Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Make-Ahead Sauce Solution

What's one of the major differences between restaurant meals and the meals your mom or grandma served?

Okay, maybe your mom or grandma didn't cook like mine did, but mostly it was meat, potato, and one or two vegetables. If there was something like turkey for a holiday, there was gravy. but mostly it was three things with no gravy or sauce or condiments (well, except we had ketchup with meatloaf).

But if you go to a restaurant, there's a pretty good chance that you won't get a plate that doesn't include some kind of sauce, chutney or other flavorful element, even if it's something that's smeared or drizzled artistically over the plate.

I love sauces. I really do. But they seem like they can take more time than the rest of the meal. They seem complicated. They seem like ... not something I'm going to make on the average weeknight. I mean, yeah, I'll pull out the bottle of ketchup for meatloaf, or I'll make a simple tartar sauce for fish. But that's about where I stop unless I'm making something that creates its own sauce. Like when I braise stuff.

So, when The Make-Ahead Sauce Solution by Elizabeth Bailey landed with a light thunk on my doorstep (free to me), I was intrigued. The general idea is that these are sauces that you make ahead and then freeze for later use. Like, you could have a sauce-making day and be set for a month. Or you could make a batch that goes with dinner, then freeze the rest for later meals.

These sauces (61 of them) aren't necessarily designed to go with particular meals. Instead, there are suggestions on how much sauce you should use for different dishes. For example, the Chorizo Garlic sauce would use 2 cups of sauce per pound of pasta; 1 cup of sauce per baked potato; 1/2 cup of sauce per cup of cooked rice, or 1/2 cup of sauce per sandwich. Serving instructions are also included, like you'd spoon the sauce over your rice, then top with grated cheddar cheese. For a sandwich, you'd use it like a sloppy joe, along with cheese.

Then again, you could go completely off the rails and use your sauce any way you want to. A couple spoons of chorizo garlic sauce could be awesome on a chicken taco, when you're dealing with leftover rotisserie chicken.

Then we have the Vodka Cream Sauce that should be slathered over, or smeared under, pretty much everything, from pasta to shrimp to chicken to pizza.

I wasn't sure about this book before I arrived, but I have to say that's it's giving me inspiration. I can see making a few of these, freezing them in small hockey puck sizes, then using them during those weeks when I cook a bunch of chicken thighs to save dinner prep time. Then I could pick a different sauce every night when I heat up my leftovers. It's kind of genius, really.

Needless to say, larger families would plow through much more sauce than me, but that's kind of the beauty of the concept. You freeze in quantities you're going to use. Or, if you freeze flat in zipper bags, you can break off chunks. One caveat. It's probably a good idea to label all the bags, lest you mistake barbecue for mole or curry for dijonnaise.

Did you miss the part about me getting the book for free. Yeah, that happened.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Build-a-Bowl

Every time I see the title of this book, I can't help but think of Build-a-Bear. Let me assure you, no bears were built or harmed in the making of this post.

This is a cookbook (sent to me at no cost) about assembling meals in bowls. They're just so trendy these days, right? Basically, you start with a grain and then top with stuff that works together. And you get bonus points if the stuff is colorful so you can post it to social media.

When I make things like this, it's usually that I have leftover rice and random stuff that sounds good in the moment. I don't actually plan bowls.

Seriously, though, arranging food in a bowl can be a cool way of serving things that would look a whole lot more boring if you plunked them on a dinner plate or served them family style. Thus, a book called Build-a-Bowl by Nicki Sizemore exists. So you can learn about the bowl formula and about get some great ideas for meals you might not have thought of before.

The recipes all include the suggested grains for each recipe, but let's face it - if you like white rice and hate quinoa, it's perfectly fine to use whatever you like in these recipes. The grains aren't the star of the show, anyway. The stuff on top is where you'll find most of the color and flavor.

The one recipe that caught my eye was the Huevos Rancheros. They suggest millet as the grain, but I'd probably use rice, simply because I always have rice on hand. Which also means I'm likely to have leftover rice from another meal so this could be a super-easy recipe when I don't want to cook anything super complicated. The ingredients includes the grain, beans, salsa, cheese, avocado, and a some garnishes. Those are all things I usually have on hand, so this is the kind of meal I could make pretty much any time. Well, okay, there's a recipe for salsa included, but you could use your own, if you had it on hand.

The Greek Goodness salad also sounded amusing. It's got a lot of the same ingredients that I use for Greek salads, but this time it was all on top of some cooked grains in a bowl. I can see how that would make the salad more filling and dinner-like for people who wouldn't want a salad all by itself as a meal.

Chicken Burrito Bowls had a lot of the ingredients you might find in or on a burrito, including lettuce and tortilla chips. But again, served over a grain.

If you like the idea of food in bowls and need ideas, there are 77 recipes, plus a lot of information about grains and the bowl "formula."

This book was sent to me at no cost. Because, yeah, I get a lot of cookbooks to review.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Death in a Mud Flat

Taking a little detour from cookbooks here, with a mystery novel, Death in a Mudflat by N. A. Granger.

But ... it's not totally devoid of food. While the main character, Rhe, is a nurse and her husband is the chief of police, Rhe likes to cook, as does her best friend, so people actually cook things, serve dinner, and discuss events over food. Kind of like real people.

That's not a huge part of the story, though, it's all about a murder. Rhe, besides being a nurse, also consults with the police department, so she's in the thick of things, from the very beginning, when a dead body is discovered near the beach wedding of some friends.

Yup, that'll put a damper on the festivities.

Like many characters in mysteries, Rhe has lots of time to investigate murder, even though she has another job. But that's okay. It's not a medical mystery novel, and we don't need to know how many times she took someone's blood pressure during the day. Her medical knowledge does come in handy though.

As mysteries go, this was complicated enough to be interesting, the characters were likable, and the end was satisfying. What's not to like?

I received this book at no cost to me.