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Barbie's First Cookbook (June 28, 2012)

Argula Salad with Watermelon and Feta
Southern Shrimp and Grits
Apple-Pork Ragu with Pappardelle
Rum-Nut Pudding Cake

You got the job, you got the apartment, you got married! You've still got to eat, and take-out food and those frozen meals just aren't cutting it anymore. Time to get serious in the kitchen – and we've got help for even the least experienced! These excellent cookbooks will transform the way you approach home-cooked meals; we promise you'll go from "can't boil water" to "dinner party diva" in a short time... Read on!

In The First Real Kitchen Cookbook, the authors, sisters Megan and Jill Carle say, "We are not professional chefs, and don't pretend to be. They work way too hard. We just like to cook and are pretty good at it if we do say so ourselves!" Recent college graduates, they have produced a wonderful guide for anyone just starting out with a genuine kitchen, working stove and refrigerator and, as they say, "a countertop actually built sometime this century."

This complete reference for new cooks navigates you through the grocery store and kitchen, starting with the basics of stocking kitchen equipment and moving on to the fun part... cooking! You'll learn how to prepare vegetables, roast a chicken, make sauces and vinaigrettes, and go ethnic with rice pilaf or Mexican tacos, all of which will bowl over your friends who remember those days when ordering pizza was gourmet.

Got a recent grad or first jobber in your family? Get The First Real Kitchen Cookbook immediately, and wait for the dinner invite! It will come soon.

Chef Stephanie Izard, chef/owner of the wildly successful Chicago restaurant Girl and the Goat, really rocks, and so does her cookbook, Girl in the Kitchen. This is truly one of the best, most professional "how to" cookbooks we've ever seen; in the book Izard deliciously describes how a top chef cooks, thinks, shops, eats and drinks. The rave reviews on the back cover give you an idea how her colleagues and fellow professionals feel: Daniel Boulud says "I ... was very impressed by her discipline, talent as a cook and creative passion. She demonstrates her true 'wIZARDry' in the kitchen." No surprise, then, when Izard was named Top Chef in season four of the award-winning Bravo series!

Move over Julia, Ron has placed Girl in the Kitchen to the top shelf! You will too!

The book for this season is The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland. Yes, it's the perfect present for the bride and groom, but secretly you'll want one yourself. It's full of glorious – and many quite easy – recipes for two which range from down-home comfort food to elegant meals for sharing with friends. Copeland, who develops recipes for The Food Network and is a newlywed herself, is convinced that just-marrieds who learn to cook together, shop together and garden together stay together!

Wait, there's more: in The Newlywed Cookbook you'll learn how to compost, plant a windowsill garden and navigate your local farmers' markets, plus how to stock the pantry and build a battery of culinary tools! If you're just starting out, this is the book for you!

Our good friends, the Home Economists at Kraft Kitchens, are celebrating the company's 100th year with a terrific, fun, and very useful cookbook, New Classics, Our Most Requested Recipes Made Simple.

All your beloved old favourites are here, from soups and starters to those yummy desserts you remember: Gran's Stroganoff, Mom's macaroni and cheese, pot pies and sloppy Joes, banana pudding and much, much more. Best of all, Kraft Kitchens has updated the older recipe style to give you variations in many of the recipes; in other words, what used to be a list for just one dish, say 3-Step Chili, now gives you four types of meat, four different vegetables, and a choice of four cheeses. You choose the combo, rather like "One from column A" in those Chinese restaurants your family went to on Sunday nights! Added bonus: many of these recipes can be pulled together in 15 minutes! Wow, everything old is new again, and a bit easier! Thank you Kraft Kitchens!

On today's menu:

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Argula Salad with Watermelon and Feta

Arugula Salad with Watermelon and Feta

Top Chef and cookbook author Stephanie Izard says in Girl in the Kitchen, "Watermelon always makes me think back to being a kid, summers playing watermelon relay races in the swim club pool! Then I moved on to college, and watermelon showed up again, this time pumped full of vodka and I ate way too much... a different kind of fun!"

She goes on to say that through all the fun she never appreciated the sweet and refreshing flavor of the melon until she tried it with grains of sea salt. The bit of salty crunch balances out the sweetness and natural flavours and, when combined with the balsamic-honey reduction, fresh arugula and creamy feta cheese, makes this a winning combination on a warm summer day!

Serves 4

  • 1 small watermelon, 4 to 5 pounds
  • Sea salt
  • 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 5 ounces baby arugula, stemmed
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  1. Cut the watermelon in half lengthwise, turn the halves cut-side down, and cut each into 1-inch slices. Trim the rind from the watermelon and then cut each half-mood of trimmed watermelon in ½-inch cubes by cutting crosswise and lengthwise in ½-inch increments (think checkerboard). Arrange the squares on a serving platter. Sprinkle each square with a few sea salt crystals.
  2. Whisk together the vinegar and honey in a small pot over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce until it is syrupy, 5 to 7 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature, then drizzle the watermelon with the vinegar syrup.
  3. In a medium bowl. Toss the arugula with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and pile the greens on top of the watermelon. Drizzle with the remaining vinegar syrup and sprinkle with the feta before serving.

