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Anna and Kristina’s Grocery Bag

Anna and Kristina’s Grocery Bag

I was so disappointed when this show was cancelled.  😦 It was so much fun to watch these ladies try to make recipes from selected cookbooks and serve them to top chefs and cuisine experts. Every time I think about buying a new cookbook I go to their website to see if they’ve already rated them. Either it’s a definite no, yes, or it’s a split decision and they give you the reasons why. But their website is a pain in the butt. Sorry ladies. Every time you open a season and then a cookbook but then push your back button it brings you back to the Season 4 page, no matter what season you were actually looking at. It takes forever to find anything. I was procrastinating about doing actual “work” and decided to put all their approved cookbooks in a list for easy reference. It’s a little long but all you have to do is scroll down or do a search, which is so much easier. I also categorized them by theme. Here they are:


Episode 66

100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know

By Cindi Leive

From the editors of Glamour Magazine comes a provocatively titled cookbook, “100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know – Engagement chicken and 99 other fabulous dishes to get you everything you want in life.” The entire cookbook is based on the claim that the recipe for Engagement Chicken has actually led to many, many marriage proposals. So of course, being who we are, we had to test it!

Yes. While there were no marriage proposals as a result of our Engagement Chicken (yet!), we found this cookbook to be accessible and simple. Perfect for a young woman starting out on her own.



Episode 30

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

By Ina Garten

Ina Garten prides herself on serving up recipes that make cooking and entertaining a breeze. Back to Basics contains over a hundred new recipes that are supposedly easy to follow and made up of easy to find ingredients. We give it a whirl to see if this cookbook delivers an A & K Stamp of Approval.

Yes, yes, yes! This is one cookbook we strongly recommend for beginners and advanced cooks alike. We are in love with this book! {I have a feeling this is their favourite }

Episode 22

Joy of Cooking (75th Anniversary Edition)

By Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker

Selected by The New York Public Library as one of the 150 most important and influential books of the twentieth century, Joy of Cooking has taught tens of millions of people to cook, fed and delighted millions beyond that, answered countless kitchen and food questions, and averted many a cooking crisis. We take the 75th edition into the A&K Test Kitchen to make sure it holds up its promises.

*Yes. Joy of Cooking is a must-have cookbook and reference guide for anyone who cooks. If you already have an earlier edition, you may want to stick with it. But if you don’t have Joy of Cooking yet, you should!* (Everyone’s all time favourite)

Episode 3
Cook With Jamie
By Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver’s 7th cookbook aims to teach readers the basics of cooking in over 175 recipes. Jamie emphasizes flavour and freshness in his local, organic, and natural philosophy. Can Cook with Jamie really teach us to be better cooks?
Yes. Cook With Jamie unquestionably gets our A&K Stamp of Approval. Jamie’s cooking and food philosophies, as well as his instructional lessons, make this book a definite buy for a wide range of skill levels.

Episode 36

Gourmet Magazine

By The Editors of Gourmet Magazine

Cooking magazines can be an enticing alternative to a book, especially when you’re standing at the checkout counter looking at those appetizing cover shots. We test a few monthly issues of Gourmet Magazine to see if it can deliver on its promise: to continually offer something new to readers and produce gourmet results. All those slick glossy beautiful photographs can make many drool over the magazine. But are its recipes beyond armchair chefs like us?

Yes. We both agree that this magazine has something for everyone. You may not want to pick it up every month, but it’s definitely a worthwhile magazine full of substance, along with some great recipes overall.

*Note: This episode was filmed in 2009. Since then, Gourmet Magazine has discontinued its monthly printings, but offers information online at Cookbooks are available for purchase, as are special edition printings (e.g. holidays).

Episode 21

Oprah Magazine Cookbook

By Editors of Oprah Magazine

From the editors of O Magazine comes this 75-recipe collection that promises something to satisfy everyone. From simple treats to luxurious yet economical meals to comfort food, this cookbook has some lofty goals, and we find out if it stands up to our cooking day test.

