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« Valentine's day pancakes | Main | Craft project: Easy wood carving »

Ruhlman's Twenty + Blue Star Vermont giveaway

So, it’s January. Maybe you made resolutions. Maybe you just hoped for better. Maybe your credit card bill just appeared in your inbox. Whatever the case, learning to cook more wholesome, simple ingredient foods for ourselves (and others) is something on many of our lists.

I like Ruhlman’s style. He’s straightforward, practical, think-centric. No, not overthink-your-chicken, but instead, think about these (twenty) basic methods/ingredients and feel more empowered in the kitchen. I also like how he teams up with his wife (photographer and graphic designer) to make his books. (I appreciate my in-house photographer/computer genius partner every. single. day.)

His latest book is a gem for beginners on the kitchen scene and Chronicle Books has been kind as to offer up a free copy to readers here.

The twenty in question:

I like how he physically shows you some of the steps, like with the oft elusive bread making.

I appreciate these well-documented basics that many people (with cooking backgrounds) take for granted. If no one has ever shown you what something is supposed to look like, then how are we visual folks to succeed?

But wait, it gets better…

Megan contacted me and told me about how she and her twin sister, Molly, started a hand-crafted, vintage apron sewing business in Vermont, Blue Star Vermont.

My twin sister and I began a sewing program for women in prison. There we saw the healing power of someone learning she can sew an “outa here bag” to have when she walked out those prison doors. As a handwork teacher in a Vermont Waldorf school I have loved teaching children how to knit, sew, felt, and weave, but more importantly, helping to instill in them at a very young age that they can make and do whatever they decide to do. 

Working on my knitting while sitting in waiting rooms or public places, I am often stopped by someone who looks at my project in the making and says, “I could never do that.” My reply, is “Of course you can, if you want to.”

My kind of gals!

Moreover, I think anyone who’s going to be spending time in the kitchen (men included) might enjoy a hand-crafted apron in the mix. Megan and Molly have graciously donated one of their Vermont apples aprons, your choice of color, to this giveaway. (Yeah, I think you can swing it dudes, OR, in the case of a man winner, I bet Blue Star Vermont would let you select a studly Man Apron.)

So, let’s recap, you get a chance to win Ruhlman’s Twenty and a Blue Star Vermont apron by simply leaving a comment below letting us know your ace-in-the-hole dinner (links to blog posts are welcome, but definitely not required). Share what you make when there’s not much time/money/enthusiasm for the kitchen. We all need more resources at hand.

Fine print: Chronicle Books can ship to US & Canada. Blue Star Vermont offered to personally pay for international shipping (a thoughtful measure for our across the pond friends), but to keep this a package deal we’re going to stick with US & Canada. Enter by February 13, 2012 at midnight EST. One winner will be selected via thusly getting a sweet Valentine’s day email. (If you don’t put your email in the comment form’s box where it asks for it, you won’t win.)

[UPDATE: Well, hell. Ruhlman actually gave his own book away asking the same giveaway question (great minds…?), so pop on over there for further ‘staple meal inspiration’. I’m not changing mine or anything, just thought you’d like to see his post, too!]

Reader Comments (84)

Roast chicken. Everyone always loves it, and it's something I can practically make in my sleep.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterConnor

My no-fail dinner is a roast chicken. I always keep one in the freezer and always have onions, carrots, celery, etc on hand. My family loves it and it makes so many meals! Stock/soup, sandwiches, chicken salad, etc. You can't go wrong!

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKait

When there's not a lot of time I go with pizza. You can put any combo on it with what's left in the fridge but our favourite is onion, apple, proscuitto and goat cheese. This is made so much easier with De Luca's just 2 blocks from our house. A sweet little italian groceria with perfect pizza dough you can pick up for very cheap.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Crockpot Chicken Continental was always a big hit at my house: chopped onions and sliced black olives over 1 pound of chicken breasts, 1 can diced tomatoes and 1/2 cup lite soy sauce. Serve over rice and call it "done!" Most everybody likes it.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

When I'm short on time (or money), I find that I often make Tuna Casserole. It may not be everyone's favorite, but for a can of tuna, a can of cream of mushroom soup, whatever pasta I've got on hand, and few frozen peas, I've got supper on the table. This isn't the healthiest option, but it works when there's nothing else ready to go or when I need to stretch the pantry until next payday. It's good with grated cheese as well, if you've got any on hand.
Another quick recipe is pizza. I tend to keep some pizza dough in the freezer so I can just throw it out into the fridge in the morning and use it for supper that night.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Pasta is always quick and easy. I keep portioned out italian sausage in the freezer and it only takes like 10 minutes to thaw under running water. A little sausage, a little homemade canned tomato sauce, and little past...yum!

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaedre Craig

Our go-to meal is grilled cheese and soup. We've always got some soup (or chili) stashed in the freezer and really, who doesn't love grille cheese?!

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

Our go to 'neither of us really wants to cook' meal is fajitas - dice and onion and cook, dice a pepper and cook with onions, dice some chicken, toss in taco seasoning, cook, serve in tortillas with sour cream and cheese. It's still pretty tasty.

