Cookbook review written & photographed by
The Mom 100 Cookbook (published by Workman Publishing Company, $16.95 USD) is described as providing “recipes every mom needs in her back pocket”. Written by Katie Workman, it is specifically geared to young families and deals with 20 typical mealtime dilemmas by providing five recipes per predicament. For example; getting the kids fed and out the door on time (Quick & Easy Breakfasts), going beyond hamburgers and hotdogs (Main Dish Meat), healthy munchies (Handful of Snacks), meatless dishes (Vegetarian Mains), and new twists on old favourites (Pasta & Pizza).
By the time I started testing this book I was fully aware of all the hype and had read positive review after positive review. As a mother of two small children, I am always on the lookout for a new cookbook that will make my life easier and hoped this one would live up to my expectations.
I love the overall look and vibe of this cookbook that compliments Workman’s playful writing style, and found the recipes to be both fun and practical for the family table. The “Fork in the Road” sections are really helpful, and provide you with options for serving the same dish to the entire family by including suggestions for various adaptions that allow you to incorporate additional flavours or spices for more adventurous palates. It was always a pet peeve of my mother’s when she found herself serving up four different meals based on our family’s likes and dislikes.
“What the Kids Can Do” sidebars provide helpful tips for getting children involved in the cooking process, allowing them to feel more invested in the food on their plate and therefore more open to its consumption. Nearly every recipe contains tips and suggested cooking techniques, serving ideas and storage instructions.
Although the photos are not what I would consider to be overly inspiring, they showcase the food in a clear manner that is far from fussy and leaves the food looking relatable (the approach most parents take to food when feeding children).
I must say that The Mom 100 Cookbook is definitely geared towards parents of young children, so if you are searching for a book that deals more in technique or fancy fare I would give this one a pass. The recipes are very basic, and therefore perfect for people with little to no cooking experience. For those of you who know your way around the kitchen, I would suggest using this book as a jumping off point and build upon the recipes. Personally, because I am constantly subjecting my family to all sorts of recipes tests this book is a good reminder for me to include some kid friendly meals into the mix. Yes I want to expose my children to a wide variety of tastes and flavours, but sometimes they just want some plain ol’ chicken strips.
Katie Workman is a food writer whose work has appeared in publications such as The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, and AOL Food. She is the founding editor-in-chief of Cookstr.com and an active supporter of the largest hunger relief organization in the US; Share Our Strength. The Mom 100 Cookbook is Workman’s first book.
Homemade Chicken Tenders
RATING: 4 out of 5 (great texture but lacked flavour)
THE TEST: Chicken tenders are a mealtime favourite when it comes to kids, but what Katie Workman calls “chickenesque” fillings in commercially produced nuggets/tenders grosses me out. In this book she provides four versions of chicken tenders: a simple recipe, one that is a bit crunchier, an even crunchier version, and a fun showstopper variety served on a stick.
For this recipe test I opted to make the Crispy Chicken, although I have future plans to try the Chicken Parmesan on a Stick. Instead of a mile long list of unfamiliar ingredients (Workman wrote she once encountered a 35 ingredient brand of chicken fingers…yikes), this recipe simply uses chicken dredged in a basic flour mixture (flour, salt and pepper), dunked in an egg bath, and then dipped back into the flour. The chicken is subsequently pan fried (and finished in the oven if more cooking time is required).
THE RESULTS: Wanting to go the extra healthy mile, I decided to make turkey tenders. Because the pieces were larger they took more time to cook, but this notwithstanding the meal came together quickly enough to warrant it a weekday-friendly status.
I liked the crispy texture that in my opinion was comparable to what you’d find at a restaurant, but I was disappointed in the overall flavour which I found to lacked depth. The rest of the book is full of recipes riddled with sidebar suggestions for flavour adaptations, so I was puzzled at the lack of alternative ideas to jazz up the flour mix. It would also have been nice for the book to include a list of homemade dipping sauces. A recipe for barbecue sauce is listed, but beyond that only store-bought variety sauces are suggested.
