New Test: The Can(‘t) Cook Book

7 Nov

Cover

My next (or first) test will be the Can(‘t) Cook Book. (Note: Given the graphic on the cover, I will incorporate the parenthesis  around the “‘t” of the title when mentioning it). When I wanted to reboot this blog, I wanted to do a “back to basics” cookbook because of how my personal life has been. For those who know me, I have mentioned quite a bit that I have not been myself for a while. So, I kinda go back to the start, especially with cooking again. Part of what connected me to the cookbook is a confession I have to make: I have become a Can’t Cook. (Hold up! You can’t cook and doing a blog about making recipes?! Okay?) In addition to not blogging much, I haven’t cook a lot either with making excuses and just being stupid procrastinating, which makes me the “Used to Cook”, one of many types of Can’t Cooks (Seinfeld 1). In addition to getting back into the “Can” category, I want to get back into the kitchen, start cooking again, and most importantly, fall back in love with a passion I have for food.

Written by Jessica Seinfeld (from Deceptively Delicious) and containing over 100 recipes, her aim to be a mentor for the Can’t Cooks and break people into this realm that can seem very intimidating. With me, she hits one note while growing up for me: Cooking for and/or with my family has been very stressful. Not to further rag on family, but a lot of my family falls into one or more of the Can’t Cook categories. So, I encourage and even challenge them to cook along with this test. Amidst the stress, one joy and another note Jessica makes is the satisfaction of making a successful and satisfying meal for someone else (Seinfeld 2). Past her welcoming, the intro also covers how to do general prep in the kitchen as well as other how to’s. Beyond the cookbook, she mentions both a website and a phone app to watch how-to videos to further aid the reader (Seinfeld 1). (If you want to find out what the links to these are plus other info about the cookbook, you can always buy the cookbook. This blog is to test recipes; not to spew the info from them verbatim. It is what it is.)

Time to cook and blog.

Reference

Content:

- Seinfeld, Jessica. The Can’t Cook Book: 100 Recipes for the Absolutely Terrified! New York: Atria Books, 2013.

Image:

- Rancilio, Alicia. “Seinfeld Has Help for Cooking-Phobic with 3rd Book.” The Gateway News. 23 Oct. 013. Associated Press. 06 Nov. 2013 <http://www.thegatewaynews.com/ap%20lifestyle/2013/10/23/seinfeld-has-help-for-cooking-phobic-with-3rd-book&gt;.

The SparkPeople CookBook- Status: Aborted

6 Nov

Hey all, since it seems forever and a day since I blogged, I have decided to abort testing this cookbook. Aside from taking too long, things I mentioned in the intro to this test was I am fan of SparkPeople as it is. Although I can test this fairly, I do feel like I do have some bias for SparkPeople in general, which would skew my final recommendation of the cookbook. I know a few of you were following some of my posts; so, I do apologize for the cancellation. My new approach for the next test is to do test something I haven’t “pretested”. Will Blog will find a cookbook to reboot.

Until then,

Keep Cooking

Dark Chocolate Cake (The SparkPeople CookBook)

5 Apr

About the Recipe/Intro

If want to know why I chose this dessert, put it simply: I love chocolate! With sweet vs. dark, this is one case where I love dark side, and it is decadent. If you read the ingredients, you may think it’s missing one to two ingredients, namely butter and oil. (Wait, how can you make a cake without those? You need something to moisten it.) Chef Meg’s answer: a vegetable. If you think she’s crazy and want to flip the page, allow me to explain. By preparing a vegetable, whether it’s by grating, pureeing etc, it releases the moisture within the vegetable and allows it to be dispersed throughout the batter. Thus, fat and calories goes down with nutrient content in the recipe going up. Note: you don’t actually taste the vegetable itself in the recipe other than maybe contributing a little bit of sweetness (Cook Yourself Thin).

