Win Every Night with the 8×8 Cookbook

I’ve been cooking my way through this new cookbook, and it’s fantastic!

Kathy Strahs has taken the concept of simple baked dishes to another level with the 8×8 Cookbook – not just boring timesavers, but real tips for elevating simple dishes into impressive works of art. There are a million cookbooks out there about using baking dishes, but this one has real-life experience.

8x8 cookbook

First, I tried out the caramelized banana pancake squares. These are really easy, and the “self-saucing” technique Kathy uses makes the fresh pancake squares really impressive and delicious. This is what I mean by a simple technique for elevating a simple dish — everyone loves a banana pancake, but caramelizing the bananas in some brown sugar and butter first adds another depth of flavor to the dish, and it’s just as easy as making a pancake.

caramalized bananas

These would be so much fun to make with kids as a fun weekend breakfast, and I will totally have to make the next time I have a brunch or go to a daytime potluck. Aren’t they cute?

caramalized banana pancake squares

Then I made the roasted cod with gremolata and lemony orzo. This is a really simple and classy dish you can make for your sweetheart or for your whole family. You only need a few simple ingredients, and again, a simple technique — in this case, adding lemon zest to the boiling water when you parboil the orzo — adds another level of flavor that makes it better than your average weeknight baked dish.

roasted cod with lemony orzo and gremolata

The Boursin baked mashed potatoes were next – not the most photogenic dish, but definitely one of the best – a simple cheesy mashed potato recipe, kicked up by creaming the potatoes, adding extra butter, and baking in a hot, hot oven.

I couldn’t get away with a cookbook review without trying at least one of the desserts! The chocolate craving cake (shown here without the accompanying frosting recipe) was really rich and chocolatey. I totally want to make this again and experiment with different frosting toppings — but the fancy technique in this recipe makes it so moist, you hardly need any!

chocolate craving cake

I first encountered Kathy’s work in “The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook,” and “The 8×8 Cookbook” is a perfect follow-up. I can’t wait to see what amazing tips she has in store for her next book.

Samples from “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen”

This summer, I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer, and I am still undergoing treatment. Before I started treatment, I got as healthy as I could, so I think I am handling chemotherapy better than most. At the same time, aggressive cancer treatments have changed my body – and my taste buds – in ways I never anticipated.

For example, many chemotherapy and radiation patients lose their sense of taste for certain flavors … for me, it was salt. I soon realized that the food I was eating was totally salty, I just couldn’t taste it. I can’t very well just pour more and more salt onto my food just because I can’t taste it, but I can make things  that have tons of flavor packed into it, but minimal added salt.

I was lucky enough to be given a copy of “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen” by Rebecca Katz, which is a really amazing cookbook with fantastic tips for staying nourished while going through cancer treatment. I can see why it’s won so many awards.

Image courtesy of

Image from

All of the recipes are simple and healthy, but also offer a few extras for cancer patients, that others might not consider. For example, I have a friend who had to go through intense radiation treatments on her head and face, so her mouth, nose, eyes, sinuses, and throat were sore and raw. Eating anything that wasn’t pureed or freezing cold was too painful. This cookbook has great recipes for simple soups and broths, as well as smoothies and granitas, so that even if you can barely swallow, you can at least get some vitamins and nourishment.

So far, my favorite recipe from this book is the Bone Broth — which is extremely simple and very recommended for anyone, regardless of your health, to keep around — and Curried Hummus and Vegetable Pinwheels. These were a lot of fun to make.

curried hummus and vegetable pinwheels

The hummus recipe, like most hummus, is really simple, and shredding the veggies makes it easy on the cancer patient’s mouth and stomach, while still getting in the flavor, the nutrients, and some crunch. I used some really good, fresh, soft wheat tortillas, which made it perfect for me. I plan to experiment with this recipe again using other hummus flavors, and probably some other vegetable fillings as well. I think this would be great with some watercress, or maybe even some lightly-seared portabello mushrooms.

I noticed that in addition to making me unable to taste certain flavors, like salt, chemotherapy also made me really sensitive to spice — and of course, I didn’t notice this little glitch until I was deep into a bowl of Thai curry. It was painful! Since then, I’ve kept something soft and cool – pudding, ice cream, yogurt – on hand, just in case I accidentally eat something too spicy and need to put out the fire in my mouth.

Luckily, my friend who gifted me the book also made me the Cantaloupe Granita with Mint, which was amazing! I basically have a tub of this in my freezer, to shave off a bowl full of cool relief whenever I need it.

cantaulope granita with mint

I can’t wait until my treatment is over, if for no other reason than to be able to eat spicy food again.

So far, the recipes from this book and the helpful advice it offers has been a great help to me. Stay tuned for more posts with recipes from this book in the next few months.