Sunday, May 31, 2009

Books to Drool Over, May edition

Welcome to Books to Drool Over, in which I share the cookbooks that have caught my interest over the past month. I have two to share with you this month.

Elsie's Turkey Tacos and Arroz Con Pollo (2007), by Elsie Ramos, is subtitled Latin-flavored Great-tasting Recipes for Working Moms. I've never understood the concept of cookbooks for "working moms"--as if we stay-at-home moms were spending our days kneading bread and making our own granola. I so admire working parents for all the balls they juggle, but I'm generally throwing dinner together at six o'clock right along with them. This looked like a good source of quick, stress-free recipes for all of us.

I don't watch cooking shows, so I had no idea who Elsie Ramos is (she was on the first season of Hell's Kitchen). Ramos is of Puerto Rican descent, so the recipes are different from the Latin-influenced food we're used to, and sounded tasty. No pictures, though.

Will I use it? A lot of these aren't doable for me, unless someone knows of a source of calabaza (a kind of West Indian pumpkin) and dried codfish in Portland. There are seriously a LOT of recipes with dried codfish, and no recommended substitutions. It also puts me off when cookbooks use another recipe (sofrito, for example) as an ingredient. I'm not going to make up a big batch of sofrito to have on hand. Please list the ingredients within the recipe so I can make my shopping list. Thank you.

I did mark several recipes to try, but after a month the only one I got around to making was Platanos Dulces, which is fried plantains. I've never made plantains that I liked before, and these were delish! Normally they're too starchy for my tastes. The key was to let the plantain ripen until there were lots of black spots on the skin.

Rachael Ray's Yum-O Family Cookbook (2008). Did I mention I don't watch cooking shows? I knew nothing about Rachael Ray except that my friend Glenda had one of her cookbooks. I grabbed this book off the library shelf at the beginning of May because it said "family cookbook" and I needed another book to feature. When I first skimmed through it I immediately started marking pages, and then I stopped because, what's the point in marking pages if you mark every other page? These recipes looked so good, healthy, and different from my usual fare without being any harder to make. Enticing color pictures, and tips on how kidlets can help, add to the book's appeal.

Will I use it? I used it all month long! I made Greek Goulash and my own variation of Ground Meat Goulash with Macaroni (I was on a goulash kick apparently. They were more different than they sound, I promise). I made Jerk Chicken With Roasted Vegetables and Pineapple, and then used the leftovers as instructed to make Sweet and Spicy Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken. (Rachael Ray has yet another recipe to make with that chicken but I didn't have enough leftovers to do both). This was a big hit with everyone in my family and super easy to make.

Rachael Ray has a Yum-O website dedicated to empowering kids and their families to develop healthy relationships with food and cooking. A lot of the recipes in this book are on the website, but I'll be keeping the book around for further inspiration in the months to come.


  1. One thing I'd recommend about R.R.'s recipes is to see if they're on Food Network's site and, if so, read the user reviews and fine-tune the recipes accordingly. I don't always agree with changes recommended in the user reviews, but sometimes you find important info there that makes a huge difference in the end result of a recipe. Also, for any cookbook, it's worth seeing if errata is listed on the author's website =).

    Her "Chili Rubbed Flank Steak" is some of the best meat I've ever had (said by a person who could happily go months without eating beef), as long as you don't overcook the meat -- you could lighten up the spicy spices in the rub as needed. It and the accompanying Mexican Rice are now one of our favorite meals. Both recipes are on Food Network's site.

  2. That's great advice, Glenda, thanks! I love the Food Network site for recipes, but I don't ever think to look for individual chefs on there. I'll look for those recipes for sure. Just the recipe name is making my mouth water. (Oh, wait: I forgot to have lunch!)

  3. Wow, Elsie Ramos' book sounds mouth-watering delicious. Well, the recipes in it do, not the book itself. :P I am not big on Hell's Kitchen so I did not know of Ramos either, so thanks for letting me in. I love trying different flavors (Brazilian/Caribbean is a new fave) so I think I will enjoy trying out some of her simpler recipes. I say simpler because I am not a great cook and burn my food and myself more than I care to relate, lol.

  4. Rebecca, I love exploring different cooking traditions, too. I'll bet you'd find a lot to try in this book (especially if you have a good source for dried codfish...LOL). I really want to try her Ensalada de Arroz (a rice salad) and the stuffed meatloaf!