Monday, April 10, 2006

Review of: "Best Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans, and Jars"

Many years ago I had two huge paperback books by Ceil Dyer. Each one contained hundreds of recipes that manufacturers had been adding to their packaging over the years. I realized then that these are some of the best recipes that exist because the companies surely wanted to sell their product, so finding good recipes using their products seemed to be very important.

I used those books until the covers fell off from using them so often and paging through them. Each of the books (one was the original and the other was called "More Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans, and Jars") had a number of pages in the center that showed colored pictures of numerous recipes all cooked up and looking great.

The books were not salvageable after a certain number of years and I was sad to have to give them up. Last Christmas I was given a thick hardcover book that is a real treasure. If you guessed it is the same book, you would be right. It is "Best Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans, and Jars" and it is not an imitation, it is by the same author as those other books I had, Ceil Dyer. It is 589 pages. Unfortunately this printing does not have the pictures that the paperbacks had, but that's not really a necessity, it just makes a cookbook a little more interesting, I think.

Needless to say I have been having a lot of fun going through the book and deciding which recipes I want to try. Most of them turn out great because the manufacturers who ran the recipes over the years had a lot to lose if they were not sure that the recipes featured on their products would turn out perfect every time.

One thing that is nice about using a book such as this is that the recipes work great if you don't have a particular brand of product on hand. I am aware that companies want consumers to use their sauce or soup or dressings, etc. but if I don't have XYZ beans in the house, the ABC brand of the same size will work just as well in most if not all of the recipes where a particular brand is called for.

The contents of this book are:

Chapter 1: Appetizers, Snacks, Noshes, and Such
Chapter 2: The Main Dish: Meats, Poultry, Fish and Seafood, Pasta, Sauces, and Meatless Main Courses
Chapter 3: Side Dishes: Vegetables, Potatoes, Beans, Pasta, and Such
Chapter 4: All American Sauces
Chapter 5: Salads and Their Dressings
Chapter 6: Soups to Make the Pot Smile
Chapter 7: Sandwiches
Chapter 8: All Manner of Breads
Chapter 9: The Very Best Pies
Chapter 10: Prize Winning Cakes
Chapter 11: Fabulous Desserts
Chapter 12: Cookies and Special Treats

I think this book is an absolutely great idea! There was a long period of time when I did the same thing; I clipped recipes from soup cans, boxes, coaxed them off of bottles that didn't want to let that happen very easily, and just about anywhere else I could find them. At one point I actually took the time to paste them into a ring binder but most of the time the clipped recipe just sat there in my recipe box. This book took such a collection and put the recipes into book form so that I wouldn't need to go through dozens or hundreds of clippings to find the one that I happened to be looking for at the moment.

There are a number of blank pages in the back of this book and I plan to hand write a few treasured family recipes on those pages. This seems to be the kind of book that will not become "out of date" or unused at any point so having my favorite recipes or family recipes all in one place like that seems to be a good idea.

Since I intend to make this an "interactive" cookbook of sorts, I will be writing in it beyond just copying my recipes onto the blank pages. I plan to be preparing a large number of the recipes and I have to face the fact that sometimes things sound really great on paper and don't turn out tasting so great, so I plan to make notes beside the recipes I try. If something sounded fabulous to me one time, it might a year later, too, and I'd like to see a note about whether or not the family enjoyed it before making it again.

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