There's a crisis in America's kitchens. We are not cooking as often or as well as we used to. Hectic and busy lives mean too many of us rely on take-out and frozen foods to feed our families. No one argues that these convenient solutions are great when there's no other choice, but there are many more instances when a home-cooked meal would serve your family better.
Enter Pamela Richards and her new book, I'm in the Kitchen, Now What?!, one of an ongoing series of Now What?! books from Silver Lining Books. It's a slender, straightforward volume containing more than 85 sensible and appealing recipes that home cooks of all stripes will want to integrate into their repertoires.
None of the recipes is long or complicated, although not every one is quick. Some of the One Pot Meals require an hour or so of cooking time. You can decide if a recipe will fit into your schedule simply by scanning the prep and cooking times listed at the top of the page.
When you try a recipe, the ingredients are clearly explained and every step is numbered. Most of the recipes are accompanied by photographs, which are there to instruct as much as to entice: they are more work-a-day than "arty," so that you can really see what the finished dish should look like.
Richards, who is a cooking teacher wants her readers to enjoy preparing these recipes. She anticipates any confusion with a number of "Now What?!" and "What Is It and Where Do I Find It?" boxes, chock full of useful information.
For example, she explains that dried cranberries are sold in small bags in most supermarkets, but if you can't find them "try dried cherries. As a last resort, you can use raisins." Now, that's reassuring advice.
One "Now What?!" box asks the question, How do I "deglaze" a pan?" Richards says it means "adding a little liquid to the pan in which meat or poultry has been cooked, heating it to a boil, and stirring to loosen browned bits of food still clinging to the pan." What could be clearer?
The recipes are as familiar Roast Chicken and Down East Clam Chowder and as modern as New Wave Spinach Salad, which calls for kiwi fruit and goat cheese.
Desserts are a comforting assortment of cookies, pies, and cakes, including Apple Pie, an old-fashioned Carrot Cake and an indulgent Chocolate Mousse Cake.
I'm in the Kitchen, Now What?! is designed to give the novice cook the confidence to cook nourishing and appetizing meals. The more experienced home cook will glean new ideas and foolproof recipes for old favorites. With this book on hand, no one will have to ask "now what?" when standing in the middle of the kitchen!