I'd like to apologize for being so scare the last few weeks. I needed a little time to regroup and figure out how to best focus my blog and my writing. I have the need for a creative outlet and sometimes I get completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things I have going on and I forget to focus on the things that make me happy. Reading makes me happy. Writing makes me happy. Crafting, baking, doodling, watching "can't turn it off" television shows (Downton Abbey, The Walking Dead, Black Sails!), and just having a lovely evening hanging out with my husband and my crazy dogs are all things that make me happy. I spent a couple of weeks relaxing, recharging and doing all those fun things so I could revamp and focus on how thankful I am that I have the time and ability to enjoy these daily gifts. I'm not certain I will post every day going forward, but I will post most days, and boy do I have a ton of things to tell you about the last few weeks!
Today my topic is a new cookbook I was given the chance to review. I am a huge fan of Food Network, The Cooking Channel and cooking shows in general, and although I am a novice cook, I love watching all of the fabulous dishes and delectable food that comes out of the kitchens on these shows. Very often the chefs and cooks will turn to a piece of kitchen equipment that looks like something that would be fabulous to own and I assure myself that in owning said piece of equipment I would obviously create dishes worthy of a Michelin star or a James Beard award. I know that this isn't the case and I'm pretty sure the accolades would only pour in after I dedicated myself to actually learning how to use the nifty gadget they're adept at, and that I'd be more likely to receive a thumbs up from the hubby or a tail wag from the pups. Still, sometimes the allure of the sweet kitchen tool is too much and I bite.
My most recent "dang that would be handy"! purchase was a pressure cooker.
On Bravo's Top Chef I have seen dozens on instances where the cheftestants try to use a pressure cooker and fail. They can't get the lid off or locked on or they waste valuable challenge time trying to beg the other folks for help because they've never used one. I thought mastering this tool would save me time and money and make weeknight dinner more do-able, but I had (and if I'm being completely honest, still have) a tiny bit of fear that I wouldn't be able to figure it out. Luckily, just after I purchased it I saw The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book: 500 Easy Recipes For Every Machine, Both Stovetop and Electric by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough come up as an option on the Blogging for Books website. Points for awesome timing!
The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book is more than just a cookbook. It has tips, tricks, hints and trouble shooting methods to help anyone master this cooking tool. I like that from the very beginning of the book they tell you that if you have a pressure cooker that came with an instruction book you need to read it and familiarize yourself with exactly how your model works. If you are using the dinosaur you found in your Aunt Betty's attic, there are a bunch of general how-to notes and tips included to help you figure it out too. The best part is that since there are several different types of pressure cookers (electric, stovetop, dinosaur Aunt Betty models) they have included the ratios of liquid and ingredients to add for each model and also have specific step-by-step instructions that at different points in the recipe that explain how to best accomplish the dish with the type you have.
There are several great suggestions for the skittish (me!!) and some really helpful tidbits that would've never occurred to me. For example - I have a stovetop with electric burners and it reminds you that when you remove the cooker from the heat that it is important that you don't simply move it to a cool burner because the metal coils are insulated and will retain heat so the pressure won't fall the way you desire it to and you could end up overcooking your dish. This helpful tip was put to immediate use in my kitchen even without using the pressure cooker and I've recently begun to transfer my pans onto a trivet. It has saved a batch of rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan and is a great tip.
The book includes 500 recipes with a gauge of effort from "not much" to "a lot" and has a truly amazing block of "tester's notes" for each recipe that can lend information that is funny, educational, and sometimes vital to the preparation so it's good to read them first. Even before you make a single recipe there is a lot to absorb so read carefully before you begin.
There are a ton of recipes to try that run the gamut of "what? You can make THAT in a pressure cooker?" (cheesecake - woohoo! although you need a bit of additional equipment like a wire rack) to "why would I want to make this in a pressure cooker?" (oatmeal - I'm an "add boiling water to packet" kind of girl). The soups, braises and time saving preparations of beans and grains are really the stars of the show though. There are countless things I want to try and this weekend is going to be all about experimenting. Actually last weekend was supposed to be about that, but there was a gardening show and a certain live action princess movie that had to be attended. Priorities!
My only complaint is the lack of photographs. There is a section in the center of the book with 32 pictures of the a sampling of the dishes in this book. I love good food photography, and the pictures here are lovely but there isn't enough of them. The recipes I am most excited by weren't chosen for a glamour shot and that was a little sad. Still, the photos that are here are enough to make you want to get cooking and that is a very good thing.
The lovely folks at Blogging For Books were kind enough to provide me this cookbook for review. Check out their site if you are a blogger who loves to read or eat or if you just want to see what folks like me have to say about a wide variety of titles that have recently hit bookshelves near you. Thanks Blogging For Books! Andy and the dogs thank you too!
Check back tomorrow to see an exciting new historical fiction novel THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS by M.J. Rose that will hit those very same shelves in the morning!