Ingredients, Shopping and Cost

Whole-Wheat Pastry Flour

In the introduction to the “Dessert” section, she notes her preference whole-wheat pastry flour. Yet, not every recipe features this, and I’m not saying it as a bad thing. Also, I want to know how this differs from a whole-wheat flour. On the ingredient list with the product I bought, it says, “Whole Grain Soft Wheat Flour”. So, I wonder it being “soft” has something to do with it. By soft, they mean lower protein (less gluten) compare to all-purpose flour. Compared to regular whole-wheat flour, it has a softer and finer texture. (Weston). When shopping for this, finding it at your store can be hit-or-miss; so, you may either have go to another store or use a mix of flours.

# of stores: 2

  1. Trader Joe’s
  2. Whole Foods

Baking the recipe

                Like other cakes recipes, this follows the baking standard of keeping wet and dry ingredients separate at first. However, it then has you make and incorporate meringues. I get to do this for something like a cheesecake, but a chocolate cake? One tip she makes is to have all ingredients at room temperature before starting. Although it increases your prep time, I found it much easier working with all the ingredients, especially the eggs. Overall, making this recipe seemed very easy. (I do have a confession to make; what I describe what was my 2nd attempt. On my first, I added wet and dry prematurely, and due to time constraints, I had wait to another day to have my cake. For someone who enjoys chocolate, I was quite pissed off at myself.). Note: this cake doesn’t include a frosting.

Tasting

When I first tried this cake, it had this airiness to it, which I attribute that to the meringues. I wasn’t necessary a fan of that. As I kept biting down, I got this nice richness of dark chocolate. Prior to baking, I had this great dark chocolate bar, and once I got to this note, it happily reminded me of that. In addition to satisfying my chocolate craving, this cake was very moist and soft. (Remember, no butter or oil). I didn’t miss the frosting. If you have must have it though, then take and possibly modify the frosting part of another dessert from this book.

One request for advice is how do you properly store this cake? I covered in foil and let it sit on the counter. Although it kept moist, the cake molded on me pretty quickly; I had to throw half of it out. As I roommate would say, “You fail.”

Rating

I give this recipe a 4.5 out 5. If you’re new to baking healthier desserts and/or just have a dark chocolate craving, this cake is a good starting point.

References:

-          Cook Yourself Thin. Lifetime Television Network.

-          Galvin, Meg, and Stepfanie Romine. “Dark Chocolate Cake.” The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2011. 360.

-          Weston, Nicole. “What is Pastry Flour? « Baking Bites.” Baking Bites. 17 Oct. 2008. Baking Bites. 27 Mar. 2013 <http://bakingbites.com/2008/10/what-is-pastry-flour/&gt;.

Image:

-          Mormann, Jamie. “Whole Grain Pastry Flour and a Healthier Banana Bread.” Sophistimom. Jamie Mormann, 12 Jan. 2009. 05 Apr. 2013. <http://www.sophistimom.com/whole-grain-pastry-flour-and-a-healthier-banana-bread/&gt;.

Farro-Argula Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette

5 Apr

To go with the Chicken Breast in Red-Wine Sauce, I wanted something with a grain or a salad to go along with it. At first, I thought paring these two didn’t make any sense farro, to my knowledge, is a Middle Eastern ingredient. However, it’s noted that farro is popular in Italy (Galvin 297). (Score! I just made an Italian meal.) With this recipe, one thing that has me miffed is, “How do you make a vinaigrette using walnuts?” Healthy cooking or not, I’ve never heard of that. In addition to the farro, this will be my first time using and trying another ingredient: goat cheese.

Ingredients and Shopping

Being all excited to work with farro, I wanted to find out more info and whether it’s a whole grain or not. (It is.) Another name for it is emmer wheat (Galvin 297). It’s considered an ancient grain with its origins from the Mediterranean and Middle East. Farro is known for producing low yields and difficult to harvest; so, it often got replaced as time went on. That said, farro is a type of grain that can grow and even thrive in crap-static conditions (Foster). Its spread to the Western world is possibly attributed to the French Haute Savoie and its use as a ration for the Roman Legions during the time of their Empire (About.com).

