Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Reviewing: "The Good-To-Go Cookbook" by Kathleen Cannata Hanna
Designed for working families busy with school and after school activities this book encourages folks to bypass the fast food places and frozen foods section of the grocery store. Instead of paying for convienice, plan ahead for a week, shop once, and make your meals at home. The usual advice seen in many such books and stuff we have all heard many times before. In our case, much easier said than done.
After an introduction that is filled with tips on meal and menu planning, getting your teens involved in the kitchen beyond doing dishes and instead actually cooking, (which should also serve as reminder to check those smoke detector batteries and the expiration dates on the fire extinguishers) organizing your kitchen and pantry and other basic matters, the book in a chapter by chapter format covers all meal times and snacks.
Fittingly, the first chapter “Fast Break for Breakfast” covers the meal which is still the most important of the day. Mom was right and didn’t need a government study to confirm it. After a brief commentary on encouraging teens to eat right and what breakfast foods to eat and what to avoid, the recipes finally begin on page 17. Leading off is “Fresh Fruit Cups” consisting of strawberries, bananas, apples, cherries, grapes, kiwi, etc, sliced and diced before being placed into waffle cones. If that doesn’t work for you, the “Breakfast Pizza” (p.22-23), Waffle Sandwich (p. 26), “Muffins Made Easy” (p.31) or any of the others might work for you.
Chapter Two is about “Super Snacks” which are teen friendly and teens are encouraged to make. Smoothies and floats of various types start off the chapter before moving into such things as “Fruit Kabobs With Yogurt Dip” (P.45), “Aunt Mary’s Cheese Ball” (p. 53), “Macho Nachos” (P.57), “Great Granola Crumble” (p. 69) and many others. Like the opening chapter, the recipes here are relatively easy to make with some a little more complex than others. Ingredients and easy to follow directions are the mainstay of these recipes along with the occasional tip.
“Grab and Go” is the theme of Chapter Three aimed for that rushing period when you have to get everyone ready right after you get home to get to the game, mandatory band practice or other after school activity. Not only things that you can eat in the car, but anytime foods and stuff that is good for you is the focus here. After some more generalized helpful tips, this chapter opens with “Tom’s Turkey Roll” (p. 78) moves on to “Ham Pockets” (p. 81) and “Southwest- Style Cheesy Bread” (p. 89) among many others.
Working off of “Soups, Salads, and Sandwiches” is Chapter Four titled “The Lunch Crunch.” Ease of preparation, speed and nutrition remain the key factors in a chapter that opens with “Texas Corn Chowder (p. 94). Many recipes follow including “Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad” (p.101), “Simple Stew “(p. 109), “Ultimate Travel Sandwich” (p. 125) which uses French bread to serve as a basis for a sub, and “Open Faced Pizza Hoagies” (p. 126).
The next several chapters work on the problem of dinner from a time angle. Chapter Five starts this part of the book with the idea of “15-Minute Dishes.” These recipes work for a main course and can easily be doubled for company. Or doubled because you have a teenager that doubles as a human vacuum cleaner sucking up anything edible in sight. “Salmon Burgers” ( p. 130) starts things off before giving way to “Hamburger Crumble” (p. 136), “Quick Tuna-Noodle Casserole” (p. 139), “15-Mminute Chicken and Rice” (p. 182) and others.
“Thirty-Minute Dishes “comes in the next chapter for those with just a little more time. Whether it is “Grilled Spicy Chicken Stix” (p. 151), “Quickest Meatloaf In The West” (p. 163), “Savory San Antonio Pork Cutlets” (p.167), “Red Bean Burgers” (p. 175) or many others you are sure to find several that will work for you and your family.
Chapter Seven is aimed at “Family Meals and One-Pot Deals.” Recipes designed for the family meal that involves everyone these include such recipes as “Chili-Baked Chicken” (p. 185), “Pizza Steak” (p.195) and “Classic Williams Pot Roast” (p.201) among many others. Cooking times (which does not include preparation time) run from thirty minutes to a couple of hours with each recipe having a number of preparation steps. While these are all easily done (like the others in this book) the preparation and cooking times are longer and they are aimed for that time when you have more time to eat with the family. Also included in this chapter are several marinades and dry rubs that can be used for other recipes.
“Pasta please “is the theme of chapter eight which revolves around make things everyone will eat. The trick here is to get the pasta cooking while mixing other ingredients in a way to efficiently use your time. Surprisingly, an obvious choice of “Spaghetti” isn’t in this chapter or in the book for that matter. Instead, recipes for “Caesar Pasta Salad” (p. 233) “Rotini Mexicalli” (p. 237), “Kids-Love-This-Pasta Pasta” (p. 240) which includes Broccoli (something my sons feel that having to eat is a part of the Spanish Inquisition) and “Sausage and Mozzarella Lasagna” (p. 249) among others.
“Simple Side Dishes” follows with things like “Greens and Cheese” (p. 256), “Cheddar Onion Pudding Pie” (p. 261), “Quick Potato Bake” (p. 267) and others. Forget just sticking a potato in the oven to cook like Mom used to do and the garnish was butter. No, here the garnish is sour cream, butter, cheese, chives, etc along with feta cheesy bread crumbs, green peppers and other things.
If, somehow, you have any room left there are the recipes in “Desert On A Dime.” This final chapter covers things like “Chewy Chip Cookies” (p. 282), “Fool’s Strawberry Cheesecake” (p. 237), "White Jersey Pizza” (p. 295) and many others.
A metric conversion chart and a seven page index bring this 327 page cookbook to a close. A cookbook filled with plenty of easy to follow recipes that will consistently create good food for any time of the day and schedule.
However, there are two drawbacks. The less serious one is the fact that unlike many cookbooks, this one has zero pictures. There are not any pictures of the finished dishes or of any step in the cooking process so that one can know if he or she is on the right track. With the book promoting heavily the involvement of teens, pictures would have been a nice touch to help them especially since they don’t have the cooking background and experience many adults have.
The other issue is more serious. While each recipe does tell you how many it will make, it doesn’t tell you the fat count, salt, etc. Considering that the entire book is guided by the idea of providing nutritional meals and avoiding high in fat/salt, etc. frozen dinners, and fast food, the omission of such information is surprising. One would expect such information to be included automatically in any cookbook these days and the fact that it isn’t hurts the overall usefulness of the book. It should be noted that many of the recipes call for adding prepackaged sauces and the like which usually will be heavy in salt, fat, etc. The use of such items does seem contrary to the idea of nutrition being so important in the book but the use of such items will give you a starting point in gauging the recipe from a fat, salt, etc content.
Despite that huge and glaring flaw, the overall cookbook is a good one. Filled with plenty of simple practical recipes for good food, easy to understand tips, and other useful info, the book works well and is a good one to have in your kitchen. Unfortunately, because of the omission of actual nutritional numbers and pictures, the book isn’t as good as it could have been.
The Good-to-Go Cookbook: Take-Along Food, Quick Suppers, and Satisfying Snacks for On-the-Go Families
Kathleen Cannata Hanna
Material provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2009