As my U.S. Navy family moves and travels around the world, we love checking out the local food and tasting different dishes. It's truly one of the best ways to learn about new places, people and their culinary heritage.
But when we get home, it's not always easy recreating our experiences eating abroad, especially if the recipe is in a different language, relies on unfamiliar cooking techniques, or uses ingredients that are hard to find locally.
Thai and Filipino dishes from cooking lessons with friends.
I've also been scouring bookstore shelves, trying to find cookbooks with easy-to-follow recipes. When Crown Publishing Group offered to send me a copy of Sunny's Kitchen: Easy Food for Real Life to review, the timing was perfect.
The debut cookbook from Sunny Anderson, Food Network's host of the television shows "Cooking for Real" and "Home Made in America with Sunny Anderson," is packed with 125 recipes of delicious fare.
As I read the introduction, I learned the recipes were inspired by Anderson's experiences moving and traveling in the U.S. and abroad as part of a military family -- a life I can relate too. (Anderson's father served in the U.S. Army and she started her career as a journalist in the U.S. Air Force, according to the cookbook.)
I couldn't wait to get started and find out if the recipes -- whether they were good ol' comfort food I would expect to find in America or elsewhere -- were easy to follow.
My first attempt to whip up huevos rancheros was a success,
even though I didn't have two of the ingredients.
First up, the huevos rancheros.
According to the cookbook, the dish reminds Anderson of her days in Texas. I was drawn to the dish because it reminded me of my family's time in Monterey, Calif., where my husband attended the Naval Postgraduate School. We loved walking, jogging and cycling along the town's Recreation Trail, which hugs the bay. Once we worked up an appetite, we would head to the Trailside Cafe and Coffee House for a hearty plate of huevos rancheros.
With Anderson's recipe on hand, I decided to take a trip down memory lane (and to the super market) and make my husband huevos rancheros for breakfast.
The recipe was easy to follow, especially since it was broken down into a few simple steps. All the photos of Anderson cooking the dish aided me as well. (I don't know about you, but I can't stand cookbooks without photos. How am I supposed to know how the dish is supposed to look?)
Admittedly, I still goofed and used the wrong kind of beans. I also couldn't find tomatillos for the salsa verde. Nevertheless, the dish stilled turned out just fine, reflecting her recipe's versatility. Just ask my husband, who would like the meal to become a brunch staple at our household.
Needing a quick meal, I tried Sunny Anderson's recipe for easy beef and ginger lettuce wraps.
For the next dish, I wanted something Asian-inspired since we live in Singapore.
I initially aimed to cook Anderson's Korean fried dumplings. One of our favorite restaurants in Singapore is a Chinese dim sum place called Din Tai Fung, better known to our family as dumpling heaven. The restaurant has a whole team of chefs who make dumplings, and my family loves watching them through the window. The process always looked labor intensive and way too complicated to try at home -- that is, until I saw how Anderson broke dumpling-making down into just four steps. Unfortunately, I couldn't find dumpling wrappers at my grocery before mealtime came around. I'll have to try that dish when I do.
Short on time, I turned to Anderson's easy beef and ginger lettuce wraps. The recipe was indeed easy to make, as the title suggests, as well as flavorful. My husband and daughter devoured the dish.
In the past couple weeks, I’ve learned that I don’t need a complicated recipe to recreate our dining experiences in the U.S. or abroad. Nor do I need to be a professional chef. All I need is an easy-to-follow guide like Sunny's Kitchen: Easy Food for Real Life.