Basic meal ideas; good for beginners (per the title)
Reviewed in the United States on 24 April 2020
This is a very basic cookbook, definitely for beginners (which is what is promised, so that's a good thing). There is some interesting front matter about knife skills, necessary tools and ingredients to have on hand, and explanations of basic kitchen hygiene and techniques. The recipes are not very creative, but they do use few ingredients and they're meant to be made in a short period of time. One pet peeve I have with many of these "30 minutes or less" cookbooks is that they do not take into account realistic preparation times; as a seasoned cook, I understand the time it takes to prep ingredients, but if you're truly a novice, you often will not be able to get these items peeled, chopped and in the pan to pull together the entire recipe in 30 minutes. There are certain old faithful cookbooks that I gift to beginning cooks specifically because they have realistic time-frames for cooking. For example, I made a basic turkey noodle soup tonight which was supposed to be ready in under 30 minutes. However, I had to wash and chop celery and carrots, clean my workspace in between ingredients, bring things to a boil, etc. It took me closer to 50 minutes, start to finish. That's not a huge deal, but I know what to expect; newbies may not, and certainly will take more time to chop and peel than someone who has been doing it for years. Also, as someone else pointed out, some of the recipes call for leftover mashed potatoes and other items that you're presumed to have already made, so that's further time added to these meals (what if you really like this recipe but don't have leftover mashed potatoes?).
There was nothing in here I was particularly interested in cooking, but based on experience I like some of the ingredient combos and flavor profiles, and the fact that the recipes mostly use basic ingredients easily sourced. I may break it out one of those nights that inspiration eludes me and I need something on the table in a hurry, but most of these things are items I already know how to make without a recipe, or wouldn't want to eat anyway.
This is an okay cookbook, but if you're new to cooking I highly recommend a more comprehensive cookbook that will allow you to experiment with flavor profiles so you learn to adjust to your taste and what you have on hand (my go-to gift is always the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook--more expensive than this in book form, but not by much-- and so much more useful IMO). Also, be aware that the 30 minute time frame is pretty optimistic. It's hard to even pull together a nice salad for dinner in that period of time unless you're using bagged ingredients, factoring in taking everything out, cleaning, drying, chopping, dressing, and clean up.
Here's why I'm not giving this 5 stars: I don't think it adds anything that can't be found with an internet search, I think it skimps on a lot of techniques that are very valuable for beginners (ie roasting various veggies, sheetpan dinners), I like pictures with my recipes, and it misrepresents the time it would take to actually pull these together, IME. While I don't find many of the recipes appealing, I wouldn't hold that against the author (it's a matter of taste). On a good note, many of the recipes are healthy, and a few of the desserts look simple and appealing.
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