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The Hobbyist: 20 Minute Meals


Full disclosure: I’ve always been a Mark Bittman fan. I love the Minimalist column in the New York Times and my copy of How to Cook Everything has been used so much there are sauce splatters and spills all over it.   When I saw his book, Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express: 404 Inspired Seasonal Dishes You Can Make in 20 Minutes or Less, I checked it out immediately and imagined a week’s worth of delicious, seasonal dishes that I would whip together and have extra time to challange friends to a MarioKart tournament on the Wii… or make graphic t shirts

Then I ordered a lot of take out. 

But last night I stopped at the grocery store after work and picked up some pre-cubed squash, an onion, some chicken broth and coconut milk and went home determined to make Bittman’s “20 minute” Curried Butternut squash soup.

The Pros and Cons of Bittman's Kitchen Express:


  • The soup really only took 20 minutes.  From start to finish!  Of course, I bought some pre-chopped squash which sped things up, but I couldn't believe that my dinner went from grocery bag to in a bowl in front of me before How I Met Your Mother was over. 
  • Delicious!  Coconut milk plus squash plus curry powder is just divine.
  • Cheap!  The whole meal (with plenty of leftovers) cost less than 20 bucks


  • Presentation.  Wonder why there are no pictures of the finished result? looked kind of gross.  Luckily it smelled great so I tried it, but if you saw the soup you would think that I was making everything up and you wouldn't check out the book.     
  • Directions.  I'm a big fan of lists, so imagine my discomfort when I found that there was no ingredient list at the beginning of the recipe.  Instead of precise measurements, it was more of "grab a handful of cilantro" and "toss in some carrots." You had to read the recipe very carefully and get the ingredients together ahead of time because the actual cooking goes by fast.  This might not be a bother for everyone, but I have to admit that I panic a little.  Which might have something to do with the presentation? 

The verdict?  I think Bittman's latest book is worth a test ride but only if you are okay with his very informal writing style. 

For more books on Quick and Easy Cooking, check here.

Is there a hobby that you've always wanted to try but you don't know where to start?  Try the library!  We have the information; all you need to do is bring curiosity and the courage to try something new!


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I love getting cook books

I love getting cook books from the library and definitely plan on looking at Bittman's. Another one of my favorites is Pure, Simple Cooking by Diana Henry ( The recipes are simple and this one has some nice presentations in addition to quick, tasty recipes.

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