Though similar, farro can be easily mistaken for another grain (often spelt). So make sure you read the package carefully when buying this ingredient. If you have difficulty finding it in the grain/pasta section of the store, other areas to look are health food and ethnic/specialty. Otherwise, you will need to go to a specialty or health food store. Farro aside, the rest of the ingredients should not be hard to get.

To get all the ingredients, I went to 2 stores:

  1. Trader Joe’s
  2. Whole Foods

Making and Tasting the recipe

                As fun as this salad seems, there is quite a few components. The longest of which is working with the farro. From the book to other sources, they say the farro must be soaked before cooking it. Even though this isn’t an odd preparation (I think this is done with some rice preparations), I’m not entirely sure why this must done. If anyone knows, please reply below. When it was time to make the vinaigrette, walnuts, though in the salad, aren’t actually in it. I was disappointed and wondering if saying “walnut vinaigrette” is misleading or not.

This recipe didn’t feature a reference photo, and I think it might have been helpful. One other ingredient in the salad is sliced apples, which I did lengthwise. Therefore, it looks like they don’t belong, unless the apples are the bulk. While I combining everything, the goat cheese bound together and coated the salad. I’m not sure if that was a mistake. The final effect looks as if I totally screwed it up.

Amidst the possible errors, I was happy with what turned out. When first bit into this, it tasted a little odd with all the combinations and threw me off. Once I got past that, my palette and even eyes danced with all the textures and flavors, and they play off each other well. You get nuttiness and an al dente bite from the farro, crisp and sour from the apple, tangy and creamy from the goat cheese, etc.

The recipe description gives modifications to show the adaptability of this recipe. I get why it was written, but I feel as it’s downplaying the recipe. This salad, as is, has a fun mix and even a good introduction to new ingredients to try out. Even if I have to make another trip, I personally think it’s worth it. The only thing I modify is to double the amount of arugula in the recipe to get another serving of vegetables in and have that flavor a little more resonated.

Nutrition Info

Originally, I said this recipe and the nutrition info couldn’t be accessed online. Although, with search engines, modify you search, like using different wording, and you can find what you’re looking for. Thus, here is the to recipe online:

http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=1031566.

Since I’ve been highlighting farro throughout this post, here is a nutrition tidbit of farro to be aware of; the nutritional content of farro can vary based on the type and brand you use. So, read the package carefully. For example, the farro I used has over 3x the calories per serving (170) than what SparkPeople apparently used (50). Regardless of the nutrition info you read, this is a recipe to not get caught up in the numbers. This salad has a whole grain, vegetable, and fruit and protein/dairy. You only need to look it to know it’s healthy and satisfying.

Rating

I give this recipe a 4.25 out five. Even if it may weird or just unfamiliar to me, I absolutely love it and wouldn’t change much about it.

References:

-          “Farro: Grain of the Legions.” About.com. 2013. About.com. 26 Mar. 2013 <http://italianfood.about.com/library/rec/blr0002.htm&gt;.

-          Foster, Niki. “What is Farro?” WiseGEEK. Ed. Brownyn Harris. 2013. Conjecture Corporation. 26 Mar. 2013 <http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-farro.htm&gt;.

-          Galvin, Meg, and Stepfanie Romine. “Farro-Arugula Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette.” The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2011. 297.

Image:

-          “Farro: Grain of the Legions.” About.com. 2013. About.com. 26 Mar. 2013 <http://italianfood.about.com/library/rec/blr0002.htm&gt;.

-          SPCookbook. “Farro Arugula Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette.” SparkRecipes. SparkPeople. 09 July 2013 <http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=1031566&gt;.

Chicken Breast with Red-Wine Sauce (The SparkPeople Cookbook)

25 Mar

Chicken Breast in a Red Wine Sauce

As I’ve said in a previous post, you can view the recipes online, and here is the link that:

-          http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=1486520.

About the Recipe

This is a Chef Meg makeover on Chicken Cacciatore (aka Chicken Hunter Style) (Galvin 197). Chicken Cacciatore has been a dish I’ve wanted to make for some time but have no idea how to describe it. Therefore, according to wiseGEEK.com, Chicken Cacciatore is an Italian stew consisting of chicken, mushrooms, and spices, such thyme and parsley. (If anyone wants to give more insight, please comment below.) What caught my eye and one of the reasons I chose this recipe is it uses red wine; from watching cooking shows on making healthier recipes, wine, be it red, white, etc. can be considered empty calories and replaced in some cases. One note made about wine, and is a general rule of thumb, is to only use wine you would actually drink (Galvin 197).

