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Sep 7, 2012 04:54 PM

The “A Cookbook a Week” Challenge….Will you join me? [old]

Like many of you here, I LOVE cookbooks and I suffer from a seemingly incurable ailment that prevents me from saying “NO” to books that appeal to me.

Trouble is (or at least one of the problems this creates!), often a book arrives at my door and despite my excitement and, very best intentions to have a good look through it, the book gets placed onto a bookcase before I’ve ever really had an opportunity to read and enjoy it, let alone cook from it.

So here’s my idea. I’m here to commit to pulling one book off the shelf each week. I’m going to take a good look through it and, report back here as to my impressions, recipes that appealed (or didn’t), what I liked, what I didn’t etc. I also hope to bookmark the recipes that appeal in EYB and if I later have the opportunity to make them, I’ll report back here (or link to the review if it appears elsewhere in Chowhound).

My hope is that I’ll discover some treasures in my collection and, cull the duds.

I figure if I put this out there, truly commit to it, it might actually happen.

What do you think? Will you join me by adding your impressions of cookbooks here? Even if you can’t do it weekly, I’d love to have some company and I'm imagining this would be a really useful resource for those of us who just might, maybe perhaps, possibly be thinking of adding yet another cookbook to our collections!!

I’ll be back before the weekend is back with a report on my first book.

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  1. I like the idea, and like you, I have a collection that is out of hand and still growing, but with the amount of travel I've had to do lately, plus other cooking commitments, judging a book in a week seems overly optimistic. I'm having a hard enough time doing COTM. In fact, this is the reason I do COTM. Hoping it will help me cook from a book enough to decide if I still want it or not. But then, when it comes time to vote, what do I do? I vote for the book I already know I like. Well, if you do this, I'll follow along, and maybe I'll do some books, but perhaps at a slower pace.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MelMM

      Mel I'd love to have you join me, no matter what your pace. I know what you mean about travel. Unexpected business travel in August totally undermined my ability to cook from Planet BBQ.

      I've decided to start w The New Boston Globe Cookbook. I think I bought this (secondhand) last summer but I haven't even cracked it open. I pulled it off the shelf tonight and realized what a gem it seems to be. It's making me hungry and, inspired this idea. Thanks for your support!!

      1. re: Breadcrumbs

        Besides my own travel, Mr. MM is also working out of the state, so even when I'm at home, he's usually not. We have two weekends/month together, one at home, and one at his location. When we're both at home, I cook up a storm, since there are two of us to eat it. When I'm at his place, I might cook, but it has to be seat of the pants cooking, based on what i can get and the limited facilities available. When I'm travelling on my own, I haven't had facilities to cook at all. When I'm home on my own, I cook a lot, but the problem is that I can't eat it all, and the leftovers pile up. So I then have to stop cooking to I can eat up what I've already made. It's frustrating, because I'm motivated to cook, but I simply can't eat enough by myself to justify the amount of cooking I'd like to do. And then I head out of town again, and don't want to leave leftovers to spoil.

        1. re: MelMM

          Wow I don't envy that busy travel schedule Mel and it's especially tough w two of you travelling. I'm fortunate that mr bc doesn't travel and he loves to take a hot lunch so leftovers tend to get used up pretty quickly here (unless they're vegetables...not mr bc's favourite!!) ; - )

      2. re: MelMM

        Totally agree with MelMM. I am trying *very* hard not to buy more cookbooks (I'm doing so-so in this regard), and trying hard to keep up with COTM even halfway as well as I used to. I'd love to join the project, but there is no way I can get through a cookbook a week, even just reading it. With a young child and a husband who travels a lot (Norway and Switzerland next month) and as result gives my daughter and I carte blanche to dine out on hs dime while he is away, there hasn't been as much cooking as there could/should be. And when he isn't traveling I sometimes take the opportunity to do so myself. But basically ... can I join less often?? I love the idea.

      3. I have a growing collection. I pulled out Cook's Country Cookbook for another post. As there are quite a few comfort foods or traditional family recipes in it and it is going into Fall, I will join you on your challenge and use the book and report back on it. Now I have to look at recipes and make sure I purchase each ingredient. Time to make a list.

        17 Replies
        1. re: Ruthie789

          Oh I have that book too Ruthie and I'm excited to have you join me!! I'm looking forward to reading whatever you have time to share.

          1. re: Breadcrumbs

            Well tomorrow I am hoping to make the Chicken Marengo in. I have been wanting to make it for awhile and was looking for a recipe! Who knew it was in my book.

            1. re: Ruthie789

              Sounds great Ruthie...can't wait to hear about it!

