Cooking the Book: Keepers

Keepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-and-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen by Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion | Roasted Chicken Breasts with Potatoes and Farfalle with Gorgonzola and Peas recipes tested by @SheilaRCraigKeepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-and-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the KitchenKeepers: Two Home Cooks Share Their Tried-and-True Weeknight Recipes and the Secrets to Happiness in the Kitchen by Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion | Roasted Chicken Breasts with Potatoes and Farfalle with Gorgonzola and Peas recipes tested by @SheilaRCraig by Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion

I shared a blurb about this book in my latest Twitterature post, where I also promised that today I’d share more about The Smitten Kitchen CookbookThe Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman by Deb Perelman. So let’s just get that out of the way: I promised it, and it’s not happening. I’ve had plans to try 3 different recipes from the book, and life has gotten in the way from me trying any of them. So I’m conceding, and will try again to write more about that book next month.

Instead I’m subbing in the other cookbook I’ve been using lately, one where I haven’t run into … complications trying the recipes (not the fault of Perelman’s book – the fault of produce freezing in the fridge, and snowstorms keeping me from the store, and when I finally replaced the frozen component, I didn’t repurchase the other items, only to discover that they had gone bad during the delay. Plus an inability to locate beef short ribs. Am I looking in the wrong stores? Looking for the wrong name from how they’re packaged in this area? I will figure it out, but it hasn’t happened yet.)

Anyway, that long intro should not detract from this book. Most of the recipes seem like they’re super easy (appropriate for a weeknight-dinner-themed book), and the two I’ve tried have been winners.

First I tried the Farfalle with Gorgonzola, Ham, and Peas (although I made several modifications) for my lunch one day. I adore pasta, but while my husband likes it, he doesn’t want to eat it as frequently as I do. This is the recipe I’ve featured below, with my modifications listed.

I also tried the Roasted Chicken Breasts and Sweet Potatoes, although I once again changed things slightly and used Yukon Gold potatoes in lieu of the sweet potatoes. As much as I’ve tried to like them, I’ve finally admitted to myself that I just do not like sweet potatoes, so I’ve stopped using them.

My usual chicken purchase is boneless skinless breasts, so as simple as the recipe is, it was still new to me. In many ways, the bone-in, skin-on breasts were even easier to use (no need for me to trim them more), and the hardest part of the dish was chopping the potatoes into uniform cubes.

The verdict? My son ate the chicken and potatoes happily, my daughter refused to try any of it, and my husband didn’t mind it (that counts as a victory in this situation; long story). I liked the chicken a lot, but wasn’t crazy about the slight lemon flavor the potatoes picked up. I’d still happily make it again as it was so easy and provided a lot of leftover chicken I can use for future dishes.

Photographs are provided for both dishes I tried, and many of the other recipes included in the book. I always appreciate that!

Below is how I modified the pasta recipe – cut it in half, changed the pasta shape, used a domestic blue cheese, used extra peas, and omitted the ham.

How I Made “Farfalle with Gorgonzola, Ham, and Peas” and turned it into “Orecchiette with Blue Cheese and Peas”:

1/2 pound orecchiette
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 ounces blue cheese
3/4 cup frozen green peas, thawed
salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta cooks, heat the cream and blue cheese over medium heat in a high-sided pan (you’ll be adding everything to this pan, so you’ll need room to stir it all together). Simmer, stirring often, until the mixture is smooth (took about 4 minutes for me). Stir in the peas and set aside.

When the pasta is ready, drain it and add to the sauce (reserve some of the pasta water in case it’s needed to thin the sauce). Combine pasta and sauce, and taste for seasoning (I added lots of fresh ground black pepper, and a tiny bit of salt, as the cheese is fairly salty already).

My verdict:

An easy pasta dish I can make for myself and still not mind cooking dinner later = winner already. It was super simple to make, although very rich (not surprising with the heavy cream). I halved the recipe, and enjoyed it both the first day, and then reheated for lunch another day. My kids weren’t crazy about it thanks to the blue cheese, but I loved the flavor.

The kids’ verdict:

Dislike. Why are you messing with the beauty that is pasta with butter or pasta with cheese sauce? Especially by putting peas in it??

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

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  1. I recently purchased this cookbook, and it’s my new favorite one. The authors are former editors at Saveur, and one is culinary-school trained. I love that I can pull the cookbook off the shelf and put together a quick meal. (Recently, we did a heavy-duty shopping trip, and I took the freshly-purchased tilapia filets and made the poached fish with lemon sauce relatively quick.) I like that they use pantry staples and are consistent with their ingredient list so you aren’t using excessive varieties of various ingredients (plus they have some great substitution techniques). I suspect some recipes I would have to tweak, but I really like the tone of the book.

  2. I love the idea of this book, their philosophy and all of that… but so far I’ve only cooked one meal out of it (the Asian pork sliders) and they were ok (although I had some similar ingredient malfunctions as you describe — not the cookbook authors’ fault!) and then I got the stomach flu immediately after eating them. Soooo…. after experiencing them both going down and coming up, that’s not a recipe I’ll ever be making again! I need to try another one… but what I *really* need to do to simplify my life is figure out what MY keepers are, and make them more often instead of constantly trying new recipes. (Which is fun, but a bit of a crapshoot when all you really want is a quick, tasty, healthy meal.)

    • Oh you poor thing. I wouldn’t want to eat them again either, even if it wasn’t that meal’s fault!

      Several years ago I sort of did that – went through my cookbooks and made a recipe binder with our keepers. Even made an index with a quick list of them all. It worked, and still does, I just get so bored with the same meals, even when they are guaranteed winners. Hence the constant scanning of new cookbooks for ideas…

      It’s still totally worth the time though, even if it wasn’t the answer to all of my dinner-related dilemmas. I try to limit myself to one or at most two new dishes a week, and use familiar ones to fill out the menu plan.


  1. […] Not that much, by me at least, although I did try two recipes from Keepers. […]

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