My go to fancy meal is probably roast chicken with an assortment of roasted veggies - parsnips, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, that sort of thing, with my standard fancy salad of greens with goat cheese, dried cranberries, my pickled beets and toasted nuts.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

Our go to is crock pot chicken on the way out the door.
Two chicken breasts-frozen
One can seasoned tomatoes
One can black beans
One jar salsa.
On low until we get home from work
Falls apart on our bed of lettuce

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanette

Beans! When there's a crazy day I put dry beans in the crockpot on high in the am. No over night soak, no cans, no cook-all-day-on-the-stove. Just crockpot for hours.

On the craziest days they become soup. I will throw in carrots, onions, celery, bok choy, whatever there is--and enlist any kid not overwhelmed with homework to help or do it.

On less crazy days I will toss in some chicken and then shred it and do make-you-own soft tacos.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDree

Lately our go-to meal has been carnitas. Basically braise meat in a combo of fat and liquid for a few hours. Easy and a great use for tough, fatty cuts of meat. We use pork butt, chuck, or even venison. Our favorite liquid combo is OJ and water. Once tender, serve with tortillas, onions, and cilantro. Simple but we rarely have leftovers.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarissa

tacos! we always have beans around so wilting some greens or cooking up some potatoes to help solidify the frijoles into a whole meal is rather easy.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteraneelee

Tofu, brown rice and greens. Tofu with tamari, sirracha, cinnamon pan fried in a little sesame oil. Whatever greens I have on hand with garlic and olive oil (same pan) and its done. So easy and tasty.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIlana

I always go with pizza! Dough is easy to whip up if I don't happen to have any in the freezer and just about anything can be used as a topping.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeghan

Rice and beans. I love it because I can use whatever's on hand--white rice, brown rice, quinoa, etc. Sautee some onions and garlic, add a can of beans (or two), or cooked beans that I've frozen; maybe a can of diced tomatoes with green chili, a bay leaf, some salt, pepper and herbs. Finish it with some red wine vinegar. Then top it with whatever's on hand--cheese, hot sauce, sour cream, avocado, or a fried egg. Super fast and always delicious and filling.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertracey

My go to meal for the winter is Apple Braised Porkchops with Nutmeg Spaetzle. Pan sear the chops until crispy and brown, braise in organic concentrated apple juice brown sugar and cinnamon and salt. Make a quick compote of diced granny smth apples and dried sour cherries and onions. Spaetzle is the easiest thing in the world and I just throw in a teaspoon of nutmeg into the batter for this dish. Serve the chops over the spaetzle and top with the compote....D-licious!!

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon Goble

I like to grill chicken on my Cusinart grill and steam broccoli. Very quick preparation for both.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKarla Starkweather

Chicken divan cassarole: I almost always have these ingredients on hand (broccoli and chicken either in the fridge or in the freezer). This is so darn easy to make, and comforting, and the kids gobble it up so there's no dinner battle. Win!

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara

Take a frozen roast out of the freezer and into a 200 degree oven with a can of mushroom soup mixed with a package of onion soup mix over the top. Cooks all day and when I get home from work, dinner is served with some quick pasta and veggies! Yummy!

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

Roasted Veggies (toss and cook) and some protien if someone else is around, maybe a sauteed chicken breast or piece of fish.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoli

When I'm in a "I don't want to cook anything" kind of mood, my go to is a quick tofu and veggie stirfry - chop veggies, cube tofu, stir-fry them up with soy sauce, honey, red pepper flakes, and a little drizzle of sesame oil. Serve with steamed brown rice and call it dinner.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

I love crockpot meals, but don't necessarily think of them as 'go-to' unless I have time to think about what to make...and when I do have that time, it's crockpot chicken with a whole chicken in the pot on a bed of carrots, onions, celery and chunks of potatoes. Great summer meal when you get tired of grilling or can't eat another salad, but don't want to turn on your oven.

When I don't have time, it's a grilled cheese & tomato soup or quesadillas with beans, chicken or other leftover meat, salsa, and package of yellow rice.

Speaking of grilling...that's always a good go-to meal...anything on the grill...steak, chicken, chops and veggies with a quick pasta toss and you got yourself dinner.

And what about breakfast for dinner!? Eggs, toast, bacon, pancakes, sausage, biscuits, homefries. Very easy on a tight schedule!

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRose

At least during the winter my creamy polenta with collard greens and bacon seems to be my go to for a quick warm dinner. When I don't have collards, I usually have kale and that works just fine as well!

Creamy Crockpot Chicken- throw frozen breasts in the pot, can of cream of chicken, onion soup mix, and carton of sour cream. Turn on Low- go to work- come home- eat over noodles.

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith

Breakfast for dinner! I love oatmeal so I don't mind eating it again for dinner if I'm feeling super lazy. And I always have something to add to it (cinnamon, fruit, jam, nuts, etc) to make it unique. And I've also done pancakes for dinner too. Again you can customize them. :)

January 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

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