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.

Easy Holiday Favorites: Healthy Kale-Apple Slaw and Baked Mac ‘n’ Cheez

These are two of my favorite seasonal side dishes.

They’re easy to make, easy to transport, easy to reheat or make ahead. They’re perfect for holiday parties, potlucks, or just to make to accompany any seasonal meal.

Healthy Kale-Apple Salad

  • 2-3 red or Gala apples, grated or shredded
  • 1 bunch Lacinato kale, shredded
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. whole grain mustard
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp. sour cream

kale and apple salad

Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, and sour cream, and coat the shredded kale and apples. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep chilled until ready to serve – up to overnight. You can even add extra crunch with some crushed walnuts.

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kale apple salad card

This next one isn’t quite so healthy, but it’s practically as easy. Don’t be psyched out by the white sauce if you’ve never made it before, either … it’s a cinch.

mac and cheez

Baked Mac ‘n’ Cheez

  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 lb. shredded cheddar and jack cheese
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbsp. herbed goat cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups crushed cheesy crackers
  • salt and pepper

Boil the penne pasta to al dente and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a white sauce by whisking together the butter and flour, and slowly adding milk until a thick sauce is formed. Add the goat cheese and shredded cheeses and stir until the cheese is fully incorporated.

Mix the cheese sauce with the cooked pasta and add the eggs. Pour into a baking dish, season with salt and pepper, and top with the crushed crackers. Bake covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered for another 10-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

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