Thank you all for your comments and good wishes on yesterday's post. Petunia is clearly feeling better today... she's graduated from insisting on sitting on my lap and sleeping or watching Signing Time to standing at her favorite spot in front of the TV and watching Signing Time. And I'm so happy to have my arms back that I'm not going to argue with the umpteenth showing of Signing Time today. We can get back to our "one show per kid per day" rule tomorrow. That particular rule has always been honored more in the breach than the enforcement, anyway.
I should go out and clean up the disaster in my kitchen. I had to make my lunch while holding a fussy toddler who really just wanted me to sit back down on the sofa and let her snuggle. Let's just say that not all of the cream cheese made it onto my bagel. And then, while I was eating my bagel, Petunia swiped half of it and started gnawing on it. I was happy to see her eating- the tonsillitis has significantly dampened her enthusiasm for food- but cream cheese was spread over even more surfaces.
But that can wait. Instead, I'm going to write about cookbooks.
I love cookbooks. The represent possibilities to me, and I enjoy browsing through and getting ideas for new meals. When I have a specific recipe in mind, or even a specific ingredient I want to use, I turn to the internet. But when I need inspiration, I turn to cookbooks. As I mentioned in my post on the last Cooking with Dexter column, I have several go to cookbooks. I am always looking for new ideas, though. I used to buy new cookbooks when I wanted inspiration, but the realities of the limited space in my kitchen have made me change my behavior. I've started checking a cookbook or two out of the library when we take Pumpkin in for a new set of library books. I don't get a lot of time to look at the cookbooks before choosing ones to checkout- I usually have Petunia with me while Hubby helps Pumpkin pick her books, and Petunia's main interest in cookbooks is as items that can be pulled from shelves. So it is hit and miss- I recently brought home a beautiful stir fry cookbook with lots of yummy sounding recipes... but they all would take thirty minutes or more to make, and that isn't what I'm looking for right now.
My most recent haul from the library, though, was far more successful. I think I may buy one of the books I have home, Quick Fix Meals, by Robin Miller. She is apparently some sort of Food Network celebrity, and her tone is a little bit chummy for my taste. But her recipes are good! I've made four recipes out of this book now (Sweet and Sour Pork, Curried Butternut Squash Soup, Broccoli Puree with Parmesan, and Roasted Balsamic Asparagus), and all four have been hits. I think I'll add more cheese to the broccoli next time, but that says more about my dislike of broccoli than the recipe.
She has five main sections in the book: "meal kits" (basically things that you make ahead in full or part), "morph it" (master recipes that get used in multiple dishes), "dinner express" (similar to my Dinner during Dora idea- from start to finish in 30 minutes or less), side dishes, and desserts. We don't have dessert most weeknights, so I haven't checked out that section. The other sections are all good, though. I get the idea of the "meal kit", but I am resistant to it- I know that I can make my weeknights easier by doing some cooking and prep on the weekends, but those are Hubby's days to make dinner, and frankly, I'd rather have those two days off from cooking. I may revisit my opinion on this, though. The Curried Butternut Squash soup is a meal kit and wow, was it good. You couldn't make the recipe as written in 30 minutes or less, but that is mostly due to the chopping of the butternut squash. My Mom suggested looking for frozen prechopped squash, and I think that is a brilliant idea. If it works out, you can expect to see my modified recipe as a Dinner during Dora post sometime.
The other cookbook that I brought home was Vegetable Love, by Barbara Kafka. This is not a book for busy weeknights. I found fewer recipes in it that I want to try- but I'll confess that this may be at least partly due to the fact that most vegetable recipes don't sound that good to me. It is a wonderfully written, and a true treasure trove of information about vegetables. I'm not going to rush out and buy this book, but I think I will put it on my wish list and hope that someone else buys it for me. I think it would be a wonderful reference to have on hand. The only thing that I wished for in the book but did not find was a discussion of the nutritional value of the various vegetables. This probably also stems from my status as a veggie-skeptic. I want to know if learning how to make a vegetable in a way that I'll eat is worth the effort.
The final new book I've been using recently isn't from the library- it is on loan from a friend of mine who is an amazing baker. I saw The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook, by Beth Hepsinger, on her shelf and asked her if it was any good. She said she hadn't used it much and lent it to me. We use our bread maker primarily to make the bread that is on offer at every dinner for Pumpkin and Petunia. We make a loaf, slice it up, and freeze it. Every night, we pull a slice out of the freezer and toast it for dinner (unless we have some fresh bread like Mimi's Sneaky Good Corn Muffins on offer). I wanted to see if there were other bread maker recipes we might want to try. There were several interesting looking recipes, but I'm not sure many would make it into regular rotation here. I did make the recipe for Graham Bread and loved it. Pumpkin ate it, but still prefers the recipe that she calls her "regular bread". The Cornmeal Pizza Crust is nicer than the other recipe I had, and is the basis for the pizza crust recipe that I'm working out now. I'll post that once it is final, too. But the best thing I've gotten from the book was the tip to add a little wheat gluten to bread machine recipes. This really does make for a lighter, nicer loaf. Since we don't make fresh bread that often, I probably won't rush out and buy this book, either, but I will copy down a few recipes before I return it!
So, what about you? Where do you turn for cooking inspiration? Any cookbooks you think I should try to find?