A couple of weeks ago, I walked into my local Salvation Army store and everything was 50% off. A thrifting miracle - right? Unfortunately, I wasn't the first cowgirl to the rodeo and quality furniture was nowhere to be seen. So I ended up buying a whole bunch of cookbooks (12 or 15, don't remember now, and they were like $1 or $1.50 each). Just went kind of cookbook crazy.
I am a big fan of the Taste of Home cookbooks and have several that have been my go-to's for the last couple of years. However, I had gotten to a point where I was making the same dishes a lot, which, even if you really love the end result, makes cooking much more of a chore than an adventure. So I wanted to be more experimental and daring with my cooking.
One of the cookbooks I picked up was Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats, which came out 8 years ago. I like Rachael and have watched her shows before, but was never really inspired to try any of her recipes. So I decided to do a mini Julie & Julia challenge and do 2 weeks of nothing but dinners from this book.
The only rule I made was that I had to cook her recipe - no substitutions. I did end up cheating on one dish - it involved mushrooms and no one in this family likes mushrooms even the slightest tiniest bit. But all of the rest where done to her specifications.
I'm now a Rachael Ray fan (at least of this cookbook), and I'll tell you why:
1.) Everything has been tasty. Most have been dishes I would cook again. A few have been ones I crossed off as repeats, but they were still tasty - just not great enough to demand it again.
2.) Portions are big. Almost all of them say they serve 4 and actually serve closer to 6-8. This works well for my family of 3 because there are usually leftovers for lunches or extras for people who happen to drop by during dinnertime.
3.) I like that most are a meal - or at least the meat and one side. I'm a big fan of one-pot cooking (cause I hate doing dishes), but it's nice to have a complimentary side included with the main dish recipe.
4.) She includes a lot of fresh ingredients. You can tell she is used to buying her groceries by the day, or maybe only a couple of days ahead. This has been a fairly big adjustment to me - since I go grocery shopping once every 2 weeks. Besides a few fresh herbs I have growing, I tend to use dry herbs. And I like to pre-make as much as possible so I can cook really quickly after work. (They are "30 Minute Meals" - but mostly if you have all of your stuff prepped like you're on a cooking show - or you're a super-fast veggie chopper.) I still used these strategies, just had to make sure I cooked anything with a fresh, non-freezable veg - like lettuce - soon after my shopping trip.
5.) Lots of variety and fairly easy instructions. Not many pictures, but that kind of forced me to actually read the recipes and not just pick them based on visuals. She has some ingredients that I had to google from the store to see where I should be looking for them, but nothing too highly priced (dashes of saffron everywhere, or truffle oil, for example).
1.) She never gives amounts for salt and pepper. I understand everyone is going to prefer a different amount and you should taste as you cook - but in some cases, like adding it to raw meat, it wold be better to have a suggested amount. I wish she would also give dry ingredient substitution amounts for herbs.
2.) My main beef - she messes up a lot of dishes. It obviously varies by recipe, but many of them require 2-3 pans/pots and then a couple of bowls on the side.
So far, those are my only complaints. After finishing the first two weeks, I extended it for another two, so I'll have cooked through an entire month of nothing but RR soon. We'll see how long this cooking experiment can last.