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Book Review: Make-Ahead Meals For Busy Moms by Jane Doiron

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Whether or not you enjoy cooking — if you’re a mom you no doubt echo the universal sentiment that there doesn’t seem enough time in the day to fulfill the myriad of responsibilities allotted you, as well as preparing healthy meals for your family. As a busy mother of two and a schoolteacher, author Jane Doiron can relate.

Drawing from her hands-on cooking experiences and time-tested recipes, Doiron has compiled a versatile collection of recipes spanning the traditional groupings: Appetizers, Breakfast and Brunch, Dessert, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, and Soup. While there are a few other books on the market dedicated to making the task of meal preparation simpler and less time-consuming for mothers, Doiron’s is unique in that it focuses not upon a single strategy — freezer cooking, slow cooker, frozen dough, preparing in advance, and so on — instead, she explores a wide variety of techniques and suggestions for making meals in advance. Sometimes these are complete meals, other times parts of meals, and in some cases are only preparatory steps that can be completed the day before to hasten the assembly of the desired dish.

Unlike most cookbooks however, Make-Ahead Meals is sadly lacking in photographic presentations of the completed dishes. While the front and back cover of the book feature absolutely scrumptious pictures of meals prepared from Doiron’s collection of recipes, the interior is bereft of interior adornment, and relies upon a straight-forward text-only layout to convey the recipes contained within.

The recipes are grouped according to major category, but are sadly not sub-categorized into technique: freezing, make the day ahead, etc. This further division would have proved invaluable to moms wanting to look up just the freezer recipes, or just the slow cooker recipes etc. Doiron does however, provide excellent instructios including detailed re-heating, assembly, and a clear step-by-step flow to make-ahead meal preparation.

Doiron’s recipes are written predominantly to use “from scratch” ingredient lists. At times some prepared foods are called for (pre-cooked bacon, a can of soup, fluffy whip, etc.), but for the most part I was delighted to find such a back-to-basics approach to cooking. So many recipe books call for can-of-soup-casseroles that it’s very difficult for families with food allergies to substitute ingredients. That being said, the bulk of the fare is traditional, and not geared towards allergy-prone families.

A passion for Italian, Mexican, and classic Americana food is present throughout the collection. The dishes also range through varying degrees of complexity, from a classic Sloppy Joes (for the freezer) to Prosciutto Wrapped Stuffed Chicken (prep the day before), there’s something here for everyone. This is a wonderful resource for new moms, or even those just out of the nest and cooking on their own for the first time. Doiron doesn’t fail to include classic, foundational recipes that everyone should have in their repertoire. With 145 recipes to choose from, the average family can be well-fed from this one recipe book alone.

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