L2C Challenge – BEAUTIFUL BOARDS

The L2C Challenge is back (after a longer than expected hiatus)!

If you’re new here, I started the L2C Challenge in 2021 as a way to get me in to the habit of cooking different meals and, if I’m being totally honest, as a way to justify my cookbook obsession. You see, I’ve always loved cookbooks. Each time I get one, I go through it from cover to cover and mark up all of the recipes that I want to try but that I likely will never make. So with this challenge, I pick one cookbook per month and make at least one recipe from that book per week!

I used to write weekly reviews of the recipes and then summarize it all at the end of the month in my Book Review posts but I found that became a little repetitive. So I’ve decided to continue this monthly challenge much in the same way as before but to have one post at the end of each month setting out my honest review of the cookbook and sharing what recipes we tried.

In case you’re interested, here are the cookbooks I’ve tried thus so far…

This month’s pick is: BEAUTIFUL BOARDS by Maegan Brown. Now that we are settled in to our new home and the spring weather is just around the corner, we are really looking forward to hosting friends and family more often. A charcuterie board has always been a must at our gatherings, so I used this month’s challenge as a way to up my game in the board food world.

The author of Beautiful Boards, Meagan Brown, is also known as the @TheBakerMama on Instagram and she often shares board food layouts and other food spreads. The chapters in Meagan’s book are broken down into different type of spreads such as Anytime Boards, Seasonal and Holiday Boards, Meal Boards, and Dessert Boards. Her designs are beautiful and achievable, even for a beginner like myself.

The Everyday Board (p. 25)

True to its name, this is the type of Food Board that we could have everyday! I used the same layout as in the book but substituted some of the meats and cheeses that I know my family would prefer. I love this board because you make it with items that you already have on hand. There are no recipes to make (although she does offer hummus and salsa recipes but notes that store-bought is perfect too) and any left overs can be used on their own or in other dishes.

For a family of four (albeit with a one year old who doesn’t eat a full serving yet), this board actually ended up being just enough to serve as a meal for dinner. We are a family that loves pickles but I never thought to purchase a jar of pickle chips. I did for this board and it was Theo’s favourite (even more so than the chocolate trail mix!); Paolo also said he preferred the chips over of the regular sized pickles. Thanks to the inspiration from this board, pickle chips have become a household staple around here!

The After School Board (p. 27)

I was most excited about making the after school board because I thought Theo would love it – and he did! I made the peanut butter balls recipe that is in the book and they turned out delicious but, I will say, that Theo wasn’t a fan. So it didn’t work for the intended audience but Paolo and I love them!

The one thing with this board is that although it is called the “after school board”, it’s a lot of food. Even on a reduced scale, if your kids have this after school, they’ll likely not eat much come dinner time.

I love how nicely it is laid out in the book. This will definitely be something I put together for play dates and maybe even for after school snacks when the boys are older (especially with their growing apetites!).

Build-Your-Own Taco Board (p. 123)

Taco nights are very popular around here! It was a no-brainer that this Board was going to make it on to this month’s list.

The board in the book has a variety of different meats and even shrimp. It makes for a beautiful board but I knew Theo and Paolo wouldn’t care for it, so I only used chicken (ground and rotisserie).

We also left out any of the hot stuff, such as the jalapenos, because of Theo’s refusal to touch anything that has been in contact with spicy food. The board did call for some fresh cilantro and some limes which I had never thought to include on taco nights but it was a pleasant surprise and will likely be a regular side from now on.

Date-Night-In Board (p. 37)

There’s no way I was going to do this month’s challenge and not throw in the traditional charcuterie board for a date night in (after the kids go to bed)!

While I’ve been making meat/cheese boards for years, I always struggle with knowing what types of cheese and meat to mix. I’m also always looking for different accompaniments that will truly make the board look appetizing.

This board rose to the challenge and was great! We even agreed that we’d use the same ingredients in a larger scale the next time we have friends over. Like the Everyday Board, this one doesn’t have any recipes to make and I love that it includes suggestions on the types of prosciutto and salami to get. I decided to be a little adventurous with my choice of jams this time and bought the PC Black Label Onion Maple Condiment. One word – AMAZING! – it literally elevated the taste of everything on the board.

