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Have you ever cooked your way through an entire cookbook? Which one?

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So ever since i saw Julie and Julia, i've wanted to cook my way through a cookbook.

I think i'm going to do Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything.

Have you cooked your way through any cookbooks? Did you actually complete it? Did you learn lots? I'm just curious!

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  1. Hopefully Gio will see this. I think she pretty much cooked her way through Bon Appetit Y'all by Virginia Willis.

    2 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      I just recently asked Gio about that. She's close, but still has a ways to go. Here's what she said: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7080...

      ~TDQ

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Hi Luke'sBride... It was and still is fun "cooking the book." I was surprised how easy it was to cook the recipes after a full day's work. I just chose recipes at random I knew would please both myself and DH and it seemed to work. I created 2 threads on the subject, the 2nd one coming after the first hit more than 300 posts. Many people chimed in and several hounds cooked along with me. That was the fun part. Virginia Willis, herself, added her comments a few times to both threads. That was wonderful!

        Here are the links to both threads:
        The first thread:
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/607868

        Part 2:
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/616454

    2. Why don't u follow her example and create a blog about it. U could probably keep up this thread with updates sorta like a blog.

      12 Replies
      1. re: tonka11_99

        i would LOVE to have a blog <Sigh>.... but with three young children, a garden, a cake making business, the neighborhood kids i babysit, church responsibilities...... I'm afraid a blog would take up the remaining time i ought to spend with my husband! :)

        1. re: LukesBride

          That's exactly why you should start a blog! With all the things happening in your life, you'll have lots of things to write about and pictures to share.

          -http://www.elleats.com

          1. re: LukesBride

            Wow! You are busy. I'm impressed that you can try 1-3 new recipes a day with all you have going on. How are you going to keep track of the HTCE recipes you plan to try? Penciling the date in on that page with some kind of star rating or something?

            EDIT: Or, since HTCE has been a COTM here on Chowhound, you could just keep adding to those threads...

            As far as the topic of cookthrough blogs: I think people should feel free to pursue whatever creative endeavor they wish, whether it's cooking, writing, dancing, painting, etc. But, not all creative endeavors have to be public or will make you famous. If someone wants to blog for his or her own personal satisfaction, by all means, go for it. Maybe your passion and talent will shine and you will develop a following. But, cookthrough blogs have pretty much been done to death.

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I started yesterday (coconut cake variation of the golden cake, thumbs down), and so far i'm just writing in the margins what i thought of the recipe and what i would change next time. I hadn't thought to put the date too, although that's a good idea.
              I've also gone through with some little sticky notes and flagged some of the recipes i want to try first. When i try that recipe, i move the flag to another recipe in the same chapter. That way it's not so overwhelming when i turn to the book to try to plan a meal....i can just browse the flagged ones.

              Tonight i'm making chicken garlic stew (chicken with 40 cloves) and 'Easiest and best french bread'. Oh my goodness i can hardly wait until dinner time! :)

              1. re: LukesBride

                Sorry to hear about the coconut cake. But, I hope the chicken garlic stew is as wonderful as it sounds!

                I do hope you consider updating the old COTM threads on occasion with your thumbs up or thumbs down on occasion, though, I don't know how you'll find the time.

                We have a couple of recipes in my family that we cook on special occasions. Even though we could probably prepare the recipes from memory by now, we still make a production out of pulling out the cookbook, penciling the date into the margin, and sometimes a note or two about the occasion, or the weather or something like that. It's become a funny kind of family diary that gets more and more precious over the years as we randomly add stuff to it.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: LukesBride

                  Oh yes, please do add to the old COTM thread! I look those up often when I'm thinking of making a recipe from a book we've done before, and I find other reviews so helpful.

                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                  is it okay to post on the COTM threads after that month is over?

                  1. re: LukesBride

                    Definitely. I asked that question myself a while back as I wasn't a CH when some of my fave books were being cooked from.

                    1. re: LukesBride

                      Oh definitely! People do all the time. Even after the month is over, the threads continue to serve as wonderful repositories of information about the book. I saw Caitlin McGrath posted in a thread earlier today about Arabesque, which was COTM in April 2007. Three years later and still going strong!