Yes. We both feel the Oprah Magazine Cookbook delivers on its promise to provide a recipe for everyone and every occasion. It’s simple to read, with lots of pictures, and the recipes are accessible and easy to make for the at-home chef.

Episode 27

Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes

By Jennifer McLagan

Duck fat. Caul fat. Leaf lard. Bacon. Ghee. Suet. Schmaltz. Cracklings. These days, fat is a bad word, but author Jennifer McLagan is on a mission to convince people that it’s actually good. We dive into this mouthwatering book with both excitement and a little apprehension. Will it earn the A & K Stamp of Approval?

Yes. Both of us agree this book has some fantastic and delicious recipes. While we’re not going to use it as an everyday meal, it’s definitely a good source for tasty recipes that are easy to make.

Episode 54

The Pleasures of Cooking for One

By Judith Jones

According to author Judith Jones, one doesn’t have to be the loneliest number at the dinner table. In fact, it can be downright decadent. An accomplished chef herself, Jones has worked with some of the world’s greatest chefs, including James Beard and Julia Child. Can this cookbook really make cooking for one pleasurable?

Yes. As singletons ourselves, we really like the concept of this book as a whole, and Judith Jones brings some unique ideas to the table. If you’re a family of one (or even two) and are tired of boring meals from a can, bag, or freezer, this book is a great one to have on your shelf.* (Great for singletons or a couple)

Episode 57

Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking

By Michael Ruhlman

In this cookbook, ratio is the proportion of one ingredient to another. Providing the simple ratios behind basic dishes in everyday cooking, author Michael Ruhlman claims that by knowing a few ratios, you have thousands of recipes at your fingertips. If it’s that simple, then you only need one book on the shelf, right? Or wrong…

Yes. Though we don’t recommend it for everyone, we found the information in this cookbook very interesting (give it a chance!) and see it as an extremely valuable resource for anyone who wants to improvise in the kitchen and try their hand at creating their own recipes from scratch.

Episode 56

The River Cottage Meat Book

By Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Dedicated to meat, this cookbook is definitely much more than just a collection of steak and burger recipes. The River Cottage Meat Book covers responsible animal husbandry, the artistry of butchering, and understanding what eating meat means to our world. Can we create a carnivore’s delight or will it be an awful pile of offal?

Yes. We both strongly agreed with the core message of this cookbook about being a responsible meat eater by learning more about where your food comes from and how it is raised. While the recipes needed tweaking, we both felt this cookbook is a must-have kitchen resource, especially for carnivores.


Episode 75

The Family Meal

Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià

The Family Meal is a tradition among restaurants whereby the cook staff makes a meal for all staff before the restaurant opens. El Bulli, where this cookbook comes from, was rated as the best restaurant in the entire world. We tackle a small menu for a “family” of 75 savvy diners. Will it be a family meal or a family feud?

*Yes. We both learned a lot from this cookbook, not just about “Family Meals”, but also cooking techniques, and we found answers to many of the things we often wondered about in other cookbooks. It’s a great, hands-on instruction book to have in your kitchen library, and most of the recipes are quite tasty too!* (One of the best general cookbooks)


Episode 65

My Father’s Daughter

By Gwyneth Paltrow

You wanna hate her, but she’s just so darn nice! Sure, Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow can act and sing, but can she write a cookbook? Our final Grocery Bag season 3 episode takes a look at Gwyneth’s brand new cookbook “My Father’s Daughter” to see if we can finally find something to dislike about this Hollywood darling. (Don’t worry, we’ll be nice.)

Yes. We have to hand it to Gwyneth. She’s definitely a triple threat! This is not just a cookbook that’s endorsed by a celebrity, it’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s personal collection of family favourites. We definitely think My Father’s Daughter is worth your money.

