Every Christmas I buy myself a Christmas present, and it is always a cookbook. All fall I read the reviews of the new cookbooks and make a list of those that interest me. Then I go to a bookstore and make my survey. Very often those that sound the most wonderful in reviews are a disappointment in some way. Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food is one that didn’t wow me with its visual appeal when I saw it, but I bought it anyway. It’s a very good book, as one would expect from her. She is the queen of the whole foods movement, and I treasure the memory of the meal my husband and I had at Chez Panisse, her Berkeley, California restaurant. But the presentation, design and illustrations do not match the level of creativity of her recipes. While I use it as a workhorse for the recipes, it is not a book that I cuddle up with when I have a few minutes for a cup of tea and a whirl through inspirational pages.

This year winter started in early December where I live, in New Jersey. I never made it to a bookstore. I didn’t get my Christmas cookbook. The snowstorms have been relentless, about one a week, sometimes more. We still can’t get our back door open. It’s hard to turn corners because the snow piles cause poor visibility. But we endure; get out to work and the grocery store and not much else.

shed in snow 2

It’s hard to be creative when the main effort is spent on survival, and I have become bored with the usual weeknight dinners I make for my family. I tried a few new prepared dinners from Trader Joe’s, but we didn’t like them. We do love their barbecued pork, however, and that’s only ½ hour in the oven, and goes well with brown rice (Uncle Ben’s 10 minute family size rice-in-a-bag) and Trader Joe’s’ frozen green beans. http://www.cooktj.com/node/2903

One of the books I’d read about was Keepers, a cookbook by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion. Vicky Hyman reviewed it in the Star-Ledger: http://www.nj.com/food/index.ssf/2013/09/keepers_caroline_campion.html

keepers Because the idea of getting to a bookstore seemed like just too much work, I ordered the book from Amazon. It arrived the other day. And what a delight it is! No strange ingredients and no long daunting lists of ingredients. On the other hand, it’s not like some “simple easy weeknight dinner” cookbooks that offer recipes for “simple” dinners such as BLT sandwiches and describe how to make them. That I don’t need. I know how to make sandwiches. And my family won’t eat them for dinner anyway. They want a hot meal. And pasta no more than once a week. I need to know what to do when I have chicken breasts, broccoli and noodles on hand and want to combine them into something interesting. Keepers is that sort of cookbook. It’s got a recipe for green beans with sun-dried tomatoes. My family will eat that. And probably like it. Lasagna? I have made it twice in my life. Uggh, what an ordeal. I’m not Italian, my mother never made it, so it’s not in my blood. I’ve never even made baked ziti. But Keepers includes a recipe called “Skillet Lasagna” that I will definitely make. It says it takes less than an hour, and the ingredients include ½ cup of cream cheese, in addition to mozzarella cheese. That blows my mind, I can’t wait to try it. And aren’t we all trying to eat more kale? Their “Kale Carbonara” (with bacon) is high on my list. What’s more, Keepers is friendly. Appealing full page photos, clean design, lots of tips, entertaining head-notes. I’ll let you know how the recipes turn out after I make some of them, and review the book more thoroughly. Stay tuned.