If I were a stay at home doggy daddy, I would probably watch ABC's The Chew on a daily basis. After all, I cook an average of nine meals a week and am always looking for some new ideas to add to my rotation. For the show's fifth cookbook, The Chew Approved, the creators have compiled "The most popular recipes from The Chew viewers." What this means is that only a handful of recipes were created by Mario, Carla, Clinton, Michael and Daphne, the rest came from viewers whose recipes were featured on the show.
I'm a firm believer that you should never judge a book by its cover, but in the case of cookbooks you should never judge them by how good they sound. You have to judge them by how they taste! For this reason, I chose to test this book over several meals by choosing one recipe from each of the five sections.
Chapter 1: Breakfast Bonanza
The book begins with the most important meal of the day and an introduction by Michael Symone. I chose to make the Feta, Spinach, Sweet Potato Frittata because all of the ingredients in the title instantly made my mouth water. As with the previous The Chew book that I reviewed, I found the prep and cook times to be understated, with the book saying 30 minutes and the reality being closer to 45. I also was unable to find pancetta at my local grocery store and substituted it with turkey bacon. But the chefs were right with this selection, it was the most delicious fritatta I've ever had and I was glad to eat leftovers for several breakfasts in a row.
Chapter 2: Amazing Appetizers
I'm a sucker for snack foods and try to avoid weighing 300 pounds by rarely keeping this kind of food readily available in my house. That's why I chose Daphne Oz's recipe from this section, as she keeps things on the healthier side. Daphne's Asian-Style Turkey Meatballs were full of flavor, but pretty dry as a result of being so fat-free. I really loved the mix of sweet and salty between the spiced meatball and the sweet sauce, but if I'm going off taste alone these don't rank in the top 10 meatballs I've ever had. Not that this stopped me from snacking on them all weekend or anything.
Chapter 3: Weeknight Wonders
I was so excited for this chapter of "quick/easy weeknight meals that are guaranteed to please" that I broke my initial plan to chose one from each section and picked two! Fresh-from-the-Farm Coconut Carrot Stew instantly caught my attention as not only do I love carrots, but tropical fruits are my jam. It came out spicier than I was expecting with curry and cayenne pepper as ingredients (my assumption was the coconut milk, carrots and sweet potatoes would counter balance the spices), but I really enjoyed it. It contains chicken, but could easily become vegetarian/vegan by eliminating the meat. True to the title of the chapter, this one was pretty quick and stayed honest to the 30 minute cooking time.
My favorite recipe from the entire book is without a doubt the Lightened Up Squash Mac and Cheese. I love squash and all things fall and who doesn't love mac and cheese? However, the recipe suggests 5 minutes of prep and 25 minutes to cook. This is the biggest lie I've heard this season (and I've been watching the presidential debates!). After boiling the squash, blending, shredding gruyere and mixing the sauce, I had a lot of dishes to clean and dinner was served 40-minutes later than usual. It was well worth the effort, as this tastes amazing (even the pickiest eater in the house loved it!), but I would only make this on a weekend.
Chapter 4: Fabulous Weekend Feasts
It was not my intention to choose a healthy choice from this section, but Daphne's Delicious Chicken Dinner appealed to my tastes with the squash vegetable medley and I was excited to cut and cook a whole chicken for the first time (I always buy precut meat). I was surprised to see 15 minutes of prep time for cutting vegetables and a whole chicken and maybe it's just because it was my first time separating a raw bird, but it took longer. The other frustrating thing is that the instructions have you bake the veggies first, but the bird has to cook on the stove, then spend 20 minutes in the oven, and then spend more time on the stove. I recommend cooking the vegetables last if you make this delicious meal. It was very yummy, with a citrus flavor to the chicken, but the star of the meal was definitely the vegetables which were so simple to make.
Chapter 5: Sensational Sweets
Have I mentioned yet how much I love fall? It should come as no surprise that I decided to make the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies. The recipe's creator, Angie Shoffner, created them for a food bank as a way to put nutritious elements into a sweet dessert. Made with mostly flour and relatively little sugar, the cookie came out more like a muffin top. Note that I skipped the walnuts due to a peanut allergy in my house, but these were a big hit. They don't expand like a typical cookie dough, but rise (like a muffin) and they are a soft, tasty treat.
There are a ton of great recipes in The Chew Approved and I highly recommend this collection of standout dishes from the series to any fans of the show, or anyone looking to add some creativity to their menus. If I have one complaint, it's that the book's binding makes it difficult to leave a page open on the counter. All of the show's cookbooks have used this style so far, but I hope future installments improve the presentation to make it easier to use in the kitchen.