Books I Cook On is an event I’m doing for January where I review one of my top 5 favorite cookbooks each week and post my favorite recipe from that book. Learn to cook, eat healthier – it’s fun!
Before I started this blog, I wrote a food blog where I took a picture of everything I ate and occasionally posted recipes. I hated it. It took a lot of convincing from my sister to give blogging another shot because I didn’t like blogging on my food blog AT ALL. Turns out, I have more of a passion for reading and it makes this blog a joy to write on. However, I do like cooking, so I wanted to do a feature this month of some cookbooks that I cook from over and over again. And hey, cookbooks are books, right?
This week’s cookbook is Express Lane Meals by Rachael Ray.
This cookbook has a special place in my heart. I bought this cookbook when I had finally graduated from college and my first son was a 5-month old baby. Cooking seemed like something I should learn since I was sick of my terrible cooking and going out to eat and/or getting processed stuff in a box was not an option for me since I have IBS. Besides, I was a college graduate and a mom now and it seemed like the next house-wifey thing to do. This is the book that taught me how to cook and I will always think of it fondly.
What I love the most about this cookbook is it’s divided into sections of how difficult the recipes are. This came in handy since I’d never cooked more than grilled cheese in my life. I started in section 1 which she calls “Meals For the Exhausted.” She lists products that you should always have in your pantry and then each recipe comes with a mini shopping list on the side that has 10 items or less so you can check out at the express lane in the grocery store. Genius.
I bought this particular cookbook on my quest for learning how to cook because I saw Rachael Ray so many times on TV doing time saving things and just dumping spices in her hand to measure them. “Look, she’s just like dumping things in there and it tastes good! I can do that!” Even in this cookbook she’ll say things like “a palmful” or “eyeball it.” It made cooking really easy and less stuff to clean up. My mom tries not to freak out when I cook at her house and I just throw stuff in there. “Is that a teaspoon, mom? Oh. Sorry. Too late.”
I did not, however, finish her meals in 30 minutes when I was starting out. Rachael Ray multi-tasks to the hilt (especially towards the end of the book in the harder sections) and it’s hard to get used to if you’re a rookie cook. I’d finish my meals in an hour and it would exhaust me. I’ll tell you what though. The food was darn good. And now I am a multi-tasking cooking queen. Thank you Rachael Ray for teaching me how to cook in a fun, delicious, and easy way.
Here’s my favorite recipe:
Inside-out Pizza-dilla Margerita
1 Tablespoon EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), once around the pan, plus more for drizzling
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 pinches red pepper flakes
1 15-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained
Salt and black pepper
8 8-inch flour tortillas
1-pound ball smoked mozzerella cheese, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh basil, about 20 leaves, torn or shredded
Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the tablespoon of EVOO to the skillet, once around the pan. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook the garlic for a minute, then add the tomatoes and season with oregano, salt, and pepper. Simmer the tomatoes for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add a drizzled of EVOO and a flour tortilla. Cover the tortilla with an even layer of sliced cheese. Top it with one quarter of the tomatoes. Scatter one quarter of the basil over the tomatoes. Set a second tortilla in place on top. Cook it for 2 minuts on side one, drizzle the top of the tortilla with a touch of EVOO, and flip the pizza-dilla. Cook for 2 minutes more, or until golden and crisp on the flip side. Remove, cut into 4 pieces, and serve. Repeat this with the remaining ingredients to make 3 more pizza-dillas.