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review 2016-03-28 15:49
The America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Become a Great Cook - America's Test Kitchen

It took several months to work through this cookbook. Working through it I learned how to make sauces and custards and that overcooking, over-mixing and over-baking is not my friend. I learned that reducing a recipe takes more than just dividing the ingredients by serving size. I learned the right equipment matters.


I had already owned the celebrated "Joy of Cooking" and many swear by Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" and I'd seen recommendations for Martha Stewart's cookbook for basic cooking as well. I'd still pick "Cooking School" as my first cookbook (and get the more comprehensive "Joy of Cooking" second). For one, "Cooking School" doesn't just have recipes. They tell you what can go wrong, why a recipe works and the cookbook has extensive tutorials with step-by-step pictures--you won't find that in the relatively spare "Joy of Cooking." Also ATK recipes are thoroughly tested. The one compliant I've seen in review after review of Bittman is that his recipes are poorly proofed and inconsistent in their results. Despite making numerous adaptations because of a restricted diet, I found it rare to find a recipe--after practicing some tricky techniques--to fail. In fact, in this cookbook I'd say only the fish cakes were a disappointment despite following their recipe to the letter.

 

Downsides? Well, I suspect Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen is modeled on a very limited range of tastes. (Christopher Kimball's?). The recipes are richer in fats and sugars than I'd like. Nor do I think they tend to do well by ethnic recipes, which they tend to Americanize too much and make too bland (Kimball is on the record that he doesn't like spicy food). And example number one is their Hot and Sour Soup--without lily buds or wood ear fungus.

 

There's only one cookbook I looked at in stores I could consider a rival and I'm tempted to buy--J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's, The Food Lab. He's an ATK alumnus and it's obvious his recipes are throughly tested and he has a similar scientific approach to cooking. His recipes reading through them seem both lighter and more authentic and often simpler. And unlike "Cooking School" he gives specific brand-name recommendations for equipment. Like "Cooking School" his cookbook is also richly illustrated. If there's a downside it's that the emphasis is on cooking--there are no baking chapters.

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review 2014-04-22 00:23
Useful But Not Outstanding
The 200 SuperFoods That Will Save Your Life: A Complete Program to Live Younger, Longer - Deborah Klein

This is a useful resource spotlighting 200 foods that are currently considered particularly useful for health. I just didn't find much though here that was new or useful compared to Pratt's <i>SuperfoodsRX</i>, the first such book I picked up and which I found an essential reference. It's shopping lists and recipes were much more user-friendly and appealing than the recipes and shopping tips here. What redeems it somewhat for me are the "Bringing It Home" section under each food with useful tips such as refrigerate grapes, freeze raw wheatgerm, etc. I did glean useful information from it--just doesn't strike me as an outstanding book among its kind.

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review 2014-04-21 23:53
Good to Read Through But Not a Keeper
SuperFoods HealthStyle: Simple Changes to Get the Most Out of Life for the Rest of Your Life - Steven G. Pratt,Kathy Matthews

This is the kind of book that is good to read through but not a keeper--particularly if you've read and own the original book by Pratt on the subject, <i>SuperfoodsRX</i>. I thought that book better structured, with each of the 14 "superfoods" getting a chapter and a section following with Menus, Recipes and Shopping Lists. The "Healthstyle" book is structured by season, and I find that harder to pull information out of, despite the topic index. I do appreciate Pratt's approach to nutrition--it seems solid and mainstream and the opposite of extreme, faddish or puritanical. This book was worth a read through for the added foods spotlighted (among them apples, avocado, cinnamon, dark chocolate, honey) the tips on them and sleep and exercise--but I found little here that was new to me, particularly having read the other book--a favorite I frequently reference. That one is a keeper--this one more a book to borrow from the library and take a few notes from.

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review 2014-04-21 23:22
Great Resource
SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life - Steven G. Pratt,Kathy Matthews

What I love about this book? Well, for one, the things that you won't find mentioned in it: Gluten-free, Low-Carb, Detox, GMO Foods, Juicing, Paleo, Vegan, or plugs for the author's own line of protein powders, supplements or food additives. In other words, there isn't a whiff of quackery, faddism or environmental agenda that seems to permeate so many books on nutrition. The author is both a researcher and clinician and spotlights foods whose health promoting abilities are backed up by mainstream research not just anecdotal evidence.

I learned a hard lesson in lifestyle and its connection to health this autumn when I was diagnosed a diabetic. One of the first things I learned from a diabetes educator is that a diabetic diet is basically just a healthy diet. The difficult part of course is learning what that is when so much extreme and contradictory advice exists out there in books and online. I know lifestyle makes a difference because I saw it in my own life these past six months. As I changed how I ate my weight and cholesterol went down, as did my insulin doses--which I was able to eliminate months ago; my endocrinologist thinks that, depending on my next round of tests, I may be able to get off medications altogether. That's how powerful food is--or right versus wrong foods anyway.

And this book isn't extreme, isn't puritanical, doesn't restrict entire groups of foods. The model meal plan and recipes are doable and delicious. Some recipes are involved, but a lot are very simple, affordable and easy to add to your life: Patty's Pumpkin Pudding, Grilled Wild Salmon Burgers (using canned salmon), Superfoods RX Salad, Tropical Yogurt Parfait, Fortified Cereal. All were very easy to incorporate. I found his shopping suggestions invaluable in beginning to make changes. Too many diet gurus seem to sell their own products. When Pratt lists cereals, breads, canned goods, etc, they're from many different brands and not favoring any in particular--there are usually multiple suggestions.

Not that I don't still have work to do. I find you can't change your life on a dime and have it stick. It takes time, and it's easiest to make a few changes at a time. I probably could use more beans in my life. I doubt I will ever be able to work in the amount of citrus, berries and yogurt he recommends daily. I'm dubious of incorporating as much fruit juice in my diet as is suggested here--it's about the only part of his diet that doesn't go well with what I've been told is good for diabetics. But the information in this book has proven invaluable--a list of his Superfoods and "sidekicks" and recommended amounts are up on my refrigerator door as a daily reminder.

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