Simon and Schuster sent me a copy of the new cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld, who is famous for her Deceptively Delicious cookbook, as well as for being Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld. The Can’t Cook Book is aimed at people who are inexperienced in the kitchen and are, in Seinfeld’s words “Absolutely Terrified.”.
I wish this book had been in existence when I moved into my first apartment, because I was someone who didn’t know a roasting pan from a bundt pan. I lived on popcorn and broccoli for a year, no word of a lie. I wish I had a book like this to talk me through all the steps of a recipe, to anticipate the parts of a recipe that an inexperienced cook might have trouble with, and to provide delicious ideas to boot. This book is excellent for beginner cooks: not only does it include sections describing measurements and kitchen tools, but there is also a how-to section with step-by-step photos detailing skills like zesting lemons and chopping garlic.
In short, this is an excellent book — but not just for beginners. Since the book is aimed at the inexperienced cook, the recipes are simple and quick to throw together, even on a busy weeknight. The photos are beautiful AND instructive, and the book itself is spiral bound, which is my favourite — it stays open for easy reference. I really cannot say enough about The Can't Cook Book, and I plan to use the meat section when cooking for my family — something I am not altogether confident about, being a longtime vegetarian.
Some of the recipes I’m looking forward to trying are the Sweet Cherry Tomato Pasta, the Roasted Eggplant and Cherry Tomatoes, and the Chocolate Chia Drops. There are also three different kinds of kale salads, and anyone who knows me personally will realize how exciting that is. All hail kale!
The recipe I chose to share with you is the Slow Cooker Lasagna, which worked out great even though I a) do not have a slow cooker, and b) I substituted the cheese for non-dairy alternatives. I was a little nervous (proving that even experienced cooks get nervous) putting this in the oven when it called for a slow cooker, but on low heat the oven worked just fine. I chose this recipe primarily because it looked delicious, and also because of the Seinfeld episode in which Elaine and Puddy refer to a passenger on a plane as “Vegetable Lasagna.” I may have said VEGETABLE LASAGNA in that manner continuously throughout the day, whenever some unsuspecting soul in my house asked “What's for dinner? What smells so good?”
Tools needed: 5 to 6 quart slow cooker, 2 medium bowls, cutting board, chef’s knife, cheese grater, salad spinner, measuring cups and spoons, 2 spoons, paring knife
Finely chop the garlic (Nicole Note: I used my garlic press) and add to a medium bowl along with the tomatoes, oregano, salt, red pepper, and black pepper (about 12 turns on a pepper mill). In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella, and the Parmesan. Put the spinach in a salad spinner, wash, and spin dry. Now you’re ready to assemble.
In the bottom of a 5 to 6 quart slow cooker, spread a thin layer of the sauce. (Nicole Note: I used a 9x13 inch pan). Top with 4 of the noodles (breaking to fit as necessary). Spread 1 1/2 cups of the sauce over the noodles (be sure to cover completely with sauce so the noodles don’t dry out). Layer with 2 cups of the spinach and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese mixture.
Repeat twice more with the noodles, sauce, spinach, and cheese mixture. Top with the remaining 4 noodles, sauce, and 1 cup mozzarella.
Cover and cook on low until the noodles are tender, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. (Nicole Note: I baked this in the oven at 200 degrees F for 3 hours and it was perfectly done). Test the noodles for doneness by inserting a paring knife in the centre of the lasagna (if it goes in easily, it’s ready). (Nicole’s Note: That’s what she said).
Copyright Jessica Seinfeld
*Look for The Can't Cook Book, published by Simon and Schuster Canada, in bookstores near you! No really, do it! It's a great book!
And we're giving away FIVE hardcover copies of Jessica Seinfeld's "The Can't Cook Book" thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada so you too can conquer all your kitchen fears! To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below and tell me what makes you nervous in the kitchen! You have until November 15, 2013 to enter. You must be a YMC member and please be sure you've registered your email address in our commenting system so we can contact you if you win. Yummy Rules and Regs: You must be a YummyMummyClub.ca member to win. Click to sign up! It's free and filled with perks. One comment per member. Entries accepted until November 15, 2013. Contest open to Canadian residents (excluding Quebec). Winners will be picked using www.random.org. See full contest rules here.
