As promised, this month’s Learn to Cook (L2C) Challenge cookbook was Eat With Us by Toronto couple, Philip Lago and Mystique Mattai.
If you’re new here, I started the L2C Challenge in 2021 as a way to get me in to the habit of cooking different meals and, if I’m being totally honest, as a way to justify my cookbook obsession. You see, I’ve always loved cookbooks. Each time I get one, I go through it from cover to cover and mark up all of the recipes that I want to try but that I likely will never make. So with this challenge, I pick one cookbook per month and make at least one recipe from that book per week. At the end of the month, I give my honest review of the recipes I tried and of the cookbook in general.
In case you’re interested, here are the cookbooks I’ve tried thus far…
Half Baked Harvest Super Simple
Now on to this month’s pick! Full disclosure, I bought this book for its neutral colors and thought it was a nice addition to my kitchen décor (the beautiful photography was an added bonus). But, in keeping with the purpose of this challenge, I chose it as this month’s pick in order to justify my purchase and I’m so glad that I did!
The book is divided into lifestyle chapters. The first is food for simple, every day times; the next being all about comfort food; another chapter is about hosting for special occasions; outdoor dining, etc… What I really enjoyed about the chapters is that each one starts with a “Menu” which is essentially a collection of recipes for different meals – i.e.: Breakfast; Board; Appetizer; Salad; Main and Dessert. So the Chefs provide a breakfast recipe for the everyday meal (aka the “Simple” Chapter); a heartier breakfast in the comfort section; a fancy breakfast in the lavish chapter; and so on. So there is a lot of variety in this book.
While I limited my testing to just four recipes this month, I have a lot of other pages earmarked to be tried in the future. Here’s what we ate in March:
Blistered Sugar Snap Peas with Ginger, Garlic and Sesame (p. 23)
Ok, this one is obviously not a dinner dish but it’s a healthy side! I actually made it for lunch and had it with some Costco rotisserie chicken for protein. Super quick and easy to make but it smelled great and tasted fancy. I can see myself making a larger size of this side the next time we have guests over for dinner.
Mac Daddy Nachos (p. 95)
This was the first recipe that I tabbed when I first went through this book – I mean, it’s a Big Mac but nacho-style, so of course I’m going to try it! It was absolutely delicious and a true comfort food dish. Paolo came home as I was making it and he said it smelled of Big Mac as soon as he walked in. I got thumbs up from all of my boys for this one!
Hot Maple Crackling Chicken Thighs with Fried Bread and Quick Coleslaw (p. 42)
The big win in this recipe was the quick coleslaw – it was quick (obviously) and absolutely delicious! It will definitely become my go-to coleslaw recipe.
The big fail (for me anyway) was the fried bread. You’re supposed to fry the bread in the same pot that you cooked the chicken but mine never actually “fried” – it was just soggy and tasted of chicken fat. One bite was all that I could handle and I will not be doing that again!
The chicken thighs were delicious but they were just maple (not “hot maple”) since I left out the chili peppers because of Theo (and because I can’t handle hot peppers either). Still, it tasted great!
Chopped Cucumber Salad with Mint, Feta and Chilies (p. 32)
This needs to become my summer dish – it was so light and fresh. I love any salad that has mint in it. The recipe does call for chili peppers – I included one (thinly sliced) for Paolo; he said he loved the kick that the peppers added.
I had some roasted chicken left over in the fridge. We chopped it up, warmed it and added it to the salad to make it a meal.
I will say that the recipe says this salad yields 4 servings. For us, it was just enough to feed two adults (mind you, I made a salad meal, so maybe it would serve 4 if it was served as a true side dish instead).
Ok, needless to say (because I’ve already said it…) that the recipes we tried were delicious, but that’s not the only reason why I will use this book again and why I would definitely recommend it. For me, it’s the layout of the book – I know exactly what chapter to look in depending on what lifestyle occasion I’m cooking for. Many cookbooks are divided by events – Christmas, Easter, etc. – but not for the everyday, which is what this book offers. If we have some close friends coming over and want a chill meal, anything out of the Simple or Comfort chapter will work. If it’s a work event or something more formal, maybe I’d try something from the Lavish chapter.
In addition to the ease of reference, the Chefs include helpful tips that are… well, helpful! Like how you should cut an English cucumber lengthwise and then remove the seeds before adding it to a salad so that it’s less watery – who knew!?!
All in all, the “design aficionado” side of me loves this book for its neutral and aesthetically pleasing cover and the “I do not cook” side of me appreciates the ease of each recipe and the thoughtful insights provided.
I am so excited for next month’s book!!! When I started this challenge, the very first cookbook that I knew I wanted to try was by Tieghan Gerard. I had been following her on Instagram and literally wanted to try everything she makes! Her last book, HBH Super Simple, was published in 2019 and has been a staple in our home. Her latest book, Half Baked Harvest Every Day, was released 2 days ago (March 29, 2022) and I knew I had to get it right away – April is sure to be a delicious month around here!!!