I may be a little late to the game, but I have to rave about this cookbook. Here's my review of Dinner:The Playbook.
I'm a big fan of the blog Dinner: A Love Story and I loved Jenny Rosenstrach's book of the same name, but when Dinner: The Playbook came out in 2014, I skipped it. I figured it was good, because Jenny does good work, but it seemed like a book for people that didn't know how to get dinner on the table and I foolishly thought I had that area of my life under control.
Fast forward to the great dinner rut of 2016. For the past three months my parents have been out of the country, which was no big deal, except it was a big deal. As a single parent with four young children, I've been lucky to have my parents nearby to offer help and support. And then they were gone.
Even before they left, I'd had plenty of time to accustom myself to the rigors of single parenting. I knew I could I handle it, but I also knew it would be significantly more difficult. My sister articulated it well when she said, "It's not like you can't do it all by yourself, it's just not very much fun." But we've survived the past few months and I've managed to stay mostly sane. However, I also let us slip into a big dinner rut.
On the book jacket of Dinner: The Playbook, it says: "When Jenny Rosenstrach's kids were little, her dinner rotation looked like this: Pasta, Pizza, Pasta, Burgers, Pasta." That's the kind of dinner rut we'd stumbled into lately. Balancing work/motherhood without much of a break for weeks on end combined with the daily struggle of feeding kids that are at best indifferent to the work and preparation of meals, and at worst particular and ungrateful, had me wanting to pick up a pizza more often than not.
And then I remembered this book and promptly got my hands on a copy (thank you Amazon). Now I have to rave about it because it's fantastic and I had to give myself a good hard swat for not getting it sooner. Seriously, we've eaten a dinner from this book every day for the last two weeks. It solved the great dinner rut of 2016, reminded me that I actually do like sitting down with my kids for a good family meal, and proved to me, once again, that no matter how harried life gets, it really is possible to make dinner happen.
Here's what's truly genius about Dinner: The Playbook:
- The recipes really are simple - most take about 20 to 30 minutes from start to finish - without fussy ingredients or techniques
- But even considering what I just said, they are delicious, family friendly meals, made with real ingredients
- Jenny gives you meal plans to use up your leftovers, make the most of your shopping list, and just generally simplify your dinner life
- Picky eaters are fully accounted for in this book. Thank you Jenny.
- Jenny is always realistic and though this book is about getting family dinner on the table, it doesn't make me feel guilty for getting pizza either.
- There is a lovely section of 25 recipes at the end of the book that Jenny calls"Keep-The Spark-Alive-Dinners" to remind you that "dinner is not just about eating."These are the meals that remind you to savor dinner, enjoy the meal, and fall in love with cooking again.
- And the most genius thing of all: such good recipes. Well written, delicious, quality recipes.
So, after two weeks of cooking from this book, the great dinner rut is becoming only an unpleasant memory and we're falling back in love with family dinner again. I feel compelled now, even though it may be old news at this point, to tell everyone I talk to about this book. If you are: Feeling yourself slip into a dinner rut, tired of picky eaters at the table, relying too much on pizza, feeling like you need a new dinner routine, or just wanting some reliable recipes for real life, get this book.
Some of our favorite recipes so far:
- Black Bean and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
- Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs with Potato-Carrot Hash
- Shrimp Rolls (oh, these are so good and so easy! )
- Vegetable loaded fried rice
- Pan Fried Whole Wheat Pizzas (still pizza, but homemade and without having to leave the oven on in the summer)
- Chicken Sausages with Kale Slaw
- Slow Cooker Korean Short Ribs (the kids vote this their number one dinner out of the book so far!)
- Pulled Barbecue Chicken Sandwiches
- Green Beans with Toasted Almonds and Mint (this side dish is my new favorite thing this summer - can't get enough!)
See why I'm looking forward to dinner again? Thank you Jenny, really.
And now that we've conquered the dinner rut and I'm back in the kitchen once again, I'm feeling excited about all the good things to eat. I've got some good recipes to share coming right up! Here's some links for some of the things we've eating lately (in addition to all the dinners from Dinner: the playbook, of course. I have a feeling it's going to be my best pal in the kitchen for a good long time!).
We've been eating loads of homemade popsicles because this is turning into the hottest summer ever here. These Coconut Mango Popsicles have been a big hit. And you can get some pointers on how to cut a mango perfectly here.
This is the time of year for good grilling, but I don't own a grill. Here are some tips for Better Stove Top Grilling.
Making Overnight Blueberry French Toast with fresh blueberries really makes my kids so happy. It's a good way to start the day.
Adding Fresh Herbs to your salads in the summer really takes them to the next level. Check out this recipe for Napa Cabbage Salad with Fresh Cilantro - so yum!
And speaking of salads, we're eating a lot of them this summer. Easy, light, and no oven required! Here's another good one: Asian Flavored Chicken Chop Salad.
What do you do when you hit a dinner rut?