Friday, September 23, 2011

Up Next: Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats

I have a dirty little secret to confess. I understand that I may lose all credibility and you may abandon me forever, and I won't blame you. Unless you're Matt, and then I will blame you. What I'm about to say is forbidden among all foodie-minded people, and Anthony Bourdain (who I adore) would string me up, no questions asked. Okay. Here goes nothing. Ahem.

I do not hate Rachael Ray. In fact, I kind of like her. And by "her," I don't really mean Rachael, the personality. She can be pretty annoying, and the cutesy-cutesy abbreviation stuff is more than I can bear. When I say I like "her," I mean her food.

I'll give you a moment to collect yourself.

I'm aware that a person can't churn out new recipes at breakneck pace without repeating herself or concocting strange things that don't taste good, but in my memory, most of the recipes I've tried have worked. Mind-blowing? No. But they're good, solid, different meals. Rachael is not afraid of spice, which is not always the case in the Food Network universe. I don't think I've ever called one of her recipes bland. They've had other problems, but bland wasn't one of them. I appreciate that she doesn't pretend to be a chef. I thought her handling of the whole hyped-up "feud" with Martha Stewart was pretty classy. She seems grateful for her success, and it's fun to see someone having fun, even if I have to control the urge to punch the tv when she says "Yum-o."

That said, this was the first cookbook I bought myself after college, and I haven't used it much since those first few years on my own. My tastes and abilities in the kitchen have improved a lot over the past ten years, so I'm curious to see if I still enjoy these recipes as much as I did before I had any clue what I was doing. 

Experimentation upon Matt over the years has shown that he likes her recipes when he doesn't know they're from Rachael Ray, and hates them when he does know where they came from. This should be interesting. He got home from work last night, saw the book laying on the table, and moaned, "Noooo, PLEASE don't tell me you're doing this next." Sorry, my love. I am. And you are too. hee hee.

I own two of Rachael Ray's cookbooks, so get used to the idea of seeing her again at some point in the future. I'll give it a while in between. This round, I'll explore 365: No Repeats.
Now, my complaints about this book:

The format is awful. It often provides a "master recipe", and then swaps/adds ingredients to give  a very different take on the same dish. I like the idea, but, the times I've tried to cook from the variations, it's been very difficult to follow along, because the whole recipe is not re-printed with new instructions. She just tells you what to add, swap, and omit, and includes additional instructions on the side. Trying to edit the master recipe as I'm cooking does not work for me, especially when the variation's instructions are on a different page from the master recipe. Who can keep track of that??

The book has no organization. At all. I guess the idea is that you could cook your way through it in order for 365 days and have 365 totally different meals on the table. The recipes also have long, "cute" titles that would make it extremely difficult to find a recipe that you wanted to cook again without going through the whole book page by page.

It's ludicrous that Rachael says she can't post nutritional info in her cookbooks because she doesn't measure when she cooks. Well, that's fine, but written recipes include measurements, so base it off that or just fess up to the truth, which I'm guessing is that she's afraid for people to know the nutritional breakdown of her meals. I've heard her claim to cook a healthy Mediterranean diet. She and I must have very different ideas of what that means. I always laugh on her show when she says to use 2 tablespoons of oil, and then coats the entire pan.

My only other comment is that I never EVER get food on the table in only thirty minutes. Maybe I'm a slow chopper. I consider these to be 45-60 minutes meals. Just for kicks, I'll time how long it takes me to get this food on the table, since that is Rachael's whole shtick.

Whew! That was a lot of complaining. Sorry--just felt all that stuff should be addressed. Now that that's out of my system, I do still believe that there is a place for Rachael's type of cooking in my life. She provides a big variety of tasty, quick meals at affordable prices, and for that, I applaud her.

I also have an ulterior motive, which is that I'm hoping that some of these homestyle type of cheesy, comfort-food meals will appeal to Charlie. I won't hold my breath.

Now, let's put her to the test...


  1. Ugh. I had to control myself there for a minute since I'm not a fan of Rachael, the personality or her food. But, I understand your wanting to cover this cookbook. So, I will remain a faithful blog reader! Just a note on the organization of her cookbook. The format sounds similar to Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in which Julia starts with a master recipe and follows it with variations without repeating the master. Okay for Julia. Not okay for Rachael for she is no Julia. Okay, I'm done with my Rachael tirade for now. =D

  2. Totally understandable, yummychunklet. It's in my collection, so I had to get around to it eventually. I wanted to do it now so that I don't have to cover her other book too soon. I feel so ashamed for liking her. lol!

    Rachael is definitely no Julia. No arguments here. Not that I've ever cooked any Julia, but I trust her reputation.

  3. I totally get the polarity with RR. While she does get to me sometimes too, I will forever be grateful to her for inspiring Jambalazy!!!!

  4. Congratulations on winning the very cool cookie press from Foodiva! Rachel makes some yummy meals and she is a big advocate for extra virgin olive oil which is healthy;-)

  5. I have to say I have had a lot of success with her recipes. My boyfriend is a picky eater and he likes her stuff a lot, which means I cook them ...a lot. Plus they tend to be easy things I can put together with stuff I already have. Her balsamic chicken and rustic meat and bean pot are go-too recipes in this house.

  6. You know, I can't rag on RR - she gave me my cooking "training wheels" (plus she's from my neck of the woods).
    Her first couple of cookbooks (The 1st Thirty Minute Meals & her Open House Cookbook) remain a couple of my most used cookbooks to this day... I truly think those two books are gems.

  7. To funny, I was laughing out loud as I read your post. I have one favorite Rachael Ray chicken recipe which I downloaded from the web years ago, but then I also have an untouched cookbook of hers, so I'll be curious to see how your project goes. In the end it is the food that matters, not the personality.