Back to Basics

Over the weekend I read Saving Dinner Basics: How to Cook Even If You Don’t Know How by Leanne Ely.

Let me first preface this to say I do know my way around the kitchen. I wouldn’t label myself as a gourmet chef, but I know how make tasty meals, keep my kitchen clean and organized, and also fiddle with recipes to make them my own. If I wasn’t before, my son’s allergies have made me friends with my pots and pans. That being said, this book was very enjoyable, even it is aimed more at rusty cooks or beginners in the kitchen.

Leanne is part of the FlyLady team, her own Saving Dinner website and has authored several books. Her goal is to bring the family back to the dinner table, and to help families cook up relatively easy and healthy meals. These goals fit in with my own. While she uses a crockpot, she doesn’t believe in canned soups (hooray!). Basting is unnecessary. Extra kitchen gadgets are only clutter — you need only what you will use…and she covers what you will need.

Her book covers these basics (from Amazon’s review):

• equipping your kitchen: what you must have, what you don’t need
• stocking your cupboards, fridge, and freezer with the essentials
• selecting fresh produce and high-quality meats, poultry, and fish
• slicing, dicing, sautéing, simmering, and other prep techniques
• whipping up quick, scrumptious dishes with ingredients on hand
• ensuring that your main course and side dishes are ready at the same time
• preparing mouthwatering one-pot meals, from Lemon Tarragon Chicken to Easily the Best Casserole in the World
• baking fast and easy cookies, pies, cakes, and cobblers

Each chapter ends with useful recipes. There’s even a short review on how to set a table properly, but not overdone.

For me, the book was affirming. I was relieved I was on track and had many of the basics down. However, I do not chop onions with a “claw” hold which I will try to adapt after her suggestions. There were other suggestions I could implement, also. One of my favorites was what to keep in the pantry for those “emergency meals” — when the fridge is empty and no time or money to spare for grocery shopping. She has several recipes just for this kind of “pantry cooking” that are both healthy and delicious.

But I kept thinking this is the perfect book for beginner cooks, college students, teens started to plan meals at home, and the new brides in the kitchen. It’s also perfect for those trying to get back into the groove in serving regular dinners at home. And it’s enjoyable reading for even those who are good cooks.

The language is not technical, just some brief overviews and touchpoints. It’s enough to get anyone, from a beginner to a seasoned mom, motivated to try and do better in the kitchen, but to not be bogged down by insignificant details that can take away from your aim — to bring the family together at dinnertime.

Addendum: Since I do try to keep things allergy free in our kitchen, I did want to mention that I found several recipes in this book that I could use or easily adapt to be free of wheat, dairy and eggs…but also something that sounded appetizing to me. One section I had to completely skip was her suggestion for breakfast for dinner. Although it’s something I love, pancakes, omelettes and other egg dishes aren’t happening at this house in the evening for my son.