FINAL REVIEW:

All in all, I would absolutely recommend this book. In fact, I recently gifted it as a hostess gift when we went for dinner at a friend’s house. The recipes are easy, the designs are gorgeous and the book itself is beautiful enough to sit on your countertop or to give as a gift. There are so many other layouts that I didn’t get to this month – especially for the holidays, movie nights, pizza parties, etc. – that make this book worth having year-round.

UP NEXT…

Stay tuned for next month’s challenge, where I will be trying recipes from Eat With Us: Mindful Recipes to Make Every Meal and Experience by Canada’s own Philip Lago and Mystique Mattai

L2C Challenge – Jamie Oliver 7 Ways – BOOK REVIEW!

Jamie Oliver is such an entertaining chef to watch on television; somehow, he makes cooking look so simple and fun. When I purchased his latest cookbook, I hoped that it would provide the same energy and inspiration but, while it was great, I’m not sure I would keep watching if the “7 Ways” book was a television show…

In this book, the chapters are divided by commonly used ingredients (referred to as “hero ingredients”) – such as chicken breast, avocado, broccoli, salmon, etc. – and then each chapter provides 7 recipes using the “hero ingredient”; in other words, each chapter provides 7 ways of cooking with a specific ingredient.

The concept of the book is great; I didn’t have to filter through every page to find something I liked. Instead, if I knew we were having chicken for dinner, I just looked up the chapters that listed chicken. I think most people would enjoy this layout and I particularly appreciated that each recipe includes an image of every ingredient within that recipe (it helped to figure out what I was looking for when I went grocery shopping).

The flip side is that there are obviously popular ingredients that I don’t like – such as mushrooms and sweet potatoes. Since it is unlikely that someone would enjoy every single one of the 18 hero ingredients, there will probably be whole chapters within this book that won’t appeal to you.

Every recipe that I made from this book exceeded expectations in terms of simplicity, flavour and taste. Each week, I even received a thumbs up from both Paolo and Theo – my two toughest critics.

So why would I not watch “7 Ways” if it was a television series instead of a cookbook? Honestly, for me, the book lacked enticement. While the recipes ended up being delicious, I was never enthused about making them. When I was earmarking recipes for the previous two cookbooks in this challenge, I was getting hungry just looking through the books but I didn’t get hungry with Jamie’s 7 Ways. It felt practical but mundane. Does it meet its purpose? Yes – it provides easy and delicious recipes throughout. Would I reach for this cookbook again? Probably not – this one will likely be filed on the top (somewhat out of reach) shelf for me.

Next Month’s L2C Challenge Cookbook:

Something about the summer months has me craving fresh big salads more than any other time of year. So this month, I am going to try to step up my lettuce game by learning how to make some of Mandy’s amazing gourmet salads!

The Mandy’s cookbook is based on the actual “Mandy’s” salad bars that originated in my hometown of Montreal, Quebec. It was established by two sisters back in 2004 and has grown to over 8 stylish locations across Montreal and they now sell come very cute merchandise – including some colourful large bowls that I will be putting to good use next month!

L2C Challenge – Skinnytaste One & Done – BOOK REVIEW!

The Skinnytaste series has been around for a long time and I have several friends who love them, so I figured I would give it a try. Obviously, I chose the one whose title promises “one & done” recipes!

The premise of this book is straightforward – every recipe is cooked in one pot. Following that concept, the book’s chapters are divided by different cooking tools – recipes cooked in a skillet, sheet pan, air fryer, slow cooker, etc.

As you may have noticed from my weekly posts, the ingredients in this book were easy to find and the steps were all simple. Even as a newbie in the kitchen, I barely had to look anything up on Google this entire month!!!

I still have a long list of other recipes that I would like to get to in this book. To be honest, some of the most appealing are in the “Air Fryer” chapter, which we don’t have. So I’m keeping a list and once we decide to invest in the air fryer (all of my mom friends say I really need one), I’ll be sure to make my way back to this section of the book. Amongst some of those mouth-watering recipes are:

  • Buffalo Drumsticks with Creamy Cabbage and Kale Slaw (p. 171)
  • Glazed Korean BBQ Chicken Wings (p. 179)
  • Nuggets Three Ways (p. 183)
  • Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls (p. 93)
  • Crispy Beach Fish Tacos (p. 197)

Geez… I had to stop writing out my list, there are so many more in this book that look delicious! And now that I’ve actually taken the time to type out some of the air fryer recipes, I’m thinking we’re going to need to get one sooner than later!!!

