Books About TV Cooks

I used to love watching cooking shows on TV. Rachael Ray, Yan Can Cook, and Emeril Live, they all fascinated and inspired me with their magical kitchen talents. If, like me, you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes (who pre-measures those ingredients, or cooks the picture-perfect roast that’s ready to pull out of one oven seconds after the demo roast is put into another oven?) then here are two books I recommend. One is fiction, and one non-fiction.

Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs

This book is a breezy, fun read if you’re in the mood for something not too heavy. It depicts the behind-the-scenes drama of the fictional TV show, Cooking With Gusto! (a phenomenal name for a cooking show in my opinion). The main character, Gus, who hosts the show, is a Martha-Stewart-like figure. Despite her flawless cooking skills, life is not so perfect for her outside the kitchen. Gus must deal with the loss of her husband, rocky relationships with her two grown daughters, and a younger, more attractive cohost who ruffles her feathers.

I enjoyed listening to this story as an audiobook while I did some painting in our living room last summer. It was amusing enough, and the cooking show aspect appealed to me since I love to cook so much. I could have done without the lame love interest, but I suppose romance is a must-have ingredient for this type of women’s fiction. In terms of my reading diet, you might say this book was more of a quick snack than a nutritious meal, but hey, if you’re not overly hungry, sometimes that’s all you need.

Being Martha by Lloyd Allen

What better companion to a story about a fictional character resembling Martha Stewart than a real-life account of the domestic maven herself? Written by a long-time neighbour and friend, this non-fiction narrative portrays the “real” Martha as she is seen, not through a TV camera lens, but through the eyes of those who know and love her.

I was truly inspired by this book (once again, downloaded as audio so I could listen to it on my iPhone). It made me want to be a little Martha Stewart in my own home: cooking delicious meals, keeping things spotless and well-organized, and making my plants and loved ones around me flourish. I suppose I identify with Martha not only because of my love for cooking, gardening, and crafts, but also because I tend to be a driven perfectionist too (although I’m learning to accept that life cannot and does not always have to be perfect).

Even Martha Stewart has made some mistakes in life. The book also talks about the time she spent behind bars following the infamous insider trading scandal. But even in prison, she was making crafts and crab-apple jelly.

I love the way Martha’s daughter Alexis defended her mom:

“No matter what they say about my mom, all she ever does is teach the world good things that will help them in life. So what if she shows you the perfect way to do it? Would you want your professor at school to do anything less in any other subject?”

 

Asian Meets German Cooking

Eager to try the Thai seasoning I bought at an Epicure party recently, I went to their website for inspiration and found a delectable-looking pineapple glazed pork chop recipe. It called for their Cuban seasoning, but I thought, why not try it with Thai instead? A spicy-sweet blend of ginger, lemongrass, and chili flakes would go well with pineapple, would it not? The answer is yes, yes it does.

You can find the original recipe here. Below is my tweaked version, which I served with creamy scalloped potatoes like Grandma used to make (that recipe also follows). The flavours complemented each other surprisingly well for being from such dissimilar cultural backgrounds.

Of course, you could serve these pork chops with rice instead. I just happened to be in the mood for some comfort food, and what could be more comforting than scalloped potatoes on a cold winter night? Besides, this way your taste buds get to take a little trip around the world, all in one plate!

Pineapple Thai Pork Chops

4 bone-in pork chops
1 can (19 oz.) pineapple rings
1 1/2 tsp. Epicure’s Thai seasoning (see note below)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
Coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Mix Thai seasoning with 1/4 cup of the pineapple juice. Pour over pork chops and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Cut pineapple rings into large chunks. Set aside with remaining juice.

In a large nonstick skillet, brown pork chops in oil on one side. Turn and add the remaining pineapple juice and pineapple chunks. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer until pork is fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Serves 4.

NOTE: You could also try another spicy-sweet gingery seasoning blend, such as Club House’s Thai One-Step Blend. You’ll find this in the spice aisle at the grocery store. The results may be slightly different, but feel free to experiment as I did!

Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

4 tbsp. butter or margarine
4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 rounded teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
2 cups milk
6 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
Paprika

In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, pepper, and chicken bouillon. Add milk. Stir constantly until boiling. Remove from heat.

Layer half the potatoes and onions in a 2.5 quart casserole dish. Pour half the sauce over. Layer the rest of the potatoes and onions on top. Cover with the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake covered at 350 F for 50 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more or until potatoes are tender. Serves 6.