Ingredients and Shopping

In order to prepare this dish, you will need a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom and a lid. At the first, I thought cast-iron, which can be appropriate to use. However, the use of anything cast-iron is normally specified in the recipe. From talking to a manger at Bed, Bath and Beyond, a heavy bottom saucepan is where the metal is all throughout the pan, which apparently allows it to cook more evenly. (That answer still confuses me, and please comment to give clarity.) When trying to find this type of saucepan, some keywords to possibly look for are heavy-gauge and hard-anodized.

In addition to getting the pan, I went to 2 other stores to get the rest of the ingredients:

  1. Trader Joe’s
  2. Whole Foods

Making and Tasting the recipe

            Making the recipe was simple enough. Although a little prep work and stirring is required as specified in the directions, most of it is letting burner and pan do the work for you. An optional and classic garnish to this dish is pearl onions (Galvin 197). Despite a little cooking, you are kind of biting into them raw, which concerns me.

Although this recipe is a lighter version of Chicken Cacciatore, the sauce looks to be somewhat rich. As I tasted, it had a great heartiness to it from many of the ingredients, including the red wine. When my roommate wasn’t around, I was actually licking the sauce off the plate. Despite the concern about the pearl onions, it is a good garnish; having that crunch retained was refreshing with everything else being tender. In addition, the sweetness of the pearl onions and the onion in the sauce helped to balance the dish. The chicken was well-season though a little overcooked. That said, the goof-up was on my part than the recipe.

The recipe didn’t specify what mushrooms to use, and normally when a recipe does that, white button mushrooms are typically used (or least I think). However, that wasn’t the best decision. Even though it wasn’t bad, the mushrooms really didn’t offer anything beside bulk. In the future, I’ll probably use something like a crimini since it has an earthiness that may better compliment the heartiness of the sauce. In addition, I may swap the chicken breast with turkey breasts. Although it is starting to deviate from the recipe a bit, turkey has a gaminess that may add to the recipe while having the benefit of being a lean protein.

Nutrition Info:

Since this cookbook is focused on the healthy, it’s no surprise they have some nutrition info with almost each recipe. Since I am doing that myself with a different database than SparkPeople, I think it may be interesting to see how they compare. Like the recipes, they are available online, and I will post what I calculate for this test in a comment below.

At first, I was surprised by how low almost all the nutrients, especially the calories, were in the book and thinking, “How did they do that?” After my number crunching, the two were way off, as mine has almost 100 more than stated in the book. Still confused, I checked online, which they have info for both 6 servings and 4. The one for 6 is similar to the book with the one for 4 is closer to what I got for most of the nutrients. Despite the error, you’re still getting a great value for your nutrition buck with this recipe.

To look at the nutrition from SparkPeople, click on the link (for 4 servings) below:

-          http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calories.asp?recipe=1486520

Rating:

On the website, they give recipe ratings out of 5. Thus, at least for this test, I will follow the same rating. For this recipe, I will give it a 4.5. I may tweak a few things, but that sauce was amazing!

If want to comment, critique, etc. feel free to post below and let me know what you know think.

References:

- Ellis-Christensen, Tricia. “What is Chicken Cacciatore?” WiseGeek. Ed. O. Wallace. 2013. Conjecture. 22 Mar. 2013 <http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-chicken-cacciatore.htm&gt;.

- Galvin, Meg, and Stepfanie Romine. “Chicken Breast with Red-Wine Sauce.” The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2011. 197.

- Galvin, Meg. “Calories in Chicken Breasts with Red Wine Sauce.” SparkRecipes. 22 Mar. 2013 <http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calories.asp?recipe=1486520&gt;.