Tony's wine recommendation:
New Zealand or Chilean Sauvignon Blanc


Southern Shrimp and Grits

Southern Shrimp and Grits

Hey, y'all, we know you thought you didn't like grits, but we're gonna change your mind! They're always boring served plain, but gussied up can be transformed into a dinner party centrepiece. Grits are like a soothing Southern version of polenta with the same sweet corn flavour that makes cornbread such a hit in most homes. When combined with fresh shrimp and a little cheese, we go from Plain Jane to Miss Mississippi! Why thank you, Sarah Copeland; we love The Newlywed Cookbook!

Serves 2

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking grits
  • 1 lb fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 oz sharp white Cheddar or Manchego cheese, grated

To make the grits: Combine the milk with the water, butter and salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a roaring boil and slowly whisk in the grits. Decrease the heat to medium low. Continue whisking until no lumps remain, about 12 minutes. Decrease the heat to low. Cover the pan and let the grits simmer while you finish the other component.

To prepare the shrimp: Heat a medium pan over medium-high heat. Toss the seafood together with the oil in a small bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp to the hot pan and cook, stirring, until each one is just pink throughout, 2 to 4 minutes depending on the size of the shellfish. Turn off the heat, squeeze the lemon over the top to release all the good bits from the pan, and make a light, flavourful sauce.

To serve, remove the grits from the heat and stir in the cheese. Spoon into four shallow bowls and spoon on the shrimp and pan sauce. Serve hot.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Chablis or unoaked Chardonnay, Soave or Gavi


Apple-Pork Ragu with Pappardelle

Apple-Pork Ragu with Pappardelle

In Girl in the Kitchen, Chef Stephanie Izard describes this as an extremely simple recipe, but the number of flavours involved make it unique and a lot more fun than your average pasta with meat sauce. She prefers Honeycrisp apples with their perfect sweet-to–tart ratio, which marries well with tomatoes. The overall sweetness is offset by salty capers.

Izard goes on to say that if you're using dried pasta, a small, shell-shaped pasta such as orechiette is ideal, capturing a few bits of pork in each bite. And don't forget to top off the dish with freshly ground Parmesan! Hungry yet? Me too!

Serves 4 as an entrée; 8 as an appetizer

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 12 ounces ground pork
  • 2 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Honeycrisp (or Fuji) apples, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • One 15-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, smashed by hand or chopped
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 pound dried papperdelle
  • 2 tsp brined capers
  • 2 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook it until it browns, 5 to 7 minutes, breaking it into smaller pieces with a spoon. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepot or Dutch oven, lightly brown the bacon over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sweat them by cooking until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the apples and wine and simmer until the wine is reduced by three-quarters.
  3. Add the tomatoes, broth, and browned pork and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer. Partially covered until the sauce has thickened somewhat, about 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the papperdelle in the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes, or according to the package directions. Drain and rinse.
  5. Add the capers and basil to the sauce just before serving. Season the ragu with salt and pepper. Serve over the pasta.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Riesling Kabinett or dry rosé


Rum-Nut Pudding Cake

Rum-Nut Pudding Cake

We promise this will dazzle the pickiest dessert maven; it's a ridiculously easy and sinfully rich concoction liberally doused with a warm rum syrup. No one need know that you pulled it together in minutes with the help of a mix or two. And oh, go ahead; gild this lily with a generous glob of whipped cream! Thank you, Kraft Kitchens!

Just follow these three easy steps:

  1. Sprinkle a handful of chopped pecans onto the bottom of a greased fluted tube pan.
  2. Beat 1 package (4 serving size) vanilla instant pudding-and-pie filling, 1 package (2 layer size) white cake mix, 4 eggs and 1/2 cup each water, oil and rum in a large bowl with an electric mixer.
  3. Pour into pan and bake at 350°F for about 50 minutes. Cool slightly. Remove cake from pan; prick with a wooden pick or fork. Pour warm syrup over cake.

Warm syrup:
To make warm syrup, mix 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter or margarine and 1/4 cup water in saucepan. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil; boil 5 minutes. Slowly add 1/2 cup rum. Pour over cake.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Moscato d'Asti, Beaumes de Venise or Vidal Icewine


We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material and photographs:

Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, and Chronicle Books, San Francisco, for:

Girl in the Kitchen by Stephanie Izard. Text © 2011 Stephanie Izard. Photographs © Dan Goldberg.


The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland. Text © 2012 Sarah Copeland. Photographs © 2012 Sara Remington.


The First Real Kitchen Cookbook by Megan and Jill Carle. Text © 2011 Megan Carle and Jill Carle. Photographs © 2011 Sheri Giblin.


Random House Canada for Kraft Kitchens' New Classics, Our Most Requested Recipes Made Simple. © 2003 Kraft Foods Holdings, Inc.


Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (111 KB)

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Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Helen Hatton and Ron Morris at Le Caveau des Gourmets in Gigondas




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