Jennifer Dorland Darling, ed.
Ring Bound, 608 pages
Publisher: Wiley (August 23, 2010)
Rating (1 to 5 *): ***
I love cook books. I grew up in a house full of them. My sainted mother collected them and I do too. Many in my collection are mainly for reading – representatives of a distant past. Yes, I do cook from one or another periodically, but, for the most part, they are for my amusement. Then there are the cook books that are filthy and dog-eared. Cook books that get pulled off the shelf three times a week to look up little things. Cook books that get used. In Mom’s kitchen a red and white plaid 1940s edition of the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book was the go-to guide on all things. I know, others prefer the tonier Joy of Cooking or Betty Crocker, but I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the simple three-ring binder that was the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.
Now in its 12th edition since 1930, it still has the feel of the old one. The price? Phenomenal. See, some smart cookie over at Better Homes and Gardens (BHG) came up with the sweet marketing idea of producing a Bridal Edition and a Breast Cancer Awareness Edition as well as the normally fairly expensive standard edition. The price tag is typically around $29.95. Imagine my joy when I found a slightly smaller format version on the bargain book table at Border’s for $12.95! I could not pass it up.
The ring-bound format serves a couple of functions. Originally, BHG magazine printed recipe pages that you could add to your cook book, if you so desired. I do not know if they still do so, but it is not something that particularly interests me. Secondly, and more importantly, the book lies perfectly flat and open on the kitchen counter. This is huge. When you are referring to a cake recipe, for example, you can double and triple check proportions without having to find the recipe every time because the book flipped pages whilst you were mixing.
The content of the 12th edition seems familiar, and much of it is, but it has changed a good deal since Mom’s edition. I do not have the old one in hand to spot check, but I do recall the mulled cider recipe from the old version had a bit of orange and lemon juice added at the end, and the new version does not have that. On the other hand, the new book does seem to consider health benefits a bit more than the old one did, including nutritional information on each recipe with fat and calories included. No, it is not a diet book, but it has the ready information to integrate into your healthy eating plan.
The recipes are fun, but the real value of this book is the reference material. There are equivalency charts for converting measurements, discussions of the characteristics of different slow cookers and microwaves and the basics of grilling. No, this is not the Bible of classic cuisine, but it is a handy reference for just about anyone. The original BHG Cook Book was aimed at depression era housewives who learned a bit of cooking from their mothers, then were sent out to raise families of six on a shoestring budget. The new book has evolved from that, but it still has that practical backbone. I am sorry to say that it has lost something in abandoning some of the depression era recipes, but it has likely broadened its market. This is not a book that was created for the Food Network era, but it has made strides towards embracing that audience whilst not leaving its originally intended audience behind.
Would I snag this at full price? Probably not. Off the bargain table, however, it is not to be missed!
From the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, p. 339
Winter Pot Roast
Prep: 30 minutes Cook: 2 hours Makes: 6 to 8 servings
1 2 ½ to 3 pound boneless beef chuck arm or shoulder pot roast
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 14 ounce can beef broth
1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon peel
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 to 8 medium carrots and/or parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
1 large onion, cut into wedges
1 cup pitted dried plums (prunes), halved
½ cup dried apricots, halved
1/3 cup cold water
¼ cup all purpose flour
3 to 4 cups hot cooked noodles
1. Trim fat from meat. In a 4 to 6 quart Dutch oven brown meat in hot oil. Combine broth, lemon peel, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour over meat. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 1 ½ hours.
2. Add carrots, onion, plums, and apricots. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 30 to 40 minutes more or until meat is tender. Transfer meat, vegetables and fruit to a platter, reserving juices in Dutch oven; keep warm.
3. For gravy, measure juices; skim fat. If necessary, add enough water to juices to equal 2 ½ cups. Return to Dutch oven. Stir cold water into flour until smooth. Stir into juices. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Season to taste. Serve with meat, vegetables, fruit, and noodles.
Oven Directions: Trim fat from meat. Brown roast as directed above. Combine the broth, lemon peel, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper. Pour over roast. Bake, covered, in a 325°F oven for 1 ½ hours. Add carrots, onion, plums, and apricots. Cover and bake for 30 to 40 minutes more or until tender. Transfer meat, vegetables, and fruit to a platter, reserving juices; keep warm. Prepare gravy in a saucepan and serve as directed above.
Nutrition Facts per serving: 604 cal., 23g total fat (8 g sat. fat), 140 mg chol., 476 mg sodium, 58 g carbo., 7 g fiber, 42 g pro.
Daily values: 335% vit. A, 15% vit. C, 8% calcium, 41% iron
Exchanges: 1 Vegetable, 1 ½ Fruit, 2 Starch, 5 Lean Meat, 1 Fat