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Hits and Misses from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

I know we have a lengthy thread about her blog but didn't find anything about her book. I'm enjoying it, and would love to hear others' thoughts.

I'll start:
-Tomato Scallion Shortcakes-cover recipe. Lovely and simple! Can't wait to have local tomatoes for these but supermarket pear tomatoes worked fine.
-broccoli slaw-an upgraded version of classic broccoli and raisin salad. Deceptively simple, but really, really good, esp second day. Subbed regular onion no problem.
-butternut squash galette-this was insanely good. Made two smaller ones, one GF. I used regular onions, as I don't think caramelized sweet onions have enough depth of flavor.
-apple cider caramels. Fortunately, we made a bunch of boiled cider syrup every year after we press cider, which cuts the time on these waaaay down. I like them a lot; nice for Christmas. `

-rushed pizza dough: while very easy, and kids thought it was fine, I thought it was a pretty bland dough. Prefer other recipes.
-wild rice gratin. SOOO disappointed in this one; looks gorgeous on the page but was really dry. I think it needs a bechamel to bind it, rather than just cheese. Curious if anyone had a different experience.
-salted brown butter crispie treats: I think this might have been my fault, as I've seen many rave reviews of these. I used GF rice crispies (I don't think that would have made a difference) and stale marshmallows and they were really dry. I'll try again.

Gingerbread dutch baby. I love the idea of this, and it was a hit with husband and two out of three kids. I thought it was bland and would really up the spices next time. Successfully tripled the recipe and subbed Bob's Red Mill GF flour (husband can't have gluten). Made in blender like I alwasy do with dutch babies.

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  1. Big fan of the cider caramels. I bought the book and then wound up giving it to a friend.

    1. So glad you started this thread! I've only tried two so far:

      Hit: Turkey-sesame meatballs with tomato-chickpea salad (I don't recall the exact title). I tweaked it a little by doubling the herbs and spices but the end result was great. The meatballs were moist, especially for turkey, and the sesame created a nice crust. The salad was pretty straightforward but complimented the main course nicely.

      Meh: New York breakfast casserole. I was very excited to make this but it was just ok. People said they liked it. I thought it was a little bit dry but I suppose I could fix that by adding more egg mixture and cream cheese. I could make it again.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Rach5138

        I made this, and it was good, but a little low on flavor. Needed more onions, and I think capers are essential. Would also be best served with lox.

      2. I've made the wild rice gratin with both wild and regular rice. And it is MUCH better with white rice or a white rice with some wild mixed in. I also add leek and swapped the swiss for mozzarella... so I guess it is almost a different recipe.

        Pizza dough - I actually prefer a plainer pizza dough recipe. If I can get away with it, I'll sub some of the white flour for a multi-grain flour.
        Mushroom bourgignon - I just love this recipe. I turn leftovers into a pot pie with braised beef.
        Apple cider caramels - They were just yum. I'll probably make them at christmas time to give out to family.
        Brioche pretzels - I've made these with and without the chocolate. Without the chocolate they make excellent rolls to dip in soups and turn into croutons and moist breadcrumbs. With the chocolate, I eat far too many.
        Turkey meatballs - I thought the spice levels on these were just right, plus they turned out nice and moist. I'm not likely to make them often, but they will win over beef ones for future meals.
        Chocolate silk pie - I love this recipe, my one qualm with this recipe is I found the crust was a little stingy as it barely made a shell in my pie dish.
        Gooey cinnamon squares - One of the few tray bakes my husband likes, because he's a fussy so and so with sweet stuff. On the gooey layer I use honey or my preference, maple syrup instead of the corn syrup.
        Big breakfast latkes - My husband made these and they turned out wonderfully. He omitted the fried egg and served them with scallops.

        Tiny but intense chocolate cake - Possibly this is just me, but I ended up with a stodgy inedible... round thing.

        So far this is my only real miss. I find her instructions and nice and clear and generally I get a decent result.