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3870...

                      ~TDQ

                3. re: tonka11_99

                  If everyone who cooked wrote a blog, it would be pretty boring. and nothing unique about any of them. Besides, not everyone is a writer. (including, imho, Julie Powell!) (ouch)

                  1. re: ChefJune

                    Oh my, do I ever agree with you? I honestly don't know what prompts people who have nothing new to say and no particular writing talent to start blogs.

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      I agree with TDQ... just because someone starts a blog doesn't necessarily mean that they think they are fabulous writers and are going to be rich and famous some day. My good friend has a blog, and I love it, even though most people wouldn't 'get it', I can keep up with her children and what's going on in their lives. I thought that was the primary intent of blogs "back in the day"- an online diary, basically?

                  2. You might want to read some of the COTM reports on Bittman's book before choosing it. Seems like there wasn't all that much interest, and I know that some of the recipes were disappointments.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: LulusMom

                      personally, i've liked every recipe i've tried out of it.

                    2. Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. In the early 90's while living in Western
                      Washington State (think gray, gloomy even with a view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca) DH
                      gifted me with the above tome. Started with the first recipe, a plain white loaf (loaves, actually) and ended with the crackers. I did not make the dog biscuits so maybe I can't claim to have cooked through the book...but I did make every recipe for humans, even the
                      one incorporating sugar cubes. 20 years and 45 pounds later, I'm still baking and loving every miinute of it. I do have my favorites (Italian loaf with semolina) but still experiment with almost every "bread" recipe that I see. I do a lot of "sweet" baking also and should have free shipping from King Arthur by now. Thankfully their flour is available even here, in back of beyond, so just have to order speciality items from them for delivery. Wish everyone could have had this sort of wonderful introduction to baking. Such beautiful rewards.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: amazinc

                        That is an accomplishment, I have that book and have baked from it (the Milwaulkee rye is a favorite) but that is one heck of a lot of recipes for bread!

                        1. re: amazinc

                          How long did it take you? (Just curious.) :). You must have eaten some fantastic bread during that time!

                          ~TDQ

                          1. re: amazinc

                            Buttertart & TDQ, Did eat a lot of fantastic bread (hence the 45 pounds) and it took me
                            just a little over a year. I baked often and shared with my neighbor. She gained weight
                            also!

                            1. re: amazinc

                              Next time, share with more neighbors! (I have thought that every new baking book I buy brings a few pounds with it too.)

                          2. It's interesting to me as a concept, but even when doing cookbook of the month here on chowhound, I get bored with the book, whatever it is, even when I love it, after a few weeks. By the time the book's reign is over, I am definitely ready for the next book.

                            I'd want to make sure I really loved a book--the recipes, the author's voice-- before I decided to make that kind of commitment to it. HTCE claims to have "More than 2,000 recipe variations". If you averaged one recipe a day, which is a lot, I think, and did all 2,000 (or, 2000+), it would take you five and a half years to cook through this book. Is this something you want to spend five and a half years of your life on? Man, I can't even fathom that.

                            ~TDQ

                            13 Replies
                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              that's a really good point. 5 years is a long time! I wasn't intending to try every variation.... just each main recipe and maybe some of the variations that i find interesting.

                              I don't think that a recipe a day is a lot. As it is, i try a new recipe almost every day.... and some days I'll try several. I just feel sometimes like i waste too much of my day browsing through recipe's on recipezaar while Bittmans book gathers dust!

                              1. re: LukesBride

                                Wow! That is pretty fantastic, that you try a new recipe every day.

                                Can you tell how many recipes (rather than variations of recipes) the book really has? I don't own a copy, but I just looked on eat your books and they say 2,396 recipes! That's a serious undertaking.

                                I know what you mean, about not wanting to let your book (or, my case, books), gather dust. For awhile, I had a thread going here on home cooking called "Cooking from your unused Cookbooks" thread wherein my goal was to try to systematically try at least 3 recipes from every cookbook I own. (I figure I have about 200 cookbooks, probably, embarrassingly, half of which I haven't cooked from).

                                I like having a project and can relate to that, athough, I think I might personally prefer one that seems a bit less daunting. Maybe you're looking for one. If it suits you, go for it.

