Seasons of Plenty

11 December 2014

Seasons of Plenty
by Doreen M. Bleich
Review by Justin Dittrick
ISBN 978-0-9731167-1-7 $25

Doreen M. Bleich’s Seasons of Plenty offers a wide assortment of recipe ideas for cooks of all skill levels. This cookbook offers appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, desserts, dressings, and sauces that will please palettes, and satisfy the heartiest appetites. Organized around the holidays, it presents many meal options that are economical and require surprisingly little preparation, allowing the cook to prepare the meal and return to guests, who can look forward to a homey, balanced dish that will amaze for how easy it all seemed. These recipes are simple without ever being bland, while evoking a sense of comforting familiarity, as only home-cooked offerings can. In the age of the internet, this is also a much-needed cookbook of ideas, methods, and variations. Inspired offerings are not always easy to find in search engine queries. Bleich offers cooks the certitude that every meal will taste inspired by tradition, yet honed from years of experience in the kitchen.

At a cursory glance, the impression given is that this cookbook contains a meal for any occasion, from afternoon teas to potlucks to full-blown family dinners. The holiday theme does not limit the variety of options on display. Pasta Extraordinaire is a dish suited to occasions at which nothing but pasta will do, with a rich, cheesy, cream-based Alfredo sauce whose hints of salty parmesan, garlic, and leek lend it a distinctiveness to make it a memorable variation on the norm. While pasta remains the ideal meal to serve an athlete before competition, the flavours in this version make it suitable to complement a caesar salad at an intimate dinner for two. The semi-sweet sauce prepared with the Tangy Beef Brisket belongs in the family of barbecue sauces. It is, however, several steps above anything one can buy from the grocery store. If prepared with sugar-free ketchup and artificial sweetener, it will offer rib enthusiasts who want carbohydrate-reduction a much-desired alternative. It is quite simply sensational. Bleich’s recipes bespeak a confidence in their ingredients and methods that seasoned chefs can admire. It is a soup perfect for students on a tight budget who want a warm, comforting, and filling meal that does not take too long to prepare. Her creamy dill sauce combines the perfect amount of dill—plenty of it—to turn salmon or halibut into a rich experience. For potlucks, the Lazy Man’s Cabbage Rolls provides the balanced nutrition and tastiness that make cabbage rolls worth the extra effort, even though this dish takes only 30 minutes to prepare.

Shared knowledge and canny baking skills are evident in the many desserts that should be in any family’s cookbook. The Eatmore and Twix bars are an improvement on the brand, while cakes, cookies, and pies—the sweet potato pie requires no crust and may become a regular favourite at holiday meals—will provide the finishing touch to any meal. In this vast collection of recipes, cooks and chefs of all ages and skill levels will discover favourite dishes to enhance the occasion. They may feel encouraged to discover their own variations. These dishes are meant to be prepared with little fuss in the festive spirit, to be shared and enjoyed.


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