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Dinner: The Playbook: A 30-day Plan for Mastering the Art of the Family Meal by Jenny Rosenstrach (2014)

dinnerplaybookThis book has changed the way I use cookbooks. Dinner: The Playbook was super inspiring for me because it was made by someone who understands that not everyone has bajillions of hours in the day to be able to whip up a ten course meal. Jenny Rosenstrach is someone with a life outside of cooking, which makes her recipes far more relatable.

The recipes are separated into two categories: Go-To Weeknight Meals and Keep the Spark Alive Meals. The Weeknight Meals are neither stressful nor time intensive so you’re able to complete them after you get home from a busy day of working. She also provides tips what can be done ahead of time to make it go by even faster. Keeping the Spark Alive contains meals meant for when you have a day off and you feel like making something special for yourself and/or loved ones.

So far, I’ve tried three of her Go-to Weeknight meals (shrimp rolls, mac and cheese, and zucchini fritters)—and all three have been successes! A personal observation about the zucchini fritters: save them for a day you have more time than usual. While the recipe is simple, you have to dry the grated zucchini with towels (paper or cloth) before cooking it. It took what felt like forever (at least the effort was worth it!) but definitely not a meal when you just want to go straight to bed after eating. Out of the recipes I tried, the shrimp rolls by far were my favorite. Simple and quick, but absolutely delicious!

Check out this cookbook if you’re looking to spice up your everyday meals!

Devil's Food Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke (2012)

Had enough of summer heat and humidity? Why not escape to Lake Eden, Minnesota, in February and help Hannah Swensen solve another murder! Hannah’s adventures are intriguing, yet light. That's why the cliff hanger ending at the end of Devil's Food Cake Murder surprised me. Is it finally time for Hannah to choose between her two suitors?

I enjoyed the mystery and my family enjoyed Hannah's delicious Chocolate Euphoria Cookie Bars and Chocolate-Covered Raisin Cookies. Fluke's character uses chocolate to soothe murder induced stress and pry information out of potential suspects.

Check out Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook for all of Hannah’s recipes.

Life, On the Line by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas

Life, On the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas (2011)
Famous for both his innovative cooking and beating Stage 4 tongue cancer, Grant Achatz (rhymes with Patches) co-wrote this autobiography with his restaurant business partner. Their five star Chicago culinary mecca Alinea has won many accolades, including Gourmet Magazine’s Best Restaurant in America (2006) while Restaurant Magazine boosted Alinea to No. 6 in the world for 2011. Chef Achatz has won numerous personal awards, including "Best Chef in the United States" for 2008 from the James Beard Foundation.

It’s amazing to read about the untold hours Chef Achatz spends at his restaurant and surprising that anyone can get by on so little sleep. His life experiences ultimately stress the importance of love, friendship, passion for your work and being your own health advocate, even if a fifth medical opinion is what it takes to get the help you need.

The book includes many photographs, but my curiosity led me to look at live footage of Grant Achatz on You Tube.

Panini Express by Daniel Leader

Panini Express by Daniel Leader (2008)
As we were checking in books, we started salivating over the pictures of the sandwiches in this book. To celebrate a colleague’s last day, we made some of the paninis. Delicious!

Read the reviews at Amazon.com. For more staff cooking  recommendations check out our All Time Faves cooking booklist.

Fix-it and Forget-it 5-ingredient Favorites by Phyllis Pellman Good

Fix-it and Forget-it 5-ingredient Favorites: comforting slow-cooker recipes by Phyllis Pellman Good (2007)
Love, love, love this book! I included the broccoli dish for Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. All 20 guests requested it become a permanent dish on Thanksgiving. Very easy to make.

Check out other slow cooker cookbooks at our library and visit the author's website.

Spotlight: Baking

Spotlight: BakingEvery year, while the men watch a Bears game, the women in my family gather to bake Christmas cookies. At the end of the day, each lady goes home with a tray of cookies. This year I looked at these books to get ideas: