Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook

By Kim O’Donnel

Cookbook review written by
The Stay-At-Home-Chef

I first committed to Meatless Mondays as part of last year’s culinary resolutions, a concept which I have again added to my list for 2011. Honestly, my pledge came from a place of obligation rather than passion and while our family did manage to go most weeks with at least one day free of meat it felt like a chore. As a cook (and lover of meat) I just wasn’t feeling ‘it’, and I must admit that as a result the meals I threw together on Mondays were far from spectacular. And I like to be spectacular in my kitchen.

I’d have to say that my biggest challenge with Meatless Mondays has always been around recipe inspiration, and I typically rely on easy solutions such as pastas or salads unless I have a specific recipe in mind. So when I first heard of Kim O’Donnel’s new book – The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook – I was interested to find out if the concept of designing vegetarian recipes for meat eaters would successfully satisfy my family’s appetite. The idea seemed like a good one, as there are countless vegetarian cookbooks but not many geared towards those looking to reduce their consumption of meat rather than abstain from it completely.

Kim O’Donnel is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education, and has written for the Washington Post, Real Simple, and Huffington Post. After committing to the concept of going meatless one day a week, Kim asked her readers at the Washington Post what they would need in order to integrate this concept into their lives. Their response? Recipes!

Written specifically for carnivores looking to integrate more plant-based meals into their diets, this book celebrates dietary diversity and meat in moderation. The overall tone is warm and not in the least intimidating, the author guiding you through each recipe in an encouraging manner. The recipes are substantial enough to satisfy meat eaters, the book designed as a collection of 52 menus (one for each week of the year) based on seasonal eating.

The ‘Make it a Meal’ sidebars are great for suggested side dishes with mix-and-match versatility, and each recipe includes icons denoting whether the dish is gluten-free, vegan, kid friendly or perfect for leftovers. There is a pantry lexicon, and kitchen tricks and tips scattered throughout the book which are all nice additions.

In my opinion the lack of photographs is unfortunate, as I prefer visual inspiration when tackling new frontiers with my palate. It’s a comfort thing; wanting photographic reassurances that I’m doing it ‘right’.

Meatless Mondays have now become an exciting culinary adventure in our household. A huge part of the reason for our renewed passion is this book which has definitely earned a place on my VIP Kitchen shelf. I know each week I’ll be reaching for inspiration from within its pages.

The whole concept of Meatless Mondays is to promote a decreased consumption of meat in order to improve personal health and the health of the planet. Becoming a once-a-week vegetarian is a trend that we are now seeing extended into restaurants, businesses, and even schools. To find out more about the Meatless Monday campaign, please visit


Southern Living: Classic Southern Desserts

By Southern Living Magazine

Cookbook review courtesy of contributing writer
Stephanie Sears

I will be the first to admit I have a love/hate relationship with Southern food. As an East Coaster transplanted below the Mason Dixon, I have never been able to understand grits or the desire to fry everything.  However, I do understand the importance of good desserts, and dessert is something the South does very well.

When I first saw this cookbook I immediately jumped at the opportunity to review it. Classic Southern Desserts (published by Oxmoor House Publishers $29.95 USD) is an extension of the recipes available in the Southern Living Magazine, and contains 344 pages of mouthwatering sweets.

The recipes in this cookbook are broken down so that even the most novice bakers will easily be able to understand what’s required. Southern Living did an excellent job writing clear and concise directions that are easy to follow in the kitchen. My initial thought was that this would make a great family cookbook – children and adults alike could easily make any dessert in this book. There is not an ounce of pretentiousness, something that in my mind is a wonderful and often challenging accomplishment for cookbook writers.

The absolute best thing about this cookbook is the tips. Most of the recipes have little tips at the end letting the reader know what brands were used, what cooking appliances and utensils made an appearance along with other miscellaneous notes of interest to the cook. I used these notes as a guide when purchasing the ingredients for the recipes I tested.

Classic Southern Desserts is also a visual success. Every single picture is gorgeous! The book is overflowing with photographs of beautifully styled food leaving you wanting to make each of the recipes. If I am correct in my count every recipe has a photograph, and while photography is never a deal breaker for me I have to admit it was the photos that first drew me into the book.

This is a must buy for dessert lovers, advanced bakers, and beginner bakers alike. Its pages will be well-worn, and the cookbook has heirloom potential. The recipes are timeless, each one invoking childhood memories but with a grown-up twist.

To read the results from Stephanie’s recipe tests, please click HERE

Hail Caesar!

by contributing writer Jacqueline Twa

The fact of the matter is that women fake it sometimes.

Now I am aware that as a woman I really should not be divulging this information, but I am and we do. Deal with it people.

As women our lives are complex and busy enough as it is, so who can blame us if we aren’t always in the right frame of mind or have the physical ability to get to the real thing. I know most women don’t usually admit to things like this – but I must stand up and say loud and proud that I fake it now and then. Truth be told I fake it almost every day. Honestly, for me it’s a matter of necessity. No really – hear me out!

I can’t eat dairy products. Dairy makes me ill – the yucky kind of ill that makes me diligent about avoiding it at all costs. The tricky thing is that I happen to love the way dairy products look and smell, the shameless foodie within me constantly imagining how the addition of something creamy and stringy and gooey would enhance a particular dish.

I know countless women who given the choice would rather sacrifice wine or chocolate in place of cheese. So in a valiant effort to not appear handicapped, I always try to recreate foods that traditionally contain dairy and make them into lactose free masterpieces that taste better than the real deal.

Speaking of dairy, everyone loves Caesar salad, right? Whenever I see people eating Caesar salad my mouth starts to water. That garlicky smell, the gentle snowstorm of pungent white Parmesan…I have always been jealous of the lucky consumers of such deliciousness.

Every time my husband breathes his garlicky Caesar satisfaction in my direction, I am forced into that ‘how unfair’ feeling. Consequently, I have tried many times to make a dairy-free Caesar salad and many times I have failed. Somehow they just never seemed to satisfy my lust for that specific dairy flavour profile.

Fortunately all of my efforts eventually led to designing a recipe that I think give other Caesar dressings a run for their money. All of the signature flavours are present and the overall taste is great, even without Parmesan. Most of my dairy eating friends prefer this version and my own ravenous horde (aka, my family) ask me to make it almost every time they come for dinner – and in my world that’s the test that matters most.

Jax’s ‘Fake’ Caesar Salad
Start with a cup of good mayonnaise – people who avoid things that come out of an udder know that mayonnaise is next to godliness. Never buy cheap mayo! Add 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard. Mash 3 whole anchovies or add a big squirt of anchovy paste and add to the dressing. Oh get over it – put them in! Add about 2 toes of crushed garlic (even better if you use roasted garlic). Include a good six or seven shots of Worcestershire, salt and pepper (to taste) and whip into a frenzy. This dressing will last well in the fridge for over a week.

Next, put sliced pancetta (two slices per person) on parchment and roast them off on a baking sheet in a 425 F degree oven for about 10 minutes (thickness can vary final cooking time). When the Pancetta discs are crispy and brown take them out and set them aside.

Cube up any day old bread you have (artesian breads are obviously the best choice) and toss them in the leftover pancetta fat. If the cubes are too dry, add olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste and toast in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes or until crunchy and golden.

Cut a trimmed head of Romaine lettuce in half and place on a plate.

In a back and forth motion, drizzle the salad with the dressing and a balsamic reduction (I use a bottled variety). Sprinkle with the croutons and add 3 or four toes of roasted garlic over the top, garnishing with the pancetta on the side.

If you absolutely must, finely grate Parmesan over the whole thing. Damn you.