I read cookbooks cover to cover, just like my favorite magazine or Nora Ephron novel. Yes, I realize it’s much easier to Google a recipe, but there’s nothing I love more than a dog-eared cookbook sitting on my kitchen counter. And after years of reading and vetting cookbooks for on-air TV segments, I have a pretty good feel when it comes to judging them.
So while I’ve read Jessica Merchant’s uber-popular blog, How Sweet Eats, it was her newest cookbook, The Pretty Dish: More Than 150 Everyday Recipes & 50 Beauty DIYs to Nourish Your Body Inside and Out, that made me an even bigger fan.
With more than 150 recipes, Jessica writes as if she’s over at your house, enticing you to make each dish for family or friends. As you flip through each chapter, you’ll notice she creatively spans both healthy and indulgent. Maple Raspberry Overnight Oats (above) is my family’s favorite new weekday breakfast, but Almond-Crusted French Toast with Blueberry Syrup is on our weekend hit list.
Some dishes touch on the sophisticated side (in a good way), but if you think it may be a stretch to get your kids to eat Winter Rice Bowls (which contain kale and Brussels sprouts), well, you can just save that delicious ditty for yourself. And then move along to make one of the many other family-friendly dishes: Korean Beef Bowls (above), “Our Favorite” Bolognese or Roasted Corn and White Chicken Chili. And you can bet I’ll be back for her Peach Panzanella Salad with Bacon and Burrata come summer.
Another reason to love this book is Jessica’s simple suggestions, not necessarily recipes, that reinvigorated my weekly cooking. As a parent of young kids, I tend to fall back on routine and back-pocket meals that I can make without effort. Her idea of adding ricotta to my Saturday scrambled eggs, or coconut milk to a risotto with shrimp? Perfect. Especially since these ideas take relatively no thinking on my part (thank you very much, Jessica!).
I raised an eyebrow at a couple recipes, but that’s the beauty of food. My Chocolate Crinkle Sprinkle Cookies (amazing, btw) could be your S’mores Stuffed Sweet Potatoes. And truthfully I didn’t get a chance to try any of the 50 Beauty DIY recipes (think homemade body sugar scrubs and lavender honey bath melts) because well, little kids. But if you can squeeze a little me-time on the calendar, opt for the homemade hair and face masks that make an easy indulgence. These natural options are also great if you’re pregnant and avoiding chemicals in your beauty products.
And for some of you (us!) that need a little help with meal planning, Jessica offers a week of meal prep to go along with five of the book’s top recipes. She gives step-by-step directions with prep times, including more ideas on how to utilize the dishes. And if we’re lucky, she may make this a semi-regular series.
In summary, The Pretty Dish lives up to its name. Jessica’s gorgeous photos make each recipe jump off the page. And her sensibility as a mom creates the kind of recipes your family will want to make again and again.
CME is an Amazon affiliate.
All photography © Jessica Merchant