Quite some time ago I received an email from author Renee Pottle, asking if I’d like to review her cookbook, I Want My Dinner Now! on this site, in return for a complimentary copy of the book. I think at the time I was just so surprised that anyone would want my opinion on anything – out of the blue like that – that I went into shock and couldn’t process the request.
Eventually (over a year later, to my great embarrassment) I emailed Renee back and she was very kind and forgiving about my lack of a quicker response. She sent out a copy of her book right away. And finally – my apologies again, Renee! – I am getting around to posting about it.
First of all, I want to mention her website – Wine Barrel Gourmet – you can not only order this cookbook, but several others, as well as healthy gourmet foods, recipes, and you can also find all sorts of useful and healthful information.
And now for the book. I Want My Dinner Now! begins with a wealth of useful information for the novice or nervous cook. Sections on Safety, Measurements, Cooking Terms, Ingredients, and so forth are straightforward and easy to follow. The section "Ingredients: Other" is my favorite of these – here you will find foods that aren’t necessarily well-known and popular – but they should be. Bok choy, cellophane noodles (also called bean thread noodles – used in the Thai Spring Rolls I made recently, for instance), coconut milk, hoisin sauce – lots of ingredients that are flavorful and healthy and definitely worth trying if you haven’t yet.
Her brief chapter "The Well Stocked Pantry" gives you a handy launching pad of a list so you can stock your own pantry with oft-used herbs and spices, baking ingredients, pastas and rices, canned goods, etc. I think this is the key to being able to get food on the table fast – it’s like having every single crayon color in the Crayola box sharpened and at the ready. The possibilities become endless.
We’ve tried several recipes – and I have a bunch more marked with post-it notes that I will be trying in the upcoming weeks. But so far we’ve sampled the Taco Salad – anything taco-related is a hit with my kids (and my husband. and me.) – so I figured this was a good place to start. Actually, Bill put it all together and had it on the table by the time the kids and I got home from work. Very simple to prepare, and healthy as well – kidney beans are used in addition to the ground beef, and I would venture to say you could substitute ground turkey for the beef if you prefer.
Another one I made not all that long ago was the Beef Goulash. This is made in a slow cooker – another great tool for working parents. Again – pretty simple to make – you put it all together in the morning and come home to a stomach-rumble-inspiring smell permeating your home. I’m reading my little scribbled notes along the edge of the page – "in at 8:00, out at 4:30, and we ate at 5:30" (because I didn’t get home til then. Bill shut off the slow cooker.) I also wrote down "w/pasta & peas" – I’m thinking I may have had Bill add those in when he got home that day – which would have been around 3:00 – but since I didn’t elaborate in the notes, that’s just a guess. Renee’s "serve with" tip suggested hot noodles and brussels sprouts. So I think the pasta and peas was just my version, based on what we had. We also added some salt to taste.
Thirdly – last weekend, actually, I made the Vegetarian Burgers. Once again – simple, simple preparation – she uses quick cooking brown rice and quick cooking oats as the base – and pretty yummy. We’ve been wanting to make veggie burgers lately, and thank you, Renee, for giving me something to work with! The kids liked them, and so did my husband – he actually ate too much at dinner and was moaning a bit later that evening.
We had two and a half veggie burgers left over the next morning, and Bill ate them reheated and topped with some over-easy eggs. The texture was close to the corned beef hash I make – and far healthier – and he said with a little change in the seasoning, these burgers would be a great substitute for hash with his eggs. And he’s rather partial to good corned beef hash, just so you know. I realize it wasn’t the intended use, but you know, it’s always nice to be able to take recipes and play around with them.
Oh – and another couple of things that are pretty cool about this cookbook. The ingredients for each and every recipe are listed in amounts for either 2 or 6 servings, so there’s limited math-induced stress. The prep time is listed at the top of each page, and at the bottom are "serve with" suggestions and a handy reference section that lists which items in the recipe are (or should be) in the pantry and which you’ll need to purchase.
Next up for me will be the Tamale Pie. Or maybe Szechwan Beef. Or the Sunday Brunch Eggs and Ham. I get the feeling any choice I make will be a good one.
Thank you, Renee, for sharing your cookbook with me, and for providing a ton of family-friendly, time-friendly, budget-friendly, health-friendly recipes with which to respond to the plaintive, demanding cry of I Want My Dinner Now!