Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: The Crabby Cook Cookbook

Summary: Introducing a very funny, slightly edgy, winning new kind of cookbook Jessica Harper—that Jessica Harper, star of Minority Report, Stardust Memories, Love and Death, Pennies from Heaven, and more—is a working mother of two who faces the same problems of every other woman who’s the designated home cook: How do you feed a family of picky eaters when you’re not crazy about being in the kitchen in the first place? A natural-born storyteller and terrifically engaging writer, she does what she’s done all her life—entertain us—while at the same time offering 100 not just easy but really easy-to-make, really tasty recipes.

Her stories are filled with charming crabbiness—of cooking early in the day for the two kids who eat only six things, then later for the husband who eats only about eight things, none of which share common ground with those first six; of inviting her mother-in-law for dinner and handing her an apron; of suffering HAS—Hostess Anxiety Syndrome—having the book club over and picking
The Good Earth because it matches the neighborhood’s great new Chinese take-out, so no cooking involved! She wants to give a Nobel Prize to the person who invented bagged salad, and she recounts a wonderful story of making homemade turkey pot pie for the very first time—its crust tasted like rosemary-scented Play-Doh—to serve to Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford.

But crabby or not, she’s found a way to make it work, and work brilliantly.
The Crabby Cook is about how to change your food-i-tude—no more garnish guilt, for example, and why “sort of homemade” is just as good as homemade (ie, knowing when to go all out with Pain-in-the-Ass Minestrone and when to settle for the almost-as-tasty Lazy-Ass Minestrone). It’s how to identify those Miracle Foods—the stuff that everyone loves, like Gobble-It-Up Turkey Chili and Tony’s Rigatoni. And even a whole survival guide—despite her HAS—to entertaining, including drinks, Whore’s Doorves, Dip One and Dip Two, and My Big Fat Greek Platter. -- Workman

A few days ago, I was on twitter (no surprise there!) and found out that there was a twitter party going on with Jessica Harper, author of THE CRABBY COOK COOKBOOK. After lurking for a few minutes, I found myself quite interested in a cookbook with Crabby Cook in the title; and I hopped right in to ask what were some of the author's favorites recipes! I immediately decided that I had to take a look at this cookbook because it sounded so perfect for me -- I think that I, too, just might be a "crabby cook."

Now that might come as a surprise to a few of you who follow my Sunday posts because it seems like I enjoy cooking. And truth be told, sometimes I do. It's just the day-to-day drudgery of coming up with quick and healthy meals to feed my very picky family that I hate! That's where THE CRABBY COOK COOKBOOK comes in. After looking through this cookbook quite a few times, I discovered that there are loads of family friendly recipes that I want to try.

In addition to having lots of good recipes (but sadly no photos!), THE CRABBY COOK COOKBOOK is a hoot to read. It's obvious that the author Ms. Harper has a fabulous sense of humor and I loved all of her stories that she included. I will admit that as I read through this book, I laughed a lot -- kind of taking away from my whole crabby cook nature. I guess that's a good thing!

THE CRABBY COOK COOKBOOK is so much fun and would make the perfect gift for the "crabby cooks" in your life -- even if the "crabby cook" is you! The book is chock full of great recipes as well as helpful hints, variations, and recipe notes. The book is divided in the following chapters: Breakfast, Slow and Fast; Mom's Little Lost Lamb (and Other Lunch Options); The Cycle of Seven (Burgers, Casseroles, and Other Regulars); A Toast to the Roast; Let 'Em Eat Pasta; Go, Fish!; Beside Myself; Let Me (Not) Entertain You; Salad Days: The Chicken Years; and Just Desserts. I think you get an idea of the author's sense of humor with these chapter titles, and I loved that she stuck the chicken chapter at the end -- I was wondering where the chicken recipes were.

Ms. Harper suggested that I start with the Gobble-It-Up Turkey Chili. She assured me that everyone likes it and it's classified as a Miracle Food in the cookbook. (A Miracle Food is one that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser!) I'll be honest when I say that this recipe was a bit intimidating because it has a rather long list of ingredients and lots of chopping, but it was still relatively easy. I've found that the healthier I cook, the more work it is for me because I'm using more fresh products -- it's a good trade-off though!

I absolutely loved this dish; however, my very picky family wasn't as thrilled. They assured me that it wasn't the recipe, it was just that they might not be fans of turkey chili -- aren't they sweet? My husband had a fit when he saw cut up carrots and the kids thought it was too spicy (it wasn't that spicy!) Next time, I will leave the carrots out because I don't think it will affect the taste; and I will leave out the optional cayenne pepper (my husband and I can always add it to our individual bowls.)

I also decided to try the Day-O Banana Bread -- it seems like I always have ripe bananas around the house. I was intrigued by this recipe because it was so healthy -- even healthier than my normal low-fat banana bread recipe! I used Pam instead of butter to grease the pan, and I omitted the walnuts to make it even more low-fat. I'll tell you that I wasn't too sure that I was going to like this bread -- whole wheat baked goods can be so heavy and dry; however, it was very good. I was extremely impressed with how moist the bread was. I wouldn't hesitate to make this one again. I might even try a little cinnamon. I'm thinking of changing the name, though, to No Guilt Banana Bread!

If you are like me and consider yourself a "crabby cook," then you are definitely going to want to take a look at this very fun and helpful cookbook!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this cookbook.

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Beth F said...

You really covered the essence of this book better than I did. I love this book and I'm not really a crabby cook in the way Harper means it. But I do like recipes I can trust and that can be done fairly easily on a week night when I'm working.

And her humor and stories are just, well, the icing on the cake.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This sounds so fun. I love cookbooks that are "books" too and not just compendia of recipes!

bermudaonion said...

What a fun cookbook! If seeing chopped carrots bothered your family, you could finely grate them instead. I'm like you - I don't mind cooking, but I'm tired of figuring out what to cook.

mrsnesbitt said...

Love the title - somebody been watching me? lol! Denise x

Shelly B said...

Great review! I wouldn't say I was crabby, but like you, I dislike the mundane day to day trying to decide what to cook. I am always looking for new recipes that are easy enough to make after working all day.

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

I'm in a love cooking mode, but I also love a crabby cook :) Also, I tried that macaroni and cheese recipe for my friend with the new baby and it was awesome!

Marie said...

I love cookbooks that combine humour and food. It just might make the food taste better. ;)

Great review!

Anonymous said...

You have to love a cookbook with Crabby Cook in the title. I'm not a crabby cook, usually, but sometimes weekdays get so busy, and it can be hard to pack lunches for my daughter and husband day after day.

Unknown said...

I was pretty crabby earlier, having cooked dinner for eight (picky) people (two vegetarians and one brought her Jenny Craig, and one was on Atkins) but reading this made me feel a whole lot better! Thanks so much for a fabulous review! It means the world to crabby me!
--Jessica (The Crabby Cook) Harper

Heather said...

Sounds as though this book could double as a coffee table book. Great review.