I highly recommend this book for its clean and simple ingredients and for its easy instructions. I will note, however, that the “one & done” concept is a tiny bit misleading. It is true that the recipes are cooked in one pot but, in many case, lots of dishes are used in the prep stage before the meal actually goes in the oven. So while I wasn’t scrubbing lots of pots and pans for one dinner, I was still doing a fair share of clean up (washing prep bowls, etc.) after each meal. But honestly, don’t let that be a deterrent – I didn’t have any more dishes than other recipes and the simplicity and flavour of this book are worth a try!

Next Month’s L2C Challenge Cookbook:

Next month’s cookbook came about from my days of watching the Food Network. I love when Jamie Oliver is on television showing us how effortlessly he makes all of his delicious dishes… Plus, his accent is nice to hear! And while I’ve been watching Mr. Oliver on tv for a while now, I’ve never owned or tried any of his cookbooks – so I figured now is as good of time as ever to try. Hence, Jamie Oliver’s 7 Ways will be next month’s cookbook!

L2C Challenge – Half Baked Harvest Super Simple – Cheesy Poblano and Bacon Quesadilla

This week – CHEESY POBLANO AND BACON QUESADILLA (p. 49)

This week, I was looking for something from the HBH book that required a little less prep time. I figured quesadillas would likely go over well with our preschooler’s picky habits and the ingredients list was nice and short. Technically, this dish is under the “Apperizers & Sides” chapter, so I knew I was going to have make another side (I made a big salad) for Paolo and me but it was the perfect amount for Theo. It would also probably be just the right amount of food if we were to have this for lunch instead of dinner.

Ingredients –

  • Thick-cut bacon
  • Peppers
  • Flour tortillas
  • Pepper Jack cheese
  • Baby Spinach
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Salsa

Difficulty level –

Once again, Tieghan didn’t lie – this recipe is SUPER simple. It is definitely a weeknight-approved quick meal. If you’re able to find shredded pepper Jack cheese than it’s even quicker to prep.

Price –

The bacon, peppers, tortillas and spinach are staples in our home, so I didn’t need to purchase those. I just had to purchase the cheddar cheese and I opted for the store-made salsa as opposed to making our own. So, in total, I only had to spend about $13 for this meal and, again, the cheese and salsa will be good for other meals/snacks.

Things I Googled While Making this Recipe

  • Difference between bell peppers and poblano peppers? (Poblano peppers would have made it a bit more smoky).

Alterations to Recipe –

The recipe includes the option to make your own Pickled Jalapeño Pineapple Salsa. We’re not really fans of pineapples in our meals, so I opted for the traditional salsa (store bought) instead. I also used the bell peppers that I had on hand as opposed to the poblano peppers that the recipe calls for.

Verdict –

This is likely to be another staple in our house. So easy to make PLUS everything is made in one skillet (less dishes is always a win!). There wasn’t enough for any leftovers, so this is a one-and-done dish.

Learn To Cook Challenge

While I sit in our rental home, reviewing the millwork drawings for our future kitchen and dreaming of the day I will cook our first meal in our new home, something dawns on me – I have all of these dreams of having big family dinners but… I don’t actually cook!

I mean, I put food together that we consume daily but, often times, I’m defrosting something that we have frozen (soups, pasta sauce, etc.), adding some vegetables and a carb source and calling it “dinner”. Nothing I make actually amounts to “cooking”…

At the same time, I have an unexplained obsession with buying beautiful cookbooks! I even go as far as tabbing all of the recipes that I want to try but rarely (almost never) end up making.

So, in an effort to address my cooking shortfalls (as well as justify my cookbook purchases), I’ve created a little challenge for myself.

Each month, I will choose one cookbook (ideally, it will be one that I already own but I can’t commit to not buying new ones – it’s “for the challenge” after all!) and make at least one recipe per week from that cookbook. I won’t post the recipes on my blog because they are not my recipes to share but I will share the ingredients in case it entices any of you to try them. I will also document my experience with making each recipe and what our family’s final verdict is.

Not sure how long my challenge will last but, since the goal is to learn to cook, I feel it will be a while…