Episode 50

Gordon Ramsay’s Family Fare

By Gordon Ramsay

We’re getting back to the table with a cookbook that encourages families to eat dinner together at least three times a week. And when Gordon Ramsay tells you to do something you’d better listen up! Will his cookbook earn the A & K Stamp of Approval?

Yes. It’s not your average cookbook, so expect some unique and creative ideas. And after reading through his cookbook, we agree with Gordon too. Stop watching TV while you’re eating dinner. (Unless, of course, you’re watching our show!)**Note: We’ve since learned from some lovely British viewers who have written in to our website that “seal” (e.g. seal the meat) is a commonly-used term in British cuisine. It essential means the same as sear. Thanks for writing in and clearing that up, everyone!

Episode 20

Deceptively Delicious

By Jessica Seinfeld

Mother of three, Jessica Seinfeld packed this cookbook with kid-friendly recipes to help parents who struggle to feed their kids nutritious and balanced meals. We find out whether her recipes, filled with hidden veggies, can pass a taste test with a group of picky young eaters.

Yes. Our hungry pint-sized testers proved that you can be successful at getting kids to eat more nutritious meals by craftily hiding vegetables in the food. Though making purees is labour-intensive, if you’ve got the time and a picky eater, it’s definitely a good book to have on your kitchen shelf. (Great for kids)



Episode 11

Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes

By Giada De Laurentiis

Giada De Laurentiis had a cooking show for many years, but this is her first cookbook, and it’s actually a New York Times bestseller. It promises to show you how to cook delicious, beautiful Italian food with minimum fuss and maximum flavour. We find out if it really is that fast and easy for everyday cooking.

YES We both really enjoyed this cookbook. The recipes were relatively easy and the book was very helpful, with extra tips and recipe shortcuts. A definite buy. (One of the favourite Italian cookbooks)

Episode 15

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

By Marcella Hazan

Marcella Hazan is an award-winning cookbook author and is widely considered a leading influence of Italian cuisine in North America. This cookbook has almost 500 recipes and is allegedly able to turn any literate being into an Italian cook. We’re up for that, so we test it on Anna & Kristina’s Grocery Bag to find out if it’s true.

*Yes. This book is overflowing with good recipes, solid information, tips and instructions. And even though we had trouble on our cooking day, we don’t blame the book. We definitely think Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is a must-have for any home chef.* (One of the best cookbooks with great tips)

Episode 69


By Mario Batali

We take on one of the big boys of Italian cooking: Mario Batali. His 3-star restaurant, Babbo, is hailed for dishing out some of the most inspired and acclaimed Italian food in North America. His cookbook presents dishes as served in the restaurant. Will these recipes deliver us a home cooked meal?

Yes. If you’re looking for unique Italian fare that is of the quality of Batali’s 3-star restaurant in New York, then this cookbook is for you. Just be aware that at the restaurant, they make it look a lot easier than it really is!

Episode 58

A16: Food + Wine

By Nate Appleman, Shelley Lindgren

Feels like a textbook, looks like a coffee table book, and reads like a love letter to Southern Italian food and wine. A16: Food + Wine is written by the executive chef and wine director of a San Francisco restaurant of the same name. The book promises beguilingly rustic and approachable recipes. Will we be able to recreate the amazing restaurant dishes in the A & K Test Kitchen?

Yes. We both love rustic Italian food, and we both had a lot of success testing the recipes in this cookbook. And they’re not your typical Italian recipes either. They offer unexpected ingredient twists, and so much extra information. If you like this type of food, it’s definitely a book to have in your kitchen.



Episode 9

How to Grill: The Complete Illustrated Book of Barbecue Techniques

By Steven Raichlen

Steve Raichlen’s How to Grill has over 500 easy-to-make recipes from around the world. Virtually a textbook on everything you need to know about using a barbeque, it has tons of information, and even an index of all the gear you might need. We find out if that’s enough for a couple of novice BBQers like us.

