Let’s be honest. We are all a little sick of the same old meals, right? We’re all probably a bit sick of quarantine cooking at home in general. Sometimes I feel like I’ve cooked every meal for every day for the past year and there is no end in sight!
It’s not easy to keep the variety alive for the adults of the house while also keeping the little ones happy. It’s even harder to pull these meals together after a long day of work. No one really wants to fiddle with a long list of ingredients and pages worth of instructions.
I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m ready to mix things up. I want to bring some flavor and variety back into my meal planning. I especially want to cook a meal that almost resembles a restaurant meal that I so desperately long for.
Ayesha Curry recently wrote a cookbook geared towards busy families with “no time and a lot to do.” I recently had the chance to read The Full plate: Flavor-filled, easy recipes for families with no time and a lot to do, and there’s a lot to share about this collection of recipes. There is no lack of variety in this book. In fact, there are no recipes that even come close to what you might find on Pinterest or a basic family cookbook.
She’s created a gem of a cookbook that’s very fun to read and experiment with. It’s important to note that this book will not have basic spaghetti and meatballs or simple macaroni and cheese. (What about Ayesha Curry’s Umami Crab Mac and Cheese, instead?) If you’re ready to step outside of your comfort zone, then keep reading.
Who is Ayesha Curry?
Ayesha Curry is first a mom, chef, cookbook author, and restaurateur. If you’re familiar with the NBA, you might know her as Steph Curry’s wife. She has already written a New York Times bestselling cookbook, The Seasoned Life: Food, Family, Faith, and the Joy of Eating Well.
This book focuses on her knowledge and skills with spice and flavor while keeping it family-friendly and easy.
Who is this cookbook for?
Initially, it was hard to figure this out. At first glance, I was a little confused about the book. The very first chapter focuses on appetizers and a good amount of cocktail recipes. So my immediate reaction was to second guess as to whether or not this was a family-friendly book.
This doesn’t mean as parents, some of us don’t like an occasional cocktail. This brought me back to bringing the restaurant feel into my house. If I had a list of new, fun cocktails to try this spring, it would be a great thing to share with friends and family, whether in person or virtually.
As I continued to browse, I found the recipes to be quite complex in flavor, using ingredients that not all families might have. I also noticed there was a fair amount of spice in most of her recipes. My family loves spicy foods, but I can understand that some families may not.
To back up her dense list of ingredients, one thing that Curry does focus on is having a stocked pantry. Having a fully-stocked pantry would make this book a lot more accessible and user-friendly for most families. At the beginning of the book, she lays out a small list of pantry items that would be beneficial to always have on hand.
Instead of listing each item one by one, she does this in groups. She mentions some items that you should keep on hand if you like spicy food or prefer Italian food. This was helpful, but I do appreciate cookbooks that lay out specific ingredients at the beginning, so you know exactly what you need on hand.
As I read it further, the family-friendliness started to pop out. I began to read the procedures, and they are actually relatively short and straightforward. No recipe is longer than one page. Plus, the time required to make each recipe should be between 10-30 minutes, as she promises.
Some recipes have ingredient lists of 20 ingredients, which seems daunting for simple, everyday meals. But there seems to be a good balance of recipes with an extensive list of ingredients and a shorter, more easily accessible list of ingredients.
Ultimately, this book was written for families that want something different and still can get dinner on the table in a short amount of time. The book encourages families to cook together and try different things.
What kind of recipes are in The Full plate?
There is a large assortment of recipes in this book. Included in The Full plate are simple snacks, appealing cocktails, plus meals that include beef, steak, chicken, and pork. Plus, there are also a few salads and desserts.
Some recipes may seem a bit intimidating, like Chinese Five-Spice Chicken. I personally would not choose a recipe that involves frying chicken to make on a regular weeknight. But the recipe itself looks fantastic. I especially love the honey drizzle at the end.
Other recipes call for some pretty expensive ingredients, like the Caribbean Lobster Rolls that require fresh-picked lobster meat from 4 whole lobsters.
