Our Verdict: Smitten Kitchen Every Day

This is the second “Smitten Kitchen” book we’ve reviewed on this blog, and it was just as good as the first. However, while we really had a good month of eating, it wasn’t a truly excellent month of eating.

To be fair, Deb Perelman is enthusiastic, and that enthusiasm can be contagious. She could also be a spirit animal for our blog, since she started out as a blogger herself and then transformed herself into a New York Times bestselling author.

According to the tagline, the book would have, “Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites.” They might be unfussy and some might even be called triumphant, but it remains to be seen if any will become new favourites.

The good thing about this cookbook is she had a wide variety of recipes for all sorts of dishes– everything from breakfast to dessert and things in between. It was nice to have that much variety, but it also meant that the selection for particular dishes (such as for dinners) was a little bit shallow.

That said, I’d come back again and again and again for the brownie waffles. That recipe alone was worth the price of admission.

So this cookbook wasn’t a runaway success for us, but neither was it disastrous. It was just good.

“Smitten Kitchen Every Day”
Overall Grade (A- F):  B+/A- (depending on my mood) (Maureen)
Best recipes: Maureen: By a million miles, the recipe for brownie waffles. Yum. Yum. Yum.
Grade for Photography (A-F):  B.
Any disasters? Nope.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Maureen: Low-rotation bookshelf. There’s some good stuff in there, and I’ll need to keep the brownie waffle recipe handy, but other than that, I don’t think I’ll refer to it regularly.                                                                                            Would You Give This Book to a Friend?: Probably not.

Our Verdict: Smitten Kitchen Every Day

“Wild Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Andrew (18): Is there meat in this?

Maureen [Sarcastically, but above all, loving]: I dunno. What day is it? Is the clue in the name.

{Editor’s note: The day, in fact, is Monday. And Andrew will know that means Meat Free Monday.}

Andrew: It’s Monday. So, no.

Maureen: What do you think?

Andrew: It would be better with some bacon in it.

Maureen: Nearly everything could be improved with the addition of bacon. But that would defeat the purpose of a meat-free dish on a meat-free Monday.

Nicholas (14): I don’t like it. I’m not a fan of the mushrooms.

Tim: I think it’s nice.

Maureen: I agree.

Andrew: Can you even call it Shepherd’s Pie if there’s no meat in it?

Maureen: I refuse to get my phone out at the table to answer that question. I will find out later.

[Editor’s Note: According to Wikipedia, Andrew is right. It’s not a Shepherd’s Pie if there’s no meat in it. It is called, in fact, a “Shepherdess Pie.” There’s no explanation as to why a meatless pie would be feminine, but there we are.]

Maureen: Would you like me to make it again?

Tim: Sure, I liked it.

Andrew and Nicholas: No thanks. A regular Shepherd’s Pie is fine, but we’d rather have some meat.

“Wild Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“The Party Cake Builder” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Given that my dad’s life philosophy is, “Any excuse for a party,” I’ve got to say that I was initially attracted to the name of this recipe. Who wouldn’t want to know how to build a party cake? Count. Me. In.

The basic premise behind this recipe is that Deb gives you a foundation recipe that’s pretty simple and requires no unusual ingredients or multiple bowls. You then scale it up following the directions in the book depending on how big a cake and/or party you’re having. Absolute genius.

So we weren’t having a party on the day I made this cake, but following my dad’s life philosophy, I made it anyway. It went down a storm. Sure, it wasn’t the most exciting cake I’ve ever made, but it was really good and really easy. I’m fairly adept at making cakes, but I can imagine this would be the perfect recipe for someone who was a bit nervous about making a whole cake. (I feel your pain. The first cake I made [when I was 12, but still] was an utter disaster.) This would be a good place to start. It’s also a perfect recipe for when you need a lot of cake, like cupcakes for a school bake sale or a large sheet cake for a pot-luck dinner.

Everyone in this family loved it. It was really moist and the chocolate icing I made to go with it was lovely. I even pushed the boat out and used my American sprinkles (twice in one month! I KNOW), which made it look even prettier.

Party builder cake? Let’s do this.

“The Party Cake Builder” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“Meatballs Marsala with Egg Noodles and Chives” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Lucky for us, the first time I made this dish, I forgot to take a picture.

Our family were more than willing to give this another go, given how much they all liked it the first time. Regular readers will know that it’s highly unusual for us to return to something in less than a month, so I think that speaks to how good this was.  I kept calling it Swedish meatballs with noodles, but that’s not exactly right. It’s really a modification of Swedish meatballs with noodles, but no matter what you call it, it’s delicious.

