Sunday, October 10, 2010

With some books you just know you're going to love them...

Last week, I wrote that America's Test Kitchen's Healthy Family Cookbook had arrived.  I was so excited to start trying recipes.  It was very interesting to peruse through it.  One of my favorite cookbooks is America's Test Kitchen's Family Cookbook (minus the healthy title).  I've had it for three or four years and have a bunch of favorite recipes in it.  Basically, that cookbook is an updated, modern version of Betty Crocker or the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  There's more flavor and spice in America's Test Kitchen's recipes than in the two I just mentioned.  When I heard the Healthy Family version was coming out, I was very curious.  We strive to eat healthy foods, but we have our share of foods that we love that aren't so good for us, too.  Overall, though, I think we try to eat healthy foods.  I also am always on the look out for good low fat recipes because they inspire me to cook and eat better.

When I first opened this cookbook, I noticed that a few sections are different than the regular family cookbook such as stir-fries and curries and kid pleasing foods.  Though I haven't tried any of the stir fry sauce recipes yet, I am looking forward to it!

For the most part, the recipes in this cookbook are different than in the original cookbook, though a few have only minor changes.  It is a different cookbook.  I was most curious about the baking recipes.  I tried the brownie recipe and was wowed by it!  Last night, I made the oatmeal raisin cookies and when my neighbor tried them, her eyes widened.  She loved them and so did I!  I made the Butternut squash soup this week--which was very good though it didn't need the extra vegetable broth added to it.  I made several other recipes along the way including the strawberry banana smoothie and all have turned out well.  I also made the Chinese chicken salad.  I was so surprised at how they made it lowfat!  I still added 2 Tbsp of sugar because I do like it just a tad sweet, but that's a far cry from the 1/2 cup sugar in my original recipe that I've been making for 10 years.  With one recipe I did skip a couple of their steps because it simply wasn't practical for me and the recipe still did turn out okay.  But, in general, you do need to follow the recipe's directions in these two cookbooks.  They often add different quirky and unexpected steps in that make the recipes come out better work.

One big difference that I noticed in this cookbook was that the recipes are either designated Fast or they have no time identifier.  In the original cookbook, there was a prep time identified which I usually found inaccurate for me (and I am a quick cook).  So, I suppose it's probably wiser to omit the prep time estimation altogether.

I liked the philosophy that this cookbook had about food.  It was moderate, middle of the road and wasn't extreme.  I typically do choose lowfat over nonfat products.  When products go the way of nonfat, many artificial ingredients are added in.  The other bits of advice scattered throughout this cookbook about cooking equipment and ingredients is all very helpful.

I highly recommend this cookbook.  But, I have one last piece of advice.  What I did with my original cookbook is get a separate binder and take my favorite recipes and put them inside sheet protectors.  I will likely do the same with my favorite recipes from this one.  It is a large binder with thin, magazine thickness pages.  It is durable enough for looking through once in a while, but if you use it constantly, the pages just won't hold up.

If you're looking for one family cookbook, I'd recommend this one first--simply because the recipes are healthier.  But, the original family cookbook is wonderful as well.  They compliment each other!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Boston Common Press.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Being Patient For Wishes

On Thursday night, the women in the church had their monthly meeting.  Recently, I was on the phone with the gal who was the host and she happened to mention her high chair.  I asked her if she would like mine.  Eli had grown to big for it.  She replied that she would indeed like to have it--that it was an answer to a desire in her heart that she hadn't even been praying for recently.  It was a huge blessing to me--to get to pass on something that had in turn originally been a blessing to me.  I had found the high chair at a garage sale in the two weeks before Eli was born.  I realized I needed one and God had graciously provided one--for $10 at a garage sale.  It was a $70 or $80 high chair.  I took it home and cleaned it up and it looked awesome--it was a diamond in the rough.  It always brings me joy when I get the chance to share something with someone else that had been a blessing to me.

Often I can't find anyone who wants the things that are precious to me--that are symbolic to me of God's provision for my family.  I've taken to simply donating them to the local thrift store--which happens to be a favorite spot of one of my friends.  I know that people find treasures there and the funds from that shop bless American Veterans.  But, there's something about getting to simply give something--without any funds changing hands.

