I don’t buy a lot of cookbooks; I get them given to me as gifts, and I have a few stand-by Best of Bridge books that I like to rotate through on a regular basis. I’m also a fan of the Looneyspoon sisters and all their iterations. I also get some for review (like these two). But when I do buy a book, I look for a few things; is it Canadian, is it easy and fast, and is it healthy? If the book ticks off all three of these requirements, I’m more likely to enjoy it and use it regularly. Both Oven to Table by Jan Scott and The Domestic Geek’s Meals Made Easy by Sara Lynn Cauchon fit this bill, so I’m excited to introduce both to you, dear reader.
I received Oven to Table from Penguin for review a few months ago and have attempted more than a few recipes from it. The one I’m most proud of is the “Overnight Faux Sourdough” which I made in my Staub dutch oven. Although you have to prepare it overnight (which may put off some people because it’s a two-day process) it’s simple and easy to make your own homemade bread with this recipe, and my family loved it. This is probably the best ‘food picture’ I’ve ever taken in my life too, so I’m extra chuffed at how this one turned out.
Oven to Table has a simple premise-each recipe only takes one main dish to cook in; a dutch oven, a sheet pan, a casserole dish, a skillet, an enamel baking dish or a baking pan. These are all fairly common kitchen items so you don’t need to run out and buy new stuff to execute the recipes, plus the food is straightforward and family-friendly, which is paramount in my house these days. Sheet pan suppers is actually a category of meal that can be found in many new cookbooks; all you need is a pan that you roast some protein and potatoes on, and then add some veggies on towards the end; most recipes are a basic variation of this concept. I followed Scott’s recipe “Brown Sugar and Chili-Rubbed Salmon Sheet Pan Dinner” and I was quite pleased with the results (pictured below). It included asparagus and potatoes, and I recommend pairing it with a green salad to get a decent amount of veg in at the same time. One of the most unique (and easy!) recipes that I made was the “Spinach and Ricotta Wonton Mini Lasagnas” which my whole family loved-basically just cheese, tomato sauce and chopped spinach spooned into wonton wrappers that were folded into the cups of a muffin tin. That recipe alone is worth buying the entire book for, it’s simple to do but looks beautiful and tastes great.
The Domestic Geek began as a youtube channel which is still running live and well today, so if one doesn’t get enough ideas from this book there’s a whole series of videos to complement it. So far I’ve been impressed by the ease of these recipes; they’re all very healthy, full of fresh vegetables and simple to make. These dishes are a little more straightforward than Oven to Table’s so they won’t get that same ‘wow’ factor if you’re cooking for guests, but my family’s found a few favourites already, including the “Tangy Thai Quinoa Salad” pictured at the top of this post (I swapped out the quinoa for a wild rice blend I’d had hanging around my pantry for ages). Somewhat shockingly, my 4 year-old absolutely loved this salad, which used tahini as the base for the dressing. This book also has the perfect weeknight skillet meal called “Turkey Taco Quinoa Skillet” which went over extremely well with my 1 year old, plus it was also prepared in one dish alone and ready in half an hour. Can’t get much more convenient than that!
When comparing the two books, the Domestic Geek would definitely be the better pick for those who are still getting comfortable in the kitchen; the techniques are simple, and it includes loads of weekend meal prep tips to cut down the time you’ll spend in the kitchen during your work week. Oven to Table isn’t complicated, but it does require a bit more time and finesse; it’s assuming the reader is beginning with some experience in the kitchen already, but the results are worth it. Both books are going to become a constant in my roster of recipes, and since I’ve only skimmed the surface of what each has to offer I hope I’ll have new favourites to share with you in the future.