        Brown butter mash - It's mash. It's an ok recipe, but I personally get better results doing it my usual unmeasured way.
        Mini meatloaves - I found them a little dry. I also prefer a meatloaf with less fuss. I did however like the glaze and I loved the idea of making them like giant meatballs rather than one large loaf.

        1. I must say, I've made a number of dishes from the cookbook and while none were misfires, none were outstanding, even the mushroom bourguignon about which I'd read so much. I've stopped cooking from it, as I have three other cookbooks I received at Christmastime which I am enjoying much more.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Tom P

            I borrowed the book on my Kindle and decided to pass on making anything or buying. Meh all around.

          2. I really love this cookbook. I think this is the first place I have seen anyone have a review that didn't like the book. I've cooked several things from it and have many more I can't wait to try. I've made:

            Gingerbread Spice Baby-I really liked this. I usually make Martha Stewart's recipe which is still my favorite but I liked this change of flavors.

            Big Breakfast Latkes-These were really good and pretty simple to make.

            Baked Ranchero Egg with Blistered Jack Cheese and Lime Crema-This was truly outstanding. My husband raved about this dish.

            Cheddar Swirl Buns-I've made these twice. They go nicely as a side for beef stew. I'm not really certain why they are in the breakfast category.

            Fingerlings vinaigrette with seived eggs and pickled celery-I added tuna to this to make it a complete lunch. It has a nice presentation. I love the pickled celery. I have made it now a few times to add to other dishes like tuna salad and egg salad.

            Leisurely Pizza Dough-I have no complaints with the dough. Simple to throw together. Everyone liked the pizza.

            Mushroom Bourguigon-I thought the dish had really good flavor. My husband also liked it. It was a lot of work for a vegetarian dish though.

            Flat Roasted Chicken with tiny potatoes-This was another all star favorite at our house. The squeeze of lemon at the end really adds a nice flavor.

            Buttered Popcorn Cookies-These were really good straight out of the oven but as leftovers the popcorn gets soggy. I would only make them if you are going to eat them soon after.

            4 Replies
            1. re: foodie06

              "I think this is the first place I have seen anyone have a review that didn't like the book."

              Perhaps this book is a bit like marmite. You either love it or you're just not interested by it (as hate seems a too strong a word here).

              1. re: Musie

                After I bought the cookbook I realized I enjoyed SK's blog more. So I gave the book to a friend. But I haven't bought a cookbook in some time and I also realized I just don't miss having cookbooks around. I am more comfortable just going online for a SK recipe and glancing at the screen while I prepare a recipe.

                1. re: Musie

                  Agreed, Musie. I've come to the conclusion that she and I just have different taste. I never feel like I need to make any of her recipes.

                2. re: foodie06

                  So good to see folks' reviews. My sister made the turkey meatballs and also liked them a lot. The swirl buns and the Baked ranchero eggs are on my list for sure, and I guess I'll finally cave and try the mushroom bourguignon-I love my regular bourguignon so much I haven't been tempted.

                3. I really enjoyed the brown butter rice crispie treats.

                  Tried to make the sugar and spice candied nuts. I've never made this type of recipe before, but I tried to follow the instructions and a lot of the sugar never melted to coat the nuts. It just clumped into very hard nuggets.

                  1. I've only tried two recipes and won't make either again as-written. Both of the ones I chose created a LOT of prep dishes to be washed.

                    Gingerbread Spice Baby - I liked the flavor but mine was dry / overcooked at the minimum time. I usually make a recipe that is whisked by hand and I prefer that to the blender for quiet early-morning cooking and ease of cleanup. My usual recipe also has thin-sliced apples, baked in the pan for 5 minutes before adding the batter, which I plan to try with this more flavorful batter.