Yes. This book promises to teach you how to barbecue and it definitely delivers on that promise. Without a doubt, a good buy for anyone with a BBQ.



Episode 77

Whitewater Cooks With Friends

By Shelley Adams

Full of simple fresh recipes dedicated to friends and family everywhere, author Shelley Adams says you don’t have to be a trained chef to make healthy, delicious and fabulous food. Can we create summer sizzle or will storm clouds move in to spoil our party?

Yes. This book does as promised – helps you make delicious, fabulous food. The recipes are great for entertaining, both for small, casual summer parties, or for larger or more elegant events. We’ll definitely be making the chicken and ribs again too! {This one seems to be an internet favourite as well}



Episode 55

Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook

By Bobby Flay

As a celebrity chef, Bobby Flay has shown the world that Southwestern food is a complex cuisine of North and South American flavours. For those of us who can’t get to Bobby Flay’s restaurants, his cookbook offers 150 of his famous recipes. Smoky, earthy, fruity, and spicy, Bobby Flay is big on bold flavours. Can this cookbook help a couple of Pacific Northwesterners put on a delicious Southwestern spread?

Yes. We’re both going to pull this cookbook out for some future dinner party menus. We think even novice home cooks can pull off these recipes, as long as you give yourself lots of time.

Episode 44

Bon Appetit, Y’all

By Virginia Willis

To most people, southern cooking means mouth-watering fried chicken, cheesy grits, and savory gravy. “Bon Appetit, Y’all” takes these classics and adds a French twist. Will this cookbook earn the A & K Stamp of Approval? We head south, to Savannah, Georgia to find out!

Yes. Apart from our fear of frying, we had great success with everything we made from this cookbook. We also recommend everyone visit Savannah, Georgia and the area at least once in their lives, and definitely taste a freshly-picked Georgia peach! (This one seems to be their favourite American cuisine cookbook)



Episode 39

Chef Daniel Boulud: Cooking in New York City

By Daniel Boulud and Peter Kaminsky

Born in France, Chef Daniel Boulud is world-renowned for combining fine American ingredients with European tradition to create contemporary French cuisine. Featuring 75 recipes from his own restaurants, this cookbook promises to provide a behind-the-scenes look at what inspires this highly creative chef. Will it inspire greatness in our own kitchen?

Yes. Though we were both intimidated at first, this book is quite accessible and we had a lot of success with it. If you enjoy learning about contemporary French cuisine or Chef Daniel Boulud’s creations, we definitely recommend this cookbook. (best French cuisine)

Episode 16

The French Laundry Cookbook

By Thomas Keller and Deborah Jones

The French Laundry Restaurant in Napa Valley is considered by many one of the best restaurants in North America. Owner and chef, Thomas Keller, has put some of his favourite recipes into The French Laundry Cookbook. We find out if typical home chefs like us can pull off these meticulous and involved 4-star recipes. Will this cookbook earn the A & K Stamp of Approval?

Yes. This book is full of gorgeous pictures, it’s well written, and has lots of tips and instruction. However it’s aimed at people who already know quite a bit about cooking, and who are willing to spend time on the recipes. If that’s you, then The French Laundry Cookbook should definitely be in your kitchen library.


Vegetarian Options

Episode 32

The Flexitarian Table

By Peter Berley

Author Peter Berley says he’ll never treat vegetarians as an afterthought again. But instead of cooking separate dishes, Chef Berley has created ‘convertible dishes’, where you make the same basic preparations and then use half for a meat dish and the other half for a meat alternative. We’re excited to put this concept to the test. Find out if this cookbook earns the A & K Stamp of Approval.

Yes. We both felt there were many tasty recipes in this cookbook, and the vegetarian ones were innovative enough to get us eating more greens.



Episode 18

Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen

By Rick Bayless

Rick Bayless has two of the highest-rated Mexican restaurants in all of North America, and is also the host of a long-running TV series. Filled with translations of authentic Mexican dishes, Mexican Kitchen starts with 15 different sauces Bayless calls the cornerstones of Mexican cuisine. We find out how easy, or hard, it is to Mexican-ize our cooking skills.

