“Barefoot Contessa’s How Easy is That?” – Our Verdict

Maureen: I thought it was good, but it felt really dated to me.

Kirstin: Did it?

Maureen: Some of the recipes felt like they were about 7 years old. There was lots of balsamic vinegar used, for example.

Kirsin: The book is old, right?

Maureen: That would explain it!

Kirstin: It’s 2011 book, but it doesn’t come across like that at all.

Maureen: What did you think?

Kirstin: The recipes I cooked were amazing, and they all worked. There were no issues with it at all. There were a lot of real winners here, including the roast chicken, chicken with the lemon and the balsamic roast beef. And I love that she asks How Easy is that? Well, super easy!

Kirstin: I would recommend the chicken with the lemon because it made the house smell amazing. A phenomenal recipe as well.

Maureen: I”m trying to remember what we liked, but what really stood out were the bangers and mash, which were a disaster.

Kirstin: What about the cakes?

M: They were delicious. The salmon was delicious. We loved the lamb chops. I’m still not sure if I’m going to keep the book, but we certainly ate well this month.

“Barefoot Contessa How Easy Was That?” by Ina Garten: Our Conclusion

  • Overall Grade (A- F): A (Kirstin): The children really liked all of the recipes and they all worked. (Maureen) I would have given it an American C+, but we’re sticking just to letter grades. It was a good cookbook, but not particularly inspiring.
  • Best recipes:  Chicken and Lemon. Balsamic Roast Beef. (Kirstin) Herb salmon. Greek lamb with yogurt mint sauce (Maureen)
  • Grade for Photography (A-F): B/C  She makes it all look like a Martha Stewart magazine. But I get that she’s trying to make it approachable. No food stylist for her!
  • Any disasters? Kirstin: No. Maureen: Yes. We’re still having nightmares about the bangers and mash.
  • Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Kirstin: Bookshelf. If it hadn’t been a gift, it might have headed to the charity shop. Maureen: I haven’t made up my mind yet. I might send it home with my mom, so it can return to its American roots.
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“Barefoot Contessa’s How Easy is That?” – Our Verdict

“Gwyneth Paltrow’s Notes from my Kitchen Table” – Our Verdict

Kirstin: This book has been sitting on my shelves for a good long while now and while I wasn’t convinced before, I am now!

Maureen: I got it as a Christmas present from my friend Anne. Brave woman, giving me a cookbook since I have more than 130, but I was willing to give it a go. I was pleasantly surprised that there were some really good recipes in it. But there also were a few that just didn’t work. Just like many cookbooks.

Kirstin: Tthat salmon teriyaki has actually been requested by Ella on a weekly basis since I first made it. That makes it worth the price of the book, if you ask me!

Maureen: The vegetarian chilli was a real winner. I’m definitely going to make it again. The roasted chicken was also good. It annoyed me, though, that she had so many recipes using lobster, tuna and dover sole. Maybe in your life, Gwyneth, but not in mine. If only I were millionaire movie star married to a millionaire rock star.

Kirstin: She talks about her family a lot. There’s also a lot of pictures of her in the book, which may or may not have been necessary.

Maureen: Isn’t it strange she doesn’t once mention her husband, Chris Martin of Coldplay? She talked about her parents ad naseaum and even talks about her children, but he doesn’t feature at all. It’s almost as if he got a proof of the book, took a red pen, and crossed out all references to himself.

Kirstin: I agree. That was strange.

Maureen: I hear Gwyneth has a new book out later this year.

Kirstin: I might be tempted to have a peek at it and who knows, maybe even buy it!

Maureen: I’m not so sure. If it calls for more lobster and tuna, the answer is no.

“Notes from my Kitchen Table” by Gwyneth Paltrow: Our Conclusion

  • Overall Grade (A- F): B (Kirstin) (Maureen) Some real winners and some losers. Not an outstanding cookbook, but not a disaster either. Average.
  • Best recipes: Vegetarian chilli and roasted chicken (Maureen) Salmon teriyaki (Kirstin)
  • Grade for Photography (A-F): C  Not particularly inspiring, unless you want to see lots of pictures of Gwyneth. Bit sure where her husband is in any of the shots either! That was very curious.
  • Any disasters? Kirstin: No! Not one. But the recipes weren’t all that adventurous. Maureen: Yes. The roasted cauliflower was burned to a crisp by following her directions. The idea was a good one, so I’ll try it again purely on instinct.
  • Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Maureen: Bookshelf. If it hadn’t been a gift, it might have headed to the chairity shop. Kirstin: Bookshelf. I might photocopy the salmon teriyaki recipe and leave that on the shelf. 
“Gwyneth Paltrow’s Notes from my Kitchen Table” – Our Verdict

“Food” – our verdict

Maureen: What did you think?

Anna: I loved this. As I predicted!

Maureen: While the recipes didn’t seem to reinvent the wheel, they were all pretty good. We didn’t have any disasters, and it had some really good options to try.  In fact some of the recipes were real winners. I’ve already made the courgette pasta dinner again, and the guacamole recipe is one I will definitely use again.

Anna: I ran out of time to try everything that I wanted to make. I will definitely be going back to some of the recipes I did, and also making some of the ones I didn’t.

Maureen: I have to say that our plan of being vegetarian did not go so smoothy. It was pretty short. In fact, it only lasted a day and a half, after we decided to go to Hawksmoor for lunch. Yes, I know the best steakhouse in London has vegetarian options, but I chose not to pursue those. It is genetically impossible for me to resist a steak. Yum!

Anna: I asked Peter if he was up for eating vegetarian for a week and I got a resounding ‘no’ in reply. But in the end we did eat about 80% vegetarian one week and he didn’t complain or even notice I think. Which is testament to this book. I didn’t miss meat at all, which I think is the McCartney veggie objective, so well done Mary.

Maureen: While my vegetarian experiement failed, the one thing this cookbook did do was it made me think more about the fruit and vegetables we do eat, and how we should eat more of them.

Anna: There were certainly more vegetables in our fridge this month than usual, and we’re not shy of a vegetable or two. This book was fab.

“Food” by Mary McCarthy: Our Conculsion

  • Overall Grade (A- F): B. A great vegetarian cookbook for everyday with very nice photographs.
  • Best recipes: Lemon and Courgette Spaghetti. (Maureen) Mexican Bean Tortilla (Anna)
  • Grade for Photography (A-F): A. Beautiful photography. Kirstin gave her additional points for the fact that she uses film, not digital.
  • Any disasters? No.
  • Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? Bookshelf.
“Food” – our verdict