I had to make a few changes to the recipe from the outset. First, she calls for minced chicken. I just couldn’t be asked to mince some chicken, so I bought some ready-made minced turkey instead. I can’t see how that would make much of a difference. Also, Deb calls for wide egg noodles, but I couldn’t find any in my local stores (this might be down to wide egg noodles being a readily found ingredient in the U.S., but not so much here in the U.K.) So I used fresh fettucine noodles instead. Those worked wonderfully.

The second time I made this, I made a few more modifications to the recipe to make it better and/or easier. The first thing I did is I doubled the amount of sauce she calls for in the recipe. Sure, it probably would be healthier for my family if we let up on the butter-and-double-cream sauce, but it was great to have plenty in which to drown both our meatballs and our noodles. There’s nothing worse than not having enough sauce. (We had a bit leftover, which I plan to turn into something delicious for lunch tomorrow.)

The other thing I did was rather than pan frying the meatballs, as per the instructions, I roasted them for 15 minutes instead. This made my life easier as I got on with making the sauce, but also meant that I didn’t have to dirty up another pan. Once they were roasted, I finished them off in the sauce.

Would we have them again? You bet. In fact, as he was hoovering up his dinner, Andrew turned to me and said, “I think this is something you’re going to need to teach me how to make for next year.” High praise indeed.

If you’d like to make this yourself, Shutterbean has the recipe. Click through here to find it.

Alternatively, if you’re in the mood for traditional Swedish meatballs, our fine friends from NYT Cooking have a recipe. Click here to see it. 

Or if you live near an Ikea, you now have a hankering for Swedish meatballs and you don’t feel like cooking (we’ve all been there), get yourself down there. Just search “Ikea” on Google Maps.

“Meatballs Marsala with Egg Noodles and Chives” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheddar” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Meat Free Monday!

Tomato soup is one of my favourites, so I was happy to give this one a go. In fact, five years ago on this very blog, I shared my easy you-could-do-it-in-your-sleep tomato soup recipe, which I’ve copied and pasted below. I still make it all the time, and love it.

The trick to this one, like the Gwyneth Paltrow recipe I reviewed five years ago, is to roast the tomatoes ahead of time. However, Gwynnie had us roasting the tomatoes for five hours (FIVE HOURS! Not a typo), whereas with this one, you only roast them for half an hour, which is far more reasonable. Consequently, the roasted tomatoes take on much more flavour than just using chopped tomatoes. Even Tim, who is not a fan of tomato soup, said he liked this one. So in the future, I definitely will roast some tomatoes if I have the time.

The other thing that I cheated on for this recipe was you were supposed to pour the soup into mugs, and then broil a grilled-cheese lid. I’m very wary of doing this, as I once had a bowl shatter that I thought could take the heat of the broiler but could not. So what I ended up doing was making the grilled cheese toasts under the broiler, and then popping them on the top of the soup once they were done. I also threw some extra cheddar cheese on to the top of the soup, just for good measure. I mean, what can’t be improved by the addition of more cheese?

As far as I was concerned, this was a winner.

Quick Tomato Soup, for when you’re starving and time is of the essence: Chop up one small red onion, either by hand or if you’re really hungry and want to eat ASAP, in your food processor. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of garlic olive oil, add onion. Once the onion is soft and fragrant, add one can of chopped tomatoes. Depending on how thick you like your soup, add either 1/2 can or 1 can of water, vegetable stock or milk. (I went milk. Yum.) Add one teaspoon each of oregano and basil. Boil until thick. You can either puree soup or keep it chunky, depending on your preference. Done. Time taken? (including set up) 7 minutes. Even Jamie Oliver would approve. 

“Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheddar” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“My Go-To Garlic Bread” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Yet ANOTHER recipe for garlic bread. This is a total cop out on my part, because obviously I know how to make garlic bread. But I also know that my family loves it in all of its guises, so I took this opportunity to make it again. After all, I’ve tested out several recipes on this blog, most recently Nigella Lawson’s cheesy garlic bread in November, so I’m happy to do it one more time.

So was this good? Let me answer that question with a fact: it uses 4 ounces of butter for one baguette. That is a very robust butter-to-bread ratio, and in this family at least, we approved. It’s very good, but again, I’m not sure my simple garlic bread recipe can be improved upon, where I just make garlic butter, slather it onto some bread, and then bang it under the broiler. In this version, you melt all the butter, add garlic and other seasonings to it, and then spoon it over the bread. I’m not convinced that melting the butter is going to make it substantially better. At the end of the day, garlic bread is garlic bread, isn’t it?

