You Can’t Eat Shoes

I have a confession to make.  I collect cookbooks the way some women collect shoes.  It’s a problem because I’m running out of shelf space and because Jim rolls his eyes every time a book sized Amazon box arrives at our door.

While there are plenty of cooking websites online that I can and do turn to for inspiration, there’s nothing that can take the place of real paper.  I love my entire collection–from the tattered old copy of Laurel’s Kitchen I had in high school to my treasured How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.

I happened to be at Whole Foods Market the other day with Sam and paused to look through a large selection of them on an end aisle (a marketing ploy that really works!).

The colorful cover of Cooking Light Real Family Food by Amanda Haas caught my eye.  I handed it over to the family food critic for a once over.  He enthusiastically agreed with my selection.

Here’s what we like:

  1. Use of photographs:  Every recipe gets a delicious looking full color picture.  Even the table of contents comes in thumbnail photos.  Great for your nonreaders…or anyone!
  2. Icons:  Haas employs icons to help you decide what to cook.  It’s easy to see if a recipe is vegetarian, can be prepared quickly, or is gluten or dairy free.  Love the Kids can Help icon which points out ways little hands can assist.
  3. Philosophy:  One Family One Meal Plan.  She focuses on menu planning, grocery shopping, budgeting, and simple cooking.  It certainly is a lot simpler if everyone eats the same thing.
  4. Recipes:  Lots of hits at our house.  Chili-Roasted Sweet Potato Nuggets (we’re becoming a household of sweet potato aficionados), Quiche Bites (pack in lunches!), Pumpkin Muffins, Cheesy Stuffed Shells With My Secret Tomato Sauce were all well received at the family dinner table.
  5. Readability:  Nicely laid out, attractive cookbook.  Recipes are preceded by a short informative introduction, easy to understand and nothing tricky in preparation.  Each is followed by full nutritional information. Nice.

My only regret is that the index is listed by main ingredient or type of food.  I often search for recipes based on the ingredients I have on hand.  Cabbage, for example, is not listed although there is a recipe for coleslaw.

To increase the nutritional content we’ve used brown rice and whole grain pastas and breads in place of the white counterparts.

If you’re looking for dinnertime inspiration, Amanda Haas, the founder of, has created a cookbook that helps parents make healthy and delicious family dinners happen.  Sam has requested the Pork and Mango Stir-Fry, and I still want to try the Chicken Divan.  We’re not done with this one yet.