November 17, 2013

101 Things to Eat Before You Die(t) by Anneka Manning

Ok, so you know right away from the cover this is going to be a book full of delicious foods.  Because you're not supposed to have them while dieting.  And it's true.  Almost everything in here is delicious.  In fact, the cover is falling off of my copy because I've used it so much.  As of November 2013, I have made 27 of the 101 recipes in this book and there are still tons that I'd like to make. 

The book is separated into four different sections.  Nibbles, Snacks & Things in Small Packages, Soups & Mains for Hearty Eaters, Pasta, Rice & Noodles, and Vegetarian Plates.  There are no desserts in this book, but the author has another book full of those that if it's even half as good as this one, it will be full of good stuff.

Nibbles, Snacks & Things in Small Packages is of course the appetizer section of this book.  But really, a lot of them could be made into full meals.  The first recipe, Beef Nachos, took kind of a long time to make.  It had good flavor, but wasn't overly different than the dips you can get at the store.  The Quesadillas were fantastic though and very simple to make.  I liked the use of the taco seasoning in the mix.  Fried Ham and Cheese Sandwiches were somewhat plain but definitely old style comfort food.  Being that I'm living in the South now, I also tried the hushpuppies, which weren't your standard hushpuppies but very good.  And they cooked quick.  If you like Shrimp Scampi, the Garlic Shrimp will fit the bill.  One of the less favored recipes in this section was the Ham and Pineapple Pizza Wheels.  They were pretty but didn't have a lot of flavor.  A standout recipe, in comparison, was the Honey-Garlic Ribs.  They had great flavor.  Just a bit sweet with a kick.

Another interesting recipe in the appetizer section was the Corn Pancakes with Bacon and Maple Syrup.  This is a wonderful mix of flavors and I can't believe I'd  never had it until this book.  They reheated well too.  The Fried Potatoes with Garlic Mayo was a little too tangy for me, but the potatoes crisped up nice.  The Potato and Coriander Samosas had kind of a plain flavor.  And there was a lot of extra that there wasn't enough dough for.  But that was tasty on its own.  The Sausage Rolls cooked well and you can make them as spicy as you want depending on the type of sausage.  There seemed to be a good representation of Mexican food in this book, and the Tortilla Flutes were one of the first recipes I made.  I liked them, but loved them when I added cheese to the recipe.  Same with the burritos.

I didn't make as many recipes in the Soups and Mains section.    The Chicken Laska involved a lot of ingredients and wasn't as flavorful as I expected from the amount of spices in it.  It was good, but not fantastic.    The Chili Pork Ribs though were full of flavor and I'd recommend making extra sauce as you're going to want it.  Chili con Carne was easy to make and tasted like a standard, good chili.    The Classic Burger with Barbecue Sauce was very full of onions and delicious because of it.  And the sauce recipe was so easy to make you wouldn't believe it.  Quiche Lorraine was great, but not near as thick as the picture would lead you to believe. 

Pasta & Rice was my favorite section.    The Vietnamese Fried Rice had a lot of good stuff in it and was very good at hiding vegetables in a delicious dish.  Pastitsio was interesting, especially in its use of lamb and the topping made of yogurt was the best part.    It's hard not to like gnocchi and the use of bacon in the dish in this book just puts it over the edge.  Same with the spaghetti carbonara.  Quick to make, it uses cream and bacon as well and everyone loves that!  The paella was as good as most paellas, although it called for some pricy ingredients.    For those that like a plain spaghetti, the bolognese had all the meat you could want and you could definitely taste the wine. 

My favorites out of this section were the Singapore Noodles and the Spanish Noodles.  The Singapore made use of char siu (which I had to scour the Chinese markets for) and little vermicelli and was so good I couldn't stop eating it.    Same with the Spanish noodles.  They used a lot of pork, some great seasonings, and a picada sauce that tied it all together.  And it was easier to make than I thought it would be.

Lastly was the Vegetarian section.  Because they have good food too.  The Pasta Boscaiola was just as good as the other pastas, and was quick to make.  It's actually the only recipe I made in this section.  But there's a lot of cheese in most of them.  Which always makes for a good thing. 

Most of the ingredients in this book are easy to find.  Although there are a few that may be out of some budgets (saffron) or ability to find (char siu).  But since there is such a wide variety that just means you can go on to something else that is tasty.  And most of the recipes are easy enough for a beginner to make.  There are some that use a lot of ingredients, but the method and directions are clear to follow.

The book is quite beautiful too.  Almost every recipe has a full sized picture (a few have smaller ones) that takes up a whole page.  And all is in bright vivid color.  Including the cover.  In fact, the pictures made me try quite a few dishes I might not have otherwise tried because they looked so good.  There are notes on some of the recipes for added tips, and serving amounts listed as well.  There's also a standard index. 

I would definitely recommend this cookbook.  It may not be one you can use every day because of its heavy ingredients, but it's one  you will want to use every day.  Because the food is just that good.


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