                    Heart-Stuffed Shells - Makes a HUGE amount (18-20 stuffed large shells), even though it claims "4 servings"-- more like 9 - 12 servings. The sauce really needs the basil /other spices (I added basil to some, dill to some when reheating leftovers) listed as optional. Prep took 1 hour before the 45 minutes of baking, and created a dishwasher-full of prep pans. The artichoke/onion filling was wonderful, and I'd make just that to use in another dish or serve (un-blended) as a side.

                    I love the writing style and humor in the book. The instructions are clear, and the photos of each dish are very helpful. There's no summary of estimated prep time / total cooking time, and I've gotten out of the habit of needing to do that on my own (spoiled by online recipes, I guess).

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: MidwesternerTT

                      We loved the stuffed shells. Definitely made more than 4 servings- prob about 6.
                      I used one large pot, one small pot, and a bowl. Skipped the food processor and chopped the artichokes by hand.
                      Would I make it on a Tuesday night? Prob not, but def for company. I've made the ricotta bechamel sauce several times.

                      1. re: cheesecake17

                        I would really like to try these....but it'll either need to be on a night where husband is out of town, or I'll have to miraculously find GF shells, which I've never seen.

                        1. re: girlwonder88

                          Where are you located, girlwonder88? Tinkyada makes a large size brown rice shell and they sell their products throughout N America. Their GF pasta is amazing, holds together so well after cooking.

                          1. re: geekmom

                            I'm in Oregon...I don't know that I've seen that brand but I will look! Thanks so much for the rec.

                          2. re: girlwonder88

                            Can you get cannelloni tubes GF? They'd probably make a decent substitution for the shells if you can.

                            1. re: girlwonder88

                              A friend made it as lasagna. Can you get GF lasagna noodles?

                          3. re: MidwesternerTT

                            oh I am all over the stuffed shells. Just found the recipe and it looks wonderful. I'm totally making them for tonight's dinner.

                          4. Two of the recipes I've tried from SK's cookbook have come out meh -- gooey cinnamon squares and the gingerbread dutch baby -- but I think that was my own issue with overbaking both. I should have been checking the oven a little sooner (mine can run hot). I think they both tasted fine... I expected something different from the cinnamon squares but I figure if I try again and pull them out sooner, the gooey-ness will be more of a thing.

                            The raspberry ricotta scones are AMAZING. Very moist from the ricotta, which I don't usually expect from scones. These went very quickly to rave reviews.

                            I made the brown butter salted rice krispy squares when they showed up on her blog and thought they were incredible. I haven't tried making them in a few years, but I assume the cookbook recipe is the same.

                            I don't know if I'll ever make the cookbook version of the red wine chocolate cake (called red velvet cake in the cookbook). I love the simplicity of a single layer cake, unadorned save for a light dusting of powdered sugar, from the blog -- I doubt I will ever want to make the multi-layered, frosted one.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: calmossimo

                              OK, definitely need to retry the brown butter krispie treats; I think I'm the only one who had a fail there. And the red wine chocolate cake sounds gorgeous, as do the scones.

                              1. re: girlwonder88

                                Yes it isn't really fair to judge a recipe when you use inferior ingredients...stale marshmallows? Yuck.

                                1. re: girlwonder88

                                  I've made the brown butter crispy treats from her blog twice -- the first time I used dollar store marshmallows (which I suspect were stale) and they came out rock hard and dry. I also think I over-cooked the marshmallows... they just took forever to melt. The second time I used fresh mini-marshmallows and they came out AMAZING.

                                2. re: calmossimo

                                  Those browned butter RK treats are shockingly good. We are sort of health freaks around our house, and I am shocked that I actually bought and used marshmallows, but now that we know about this recipe, I'm scared that I will buy marshmallows AGAIN!

                                  1. re: sandylc

                                    I had the same reaction. I never buy crap like marshmallows and I don't even have much of a sweet tooth. But these are insane.

                                3. We are big fans of the granola although I have switched up the nuts and fruit due to a combination of allergy and personal preference. I think the egg white really makes a difference in terms of getting the big clumps we fight over.

