Cons: Some recipes could use more seasoning
Rating: 4 out of 5
NOTE: Review book provided by Reader’s Digest
Taste of Home Christmas: 465 Recipes For a Merry Holiday is a delightful collection of holiday recipes. Contents include Festive Appetizers, Holiday Parties, Joyful Brunches, Christmas Dinner Menus, Merry Entrees, Jolly Sides, Glorious Breads, Yuletide Cookies and Bars, Heavenly Desserts, Candy Sampler, Gifts from the Kitchen, and Thanksgiving Gathering. I absolutely love holiday cookbooks when they’re done well, and this one is.
We made quite a few recipes from this Christmas cookbook; we were contemplating using it for Thanksgiving this year. After trying out so many lovely recipes, we went ahead and chose a bunch of recipes for next week. I can’t wait to try more dishes out of this cookbook!
The zesty broccoli in the picture above could have used a little more seasoning, but was quite good. The chicken breast with cranberry-balsamic sauce was absolutely delightful; I’d happily make it again. The sauce has so much flavor that it made a great accompaniment to skinless chicken breast. A corn-and-berry couscous also made a delicious side dish, as well as a great boxed lunch (it’s good hot or cold). I wasn’t thrilled by the squash rings, however. They had an odd coating that included cornmeal, and the result didn’t work for me.
The recipes in this book are clearly not selected for health, as many recipes call for heavy cream. If you’re big on ‘it’s a holiday–no worries about diet’ then this will be fine. If you’re trying to find low-fat versions of holiday recipes then you’ll need to look elsewhere. The Pesto Pepper Tortellini above is made with a package of frozen cheese tortellini. Since these are reader-submitted recipes, some make use of convenience items while others start from scratch. The tortellini dish also calls for a lot of heavy cream and butter. (We substituted half-and-half for the cream and 3T butter for the 1/2c and it was still very rich and delightfully delicious.) Other ingredients that made this such a good meal include sweet red pepper, garlic, ground walnuts, and a couple tablespoons of fresh basil.
There is one problem I’ve noticed in this cookbook: a lack of salt in many of the recipes. However, I have a theory about that. Given that these are reader-submitted recipes, it’s possible many of the people who submitted them assumed that salted butter would be used rather than unsalted. (In most cookbooks you always use unsalted butter because you want to have better control over the level of seasoning.) So be sure to taste your recipe for seasoning! This was certainly true of a batch of cheddar muffins we made–sooo delicious, but we had to add salt. Salt is a flavor enhancer, after all.
The first recipe we made from this cookbook was a bacon-wrapped barbecue sauce-slathered shrimp recipe. Delightful! I should note that many of the recipes include photos. Also, the layout is clean and easy to read, except that the instructions are a little bunched up.
Then there’s the fluffy hot chocolate (there are several hot chocolate recipes included in this cookbook). In this recipe you heat milk and stir in cocoa powder, sugar, and mini marshmallows until the marshmallows have melted. The amount of cocoa powder is very small (essentially 1t per serving). In other words, it’s more a marshmallow drink with a touch of chocolate. If what you want is a more chocolatey hot chocolate, then convert the teaspoons of cocoa to tablespoons and you’ll be fine. It’s quite delicious and I look forward to making more of the other varieties included.
While there are a few adjustments we’d make (adding salt to many recipes, adding extra cocoa to that one recipe), the basic recipes are wonderful. Just to give you an idea of some of the other recipes, here are the ones we plan to make for Thanksgiving this year:
- Ham with orange glaze
- Sausage raisin dressing
- Pear and mushroom strudel
- Cranberry chutney
- Crunchy sweet potato bake
- Cheddar garlic biscuits
- Maple-oat dinner rolls
- Coffee punch
- Truffle hot chocolate
- Eggnog cream pie
- White chocolate strawberry tiramisu
- Pumpkin mousse
I highly recommend picking up your own copy in time for Christmas feasting!