- Galvin, Meg. “Chicken Breasts with Red Wine Sauce.” SparkRecipes. 22 Mar. 2013 <http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=1486520&gt;.

About The SparkPeople Cookbook

25 Mar

After, umm, several… months of trying to get this blog up and running, our first official test and launch of Eat Me will be The SparkPeople Cookbook. SparkPeople is considered to be the top website for weight-loss and fitness with SparkRecipes (which some to all the recipes stem from) being the largest online resource for healthy recipes. Written by editor Stepfanie Romaine and Chef Meg Galvin, this cookbook contains over 150 recipes to show healthy cooking is feasible, enjoyable, and satisfying for the body, mind, soul, and most importantly, to the palette.  (Wait, isn’t this a cookbook and not a yoga class? Well, yoga and diet can go hand-in-hand, and Stepfanie happens to be a certified yoga instructor.) Although the book’s slogan is “Love Your Food, Lose the Weight”, this cookbook is for anyone wanting to cook healthier, whether or not getting to a healthier weight is one of the goals. Through the recipes and other information, The SparkPeople Cookbook emphasizes the same goal as found online, which is to “ditch the diet” and enjoy what you eat.

Part of the reason why I chose this to be the first test is SparkPeople has been a good resource in my weight loss journey. At my heaviest, I used to weigh 255 lbs, and I was your classic yo-yo dieter and never thought I was going hit my initial goal of 175 lbs. Then, I met with a dietitian named Maureen, and she was the one who introduce me to SparkPeople. Though I have used other tools, SparkPeople has definitely helped me to exceed my first weight goal (Bye-bye yo-yo). Despite keeping the weight the off, I have gotten off track with SparkPeople, and I notice future weight loss became inconsistent since then. Regardless if testing the recipes from The SparkPeople CookBook is a success or not, I am hoping it can, at least, inspire me to start utilizing this resource once again (as well as losing the last couple of pounds to hit my final weight loss goal of losing 100 lbs.).

An interesting factor in testing this cookbook is joining SparkPeople costs nothing, you do not have to be member to access SparkRecipes. Obviously, even if the cookbook is a success, the question is, “Why buy the cookbook when I can get the recipes for free online?” On one hand, getting and cooking a recipe from cookbook has a way different feel than obtaining it online. However, that doesn’t really justify spending your money on the book.

So far, I have done some “pretesting” with the cookbook. (Basically, cooking the recipes but not blogging about a damn thing yet). In order for me and anyone who wants to contribute to answering the question, it’s time to get cooking and, especially in my case, actual blogging.

About the Authors

If I am able to, I will try to post a bio about the author(s) of the test we are doing either in this section or a separate post should the introduction not running way too long. However, based on how I would word it, I am not able to this time. However, if you wanted to read the bios of Meg Galvin and Stepfanie Romine, they are available on the SparkPeople website, and here is the URL :

http://www.sparkpeople.com/community/residentexperts.asp

References:

- Galvin, Meg, and Stepfanie Romine. The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2011.

Image:

Borboa, Michele. “Healthy Cooking Tips from Chef Athlete Meg Galvin.” Sheknows.com. 4 Aug. 2011. SheKnows, LLC. 25 Mar. 2013 <http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/837713/healthy-cooking-tips-from-chef-athlete-meg-calvin/page:2&gt;.

Hello world! Welcome to the food blog: Eat Me!

13 Jun

When you watch cooking shows, read cookbooks, search food blogs, etc. it’s normally about someone or some people writing about their expertise, style(s), and personal histories with food. As you read, watch, and cook through, you notice their knowledge truly comes out. You get to know the way they cook, and what makes them tick and explode, especially in the kitchen. It’s almost as you get to know the person(s) without any actually having to meet them. How sweet, touching, and slightly to extremely creepy. The foodie in us all starts to really come out.

This blog…..

isn’t exactly one of them. Well, at least not yet that is.

On that note: Welcome to Eat Me, where we test recipe sets from cookbooks to cooking show and even other food blogs.

For more information about this blog, read the About section.

Also, for any additional questions, you can send an to eatmerecipes@hotmail.com 0r send a message to me here.

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