Monday, February 6, 2012

Book Review: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School

Every once in a while I stumble across something that is so in line with my own thinking, it's almost like reading my own mind. This article is a great example of that for me. Another great example of this phenomenon is "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" by Kathleen Flinn, but in this case, I flipped between nodding along and silently shouting out "yes! it really CAN be this easy!" to nodding along in a more contemplative way as I took in new ideas and silently filed away information in the cooking section of my brain. This is a book I recommend to anyone who is bored, frustrated or overwhelmed by the process of making dinner for her family each night; to anyone who relies on fast food or boxed dinners more than she would like to admit; to anyone who likes the idea of the day-to-day ease of being a make-ahead mommy, but isn't ready to cook that much food all at once.
The Kitchen Counter Cooking School does not advocate make-ahead, especially not to the extreme that I have learned to embrace, and in fact, the main takeaway from this book is to shop often and cook daily, so it may be surprising that I rave so highly about this book on a blog that is dedicated to the exact opposite. Cooking ahead is a fairly new venture for me. Prior to the birth of my second child, other than leftovers, I did no kind of cooking ahead (though I have menu planned around what's on sale since I was a newlywed). As much as I love and appreciate the ease of pulling a mostly-cooked meal out of the fridge or freezer on a fairly regular basis, there are still the occasional issues of leftover ingredients, a recipe that doesn't come out quite right or the monotony of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. All of these issues and more are addressed and resolved in The Kitchen Counter Cooking School through case studies of nine volunteer students and a weekly recap of lesson plans complete with recipes at the end of most chapters. I was already enjoying this book, and then I cooked the Rustic Italian Farmhouse Zucchini "Sauce" with Penne - a recipe found at the end of the chapter on knife skills on page 73 - and served it to my entire family, even Mister Man, to enthusiastic response. This pasta meal contained only three ingredients (not counting water, salt or pepper), was so delicious and was just as easy as any made-ahead meal I could have pulled out of the freezer, save for the pre-sliced and seasoned crock-pot dinners. So, I guess I'm still hanging in the middle of the road where I found myself at the end of my last post where most nights I am thankful to have mostly-finished meals ready to pull out of the freezer, but I still enjoy the flexibility of being able to cook fresh, quick dinners for my family if I feel like it. 
If you've been reading along as I attempt to blog my make-ahead dinners for my family over the past few months and you're not quite ready to get on board, but you need some sort of motivation and knowledge about how to pull together quick meals with fresh ingredients, I urge you to find this book at your bookstore or library (I currently have the only copy from the local branch, but I'll be returning it later this week) and make time to sit down and read it and get cooking! And let me know if you do; I'd like to know if I am reading anyone else's mind ... 

1 comment:

  1. I ended up checking this book out from the library and I love love love it! What a great recommendation! :)