                                  My husband also loves the breakfast date bars although they are not so thrilling to me. I do like the idea of a homemade portable breakfast bar.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: greeneggsnham

                                    +1 to the granola. I love the lamb stuffed eggplant from the blog, and the granola. I loathe chopped salads and slaws, and her love of those (and the prevalence of those recipes) pushed me away but perhaps I should allow the granola to bring me back.

                                    1. re: HillsofBeverly

                                      The granola was awesome. Second time I made it, I used coconut, Almonds, and chocolate chips.

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          It was! Well, sort of. I made it to convince toddler to eat her yogurt. She didn't like the granola, so....
                                          Husband ate it with ice cream.

                                    2. re: greeneggsnham

                                      Hmm, I'll have to try the granola recipe. I have tried too many times to get clumpy granola with little to no success. Hopefully egg white will do the trick for my next batch!

                                    3. Hits for me:
                                      #1 hit that is worth buying the book for IMO: Big cluster maple granola. Someone on another CH thread recommended it and I'm so glad s/he did. Man is that stuff ever good, and so simple. I've made it probably a dozen times, and have been changing up the nut and dried fruit content each time. The preamble to the recipe says if you start making this you won't be able to stop and that is definitely true.

                                      Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie treats. I used GF brown rice cereal and my marshmallows were definitely not the freshest, and the results were just wonderful. It really elevates the standard Rice Krispie square to somethiing special.

                                      Merely OK:
                                      Almond date breakfast bars (these freeze reasonably well, and my intention was to have them available as a quick grab-and-go snack but my daughter has been sneaking them so I guess that means she thought they were more than merely OK!)

                                      Tomato-glazed mini meatloaves: these were OK but to me the tomato glaze just tasted like ketchup. Ketchup that you made yourself, but still... Also I had to leave out the breadcrumbs and used almond meal instead, so that's probably why this happened, but they released a LOT of liquid into the pan while they baked.

                                      Sweet peas and shells Alfredo: The metric measurements were WAY off for this one, as we realized once we started measuring out everything and grating parmesan. I made a double batch because I had six people at the dinner table, and ended up with a ludicrously huge amount - probably twice as much as we needed. I know how to make an alfredo sauce so I improvised with my ingredients based on previous experience, and the finished product tasted fine, but I won't make this recipe again.

                                      Linguine with cauliflower pesto: this was lacking some essential seasoning ingredient and none of us could figure out what it was. It was bland and there was an overwhelming aftertaste of raw cauliflower which I didn't like at all.

                                      Wild rice gratin: No, not just you, girlwonder! This was fine as a side dish, but all we could taste was the emmentaler cheese. The kale and caramelized onions were barely present, and the texture of that amount of wild rice all baked up together didn't really work for me. My daughter was fine with it, and ate up all the leftovers, but I won't make it again without some major changes.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: geekmom

                                        So glad to know the gratin wasn't just my problem. And, just as an FYI, I've had better luck using ground up slices of GF bread than any other breadcrumb substitution, though I love almond meal on lots of other recipes.Thanks for the feedback re the meatloaves; I'm not a fan of a ketchup glaze typically so I'll skip this.

                                        1. re: girlwonder88

                                          After saying I'll skip the meatloaves, I ended up making them tonight..we've been on a meatball kick lately :). I thought they were pretty bland, though to be fair, I used homemade plum ketchup, canned when I had wayyyyyy too many plums last year, instead of her topping. However, my husband and kids liked them a lot. They were great comfort food, with regular mashed potatoes and roasted cabbage. I like the technique of making meatloaf into large meatballs and plan to do that with other recipes.

                                      2. The butternut squash and caramelized onion galette is always well received. When I serve it as a vegetarian main course the carnivores usually swoop in! The pastry and method can be adapted to all sorts of rustic tarts and galettes.

                                        1. The Krispie treats are out of this world. I think it must have been your stale marshmallows. I do not normally go for super sweet sticky American desserts like this but these, these are wonderful.

