Rachael Ray: 30-Minute Get Real Meals
All Aboard the Low-Carb Gravy Train
I have a confession to make: I've never seen Rachael Ray on TV. I know she's a popular Food Network personality. And she's a prolific cookbook author; at least ten different titles on Amazon, along with coasters, recipe cards, magnetic note pads, and journals. When I saw 30-Minute Get Real Meals at Target, I decided to choose it for my maiden voyage into critiquing waters, since it was sure to be a popular book, and it might even be good!
What I didn't realize when I casually tossed the book into my cart is that 30-Minute Get Real Meals is Rachael Ray's attempt at a low-carb cookbook. Another confession: I think the low-carb thing is a fad, and from where I'm sitting, it's already on its way out. This book looks to me like an attempt to get on the low-carb train while the getting is good. Which, hey, can't fault her for it too much. Grab the market share while you can. But this book seems to be very liberal with its definition of what "low-carb" means.
The recipes in 30-Minute Get Real Meals are meat-intensive, which is to be expected in a low-carb cookbook. But 8 ounces of meat per serving seems excessive to me, especially when the recipes also call for lashings of olive oil, butter, heavy cream, and cheese. And Ray's attempts to add a little bit of pasta to recipes which would normally be pasta-based (for example, Bucatini with Sausage, Peppers, and Onions) don't work. Too much sausage, not enough bucatini. The end result is unsatisfying, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it doesn't really meet the standards for a true low-carb diet, either.
The cookbook seems to have been thrown together quickly, since it has many instances of poorly-thought-out instructions, typos, and vague ingredient amounts. I don't think low-carb cookery is Ray's oeuvre, and this cookbook is less of a heartfelt endorsement of the low-carb lifestyle than it is an attempt to get a seat on the bandwagon before it rolls out of town. When Ray is cooking dishes that are more in her element, such as the delicious Grilled Tomato Stoup, the recipes work. But the low-carb elements of the book are half-baked. Tread with caution when cooking from 30-Minute Get Real Meals. And if you're truly looking for low-carb recipes, you'd do better to look elsewhere.
One last note: the "30 Minute" rubric is Rachael Ray's trademark, but I found that it was a stretch when applied to many of the recipes that I tested in this book. I'm fairly efficient in the kitchen, and I have decent knife skills, but I'm not Jacques Pépin. Some recipes took 30 minutes, but others took closer to an hour. Time estimates are noted at the top of each recipe.