One of the more common questions I get asked in real life is how I manage to cook reasonably healthy dinners with my work schedule and all the other chaos that comes along with life. I’ve written here a couple of times about our approach to meal planning and preparation (here and here), but I’m going to add the recommendation for this book: Dinner The Playbook (the link is FYI – no perks for me). This book is written by Jenny Rosentrach, of my favorite food blog Dinner: A Love Story and cookbook of the same name that I also adore. I seriously wish I had a giant stack of these books to hand out to my friends who struggle with this!
So what’s so great about this book?
– It’s set up as a 30 day challenge for revamping family dinners in a way that is workable for busy people. I had no interest in the 30 day challenge idea (although it tells you exactly how to do that if you’d like) but I loved the tips for selling your family on the idea of the challenge because they come in handy when I’m convincing a reluctant three year old to try new foods. 🙂 These include getting kids involved in picking out foods to try, giving things fun names, incorporating some familiar ingredients and my favorite – using the phrase “I don’t know yet” to keep your kid just off guard enough about what dinner is going to be to avoid giving them time to really dig in on their resistance to something. If I give O enough time to think about the fact that we’re trying a new food at dinner, he’s a lot more likely to work himself over “not liking it”than if we all just sit down together and he gets to see us ooh and aah over the fun new thing on our plates.
– One of my favorite sections is the “Art of the Kitchen Dump,” all about using up those bits and pieces in the fridge at the end of the week before you head out to restock at the grocery store. I am amazed that I’d never thought before about freezing cubes of leftover stock (I always seem to have half a box of stock!) just like I freeze leftover wine. Not that I often have leftover wine, of course.
– There’s also a great section dedicated to things you can do on the weekend to get a head start for the week, like prepping a vinaigrette for salads or roasting chicken. I love that all of the tips are actually practical for a busy life!
– The recipes are phenomenal! I can’t tell you how many times we’ve made the homemade marinara sauce on page 65. It’s crazy simple and yet so much tastier than my previous marinara approach. We also loved the pan roasted chicken thighs with carrot and potato hash, which sounds impressive but took literally minutes to throw together on a weeknight.
I also loved the salmon-lentil salad for lunches during the week and have made it a couple of times.
There are lots of recipes for quick side dishes and recommended pairings, which I love. Each recipe also includes tips on prep you can do ahead on the weekend or what you should set out before work to get a head start or other tips for quicker prep.
There are still several recipes in this book I want to try out. Next up is the Summer Sausage Stew with chicken, corn and sausage. Yum! I love that these recipes don’t require any canned cream of whatever or any special cooking skills or techniques and yet are consistently quick, gorgeous, healthy and tasty.
If you’re looking for a real-life approach to getting delicious food on the table that’s healthy and actually quick and actually easy, definitely check out this cookbook. (After all, I’ve said love about a hundred times in this review right? How much more of a ringing endorsement do you need?) If you’re interested in slightly more complicated but equally delicious recipes, I also highly recommend Dinner: A Love Story. It’s also a go-to cookbook in our house, for the fantastic Tony’s Steak and the mouthwatering pork ragu if nothing else. Darrell requests the steak every 2-3 weeks, I kid you not.
Now I’ve gone and made myself seriously hungry. 🙂 What are your favorite cookbooks?
PS Realized today that given my love of books, I do a lot of cookbook reviews and running book reviews here on the blog, so I’ll be wrangling all of them together on one page over on the side bar for easier access!