A few weeks ago I was at the BlissDom Canada conference, and one of the lunches was sponsored by Canadian Lentils. I feel that lentils do not get the attention that they deserve. They don’t have the sexiest reputation; you say lentils and people conjure up images of macramé owls and orange wallpaper and some kind of vile concoction bubbling on the goldenrod coloured stove in the corner. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY.
Lentils can be prepared in so many different delicious ways, they are extraordinarily healthy, and they are incredibly inexpensive. One of the speakers at the conference was one of my favourite people, Julie van Rosendaal, who wrote an entire book on beans and lentils called Spilling the Beans. I highly recommend it.
I’ve adapted one of the recipes from that book; pumpkin chocolate chip loaf. I’ve made it vegan, and it is truly delicious, moist, and flavourful. I love making pumpkin recipes in the fall, and this one is a winner. My children love to take thick slices of this to school, it’s a perfect snack! This recipe makes two loaves; it freezes well, or you could share the love and take a loaf to a friend or neighbour. Make friends and influence people via lentil-enriched snack loaf.
Put the lentils and 2 cups of water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes; lentils should be very soft. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together 3 tablespoons of ground flax and 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of water. Set aside in the refrigerator.
Add the 1 1/2 teaspoons of vinegar to the 1/2 cup of almond milk. Set aside.
In a large bowl stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Combine the cooked lentils, pumpkin, canola oil, almond milk/ vinegar mixture, ground flax mixture, and vanilla in a food processor and process until very smooth.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stir until just combined. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
Bake in 2 greased 8x4 inch loaf pans at 350 degrees for one hour. Cool completely before slicing into it and enjoying!
Yield: 2 loaves
Adapted from Spilling the Beans
Sometimes life has a way of teaching you what you need to know. The other day I had it in my mind to make caramel apples, something I had never done before but I felt that it would be an expression of autumnal love. I imagined the children coming home from school to a counter full of luscious Granny Smith apples coated in a thick caramel; I imagined wrapping the apples in Halloween-motif cellophane for the children to take to their teachers. An apple for the teacher—how idyllic. I even imagined the photos I would take and the piece I would write about the caramel apples. "Halloween Apples!" I would title it. So perfect in my mind.
Here's what actually happened: the children came home from school to several bubbling pots full of different kinds of caramel sauce sitting on the stove, globs of caramel sauce on the countertops and on the floor, and nine naked Granny Smith apples skewered with chopsticks plus one apple sitting in a pool of caramel sauce that—despite my absolute best efforts—would not stick to said apple. I tried different recipes. I tried heating the caramel. I tried cooling the caramel. I tried scuffing up the apple peel. NOTHING worked. I fail at caramel apples, I thought to myself. The whole afternoon, wasted.
My boys, sensing my apple-related despair, rallied. My nine-year-old told me that an apple on a stick was a treat in and of itself, even without the caramel, and to prove it he grabbed one and bit enthusiastically into it. My eight-year-old, who is making musical instruments out of recycled materials at school right now, said, "You know, Mom, my teacher says if our instrument doesn't turn out the way we want it to, maybe we can use it another way, and at least we're trying our best." That was exactly what I needed to hear. If it doesn't turn out the way I want it to, use it a different way! I sliced up the apples, poured the caramel into a little bowl, and served it up to the children for their afterschool snack. They loved it! Later I drizzled it on ice cream to make sundaes, and I swirled it into a pan of brownies I was making for the Parent Association meeting. This morning the boys told me they were looking forward to apple slices and caramel sauce again after school. It worked out pretty sweet, for a failure.
In a large saucepan, stir together sugars and water and bring to a boil on high heat.
Reduce heat to medium, allow to simmer undisturbed for ten minutes, until sauce is a dark caramel colour.
Remove from heat, stir in coconut milk and vanilla extract.
Allow to cool completely before serving with apple slices, or drizzling over ice cream, or swirling into your favourite brownie recipe.