I would consider these “special occasion” meals that could have easily been left out of the cookbook and still kept the book interesting. I think it would be an enjoyable weekend night activity to prep some lobsters with my kids and make these delicious-looking lobster rolls. It’s just probably not something we would do all of the time.
Alternatively, many meals come together quickly and have simple (and affordable ingredients). I especially loved the sheet pan meals. These are the kind of recipes that moms and dads are looking for when it comes to easy meal prep.
Some of the sheet pan meals are pretty straightforward. The Sheet Pan Chicken is a good example. I could pull this recipe together in just a matter of minutes with items that I already had on hand.
Other sheet pan meals were a little bit more complex in flavor, but my kids would try them (like the Sheet Pan Paprika Chicken with Zucchini and Onions).
Should you buy this cookbook?
The more I read this book, the more I loved it. It’s nothing like the last book that I reviewed, The Little toddlers helpers cookbook and approaches family-friendly cooking in a much different way.
My personal experience with my own kids is that I love to find recipes that push their boundaries and force them to try new flavors. No one says that they have to enjoy them, but it’s important to me that they try them.
There wasn’t a recipe in this book that I didn’t think they would at least try.
It’s important to note that my partner would probably love every recipe in this book. It provides some entertaining recipes that we could make together for an at-home date night.
Suppose you like variety, bright flavors, and stepping outside of the box when it comes to family-friendly cooking. In that case, I do recommend this book. The photos of The Full Plate recipes are beautiful. The cooking techniques Curry uses are not complicated. But they are interesting enough to step outside of your comfort zone and really excel in the kitchen. Keep in mind what I mentioned before. This is not a basic “how to cook a hot dog” book for your kids.
What recipe should you try first?
While reading the cookbook for the 2nd or 3rd time, I started to make a shopping list. I wanted to try a handful of recipes. Based on my own curiosity, my kids’ palettes, and comments from other reviews that I read, I decided to make the Gnocchi with Pancetta and Fig Jam.
I wanted to test how fast the recipes in this book could be. And I love gnocchi! This recipe looked to be straightforward and flavorful.
My kids gave it a 10 out of 10, as did my husband. There was not enough food for leftovers. Curry notes in the recipe this is a “light main course.” I find that gnocchi is quite filling, and I like to serve it with a less dense side like steamed vegetables or a salad.
It did come together in less than 30 minutes. In fact, it probably was on the table in less than 20 minutes. That fact alone means I will likely make this recipe again. It required virtually no prep work and was super fast.
The flavor was also exceptional. It was slightly swee from the fig jam, which intrigued the kids. They also love bacon, so that was a huge perk. Like I said before, it was pretty rich but easy to balance out with a lighter side option.
Gnocchi with pancetta and fig jam
- 3 ounces pancetta diced
- 16 ounces gnocchi store-bought
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tsp thyme leaves fresh
- 1 tbsp fig jam
- kosher salt to taste
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese grated
- First, heat a large saute pan on medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook it until the fat starts to render and the edges get crispy. This will take anywhere from 5-7 minutes. Then turn off the heat for now.
- Next, you’ll need to cook the gnocchi by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Be sure to add a little bit of salt to the water for the best flavor. Now, cook the gnocchi according to what the package says. In my case, the gnocchi was done in about two minutes after they started to float to the top.
- I took out the gnocchi once they were cooked and kept them in a colander in the sink while keeping the pot of water on the stove.
- Here’s an easy tip, I used this water to steam my broccoli for a side dish. I put it in a strainer, laid it over the pan, and then covered it. My broccoli was cooked in the same amount of time it took me to finish the recipe.
- Now you will add everything together. Add the gnocchi and chicken stock into the pan with the pancetta. Bring to a simmer and allow the stock to reduce by about half.
- Then add the butter, thyme, and jam. Stir everything together so that all of the ingredients are coated with the sauce. If you need more liquid, steal some from the gnocchi water. Once the sauce is your desired consistency, season with salt and pepper.
- The gnocchi is now ready to serve. We garnished with the cheese, and of course, served it with our simple steamed broccoli.
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