            2. re: Breadcrumbs

              Today I decided to make the Chicken Marengo from Cook's Country Cookbook and over the next week I will take a stab at another 3 or 4 recipes. I purchased this cookbook as it has a number of classic traditional family recipes all resourced into one and as well the recipes have since been tested and fine-tuned by America`s Test Kitchen. I also chose the Chicken Marengo as I have had more success with roasted chicken than I have with stewed or braised chicken and was hoping to up my game. ATK gives the history of the recipe and much explanation on the technique and ingredients. Well we absolutely loved the results and as well it was a simple recipe to construct, basically a bit of chopping and a one pot dish from start to finish. In the spirit of the test kitchen I did my best to follow the recipe to a T, but did use chicken thighs and chicken breasts although the recipe just called for chicken breasts. I found the recipe light and refreshing. I particularily liked the kalamata olives and brandy in the recipe and there was enough sauce to accompany some egg noodles that I cooked to go along with the meal. I would definitely make this one again and best of all leftovers for my Monday night dinner! Breadcrumbs thanks for the push, my book has been on the shelf for quite awhile so it was time to get it out and give it a try.

              1. re: Ruthie789

                Ruthie thank-you for your wonderful review and I'm delighted the recipe worked well for you. I've made a note of this dish in my book and I'll also place a private note w a link to your review in my EYB book notes. Thank-you!

                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                  I have looked at the various categories in this book. It starts with appetizers and progresses to salads and mains. Some of the interesting categories to me are as follows: lunch counter specials, morning and tea time treats,hearty breakfasts, casseroles and pot luck, spoon desserts. The book covers a total of 17 categories and the sequencing of them is quite logical. Also what I do like is that the recipes are first historical, then methodical and instructions are clear and concise and when necessary a small black and white picture may be found with the recipe. I also like that there are some coloured pictures in three sections of the book, a total of 24 pictures. For some reason I don't like a cookbook plastered with pictures, I find it distracting, but do like the sections that are designated for pictures only. As I have made the Boston Baked Beans before and have really liked them they are on my agenda for tomorrow, and as well a side dish for supper, broccoli and cheese casserole. More to follow! The cover of the book indicates that it is rediscovering American Home Cooking with 500 Classic, Regional and Heirloom recipes.

                  1. re: Ruthie789

                    Today I made the corn muffins from the Cooks Country Cookbook. I always measure my corn muffins to the best I have had at the defunct Eaton's le Dix in Montreal. They were always light and soft. The recipe was easy, fast and the sourcream in the recipe made them tangy. They were a little heavier than what I like but the best results that I have had from a homemade recipe.

                    1. re: Ruthie789

                      I assume it is the same or similar to the corm muffin recipe from The Best Recipe, which I always make. It is also uses sour cream, and is very good.

                      1. re: roxlet

                        It was good but am looking for a recipe with a fine crumb, light texture and this was not the case. I keep comparing to a muffin that Eaton's used to sell in their restaurants and in their food court. I will make them again, I bought firm sour cream and I think this might have affected the texture.

                2. re: Ruthie789

                  Does this book have a recipe for homemade tacos using chicken breast meat that gets shredded? I saw this made n TV, and I bought the Cooks best Mexican recipe magazine assuming it would be in there, but it wasn't. If its in your book, would you mind paraphrasing? It's a perfect weeknight meal for us since it's something my son adores.

                  1. re: roxlet

                    I did not see it in the book but may have the link for you. The tacos themselves are not homemade however:

                    1. re: Ruthie789

                      Yes, I think that's it! Thanks, Ruthie. It was the method for the filling I was interested in.

                  2. re: Ruthie789

                    I prepped for broccoli cheese casserole for my cookbook last night. It was a simple recipe but with America`s Test Kitchen sometimes you are really better off not to stray from the instructions. The recipe called for whole milk and I used 1% so I realized as I was heating that my 1% milk had potential for separating, thankfully it did not. I also did not get why it was made into casserole form as basically it is a broccoli with cheese sauce but after reheating I thought this was a great way to have a hot side with a main meal and it would also be great for a buffet table. I would make it again but reduce the milk a little as I found it too liquid. I am going to make one more recipe from this book, Red Velvet Cake, I hope to do so later on in the week.

                    1. re: Ruthie789

                      This sounds like a winner Ruthie and greatnidea to prep the components ahead.

                      1. re: Ruthie789

                        Well Breadcrumbs I have finished this weekly challenge and will be on to my next soon enough. I decided to make the Red Velvet Cake as my last post on the Cooks Country Cookbook. I have to tell you that I have not made two layered cake in over 15 years, it's not that I don't know how.. I never have the time, and usually make a quick bread or pound cake or often bread of some sort. The cake was really easy and it also smelt good in the raw state. I have now assembled it and was so pleased icing it as it was not full of crumbs which causes me extreme stress as I strive for cake perfection, maybe that's why I don't make cakes.. It looks lovely and will taste tomorrow as task was finished at 7 pm. I will say that this book is an good one for beginners and for all cooks. It has an excellent selection of American classics and would say that it might have an elusive solution to a family recipe that has been lost as so many of the recipes are common to our North American table. Thank you for making this post and your encouraging comments.