                                ~TDQ

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  Oh TDQ, we should revive that thread - that was a great one. And I sit looking at my kitchen bookshelf and sighing at how much I need it.

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    Yeah, I might need to crank that up again!

                                    ~TDQ

                                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    Eat your books includes all the variations as recipes... so it's hard to say how many actual recipes there are in total. I did a quick count of the bread section and found that there are 32 actual recipes, and including variations there are 70. So, even if almost half of the book is variations, i'm still talking about 3 years in one book! (also, some of the variations look SOOO worth trying!)

                                    You guys are quickly talking me out of this...lol. But on the movie it seemed like such an inspired idea!

                                    I'm now contemplating making one recipe from the book (almost) every day for a year...that way i could skip the recipes i'm not that excited about, but still have a slightly more systematic way of trying recipes than just googling them!

                                    1. re: LukesBride

                                      Interesting about the ratio of "real" recipes vs. variations. I'm not trying to talk you out of anything, but for your own sake, you'll want to make sure you realize what you're getting into. No point in setting yourself up for a bunch of stress on something you're doing for fun! Your one-year idea seems completely achievable to me. Ambitious enough to be interesting, realistic enough to be overwhelming. And, there's no reason you couldn't keep going after a year if you were loving it.

                                      ~TDQ

                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      That might be the thread where I commented on your discipline! I recently one a tad of money gambling and decided to spend a couple of hundred on cookbooks. I asked some Chow-buddies for recs and now I have about eight new books and have only cooked one recipe (Zuni roast chicken). But I have the excuse of just moving MIL into assisted living 50 miles away so I haven't been doing much cooking.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        Sometimes life intervenes and you need to take a break from these sorts of things. Truth be told, I always have to have some kind of "project" going on (not necessarily cooking-wise) or I get bored. So, something like "cook from my un-used cookbooks" gets picked up and put down a lot, as other things come up. It's like a back up project for me.

                                        I figure I've got my whole life to cook from these cookbooks, especially the classics like Zuni. But, I do need to sometimes discipline myself to cook from the wonderful books I already have instead of always seeking out new and exciting ones.

                                        ~TDQ

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          Oh, you're going to love Zuni, I promise. But yeah, things happen, we don't get to cook or are too tired. We've all been there.

                                    3. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      It crossed my mind, too, but thought the same thing as you. Plus, I'd rather cook something I want and there are often quite a few things I have no desire to make. Making something once, you don't learn a lot. What I've played with is mastering one thing--finding all the recipes, info, etc., playing with it, and learning to make it good, eg. a great baguette. I guess it would be along the lines of what Cooks Illustrated does, only on a home scale. Even more, I'd love to follow a blog of someone who does that, rather than someone who haphazardly makes a recipe and moves on (thinking of Julie/Julia).

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        Your reply reminded me that, where I live, I don't have access to lots of ingredients. For example, I'd love to cook Batali's grilled octopus but can't get it.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          I think that might be a limitation of cooking through some of the cookbooks. I was thinking of making pannetone from Peter Reinhart's BBA for Christmas and realized I should have started over a week earlier for the yeast starter. You'd have to know how long each recipe takes, prepwise. I'm not sure where I'd get octopus but would probably head for the chinese store first!

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            No Chinese store :(

                                    4. Cook your way through "How to Cook Everything?" WOW! THat's ambitious!

                                      And that's something I'm not. At least not in that way. Cooking my way through any cookbook, just for the sake of doing it, doesn't appeal to me. But that's possibly because I have NEVER found a cookbook in which every single recipe was appealing.

                                      But.... If I had to, I wouldn't mind cooking my way through my 1960s collection of "cook books" cut from House Beatiful magazine and saved over a couple of years (or whatever; until they diddn't print them any more). I've always regretted that they didn't publish the complete series as a hard bound book. Mine is the monthly magazine sections punched and pierced and stored in a loose leaf notebook. That collection I might enjoy cooking my way through, but it will have to wait until after I win the lottery! Well, unless I can find someplace to sell me all of those ingredients at 1960s prices. They were published during the Kennedy Years. Can we say luscious and decadent? Ain't none of it diet food! '-)

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        Caroline I did the very same thing with the House Beautiful magazine cookbook insert. I loved that section of the magazine. The front page of the insert was so inviting and artistic.
                                        I gave the binder away when I found that there Was a printed edition of the recipes. I still have it but haven't opened it in a long time.

