If we aren’t asking that ourselves, then we’re being asked. It’s the age-old question perhaps the oldest question that humankind (maybe even animal-kind) has ever asked! My husband and I eat virtually every meal at home (or brown-bagged). Many people are realizing the health and financial benefits of eating more of their meals at home. Clearly one of the toughest hurdles is finding the time to prepare delicious dinners especially for working families. After working all day, many people find it easier to just go out, buy out and bring home, or toss something in the microwave. For my own health reasons, that is not an option for me and as a result, I see not only the nutritional rewards but I’ve come to truly enjoy cooking. There is almost something therapeutic about coming home and then chopping away and yum! sitting down for a wholesome meal made from scratch.
All of this begins first with cookbooks. I’m crazy for cookbooks. I love browsing through them, thinking about the possibilities, discovering new tastes, and seeing if I can duplicate what is so teasingly tantalizing in the picture. OWL’s extensive and always growing cookbook collection allows me to feed my addiction without having to first take out my wallet. Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of cookbooks being published today of which only a small handful have several recipes that become standards in your cooking. The Library’s collection allows those of us crazy for cookbooks to browse as many as we want – for free- and then if a special one emerges, I will buy it to add to my personal collection. Sampling OWL’s collections let me have the freedom to experiment without handing over my paycheck.
Here are a few of my top favorites that will help you answer the question of, “What’s for dinner?”:
The cookbook I turn to most often is…. Drum roll please… The New Cook Book by Better Home and Garden Books. It is my trusted friend. The one I would reach for if I were to be sent to a desert island (that happened to have access to all modern appliances and food staples). It has never steered me wrong. Every recipe I’ve tried has worked and tasted great. A nice feature of this cookbook is that it gives you prep and cook times. I wish all cookbooks did this! Some favorites include: Chicken and Artichoke Saute (easy and fast to prepare- great for a weeknight meal), Old Fashioned Beef Stew (there may be other versions out there but this one is my favorite. This recipe from start to finish is about 1 1/2 hours so start this one the night before, then finish off the following day ), and Chicken Fricassee (about one hour).
The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver. I’ve browsed his other books but for me, his first book is still the best. Jamie is fun, fresh, and clearly likes to have a good time. This shines through in the presentation of his book and recipes. I absolutely love his, “My Perfect Roast Chicken”. It is very simple to do and it’s one of those recipes where you have a simple preparation, put it in the oven, and then forget about it for 70 minutes. It is perfect. I make all my own stock and I use Jamie’s recipe which I find simple, easy and delicious.
The Vietnamese Cookbook by Diana My Tran. The ingredients listed are easy to locate in today’s supermarkets and the recipes are well explained. I particularly enjoy Shakin Steak which is amazingly simple, requires only a couple ingredients, takes about 15 minutes to prepare/cook, and is absolutely delicious! I also love the Grilled Sesame Beef but beware, you must buy very thin and tender beef otherwise it will be unappetizing.
Italian Classics (The Best Recipe Series) by the editors of Cooks Illustrated. The cooks from Cooks Illustrated test recipes over and over again to find total perfection. Any recipe you try from Cooks Illustrated will not fail. They also provide information on why they are suggesting an ingredient or why it should be prepared a certain way. Detailed and delicious- try any Cooks Illustrated Cookbook or take home their magazine for a fun browse. In Italian Classics, my favorites include: Chicken Piccata (about 30 start to finish) and Chicken Caccitore (about one hour).
Ann Marie is the LIbrary Director for the Oliver Wolcott Library.