Recently, a friend asked me for a recommendation of a good cookbook to give her mom for her birthday. You would think, with the amount of cooking I do, that would be a fairly easy question to answer but it isn’t easy to answer at all. What makes a cookbook good is so subjective, the question is almost impossible to answer. What makes a cookbook good for me may make it the worst cookbook ever for you. There are so many variables in why constitutes a good cookbook I am not even going to try and recommend cookbooks for you. Instead, I am going to share my favorite cookbooks with you and let you decide if they would qualify as a good cookbook for you.
First up is Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes. One thing I thinks qualifies a cookbook as good is it makes you want to get in the kitchen and cook. 101 Easy Asian Recipes does that for me in spades. Every time I look through the book, I find another recipe I want to try. So far, I have tried 17 recipes. The food tastes good. The recipes are reliable. Most of the recipes are quick and easy.
One thing I usually hate in a cookbook is when the recipes use a lot of ingredients I can’t easily find at my local grocery store. In this cookbook, almost every ingredient is something I had to go to the Asian market for or order online. I am lucky to have two incredible Asian markets in my hometown that I visit frequently that had the majority of the ingredients I needed for what I wanted to try. If you aren’t as lucky, and don’t like ordering things online, you may want to skip this cookbook.
Okay, for most of us, the idea of cooking with seaweed is a little strange but I was looking for a side dish for the dumplings I was making for my Christmas eve dinner and knew I could get the ingredients for this recipe fairly easily, so I tried and loved it. If you are wanting to step outside your comfort zone and try something new, it is definitely worth the hunt for the ingredients in this recipe and many others in the book.
Whenever I help someone start a blog, I tell them one of the most important things to do is to pick a posting schedule and stick to it. Over the last year, I haven’t taken my own advice. I have put a lot of pressure on myself to post my 3 recipes a week and then felt horrible when I only managed to post one recipe a month. It was a vicious cycle that was robbing me of my joy in blogging which is sad because I have always said that when I don’t enjoy blogging anymore, I won’t do it anymore. Yeah, there were several times in 2021 where I thought about permanently shutting down A Solitary Feast.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, my friend told me not to make any decisions while I was grieving the loss of one of my best friends and culinary companion, Audrey. She said to give myself time and grace and come back to regular blogging when I am ready. How did I get such smart friends? She was absolutely right. I spent time missing Audrey, pursuing some interests outside of cooking and blogging and lots, and lots, of reading all the books I could get my hands on. Eventually, I found my way back to the kitchen and the peace and calm I feel when I am there which helped me find my joy in creating recipes and writing posts for the blog again.
So I won’t be shutting down A Solitary Feast. I am making some changes to my publishing schedule, though. I will no longer be publishing 3 recipes a week. I will now be publishing one recipe every week. The day of the week might vary but I will publish once every week.
In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients. Mix well. Store in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place. To use: heavily sprinkle all over chosen protein or make a marinade of 2 tablespoons rub, 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar. Add protein of choice and let marinade at least 30 minutes before cooking.
The older I get, the colder I get. When I was younger, I could run the to the garbage dumpster in my bare feet, in the middle of January, in a snow storm and my feet would barely be cold. Now, I wake up and my feet are cold before they hit the floor. It is so bad I was forced to do something I swore I would never do! I bought and wear fuzzy socks when I am home from work and on my days off.
Its not just my feet that are cold. My hands are cold all the time too. It is just much easier to warm up my hands with out have to resort to torturing them with fuzzy socks. I simply keep hot drink on a mug warmer on my desk. The mug is often hot tea but sometimes I am looking for a little something different, like hot chocolate. Don’t run out and buy those little packets of hot chocolate from the grocery store. You can make an awesome hot chocolate using things you probably already have in the house. With just 3 ingredients, you can skip the vanilla, if you don’t have it and 3 or 4 minutes you can have a hot drink to warm up your cold hands.
In a small saucepan, add milk, cocoa powder, sugar and vanilla. Heat the milk mixture over low heat until hot. Don’t try to rush heating the milk by turning the heat up. If you do you will curdle the milk and that isn’t good. Pour the cocoa into a mug, top with whipped cream and serve.
Yesterday a friend told me she wished she could cook like me. My food always looks so good and I never have any problems in the kitchen.
This morning I sent her a picture of my lunch I was making. It was supposed to be Mahogany chicken. It is Mahogany in one place but burnt in most others. I told her even the best cook in the world has problems in the kitchen from time to time. We just don’t post them on our blogs or instagram feeds. We quietly learn from our mistakes and try again and post our good looking pictures.
So what did I learn from this mistake? A glaze with so much sugar in it can burn quickly and I should have been checking it more frequently. I knew that but because I don’t use glazes very often it just didn’t occur to me at the time.
I also learned that different air fryers have different wattages and that means some cook quicker than others. It’s a matter of knowing how your particular air fryer works. When I remade the chicken to get a better picture, I dropped the temperature and extended the cooking time. I added the changes I made to the note at the bottom of the recipe.
In case you are wondering what happened to the chicken, only the skin was burned so I removed it and chopped the chicken meat up for a salad which was delicious.
2 bone in, skin on chicken thighs, trimmed of excess skin and fat
1/2 lb broccoli florets, cut in half if big
1/2 bunch scallions, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic and 1 1/2 tsp honey, mix well. Reserve 1 1/2 tsp of the mixture for later use. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Stir the remaining 1 1/2 tsp honey into the reserved marinade for a glaze.
Place chicken in the air fryer basket, skin side down and air fry at 375 degrees for 12 minutes. Brush chicken with reserved honey/ marinade mixture and flip using tongs. Air fry, brushing twice with the glaze, during the last 3 minutes of cooking., until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes more.
It’s hard to find decent small batch cookbooks. When you add a specialization like small batch cooking in your Instant Pot, it is almost impossible to find decent cookbooks. Way too many small batch cookbooks are just thrown together to cash in on a trend rather than provide useful recipes for those who cook for just one or two. So I am excited when I find a a small batch cookbook for a specialization, like pressure cooking, that I actually like and would incorporate into my daily meal rotation.
What I like about it:
It has decent sized portions. I don’t know why but a lot of small batch cookbook authors assume you have an appetite the size of a pea. I don’t know about you, but I am a big girl with a big appetite. I don’t want to eat dinner then an hour later want to eat a meal again.
The recipes don’t rely on processed ingredients. While some recipes have processed ingredients most don’t.
The recipes have complete and accurate ingredient lists and directions. You would think that would be a given in a cookbook but I found, often it
There are a good variety of recipes. It isn’t just one basic recipe with a dozen slight variations.
The food tastes good.
What I don’t like:
A lot of times the recipes call for a partial use of a canned ingredient, like 2 tablespoons of black beans or 4 tablespoons of tomato sauce and there is no chart or index telling us what other recipes use those ingredients. This can lead to a lot of wasted ingredients.
I disagree with some of the things presented in the opening chapter. Things like the 3 quart Instant Pot is too small to cook anything but single portions and side dishes. If you know me even a little bit through this blog, you know I use my 3 quart Instant Pot for everything, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert and it is, more often than not, more than a single serving.
I am not sure why the author uses dried onion flakes rather than fresh, chopped onion. I subbed fresh, chopped onion for the dried flaked onion in several recipes and it worked just fine so feel free to use whatever you have on hand.
On the whole, I like this cookbook and would recommend it if you like using your Instant Pot and need a little small batch inspiration. I bought both the cookbook and the ingredients to try the recipes with my own money and I didn’t receive any compensation from the author or Instapot for my review. All opinions in this review are my own.