Friday, November 7, 2014

Rachael Ray's 'Week in a Day': It's a keeper

     As promised, having taken a stack of cookbooks from the library (the lovely library ladies and the lone library guy are no doubt wondering what kind of shindig I'm planning and where their invitations are) I have some results from playing around with Week in a Day. While there are some recipes I won't do (veal, lamb, mussels) they are easily tweaked for picky people like me.

     My only real issue is that this book isn't very vegetarian friendly. I am the only (mostly) vegetarian person in my household, and I still eat poultry and fish on occasion (case in point, my mango shrimp curry); however, my husband and the minions are perfectly happy with eating meat only two or three times a week. Better for them, better for the environment, everyone is happy, especially the innocent piggy lives saved by us not scarfing down cider- and honey-glazed pork roast with pears, parsnips and potatoes every couple of days. (Josh would if I let him. Seriously.)

     I ended up choosing her Week 9 menu, "One For All" (pgs 64-70) because it was one of the very few that didn't have meat four of the five days planned. My kitchen was a disaster, and I HATE washing dishes, but as the point of the book is to do a week's worth of cooking in a day....the result? I think I'll just do them night by night.

Dish 1: Hearty and Healthy 3 Bean Minestrone
Dish 2: Smoky Spanish Hunter's Chicken
Dish 3: Spicy Roasted Tomato Marinara with Spaghetti Squash
Dish 4: Mexican-Style Pesto with Whole Grain Pasta
Dish 5: Eggplant Parm Stacks

     So.....I made changes to the minestrone, such as bacon for prosciutto, homemade turkey stock for the parm-herb she suggests you make, and spinach for escarole. This one takes a little advanced planning, because you need to roast the garlic and tomatoes first, but if you remember and do it earlier in the day you won't be scrambling to get dinner on the table. Very good, but a little spicy for me. My husband and seventeen year old plowed through three bowls each.

     The chicken: next time I'll use chicken breast, because thighs are just too fatty for my mostly-vegetarian preferences. (shudder) Again, you need roasted tomatoes (I read ahead and roasted extra the night before. Very proud of myself for that) Again, chicken broth for the parm-herb, and I substituted Monterey Jack for Manchego in the polenta. This one was very well-met, even by my seventeen year old, who despite the gross-out factor of the mushrooms, asked me to copy it into his cookbook.

     Spaghetti squash: so easy, so yummy, so skipped the anchovies (ew). The sauce you make ahead, while doing all the other stuff; the squash you roast the day you're going to serve it. I didn't bother putting the squash back in the shells after tossing it with the sauce. I'm a mom, not a gourmet.

     Mexican-style pesto? Not so much. We are a household of pesto fans: I put it on pasta, chicken, garlic bread, stir it into potato soup...maybe we're just biased. But the cilantro-lime-arugula-cumin flavors on pasta just didn't do it for us. That's taco stuff, and we LOVE our tacos!

     The eggplant was luscious (I just love eggplant parm!), and I've made R. Ray's baked eggplant parm many times before, and will most likely continue to. Fried eggplant parm isn't something I should indulge in too often. (But, ohhh, was this GOOD!)

     So, as I said, rather than making everything up in one afternoon, I'll probably follow her day-to-day instructions instead. I'll definitely plan ahead as far as making up special ingredients in advance (roasted tomatoes, for example), but really, as I'm a work-from-home mom, I don't have to worry about pre-made meals so much. (Though frozen meant-for-slow cooker meals are always a fabulous idea no matter who you are.) I'm planning on purchasing this cookbook, mostly for the recipes in it, but I'll be mixing things up, because there's no way I'm serving heavy meat dishes four days a week. Anyway, I hope this personal review from a not-professional cook and reviewer was helpful to you. Check out R. Ray's Week in a Day yourself, and see what you think.

     Next up: recipes from Laurie David's The Family Cooks, which I'll be making this coming week. I'll try to post day by day, but you really may just get another overview.

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