Ode to an American Standard

First off, today’s post is something of a celebration.  This post is my 40th since beginning my blog in the spring.  I can’t believe how much fun I’m having with my blog and my cooking and baking.  I am very thankful for those things because they provide me with a great deal of inspiration and solace.  I am also thankful for all of you who have been reading my blog since the beginning, and for those of you who have just started reading.  Knowing that there are actual human beings out there reading what I’m writing keeps me going and pushes me to continually create dishes and baked goods that I can share.

If you don’t know already, I am a cookbook addict.  I love them.  I read them like most people read novels.  I select cookbooks that go beyond simply being a bound collection of recipes.  I look for cookbooks with stories, with history, and with gorgeous pictures that show me what my finished dish should look like…that is, if I actually followed recipes they are written.  I want to know where the recipe comes from and how it came to be.  I want to know the food’s story.  For me, recipes are like people, each has a story and those stories matter to me.  I am fascinated by them.

Having said all that, I also love a cookbook that is a work horse.  Once in awhile, I want something that is basic, without being ordinary, that can give me a jumping off point.  A book with recipes that I can use as references, but not feel bound to following exactly.  Everyone…and I mean EVERYONE should own a book like this.

For me, that book is an American classic.

If you own no other cookbook, this should be the one you run out and buy.  There’s part of me who loves this cookbook so much, that I would love to become a Betty Crocker cookbook collector.  I’d love to start looking for previous editions of this book because they all tell a story.  Each edition, while always including classic dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, also aims to include what people are eating in the here and now of the book’s publication period.  This book really does live up to its subtitle – Everything You Need to Know To Cook Today.  It’s educational, user-friendly, and full of great recipes that are perfect the way they are, or can be modified to make them your own.  Some of my favorite standby recipes started with this book, and have evolved based on what I have on hand and what I’m craving when I cook.

For example, last night I knew that my hubby bought chicken for dinner.  We had planned to go old school and have a Shake ‘n Bake night.  By the time I got home, I just wasn’t feeling the Shake ‘n Bake.  I wanted chicken pot pie, and because I knew I wasn’t going to be happy with the world until I had my very own chicken pot pie, I had to work it out.  I spent about 30 seconds staring at my cookbook shelves, and Betty seemed to reach out and slap me.  Of course!  Betty Crocker would have a fool-proof chicken pot pie recipe that can go from scratch to table in no time.  Luckily, for me, she did not disappoint.

I didn’t have a package of frozen peas and carrots, so I knew I was going to have to improvise a bit, but with Betty, it’s all good.  This cookbook is really about methods, rather than recipes.  I found a box of frozen peas with butter sauce and used fresh carrot and cooked it, until tender, with my onion.  I know my picture is not a great one, but if you can see it, the recipe is not fussy at all.  No crazy ingredients, no fancy seasoning, just your salt and pepper.  Plus, in our world of modern conveniences, I didn’t even have to make Betty’s pastry for a 2 crust pie.  I had refrigerator pie dough on hand and I knew I was well on my way to pot pie success! Plus, the method is so easy that I may never need to consult the recipe again!

One other thing, I like to find ways to make comfort food a bit more healthy.  For example, when I make homemade macaroni and cheese, I’ll use 2% milk, whole grain pasta, and lower fat cheeses. I firmly believe that if you cook with quality, healthy ingredients, you can eat more because you’re eating well.  So, when I wanted to make my pot pie, I applied the same idea and used 2% milk, low sodium broth and only one pie crust, instead of the two.   I also like to minimize the post-cooking clean-up, so I did it all in my small, but always reliable cast iron enamel ware dutch oven.

This was the first time I’ve EVER made pot pie from (almost) scratch.  I will never buy pot pies from the freezer section again!  This was creamy, comfort food perfection!

The truth of the matter is this, my dinner was saved by Betty.  This should be everyone’s go-to, whether you’re someone like me who is really at home in the kitchen, or whether you’re a kitchen novice.  You can’t go wrong, and you may just learn something new along the way if you really pay attention to all of the wisdom packed into this book!  If this book is already sitting on your shelf, pull it down flip through it.  You’ll find something that pushes you into your own kitchen and makes you remember why this is, as it should be, an American standard.

Happy Cooking!




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