Yes. There are a lot of nuances to Mexican cooking. Even though we didn’t fare so well on our cook day, we really think it’s a case of practicing until you get it right. (best Mexican)



Episode 63

Canyon Ranch: Nourish

By Scott Uehlein and Canyon Ranch

Nourish is the companion cookbook to the world famous Canyon Ranch spa in the US, known not only for its treatments, but also for its delicious food. This is not a diet cookbook, nor is it a vegetarian cookbook. Rather, it celebrates big flavours, fresh ingredients, seasonal dishes, and promises “indulgently healthy cuisine”. Healthyand delicious? We’ll see about that!

Yes. Though it is labour-intensive at times, we both enjoyed most of the recipes in this cookbook. You may want to make some minor adjustments to suit your tastes, but overall, it’s a great cookbook that helps you eat healthier, without sacrificing flavour.



Episode 60

Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook

By Mark Robinson

Izakayas are a major cultural and social force in Japan, where people gather to share laughter, drinks and small plates of delicious food. This cookbook claims to be the first written in English to peel back the curtain on these boisterous Japanese pubs, which are now popping up all over North America. Can we pull off these tasty yet intricate dishes in the A&K Test Kitchen?

Yes. Though we were both intimidated by it at first, we found this cookbook approachable, and most of the recipes delivered tasty results. We would have liked just a little bit more instruction in some spots, but overall, we’ll both be coming back to this cookbook again.



Episode 40

Lucinda’s Authentic Jamaican Kitchen

By Lucinda Scala Quinn

It took ten years for the head of Martha Stewart’s food division to write it, but Lucinda’s Authentic Jamaican Kitchen claims to include quintessential Jamaican recipes; the kind passed down through generations, and even some forgotten in modern culture. We turn up the heat to see if this cookbook earns the A & K Stamp of Approval.

Yes. Though chef Prince Rowe didn’t think many of the dishes we made were authentic Jamaican, most of them turned out delicious, and they were relatively easy to make. We think this is a great book for anyone looking to add some Caribbean spice to their cuisine. Just be careful with those chili peppers!



Episode 72

New Moroccan

By Mourad Lahlou

A melting pot of the native foods of the Berbers, with the seasonings influenced by Arab, Spanish, Turkish and French cuisines, The New Moroccan takes us way out of our comfort zone, to the dazzling and chaotic Marrakech, for an authentic cookbook test!

Yes. While some of the recipes can be quite involved, we both had good results with this book when cooking at home. Our 7-hour marathon cook day in our strange Moroccan kitchen was a challenge, but the recipes still delivered.



Episode 29

The Cake Bible

By Rose L. Beranbaum

From the woman who wrote her master’s thesis on the effects of sifting on the quality of yellow cake, The Cake Bible is a scientific exploration behind melting chocolate, preheating ovens, the merits of sifting (or not), and more. With very precise, detailed instructions, we find out if this book should be left to the pros.

Yes. Even though we came close to out-challenging ourselves by making a real wedding cake for a real bride on her wedding day, we both feel The Cake Bible is a definite buy for people who like baking cakes, both professionals and amateurs.

Episode 67

Absolutely Chocolate

by the Editors of Fine Cooking Magazine

This cookbook seems like it was made just for us! From cakes to cookies, brownies to mousse, it’s got everything a chocolate lover could hope for. In fact, it claims to have recipes that will satisfy any chocolate craving. We’ll see about that!

Yes. We love chocolate and can’t live without it. This cookbook’s claim to satisfy any chocolate craving stood up to the rigors of the A&K Test Kitchen, even when trying to impress a picky French pastry chef! (Seems to be their favourite dessert cookbook)


About heathershomemade

Cupcake obsessed foodie from Ottawa, ON, Canada

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