I usually bring cookbooks to your attention that have more of a local/seasonal/organic theme than Rachael Ray’s “My Year in Meals,” which was released today, but when I was asked if I’d like a review copy of her latest cookbook, I said "yes" for a few reasons.


Earlier this year, when the New York Times ran a piece about celebrity cookbooks being ghostwritten, Ray’s name was mentioned specifically. She defended herself on Twitter saying she’s proud to be the author of all her cookbooks. Then Bobby Flay said the following on “Today” about Rachael Ray’s cookbooks.


I know for a fact that Rachael Ray writes her own recipes. I've seen her do it in between her shows, in the segments in a corner, writing her recipes away.


The fact that Flay singled Ray out during the controversy stayed with me and made me think that I should check out one of her cookbooks. When I learned that her newest cookbook would contain the recipes she cooked in her own home for friends and family, I thought, “I want to have that cookbook.” So I accepted the review copy I was offered.


“My Year in Meals” is not a theme cookbook. The dishes are all over the place when it comes to types of cuisine, just like the dishes most people cook at home. Most of our home menus look like this: one night you cook spaghetti, the next morning you wake up and make eggs, and that evening you roast a chicken. That’s what Ray’s home meals look like, too, except she’s Rachael Ray so she makes Aglio e Olio with lemon flavored pasta, Baked Polenta with Eggs, and Poached Tarragon Creamed Chicken.


There’s a bonus with this book, too. Flip it over, and there are more than 100 cocktail recipes by Ray’s husband, John Cusimano. He seems like a very handy man to have around when entertaining. He shares his personal cocktail creations in the book, and there’s a nice variety of creative drinks.


I've already made one of the recipes in the book, the Buffalo Chicken Meatballs (pictured at left). It will be a good recipe to have on hand this time of year because it can be served while watching football games or at a holiday party as an appetizer. I liked the end result, and it’s a nice way to serve a buffalo chicken dish without the mess of wings. I used my own recipe for homemade blue cheese dressing and dip to serve with the meatballs, and the classic pairing of buffalo sauce and blue cheese, of course, worked very well together.


The only thing I'd change about Ray's Buffalo Chicken Meatball recipe is the size of the meatballs. The recipe uses a pound of ground chicken for 16 meatballs. They would be fine if they were beef meatballs to serve with spaghetti, but I thought they were too big for appetizer portions. Next time, I’ll make 24 meatballs instead of 16 out of the mixture and adjust the cooking time appropriately.


I was speaking with some other food writers about how it’s almost impossible to get a cookbook deal these days unless you’re very specialized. For a new cook to get published, they need to specialize in something very specific like “gluten-free, vegetarian overnight breakfast casseroles to be served on holidays that fall on even-numbered years.”


Fortunately, that’s not the case for someone like Rachael Ray. She can publish a book with a wide variety of foods that’s enjoyable to flip through or to tag recipes that you want to make. These recipes aren’t so different from what you usually make in your own kitchen, but they’re changed up just enough to make you want to try them. I think next I’ll be trying the White Coq au Vin. 


Related on MNN: 9 drink recipes for the colder months


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