprouting broccoli (not a huge surprise), but i used broccoli rabe per gp’s recommendation. the sauce in this dish (which is really a riff on a bagna cauda) is one of my favorite sauces in the world. i use it to make garlic bread, but sub melted butter for the olive oil. anyway, i digress…the dish was lovely, but i did need to make twice as much sauce as she called for in order to even taste it against the pasta. therefore, it was less than healthy, but it was delicious. the broccoli rabe was nice and bitter. i love bitter greens. papa fritz agreed with me, so this dish was a hit.

4. broccoli and cheese soup (p. 54). i despise blue cheese with every fiber of my being, so i subbed a nice aged irish cheddar (which she recommended). this soup was surprisingly easy to make on a weeknight, really quick if truth be told. i thought it was really good, however, papa fritz wasn’t sold. he didn’t like the texture and thought it needed more cheese and/or cream. to be fair he is accustomed to the panera broccoli soup that is like 12,000 calories per cup, and this is meant to be a healthier version. despite my explanations, he was unmoved. however, fritz liked it.

5. asian portobello burgers (p. 102). so the concept here is marinate and then cook portobellos low and slow on a grill, and then serve them on a bun as a “burger”. i was a little concerned that this wouldn’t be “meaty” enough for my meat lover husband, but these went over like gangbusters. he loved them, and so did i. the asian mayo she shares a recipe for is really easy, and totally makes these burgers. i toasted the buns and that prevented them from getting soggy too quickly. this was hands-down papa fritz’s favorite meal of the week.

so, to recap, we liked 4 out of the 5 dishes (for the most part), and only one was slightly lackluster. those are good odds! there are several other recipes in this book that i would like to make. do you have a copy of this cookbook? if so, what are your favorite dishes to make from it?

cookbook review: so easy, by ellie krieger

a while back i mentioned that i’d be cooking recipes from ellie krieger’s new book “so easy: luscious, healthy recipes for every meal of the week” for an entire week and then providing a review of the book for you.

i have to say that there are many positive things about ellie’s book(s) as well as her approach. i really appreciate knowing the nutritional content of each recipe, as well as the serving size. her approach to cooking is measured, but reasonable, which i appreciate. she understands that people can’t deprive themselves of flavorful food, or they will end up binging on chocolate bars and salty chips. she provides recipes that are fully of natural fresh ingredients, and chock full of flavor. her recipes are very easy to follow, and are well-written. the ingredients that are called for are very easy to find, and her recipes are familiar (that is to say they are not “scary” or “different”), which i think is good for a day-to-day cookbook. the only drawback (for me) is the very precise measurements she employs. i’m not a “measuring” kind of cook, and i find this very time consuming. however, i know that most people do not fall into this category, so it’s really only an issue for me.

below is a list of each recipe i cooked and a brief review of how it went over at our house. enjoy!

1. cheddar-apple quesadilla (p. 26) brilliant! this dish is perfect. beyond easy, full of flavor, and packed with nutrients. it’s just quirky enough. we’ve eaten this multiple times since i first made it, as i always have these ingredients on hand. we had it once for dinner and i added two slices of very thin black forest ham to the quesadillas to make them more filling. i served these with a simple garden salad on the side.

2. chocolate strawberry stuffed french toast (p. 53) this is a very nice dish. it’s a nice twist on a classic recipe, and the strawberries add a touch of freshness while the chocolate adds some luxury. i have to say that my husband wasn’t blown away by the ricotta. i would make this again, but only if i had company coming over and wanted an impressive alternative to french toast (though i’d likely replace the ricotta with low fat cream cheese). otherwise, i’d stick to the original and top it with the strawberries and chocolate.

3. asian chicken wrap (p. 83) what an awesome “sandwich”! the filling is simple, shredded rotisserie chicken and chopped veggies. the sauce is divine. it’s easy to make and packs a real flavor punch. i will make these again for sure.

4. egg, ham, and spinach pizza (p. 99) this was ok. i wasn’t in love with it, but i didn’t hate it either. it seemed to be missing something, though i can’t pinpoint exactly what that was. i like the idea of it, and it was a very complete and nutrient-packed meal. i think it needed a sauce or something, though tomato wouldn’t go well here. i don’t think i’d make it again without an overhaul.

5. strawberry mozzarella salad (p. 106) this was amazing. i am in love with this salad. i want to marry it. ok, i don’t really want to marry it, but i want to eat it all the time. using strawberries in place of tomatoes for a caprese-inspired salad was a stroke of genius. it really elevates the flavors. the oft tart berries are tamed by the sweet basil and creamy simplicity of the mozzarella. this salad was a hit at our house, and we’ve had it multiple times since.

6. tri-color pepper steak (p. 118) ellie says that this is sure to be a weekly staple once you make it, however, we did not find that to be so. it was pretty, and quick, but the flavors fell a little flat for us. it needed a bit more kick. more garlic? more pepper (spicy, not sweet)? perhaps. it was ok, but we will not be making it once a week.

7. chicken-mushroom quesadillas (p. 138) yum. we loved these. a lot. the flavors are perfect together, and they are super quick to make because they make use of a rotisserie chicken (the other half of the one we used for the asian chicken wraps). fritz liked the filling so much that i made him a whole separate batch this week to eat at lunch and dinner! this one is going to be in heavy rotation.

8. sesame shrimp fried rice with cabbage (p. 158) this was good. the flavors are very subtle, but it’s a nice dish. i used the rest of the leftover cabbage from the asian chicken wraps. i can see us enjoying this again on a hectic weeknight. very easy to make.

as you can see the bulk of my reviews were very positive (6 out of 8 isn’t bad). there are still plenty of recipes in this book that i’d like to try (and an entirely untapped “dessert” chapter)! up next, a review of gwyneth paltrow’s book, “my father’s daughter: delicious, easy recipes celebrating family and togetherness“. we are eating entirely from that this week…stay tuned!