Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I won a copy of The Clever Cookbook from a blog giveaway from Hip Foodie Mom (psst, there’s a recipe at the giveaway link as well). This is a fun cookbook, and its subtitle, “Get-Ahead Strategies and Timesaving Tips for Stress-Free Home Cooking,” speaks right to what we are all about here at the Yarnstead. Emilie Raffa, the author, has a culinary degree, a family for whom she loves to make healthy food, and a blog called The Clever Carrot. I photographed the table of contents instead of the cover for you since I think it really shows off the helpful techniques you can learn in this book.
I made the Weeknight Chicken Potpie from chapter 2, and it is easily the best potpie recipe I’ve made. Instead of puff pastry for the crust, I used the America’s Test Kitchen pie crust with the vodka which can be made ahead; my other substitution was dried lovage from last year’s herb garden for the celery. Believe me, if you have lovage, you’ll never need celery around. I’d show you a picture of the pot pie but we were too busy eating it.
There are sections on preparing vegetables, broth, sauces, compound butters (instant flavor when you need it), spice blends, grains, and marinades ahead. Each section features recipes showing how to use those ingredients to get flavorful home-cooked dishes without taking a lot of time. We love beans here, and I make them with a pressure cooker; if you don’t have one of those, check out The Clever Cookbook’s bean chapter for techniques that don’t use a pressure cooker and delicious ways to use them. I’m already eyeing up the bean soup, baked beans, and curried chickpea recipes from that chapter.
Another chapter shows how to use your food processor to speed up your prep work, so my trusty old Cuisinart will be put to work. My only complaint about the book is that there’s a whole chapter on substituting vermouth for white wine in recipes, which I didn’t think needed a whole chapter. Maybe I’m just craving more recipes like in the other chapters, oh well! Not a deal-breaker for me. If you are looking for ways to get more flavor into quick meals, definitely check out this cookbook.
Thanks to Alice of the Hip Foodie Mom blog for this giveaway! Alice is a fellow member of Wisconsin Whisk and a great recipe developer. We’re in need of snack innovation over here, so I made her No-Bake Almond Energy Bites a few days ago. In keeping with my tradition of fearless ingredient substitution, I made a few changes to use what I had in the cupboard. I used sunflower seed butter instead of almond butter, maple syrup instead of agave, brown raisins instead of golden, and standard size semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of mini. I didn’t have peanut butter chips or dried cranberries so I skipped them this time. They are still yummy although they taste more like sunflower seeds than the original, I am sure. So maybe I should call them No-Bake Almost Like Alice’s But More Sunflowery Energy Bites. 😉 I’ll make them the actual way in the recipe one of these days. But seriously, Alice has a lot of fun recipes on her site, some with videos to help us along, and since I have a recent vegetarian in the family, I am especially grateful that she has her recipes indexed by type for easy browsing. Her “Join A CSA” menu option is a great idea and has inspired me to add a “Find A Farmer’s Market or CSA farm” page to my blog in the near future.