                                          1. The (Harvest? ) Chicken with Grapes was good but not spectacular. Same with the mushroom bourguignon.

                                            As an aside, I love the blog but I wasn't super impressed with the cookbook when I first got it - none of the recipes grabbed me immediately. When I sat down to actually read it, the book really grew on me. It's a great "reading" cookbook, and makes you more interested in the recipes, some of which aren't available on the blog. I want to dive back in and cook more from it now.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Savour

                                              I love the mushroom bourguignon, But I add some dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid.

                                              1. re: magiesmom

                                                I think my issue was less with the actual recipe than with the fact that I ate it, and kind of said, "hmml. I don't really like pearl onions." They're authentic in bourguignon, so I can't quibble, but it wasn't a revelation for me.

                                                1. re: Savour

                                                  I always use shallots instead in both recipes. We grow them so always have many and also they have much more flavor.

                                            2. Thanks for starting this thread! I am huge fan of her blog but have been waiting on buying the book. I am currently on the waiting list at the library. I like to try out "popular" cook books first before committing. This will give me a great road map..

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: foodieX2

                                                If you have a Kindle or Ipad, you might get it a lot faster through your library's e loan system. I did.

                                                1. re: mcf

                                                  mcf - does the 2/3 C maple syrup measurement on the granola recipe show correctly on your device? I can't find a font that shows it properly on my Nook -looks fine on my PC.

                                                  My wait time was similarly shortened by going for an e-loan. The process, first-time, is not for the technologically faint of heart, but well worth the effort. I've been chipping away at barriers for a couple of weeks, and after visiting both my library and the BN store today I successfully transferred the book from my laptop to my Nook. (As best we could deduce, I'd run one startup step out of sequence.)

                                                  You can run a Kindle or Nook app on your computer/laptop if you don't have an e-reader and it works fine for readling library books, although that's probably not really kitchen-countertop cooking friendly.

                                                  1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                                    I wish I could tell you, but my library loan expired and I no longer have it. Cooking is about all I use my kindle for any more. I just synch it up with my pepperplate.com recipe list and good to go.

                                              2. Hits:
                                                - Date/almond breakfast bars
                                                - turkey meatballs, smashed chick pea salad (but had to dial up the spices/seasonings)
                                                - Flat roasted chicken with tiny potatoes (so simple and so delicious)

                                                - Mustard milanese ... really bland, maybe I missed something?

                                                So far ... no misses for me.

                                                1. Thanks for starting this thread! It's saved me from embarking on some misses!

                                                  Gooey Cinnamon Squares - Amazing!!!!!
                                                  Brownie Roll Out Cookies
                                                  Emmentaler on Rye with Sweet and Sour Onions
                                                  Maple Bacon Biscuits
                                                  Eggplant with Three Cheese Calzone
                                                  Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart

                                                  Ratatouille Sub
                                                  Breakfast Casserole
                                                  Broccoli Slaw
                                                  Vinegar Slaw with Cucumber and Dill
                                                  Big Cluster Maple Granola
                                                  Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

                                                  Spaghetti Squash and Black Bean Tacos
                                                  Mushroom Bourgignon
                                                  Gnocchi in Tomato Broth
                                                  Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: dkme

                                                    Oh, I had bookmarked the spaghetti squash and black bean tacos and was looking forward to them. What made them a miss?

                                                    1. re: betterbeheaven

                                                      I think the texture and the wetness of the spaghetti squash didn't quite work for me. I recently had quesadillas with roasted butternut squash in them that worked a lot better than the spaghetti squash.

                                                      That said, it was my first time cooking with spaghetti squash (and my first time eating it). Maybe you'll have better luck!

                                                      1. re: dkme

                                                        I made butternut and carmelized onion quesadillas. Thanks for reminding me!! Gonna try it again this week.