But still, everyone liked it. We’ll call it a win.

“My Go-To Garlic Bread” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Everyone should have liked this. It’s pretty much a risotto-adjacent dish, though you use farro instead of arborio rice. However, please note the use of the term, “should” because while I thought everyone would and should like this, not everyone did. And when I say, “not everyone” what I really mean is the teenagers.

I’m not really sure why they didn’t like it. It really was sort of like a risotto, and they love risotto, both traditional and Nigella’s fake (which is on permanent rotation in this house). But for whatever reason, the teens weren’t buying it. They didn’t like it and didn’t eat it. And anyone who’s met a hungry teenager will know that not eating when hungry is a very rare occurrence indeed.

The adults liked it, though. But I’m hardly going to make something again if half the house didn’t like it and wouldn’t eat it, so I don’t see this making a return to our dinner table any time soon.

You win some. You lose some.

“One-Pan Farro with Tomatoes” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“Blackout Brownie Waffle Sundae” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

Let’s start this cookbook off with a bang. I mean, come on! Look at this picture! If you’re not salivating over this, please check yourself for a pulse. Even the penguins seem envious.

The genius idea behind this recipe is to find a new use for your waffle maker. In this case, rather than making bog standard breakfast waffles– which frankly are always delicious– you can kick it up to 11 by making brownie waffles. It’s such a genius idea I’m sorry I didn’t think of it first.

When I made this as an afternoon snack on a recent wintery afternoon, both sons were making very appreciative noises as they hoovered it down. I turned to Andrew, who will be leaving for university in September, and said, “Please remember this after-school snack of deliciousness when you’re digging into your pot noodle after a hard day of classes. Then, I want you to pick up the phone, call me and say, ‘I miss you, Mom.’ ”

{He promised he would. We’ll see.}

While delicious, the thing to bear in mind about this particular snack is it is very, very rich. The recipe includes instructions on how to make not only the brownie waffles, which would be good just on their own, but also the chocolate sauce that you pour over both the ice cream and the whipped cream. It’s a lot of yumminess, so be prepared. But it is so, so good.

The eagle-eyed among you may also notice the inclusion of brightly coloured sprinkles, which are unavailable over here in Europe and the United Kingdom due to the massive amount of E numbers required to make the fun colours. Readers, I have friends and family bring me large tubs of these whenever they’re visiting from the U.S. so we always will have sufficient amounts of fun sprinkles. Life is too short to be eating dull sprinkles.

Will we be eating this again? Yes. Yes. Yes. Maybe next time I’ll make some for the penguins too.

“Blackout Brownie Waffle Sundae” from “Smitten Kitchen Every Day”

“Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a weekend treat for us. And when I say “treat,” I really mean it.

These cookies were unbelievably delicious. But also, given that they took two days to make, they were a labour of love. I’m sure I could have completed them in one afternoon, but spreading the process over two days seemed to make it easier somehow.

First I had to make the peanut butter cookie batter. That was a pretty straightforward process, but then they had to set in the freezer. Rather than doing that, I put them in the refrigerator overnight. I would have used one of my reliable cookie cutters to make shaped cookies, but my 10-year-old helpers weren’t so keen on the labour intensity of that task, so we just cut the cookie logs instead. They shapes weren’t uniform, but they were close enough, and that’s a much easier way to do that step.

After baking, you then have to fill them with the chocolate (yum). I thought it was much easier to do this with a piping bag, but if that seems too challenging for you, just use some teaspoons. The end result is beautiful, if I do say so myself, and tastes even better.

For anyone who loves Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (and I’m going to enthusiastically raise my hand here) these cookies could be described as heavenly. But after 15 years of living in the U.K., where Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups do not enjoy the same adulation as they do in the U.S., I know that they are an acquired taste.


“Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

“Mustard Milanese with a Rocket Fennel salad” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

Kirstin: So Georgia watched me make this recipe, complete with mystery ingredient.

Miles: What is it? I love the taste of this chicken!

Tom: Yes, there’s a little something extra on the chicken. And as for that salad, it’s totally delicious!


Kirstin: Both of them have copious quantities of mustard in them. In the dressing and on the chicken. And Tom and I have a little extra on the top of the chicken, because Deb Perelman says we will thank her for it. And we do! We do!

Ella: But I don’t like mustard!

Kirstin: But you like this chicken, right?

Miles: I would love to eat this chicken again.

Kirstin: I shall see what can be arranged.

“Mustard Milanese with a Rocket Fennel salad” from “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”