Cooking the Book: Good Cheap Eats

Good Cheap EatsGood Cheap Eats: Everyday Dinners and Fantastic Feasts for $10 or LessGood Cheap Eats: Everyday Dinners and Fantastic Feasts for $10 or Less by Jessica Fisher by Jessica Fisher

Years ago there was a meal-planning service that I wanted to make work. I loved the idea of it, I loved the idea of the recipes, and the library had their books so it was easy to try. Except the recipes almost never worked for me. They didn’t match our tastes, and the few times I found one that I liked, my husband didn’t care for it. A menu plan where none of the recipes are ones you’ll want isn’t much of a help, and I finally admitted that trying to tweak their plan wasn’t worth the effort.

Jessica Fisher’s recipes? Now those fit our tastes. I’ve got all of her cookbooks and everything I’ve tried has been a hit. So it’s not that surprising that with her latest book I happily pre-ordered it and impatiently waited for it to be released.

And I’ve had it for a month now and have already made one recipe from it twice (the Chicken, Black Bean, and Rice Soup), as well as flagging many more to try.

This book is structured a bit differently – there aren’t sections for beef, or chicken, or soups. Instead there are menus, arranged thematically. For example, section one is “Going Meatless.” There are also sections on “Company Dinners” “Make-Ahead Meals” “Breakfast for Supper” and more. So if you’re in the mood for soup, it could be in almost anywhere in the book. That’s ok, because there’s a great index, but the organization does mean you can’t flip through one section and find them all.

I actually really like how it’s structured – it gives great ideas on accompanying dishes. As I write this, I’m planning on making the Poblano Chile Enchiladas this week. The other recipes grouped with it are for South of the Border Slaw, and Zesty Mexican Rice. Both of those sound good to me, so I’ll just use her entire plan!

There are lots of money-saving tips scattered throughout the sidebars. Some of them are familiar, but there were many that were new ideas for me. I wouldn’t get the book just for them, but they’re a nice bonus in a cookbook that I think will get heavy use in my house.

Unlike her book Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze CookbookNot Your Mother's Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook (NYM Series) by Jessica Fisher (which I also use and love), this new book includes photographs for many of the recipes. That was my main complaint with her freezer cookbook, so I’m very happy to see this change.

How I Made “Chicken, Black Bean, and Rice Soup”:

(very slightly modified from Fisher’s recipe)

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups water (because I didn’t have another two cups of broth)
2 – 3 cups shredded cooked chicken (I never measured this, just dumped some in from a bag of frozen chicken)
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 medium zucchini, shredded (the second time I didn’t have this, and skipped it. It was better with it.)
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 cup long grain white rice
juice of 1 lime (I used about 2 drops of lime oil)
1 teaspoon chile powder (she uses cumin here; I always sub chile powder for cumin in recipes)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (I upped this amount)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I upped this amount because I wanted more zip)
salt and pepper
fresh cilantro, chopped (to garnish)

In a large stockpot, cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil until tender, about 5 – 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients, except for the cilantro. Simmer until the vegetables are tender and the rice is cooked, about 20 minutes.

Garnish with cilantro.

My verdict:

So good. Super easy too, and it makes a ton, so there are plenty of leftovers. And it’s freezable so I won’t be facing the same soup for days on end. My husband loved it too.

The kids’ verdict:

My kids do not like soup, but that’s not specific to this one. ๐Ÿ™

See all the Cooking the Book reviews and recipes I’ve shared..

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  1. I, too, have tried every menu planning service under the sun, and none of them are *just right* for our family. I really love the Make Ahead and Freeze cookbook… I didn’t realize she had a new cookbook out too! Thanks for the tip. Hopefully my library has it… I like to do a test run with cookbooks before I add them to my bulging cookbook shelf.

    • I *just* signed up for a new menu planning service, in another attempt to get dinner to run more smoothly as I (still) adjust to life with 3 kids. I resisted thinking I’m a stay-at-home mom; I should be able to handle this. Anyway, we’ll see how that goes; I selected one that is inexpensive enough that the fact that it isn’t perfect for us won’t bother me so much, if that makes sense.

      If your library doesn’t have it, a lot of the flavors and style of cooking are similar to her freezer cookbook, so if you really love that one I’d be surprised if you didn’t love this one. I’m generally like you and try to test cookbooks out from the library first, but I’ve tried enough of Fisher’s recipes from her first book and her blog that I trusted I’d like this one. And I did. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Thanks so much for the great review Sheila! We’re so glad you’re enjoying GCE– I too am getting a ton of use out of it myself ๐Ÿ™‚

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