Pasta with Meatballs & Sauce
RATING: 4 out of 5 (great technique, flavour fell flat)
THE TEST: My kids love pasta with meatballs, which is a near weekly ritual in our house. While I enjoy making my own tomato sauce from scratch, I’ve never had much luck in the meatball department. I’ve tried a variety of recipes over the years, but have yet to find the ultimate version.
I love how this meatball recipe offers you three cooking options: baking, sauteeing, or simmering directly in the tomato sauce. I opted to go the baking route, and managed to whip up these meatballs quickly and easily before throwing them in the oven and finishing off in the sauce. The meat mixture can be adapted to suit your personal tates, although the classic combo is veal, beef and pork. I used a mixture of beef and pork, but feel free to use ground chicken or turkey. Whatever suites your fancy.
THE RESULTS: I love how quickly this meal came together. Honestly, if you told me I could have homemade meatballs and tomato sauce ready in 30 minutes I’d have scoffed in disbelief. The meatballs held their shape nicely due to partial baking in the oven, and I loved how moist the meat stayed after simmering in the sauce.
I thought the tomato sauce was good but definitely nothing to write home about. The overall flavour was pretty one-dimensional. I’ll definitely be sticking to my regular version, which incorporates a splash of Worchester sauce, balsamic vinegar, and umami paste. The meatballs were good and I loved the different cooking options which all worked well, but I thought they lacked enough seasoning. So would I make this recipe again? Absolutely – with some minor adjustments.
Soy-Ginger Flank Steak
RATING: 5 out of 5 (family favourite!)
THE TEST: When I first got my hands on this cookbook, I gave it to my eldest daughter (age six) to look through and select recipes she wanted us to try. The Soy-Ginger Flank Steak was one of her top picks, and funnily enough when I passed the book along to Mr. Spock he chose this one as well.
Flank steak is cut from the abdominal muscles of the cow, and as a result tends to be tough and chewy. It also happens to be full of robust meat flavour, making it popular in our household for fajitas. Because of the chewy nature of this particular cut, be sure to sear it quickly on the grill (approximately five minutes per side) and let it rest before slicing. Mr. Spock expertly manhandled our meat on the grill, but if you’d prefer to broil it or use a grill pan to sear on the stovetop that would work just fine.
A simple seasoning of black pepper is all that’s called for when grilling the flank, until the last few minutes of cooking when the soy-ginger glaze is brushed on generously. Just be sure to save enough glaze to brush on after the meat has finished cooking, and if you’re anything like my family you might want to have a bowl of leftover sauce for dipping at the table.
The glaze is a simplified teriyaki, combining fresh ginger and garlic with soy sauce, brown sugar and red pepper flakes. The mixture is reduced until thick and syrupy, and I’d be lying if I said the smell from this humble concoction won’t knock your socks off. We all stood salivating by the stove, breathing in the tantalizing aromas.
THE RESULTS: Once the steak has had a chance to rest, slice it thinly across the grain and serve brushed with additional sauce and chopped green onions. You can also include some lime wedges on the side, although there is a lot going on in terms of flavour so I’d recommend tasting the meat before adding any citrus.
Upon first bite of this steak a chorus of moans of delight resounded from around the entire table. Honestly, we couldn’t shove the meat into our mouths fast enough! The texture of the steak was perfect due to the quick sear, and was not chewy at all. And the glaze…oh my the glaze. It was the perfect combination of salty and sweet with a nice level of heat from the red pepper flakes. I ended up using half of the suggested amount of pepper flakes, which allowed for the kids to enjoy it as well.
Needless to say this was a HUGE hit at our table. In fact, due to popular demand we ended up making this again a couple of nights later. We have also experimented with slathering the sauce on grilled pineapple as well as zucchini and even prawns. So tasty!