Saturday, November 05, 2005

Book Review: Rachel Ray 365: No Repeats

Rachel Ray 365: No Repeats
A year of deliciously different dinners a
30-minute meal cookbook

about $20

This is the largest of Rachel Ray's cookbooks. I have four others; 30 Minute Meals, 30 Minute Meals 2, Cooking Round the Clock, Get Togethers. These are all 30 Minute Meal cookbooks...and as I've mentioned before, that's nice, but they usually are longer than 30 minutes if you take the time to clean and prep your stuff as you go.

The book is 318 pages, plus the index.

There is no ryhme or reason behind how the recipes are arranged, not by main ingredient, style of cooking. They are just in there. Rachel explains this in the introduction, essentially, her plan is that you just cook your way through the book. This way you are not having chicken for four weeks, then beef, the veggies, etc. OK. There is a category listing in the front, so if you just want pasta, you can quickly find pasta recipes.

Each recipe is numbered, 1 through 366. She gives us a 'bonus' recipe, which happens to be her "Christmas Pasta." Which is good, I've made it before.

Next to each title are two little boxes for marking: "Try it Later" or "It's a Keeper." I would add, "Not for me" or "You're kidding right?" Recipe #9 is missing these boxes...oops!

Of the 366 recipes, I have marked, with post its, about 20 to try right away. Some of them are:
Turkey Noodle Casserole
BBQ Chicken Sandwiches (I refuse to use the Rachel term "Sammies".)
Chipotle Chicken Chili Mac
Bel Aria Chicken & Pasta
Pineapple Rum Chicken
Cajun Meatloaf
Grilled Chicken Paillard

and many more.

To help stretch the recipes to 366, Rachel has a good idea. She will give you a master recipe, then a few variations afterwards, now each of the variations is considered it's own recipe and some of them are pretty simple and one would probably think of it themselves. But for beginner chefs, I think it's great to get people thinking that way.

There is a downside to this idea. If you decide to do one of the variations of the master recipe, you really might need a pad and pen to re-write the recipe to understand it. The main ingredient listing is with, for example, recipe 48. Then for 49, there is a variation, all she says is to remove ingredients x, y, z. Substitute 1, 2, 3. Change order to a1, c9, b12. So for a new chef, this might be challenging. And if you just want to open the book and do a 30 minute meal, you're going to need to spend some time clarifying the recipe.

Another downside of the book is the way some of the recipes are described. There will be a dish X with side dish 78. You may really want to try dish X, but have no interested in side dish 78. As the recipe is listed as one long recipe, you will need to distill the portion of the recipe you want. Does that make sense?

To fix these two things, the book would probably come in closer to 500 pages. A bit big for everyday use.

Would I recommend this book to someone. Depends. I would for someone who is a casual home cook with some time under their belt. I don't think I would as a first cook book or a beginner cook. For the two reasons I've listed above.

But overall, I think it's pretty good. In terms of variety of it the best of Rachel's books.

Now, on to testing the recipes.


Stef said...

Mmmm. Pineapple rum chicken sounds intriguing. If it's good and truly easy to make, let me know. I may actually want to try a new recipe!

h said...

Hello I just stumbled across your blog looking for reviews of a Rachael Ray recipe. I thought that you might be interested to know that my family and I are cooking our way systematically through this book for 2007. We are up to recipe 50 tomorrow, and are so far finding the overwhelming amount of chicken and sausage-based ingredients to be somewhat repetitive. It really seems that this book isn't designed to be followed from start to finish- 4 days in a row of macaroni cheese almost broke our resolve right at the beginning. However, we've started so we'll finish!