Back in high school I started collecting recipes. I still have little grey-brown card file with recipes hand-written on index cards, or clipped from magazines and taped to cards, that I started when I was about 16. That little box alone has about 300 recipes crammed into it, for simple marinades and typical Midwestern hot dish recipes, and for things that seemed downright exotic to me then (using ingredients like mango or eggplant or tofu, things not typically found at Petrika's Red Owl in the 1980s).
Since those days I have accumulated quite the collection of cookbooks and cooking magazines. I have four solid shelves of cookbooks, for foods of all kinds. French, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Southwestern, Asian-fusion, books dedicated to baked goods, several books exclusively on cookies, bread-baking books for bread machines and for breads made by hand. There are the books that proclaim they will teach you Essentials of Cooking, A New Way to Cook, How to Cook Everything, or How to Cook Without a Book. I have by the numbers books; 50 Chowders, 365-one-dish Meals, and so on. Their titles promise to share with me the Joy of cooking, the Easy Basics, Timesaving tips, Creative, Complete, Essential, and the Best of food from around the world. Pasta sauces, cooking with fresh herbs, vegetarian cookbooks (often with titles like "The Festive Vegetarian" or "Voluptuous Vegan" as if to reassure the reader that the bounty of vegetarian entrees will not be ignoble and flat, limited to sprouts and nut loaves), cookbooks from celebrity chefs, cookbooks that champion healthy eating in its many guises, books about whiskey, wine, espresso, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres... I could find something new to cook for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and not repeat myself for years. It seems sinful to collect all these recipes and never make them, so I cook a lot and cook a lot of different things.
I definitely have my favorites, but my passion for the last three years has been, hands down, Cooking Light Magazine. I have learned that I can pick up an issue of this magazine and trust that I can make virtually anything in it with winning results. Cooking Light cuts across every book I have on my shelf and presents recipes in a healthful-yet-delicious way that no other publication has been able to do for me. Of course, it helps that I'm an omnivore and open to try just about anything but the magazine is solid nonetheless. I routinely cook from the magazine for the family, for special get-togethers, and especially for "game night" when I cook to feed our friends who come over once a week for food and fun. I consistently get rave reviews for my Cooking Light meals on game night, so I know it's not just that I'm a sucker for food and easily impressed.
Take, for example, the Jan/Feb 2003 issue, from which I've already made the following:
Chicken with Olives and Lemon: Very Good
Posole (Tomatillo, Chicken and Hominy Soup): Excellent [raves at game night]
Turkey Philly Sandwiches: Excellent
Chicken with Artichokes and Olives: Very Good
Banana Pudding: Excellent [what a yummy treat!]
Roasted Sweet Potato, Fennel, and Onion Salad: Very Good
Chicken and Wild Rice Soup: Excellent [more raves at game night for this one]
Mini Meat Loaves: Very Good [even Kate ate these, yay!]
All-American Chili: Excellent
Still on my list to try from this issue:
Barley Pilaf with Chickpeas and Artichoke Hearts
Edamame Succotash with Shrimp
Pan-Seared Scallops on Linguine with Tomato-Cream Sauce
Last night's dinner was garlic shrimp over fettuccine and leftover banana pudding. Tonight was chili and fresh bread. Tomorrow I'm taking a break from Cooking Light because I found a beautiful brisket at the store tonight, so it will be brisket, with potatoes and cabbage, and whatever else strikes my fancy.
As the Descendents say, I like food, food tastes good!