After the meeting, I called the gal to let her know what a blessing it was to get to see her home.  I love getting to see family's personalities reflected in their homes.  You get to know someone when you see their home.  We talked a bit about the high chair and I shared with her about what a blessing it was to give it to her.  She shared how she had wanted one a long time ago, but hadn't asked and it just didn't seem to be the right time.  She made a wise comment that I want to remember.

She said--that sometimes there is patience required on the part of the receiver as much as it is required on the part of the giver.  There is effort and waiting involved--holding onto the item and looking for the right home for it.    It isn't a holding on for the sake of hoarding and not letting go.  It is like flying in a holding pattern and waiting to land.

This morning my garage saling partner and I set out with the kids.  When I realized that we weren't going to do anymore shopping this fall, I was a little concerned but we decided to set out one more week.  What a blessing it was!

I have wanted a digital camera for the kids to play with for several years.  I just thought they'd have fun with it.  But, they ranged in price from $35-$60.  My husband didn't think it would be wise and so we never decided to get one for them.  This morning I found one for $1.  It needed to be cleaned up, needed new batteries and didn't have a USB cable.  So, I knew I was taking a chance.  I brought it home, replaced the batteries and tried out the cords I had.  Guess what?  One of them works!

The camera is the Little Tikes pink camera that retails for $35.  It doesn't take the greatest pictures--but the kids are having a great time with it and are excited to have it.  I'm thankful I waited.  I'm thankful I didn't buy one when I'd wanted one for the kids before.  I'm thankful I was patient.  But, most of all, I'm thankful for how God blessed us with a little camera for the kids to play with.

I'm going to try and keep in mind more often what my friend said about patience--both in receiving and giving.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Growing up, we didn't eat a lot of processed foods, but two that my mom did get were Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Spaghettios.  We didn't eat them very often, but I remember them and I remember liking them a lot. I had to find a substitute for Kraft's Mac and Cheese since it has artificial colors and such.  So, we've gone with Annie's--it's pretty affordable at Trader Joe's (their version) and at BJ's.  Spaghettios has been a little different.  It has high fructose corn syrup--one of the other things that I try to avoid.

So, my solution has been tomato soup from Trader Joe's with alphabet letter noodles.  Shoprite and Giant both carry the noodles in their store brand.  I smile knowing that this is one of my kids favorites.

My memories from when I was a kid seem to give me comfort, a sense of security, and a sense of history when I can't go see the places anymore and when it is long spans of people between when I get to see my family.  And as silly as it might seem, the foods from my childhood remind me of the things I liked and enjoyed when I was a kid.  They make me smile.  And it makes me smile to get to share these things, and new ones, with my kids.  We're making our own traditions.  I hope some day that they will share these things with their children--the things they loved as children.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Truly Great Lowfat Homemade Brownies

This week America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook arrived in the mail.  I was so excited to start cooking with it!  This week I'll post a review of it and explain how it's different from the Family Cookbook--which honestly I wouldn't trade it for.  They're different from each other and have different recipes.

Anyways, tonight I made the Butternut Squash Soup which, though flavorful needed less broth.  I would have left the vegetable broth out completely.  The soup was pretty runny.  And I would have roasted the vegetables for another 10 minutes.  But, even so, it was very good.  I served it with a dollop of lowfat sour cream, tiny alphabet noodles (aimed at the kids) and some pepper.  I served it with wheat bread and butter.

For dessert, I made these brownies with one alteration...
I don't buy bittersweet or baking chocolate anymore.  I actually haven't for years.  I substitute 3 Tbsp cocoa and 1 Tbsp butter for 1 oz. of baking chocolate.  So, in this recipe I substituted 2 Tbsp melted butter and another 1/3 cup cocoa.  I also added 1/2 cup chocolate chips.  I know that they're not as low fat this way, but they are a great improvement over the brownies I usually make.  The brownies I normally make have 1 1/3 cup sugar, 3 eggs, and 9 Tbsp of butter total (compared to 4 Tbsp in this recipe).  These brownies tasted just as good and surprisingly just as rich!

I'm going to keep trying a few more recipes through the week before I post my review for this cookbook, but so far so good!