                                                  2. Only recipe I have tried from SK is a huge hit-
                                                    Artichoke-Olive crostini

                                                    1. I made the rice crispy treats yesterday afternoon, with new marshmallows, and I also found mine to lack a certain amount of gooeyness. I'm thinking they may need a little extra marshmallow in the mix.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Musie

                                                        Or reduce the amount of Rice Krispies.... I like them gooey.

                                                      2. I've had the book since christmas and haven't made anything. I too love her blog but found the book a disappointment. Each time I pick it up, nothing appeals to me.

                                                        Maybe this thread will inspire me....

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: millygirl

                                                          That was my experience; I e borrowed the book after finding her kind of charming in an NPR interview, but found it kind of insipid and uninspiring.

                                                        2. Just wanted to add that I made the lemon bar recipe this weekend and it was a definite hit-the crust is a lovely simple shortbread with lemon zest in it. The topping uses a whole lemon-much simpler than traditional lemon bar and very very good. I'd reduce the sugar some next time so they aren't quite as tart.

                                                          I also made her blueberry crumb bars from the website and they were amazing. Subbed GF flour in these and no one could tell, and used frozen berries which worked beautifully.

                                                          I went through a pound of butter on these recipes. That's what I call cooking!

                                                          1. Hit - Smoky Deviled Eggs with Crisped Jamon and Crushed Marcona

                                                            I'm not a big fan of deviled eggs, but I really liked these. I loved the almonds and crispy ham ( I used prosciutto).

                                                            1. My teenaged daughter and I made the gougeres yesterday, though I subbed a mix of parm and sharp cheddar as we aren't blue cheese fans. They were very good-a little simpler to make than the recipe I used before (using the mixer to add the eggs to the hot flour mixture was much easier on my arm) and people devoured them.

                                                              Also made the double chocolate banana bread from her website and it was fantastic!

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: girlwonder88

                                                                Blueberry cornmeal butter cake (or a similar name) was really good. Especially warm.

                                                              2. Like a couple others I didn't love the Wild Rice Gratin. It was just bland. And the mushroom tart--the filling was great, and it was gorgeous, but something about the cornmeal crust...I just didn't like it.

                                                                I'm surprised to hear that some didn't like the linguine with cauliflower pesto, because that to me was a hit. I suspected I'd need to be generous with the spices and seasonings--it did seem like this dish had potential to be really bland, with the amount of cauliflower it calls for. But with a slightly heavy hand with the pepper flakes, vinegar sun dried toms and pecorino, I just loved it.

                                                                1. The Tres Leches Rice Pudding is flawless imho. I'm making it right now at the bf's request.
                                                                  Other hits have been Broccoli Slaw, Shaved Asparagus Pizza (I tried both of them when they were first put up on her blog), Seared Halibut and Gazpacho Salsa, and the Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart.

                                                                  My attempt at her gnocchi recipe had to be thrown in the trash, but it was my first ever try with gnocchi so it was likely a fault on my end.

                                                                  Thanks for reminding me of her cookbook. I pick it up every few months and flip through it, but never actually make much from it.
                                                                  Anyone tried her short rib or brisket recipes? Those are two that have always intrigued me, but will probably have to wait another 6 months at least as they're not really summer dishes...

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Roxy014

                                                                    I agree on the Rice Pudding - we really enjoyed it.

                                                                    In my experience, two things for gnocchi: use a recipe that has weights, and use a ricer for the potatoes.

                                                                    1. re: Roxy014

                                                                      I've done her short ribs, the ones with a Euro flavor -- red wine, bay, can't remember what else right now -- from the blog. Excellent, but then I like short ribs just about any way.

                                                                    2. To the OP if you're still monitoring: What are "regular" onions?

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                        I think the OP is saying not Vidalia, 1015, etc. sweet onions, just regular yellow or white.

                                                                      2. Mushroom bourguignon--I find this not worth the significant investment of ingredients and time. Maybe (OK, definitely) I'm just not cut out to be a vegetarian.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: foiegras

                                                                          No, it is not very good. Try this one from David Tanis, it is amazing. Even the most ardent carnivores, of which I am one, love this: