cooking the books 01


As I write this second post documenting my efforts to cook at least one recipe from every cookbook the Library owns, it strikes me how impossible this task may be. Ah, well. If I fail, I hope to fail deliciously. 

In the last month I've hardly done any cooking, and I think it's due to a condundrum summed up so well in Seinfeld's "Nighttime Guy vs. Morning Guy" routine. When it comes to cooking, there are several different Erikas. 10 AM Erika thinks she can do anything; she has boundless energy, she's working in a mostly clean and organized office, and she comes up with ideas like, "Cook a recipe from every cookbook ever!". The problem is that 10 AM Erika has a tendency to make plans that 6:30 PM Erika can't possibly follow through on. 6:30 PM Erika is tired; 6:30 PM Erika goes home to a house ruled by an energetic toddler, and inbetween feeding him and stepping over various configurations of Lego, 6:30 PM Erika isn't remotely interested in cooking anything, let alone cooking something that might require her to julienne carrots or "stir constantly for 10 minutes or until thickened." 

At first I thought that the slow cooker would be my answer, but 7 AM Erika is even less with-it than these other Erikas, and is working hard just to get to work on time because midnight Erika thought it would be a good idea to watch "just one more" episode of The Good Wife. So, finally realizing that I needed to try to different approach or resign myself to endless dinners of frozen pizza and mac and cheese, I wandered into the 641.555 section which contains nearly every book by Rachel Ray and an assortment of other "fast and easy" meal cookbooks. While browsing this section, THE THREE INGREDIENT COOKBOOK by Jenny White caught my eye, because in addition to cooking, guess what else 6:30 PM Erika hates? You got it: grocery shopping. Three ingredients seemed right up my lazy alley. 

As I browsed the recipes, some of them seemed to be cheating a little bit (does it count as three ingredients if one of the ingredients is pancakes? Seems like a sneaky way to put in 7 additional ingredients to me...), and some of them called for fancy ingredients I don't typically stock in my pantry, but I did find several recipes that seemed fast, easy, yummy, and that used things I already had in my pantry. Bonus: this cookbook has a whole section on simple accompaniments to help you go beyond main-dish planning and round out your meal. 

I finally decided to make Honey Mustard Chicken because it calls for things that I almost always have. If you're not the kind of person who always has a nice wholegrain or course ground mustard in your fridge, repent immediately and buy some; it's an easy way to pack a lot of flavor into a dish without a lot of effort. As I watched this dish cook I was a bit worried that it wouldn't be very flavorful because the honey mustard mixture kept slipping off the chicken, but I kept basting as the recipe suggests and was happy to discover that it was really flavorful. I served this with a simple pasta salad made with vegetables from my garden and some fresh mozzarella, and my husband and I were well-fed. The toddler ate the salad and kept saying he was eating "snakes", which was adorable and maybe just a bit terrifying. 

honey mustard chicken

Honey Mustard Chicken
by Jenny Smith


8 chicken thighs 
4 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
4 tablespoons clear honey


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the chicken thighs in a roasting pan in a single layer. 

2. Mix together the mustard and honey, season with salt and ground black pepper to taste and brush the mixture all over the chicken thighs. 

3. Cook for 25-30 minutes, brushing the chicken with the pan juices occasionally, until cooked through. (To check the chicken is cooked through, skewer it with a sharp knife; the juices should run clear.)

 *Chicken thighs have a rich flavor, but if you want to cut down on fat, use four chicken breast portions instead and cook for 20-25 minutes. 





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