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          Wow! Did the print edition have everything in it that the magazine had? Those cover pages were my first love afair with "food pron." Simply gorgeous! I'll have to see if I can find the hard copy on the web. Because as I write this, I'm being overtaken by a sense of panic. I just went to the pantry and searched through ALL of my cookbooks and I can't find my House Beautiful binder....! IEasy, Caroline, easy. Take a deep breath...")

                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                            I'm upstair now but will go down in a few hours (I'm in my studio). I'll look at all the details and get back to you. I Googled but didn't find anything. I have a feeling that it was a Book of the Month Club edition, but their site doesn't have an archive...that I could find anyway. I'm not sure if all the recipes are in both the magazine and the hard copy...But I remember making some recipes from the book which were very good.

                                            Hope your binder reappears.

                                        2. re: Caroline1

                                          I feel the same about about cooking through a whole book.

                                          This reminds me of a group my friend belongs to where they meet a couple of times of a month to and bring recipes from Bon Appetit of that month. A good way to learn about the recipes, taste them, etc. but not have to do them all yourself--so you know what you want to do in the future.

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            MOTM. Magazine of the month!

                                            ~TDQ

                                        3. There's a poster on the CI bulletin boards who cooked his way thru Reinhart's Bread Bakers Apprentice. It was a good thread.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: eLizard

                                            I think there's a facebook group that's doing it but I've seen blogs of people doing that. I think todao here has been.

                                          2. I think I have cooked everything in the original Moosewood cookbook-it was an unintentional effort back in the 1970's and 80's. It was my first and only cookbook for so many years that the pages are still scratch and sniff.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: margib

                                              That was MY first cookbook too! (only for me, it was 5 years ago!) I got it at a yard sale for a quarter. I still make the pitas almost every week.... can't go back to store bought pitas after making them fresh!

                                              Oh, what fun it would be to cook through THAT book!

                                            2. In college I cooked my way through Le Cordon Bleu at Home.

                                              1. I think 3-4 people ought to get together to cook all the recipes in a cookbook. I think it would be very difficult for one person to do it. There is always something in a cookbook that doesn't sound very good or just wouldn't be good for someone in the family.

                                                Use a thread like this to report back. It would have the advantage of getting through the book faster, too.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: tonka11_99

                                                  That's essentially the idea of the cookbook of the month threads, only everyone who is interested can participate.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    Most of those I have seen, people just talk about the book and usually how great it is.

                                                    I seldom see where someone actually cooks a recipe and reports back about it, the problems they encountered. The inevitable changes they made.

                                                    What would be even better is someone take the Ina Garten approach. Of course she has plenty of time and money to do it. She prepares a recipe 5-8 times until she has it down and perfected at least as far as she is concerned.

                                                    1. re: tonka11_99

                                                      You must be thinking of something else. COTM posters talk about their preps of specific recipes. Here's a current example:

                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7055...

                                                      1. re: tonka11_99

                                                        I think maybe you're thinking of either the voting posts or the ones on the main COTM page. There are lots and lots of reports on particular recipes (I know, because I can't seem to stop posting on them myself!). It is a really fun way to cook through a book. As a non-meat eater (or very little of it) it helps me know how well those recipes are turning out, which can say a lot about a book. Anyway, I love COTM, and encourage you to give it another look if this sort of thing interests you.

                                                  2. Another suggestion. Have 3-4 cooks attack each chapter of Weinsteins "Cooking Knowhow".

                                                    He devotes a chapter to 1 concept then gives a recipe and then about 8 variations of that recipe.

                                                    3-4 cooks, or even more for that matter, could cook each variation. You could determine who was participating on a thread here then report back. If you got a lot of people participating, you could have several reports on the same variation.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: tonka11_99

                                                      Lukesbride started her cooking project yesterday. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7089...

                                                      ~TDQ