Monday, June 7, 2010

Behind every good hostess is a few good books

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*I received a copy of the cookbook reviewed in this post. The thoughts and snarky comments are all mine.

I'm all about risk management. You plan ahead and think it through and you are setting yourself up for greatness. But there are times when, after all your planning, you are thrown a curve ball. How do you react? Are you a crier? (I am) Do you slip in to a catatonic state like the scene where Cameron sits bleary eyed in a chair on the diving board in Ferris Bueller's Day Off? (I have) Do you prefer to be fetal? Rocking and humming? Do you switch to instant bitch and start barking orders? (who me? never). Or do you take a deep breath and handle the situation? I have to say, many of my hostessing bumps in the road happen in the kitchen. I don't have kitchen common sense. Although I try to have all the ingredients I will need on hand if I am planning on cooking or baking, there are times you just flat out biff it. Luckily I now have a copy of the book "Substituting Ingredients: The A to Z Kitchen Reference" by Becky Sue Epstein (out now!). With over 1,000 substitutions you should be able to find the right swap to get you out of your cooking mess and still leave time for you to brush your hair before your guests arrive. Listed alphabetically, you can look up the ingredient you are missing and see what she suggests you use in it's place. Find a bottle of bad bbq sauce in the pantry minutes before your party guests arrive? No problem, she provides that recipe using other things you should have on hand. Aside from condiment fixes, she gives options for those random ingredients that you can't find in your local market or just really don't want to fiddle with (anchovy paste, anyone?). Often I come across a recipe that sounds so good except for one ingredient that I will likely never use again, like Angostura Bitters. With this book I can mimic the taste and create a fabulous cocktail for my bff's bridal shower and not end up with a full bottle of something that is destined to become a dusty book end. This is a book that every hostess, and marginally skilled cook should have in her archives. I also think you could make a game out of it for a bridal shower to see who can guess the correct substitution.

As I was telling my friend, Carole, about the book she got very excited. She said she has a stack of recipes that she has been wanting to try but they just sit there because of one odd ingredient. I have given her my copy of the book and she will be trying out some of the recipes she's been wanting to try using the suggested substitutions from "Substituting Ingredients." She will document her findings on her own blog, Ladies Sewing Circle, but I will link to it too in case anyone is interested. The book is available online from Amazon for around $10 and in your local bookstores as well. Quick note: There really isn't a substitution for black truffle oil...:(

Photo via Amazon

Edited to add: Please see Carole, of Ladies Sewing Circle's review here! She's HYSTERICAL!

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