                        1. re: Ruthie789

                          Ruthie thank-you for your enthusiasm and thoroughly engaging posts! I love Red Velvet cake and wish I could pop by for a slice today!! I'm so glad it worked out well and your thoughts on baking really resonated with me. Like you I tend to default to making quick breads and cookies vs more time-consuming recipes. Thank-you for the inspiration....perhaps there's a dessert book in my future for this challenge!!

                3. Wow Breadcrumbs, are you a mind-reader, or what? I've had the exact same idea bouncing around in my head for the last little while, though I thought a cookbook a day, haha. Now I see how silly that would be; as MelMM stated, it's hard enough to do a cookbook a month sometimes. But I'm glad that you put this idea out in the open. Sometimes it's more fun to feel that others are cooking along. On the other hand, this is a potentially dangerous thread, in that I will discover so many new cookbooks that I absolutely "need".
                  I'd like to join you when I can as well. Where to start? Hmmm...

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Allegra_K

                    That's funny we were thinking the same thing Allegra!! A cookbook a day would be really ambitious!! I think this will be fun and I'm so glad to have you join it!!!

                    1. re: Allegra_K

                      I've decided to begin with Mrs. Chiang's Szechuan Cookbook. I picked it up for free through a curbside giveaway weekend a couple of years back, and though it was intriguing, I discovered Land of Plenty shortly afterwards and this book was all but forgotten. I plucked it off the shelf today, and while thumbing through it I happily discovered that there are many delectable recipes I'd like to try out of it. In fact, the list was rather long. I'm on a bit of a Chinese kick these days so this is a perfect selection.

                      1. re: Allegra_K

                        Oh, I'm excited about your selection Allegra....can't wait to read all about it!

                        1. re: Allegra_K

                          Very interested in this, as well.

                          1. re: Allegra_K

                            Allegra and emily, just a quick note to let you know Mrs Chiangs has now been indexed in EYB so it's much easier to use now. I'm going to see if I can combine something from this book w a COTM dish for a meal next week. If I do, I'll report back here.

                        2. My collection is probably 10% of yours, BC, and even so there are many books on my shelves that have been hardly opened and not cooked from. I like your idea of exploring our books, one at a time, but one week time slot is too short for me. I might do a bit of exploring and cooking next week but can't commit because I am not at home yet and won't be until later in the month. Right at this moment I have four books sitting on my table that I have not made a single recipe from yet: The Book of Kale, I Love Meatballs!, Salsas That Cook and The Farm. I got the first too very recently but had the other two for awhile, so there are no excuses:)

                          Maybe the book-buying rule should be: during the first month of getting a book devote "X" hours to reading through and marking recipes to make and then make "Y" recipes. Until this is accomplished, no new purchases are allowed. What do you think? I just might start to implement it and apply a similar rule to other books' purchases:)
                          I've looked for a long time at Japanese Farm and Asian Tofu books and very much want to have them. Maybe I'll start with these two books since my family loves tofu and my SIL thinks it would be great to have a tofu book.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: herby

                            I need to adopt your rule, herby.....

                            1. re: Allegra_K

                              Let's! Maybe we'll be able to help each other to slow the growth of our book collections to ensure that only the "gems" - and this is highly subjective and should be that way - stay on our shelves. What do you say?

                            2. re: herby

                              I think your rule would be great herby but I'm pretty sure I don't have the self-discipline to stick to it. What I decided to do though after reading your post is if I'm ordering a book I will record the reason I purchased it, who recommended it, recipes that were mentioned and basically anything that enticed me to purchase it in the first place. I'm going to put this info on a sticky note and when the book comes, I'll put the note inside to help me remember why I got it in the first place.

                              I've also created a CAWC (Cookbook A Week Challenge) bookmark in EYB so I can bookmark the cookbooks I've reviewed here and then when I'm looking to make something, I can search target those books....I do this w a COTM - Historical bookmark as well and it helps remind me which books have been past COTMs and I then know to look here for reviews and, add my own if I do make a dish.

                              I don't expect that I'll be able to cook a dish per week from my CAWC but even if I can tab/bookmarks some dishes to make later and get to know the book better by reviewing it here, I think it will be helpful. And of course, the more folks posting here the better as we'll learn about those books too.

                              I'm so glad you'll join in too herby. I know we have a number of books in common and I'm keen to learn about all the books you've mentioned above!

                            3. Out of the last 10 cookbooks I purchased, I've only cooked out of two--about 20 recipes out of Every Grain of Rice and one recipe out of Molto Mario (tonight!). I do intend to cook soon out of the following:

                              Provence: The Beautiful
                              Practical Japanese Cooking
                              The Brazilian Table

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: CheeseEnvy

                                Oh please share your experiences here if you have time CheeseEnvy! I haven't cooked from EGOR yet but Molto Mario is a favourite here. I love MB's books and tend to have great success w his recipes. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    Oh that's fabulous Gio, thanks! : )

                                1. re: CheeseEnvy


                                  If you do cook from Practical Japanese Cooking, please share your reviews in this thread It's a beautiful book and I've only made 2 dishes from it, but the ganmodoki recipe is a long-time favorite.