Monday, March 05, 2007

A Book Review

Mix & Match Recipes: Creative Ideas for Busy Kitchens
by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Deborah Taylor-Hough knows busy kitchens. She homeschools her three kids, runs a website, and is the mastermind behind Frozen Assets, a series of methods and recipes for once-a-month cooking.

I bought this book a couple years ago and have to admit I've used it rarely. But with our new concentration on creating real food (vs. packaged "food") and our busy schedules, I've pulled it out again. This is basically a collection of universal recipes: i.e., to make a muffin, take XX dry ingredients, XX eggs, XX filler, etc. You then can determine whether those dry ingredients are oatmeal or whole-wheat flour or a combination of soy and rice flour.

The book is short (64 pages), and in many cases contains dishes that I feel I shouldn't need a cookbook for. But I love the cheat-sheet aspect of this little gem. If I have some leftover ham and broccoli, it's nice to have someone else do some thinking about how I can pull them together. (Skillet dinner? Fried rice? Quiche?) The recipes as stated are pretty basic -- several dishes use canned soup as a binder, for example -- but sometimes throwing together a couple things is all a person has time or energy for, and it still beats a Happy Meal. If you're feeling more ambitious, you can dress up the recipes.

As an example, Sunday night we had lamb sausage thawed and waiting for inspiration. I used the universal skillet recipe in the book, but skipped the canned cream of mushroom soup and instead carmelized some onions and made a quick white sauce to hold it all together. As Phil was eating dinner, he said, "Boy, this is some real comfort food." That's what this book is: Homey, easy, recipes for cooks with great intentions, a hodgepodge of on-hand ingredients, and little time.

If you're wanting to make a lamb sausage skillet, here's one variation you can try:

Lamb Sausage Skillet

1 Tbsp. or so olive oil
1 Tbsp. or so butter
1 medium-sized sweet onion, coursely chopped
1/4 cup or so (a few splashes) white wine

White sauce:
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. white flour
1 cup milk

And the rest:
4 good-sized links lamb sausage (about 1 to 1-1/2 pounds), sliced about 1/4- to 1/2 inch
1 16-oz can stewed or diced tomatoes, undrained
8 oz. uncooked egg noodles
1/2 cup or so (a nice handful or two) shredded cheese

Start by making the onions. Heat up the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat until the butter gets foamy. Add the onions and stir around for a while -- maybe 10 minutes, until the onions are dark golden brown and there's some lovely brownish stuff on the bottom of the pan. Pour in the white wine and scrape up the stuff at the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, in a separate, small pan, melt the butter over medium heat; this is the basis of the white sauce. Now stir in the flour to make a paste. Pour in the milk and whisk it constantly until the sauce starts to thicken.

When the onions and sauce are ready, pour both of these and all the remaining ingredients except the cheese into a big skillet or similar pan. I used a pretty good sized brasier pan. If there doesn't seem to be enough water to actually boil, add a little more water. Now stir it all around, turn the heat to medium high, and let the liquid boil. Once it boils, turn the heat to low, cover the skillet, and wait about 25-30 minutes -- until the meat is cooked through and the pasta is ready. Sprinkle with the cheese and tuck into a good family meal.

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Anonymous Debi said...

Hi, Cindy ...

I was looking for an article about me online that someone had told me about ... and while I was searching for it, I stumbled upon your review of the Mix-and-Match Recipes book. What a nice surprise! I'm glad you found it somewhat helpful. I never use cream-of-mushroom soup in any of the recipes, either (I don't care for it, it's not a particularly healthy food choice, plus I'm deathly allergic to mushrooms).

Nice to "meet" you. :-)

~Debi (Deborah Taylor-Hough)

1:09 PM  
Blogger Cindy K said...

Hi, Debi:

So nice to hear from you! I truly think this is a fabulous little book -- including the fun recipes for things like bath bombs and kids' playdough! I stand corrected about the proliferation of Mushroom soup. I checked through the recipes, and found that mushroom soup is only one suggestion in a list of many in all of the recipes. :) The lamb skillet, by the way, was fabulous. I wouldn't have thought to make that without the book. Best. --Cindy

9:38 AM  

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